Anna Minard, our city hall reporter, claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we're forcing her to listen to all the records that music nerds consider important.




Um, I was not aware that music boss nerds were allowed to like just some nice guy playing acoustic guitar and quietly singing dad songs about rivers. What? I have to completely recalibrate what the world means now.

That's not to say I don't like Oar, because I really do. But I like it the way I like simple, nostalgic music that reminds me of my childhood. This is an album for people who own multiple copies of hippie songbooks and who always bring their guitar with them when they go camping. And if I haven't made it clear: Those are my people. I just don't think of that as "records that music nerds consider important" kind of stuff.

I thought the sepia-toned picture of a scruffy hippie in a sweatshirt would be some sort of camouflage for crazy experimental bullshit that was all overprocessed jazz flute and the sound of someone licking a teacup turned up really loud. But much of this is made up of what I like to call "songs." Just regular songs, like regular people listen to who aren't trying to get extra points with their friends because they heard the rarest sound in the world. These songs are often sort of folky-country, pretty spare, and they're the kind of thing acoustic dads love. I have an acoustic dad, and he's the best, and he used to sing me awesome songs about prisons and swords and railroads before I fell asleep. Maybe that's why I like this album.

There a bit of weird here, too—duh. If the whole thing was just songs, that wouldn't be fair. "Grey/Afro" is a space-drum fight, "War in Peace" is googly fake falsetto British behavior, "Lawrence of Euphoria" is a rhyming hippie joke.

But it keeps coming back to these chocolaty-rich folk songs with amazing vocals. I listen to "Weighted Down (The Prison Song)" over and over. It makes me feel cozy and small, happy, safe, even though it's clearly a horrible tragedy song about murder. That's just how folk songs are!

Skip Spence's voice is neat and clean, so smooth. It shifts around to lots of styles, but it's deep and dark, like there's more voice underneath it, like if you kept peeling off layers, it would be just as pure and true all the way down. Also the bass on this album is incredible.

I'm too curious about why this counts as an "important" album to people who rank albums via importance instead of fun. So I've had to go on the internet and see if I can figure it out. One sec...

Oh good lord, that's why you guys like this. Here's what the internet says: Skip Spence was in Jefferson Airplane and then Moby Grape, and he had an awful psychotic break and tried to attack his bandmates with a fire ax, and so he was committed, and then he made this album. Are you kidding me? God, can't you guys ever like anything normal?

I give this an "it's still sweet" out of 10. recommended