Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin: The name is memorable (though pretty awful), but this Missouri band’s music has always been kind of in one ear and out the other for me. It’s vaguely (or maybe not so vaguely) Shins-like. Sorry, co-worker and friend Leo, I still like your collection of SSLYBY T-shirts. Purging one.
Sometime Sweet Susan: This Milwaukee band was the catalyst for the very existence of Milk Magazine, so I guess I have Jim, Franz, and Thom to thank for the entire path of my working life. (Thanks, guys!) I wrote a story about the band for Milwaukee’s Shepherd Express, but the music editor deemed it “too magazine-like” and asked me to rewrite it. Since the story was clearly perfect as it was, I decided to publish it myself, and Milk was born. (There’s a lot more to it, but you get the picture.) Sometime Sweet Susan—which in 1992-93 was part of a burgeoning, awesome Milwaukee rock scene—were Milk’s first cover stars, so of course they went on to sell millions of records and dominate the pop charts. (That’s not true; their lineup splintered and they released one more album before breaking up.) Still, Fuse still rules, in its post-punk, kind of shoegaze way. Keeping one.
Space Ghost: I’m not entirely sure why I own a Space Ghost CD or why there is a Space Ghost CD. Purging one.
Spacemen 3: It’d be more musically correct for me to keep all the Spacemen 3, but I always preferred the band that Jason Pierce formed after Spacemen split—Spiritualized, who I’ll get to in just a little bit. Weirdly, I don’t even have the right Spacemen discs—just a live album, the noisy, not-quite-there debut Sound Of Confusion, and a thoroughly incomplete singles collection. Its dark psychedelia is no doubt influential (and sometimes amazing), but none of the discs I own get any play. Purging three.
Spain: I don’t know who to credit this joke to, but it applies to lots of bands that I like: “They only have one song… but it’s a really good song!” (This is meant to imply not that they only have one good song, but that all of a given band’s songs sound the same. One of my favorite bands of all time, The Wedding Present, even has an EP called All The Songs Sound The Same.) Which is a long way of getting to Spain, the L.A. band led by Josh Haden, son of jazz guy Charlie and brother of the Triplets. Haden’s slow, syrupy songs can be hypnotically sad, but they get awfully repetitive, and I can go to YouTube on occasion to hear “She Haunts My Dreams” and “Easy Lover” (or Johnny Cash’s cover of Spain’s “Spiritual”). Purging two.
Sparklehorse: I always admired Sparklehorse more than I really liked the band/him, and for some reason the only disc I own is the swan song, Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain. Someday I’ll take a trip back through the entire catalog. Purging one.
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: Filed under S, because what are you gonna do? I’m going with the controversial opinion that Acme is the best front-to-back JSBX record, from “Calvin” straight through to “Attack.” I realize it polished some of the trio’s earlier grit, but I’m sticking with it and Orange. This is a great Jon Spencer line: “Rolling Stone magazine / On the telephone, baby / Talkin’ bout… fashion.” Keeping two, purging four.
Spent: This is from Wikipedia, which I am loathe to quote, but it’s just so dry and accurate: “The band never received much attention outside of the ’90s indie rock world.” I think that quote describes like 20 percent of my collection here! But this Jersey band released one record that I loved a lot, called A Seat Beneath The Chairs. I always loved this lyric, for reasons I can’t explain, “I’ve got a craving for a magazine subscription.” You should check that song out; it’s called “Umbrella Wars.” Purging one.
The Spinanes: Third in a row where a specific lyric jumps right out at me as definitive: “Did you give up punk for lent?” That’s from “Noel, Jonah, And Me,” from the first, awesome-est Spinanes’ record, 1993’s Manos. They were doing the male-female duo thing years before The White Stripes, though The Spinanes were much more demure, which maybe explains why they never quite blew up. If this one were solely up to me, I’d likely just pick one of these, but The Spinanes are a favorite of my wife’s, so it’s keeping three.
Spiritualized: Another reason I’m never going to make it to my goal of a thousand purged discs: Spiritualized’s killer discography. I don’t use any drugs, but I do use Spiritualized records—particularly 1992’s Lazer Guided Melodies—in the same way that I imagine some people do, people like Spiritualized mastermind Jason Pierce, who has done plenty of writing and singing about the highs and lows of his various highs. (“Medicate my days / Medicate my nights / Medicate my life / Don’t it feel all right.”) But the drugs apparently have worked for him—though you have to wonder if his brushes with death over the past decade have had something to do with his past habits. In any case—no judgment here—he makes insanely beautiful music, sometimes with a hundred people and borderline cacophony behind him, sometimes with nothing more than an acoustic guitar. And pretty much every Spiritualized record is fantastic. Oh, and I just remembered right now that I met him once, weirdly. He came to Atomic Records for some reason. Rich, the owner, saved his cigarette butt, and we put it in a display case with a note that said “Jason Spaceman’s DNA.” Keeping eight, purging one (the live album).
Spoon: Based on the records I’ve written about so far, it would be safe to assume—I think—that I’m a huge Spoon fan. Would it surprise you to know that I am, in fact, only a moderate Spoon fan? The only record I’m going to hang on to in a physical format is Gimme Fiction, though perhaps if there’s ever a greatest-hits, I’ll trade up for that. Every time I see Spoon—I’ve seen them a lot over the years—I’m surprised at the number of hits they actually have. (“Hits” in the sense of big crowd-pleasers that lots of people seem to recognize.) Here’s a story: I once promoted a Spoon show at The Globe in Milwaukee, on Thanksgiving night, 2001. As you can imagine, Thanksgiving night is not a huge night for rock shows—people are busy—and this wasn’t exactly a high point in Spoon’s popularity. About 50 people showed up, if memory serves, including Har Mar Superstar, who I think had family in Milwaukee. I think it was the first meeting of Har Mar and Spoon’s Britt Daniel, who went on to name-check Har Mar on Spoon’s next album. (And simultaneously dis The White Stripes: “I don’t dig the Stripes, but I’ll go for Har Mar.”) Keeping one, purging two.
Bruce Springsteen: I have a really weird mishmash of Bruce Springsteen records on CD, with a pair of essentials that I’m keeping (Nebraska and The River) and some that I can’t recall even acquiring (The Promise, Devils & Dust). I’ve got a bunch of vinyl, too, but I’m by no means a completist or even a huge fan. The records I love I really love, but there are holes in my knowledge base and collection, to be sure.
Which leads me to a fun story that I may have told in these pages at some point: I have seen Springsteen in concert exactly one time, at an “intimate”—about 3,000 capacity—venue at South By Southwest a few years back. I sat in the balcony alone, waiting to be wowed, when the guy a couple of seats down struck up a conversation. He told me he had seen the Boss something like 75 times. He looked familiar, and at some point I realized it was Howard Stern’s sidekick/right-hand man Gary “Baba Booey” Dell’Abate. He fed me lots of trivia throughout the show and acted as something of a spirit guide. (It was a good show, but kind of full of deep cuts and guests, and not enough hits for me.) Keeping two, purging three.
Stallion Buckwild: I hope I get this story right. Somebody in my extended group of friends—I’m pretty sure it was Jon Mueller, now quite the respected experimental musician, always a weirdo with eclectic taste—worked at a CD-duplication house. A guy named Stallion Buckwild—presumably a stage name—brought in his album to be manufactured, and in our group of friends, a star was born. There’s a particular track on Buckwild’s self-titled debut that struck a chord with everybody who heard it, because it’s so amateur and ridiculous. I present to you, above, “Golf Cart,” with no pride. It’s not particularly nice to giggle at somebody who’s trying to express themselves and make something, but there’s something so wonderfully naïve and half-baked about the song that I can’t help but share it. If only it had been 10 or 15 years later, Stallion could have been an internet sensation. Now he doesn’t even get one hit on a Google search. (Well, until I post this song, I guess.) Keeping one, for the memories.
Stuart A. Staples: I will get to Mr. Staples when I get to his main band, Tindersticks. For now, purging one.
Stars: I could live without the three Stars discs I own, but my wife is overruling me here. Alas, Set Yourself On Fire will get some rotation anyway. Canadian band, pals with Broken Social Scene, heightened indie-pop, you know the drill? Keeping three.
Statehood: Eric Axelson, former (current?) bassist for The Dismemberment Plan, is known widely as the nicest man in indie rock, and he sent me this disc—a post-Plan band featuring him, drummer Joe Easley, and a wild-and-crazy singer named Clark Sabine. I must’ve done something nice for them, because I’m thanked in the liner notes of this fine record, which also serves as a monument for Sabine, a well-loved wild man who died of cancer in 2009. Keeping one.
Stereolab: There was a time when I loved Stereolab, but as the years have passed, I find myself listening to their coldly gorgeous krautrock less and less. I’m tempted to just keep the greatest-hits record, but they get so little play nowadays (and I’m running out of room!) so out they go. Purging four.
Cat Stevens: There are so many great songs on The Very Best Of. It’s like tonic. But not the band Tonic. I have Tea For The Tillerman on vinyl, okay? Get off my back, experts! Keeping one.
Sufjan Stevens: There’s something to love about every Sufjan Stevens record. (For me, anyway. I realize that some people find him insufferable, which I get but don’t agree with.) I actually resisted Stevens when all the Michigan hype was happening, but eventually gave in. He’s brilliant. If you don’t have the sleeper Seven Swans, you should pick ’er up. Keeping seven.
Stiffs, Inc.: Stiffs, Inc. was a New York band from the ’90s that thought it was a British band from the ’70s and dressed in pancake makeup and Victorian outfits. I realize that sounds pretty terrible, but the band’s debut—1995’s Nix Nought Nothing—is so funny and spunky and catchy that it still gets regular rotation from me. They released another album before splitting in the late ’90s, but it had nothing on this one. Keeping one.
Sting: I once did karaoke with Sting, who was extraordinarily nice. He gave me this CD and autographed it. You can read the whole story right here. Keeping one.
The Stone Roses: The Stone Roses were hugely important to me in high school, alongside bands I’ve written about here that haven’t aged as well—namely Inspiral Carpets and Happy Mondays. Maybe it’s that those bands kept making music, while the Roses made one classic album, disappeared, made a dud, and then really disappeared. But that self-titled 1989 debut just gets better with age, and people are even slightly kind to Second Coming at this point. (They shouldn’t be.) The band famously never played the U.S. during its brief moment of popularity, though it’s since remedied that situation with high-profile reunion shows at Coachella and, just this summer, Madison Square Garden. (Crowds here have nothing on the ones in England, where they drew a staggering 225,000 fans over three nights in 2012.) Both the self-titled record and all of its attendant singles/B sides still hold up, so much so that I’ve got multiple discs that cover some of the same shit, just so I can have it all. It’s time to stop that, I guess: I’ll ditch Turns To Stone in favor of The Complete Stone Roses (which means losing the long versions of “One Love” and “Something’s Burning”—the between-albums single), and Second Coming can go as well. Keeping three, purging three.
The Stooges: Remember how I suck because I only own an Iggy Pop greatest-hits set? Well I only own the self-titled Stooges on disc, too! Have you heard it? It’s good. Keeping one.
The Strokes: I didn’t care all that much for The Strokes when they first emerged, but I’ve slowly grown to really love Is This It. (I’m ashamed to say that it might have something to do with playing “Reptilia” in Rock Band, which led me back down a Strokes rabbit hole.) Still, even though it’s got “Reptilia” on it, Room On Fire is on the bubble. But they’re both staying for now. Keeping two.
St. Vincent: I own two St. Vincent discs, neither of which have artwork. She’s great, but that lack of visuals is immediate cause for dismissal this late in the alphabet. (And I’ve got Actor on vinyl anyway.) Have you seen her talking about and playing “Surgeon” for our video series One Track Mind? It may be one of the best music videos we’ve ever done. Purging two.
Suede: Another band I was obsessed with in 1992, partly because they were covered by Morrissey, partly because they were NME favorites, and partly because its first singles were absolutely fantastic. Between the self-titled debut and the singles collection, Sci-Fi Lullabies, I’ve got enough. (I’m tempted to get rid of Sci-Fi because it’s got a distressingly thick double jewel case, but it’s not available on Spotify.) The band’s ego-heavy glam-rock didn’t last too long for me, and in recent years they’ve been making presumably inessential records. Anybody know if that’s an unfair prejudice? Keeping two, purging three.
Sugar: For some reason I only have the classic Sugar debut, Copper Blue, on CD, though I swear I’ve got the weird Beaster “prayer book” edition in a box somewhere. Maybe it’s the only Sugar I need? Maybe I need to sit down one day and go through the entire Bob Mould discography and learn some valuable lessons. That’s probably wise. Every time he puts out a new record, I listen hard for a month and then forget about it. More my problem than his, to be sure. Keeping one.
The Sugarcubes: I was in love with The Sugarcubes. Remember a few weeks ago when I told you that I camped out overnight to get front-row tickets to see New Order? It was a package tour with Public Image and The Sugarcubes, and I was just as excited to see The Sugarcubes as I was New Order. (Slightly less so, but still excited, to see PiL.) My friend Aaron and I were dancing away in the front row while the rest of the crowd didn’t seem to care much and were excited to be acknowledged by Björk with something like, “How come only these guys like to dance?” If memory serves, she also had a squirt gun around her waist that she shot at us. You know what? I’m going to go listen to Life’s Too Good, a.k.a. the only Sugarcubes record I remember. Keeping one, purging one.
The Sundays: Melancholy? Check. British? Uh-huh. Clearly influenced by The Smiths? Oh, yeah. The Sundays released two fantastic albums in the ’90s—Reading, Writing And Arithmetic and Blind—and one okay one, then basically just retired to be a married couple and raise their kids. Sounds like a brilliant fucking plan to me. Keeping two, purging one.
Sun Kil Moon: I could duplicate my entry on Mark Kozelek solo here, which is that, try as I might, I’ve never really connected with his music. I think he’s got a beautiful voice (and what seems like a pretty rough personality), but I never go back to these records once they’ve been shelved, so out they go. Purging two.
Sunny Day Real Estate: Strangely, I didn’t fully embrace Sunny Day Real Estate the first time around. I liked the first two albums—both now rightfully considered stone classics—but weirdly didn’t love them until after the band re-formed for 1998’s How It Feels To Be Something On. (Another stone classic in my opinion, though that’s not the most popular opinion for sure.) But on all three of those records there’s the sort of intense energy that can’t be faked; it was tagged “emo” at the time, but now the SDRE catalog (minus the forgettable The Rising Tide) transcends that label by miles. Some version of God—as embraced by singer Jeremy Enigk—is what broke the band up the first time around, and it does feel like spiritual music. Keeping three, purging one.
Sunset Rubdown: Spencer Krug of Wolf Parade. He makes great records that I barely ever listen to. I barely have time to listen to the Wolf Parade catalog! Alas. Purging two.
Superchunk: Superchunk has 10 studio albums and three rarities compilations, and each—to me, anyway—is essential listening. If you forced me to get rid of just one, it’d probably be Here’s To Shutting Up, but even that one—the least of a sturdy catalog—is a giant. In a way, I feel the same way about Superchunk that I do about Fugazi, in that their music evolved in much the same way my taste did, which is surely a function of us both getting older. There are the blazing older records—No Pocky For Kitty, my personal favorite On The Mouth—and then the later, more contemplative ones, that are just as good. As with Fugazi, too, I’ve seen Superchunk play live more times than I can count and interviewed them as well. I do remember being 19 or 20 and calling Merge Records—the label run by Superchunk’s Laura Ballance and Mac McCaughan—to try and set up a Superchunk interview, only to realize that I was actually talking to Ballance. If my voice has ever cracked from nervousness, it was that moment. Keeping 13, purging one—the CD single for “Mower,” which contains my all-time favorite Superchunk B side, “On The Mouth,” but that’s on one of the comps, so I’m okay.
Superdrag: I must’ve thinned out my Superdrag collection at some point, since I’ve only got The Fabulous 8-Track Sound Of Superdrag, the Knoxville alt-rock band’s debut EP, and not even the one with the hit on it. That’d be “Sucked Out,” which oldsters might remember from MTV. But I haven’t listened to this in years. Purging one.
Swan Lake: Hey, it’s another side project of Wolf Parade’s Spencer Krug, this one with Dan Bejar of Destroyer! But I barely remember it even existing, so out it goes. Purging one.
Swell: Swell was this mysterious San Francisco band that played dark, weird pop and created a zine about itself. There was a time when I listened to its captivating records on a pretty regular basis, especially 1994’s 41 and 1997’s Too Many Days Without Thinking, but I revisited it for this project a few weeks ago and didn’t fall in love all over again. I won’t abandon the band, but I don’t need the catalog on CD. Purging seven.
Swervedriver: Swervedriver was the shoegaze band that injected a bit more rock into the scene, choosing to chug-chug behind a wall of big guitars instead of swirl. The band’s first three records—Raise, Mezcal Head, and Ejector Seat Reservation—are largely untouchable, with pop hooks buried underneath treated guitars and some of the coolest, laid-back vocals of the era. Label woes kind of killed the band’s momentum, though, and they fizzled to a stop around 1998 before reigniting for some gigs and a decent record a few years ago. I’ll see them live anytime, but I really only need those first three albums; I’m even going to ditch the CD singles of that era, because I’m running out of room, damn it. So it’s keeping three, purging four, and then telling you this funny story:
I ended up backstage talking to Swervedriver frontman Adam Franklin in 1994—I think because he was friends with my friends in Sometime Sweet Susan. Anyway, there was a moderately drunk dude there offering his services as a drummer, should Swervedriver ever need them. “Johnny Machine!” he said once or twice, which is when I realized it was the onetime drummer for Poster Children, a.k.a. John Herndon, who would end up having a pretty huge impact on my musical taste (and lots of other people’s) that very year, with the release of the self-titled Tortoise album. I’m like Zelig! But not at all.
Sylvan Esso: Sylvan Esso has roots in Milwaukee, where electro-wizard Nick Sanborn played in decidedly less electronic-leaning outfits like Decibully. When he teamed up with Amelia Meath, something special happened pretty quickly, resulting in a 2014 self-titled debut that deftly mixes folk sounds and glitchy electronics. I can’t wait for their next one. Keeping one.
The re-purgening: Things were clearly not headed toward my desired conclusion, so I went back and cleared out a bunch of discs that I had kept the first time around. In the interest of full disclosure, they are Adorable, Final Show (bootleg); American Analog Set, Through The 90s; Aphex Twin, Syro; Azure Ray, self-titled; Maria Bamford, Ask Me About My New God!; Todd Barry, From Heaven; Bee Gees, Odessa; Belle & Sebastian, I’m A Cuckoo; Bloc Party, Tulips; Boards Of Canada, Twoism; Built To Spill, Live and You In Reverse; Cat Power, Speaking For Trees; three Clem Snide bootlegs; Colorsound, You’re Only As Good As Your Sound; The Cure, Galore; Death Cab For Cutie, The John Byrd EP; Julie Doiron, Heart And Crime; Flaming Lips, Zaireeka; Gang Of Four, Songs Of The Free; Guided By Voices, Sunfish Holy Breakfast; ID-X Feat. Eminem’s Mom; Kool Keith, Sex Style; Led Zeppelin, BBC Sessions; Magic Arrows, self-titled; MC Face, Not The Green Tom Show; Eugene Mirman, God Is A Twelve-Year-Old Boy With Asperger’s; Pavement, Major Leagues; Paw, Dragline; Pernice Brothers, Live A Little and Yours, Mine & Ours. That’s an extra 33 purged!
The tally: Six hundred eighty-three plus 33 re-purged plus 53 out of this current round takes me to 769 purged. It’s gonna be a nail-biter.
Personal Hall Of Fame (the discs that I’ll take to the grave, maximum of one per artist): Spiritualized, Lazer Guided Melodies; Bruce Springsteen, Nebraska; Sufjan Stevens, I dunno, Carrie & Lowell? Illinois?; The Stone Roses, self-titled; The Sundays, Reading, Writing And Arithmetic; Sunny Day Real Estate, depends what day you ask me, but maybe Diary; Superchunk, Here’s Where The Strings Come In.
Next up: T, which I’m surprisingly not too worried about. It’s W that’s going to be a problem, with The Wedding Present and Wilco. Especially The Wedding Present.