The Deathray Davies – Without a Trace 7″ (2001)

This is the only time I’ve ever had to buy a record just to hear the music on it. Back when I was way into the Deathray Davies, I found out about a 7″ single called Without a Trace, which was backed with the elusive third part to “They Stuck Me in a Box in the Ground”. Neither track appeared on any of their albums nor anywhere else, and to make matters worse the only thing I could find out about them online was from some fans claiming that they were, indeed, most excellent. Unfortunately, even if I could’ve tracked it down, I didn’t have a record player to play it on, so “Without a Trace” became the stuff of imagination. In my mind the best song the DRD ever wrote simply because I had no way to hear it. Seriously. I’d check like, every week on Kazaa and Soulseek to see if this single turned up. Nada.

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The Deathray Davies – The Kick and the Snare (2005)

The Deathray Davies are a power pop outfit from Dallas (the frozen tundra!), and, for some reason, my favorite band for about a year in high school. I’ve written about this before, but thanks to the magic of file sharing and mis-tagged MP3s I wound up randomly downloading one of their songs and suddenly found myself very into this band that nobody else seemed to know about. They had 4 CDs and it took me months to acquire them all – the local shop was able to order one, Sam Goody another, the other two I had to get direct from the band’s website, which is difficult to do when you’re 16 and don’t have a credit card. But I would not be denied.

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Brian Eno – Another Green World (1975)

In the Summer of ’05 I was a meter reader at the local utility company, which often involved getting into people’s houses. One afternoon I ventured into a basement with a crate full of old records in the corner. No one else was down there, so I figured I’d have a look. Unsurprisingly, it was mostly garbage: Foghat, James Taylor, Frampton Comes Alive. The stuff you couldn’t even give away. At least not in ’05.

But amongst them was a copy of Another Green World. And I was confused. There was nothing else in his collection that was even remotely interesting or experimental. Was I being too judgmental? And I wondered how that came to be. I wondered if he liked the record. I wondered if he even remembered having it.

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Van Der Graaf Generator – H to He Who Am the Only One (1970)

Happy 50th birthday to this extraordinary LP. Or at least I think it’s 50. Wikipedia just says “released December 1970”, so let’s just say its birthday is today, whatever day I happen to publish this (most likely February 2021).

This was the first Van der Graaf Generator album I ever heard and for a while the only one I knew. Mostly this is because the Web Reviewing Community – you know, those old Geocities & Angelfire pages that attempted to review every classic rock album in existence – painted this picture of VdGG as a second-rate prog group, though they did seem to be fond of this album. I would guess that’s because “Killer” is on it, the most accessible tune they ever did, sort of like Black Sabbath doing prog. It was their one and only attempt to write something that could be played on the radio – and as far as I know it really wasn’t, but it still remains their most recognizable tune, to the extent anything by Van Der Graaf Generator is recognizable. If you had one shot to get someone into the band, this is the song you’d play.

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FFS (2015)

First of all, I’d like to say congratulations on the band name; even if the music was no good it would have been worth it for that alone. True story, based on context I always thought that “FFS” stood for “Fuck! Fuck! Shit!”, and if not for a blurb I’d read about this album I’d probably still think that today. Now, it’s also the name of a supergroup consisting of FF (Franz Ferdinand) and S (Sparks). How did this happen? Who knows! This is just what Sparks do. Apparently at some point the bands discovered they were fans of each other in 2004, talked about working together, but Franz Ferdinand didn’t have the time, as this was around when “Take Me Out” was taking off. About a decade later things cooled down, schedules got cleared, and the rest is history (??).

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King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King (1969)

Dreading the day my kids inevitably discover this album – “Dad, there’s a meme on the cover!”

Have you ever heard an album that just totally shifted your perception of what music could be? Something that made you feel weird inside, as though a long dormant section of your brain was suddenly activated? It’s a rare feeling, something you don’t get pretty often past the age of say 25, but when it happens, you remember it forever. It’s pretty much always on the first listen, too. I can probably count these moments on one hand – Cardiacs, The Richard D. James Album, “Rez/Cowgirl”, and “Opus” by Susumu Hirasawa. But the first one I really remember was this. I was 17 and had just bought my first car, a $1,700 Ford Escort. It was so memorable that I can remember precisely where I was while each song was playing. I was at a stoplight when the crazy bits on “Schizoid Man” kicked into gear. Driving to school in the morning for half of “Epitaph”. Coming back along a long country road, lamenting what was happening in “Moonchild”, wondering “why would you ruin such an amazing album like this?”. And then heading to work as the title track ripped my head clean off. The next day at the lunch table I asked my friends, who were big into Pink Floyd, if they’d heard of it. One of them had.

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P-Model – Landsale (1980)

I wrote about the first album twice, so I might as well write about the second album… once? It’s not one I exactly sought out but it’s fairly available as far as P-Model LPs go, the one you can sometimes get on eBay for five bucks (plus $18.00 economy shipping). Apparently this album sold pretty well, though it was the last P-Model album to do so, as from here on out the group would get progressively more erratic and weird.

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Kate NV – Room for the Moon (2020)

On my 2020 post I lamented the fact that I didn’t listen to a whole lot of new music last year, particularly from artists I wasn’t into for a long time already. But this album here was a pretty big exception to that, almost certainly the new release I listened to the most last year. If you don’t know who she is, Kate NV (full name Yekaterina Shilonosova) is the frontwoman for an avant-punk band called Glintshake (something like Russia’s answer to Cheer-Accident?), but her solo material is far more experimental and striking. It’s the sort of music that’s generally talked about in comparison to other artists – she’s the Russian Kate Bush, the next Stereolab, the daughter of Laurie Anderson, etc. Certainly I’m guilty of the same; the first time I heard her music I thought that she sounded like one of Haruomi Hosono’s protégés and immediately recommended her stuff to the various YMO fans I knew.

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2020

Usually at the end of each year I do a giant wrap up post summarizing the albums I listened to that year and picking favorites, same as any other music blog really. I’m actually a bit embarrassed by these, because for me a good 80% of those are just new albums by artists I’ve liked for over a decade, while the “new” stuff I discovered is just like, some obscure prog band from Romania or whatever. I’ve come to the realization that I don’t really follow popular music all that closely. Nor do I really follow very many underground scenes. I’m kind of on my own island here. These lists could not possibly be interesting to anyone who is not currently living in my house.

This year’s been different, since I decided to start listening mostly to the stuff that’s actually in my record collection again. Obviously when I wrote that I had no clue that I’d be spending three-quarters of the year working from home, where I’m free to listen to records all day long, at least until the kids come downstairs wanting to watch Paw Patrol Peppa Pig random NBA highlights (??). I’ll probably never get the chance to spend this much time at home again. So the timing was right.

At the beginning of the year, every record I owned that I actually liked could fit on the top shelf alone. Now it flows over…
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