This is a musicblog. Every weekday we post a couple of mp3s and write about them. Songs are only kept online for a short time. This is a page from our archives and thus the mp3s linked to may not longer be available. Visit our front page for new songs and words.

July 31, 2006

Oh Lord, Is This My Ship Coming In?

Cake Bake Betty - "Doves"

The first 1:45 of this song is a slow walk out on to your front porch, midnight, screen door spilling light behind you. Crickets, the whole bit. But the last 0:26, is an explosion, it sounds like cannons going off, but barely anything has changed. This song has amazing power, and it might be interesting for someone to cover this song, in a version where those cannons come to life, though maybe they should always stay unfired, I don't know. [Buy]

Jeff - "I Don't Need Your Tas-T"

This is the most accessible track by Jeff on Castle Storm, having a smidgen of melody in the vocals and an understandable riff. But that's all I need from this band, because when it's clear, their talent is direct, obvious, real. This song is as clear as a peanut butter sandwich, and I've been eating peanut butter sandwiches every morning for three weeks now, so don't knock 'em. They keep me alive. [Buy]

Posted by Dan at 3:41 AM | Comments (2)

July 28, 2006

T'ES JOLIE

Tap Tap - "Way To Go, Boy". Out of the success of The Unicorns, Franz Ferdinand and "Float On" came a hundred and one squawkin' dance-beat indie rock bands. You know the type - they are everywhere. Especially on mp3blogs. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! were the first big breakthrough - and with their ridiculous name, massive hype and horrible live show, it's not surprising the backlash is what it is. Still, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is the only album of this 2005-2006 genre that gives me any measure of satisfaction. I have no love whatever for Tapes 'n Tapes, Oh No Oh My, Cold War Kids, Birdmonster, and on and on. No love. Why? I don't dig the songs. If you do, ok ok, fine, ok - cool. That's cool. But when I hear them I don't feel my heart beating faster, I don't feel my feet tapping. I just wait for the track to be over so I can put on something better, like, uh, a Unicorns album.

With all this lead-in, I suspect you're going to know what I'm going to say. But I'll say it anyway. Tap Tap sound like these bands. No getting away with it, even if they are from England. But here's why I'm posting them on Said the Gramophone: because "Way to Go, Boy" is an awesome song! An awesome one! It's got a disco sort of beat, with bass-drum up front. It's got a lead singer who strains and yelps like Robert Smith and Spencer Krug. It's got a chorus that's silly and electric guitar. And it has an accordion, guys! An accordion! A squeezebox! You remember? The kind of instrument that appears in those dreams where the tablecloths are red-and-white check, the candles are flickering, and MEN COME OUT OF THE BUSHES, WEARING THE BUSHES. Yes they were in camouflage! The men! The bushes were really just men, hiding! And the men storm the cafe, they grab the baguettes, they steal the pepper-grinders, they smash the clocks. They dance and thieve and eat and crash around in their outfits while you and the rest of the diners wait in motionless awe, hoping they have a bush costume in your size.

[buy! get the bee-yootiful Limited Edition while you still can! and give the band a tip, too! yeah!]


Camille - "Jolie bruine". Jolie, you know. Right? It's a beautiful word. Say it: "jolie". It doesn't sound like "jolly". The j is softer. The o is more hushed. The emphasis falls later in the word. Jolie. And it means cute, lovely, pretty. It doesn't really mean anything in English. It means pretty girls when the sun is out; it means your 5-year-old cousin in her new sunglasses; it means sun-dresses and daffodils in your windowsill. And bruine? That's a tougher one. I had to look it up. But I'll tell you: it means drizzle. Rain. Soft rain. "Je suis un cactus sur une terre aride," Camille sings. "I am a cactus in dry earth." And then she introduces the jolie bruine. The reason I spent so much time on meaning and pronunciation is that the bruine is mouth sounds and gibberish. It's beatbox and raindrop. It's the noises that drip twinkle fall from Camille's mouth, like The Books, Psapp or Bjork's Medulla. It's jolie, guys. It's really jolie. It's crazed enough not to be dull, kind enough to plant in your garden.

[buy US / UK]

---

Elsewhere...

As part of the 2006 Charity Blogathon, I will be making a (very very minor) contribution to Clever Titles Are So Last Summer's 24-hour posting marathon, this weekend. We're raising money for the Global Fund for Women. Please consider sponsoring Bethanne and the other guest contributors.

An excellent, carefully written piece about Spiritualized over at A Bark In The Dark.

Magnolia Electric Co's guitarist, Jason Groth, is filing tour diary posts at Marathonpacks. The first is surprisingly sensitive, meditative, and feels very true.

Destination: Out is a free-jazz mp3blog. (Hooray!) And they have an absolutely fantastic recent live recording of the Ornette Coleman Quartet doing Coleman's too-classic-for-words "Lonely Woman". Great, great writing, too.

Indieblockedapella is the weirdest thing I've seen in forever. Ever wanted to hear Wolf Parade's "You Are A Runner And I Am My Father’s Son" as an acapella? We're in luck!

And finally... Tuwa's written a modest and exceptional post that reminds me why I love mp3blogs. Yes.

Posted by Sean at 3:00 AM | Comments (17)

July 27, 2006

You Are The Meanest You You Can Be (Fuck Alternate Worlds)

So let's deal with what's right in front of us.

Vetiver - "I Know No Pardon"

Carrying an awkward watercolour across town, unable to choose between holding the image outward for everyone to see, or inward for everyone to guess at, his cowboy boots clack, their soles beginning to freeze in the air. He dreams he's a southern belle, having just lost her one and only man, and now wears a long black veil for reasons of her own, and reasons not hers at all. His days are numbered, he's not a permanent resident here, anyone can see that. [Buy]

Wendy Carlos - "Suicide Scherzo (Ninth Symphony, Second Movement) [Abridged]"

lysosomes, peroxisomes, eukaryotes, flagella, ribosomes, vacuoles, nucleolis, cilia, centrioles, prokaryotes, nucleus, mitochondria, stem cells, phloem, gradation, pull, drift, sway, wax, wane, weight, depth, height, volume, capacity, capability, function, drive, use, end, purpose, exchange, communicate, facilitate, accomodate, perpetrate, expediate, annihilate, aclimate, acquired taste, acquiesce, convalesce, forgiveness, seal of approval, handshake, punctuate, punctuated equilibrium, syntax, grammar, understatement, understanding, implied conclusion, insult, injury, cause, demeanor, meaner, mania, problems with homework, problems seeing, church bells church bells church bells church bells... [Buy]

Posted by Dan at 3:21 AM | Comments (7)

July 26, 2006

Time Isn't Holding Us

Nina Simone - "Wild is the Wind"

No song better expresses the tragedy of love's transience than "Wild is the Wind". With a couple of metaphors, the song economically communicates the sensual and existential power held between lovers: "you touch me/I hear the sound of mandolins/you kiss me/with your kiss my life begins." And then, immediately afterward, with one imperative analogy, the necessary impermanence of love is recognized, at once railed against and accepted: "Like a leaf clings to a tree/Oh my darling, cling to me/For we're creatures of the wind/Wild is the wind."

The piano is the ecstasy of Simone's love. It alternates between warm jazz chords and lyrical blues scale leads, never sitting on the blue notes. The bass is the impending end. It insistently pulls the piano back after every phrase. Simone sits in the middle, in the midst of her affair, fully aware of its deciduousness, feeling everything all at once. [Buy]

Cat Power's version can be heard as a continuation of the same story. She sings the song like the leaf has already fallen from the tree, as if the subject is a matter from her distant past. The piano has no life, no hope. It alternates between C Major and A minor, ad nauseam. There is very little embellishment, almost no harmonic movement. When she sings of the sound of mandolins, she does so a cappella, accompanied only by a nearly decayed piano chord. The absence of mandolins has rarely been so striking. When she sings of the kiss with which her life begins, we are reminded of the feeling, after love, that life is somehow dulled, muted; we are reminded of the fear, or perhaps resignation, that without love's kiss, life cannot begin. [Buy]

***

Bowie's version isn't bad, but the sociopathic detachment he favoured during this period (Station to Station, Low, Heroes) is not ideal for tenderness of this sort. [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 2:55 PM | Comments (13)

July 25, 2006

TOO TIRED TO THINK

Ramblin' Jack Elliott and Tom Waits - "Louise". Under this song's worn out sky, Tom Waits' is not the most compelling voice. Here the man feels like the old pair of shoes, the familiar feeling. It's Elliott's gentler, sharper, burred voicebox that carries the realer sorrow. He's the one whose eyes you're nervous about meeting. The old man whose cheeks are hollowed out by his story.

[buy]


The Knife - "We Share Our Mother's Health (Ratatat remix)". [Track removed at request of label.] It's certainly not the iceblock metropolis of the Trentemoller remix; Ratatat uses all the warmest bits of the song, lke a man panning for hot colours. Ratatat recycles some of his own pangs of synth but I like the way he puts this in service of Karin's distorted man-voice, like a regular angst-ridder rocker who too has become caught up in The Knife's electro forest. Ghosts in the student ghetto, shaking into Monday nights. (Thanks Peter.)

[more on the Knife]


Any Montrealers looking for something to do on Wednesday evening, please do yourself a favour and go see Basia Bulat, opening up for Vetiver.

Posted by Sean at 3:00 AM | Comments (5)

July 24, 2006

Uses

The Bicycles - "B-B-Bicycles"
The Bicycles - "Gotta Get Out"

I know, I know the question you're all asking yourselves: "wha??" It's The Bicycles! They come from Toronto, and they make it sound like the easiest task (easier than drying a towel or moving a chair side to side) to write a song that fits in your pocket better than keys, your own hand. With "B-B-Bicycles", I've never had the hots for cymbals more in my life. It's the theme song to some Blue and Green Crimefighting Show, starring a nobody (for now). With "Gotta Get Out", the glossy melody reflects light, my face, across the room, out the window, into the facing apartment, where a ten-year-old androgyne dances like stink in a big baggy shirt and pyjama pants.

[Buy this!]

Posted by Dan at 4:21 AM | Comments (2)

July 21, 2006

it's coming up golden

Update (1:54pm EST): Pavement mp3 fixed.

Pavement - "Pueblo". (Part 2 of a continuing series in which I finally begin to get Pavement. And try to tell you what it is I'm getting.) There's so much inertia to this song - long spools of electric guitar, Malkmus lazy-singin'. Minutes of real-life languor, everyday languor, get-up-and-go-to-work languor, falling asleep on the bus as the dawn breaks through the window gloss. And so what's amazing is how easily Pavement shakes off this weight when it chooses to: the cut and crest of the choruses' guitars, the gold and silver streaks. Every time it happens - at 1:12 and again at (especially) at 2:50, - I want to stand up and sing the national anthem, any national anthem, something about land and freedom. They're fireworks, this song's choruses. They're copper salts, black powder, magnesium, tumbling & then scattered ashen in the sand.

[finally get around to buying Wowee Zowee]


OHM - "Spoon Me". Swedish electropop that pigeon-toes around the dancefloor, Jenny Barna casting panda-glances at nobody but her sweet baboo. And thank goodness. The world would be a much less dangerous place if lead singers restrained their glances to their sweet baboos. Still, this tune is only chaste inasmuch as a dancefloor can be chaste - there's certainly nothing stopping you from taking your own baboo (and let's hope (s)he's sweet) and pigeon-toeing around as well. Bend like a stork, shake like a swan. Barna's singing is a peculiar mix of The Knife's Karin Andersson and The Innocent Mission's Karen Paris, but Barna's the one of the three I think I'd rather take to a picnic. We'd each take our baboos. And the strobe lights.

[more info - album due in September]

---

After my talk of Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus a few days ago, some of you might be interested to see the great clip from the film that Goodie Bag has posted, with Johnny Dowd playing in a barber shop.

The Edinburgh band Amplifico is very gamely trying to raise money to record an album by releasing a series of videocasts and streaming gigs. They have a blog and all sorts of very lovable hijinks at their Webathon website. Best of luck.

Ed from Grizzly Bear has launched a (mp3!) blog. For those of you who didn't get enough of him when he guest-posted here last year, now Ed's back with holiday pics, tour-talk, Hot Chip & Vetiver & Beirut & DJ Jazzy Jeff. (And have I mentioned that their new album is great? It's great. I will probably talk more when it comes out.)

And finally... My favourite contemporary comic strip seems to have returned to form .

Posted by Sean at 3:00 AM | Comments (12)

July 20, 2006

Funny To Me

Bondage Fairies - "Faze"

I bet you thought I was kidding, last week, when I said go to Absolut Noise. Well now, since you laughed, it's serious time. Bondage Fairies are flying in, on pixelated clouds, with their bristol board angular wings flitting and buzzing against your eyes. They seem to be moaning like they're in prison, but they can fly the jail around with them, it's just something to bemoan. And they have a list of moves to use on you. They've conquered many levels to get to you. You are the boss to a level they've been playing for weeks now. [Buy]

Strip Squad - "Unreliable Narrator"

Nick Carraway, The Guy From Heart of Darkness, a sexed-out, yet genderless, duet of preciously accented voices. The answer to this TirBond is, of course, the same reason your cheeks are hurting just listening to this song. The naughty Belle & Sebastien, clearly, they're not fighting that, but let's move on. The opinion they hold of this character is so negative...but it's then evened out by the negative opinion they hold of themselves. Jealous of things they hate, clap clap! [Buy]

Posted by Dan at 5:44 AM | Comments (3)

July 19, 2006

Assume The Opposite

The Ronettes - "Do I Love You?"

In the middle of Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart", he and his band play through the song's chord progression for a full verse without a solo or any embellishment. The genius of the progression, and the earthy sounds of the clearly recorded, perfectly mixed instruments, make the interlude entirely engaging. In another one of Young's classic songs, "Cinnamon Girl", he plays an extended one-note guitar solo with such rhythmic panache that there is a sense of significant melodic movement. These are both manifestations of Young's key songwriting and arranging principle: less is more.

Phil Spector, on the other hand, is a proponent of the opposite, logically true principle: more is more. In terms of percussion, a drum kit is not nearly enough for Spector, he wants hand drums, finger-snaps and hand-claps. A standard horn section is sorely lacking and should be padded with the addition of a baritone sax, at least. Why not add church bells? In the chorus, when the Ronettes' sublime wordless vocal refrain collides with their matter-of-fact answer to the titular question, the song becomes so harmonically dense that it literally kills me every time. The lack of restraint is not limited to the musical aspect of the song, either. The lyrics are not just a testament of devotion, but a scary oath of stalkerly persistence: "I swear I'm going to get you if it takes me all my life. I'll hope and pray and dream and scheme, 'cause I'm gonna be your wife." More, more, more. Sir Thomas Moore and Morely Safer say: Well done, Spector. But Spector, not satisfied with his epic pop gem, adds a brief but stirring riff-based coda that makes it still more in every way. [Buy]

***

The Multiple Cat - "Little Pieces"

This song, like the LMP song I posted last week, was taken from Snowglobe Records' Tiny Idols Vol. 2, a compilation of rare and unreleased indie rock from between '95 and '99. 1295 and 1399, that is. Medieval indie rock. No, I kid. Mark Griffey lovingly compiled and thoughtfully annotated the collection.

Tiny Idols is notable because Griffey draws these songs from the catalogues of mostly unheard of or little known bands, and yet the quality is consistently high: a testament to the depth of the late '90s American indie rock scene. And though the styles are all over the place, there is something that unites these songs, that makes this a cohesive collection. One can hear a shared spirit of music-making for music-making's sake. For the most part, despite their talent, these musicians did not find a career in playing music. But I can't help but feel that for many of them, at least, this was not a major consideration, that they were just trying their hardest to make the best music they could, a worthy end in itself. You'd be hard-pressed to convince me that the bass player is not having a very good time here. [Info]

Posted by Jordan at 1:46 PM | Comments (3)

July 18, 2006

Just the Top Half

Boat - "Greasedip Hairclip"

We are old fans of Boat. But now is the time to give them your full attention; they've got their fully assembled, newly-recorded (better versions of older songs) full-length, so we have to observe the ceremony of their being wheeled into the limelight.

And what better song to start us off than one that explodes as soon as you touch it? As per (marvelously) usual, it's bash-y, stomp-y, and that four-simultaneous-vocalist peaking thing comes right out of the gates. Raise the curtain, start to applaud. [Buy]

Rachel's - "Frida Kahlo"

More close to what I'm feeling, this one. Have you ever tried to sit down and think of something interesting about yourself? Ever tried to add your life into some kind of sum? This song is like watching yourself try to do that. It's like sweeping with the lights off. It's like kissing a pillow for real. [Buy]

***

Also:

Consistent yet necessary Daytrotter plug: The French Kicks - "Go On" - starts deviously, quietly menacing, cracks open in the middle, and the whole thing is full of cymbals/symbols. people make up reasons to connect with each other.

and

welcome back, Sean.

Posted by Dan at 3:13 AM | Comments (4)

July 17, 2006

the pukeko says hello

National Park - "The Only Stars". I spent most of my time in New Zealand in national parks. I think. You would have to ask my dear sister. I saw mountains and rainforest and flightless birds. I saw rainbows and greenstone and fjords. I saw sandfly bites. I saw stars.

National Park are a Glasgow group that shares a plot of ground with The Clientele, the Velvet Underground, Galaxie 500, and, in a funny way, Broken Social Scene. They know how to sway, run, whisper, holler. They know how to skinnydip. They know how to throw themselves down a grassy hill. They know how to doze. The group makes this sound so easy - a tune that glitters and glows, that shakes into loud crackle. And yet meanwhile there are a thousand bands achieving only half of this sound; groups that make mood but can't summon force, ever pretty but never fierce. The National Park have done something accomplished and distractingly rad. "The Only Stars" is a patch of sky in purples & yellows, in dusk-blacks & night-whites. Strange the way that a flutter can be the most violent feeling - that a flute can introduce an electric guitar.

[info/available July 24]


The Handsome Family - "Eleanor Rigby". It wasn't until I saw the film Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus at All Tomorrows Parties that I understood the Handsome Family. Every now and then in the movie they'll cut to the inside of a barn, to a grey dead field, and the Handsome Family will be standing like an American gothic, autoharp or banjo in hands, moaning dryly into the evening. There was something so Southern about them. But also something so hot. Exhausted, drained, almost dead with heat. And for the first time I heard the moaning not as a foot-dragging blah - I heard it as the only sound that would carry through the summer steam.

This is a song by The Beatles. We have a man and a woman, a banjo and a steel guitar. An English melancholy that's been dragged through the greengrass swamp.

[more info]

---

I'd like to thank critic and blogger Carl Wilson for filling in for me (alongside my marvelous partners, Dan and Jordan) while I was gone. Carl, your work was perceptive and careful and mighty and personal and thank you thank you thank you. Everyone should have bookmarked Zoilus, be reading the Globe & Mail, and have pre-ordered his upcoming 33 1/3 book on Celine Dion.


Elsewhere:

Scots, join me at Mono's Get Off My Pavement! festival on Sunday, July 30. Who else will be there? ONLY HERMAN DUNE, ARAB STRAP, UNCLE JOHN & WHITELOCK AND MANY MORE THAT'S WHO.

Lovely Party is a wild new mp3blog that uses a big graph and stuff. The first song they posted was by The Diskettes.

There is a most-sweet preview videoclip for Bonnie Prince Billy's new record, in which Neil Hamburger gets harassed by a crooning Will Oldham while on holiday.

Bootlog has The Weakerthans singing a Sarah Harmer song, and Sarah Harmer singing The Weakerthans' "Left and Leaving". Yes.

And finally, Blogotheque's series of videos of musicians-playing-music-in-weird-places continues with a MARVELLOUS pair of clips of Grizzly Bear. Click the one on the right and revel in the band as it walks down the Parisian streets, doowop-ing "The Knife": I promise that your smile will glint like shopwindows. (thanks, alex)

Posted by Sean at 3:15 PM | Comments (7)

July 14, 2006

The Truth About Évariste Galois

Early Day Miners - "Sans Revival"

Peter Gabriel's So has not, as far as I know, had a considerable influence on the indie-rock community. Yet, imagine "Sans Revival" stripped of its arrangement and production aesthetic - what you're left with sounds very much like a So-era Gabriel song. The vocal is unabashedly manipulative, pulling you in despite yourself, like the rousing romantic finale of a well-crafted Hollywood movie (I'm thinking specifically of Say Anything and the cheese-festival that is "In Your Eyes"). So has a few likable aspects, but these do not include the arrangements or production aesthetic. The Early Day Miners revise the So model in this respect, and ensure that their album will survive sans revision. Here the formerly ubiquitous John McEntire produces, and he succeeds in matching the emotion of the vocal line with the intensity of the instruments: thunderous bass, waves of chiming guitars, bell-clear notes rising out, ringing, fading back.

An open question: Since McEntire produced the record and there are no credits for arrangement, do we really have any reason to believe that the leader of Early Day Miners is anyone other than Peter Gabriel himself?

N.B. Don't send me pictures or personal anecdotes about the time you saw Daniel Burton and he definitely wasn't Peter Gabriel. I'm no Empiricist. I want analytic proof. [Info]

***

LMP - "Beautiful Noise"

I cannot recommend strongly enough that you never listen to this song on repeat. That's what I'm doing right now, and it's changing me. Since I started listening - about twelve minutes ago, now - I've cried several times, flown into one frothing, uncontrollable rage, and become interested in, subsequently mastered, and finally grown tired of archery. LMP's talent is only barely exceeded by their boundless pop ambition. There's something in this imbalance, in combination with the fact that the whole song seems slightly out of time, that makes this sweet pop treat rather madness inducing.

[From Tiny Idols Vol. 2, a compilation of obscure and out-of-print gems from the 90's indie rock scene, of which I will write more next week.]

Posted by Jordan at 12:03 PM | Comments (8)

July 13, 2006

A Pot of Jam and Some Fancy Vinegars

Final Fantasy - “Honour the Dead or Else” (live)
Final Fantasy - “Good Mother” (live)

Since this is my final day house-sitting while the lord of the manor's away, I’d like to be a gracious guest and leave a basketful of gifts. I’ve cluttered the bathroom shelves and living-room floors with so many bags full of verbiage that my hosts will be tidying up till Labour Day. So here is a package of knicknacks I think they’ll appreciate, handcrafted by the artists who initially brought us together.

These two tracks by Owen Pallett are from a recording of his performance at the Music Gallery in Toronto a year ago, where he first presented the St. Kitts String Quartet and many of the songs that would become He Poos Clouds. “Honour the Dead or Else” did not appear on the album, nor has the promised single version ever materialized. It is another one of his poltergeist lieder, but featuring an even rowdier, more table-knocking, more vandal-giddy spectre than most, with its thumping percussive violin part and a shriekier vocal line than even the most modernistic excursions on the album. I am always moved by the line early on, “for him they put a barrier about the bridge/ in memorium.” It evokes the morbid elegance of the Luminous Veil, the cantilevered suicide-prevention screen added in 2003 to the Bloor Street Viaduct in Toronto. The viaduct is the location of a scene in Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion in which a nun is swept over the bridge, only to be plucked heroically from mid-air by the construction worker Nicholas Temelcoff. Is there any link between that episode and the final lines of protest here: “You need a body to get in the way! You need a body to get in the way!”? The term Luminous Veil, after all, seems more the stuff of Victorian theology than contemporary civic design, a Henry James skew of sensibility to stave off the ill will of the departed. I don’t believe the dead pass judgment (or anything else), and I doubt Owen does either. What matters, on that bridge, in this song, is that they come to stand as standards of measure in our own haunted hearts.

I haven’t edited these audio files (more accurately, I don’t know how). So next, along with some taper noise, you get to hear Owen’s adorably stumbling introduction, the roaring delight of the crowd, and the gorgeous performance of “Good Mother” that follows the awkwardness. It couldn't be better calculated to enrapture. Afterwards, he joked, “It’s hard to impersonate Jann Arden when you’ve been screaming about death for several songs.” What I believe he was trying to say in the flubbed intro is that this is one of his favourite songs. No shame about indie authenticity here. (Or maybe just enough to cause a stutter.)

[Buy Final Fantasy's He Poos Clouds. Really, do.]

Destroyer - “J. Tailor”
Destroyer - “I, as McCarthy”
Destroyer - “Rose Felched This”

These songs all come from We’ll Build Them a Golden Bridge, the very first Destroyer release, aside from one-off cassettes made to mail in hopefully to the CBC Brave New Waves “bag of tapes” feature. It hails from 1996, a startling decade ago, and Dan Bejar's leapt across many chasms since. But “J. Tailor” has some early Bejaresque meta-pop: the title joking about James Taylor, the opening line from an Orange Juice song (followed by the riposte, “quote-unquote/little showboat”), the “earthquake in the audience,” the cryptic but resonant resolution. (Dan's poetic sense asserted itself in closing lines before it learned the trick of permeating a song, as occurs with many gifted writers.)

I’m not the first to post “I, as McCarthy,” on the Internet. Popsheep was. But it seems fitting to revisit it today, as it’s music heavily under the influence of Syd Barrett, who of course died of uncertain causes this week at the age of 60. For ages I thought the line, “If I know you, and I think I do,” was actually swiped straight from a Barrett solo song, but I could never trace it. Better, then, to imagine the young artist tilling the soil alongside the puttering old gardener, absorbing waves of light that, though ebbing, still lapped along the edge of the meadow.

And finally a much more slapstick-anarchic early tune, “Rose Felched This.” I enjoy it for its note-imperfect image of a playlet in which the young rake displays his first ardent efforts at art, perhaps to the object of his casually concealed affection, and has them returned with the most puncturing comment. Which he knows is dead right. But mainly I like it for: “Static means punk! Tuning is junk!”

[Buy the Destroyer catalogue.]

Vancouver Nights - “All the Right Moves”

Ach, so much rough-edged audio! So here’s a more typically polished StG selection. Generally, Vancouver Nights songs were by the band leader, Sara Lapsley. Guitarist Dan Bejar sang only on the duet, “A Room of One’s Own.” But my theory (never tested) is that Dan held the pen on this one, too. It sounds markedly unlike the rest of the album, and the wordplay stands out like a full-colour set of fingerprints: “Birds fly and actors try/ Out for tragedies [that] are written on a whim/ Defined by the fact that no one’s listenin’.” To take just one quick instance. It's seemingly the most sweetly generous of breakup songs, breezily allowing the other party to “run free.” Unless you take the perspective as written upon a mirror, in which case it is, instead, a sort of philosophical blackmail, meant only to coerce the abandoned one into agreeing with the far-too-blithe remark that “it’s fun to watch them run free.” Maybe even into singing along.

[Get Vancouver Nights.]

And now I must be heading home. Thanks to those who read and commented, and again to Sean, Dan and Jordan: Please forward the bills for all those long-distance calls. Don’t worry, I’m good for it.

Posted by Carl Wilson at 4:07 AM | Comments (9)

July 12, 2006

On Trial For Laziness

I've been working on these since Sunday night, pretty much straight through to now. Sorry they weren't up sooner in the day, this heat, this heat is hot, wet, slow.

Parenthetical Girls - "The Weight She Fell Under" (visual)

Warning: not for everyone. also credit to Adam Beck for some footage, and thanks to the hundred unnameable photographers from google image search.

This whole song is breathing, heaving. The whole album is terrifying, harrowing, flower-wrought. Get it. [Buy]

***

Holy Fuck - "Tone Bank Jungle" (visual)

Warning: huge file

It's trying to get at you. the glass, the speakers, they're not impermeable. [Buy]

***

also, happy birthday Monica. and I'll see you in a few weeks.

Posted by Dan at 4:55 PM | Comments (6)

July 11, 2006

Margaret Atwood Might Call Them Survival Songs

Kathleen Yearwood - "Night Falls"

What are Canada's musical specialties? Idiosyncratic poetic variations on folk-rock music. Large collectives of equals enjoying one another's creative input. Inventive knob-twisting, tape-splicing and other winterlong basement pastimes. Weekend hoser head-banging. Lilith Fair-style singer-songwriters. And, less often remarked, women who've refused to take up any of the narrow positions offered by the entertainment industry and go another, utterly individual way, women such as Veda Hille, Jane Siberry, Jean Smith of Mecca Normal, Joni Mitchell in her day, the McGarrigle sisters (and Kate's daughter Martha) - hell, even Jann Arden from a certain angle. And then there's Kathleen Yearwood, the most enigmatic of them all, the one you haven't heard about.

Black metal bands wish they could sound so fundamental, manifest their menace so dizzyingly, imbue their wrath with all the world's undercurrent of danger the way this semi-folk-singing, maverick intellectual musician from Alberta does. She performs draped in red light, small fingers wrestling with the strings of a black electric guitar, sometimes flinging beer bottles to shatter in an amplified metal bucket. She sings in English and in French and in tongues. She has a band called Ordeal, which can be one, and sometimes features masked naked male dancers. She sings about sex, love, hate, mutilation, mammals and class war in tones sometimes gently folkloric, sometimes shrilly Wagnerian, sometimes delta-blue by way of Diamanda Galas. When she gets press she's often described as living in a shack in the woods, and whether she still does or not, it's easy to fantasize that this is music made under a tarpaper roof with many dogs and cast-iron pans around. On her MySpace page she quotes praise from Eugene Chadbourne and David Thomas of Pere Ubu, and she lists her influences as 'S. Indian Classical Music, Fado, grinding gears and shrieking metal of aircraft and trains, trainyards, the limits of human vocalization, coyotes, birdsong, a rabbit shrieking in death throes, metal, 80 year old women singing solo, silence.'

So forgive us if we're not always so impressed by all the talk about 'freak folk' and totem-animal-touting groups from Brooklyn. The old weird Canada remains stubbornly vital no matter how hard urban sprawl pushes to pave over it.

This track is on the CD that accompanies the current issue of Musicworks, another eccentric Canadian holdover - originally edited by John Oswald, of Plunderphonics fame - that has persisted in the face of probability and good sense. The current issue features Negativland, an Italian improv group called 3/4hadbeeneliminated, and Minegishi Issui, a Japanese woman who plays a one-stringed board called the ichigenkin, 'so rare that most Japanese have never heard of it.' (Full disclosure: It also includes a review by me of a Swiss sound-poetry album based in Saussurean linguistics.)

I had a terrific conversation with my friend Misha's visiting cousin Adam tonight, about Robert Ashley and Gertrude Stein and Morton Feldman and Mauricio Kagel. It was too brief, but I was reminded how great it is sometimes not to talk just about rock and pop music. Then I came home and saw Musicworks on my desk, and felt grateful.

[Buy Kathleen Yearwood's music] [Subscribe to Musicworks]

Tagaq - 'Origin'

I have often wondered, but never properly investigated, whether the Canadian penchant for oracular lyric-writing and unconventional vocalisation reflects a sidelong influence from First Nations cultures. It certainly seems intuitive to pair Kathleen Yearwood's capacious vocal style with that of Inuk throat-singing innovator Tanya Tagaq Gillis. Having invented an entirely new, expressionist, erotic genre of her own, transgressively adapting the northern throat-singing tradition, Tagaq gained conspicuous supporters such as Bjork (she contributed substantially to the Medulla album) and the Kronos Quartet. And yet there hasn't been sufficient hubbub about her here at home. Toronto poet Angela Rawlings pointed out to me that Tagaq's album Sinaa is glaringly omitted from the shortlist for the Polaris prize, and I could only wince in shame that I hadn't thought to nominate it myself. In essence I hadn't played it enough, as it is no casual listen. It makes excursions into textural territories of voice that neither pop singing nor high-kulcha experimental performance really have explored. But it's also an inexplicably emotional record, no mere formal or cultural exercise. You feel Tagaq is telling a poetry of breath and body with a lyric core, a subjective account from inside the skin of a 21st-century woman with a history in Nunavut but also a life in the cosmopolitan contemporary world. She can sound like a hungry black bear but she can also sound like a beat-boxing laser printer; the music incorporates generations-old techniques but at times, as in the closing measures of Origin, I can imagine it's a stray channel from a house-music dance track.

The new weird Canada is as epic as the old.

[Buy Tagaq's Sinaa]

Posted by Carl Wilson at 3:51 AM | Comments (4)

July 10, 2006

The Last of the Lesionnaires

Benni Hemm Hemm - "Beygja Og Beygja"

Iceland is a rare geographical oddity. If driving at a certain speed, and with the wind in your face, you can actually start singing, drive straight and sing your own harmonies, as the line you sang before will literally "hang" in the air. It has to do with auditory properties and how they relate to the weight of the air, combined with Iceland's geothermal characteristics. Used right, this technique allows you to do your own over-dubs, and even sing a round with yourself. This song was done live, on a windy day, from a covertible, in what's called "catch-up sound" fashion. It kind of tickles your ear a bit, doesn't it? [Buy]

***

Elsewhere:

Absolut Noise has three tracks from Dräp en Hund, two 13-year-old girls who are way too confident, way too powerful for 13.

The new re-issue of My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts has come with a fantastic website idea. Registered users can download the loops from the original album and remix them, submit them, and basically get attention. Of course, the leader of the pack is a presidential satire, but there's room for a lot more. If you make one, send it to me too, I bet our readers would make some good ones.

Posted by Dan at 4:31 AM | Comments (4)

July 7, 2006

If Music is the Answer, What's the Question?


Pere Ubu - "We Have the Technology" (Original)

Forgive me; this won't be brief. Because, to put it plain, this is one of my favourite songs. Yet a frustrating quest a few months ago could not turn up the original version, from the album The Tenement Year, anywhere in the digital wilds, legal or no. Weeks later, too late for the mix I'd been hoping to make, I got ahold of a 'hard' copy. And tonight I realized that thanks to Said the Gramophone, I had the means to alter that reality for some other searcher out there.

So here we are. You and I. The moment is delicate. Don't press play yet. Already I have built the song into myth, the myth of a favourite song, and if you hear it and shrug, 'huh, whatever', this conspiracy between us, this chance for contact and sympathy, may vanish. Words cannot prevent it. Not all the words that have been spent enhancing the legend of Pere Ubu, certainly, by the likes of Greil Marcus or Jon Savage or most recently Simon Reynolds -- most of them devoted to the way in the mid-1970s the band transfigured the sonic scrapheap of post-industrial Cleveland, forged it into a futurist vision of the American transcendental tradition, an alternate history of rock'n'roll, fated to one of the most influential obscurities in modern music. This is not that Pere Ubu. You can look that one up.

This is the Pere Ubu of 1988, when it had regrouped after David Thomas's more-scorned-than-heard, 'eccentric nature-boy' solo years. Now David Thomas lived in what he considered an exile in England, making albums such as Monster Walks the Winter Lake, a metaphoric suite about the breakdown of communication in a marriage. In those songs, he portrayed a failing marriage as a third entity, a Frankenstein pastiche of 'parts that don't matter,' a hulk that comes lumbering between two people, silencing them, dominating the horizon. And in the first years of the reanimated Pere Ubu this theme persisted: Where to turn when the dynamic between people is beyond their control, when it wrenches the torch from their hands and blazes through the village? It needn't be a marriage; it could be a band.

All right, let it play now.

As so often, in a group that always made its art from the parts that weren't supposed to matter in culture, from B-movies and sci-fi novels and comics and Germanic freak rock and abandoned buildings and obsolete synthesizers and dinosaur books, Pere Ubu digs for inspiration in the trash: Here it's the opening sequence of the boneheaded 1970s TV show The Six-Million-Dollar Man, in which the surgeons intone over the prone body of the astronaut, 'We can rebuild him. We have the technology.' And somehow, presumably with bits of early microwaves, Soviet satellites and HAL-9000, they call the fallen man to rise, to run fast in slow motion, to face supervillains and (not incidentally) fembots -- too good to be good, much less true.

But David Thomas isn't a kid any more. He doesn't want to fight cartoon threats, or even, for awhile, his pet cultural apocalypse. He wants to talk to his wife. What is that monster made of? It's made up of moments, intervals at which no one rises to the occasion, or all parties are too stubborn to prevent the inevitable crash. Where is the device to stop the action - time travel that goes not forward or back but within, as in Nicholson Baker's The Fermata, or in the current glib Adam Sandler variation with the remote control that could put life on pause, to let us 'hold it to the light, study all the angles, and find out How and Why it's gotta go the way that it goes'? That's the only restoration for this man fallen to earth, this no-longer-young genius laid low by human banality.

The fantasy swells to overwhelm him. With his meaty hand he swats away apparitions of 'thinkers and poets of the past - oh no!' There must be more than blind intuition. There must be a machine. And with that the utopia passes to dystopia, to eyes that are 'beaming,' to coming 'unstuck completely, Flap A from Slot B, slapping in the wind!' It's a bit like the Internet, this flux of liberated information, of knowledge unhinged from wisdom. (In a couple of years Pere Ubu would be an early adopter, putting out CD-Rs, and press materials in pre-Web hypercard stacks.)

Yet isn't the song itself made up of moments? With its anti-canonical poetic folds, and the anarchic presence of Allan Ravenstein's EML synthesizer - never before as assertive as on this album - this music seems to be splicing possibility with its every twist. Yet the hunted man inside this storm hasn't the patience, hasn't the hold on his desperation, to let him inhale its gusts or let its lightning travel through him to ground. Surely the solution must be elsewhere, beyond this song. And it's this error, the song's self-disregard, that tells the tale. 'This moment' in which the song began has been bypassed in yearning for a higher power. Rewind, begin again and again, but it still goes the way that it goes. It ascends from the real to the sublime, and in that very apotheosis, it goes hollow and is lost.

And reader, my words won't save our moment, either. If you've listened to the track, you've heard what I did when I finally found it again: The 1980s sound is shallow, brittle, the recording not much more than a blueprint for the song I remember, the song it is supposed to be, the one that contains its own undoing and thereby its own fulfillment. Even David Thomas's maelstrom of a voice is more like a flat surface.

Stop. Let's study one more angle.

There is another, still-in-print version of this song on Apocalypse Now, a live recording made at Schuba's in Chicago in 1991, on a break from touring with Ubu acolytes the Pixies. Allan Ravenstine is absent (by now he'd quit music altogether), but some of the roar and absolutism of the song I recall is restored, its spontaneity, that unstuckness that my memory must have transferred from live experiences to the original recording. But here, the details of the fable, its path from reasonable question to irrational answer - a Dr. Who episode taken to its logical mad end - are muddled in the generalities of a rock show.

Pere Ubu - "We Have the Technology" (Live) [Info]

No, it's not out there, the We Have the Technology that I intended to share with you. Nothing correlates to the song inside me, just a chain of translations, representations that undo me, that won't shut up, that breed monsters only to fight the monsters who preceded them. You'll never understand. I don't understand it myself anymore. All I have is this story about where it all went wrong. Does it help, this autopsy? If I guessed why you don't love me, darling, might you love me again?

[Pere Ubu Info.]

Posted by Carl Wilson at 5:02 AM | Comments (11)

July 6, 2006

What The Lord Don't Know (Could Fill A Warehouse)

Chad vanGaalen - "Wing Finger"

I picture this performed to an egg, a necessary serenade for every egg to hatch. Chad vanGaalen, his voice worn out from the bird warbling for 10 hours a day, bringing as many little hatchlings to life as one banjo and two muted trumpets and some simple organ can do. It's the chick that brings the bass drum, the xylophone, joins in, plays along, whistles, and all those other fitting, tired, lively things. [Buy Infiniheart]

Matthew Friedberger - "Ruth Vs. Rachel"

The looseleaf is a landscape. Blue lines on white, are either roads or the ridges of hills, you need a scale this big to handle this song; it plays the whole page. And when the strings swell, the margin lights up. There was writing on it a while ago, but it was beaten out, by a big-haired, an oversized-shirt beefy bully Nolan. The flute leaves us where we started, packed up in a car. [Pre-order]

Posted by Dan at 3:17 AM | Comments (4)

July 5, 2006

Bunch of Goddamned Geniuses

Michael Zapruder's Rain of Frogs - "Butterfield's and Baker's"

Abraham Zapruder shot JFK with his video camera, and Michael Zapruder - probably Abraham's grandson - shot me with a gun until I died. Not literally, of course. No, I'm still alive physically, but I'm dead emotionally. And I've been that way ever since the younger Zapruder shot me with his gun. Though, it's not so much that he shot me with his gun, but that he shocked me with his gun, and that by "gun" I mean the quality of his songs. I should probably also mention at this point that I don't know what the phrase "emotionally dead" means, but that I intend it to mean that I am excited and aesthetically satisfied. Is that what it means?

Every sound and word is thoughtfully placed, every dynamic shift is carried out with precision, every sentence (both verbal and musical) is phrased significantly. The song's end is superbly taut, not offering the satisfaction of cadence. Michael Zapruder is working firmly embedded in the auteurial model of composition and arrangement, and he is a brilliant director. [Info]

***

The Curtains - "World's Most"

There is an edition of Thomas Pynchon's Crying of Lot 49 that has on its cover a depiction of the book's protagonist, Oedipa Mass, dancing, her thatch of blue hair swinging out in all directions. She is wearing a matching blue mini-skirt, and a white belt. In the background, the drummer of the Paranoids - Pynchon's satirical take on California Beatles rip-off bands - plays while sporting a mop-top and a brown suit. They are both being overtaken by a tidal wave of black and white paisley swirls. Upon hearing this song I thought immediately of that cover. I thought of lazy California kids hearing the Beatles or the Byrds or the Beach Boys for the first time, and dawdling down to Sears, buying a single-coil electric guitar, warm and thick sounding, and a flimsy bass guitar, warm and thin sounding. I thought of them, in their duochrome striped shirts and scarves, trying as best they could to get their guitars in tune, and then writing songs that attempted to capture both the California sun and the teenage state of mind.

This song succeeds, not in getting the guitars in tune, but in capturing the California sun and the teenage state of mind, and it does so in a most subtle way. Like Pynchon's novel and like some of the world's best teenagers, "World's Most" is bizarre and alienated, paranoid and lonely. Yet it is still essentially a song for the beach, maybe on a day when the sun is slightly obscured by clouds and the wind from the ocean is a little bit cold. [Info]

Posted by Jordan at 12:41 PM | Comments (3)

July 4, 2006

If Men Would Only Use Their Ears

Veda Hille - “The Ballad of Marie Sanders”

Her name is not altogether unknown to listeners in Canada, and even some abroad - including XTC’s Andy Partridge, who put out her last album on his new Ape label. But Veda Hille’s renown, 11 albums along since she began making songs in 1990, is decidedly diminutive relative to her talent... By dint of which she ought to be able to do her grocery shopping in her Vancouver neighbourhood borne on the shoulders of throngs of admirers, trailed by elephants and a brass band.

And what is talent? It isn’t skill or ideas - those are only skill and ideas. Talent is a touch, a trace of inimitability. In each Veda Hille song it is as if swift stubby fingers are unthreading needled perceptions and looping them into multidimensional knots, small-motor miracles too microscopic for the mind’s eye - playing cat’s cradle with string theory. Usually while her hands also ply a piano, organ, tenor guitar or banjo. Yet she also seems, as in a fable, to be acquiring new talents by the year: One season she has the power of undetectable stealth; the next she comes along effortlessly waterwalking and wind-riding. And a talent is like a self, so she is becoming ever more populous. Once, Veda wrote a sort of “folk” music that might fairly have been compared with Fiona Apple or, perhaps, Sam Phillips. Since then she has made albums of mangled electronics, a suite about the Yukon, another about Emily Carr, songs about science, an album for children (with the group Duplex), music for theatre, rowdy cabaret rock and transcriptions of birdsong. A decade hence she might be the Olympic women’s wrestling champion, or demonstrating how spiderwebs might be used to restore rude health to the seas.

Like many writers, Veda has spent some months mistressing herself to Bertolt Brecht. This live recording from 2002 is one of the offspring of that affair, a cover of a Brecht-Eisler song about the Nuremberg laws, which she sings as both a woodcut of medieval lynchings and a live video of a police beating. I don’t mean anything snotty by posting it on the fourth of July, but it’s always instructive to hear the song’s conclusion: “God above, if men would only use their ears/ They would know who does what and to whom.”

Veda Hille - “The Cats that Live in the Berlin Graveyard that Houses Brecht and Eisler”

And here is its sibling. The production on Veda’s latest album, The Return of the Kildeer, doesn’t always delight me, or rather I should say that it steadfastly holds back from the sort of attention-grabbing flourishes that would promote my (and Andy Partridge’s) ambitions on her behalf. But in this short piece the other yields of the approach are abundant. As she sings the imagined dialogue of the felines who play among the once-East-German graves of the great poet-playwright and his musical collaborator, she places the accidents of history in their grandly humble context: “It is only living/ another creature gone.” Her voice is filtered, since what she is verbalizing here is the non-verbal, representing another kind of consciousness. Yet toward the end of the piece humanity almost literally wanders back in, as her untreated voice begins to sing, hum and whistle absently along. It's as if she - like Brecht and Eisler and all us mortals - just happened to be passing through briefly, only partly paying attention. Thus the song is a tribute to fallen idols that also challenges our shortsighted species' habit of hero worship, through a contrast that is itself a Brechtian effect. And in the end the cats have gotten Brecht's gist (live unbeclouded!) more than the songwriter on her own, inevitably more self-concerned, cultural pilgrimage. This mindfulness of the non-human is a signal aspect of Veda’s writing. If only we had more such singers of atheist hymns.

[Buy here or there/ Also, MySpace: I particularly recommend listening to the song "Plants" there.]

Posted by Carl Wilson at 6:19 AM | Comments (2)

July 3, 2006

Signs of Hatred in the Timbre

T.D. Reisert - "Concordat"

Repeat these things out loud as you listen: "I can't keep up with you, you're going too fast for me." "I don't love my wife, I want to be with you." "Stop wasting my time." "Is it raining in Canada?" "Is she still there?" "I don't speak English, I never spoke English before."

This is a frozen summer song for nights with only smoke, trees, and glances. [Buy (only 100 in print)]

Vic Thrill + The Saturn Missile - "Hi On Wade"

In the future, every child will be born with a special button, located on the back of the knee joint, or "kneepit", that, when pressed, will give the child or person (they will have this button their entire lives) a last 2:04 of supreme living. It is unclear whether the person obtains super-powers for this time, but they will certainly be more effective to the world for that 2:04 than most other people in their regular lives. However, once pressed, it will be the final 2:04 of the person's (or child's) life. This is the song that plays in your brain during that time span. [MySpace]

Posted by Dan at 2:53 AM | Comments (6)