March Vinyl of the Month
Featured Indie Release:
Artist: The Breeders
Album: All Nerve
Album: Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Artist: Anna Burch
Album: Quit The Curse
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People change over the years, and the you that is you never changes. Yesterday you were a kid, and tomorrow you'll be old, and you think you're the same person you were, despite all evidence to the contrary.
Music slices you in time.
Once upon a time we lived in a world of information scarcity. We knew too little about things, and finding out about what we loved took time and effort and money and luck.
The first time I heard of Kim Deal, it was because the co-owner of Dark Carnival, the bookstore in San Francisco I was signing in had been mistaken for her the night before by a waiter, who had taken her protestations that she was a bookshop person as a cover story and brought her and the people she was with, bookstore people whom he believed to be the rest of the Pixies, free drinks all night. I now knew a band called the Pixies existed.
I owned a tiny black and white television that sat on the corner of my desk, and kept me company when I wrote, all alone, too late at night, playing badly dubbed European Detective shows, late night rock shows, cheap television. Somewhere in 1989 it played a Pixies video. A week later I had every Pixies CD you could find in London record shops. I loved the aesthetic as much as the music: the Vaughn Oliver art and typefaces.
Information scarcity. I didn't know who these people were. I was 29 years old, writing Sandman, in England, with two small children. I bought the CD of Pod, and I wrote Sandman to the jangly Breeders music.
I knew nothing of the Breeders beyond what I read on the minimalist CD notes. I knew the names of the songs because they were on the CD themselves, and I recognised "Happiness is a Warm Gun", Lennon's Snoopy-and- gun-ad inspired song of murder and addiction. It's my favourite Beatles song and that seemed appropriate. Pod is a sequence of songs that come towards you, unstoppable, not needing to be liked. Not to be anything except themselves, glorious in their emotional flatness. The Berlin wall had crumbled and technology would save us all, and there was a new optimism in the air, and despite the optimism the Breeders music felt like a note of warning. Melodic and discordant all at the same time, women's voices singing from the darkness, uncompromising; not soft, not strident, more like a chorus of ghosts, their faces set and expressionless, singing to us while fighting to feel emotions, to feel something.
After Pod came the Safari EP and then Last Splash. I was moving to America, to a little Wisconsin village, and I played both albums over and over as I wrote. I loved the feeling in the songs that there was something I couldn't touch, something that slipped through my fingers if I tried to articulate it. It was what it was, and the sound was something that felt like late nights and old neon signs and people who stare at you from the shadows. I had a disturbed and shadowy cat named Pod whom almost nobody ever saw.
In 2002 I went back to Sandman for the first time in five years, and the Breeders CD Title TK came out. The title was a meta-title, almost a joke, but the music was as sharp as ever and no joke at all. Mountain Battles, with its glorious Vaughn Oliver cover, came out when my life was upside down, in the weeks between my divorce and my meeting the woman that I would, three years later, marry. I played it as I drove. I loaded it onto my iPod and the Breeders followed me along the silk road in China. The flatness of affect, the intersection between noise and intelligence that I expected from the Breeders was there, along with a surprising gentleness, an unexpected kindness.
Now I'm twice the age I was when I first heard Kim Deal sing, and I live an ocean away from the English village in which I first played Pod. All of the things that were going to make life brighter and easier make life stranger and more confusing. Nothing feels as good as it used to feel, nothing tastes like it did. I used to think that the world was run by conspiracies of brilliant people. Now I would love to feel that there was any agenda, other than short-sighted greed and power-hungry bluster. I'm writing this a two minute walk from what I am told was once the finest analog recording studio in the US, now a home for a man who hoards broken things. The locals whisper that it's now a meth lab, but that's just the kind of small town gossip you hear about the odd and the frangible. Everything went digital and the world went bland. In American small towns opiates really have become the religion of the masses, pills that have escaped their prescriptions pushed to dull the ache of living. The music I loved loses value and importance as it becomes audio wallpaper: Spotify as Muzak.
And then All Nerve arrives and it's as if no time at all has passed. Music slices us in time, and I get to remember what it means to be excited by music all over again. For a start, All Nerve sounds like a Breeders album: it's not retro, it's not 90's, it just is what it is: smart rock music with a Breeders sound and an oblique Breeders point of view.
There is too much information now. We could pay people not to know things on our behalf, pay them to forget our surplus knowledge. Still, Kim Deal is songwriting, deadpan vocals and guitar, Kelley Deal is still guitar and vocals, Josephine Wiggs is still steady on bass and vocals (and she co-writes two songs), and Jim MacPherson is still the rockingest of drummers.
And I don't know much about the songs: I play them over and over, a sequence that burns through my brain.
Nervous Mary, Wait in the Car, All Nerve, Metagoth (Josephine's words, based on a found poem written by her mother), Spacewoman, Walking with a Killer, Howl at the Summit (with Courtney Barnett's mob on background vocals), Archangel’s Thunderbird (an Amon Düül II cover, and also my shame, as I played a voice-treated CGI monster in a sad film of the same name in the 90s), Dawn: Making an Effort (which startles me with its beauty each time it comes on), Skinhead #2 (I love the crushed beetles on lips), and Blues at the Acropolis, which lets us fade away with junkies of the world draped across the monuments.
People change over the years, and we hope that the we that is us never changes. Yesterday we were kids, and tomorrow we'll be old, and we think we're the same people we were, despite all evidence to the contrary.
But sometimes we play music that lets us be us then and us now and us still to come, and it's all worth it, every minute, every aching second, every gaping now.
-Neil Gaiman January 2018
- Nervous Mary
Wait In The Car
Walking With The Killer
Howl At The Summit
Dawn: Making An Effort
Blues At The Acropolis
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
[10th Anniversary Reissue]
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga was recorded throughout 2006 in Austin, TX, by the band and Mike McCarthy (except “The Underdog” which was recorded in Los Angeles with Jon Brion). Starting with “Don’t Make Me a Target,” a song that builds on Spoon’s familiar minimal rhythmic piano/guitar vamp popularized on earlier hits, the album quickly moves into uncharted territory with the atmospheric “The Ghost of You Lingers” and moves through several different stylistic changes from the, er, explosive “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” to the wall-of-sound horns of radio single “The Underdog.” Upon release, critics and listeners alike praised the record, which subsequently received Best New Music status from Pitchfork and cracked the top 10 of Rolling Stone’s Best Albums of 2007.
The 10th Anniversary reissue of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga has been remastered by Howie Weinberg. It features the studio album on one LP and the 12-track Get Nice! EP—previously available only as a bonus CD—on the other, both packaged in a gatefold jacket with updated art.
- Don’t Make Me a Target
The Ghost of You Lingers
You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb
Don't You Evah
Rhthm & Soul
My Little Japanese Cigarette Case
Black Like Me
Quit The Curse
Though the deceptively complex pop of Quit the Curse marks the debut of Anna Burch, it’s anything but the green first steps of a fledgling new artist. The Detroit singer/songwriter has been visible for the better part of her years-long career singing in Frontier Ruckus, or more recently co-fronting Failed Flowers, but somewhere along the way a vibrant collection of solo material slowly began taking form.
Growing up in Michigan, Burch’s fixation with music transitioned from a childhood of Disney and Carole King sing-alongs to more typically angsty teenage years spent covering Bright Eyes and Fiona Apple at open mic nights. By 18 she was deep into the lifestyle of the touring musician, juggling all the regular trials and changes of young life while on a schedule that would have her gone for months on end.
After a few whirlwind years of this, exhausted and feeling a little lost, she stepped away from music completely to attend grad school in Chicago. This respite lasted until 2014 when she moved to Detroit and found herself starting work in earnest on solo songs she’d been making casual demos of for a year or so. Friends had been encouraging her to dive into solo music, and one particularly enthusiastic friend, Chicago musician Paul Cherry, went so far as to assemble a band around scrappy phone demos to push for a fully realized album.
“Writing songs that I actually liked for the first time gave me a feeling of accomplishment,” Burch said, “Like, I can do this too! But working with other musicians and hearing the songs go from sad singer/songwriter tunes to arranged pop songs gave me this giddy confidence that I’d never felt before.”
The process was drawn out and various drafts and recordings came and went as the months passed. By now Burch was playing low key shows and d.i.y. tours solo and had released some early versions of a few songs on a split with fellow Detroit musician Stef Chura. Even at a slow, meticulous pace, with every step the album took closer to completion, it felt more serious and more real. After a more than a year of piecemeal recording sessions, Burch was introduced to engineer Collin Dupuis (Lana Del Rey, Angel Olsen) who helped push things energetically home, mixing the already bright songs into a state of brilliant clarity.
The nine songs that comprise Quit the Curse come on sugary and upbeat, but their darker lyrical themes and serpentine song structures are tucked neatly into what seem at first just like uncommonly catchy tunes. Burch’s crystal clear vocal harmonies and gracefully crafted songs feel so warm and friendly that it’s easy to miss the lyrics about destructive relationships, daddy issues and substance abuse that cling like spiderwebs to the hooky melodies. The maddeningly absent lover being sung to in “2 Cool 2 Care”, the crowded exhaustion of “With You Every Day” or even the grim, paranoid tale of scoring drugs in “Asking 4 A Friend” sometimes feel overshadowed by the shimmering sonics that envelop them.
“To me this album marks the end of an era of uncertainty. Writing songs about my emotional struggles helped me to work through some negative patterns in my personal life, while giving me the sense of creative agency I’d been searching for.”
Emerging from years spent as a supporting player, Quit the Curse stands as a liberation from feeling like Burch’s own songwriting voice was just out of reach -- an opportunity, finally, for the world at large to hear what’s been on her mind for quite a while.
2 Cool 2 Care
Asking 4 a Friend
Quit the Curse
In Your Dreams
What I Want
Yeah You Know
With You Every Day