Line Out Music & the City at Night

Never Heard of 'Em

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Never Heard of 'Em: Jethro Tull

Posted by on Sat, Feb 22, 2014 at 11:58 AM

Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by dads.

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Music editor Emily Nokes has admitted in advance that this doesn't count as a record-nerd album. But dad rock has a place in the world, and when she found out that I'd passed on buying an enormous oil painting of Aqualung's cover in a thrift shop, she assigned this album as punishment. Weirdo.

Anyway, the first song on this album, also called "Aqualung," is one that absolutely everyone, including me, has heard somewhere before. Because it opens with one of those guitar riffs that has now become a punch line—if someone's playing air guitar (or real guitar) in your comedy, one of the first options you'd consider to instantly signify silliness is the person playing this opening: "[dun-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh] Sit-ting on a park bench..."

But here's the important info: (1) Do you remember the next lyric after that? Well, if you don't (c'mon, you don't), you're about to get hella bummed: It's "Eyeing little girls with bad intent." And there's a line about "Watching as the frilly panties run," too. Does anyone else think it's super-gross and weird that one of our epic '70s guitar-joke songs is a song about a pedophile? (2) Almost more importantly, do you remember how the word "aqualung" is pronounced in this song? It's "ack-qua-lung." Short a sound. So as he wails intensely over the guitar, it's "aaaaaaaaack-qua-lung," over and over. Come on! (I'm aware that Ian Anderson is from the UK; that's no excuse.) With that combination of singing about pedo creeps and mispronouncing the title of your own song, I'd say let's just toss this one and move on.

Continue reading »

And here's all our recommended music events—tonight, tomorrow, this weekend, and beyond!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Never Heard of 'Em: Curtis Mayfield

Posted by on Sat, Feb 15, 2014 at 11:38 AM

Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.

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Curtis (Curtom)

"Sisters/Brothers and the whiteys/Blacks and the crackers/Police and their backers..." People, it's time to go to church. That's what this album is, at least: Soul Church. The opening track is called "Don't Worry (If There's a Hell Below, We're All Going to Go)"—and that includes those folks named up top there. We're all going to hell! Solidarity through fire and brimstone! Curtis Mayfield shouts the N-word at top volume right at the beginning, along with "crackers" and "Jews," and something about that intro makes me wish record stores played it on the overhead speakers more often.

Picture the moment: Everyone's shopping the stacks. Someone's there to find a present for their kid but can't remember who the teens like these days. Two hunched-over record nerds are in the same area trying not to make eye contact with anyone and also to find the good shit before the other guy does. Someone like me is there, maybe hiding crappy '90s music underneath a Velvet Underground CD so no one can see what she's getting. Other people are browsing—looking for Broadway sound tracks, obscure electronica, the physical copy of Beyoncé with the DVD. It's just a collection of humans in a place. A devious record-store employee sees that this is the perfect moment for Curtis.

Continue reading »

And here's all our recommended music events—tonight, tomorrow, this weekend, and beyond!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Never Heard of 'Em: Buzzcocks

Posted by on Sun, Feb 2, 2014 at 12:27 PM

Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.

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The Buzzcocks? A PARTY. A party for your face and your feet. Upbeat as all hell, spinning away full of drums, in love with you and in love with orgasms and in love with life. This is what I always hoped punk would be like! I feel like I have a place in my heart for angry punk about politics and a place in my heart for peppy punk that makes you laugh and want to thrash your hair around. I do not have room for the whiny white-boy shit where they just sound like they're bored and annoyed that you busted in on band practice. But this is the best!

First, it starts off with a song called "Orgasm Addict," which stays funny the whole time. "Well you tried it just for once/Find it all right for kicks/But now you find out that it's a habit that sticks/And you're an orgasm addict." Stains on your jeans! Making it with the lady who puts birds on cakes! (Must be a British thing.) Then a plaintive song about wanting a lover and a friend (we all volunteer, dudes!), then some British teen angst. They sound like white sneakers and jumping, like sitting on cushions on the floor in the living room and laughing so hard you fall over, like looking up at all your friends and they're laughing too. The Buzzcocks are a club, and you are in it!

Continue reading »

And here's all our recommended music events—tonight, tomorrow, this weekend, and beyond!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Never Heard of 'Em: Nico

Posted by on Wed, Jan 22, 2014 at 1:20 PM

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Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.

Hey, do you ever miss the days when I hadn't gone to music first grade yet, and I was still really confused and angry all the time about these albums? I used to hear 30 seconds of a punk song and feel like my ears were going to throw up. But recently, I've been liking a lot of the stuff I'm listening to, and I haven't been embarrassing myself so much. Nico, I know, is hella important. It would be embarrassing not to "get it."

BUT UGGGGHHHH. Dave Segal gave me this album, and I'm 99 percent sure he's just pranking me. (Yeah, dude, I'm on to you.) Look, I get it. Nico's so cool! Nico hung out with Andy Motherfuckin' Warhol. Nico sang with the Velvet Underground. Nico had the most eyelashes you've ever seen. Nico and her shiny hair and German cheekbones made all the boys cry.

Continue reading »

Monday, January 20, 2014

Never Heard of 'Em: Cub

Posted by on Mon, Jan 20, 2014 at 10:34 AM

Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.

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Cub
Betti-Cola (Mint)

I had only warm feelings when I saw the Betti-Cola album cover: a rad Betty and Veronica–style illustration of the band. But would it be as fun as it looked?

YES!!!

Cub are just what that illustration promises: here to jump up and down, here to party with you, here to be the all-around raddest. Lead singer Lisa Marr's voice is just like the candy Cub apparently used to pass out at shows. They're super-funny; the lyrics are little plastic pails of lighthearted joy. On a picnic, a repeated "You bring me carrots and celery/You bring me carrots and cel-e-ry." On a beloved chinchilla: "Satan sucks/But you're the best/Holy smokes/You pass the test." Put that on a mix CD for someone you have a crush on, and they will probably fall right in love with you! Who wouldn't?! (Except, ewwww to pet chinchillas.*)

Cub are like really good jam. Not music jam—fruit jam. All the different parts come together to form a sweet, brightly colored, awesome goo. It's hard to pay attention to any one ingredient, because they're too busy interacting with each other to create a whole thing, and the whole is so delightful.

Continue reading »

Friday, January 3, 2014

Never Heard of 'Em: Regrets Edition

Posted by on Fri, Jan 3, 2014 at 10:37 AM

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It's been another year of this. Are you tired yet?! (C'mon, don't really answer that. I love this job. Just pretend you're all fine.) If you had told me two years ago, "Hey, Anna, you're gonna write a regular music column in The Stranger soon!" I wouldn't even have laughed, I just would've been confused. How? About what, exactly? How often I get that song "Graduation (Friends Forever)" by Vitamin C stuck in my head?

But here I am, still, and now I can use words like "synths" on purpose and be 80 percent sure what I'm talking about are actual synths. Like I said last year, nothing about this column is truly regrettable, because it's SO MUCH FUN and it makes my life measurably better, all the time.

That said, I'm only human, and I can manufacture regret on command just like everyone else.

Most importantly, I regret that I can't always write the columns that friends and strangers suggest. For example, I still haven't written about Annie Lennox's Diva, even though my wonderful friend Michael has asked about it three times. Sorry, dude. It's on the long list!

Continue reading »

Friday, December 20, 2013

Never Heard of 'Em: Phil Spector's A Christmas Gift for You

Posted by on Fri, Dec 20, 2013 at 1:45 PM

Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.

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PHIL SPECTOR

A Christmas Gift for You (Philles)

They want you to write about this fuckin' convicted murderer, huh? No way. You are not doing that. You have principles. Right? They say you'll love it anyway, but you're not going to. No! Not this woman-murdering, horrible-wig-wearing dude. So it's not actually him singing. So it's cheerful and wholesome and Christmas-y. Doesn't matter! Ignore this.

It's hard to ignore, because this is great. I mean, the producing isn't great! Nuh-uh! The producing sounds totally, y'know, murder-y! But... it's all pretty goddamn catchy. "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" with retro pop-soul wonderfulness, a "Ding-a-ling, ding-dong-ding" chorus behind "Sleigh Ride"? Who are these vocalists?! (The Crystals and the Ronettes.) Amazing! I mean, Christmas music is crap; we're all exhausted by it. But who can argue with these jingle bells and the horses in the background and the smiling girl-group style? I bet they're wearing matching outfits. It's hard to hate.

Continue reading »

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Never Heard of 'Em: Stereolab

Posted by on Sat, Dec 14, 2013 at 1:48 PM

Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.

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Emperor Tomato Ketchup (Elektra)

I can't figure out yet why it's so hard for me to form words about Stereolab. I like 'em! And they have soooooo many sounds. But when I try to set it down on paper, nothing happens. Here's the kind of notes I have to work with:

• charming French blah blah blah

• has a beat

• computer farts—the good kind

• horse breath

• repetitive sometimes (title song)

• zizzle zoozle

Continue reading »

Monday, December 9, 2013

Never Heard of 'Em: Bratmobile

Posted by on Mon, Dec 9, 2013 at 11:35 AM

Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.

BRATMOBILE

Ladies, Women and Girls

(Lookout!)

Bratmobile! A good friend, no doubt trying to make me feel better as an idiot, asked me if that was "a kids' band." That sounds perfectly plausible, but no: Bratmobile, I have found out for real and for sure, is another Olympia band, an OG riot-grrrl group, punk girls here to shout it out and talk about real shit and be tough.

So I'm putting my ears to the test: Does it matter that they're women? I've grown tired (okay, who am I kidding? I was born tired) of shouty white boys who are here to tell you about all their feelings and show you their hairdos and never bathe. I mean, that's rad for you, dude! I want you to express yourself. I want you to go "duh-nuh-nuh-nuh" a lot in your basement, and then practice with your friends, and let allllll your angst out, and maybe even shout at the government—especially that. I could take or leave all the safety pins and I'm not sure I totally get the eyeliner, because even I can't get both eyes to match when I spend 10 minutes and use a dillion Q-tips, so how much time are y'all spending in the bathroom every day? But whatever. All of these things = well and good. I just don't generally enjoy the auditory part. I like rebelliousness and I like creativity and I like sharing. But I also like more, y'know... musical music. There's a flatness to punk vocal delivery that bugs me, as well as a predictability to the rhythm.

Continue reading »

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Never Heard of 'Em: Annette Peacock

Posted by on Tue, Nov 19, 2013 at 10:47 AM

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Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.

ANNETTE PEACOCK
I'm the One
(RCA; reissued by Light in the Attic)

Pretend you're me for a second. Okay, we've never met, but I mean just musically. Despite your best intentions, your ears are impatient and finicky; they're childish. You've been drowning them in new things for close to two years—but all the years before that were spent fumbling around in a kind of felted darkness during which you asked for little help and were often afraid to adventure.

It's weird to go around the world and this musical city like this, to work in an office where you immediately rented a bunch of what you thought were cool-kid CDs from the library the minute you got hired. It's in that environment and head space that I want you to get out Annette Peacock. Put it on a decent stereo. Press play.

Continue reading »

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Never Heard of 'Em: The Misfits

Posted by on Sat, Oct 26, 2013 at 11:18 AM

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Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.

THE MISFITS
Static Age
(Caroline)

Finally, these famous skull guys! I'm glad to get around to them. Their signature janky skull-print back patch is so ubiquitous, it seems funny to realize I've absolutely never heard the music. I didn't even know whose skull art that was until it finally appeared in a K-pop video a couple years ago, and I had to look it up. Once your fashion is being appropriated in Asian pop music, you've really made it, y'know?

And it turns out the Misfits are totally palatable for someone like me who isn't so patient with punk. I did have to listen to them on literally the lowest volume my computer would make (one little volume dot!). So what? I can hear it just fine like this, thanks! They have good driving drums and "whoa-ohhh"s and they're not using a whole garage worth of tools to make sounds. It's just dudes hanging out, having some semi-angry feels, and trying to sound tough.

Continue reading »

Monday, October 14, 2013

Never Heard of 'Em: Jon Hassell

Posted by on Mon, Oct 14, 2013 at 11:01 AM

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Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.

JON HASSELL
Dream Theory in Malaya: Fourth World Volume Two
(E.G.)

This is some weird shit, once again! But the good part is it's not incomprehensible, especially the more you listen. Jon Hassell is some dude I know not of, as usual, and I will only google him to explain him to you after I listen some more with virgin ears, so gimme a second.

Dream Theory in Malaya is a lush jungle of sound—if I were a real music writer, I believe this would be the appropriate moment for the word "tapestry," no? (Don't worry, the only music tapestry I'll ever talk about is Carole King's.) Hassell makes a strange garden inside what, in my head, is a curved soundstage, like one of those children's picture books where a kid's playful imagination slowly populates their bedroom with wildness. There are edges of artifice—this can't all be sticks and buckets and real horns, can it?—but they're hard to find precisely. Some of this is surely manipulated. But it also sounds honest, which is most of what I ask of any music.

Continue reading »

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Never Heard of 'Em: Dead Can Dance

Posted by on Sun, Oct 6, 2013 at 11:52 AM

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Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.

DEAD CAN DANCE
The Serpent's Egg
(4AD)

It's windy and cold outside, big burly clouds scooting across the tops of condos, everyone's summer-remnant patio umbrellas whipping in the wind, the light between tree branches winking on and off. Earlier today, a swarm of birds was moving en masse back and forth in front of the window in front of me, a swooping clot of wings, a free nature documentary.

I mention the window because I've been looking out it all day, and appreciating it. Our office has been turned into some noisy, disturbing S&M dungeon as they remove and replace a wall of windows, so that in place of windows is a big black zippered plastic-bag curtain shutting out all but the tiniest edges of light peeking out. I have elected to work from somewhere that is not such a horrible womb. And in doing so, I made the perfect choice. For listening to the strange angel choirs of Dead Can Dance with a perfect view of a gathering storm is exactly what I'd recommend to anyone.

Continue reading »

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Never Heard of 'Em: New York Dolls

Posted by on Sun, Sep 29, 2013 at 11:44 AM

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Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.

NEW YORK DOLLS
New York Dolls
(Mercury)

I CAN'T DO THIS ANYMORE, YOU GUYS, I'M HAVING A BREAKDOWN. Phew. I just had to let that out. I mean, I can still do this column, I just can't do Nipper's recommendations two weeks in a row. Nipper, who literally sits in our offices inside a plastic booth and listens to records all day (I'm not kidding! You can visit him!), does not know how regular human ears work, and so I can tell when he's behind the picks for this column because they drive me bonkers.

Dude is great; he's like a library of music knowledge—totally unusable knowledge, because when he talks, so much weird shit comes out that you can't find the wisdom in between the mom jokes and the esoteric music slang. But everyone else who recommends albums for this column takes at least one second to question if they might drive me over the doom ledge. He only hears something that's like a synesthetic combination of the actual music sounds plus the encyclopedia entry on that band, all wound together in a big knowledge symphony.

Continue reading »

Friday, September 20, 2013

Never Heard of 'Em: The Damned

Posted by on Fri, Sep 20, 2013 at 11:06 AM

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Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.

THE DAMNED
Machine Gun Etiquette
(Chiswick)

I was looking forward to listening to some "I am a white dude shouting a lot/My life is very hard" music. I've been doing this column for a while now; maybe I've managed to train my ears so I can hear some special nuances inside British men yelling over their guitars.

Well, that's a no. My first hot tip is: Don't start your day off with the Damned. They're just not an early morning experience. Not even, at least in my case, if you get up feeling cranky. At least not the first track. Just give your ears a minute.

Actually, once Machine Gun Etiquette gets going, it's not so much a blob of I-use-volume-to-express-my-angst kind of playing—it gets more complex and interesting. The song "I Just Can't Be Happy Today," which sounds like it might be a good wake-up-cranky song, has lots of cymbals, then someone yells about the devil, then they go on an Epic Organ Solo.

Continue reading »

Monday, September 16, 2013

Never Heard of 'Em: Heldon

Posted by on Mon, Sep 16, 2013 at 11:04 AM

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Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.

HELDON
Interface
(Cobra)

This relentless electronic music makes me feel rewound a couple decades, when the internet was still exciting, all just walls of different colors and fonts and asterisks. What will these futuristic machines really mean to us? Everyone still wondered. Music nerd king Dave Segal is enamored of Heldon's complete machine-ness, their lack of longing. He thinks they have no human qualities, that the sounds emanate from some hollow tube of otherworldly noisemaking, perhaps technically channeled through a being resembling a human.

I'm not sure I agree. This sounds like what Darth Vader listened to inside his helmet. That dude may have had some robot parts, but he was really, really human. This could be what the (human) Wachowski siblings listened to while writing The Matrix. It's what I listened to, aptly, while reading a long interview with a dude who prefers relationships with dolls to relationships with human women. Okay, then I got hella skeeved and I wanted a warm human to come play some sweet trumpet at me for a second.

Continue reading »

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Never Heard of 'Em: Daniel Johnston: Songs of Pain

Posted by on Thu, Sep 5, 2013 at 10:48 AM

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Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.

DANIEL JOHNSTON
Songs of Pain
(Stress Records)

The first song on Songs of Pain is "Grievances," a lo-fi recording of a man playing tinny but smooth piano and singing a sort of wacky folk ballad. He's got an interesting voice—really high, with a Southern accent and conversational delivery—and the song makes sense, mostly. "I saw you at the funeral/You were standing there like a temple/I said, 'Hi, how are you, hello'/And I pulled up the casket and crawled in." It's goofy and sweet and gets you excited about what's to come.

In the second track, things go a certain way: a retelling of the story of Christianity. Okay, sure. It starts to sound less carefully written, it gives you a prickle of a question in your head, but you have to hear it to understand why. "He never did bad to anyone/He never did no wrong" could work in tons of music, but something's different here. Who is this guy?

Continue reading »

Friday, August 30, 2013

Never Heard of 'Em vs. Heard of 'Em: Gary Numan

Posted by and on Fri, Aug 30, 2013 at 3:11 PM

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Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.

GARY NUMAN
The Pleasure Principle
(Beggars Banquet)

Gary Numan, an old-school guyliner fan, makes music the interwebs call "synth pop." Listening to The Pleasure Principle in the context of this column, I got the feeling that perhaps he was among the first to do this thing that he does. That doesn't change the fact that the thing itself, decades later, doesn't sound particularly refreshing to me at first.

But I gave it a full-faith effort and was rewarded for my time. It was a cloudy day. I was boiling beets. The beets had dyed my fingers a funny sort of ombré magenta; Gary Numan's made-up eyes stared back from my computer screen, his half-smile making me like him, his music leaking around the edges of things.

On the first listen, I was distracted by life until track four, "Films." Suddenly, a jet-engine sound thrums and string-like synths swoop in. It sounds like a sexy horror-movie scene in a dark dance club in slow motion. Next comes "M.E.," which not only is captivating, but I think has been sampled for some sort of hit that activates my brain's slumbering music banks. (I googled it: Basement Jaxx's "Where's Your Head At," anyone?)

Continue reading (Dave Segal, a Gary Numan expert, weighs in, too!) »

Gary Numan play Bumbershoot Saturday, 8 pm, at the Fisher Green Stage.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Never Heard of 'Em: The Shaggs

Posted by on Tue, Aug 27, 2013 at 10:44 AM

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Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.

THE SHAGGS
Philosophy of the World
(Third World)

Right now, I'm sitting outside a Starbucks in a big outdoor mall—don't ask me why, it's complicated. It's a beautiful day, but all I can smell is asphalt, exhaust, and potted plants. At the table next to me are two attractive young women wearing TOMS shoes, talking earnestly about their relationship to God and how hard it is to read the Bible often enough. Surrounded by all of this wholesome Americanness and looking at the Shaggs album cover, I was thinking they wouldn't be quite subversive enough for this moment.

Wrong! These freaks are amazing! What is going on? Right off the bat: "The skinny people want what the fat people's got/And the fat people want what the skinny people's got/You can never please anybody in this world." That's called "Philosophy of the World." And I don't think they can really pronounce their r's. I'm not sure they can play their instruments very well, either. They appear to have either no sense of rhythm or a really elevated sense of rhythm that's so good it sounds like no rhythm.

Continue reading »

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