We may be in a recession, but even when the economy is in the toilet, you still need to have great music. That's why we invented "Bargain Spins," a new feature that focuses on overlooked albums that also happen to be available in every used or bargain bin in every record store in the country (and if you don't have a record store in your town anymore, you can still find them discounted in most every digital music store or on sites like Half.com). So enjoy some great records you might have missed.
James' Pick: Air, 10,000 Hz Legend, (2001): Have you ever wanted to stick your junk in a DAT machine? Get randy with a Roland 808? No? Well, as it turns out, neither have most people, and therein lies the problem with 10,000 Hz Legend, a darkly atmospheric, strangely horny album specifically designed to encourage that kind of man-on-machine coupling. A startling shift from the sunnier climes Air explored on their 1998 breakout Moon Safari, the confounding Legend is populated with decidedly creepy fare like "How Does It Make You Feel?" (which features a desperate robot breathlessly cooing "Let's have an extended play together") and the moody "Sex Born Poison," which is most notable for its use of lines like "Shoot, use your gun of life/ I'm not afraid to die in your arms." Not surprisingly, it weirded out pretty much everybody, which makes it a bargain bin staple to this day. But now, some eight years removed from its initial release, I'm here to praise it. Legend is required listening because it has informed everything Air have done ever since, as they continue to dive deeper into mood-drenched soundscapes and gently tweak sexual standards on albums like Pocket Symphony and this year's Love 2. There's great stuff to be found here — particularly "The Vagabond" (featuring a cameo by Beck) and "Radian" — provided you don't mind the occasional robo-boner.
Kyle's Pick: The Strokes, Room on Fire (2003): There are a lot of end-of-decade lists coming out right now, and one of the albums that people are name-checking is Is This It, the 2001 debut from the Strokes. Almost nobody ever mentions Room on Fire, the band's much-maligned second effort. But just as Is This It will probably spend the rest of its life being slightly overrated, Room on Fire will probably remain underrated in perpetuity. The big secret is that the songwriting on the sophomore release is incredibly sharp. "12:51" and "You Talk Way Too Much" are the sound of the Strokes graduating from basement clubs to arenas, as the hooks are bigger, the guitars flashier and the vocals from frontman Julian Casablancas more committed. "Reptilia" was one of the better rock singles of the earlier part of the decade, and "Meet Me in the Bathroom" oozes with the sort of nihilism that you rarely hear on a mainstream rock record. The Strokes were never going to evolve into the band everybody hoped they were (prior to the release of Is This It, people were talking about them saving the very fabric of rock and roll), and now most of them are off doing their own thing (Casablancas just dropped his debut solo album Phrazes for the Young). They couldn't be saviors, but they good make delightfully loud, shabby garage rock.