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: The Cardigans, Gran Turismo (1998): It occurs to me now that, after doing three installments of "Bargain Spins," perhaps I am getting a tad bit predictable. It seems I tend to favor "disastrous" albums — those willfully-different, arty-for-art's-sake albatrosses that sink careers and alienate fans. You know, the kind that are usually followed by an extended hiatus or a founding member of the band departing over "creative differences." And this week is no different, as I've chosen to write about another dark, arty albatross of an album called Gran Turismo, which confounded fans, basically killed the Cardigans' burgeoning career and led to a lengthy hiatus (The Trifecta!). Best known here in the states for the idyllic bubblegum pop of "Lovefool," the Cards returned two years later with Turismo, an album that was anything but bubbly. From the moody synths and dark soundscapes of tracks like "Paralyzed" and "Erase/Rewind," to the "controversial" video for the first single, "My Favourite Game" (which featured dreamboat frontwoman Nina Persson running down pedestrians in a convertible), this was clearly a very different band, for reasons no one could quite figure out. Which, of course meant Turismo didn't sell, dooming it to an eternal existence in used bins everywhere. But it never deserved that fate, as it's a fine album, moody and slinky, full of explorations of love and loss, sex and sin … not to mention a fascinating look at a band struggling to find their footing after the avalanche of fame. Shoot, you could do a lot worse for $4.99.
Kyle's Pick: Kenna, New Sacred Cow (2003): I tend to get obsessed with albums that never come out. I followed the drama surrounding Guns N' Roses' Chinese Democracy, got obsessed with Zack De La Rocha's still-unreleased solo album and am still waiting for Detox. Kenna fell into that category at the beginning of the decade. Here was a guy who had a supremely weird video that was nevertheless in heavy rotation on MTV ("Hell Bent") and had professional relationships with both Fred Durst and Pharrell Williams. But that was in 2001, and no amount of Malcolm Gladwell essays could erase that fact that the shine had worn off by the time New Sacred Cow ended up on stores in the summer of 2003. That's a crime, because despite the delays, it sounded like it was from the future (and still sounds like that today). Songs like "Freetime," "Redman" and "Vexed and Glorious" combine funk, R&B, rock, techno and all manner of electronic microgenres in between. (It's no wonder Kenna toured with Dave Gahan when this record came out.) Produced by Chad Hugo during the peak of the Neptunes' power, it's got a jittery base, plenty of savagery and melody to spare. Kenna's on the comeback now (he put out Make Sure They See My Face in 2007, will grab some headlines for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in January and plans to put out a new record in 2010), which means that now is a great time to score yourself a copy of New Sacred Cow for some neck-snapping, socially-conscious badassery.