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Stars Pick Their Top 4: Mars and Jade from Aye Nako

Silver Haze, the second album from Aye Nako, doesn't sound like a series of songs wrought from frustration and pain … at least not initially. Like some of the biggest names in '90s alternative rock —Pavement, the Breeders, Liz Phair—this Brooklyn punk combo mines a sweet spot between infectious power-pop and the distortion and dynamics of grunge. But scrutinize the lyrics and you'll quickly appreciate why the band's Facebook page describes its music as "sad punk songs about being queer, trans and black." So how can a collection of originals about child abuse ("Nothing Nice"), internalized anti-blackness ("Muck"), and being harassed on the street ("Sissy") feel so inspiring? Because it's just so damn refreshing to hear people who are typically pushed the margins—yes, even in punk rock—telling their stories in such an honest, artful fashion.

Aye Nako has toured with Screaming Females, Joanna Gruesome, and Speedy Ortiz, and is spending May headlining its own U.S. tour. And while the quartet has had Rilo Kiley's Take Offs and Landings stuck in its touring van's CD player for more than a year, their tastes encompass everything from Blondie to Korn. In anticipation of Aye Nako's Tucson show this week, we asked singer/guitarists Jade Payne and Mars Ganito to name some of the albums that shaped their identities. Indie rock obscurities galore? Hardly.

With f/f/t/failur, The Doyénne and Logan & Lucille on Thursday, May 11. PoMoRo, 933 N. Main. 8 p.m. $5.

1. Hanson–Middle of Nowhere: I had this on cassette when I was eleven. When I saw the "MMMBop" video, I grew this huge crush on the girl who played keyboard. I realized way later that Taylor Hanson wasn't a girl, but my imagination ran wild. I've known since birth that I was queer, but this was my first time crushing on a girl who was in a band that I loved. —Mars

2. Orgy–Candyass: The day I bought Candyass, I was 15 and had to hide the CD jacket in the bushes in front of my house until nightfall, so my mom wouldn't find out. For a suburban teen like me, Orgy was a queer-goth-metal-electronica enigma; I was obsessed with singer Jay Gordon's sassy lisp, ghostly make-up, and latex performance outfits. —Jade

3. *NSYNC–No Strings Attached: When I was a teenager, I'd pop this CD in my boombox, pretend I was JC and Justin and sing into the TV remote control as if it were a microphone. I taught myself the dance moves from watching live videos. I thought if I was a straight white guy with the ability to dance and sing at the same time, girls would start asking me out on dates. Obviously, I had a lot of racial, gender, sexual orientation stuff to work through. —Mars

4. Pansy Division–The Essential Pansy Division: I had heard of Pansy Division back when I was a teenager because I knew they toured with Green Day, but I didn't get into them until I was maybe 21. I even met [Pansy Division founder] Jon Ginoli when I eventually moved to Oakland and he saw my band play. I think getting into them helped me recognized my deeply buried attraction to men. In my pre-transition days, I wouldn't let myself accept it because it didn't feel right to be a woman who's attracted to men. —Mars

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