May 10, 2012

As we speak, some thirty-five thousand plus songs reside on the iPod.

Some of those songs were culled from the twelve-hundred vinyl albums and six hundred or so compact discs covering the wall. There once was five times the number of CDs, but that was before the purge of ’03.

In the ’90s, while the head buyer for a large record store, there must have been ten-thousand CDs that I received from distributors, labels, managers, and publicists. For a few years I was receiving new music in such a flurry that it was impossible to give much of it more than a casual listen before being discarded.

There wasn’t space.

There wasn’t time.

(even keeping slacker hours)

Friends would pick up a CD from one of a dozen three-foot high, jenga-like towers around the apartment and ask who it was, if it was good.

“It’s some jangly guitar band with a chick lead singer and an Asian chick on bass. It’s not bad, but I’ve gotten five CDs in the past week from bands that have jangly guitars, chick lead singers, and an Asian chick on bass, so…”

I’d shrug.

Bands and artists got lost in the shuffle, but I tried my best to hold onto the CDs that – maybe in one, brief listen – made me curious enough to file for a more in-depth and focused audition in the near to not-so near future.

Few were granted such an audition and yet some have managed to remain part of the musical menagerie, even getting converted to mp3s and, some, even ending up among those thirty-five thousand or so songs on the iPod.

So, it’s not uncommon for a song to come up on shuffle and, though I might recognize the name of the artist, I know little or nothing about them.

(or, if I had such knowledge, it has long been forgotten)

Here are four random songs from acts that made me go hmmmm…

The Cucumbers – I’m Waiting
from Where We Sleep Tonight (1994)

For some reason, I thought that The Cucumbers were from Rhode Island, but it turns out that the group – essentially the duo of Deena Shoshkes and Jon Fried – hailed from the decidedly less exotic locale of New Jersey.

That geographic confusion aside, I’m Waiting is a spectacularly hooky track that has a sprightly, almost New Wave feel to it that was probably to perky to make waves in the grunge era.

Velvet Crush – Why Not Your Baby
from Teenage Symphonies To God (1994)

The aptly named Velvet Crush did come from Rhode Island and the titular nod to Brian Wilson is a fitting mission statement.

Much of Teenage Symphonies To God is übersonic power pop produced by the legendary Mitch Easter who helped give bands like R.E.M. and The dBs their jangle in the ’80s.

The lovely Why Not Your Baby is a cover of a Gene Clark song and it has an appropriately melancholic twang to it.

Zuzu’s Petals – White Trash Love
from When No One’s Looking (1992)

I think that I actualy grabbed a used copy of Zuzu’s Petals for a quarter based simply on the name. It turns out that Laurie Lindeen – one third of the Minneapolis all-girl trio – is married to musician Paul Westerberg.

According to Wikipedia, Zuzu’s Petals were “foxcore,” a term “coined as a joke by Thurston Moore during the early 1990s to describe a wave of loud and aggressive female fronted bands that was occurring at the time.”

I dig White Trash Love. It has a cool detached vibe that reminds me of the underappreciated The Waitresses from a decade earlier.

Jonny Polonsky – Love Lovely Love
from Hi My Name Is Jonny (1996)

I remember Jonny Polonsky’s debut My Name Is Jonny arriving in early ’96. I seem to recall some buzz – though short-lived – about it.

I also remember being underwhelmed by the cover – a tight photo of the singer/songwriter staring at the buyer.

(it struck me as an insincere effort to be endearingly geeky)

But there must have been something that compelled me to hold onto a copy.

The All Music Guide bio is that the Illinois native got a cassette to musical hero Frank Black and the Pixie frontman got the budding Polonsky a manager. The noisy rocker Love Lovely Love isn’t a bad approximation by Polonsky of his mentor and coming in at a brisk two minutes it doesn’t overstay its welcome.