you have to either sit down or cheer up
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.
The "My Funny Valentine" contest is over. Thank you all for your submissions - the winner will probably be announced next Monday.
Blanket - "All Love is Dead". Sit down, sit down. Don't go anywhere. Sit. There's a candle on the table and Lauren (we will call her Lauren) is in the kitchen, washing dishes. She speaks to you over her shoulder. She's wearing her short skirt, the one you like, but her hair's falling across her face in an ugly way. Her eyes look hard. You're sitting there as she speaks but you're not listening for the first long time - you're listening to her voice, the sweet and mumbly flow, the voice you love to hear close-up, right in your ear, marble-mouthed, - but you're not listening to the words. And then you begin to hear, over the tapwater shhh, over the scrub scrub of her rubber gloves, over the sighs of the backing vocals in the corner -- you begin to hear what she's saying and you realise she is telling you off. You deserve it. It's a rage that sounds for a moment like a whine, then sad sad sad, then like someone deep in love. And then like all three and neither. Because she's gone cool again, sharp and collected, back straight, and the only soft thing over there, at the other end of the room, is a voice and a pair of lips. And they're not coming closer.
Girls, I don't know what you'll hear. But this is a song of easy, dusty unhappiness; a folky tune that owes almost everything to the singer. Part Rickie Lee Jones, part Isobel Campbell, a face you want desperately to see smile.
Phantom Buffalo - "Cheer Up My Man". It's a weak story but it lets me name-drop:
So when I was at Rough Trade's London offices, flipping through their CD shelves, Richard from the Arcade Fire/Bell Orchestre pulls out this Phantom Buffalo CD in a clear vinyl sleeve and says "Have you heard this?" and I say "No" and he's like "It's really good," I think he explained someone from the label had played it for him, or maybe it had just been recommended to him and he hadn't heard it yet. But anyway I was like "Who are Phantom Buffalo?" and he shrugged and I put it in my pocket to take home with the Sufjan, Furnaces and Cameras. When I got back to Edinburgh I put it by the stereo and forgot about it. Occasionally I'd glance at it, but come on - Phantom Buffalo? An album called ShiShiMuMu? Clearly this not a good band. Probably some syrupy Japanese psych-pop, or a third-tier Polyphonic Spree imitator. Months went by. And then in September I put on the CD because I couldn't find my copy of Hayden's Everything I Long For (I think someone must have stolen it, or I lost it in Outremont -- heads will roll!).
And good god - holy cow, - boy... oh boy. ShiShiMuMu is fantastic. Phantom Buffalo play a supple guitar-pop that falls into a constellation with Bishop Allen, Reindeer Section and the Presidents of the United States of America, that bounces along rainpuddle chords to smallscale fireworks. It feels so British to me, though, so dry in its happiness, so bright in its melancholy. (Of course typically, they're from Maine. And sometimes they're called The Ponys.)
One of the record's greatest strengths is the sequence of tracks, the way melodies hide in one-other, the way harmonies come a bumping out as one song fades into the next. It's a great album, not just a series of hoppin' songs, and so it's difficult to pluck one out and expect you to fully understand. But I'll try.
"Waiting for my Man" this ain't. Instead it's squiggles of guitar and cantering drums, vocals like a long drink of milk, a reassuring jingle to take us through to the epic album-closing finale, a breakdown with that guitar sound, you know the one, the one that shines blueflaming in the dark, that lets us simultaneously lift our lighters and jump dance jump, a furious getting-down to music that's not quite getting-down itself. Sometimes you need a song to leave you room to fill in the blanks with your own vicious dance-moves.
[ShiShiMuMu was released in 2002. It's available from respective UK/US sources for $12/£9.99. According to their blog there is a new LP on the way, and also I think an EP or two has come out since ShiShiMuMu, but I have heard none of these. I would very much like to. More info.]
A terrific relaunch-with-redesign at Poptext. Abby's promised more writing, more frequent updates, and yes indeed lots more music. Yay!
I keep forgetting to link to Who's the Boss 2006, the second annual awesome-off coordinated by my old friend Ed. It's a tournament of Excellence, pitting random things against each-other, with only a small nod to rhyme, reason and common-sense. Merlin defeats Beetlejuice, Vonnegut takes down Tom Robbins, black forest cake knocks out Halle Berry. (Last year's final was Christopher Walken vs Death.)Posted by Sean at October 24, 2005 12:01 AM
Hooray! Thank you, Gramophone! may your righteous music-know how and my pop-culture regurgitation continue it's mutual hand-shake.Posted by Ed at October 24, 2005 1:47 AM
Holy cow, Phantom Buffalo. Why are you so great but make it so tough for me to get your album? Whoa.Posted by Lindsay at October 24, 2005 9:09 AM
Ok, deleted the post about it because I just got back from the taping and don't think very highly of what I got across. But for those of you who are particularly interested, you can hear me in discussion about "blogging and music marketing", with the context of the Arctic Monkeys' UK #1, on Radio 4's Front Row, tonight. 7:30ish.Posted by Sean at October 24, 2005 1:56 PM
You know, I bought Phantom Buffalos album based another another sites recommendation... and I didn't like it... I thought it was kind of dry... lacking warmth or fun or something like that... perhaps soul. Though the site in question did call them the 'New Shins', so that may have had an effect... still... I am going to listen to it again right now just to prove myself worng. Sorry, wrong.Posted by Robert at October 24, 2005 2:11 PM
I was at Crystal Cabinet harvest gig where I picked up the sampler CD. Afraid we must agree to disagree about Blanket. Unfortunately in the live setting, the singer sounded like Hopeless Sandoval, though a couple of the band certainly knew their onions...
I'm away to listen to the CD again, though, just in case everyone is right and I'm wrong (not unknown, I confess).
Great site, though!Posted by ChanceBlackEight at October 24, 2005 2:42 PM
If you like Who's The Boss, you may also like the about-to-finish-up Everything Idol. Right now you can vote in the semifinal, which pits love vs. e-mail.Posted by Eppy at October 24, 2005 4:06 PM
That Daniel Johnston track you posted the other day was fantastic! Raw, happy, sad... Will have to find some records of the poor guy...Posted by Matthew at October 25, 2005 4:12 AM
Sean, you are truly the king of awesome. I LOVE the Phantom Buffalo track. Thanks for helping expand my musical horizons with this mighty blog of yours.Posted by Adam at October 27, 2005 7:22 PM
i love your description of the track all love is dead...so i grabbed it..thanksPosted by coral at November 23, 2005 8:11 PM
I just wanted to say I've been following you guys for about two months and loving every bit of it. At the moment, I'm a bit obsessed with "All Love Is Dead" (and, hell, that "Coxcomb Red" remix y'all just posted as well).
Anyway, if you're feeling brave and really want to know what *this* girl sees when she listens to "All Love Is Dead" you can check it out here.Posted by scarlett at November 29, 2005 6:30 PM