Review by Sean Boelman
Taking a look at the life of the now-defunct indie record store of the same name in New York City, Other Music is a must-watch for anyone who is nostalgic for the heyday of vinyl. Offering a surprisingly emotional look into music history, this is one of the most entertaining documentaries that music fans have to watch.
The film follows the employees and patrons of Other Music in the weeks before they shuttered their doors forever, taking a look back at the influence the store had on the community and industry. Although there have been movies documenting the decline of record stores, none has had such a personal and empathetic touch as this.
Undoubtedly the best part of this film is that it is able to make the viewer feel connected to the store and its history even if they were never a part of it. Although it is sadly too late for audiences to visit the store themselves, this story can easily be seen as representative of all the record stores that music fans across the globe have perused to discover new tunes in the past.
Directors Puloma Basu and Rob Hatch-Miller were able to get access to some of the higher-profile clientele of the store for interviews, including Jason Schwartzman, Benicio Del Toro, Martin Gore (of Depeche Mode fame), and Ezra Koenig (from Vampire Weekend), but the interviews that have the real emotional impact are those of employees.
The main message of the movie is that Other Music, like so many other record stores, is more than just a vendor of physical media. It is an important part of the collective media consumption experience, shaping both what we listen to and how we listen to it. It’s an undeniably important part of the industry that will surely be missed by many.
Of course, the film features a lot of great music, some of which viewers will be familiar with and some of which will be new to their ears. It’s definitely fitting that a movie about a music store iconic for their personalized recommendations would help viewers discover new music to listen to that they never would have expected.
On a technical level, Basu and Hatch-Miller’s film is definitely very strong. Perhaps the most effective thing about the movie is that it makes the viewer feel like they are actually there. Because of the wonderful sense of spatial geography that the film builds, which is particularly welcome since it is impossible for anyone to visit in person anymore.
Other Music is a documentary specifically designed for musicophiles, but it’s appeal isn’t limited to the area in which the eponymous store conducted business. Rather, it’s a universal tale of how music and the experience of shopping for music draws us together.
Other Music is now screening online in partnership with indie theaters. A list of participating locations can be found here.