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Gwen Zabicki: Music Picks for Summer

Cover of Nagisa Ni Te's album Dream Sounds.

All music is not created equal -- and some songs are best at certain times of the year. That's the theory of art student Gwen Zabicki. She says her musical tastes range from 1940's lounge music to the very latest in Japanese pop.

As part of our What Are You Listening To? series, Zabicki offers her suggestions for the season to other All Things Considered listeners.

Zabicki is a fan of Nagisa Ni Te, the Japanese group whose name is roughly translated to mean "On the Beach." The rock and roll ethos overcomes any language difficulties, however.

Maxine Sullivan is a long-performing jazz vocalist who has lacked the recognition won by many of her peers. But her unique styling and strong voice are sure to win over new fans.

And finally, there's Phil 'n' the Blanks, a group that defies description -- or at least short descriptions. The rock group has handled many lineup changes, with talented musicians passing through.

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Transcript

JENNIFER LUDDEN, host:

Once a month we like to find out what you're listening to when you're not listening to NPR, of course. Film student Gwen Zabicki wrote in to tell us what's on her CD player, and she joins us now from our Chicago bureau.

Hi, Gwen.

Ms. GWEN ZABICKI (Film Student): Hello.

LUDDEN: Let's get right to the music. What is your first pick?

Ms. ZABICKI: My first pick would have to be "Without Consummation." It's a song by a Chicago new wave band--they were very big in the '80s--Phil n' the Blanks.

(Soundbite of "Without Consummation")

PHIL N' THE BLANKS: (Singing) If you're kind of fast, you're a media sensation that I know really loves without consummation.

Ms. ZABICKI: I first heard about them, or first heard them, when I was very small. I was maybe five or six, and my parents had the album, and I loved the album. And I gave it a listen again recently. Being a small child, I never realized how smutty the songs were. I mean, they're, well, tame by today's standards, but they're also very well-written. The song "Without Consummation" is written in rhyming couplets.

LUDDEN: What are your favorite lyrics?

Ms. ZABICKI: Oh, my favorite lyrics are `It was such a nice introduction. Why can't we postpone the seduction? Here's some convenient excuses; we can just ignore past abuses.'

LUDDEN: This is definitely sounding early '80s.

Ms. ZABICKI: Yeah.

(Soundbite of "Without Consummation")

PHIL N' THE BLANKS: (Singing) It was such a nice introduction. Why can't we postpone the seduction? And here are some convenient excuses; we can just ignore past abuses. Whoo, hoo, hoo, hoo. Don't be premature. My feelings might be sure. If you're kind of fast, you're a media sensation that I know really loves without consummation.

LUDDEN: So were your parents dancing around the house when they would play this?

Ms. ZABICKI: Yeah. Well, yeah, it was my parents' record, and they loved it. This album and "The Ramones," those were our favorites. We would listen to those. And I know they were pretty successful in Chicago, but they never really made it big. They had some music videos on MTV when MTV was brand new. And Phil, Phil Bimstein, went on to become the mayor of Springdale, Utah.

LUDDEN: A change in career there.

Ms. ZABICKI: Yeah, a little change.

LUDDEN: All right. Well, let's go to your second pick. I don't even know how to begin to pronounce this. This is a Japanese band?

Ms. ZABICKI: Yes. My second selection, Nagisa Ni Te, is a band from Japan. They're very new; they're very young. I first read about them on Pitchfork Media, and I learned that their name means `on the beach.' They titled themselves after a Neil Young album, and you can definitely hear the Neil Young influence in their music. They're sort of a hybrid between that squeaky, high-voiced Japanese pop and Neil Young's sort of shaky guitars and...

LUDDEN: Let's listen to this.

(Soundbite of "Anxiety")

NAGIZA NI TE: (Singing in Japanese)

LUDDEN: So they are singing in Japanese there. Do you have any idea what the lyrics say?

Ms. ZABICKI: I have no idea. The song is titled "Anxiety," so who knows?

LUDDEN: Does it have the English subtitle on the--how do you know the title of the song?

Ms. ZABICKI: Oh, from iTunes, from the playlist.

LUDDEN: Well, we're going to go back in time and a few thousand miles away now for your next pick. Tell us about this.

Ms. ZABICKI: Well, this is a singer, Maxine Sullivan. I love this song because the piano is great, and there's a xylophone or something in it that is beautiful, too.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. ZABICKI: And Maxine has a voice that--it sounds like she just woke up and got out of bed, and now she's singing to you.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. MAXINE SULLIVAN: (Singing) This heart of mine was doing very well.

Ms. ZABICKI: She never--she was another one, kind of similar, who never really made it.

LUDDEN: You seem to like performers who never quite hit the big time.

Ms. ZABICKI: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And it's--I always wondered why. And for her--now this is--I'm not sure how factual this is. This is rumored to be true. But her live performances were very--they were painful, and it was because she would stand on stage completely rigid. She wouldn't move. Her arms were down at her sides, and she would sing the song, but it was so boring to watch her that she couldn't really perform live very much. And so her career never really took off like the other singers of her day, like Billie Holiday or Lena Horne or somebody like that.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. SULLIVAN: (Singing) ...as long as life endures if you're in this heart of mine.

LUDDEN: Gwen, you've got really eclectic tastes here. Do you kind of divide up different music for different parts of the day, or how do you decide what you listen to?

Ms. ZABICKI: Oh, how do I decide what I listen to. Well, there's certainly albums that are wintertime music and albums that are for the spring and albums that are for the summer and fall. It--Maxine Sullivan is great for housework if you have cleaning to do or dusting.

LUDDEN: Which season are these selections? Have you given us some summer picks here?

Ms. ZABICKI: Oh, these are summer, I think. These are summer, late afternoon even. You could--I think I could go so far as to narrow it down to a time frame between the hours of 1 and 6.

LUDDEN: Gwen Zabicki from Chicago, thanks so much for being on our show.

Ms. ZABICKI: Oh, thank you. It was wonderful.

LUDDEN: If you want to tell us what you're listening to, drop us a line at watc@npr.org. Put the words `listening to' in the subject line, and please give us a phone number where we can reach you.

(Soundbite of music)

LUDDEN: That's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jennifer Ludden. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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