SELECTION BIAS
by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.

 

Swan Lake - "The Freedom". I love the Swan Lake album. It is dense, monstrous, beautiful. There's so much to it. Whereas with Joanna Newsom's Ys that muchness just means there's a lot to sit through (!), here it's that the songs have so much happening at the same time. Beast moans! Calls and faint answers; harmony and counterpoint; meanings and obfuscations. At a cafe, Dan Beirne mentioned off-hand that "Are You Swimming In Her Pools?" is "about Montreal" and he basically blew my mind. (He's right.) It's "The Freedom" that's my favourite, though. Thank goodness it's one of the two that Jagjaguwar is giving away for free. It's led by Dan Bejar, paddling with his acoustic guitar; but Carey Mercer's there with his electrified electric, Spencer Krug with his anenome synths. It doesn't feel like a Destroyer song - it feels wilder, and easier to like. But it does have the runs that mark so many of my favourite Bejar songs ("Testament to Youth in Verse", "European Oils", see below).

[buy / Michael Barclay has an exquisite set of Swan Lake interviews]


Destroyer - "Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Sea of Tears)". The song fish-hooked me.

I'm walking, listening, and then suddenly each image is a chime; each sentiment familiar. We want this from music - to hear something so close that you feel it slip down your throat and catch in your chest. We talk of "hooks" in songs. Of being "grabbed" by a "catchy" song. We remember such moments: strolling and hearing a track that expresses all that rustles in your bones. The song at the concert, that time, when you felt like you were tearing in half. The song as you walked down the aisle. Something on the tape-deck as your headlights are white beaming. The last dance. Everything just yes.

"Farrar, Straus and Giroux" was destined for a mix CD I never made. For many weeks I kept the song aside. And when I took it out it had changed. Become a long line of familiar truths - of coincidences (eerie, splendid) reeled out slow. From smiles to stones to my "temporary age of 24"... Each time one of these things rings & stings, I feel the fish-hook tug.

"If there is such a thing as ill-timed August rain?" Bejar sings, and the way he asks it would almost break your heart were he not caring enough to shrug and pivot, to say "all right" and then play the piano runs generous and inevitable, Destroyer-typical, that will remind me always of the "Aria".

Yesterday my friend Darek, whose first language is not english, asked me the difference between the words coincidence and synchronicity. I said that synchronicity was Jung. That it was a "system of coincidences". This system might spell the name of God, or humanity, or truth. Or love. Or nothing at all.

But I regret speaking of systems. Let "synchronicity" be instead the collective noun for coincidences. A flight of swallows, an anthology of flowers, a synchronicity of coincidences. A synchronicity. Who's with me? (Who's even still reading this?)

It's such a shiny word, synchronicity. Shiny as a new Farrar, Straus & Giroux paperback. Shiny as Destroyer's electric guitar.

Shiny, friends, as fish-hook.

[buy]

Posted by Sean at November 24, 2006 4:00 AM
Comments

Note to boys reading STG: Memorize this stuff - surefire way to get into a girl's pants. mmmmm I'm all tingly.

Posted by L at November 24, 2006 4:41 AM

Note to Sean, et al -

With the possible exception of "All Fires", Ys eats Swan Lake for breakfast. Grow an attention span.

Posted by u.p. at November 24, 2006 12:10 PM

Swan Lake-wow, what a band! Love it.

But the mp3 is not working through your post. (for me, anyway).

Posted by courtney at November 24, 2006 12:46 PM

It's kind of hard to compare Ys to Beast Moans, dontcha think? One album is deliberately polished, cohesive and professional (these shouldn't necessarily be bad words in the indie community). The other is deliberately(?) murky, lacking structure ("thesislessness" in the words of Pitchfork reviewer W. Bowers), and poorly produced.

I love all three members' solo projects, but I thought Beast Moans was kind of disappointing (except for "All Fires"). I guess I shouldn't be surprised at all the love for this album, considering how much love the individual members' bands tend to recieve on-line, but yeesh, such a sloppy, deliberately alienating album!! Given the members' solo works, it's obvious that was their intention, but all the academic justification in the world doesn't make it a good record for, you know, actually listening to (Swan Lake is hardly the worst offender in this regard, I might add). Even the most positive reviewers seem to be twisting themselves into pretzels apologising for it (see Pitchfork's review). So far (and I haven't scanned the entire interweb), the only bad review I've seen is on Tiny Mix Tapes.

Anyway, sorry for the rant. Had to get it off my chest.

Scott

Posted by scott at November 24, 2006 1:01 PM

Am I the only person that finds Swan Lake not so great? And Dan Bejar's Destroyer always seemed so pretentious to me. It's not necessarily bad, it just seems like there is so much more out there that offers something better. I don't know, different strokes I suppose.

Posted by Tim at November 24, 2006 1:10 PM

courtney: works for me.

Scott: Okay this really, really isn't about Ys. I'm tempted to just cut my reference to it altogether. I didn't mean to compare the two albums, just the different kind of "muchness" that appears - the way both are indulgent (not in a bad way).

My feelings on Beast Moans are obviously really different from yours, but I think it's really unfair to suggest that all of its fans are hearing it in the same way (or have the same excuses to make). To me it's supremely listenable, fun and strange and chewy. I don't think it's badly produced. And I think it's the better than any Frog Eyes, Sunset Rubdown or Wolf Parade LP we've yet heard. (Also, conversely, I feel like I've seen a lot of bad press - maybe mostly on blogs?)

L: best comment ever.

Posted by Sean at November 24, 2006 1:15 PM

i'd much rather talk about coincidences and fish-hooks.

Posted by Sean at November 24, 2006 1:16 PM

Sean:

I didn't mean to suggest the fans were hearing this record in exactly the same way. It just seems people are falling overthemselves (in different ways) to justify the greatness of this album, academic or otherwise. Nothing wrong with that, and maybe I could have chosen a better record to take issue with regarding this phenomenon. I realise I have my own axes to grind when it comes to music! Maybe I'll yet warm up to this record. Usually, the best albums take the most work (and I do really love "All Fires").

However, I can't believe you think this is a better record than The Folded Palm, or Rubies/Streethawk, or Apologies..., but hey, to each his own.

Posted by scott at November 24, 2006 1:37 PM

who said anything about it being better than Rubies or Streethawk...

Posted by Sean at November 24, 2006 1:42 PM

now it works

Posted by courtney at November 24, 2006 1:50 PM

Apologies to Said the Gramophone:

OK, my mistake. In my haste to register my outrage with the world, I didn't read your post thoroughly. Still though, better than The Folded Palm and Apologies?

Anyway, as a fellow Canuck, it's nice to see all the (unconditional?) love for these guys.

Posted by scott at November 24, 2006 1:59 PM

I don't like Ys and I don't like Beast Moans

nothing comes close to Cookie Mountain and Yellow House this year.

Posted by molly at November 24, 2006 2:50 PM

The top eight most heart-breaking lines in "Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux" are:

1. "If there is such a thing as ill-timed August rain"
2. "To be a stone, a stone's throw from your throne"
3. "A century stolen from our hearts to a house on the hill"
4. "The eaves dripping"
5. "Like swallows in search of a burnt-out belltower church"
6. "No man has ever hung at the temporary age of 24--both feet on the floor"
7. "Listening to the bonafide stasis of sound"
8. "It was back amongst the living"

Posted by g00blar at November 24, 2006 3:42 PM

Sean - excellent post. You have a special talent for making me instantly & utterly obsessed with a song. I will now be listening to "Farrar, Straus & Giroux" about 500 times in a row. Thank you!

Posted by Karin S. at November 24, 2006 11:18 PM

Though I'm certain we've never met and I have no idea what he looks like, I had a makeout dream about Dan Bierne last night. We snuck into an abandoned schoolhouse and got drunk with his highschool friends. Just thought you might like to know, in light of comment number one.

Posted by danica at November 25, 2006 1:07 AM

About a year and a half ago you posted a cover of the Shivvers' Teen Line by the superlative Hello Saferide.

Can you post it again please?

As a gesture of sharing the fantasticness that is Hello Saferide, here she is doing guest vocals on Farjemansleden by fellow swedes Vapnet. (thanks to getecho.blogspot)

http://www.fileden.com/files/2006/11/2/341366/Vapnet/Vapnet%20-%20Farjemansleden.mp3

Thanks

Stubbleupdate

Posted by stubbleupdate at November 25, 2006 1:20 PM

I'm with you on the 'synchronicity of coincidences' thing; sounds just as good as a 'sleuth of bears' or a 'skulk of foxes' (the two best collective noun sets I know of).

Posted by Kevin at November 25, 2006 2:05 PM

weird, danica, I had one about you too! but it was you, me, Mitch Hedberg, and this kid from my elementary school who was afraid of wind. it was cool at first, but then suddenly no one had any skin, and it was all organs and muscle tissue. It went from sexy to nightmare pretty quick.

Posted by dan at November 25, 2006 3:49 PM

Cheers for the Swan Lake praise. I won't say it's better than Wolf Parade or Destroyer's more recent output, but Frog Eyes, yes. In any case, all three songwriters have a lot of great songs showcased here, this being one of them.

Posted by Jeff at November 26, 2006 1:35 AM

Yeah, Dan, that always happens when you forget yourself and try to bring back the ol' "your epidermis is showing" joke.

Posted by danica at November 26, 2006 3:12 PM

sweet jesus, have i lost my goddamn mind or is this just tuneless pretentious crap?? what is going on here? it's almost like these bands are screwing with you people; trying to see how crappy they can be and still have pretentious bloggers swoon over them.

call me when someone writes a TUNE! jeebus...pitchfork has sooooo much to answer for...

Posted by kj at November 27, 2006 11:41 PM

no matter how creepy or scaaary it gets, any dream where you get to be close to mitch hedberg, let alone possible make out with him is not a nightmare....

Posted by kit at November 28, 2006 4:45 PM

Sean, I stayed at work later than usually yesterday to read something on your website. Since I have got internet I really enjoy reading your blog. Actually it has been a first time I started reading someone's blog. Anyway, I printed out articles posted on 24 Nov and went home. I got on bus and started listening to "All I know is tonight" by Jaga Jazzist and reading what I printed out. I have to say that I was glad when I saw my name in one of the stories ;) but when I reached paragraph about coincidence and synchronicity and finally the line 'Who is with me? (who's even still reading this?), well I was really surprised as I had asked you about it few days earlier and now I was reading your article and you questions.

Moreover there is sth on with number 24 "temporary age of 24 ...". Today when I came back home after work my flatmate has told me strange events happened to her yesterday when she was on a trip (all were somehow related to the number of 24 and when her friend had asked her this morning how old she was then she realized her "temporary age of 24" ...

but nea worries, this is just a wee contemplation over the dinner

Posted by Darek at November 28, 2006 5:17 PM

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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