Galaxie 500: I came to Galaxie 500 via Luna, the band started by Dean Wareham after the semi-legendary Galaxie broke up in 1991. I’m pretty sure it was actually Luna’s relative commercial success that brought Galaxie 500 back from obscurity; for a while, its three albums were out of print—a concept that today’s listeners don’t have to worry about. (Basically you couldn’t get them, because the internet didn’t do that yet, so you might find a dubbed cassette if you were lucky.) But eventually Ryko released a beautiful blue box set that gathers pretty much everything the band ever did. It’s pretty and languid, though I still pull out the first couple of Luna records far more than I do these. Still, they’re classics. Keeping four, though technically it’s just one box.
Gallon Drunk: This British band was so obviously influenced by The Birthday Party/Nick Cave, it’s no wonder that its frontman actually ended up as part of Cave’s Bad Seeds at one point. Gallon Drunk’s first singles were fantastically bluesy romps (“Some Fool’s Mess” and “Snakepit”), and for some reason the band opened a whole U.S. tour for Morrissey, whose audience had no idea what they were looking at. All that said, I haven’t listened to Gallon Drunk in years. Gonna keep one because it’s got some great memories associated with it, but I’m purging four.
Gang Of Four: Speaking of things being out of print, Henry Rollins and Rick Rubin had a great reissue label in the ’90s that was intent on bringing new attention to hard-to-find classics. (Again, this was an era in which music became basically unavailable for long stretches. And we walked 10 miles to school every day. Uphill, both ways, in the snow!) Infinite Zero—that label—did a great job with the first three Gang Of Four records, though for some reason I lost Solid Gold. I’m a little torn, because these are great post-punk records, but I barely listen to them anymore. Well, maybe they’ll make the purge for round two. For now, I’ll listen to “Damaged Goods” and keep two.
David Garza: Garza is an Austin singer-songwriter who’s had a healthy career (and boasts a massive discography) but who’s never seemed to come close to entering the mainstream, which is strange considering he’s got an arsenal of great songs. His two major-label records (1998’s This Euphoria and 2001’s Overdub) are great, though I’ll always remember him as the guy who was nice enough to fly to Milwaukee and play a surprise birthday party for the owner of the record store I worked at. Keeping two.
Gastr Del Sol: Again with the Chicago post-rock. Gastr Del Sol was Jim O’Rourke and David Grubbs, mostly—two guys with massive pedigrees and a shared way of thinking about music (pop and otherwise) that’s never been repeated (except, to a degree, in other bands featuring some of the same players). I’ve always liked Camofleur best; it was the band’s last and most straightforward yet also the most likely to fall apart at any moment. Still, they rarely come off the shelf, so I’m purging three.
Gaunt: I absolutely loved this Columbus, Ohio garage-punk band, which made four records before signing to a major in the mid-’90s and trying (and failing) to get a little slicker and more popular. That said, its first album—the Albini-produced Sob Story—isn’t quite slick enough for my taste, so I’m purging the two bookends and keeping three, which are spiritual kin to the great Rocket From The Crypt records of the era. Sadly, the band’s singer Jerry Wick died in 2001, hit by a car while biking. Two other members of the band started a coffee shop in Columbus, naming it after their best record, 1995’s Yeah, Me Too, and one of those guys, Sam Brown, plays in Divine Fits and Operators as well.
Marvin Gaye: Most of my collection is made up of records by bands that I actually experienced while they were active—there’s not a ton of oldies—and most of them I know a lot about. That isn’t true of Marvin Gaye, and it’s sort of fun to just have one disc—The Very Best Of—that features photographs (and music, obviously) from both his slick-suit and space-boots eras. Keeping one.
Gene: Here comes the Anglophile again. I remember somebody at Reckless Records giving us shit when we dropped off an issue of Milk Magazine—the zine I co-edited and published through the ’90s—with the British band Gene on the cover. Apparently it wasn’t cool to like a major-label British band that wanted so badly to be The Smiths that they were named after a Smiths’ song (sort of: “Jeane”). The band is barely a footnote at this point, but 1995’s Olympian definitely holds up, and I don’t think my wife is going to let me ditch the one after it or the B-sides collection either. But she doesn’t even know they put out records as late as 2001, so I’m safely keeping three and purging one.
Geto Boys: I’m almost tempted to keep Uncut Dope, a best-of collection that sounds and looks so shitty it’s just a hair away from being a bootleg—right down to a booklet clearly sourced from an old LP. And let’s be honest, if I want to hear “Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta,” I can watch Office Space. Purging one.
Ben Gibbard: I’m a big Death Cab For Cutie fan, which I may have mentioned back in the “D” section of this project, though one of my favorite Ben Gibbard compositions actually comes from a split release with American Analog Set’s Andrew Kenny. “You Remind Me Of Home” originally appeared on Home, and it sounds poppy enough to be a blueprint for later Postal Service records. I’ve also got Gibbard’s collaborative record with Jay Farrar, which I don’t think I need on disc. Keeping one, purging one.
Gilbert: I used to buy a lot of weird crap at thrift stores, and I picked up Gilbert’s “100% Not Guilty” because of its amazingly bad artwork—literally just text of “100% Not Guilty” with a red circle around it and a line through it. I assumed when I bought the disc (probably for a penny) that it was about O.J. Simpson, who was completely ubiquitous at the time. I still think it is, though Simpson is never mentioned in the song, which is mostly a disco-synth line, unceasing saxophone, and a monotonous voice (presumably Gilbert himself). But it’s an amazing piece of ephemera from the time… that I probably don’t need to hang on to. I just Googled the backing players, as listed in the booklet. The sax player, Chris Mostert, is a session guy who’s played with the Eagles. Weird. Guess I gotta put this on YouTube for y’all. Purging one.
Girl Talk: I like Girl Talk much more in theory (and live) than I do on record, and if there’s ever an act that doesn’t require physical media, it’s this one. Purging one.
Gnarls Barkley: As good as “Crazy” is—and I think it’s going to reemerge every few years—I think the second Gnarls Barkley album is actually more consistently fantastic. And yet I don’t own it. Hmm. Keeping one.
The Go-Betweens: My then girlfriend/now wife gave me a copy of The Go-Betweens’ 1988 album 16 Lovers Lane around the time it came out, but it’s got more than sentimental value. (It has a lot of that, too.) Lovers was the final album of the Australian band’s original incarnation, which produced six pretty perfect albums of literate, gorgeous pop during that period. Primary songwriters Grant McLennan and Robert Forster—the Lennon/McCartney of the ’80s bookstore set—would reunite later, but never quite found the spark of those original albums, which have been reissued in various ways over the years. Keeping six, purging three.
God Help The Girl: Is it a soundtrack to the movie by Stuart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian, or is it the name of his project that was somehow related to the movie? All I know is that I remember liking this vaguely but never remembering it was on the shelf. Purging one.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor: I’m not doing the exclamation point, because these discs have it in the old place (at the end of this epically instrumental Canadian band’s name) instead of the new one (in the middle, inscrutably). There was a time when I couldn’t get enough GY!BE, when the frantic, massive debut whose title I can’t recreate with this keyboard came out. More than that, the excellent Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada EP. I once saw them open for Low at Schubas in Chicago, a club with a capacity of about 200, and it seemed like there were more people than that on the stage at the end. I hadn’t pulled these records out in a long while, and I’m still not up to date on their discography, but I saw Godspeed fairly recently at Chicago’s gorgeous Rockefeller Chapel, and it was thunderful. Keeping three, purging one.
José González: I saw José González play at the same chapel where I saw Godspeed You! Black Emperor play, just a couple of months later. He was otherworldly for the most part, though it made me realize that I really only need one album of his delicate Nick Drake-isms, and that’s the one with “Stay In The Shade” and “Heartbeats,” the cover that made him famous. Keeping one, purging two.
The Good, The Bad & The Queen: On paper, it seemed like a can’t-miss supergroup, but that seems so dumb in retrospect: Damon Albarn from Blur, Paul Simonon of The Clash, Tony Allen of Fela Kuti’s band, and producer Danger Mouse. But it wasn’t any good, was it? Purging one.
Gorillaz: Speaking of Damon Albarn’s side projects, Gorillaz had some hits. I like to hear them on the radio every once in a while. Purging two.
The Go! Team: It always seemed a little weird to me that this sample-heavy band’s debut, Thunder, Lightning, Strike, got as much love from the indie community as it did, though I guess if you lump it in with the first Avalanches record, it makes a bit of sense. It’s fun, but Pandora or Spotify fun, not necessarily pull-off-the-shelf fun. Purging one.
Grandaddy: I fell head over heels in love with Grandaddy’s first album, Under The Western Freeway, and that love continued with the slacker California band’s opus, The Sophtware Slump. It was diminishing returns for me after that. Although there were brilliant songs on subsequent records (especially Just Like The Fambly Cat), two is enough for the shelf, and those are even a little dusty. I definitely don’t need a collection of B-sides. Keeping two, purging three.
Grand Buffet: I own two Grand Buffet discs, neither of which has been played in at least a decade. I think I only ever really liked one song by the Pittsburgh tongue-in-cheek rap duo whose tracks all pretty much sound the same. This is easy! Purging two.
Great Phone Calls: Before Neil Hamburger was a fully formed entity, he was a character on this vital compilation of prank phone calls made by Gregg Turkington and friends. Neil makes a couple of appearances here, but he’s not the star of the show—god, there’s so much more genius at work. The first track finds Turkington answering a “band members wanted” ad and pushing his way into the position over several painful minutes; later he pretends to be a recording meant to coax people into seeing a terrible-sounding movie screening. The way that people revered their Lenny Bruce and George Carlin records in the ’70s, they ought to be revering this one now. Keeping one.
Green Day: This is no judgment on anyone else, but as a grown man, I don’t need to own any Green Day CDs. Purging two.
The Grifters: The Grifters formed right around the same time as Pavement, though while Pavement went on to take lackadaisical guitar rock to medium heights, these guys were content to put out some pretty good records and play some pretty good shows. And isn’t that more in keeping with the slack-rock ethic anyway? There was a time I played 1996’s Ain’t My Lookout nearly every week, but now it seems like an old friend I haven’t talked to in a while—and to whom I don’t have much to say other than “What’s up?” It’s good to see them, but I won’t think about them too often. Purging two.
Grizzly Bear: Grizzly Bear is one of those bands people assume I like but whose music I barely remember once it’s done playing. Purging one.
Groundswell UK: This is a little embarrassing. Later I’ll tell you about my obsession with Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, the British band with the terrible name. This band features that band’s singer but none of its energy. Purging two.
David Grubbs: I feel like I have some sort of dissociative mental thing going on, moving from terrible Ned’s Atomic Dustbin side project to super heady instrumental compositions in one short move. But here we are with David Grubbs, the perpetually seeking guitarist-composer who cut his teeth in Squirrel Bait and went on to form Gastr Del Sol. My favorite of his solo records is the achingly spare Banana Cabbage, Potato Lettuce, Onion Orange, which sounds like a joke title but is actually the name of an austere three-part cycle that might send shivers down your spine. His sing-speak can be tough to get used to, but it’s worth the effort, though Banana Cabbage removes his voice altogether. Keeping two, purging one.
Guided By Voices: Let me say something not at all controversial but that will nonetheless irritate a very small number of devotees: There are too many Guided By Voices records. I once loved the band, saw them in its Bee Thousand/Alien Lanes heyday, and gathered all the singles and LPs. But at some point, keeping up with GBV means constantly digging for treasure that isn’t always there, and to the detriment of listening to other music. So I’m gonna knock out most of these, and just stick to the ones I love. Which is a lot. Keeping eight, purging 10.
Emily Haines: Emily Haines of Metric and Broken Social Scene has at least one solo album that I barely remember. Sorry, Emily! Purging one.
The Halo Benders: When indie-rock was king, Calvin Johnson of Beat Happening and Doug Martsch of Built To Spill were… dukes or something. They had a supergroup, and it was fine but forgettable. Purging one.
Neil Hamburger: As the breakout character (or something like that) on Great Phone Calls, Neil Hamburger was apparently poised for a solo career, and he’s been doing it for two decades now. I give him a ton of credit for coming up with new concepts every time he commits something to record—the history of a pizza house, a “dirty” album, he’s “Left For Dead In Malaysia”—but I don’t listen to any of them enough to keep them around, except for the classic first one, America’s Funnyman. Keeping one, purging four.
Handsome Boy Modeling School: Hip-hop producers Dan The Automator—relatively fresh off amazing work on Dr. Octagonecologyst and Jon Spencer’s ACME—and Prince Paul came up with a concept album based around an episode of the cult TV show Get A Life, and it’s pretty amazing in its audacity and general funkiness. But apart from a few songs, I don’t really listen to So… How’s Your Girl? anymore, and I never spent much time with its follow-up, White People. Purging two.
Jeff Hanson: I knew Jeff Hanson a little bit—we had a lot of mutual friends and grew up in the same area. I used to see his rock band M.I.J. every once in a while and was surprised when he found his solo voice—a gentle, sad, Elliott Smith-indebted falsetto. He was even signed to the label that put out Smith’s best records, Kill Rock Stars, releasing three really solid albums for them. But the fact that he died very young—in 2009, just 31, from “mixed drug toxicity”—makes it tough to listen to his music. Same goes for his inspiration, the gone-too-soon Smith. Purging two.
Happy Mondays: My obsession with “Madchester” obviously includes Happy Mondays, a band that’s somehow simultaneously overrated and underrated. If you believe the legend, the Mondays brought all the drugs to Manchester and single-handedly saved a very important record label (Factory), while also fusing dance music with indie. But their records also kind of sound like shit, even though I love them. Maybe that’s exactly why they’re so beloved and sort of doomed to be forgotten all at the same time. Keeping two.
PJ Harvey: For some reason I own four PJ Harvey discs, but not the one that I should, Rid Of Me. I’ve never really gotten into anything after that album, though I realize conventional wisdom says To Bring You My Love is the pinnacle. I prefer the early, super raw, barely keeping it together sound of Dry, so that’s the only one that’s staying. Keeping one, purging three.
Harvey Danger: Harvey Danger’s story is way weirder than it probably seems. The band released its first, excellent album—Where Have All The Merrymakers Gone?—on a small label, where it did okay. A fluke landed “Flagpole Sitta” on the radio months later, and it became a massive success, making the hardworking little indie band seem like flashes in the pan. I’m guessing they wouldn’t have it any other way, even as subsequent mainstream success wasn’t exactly forthcoming. They’ve still got a solid catalog of three full-lengths, though I only ever listen to Merrymakers—in its original, non-major-label cardboard sleeve—with any regularity. I’d keep the vastly underrated follow-up, King James Version, around, but it’s one of those dumb promo copies with no artwork. Keeping one, purging two.
Hayden: I only ever really liked one song by this sad-sack Canadian (the minor college-radio hit “Bad As They Seem”), so why do I own four discs? WHY? (Sorry to my friend Danie, who loves Hayden with all her heart and recently drove to Canada to see him play.) Purging four.
Headlights: This Champaign, Illinois band was one of the test subjects when we were first planning A.V. Undercover, gamely heading into the round room before anyone else. Their orchestral indie pop never quite caught on, though I remain a fan—especially of 2006’s Kill Them With Kindness. Oh, and Nick Sanborn of Headlights went on to become half of Sylvan Esso, which this band sounds nothing like. Keeping one, purging three.
Headphones: I’m generally a big fan of all things David Bazan, both in solo and Pedro The Lion modes, but his downcast, electronic-leaning album as Headphones never really clicked with me. Purging one.
Imogen Heap: Seeing this Imogen Heap solo disc has only served to alert me to the fact that I apparently don’t have Frou Frou’s one and only album, Details. That fantastic disc features Heap and superstar producer Guy Sigsworth, and its big single “Let Go” was the unsung hero of the Garden State soundtrack. Heap’s solo output, while good, doesn’t touch Details in my mind. Purging one, considering buying that Frou Frou disc if I can’t find it in my collection.
Heatmiser: Even as he was launching a remarkable solo career—one that he initially thought nobody would care about—Elliott Smith was still the co-singer and co-songwriter of the Portland rock band Heatmiser. It’s a little weird to hear Smith sing more straight-ahead rock songs like “The Corner Seat,” but there are Heatmiser tracks that clearly point to his much more successful solo career. The band’s major-label single, “Plainclothes Man,” just sounds like Smith’s solo work anyway. Purging one, keeping two.
Heavens: Side-project featuring Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio dabbling in more electronic, goth sounds. It was fun when it came out; I’ve never touched it since. Purging one.
Mitch Hedberg: I remember the exact joke that made me love Mitch Hedberg, and it’s not even very good. It’s about leaving a baked potato in the oven all the time, because they take so long to cook—you never know when you might want one. Hedberg was all about the delivery; his weird one-liners wouldn’t have worked half as well coming from anyone else. His legend continues to rise a decade after his death. Keeping two.
The Heligoats: Heligoats is the side project turned only project of Troubled Hubble singer Chris Otepka. Hubble seemed ready to break through in the mid-’00s, but it didn’t quite happen. Otepka’s music continued, though—he’s cheery when writing about happy and sad things. Still, I don’t need this big stack of discs, so I’m just keeping the sweet one with the handmade felt cover. Keeping one, purging four.
Helmet: In case it’s not obvious by now, I don’t dabble much in the world of metal, or heavy anything, really. Helmet’s Meantime, though, always seemed slightly elevated—catchy without being cheesy. Still, listening to it right now, I think I can live without the disc. Purging one.
Jimi Hendrix: I reflexively disliked Jimi Hendrix as a teen, because high school happened to fall during a heavily nostalgic period in popular taste: Everybody was into The Dead and The Doors, and it all seemed so mindlessly retro to me. (Meanwhile I was listening to Joy Division, so what the hell was I talking about?) Hendrix, I at some point realized, didn’t deserve to be lumped in with that stuff. Still, and perhaps this is heresy, but I only need the Experience Hendrix hits collection for everyday use. Keeping one, purging one.
The tally: Seventy-nine more out the door, for a grand total of 347. (Approximately. Stop counting, copy editors, it’s a fool’s errand!) Now is a good time to reassure myself that at the end of the alphabet there is a large cache of soundtracks and compilations that will likely be purged without mercy.
Personal Hall Of Fame (the discs that I’ll take to the grave, maximum of one per artist): Great Phone Calls Featuring Neil Hamburger; Guided By Voices, Bee Thousand; Harvey Danger, Where Have All The Merrymakers Gone?
Next up: One of my favorite songs by an artist I don’t care that much about (Kristin Hersh) through some J-time, hopefully.