Said the Gramophone - image by Keith Shore

Archives : all posts by Sean

by Sean

Kate Maki - "September Sun". A song like a closing eye, a stone rolling downhill, like the vanishing sun in September. Time is of the essence, Kate Maki has none to waste - go go go, roll roll roll, quick while you can, before it's dark. The guitar won't keep up with her voice, the drums won't keep up with the guitar, don't catch your breath just go on, while there's still light, while there's still light, until winter lands, like two hands, placed flat on the table. [buy]

Sinéad Harnett - "Say What You Mean". Her best glass, the most famous works, were made during earthquakes. She'd begin a piece during the first tremors, in spite of them - melting in the crucible, working the molten solid, blowing the glass into form. She worked through the wobbles; she didn't care; she could make the finest things even as the land leaped, as the ground leapt beneath her feet. [produced by Kaytranada / buy]

by Sean

Sorry Girls - "This Game". I was swept off my feet by Sorry Girls' debut single, a song that marries Lorde-like electro-pop and the drums-heavy disillusionment that drew me (in part) to Basia Bulat's early work. The band's a duo - singer Heather Foster Kirkpatrick and producer Dylan Konrad Obront, who live in Montreal - and this is the first thing they've ever released. That's a high bar, and maybe it explains the delay on a long-promised first EP. But I like to imagine that a song like "This Game" can act less like a measuring stick and more like a turbine, a little engine prodding Sorry Girls to keep hitting the practice space, to keep pressing record. Art-making mostly comes down to persistence; long live anything that eases the outpouring of blood, sweat and tears. Sorry Girls know how to write and sing a hook, they know how to make breathless what could easily be a lament. They're as well-served by their confidence as by their vulnerability - after all, pop music's greatest flavour is probably "bittersweet." [bandcamp]

by Sean
Overgrown traffic jam

Modern Studies - "Ten White Horses". A song that seems written as a soundtrack to the various conjugations of to begin. Begin, began, will begin, beginning. The piano spells out a future and then the handclaps make it present; we follow, dawning, along Emily Scott's pronouncements. Lines about horses and their tumbling riders, death and love, or falling suitors. The "sun's a pale bystander" and it's a "one-league-wide meander", the rhymes like handmade coins or tokens, pieces to leave upon the train-rails. Once begun, there's crescendo too - horns and drums, winsome harmonium, the tools of an early Noughties sound steered by bands like P:ano and Architecture In Helsinki. I saw Architecture in Helsinki once, in Edinburgh, in a dripping Cowgate bar. It was 2005. Maybe members of Modern Studies were standing beside me, swaying softly. Begin, began, beginning.

[Modern Studies are based in Glasgow; they are Scott, (StG fave) Rob St John, Pete Harvey and Joe Smillie. / Out on Songs, By Toad Records / more on Bandcamp]

(image source)

by Sean

Les Amis au Pakistan - "M'a m'f". You do not need to put up with this shit. You've got a hammer for the window, a clutch full of doorknobs, spinach by the can. Volkswagens, squirt-bottles, rocket-launchers, indignation sky-written in the cloud. I•N•D•I•G•N•A•T•I•O•N. You've considered letting that stand alone; perhaps the letters are message enough. But: no. Not when you can make their phones go off like pepper bombs, not when you can yank away the cartoonery of their cover. You do not need to put up with this shit, nor shall you. The Ming vase will crash upon the floor and the lightning-bolt will come away in your hands, an elemental thing claimed by its rightful heir.

[Les Amis au Pakistan bandcamp / discovered on La Souterraine's O Canada compilation]

by Sean

Beverly - "Crooked Cop". It was probably not the best year to release a jangly love song called "Crooked Cop". The song's central metaphor hadn't bothered me until I sat down to write about it; until that moment its red and blue lights just cruised on past. It's been on for months, casting starbursts round my rooms, bittersweet as a teenage mixtape. Yet if Beverly were led by a man, I'd probably be saying that I'd heard this kinda thing before. Glittering guitars, handclaps, reverb - we know all this, right? We already have a (teenage) fanclub for it. But it's Drew Citron's singing that changes the foreground of the music, linking it across time and space to something as far-away as Sandy Denny. (In this she reminds me of Alvvays' Molly Rankin.) The singing is something else - at the front and in harmony - like the song's feelings are fraying and a moment later, in nostalgic retrospect, getting woven back together.


by Sean

Smerz - "Because". Smerz are two women, producers Henriette Motzfeldt and Catharina Stoltenberg. This song seems founded on the unsaying of something, the unsaying or unsinging. The same line repeated, sampled, cut up and clipped. "Because we said the same thing so many times." That line, uttered by either Henriette or Catharina. "Because we said the same thing so many times," said, unsaid, repeated. Eventually she explains the "thing" that was said so many times. It was this: "I was thinking of leaving."

Perhaps this is a song about a break-up. Perhaps the shame is that doubt was said and said and said; that it was going on all the time. Not just thought, once; said, "so many times." In lightninged nights and safer ones.

But perhaps this is a song about something else. Those nauseous synths pour folds into the song, places where the fabric of it seems to slip. It slips and there's an ugliness underneath. A violence, maybe. Smerz's singers do not try to unsing the thought that they should leave. What they try to unsing, deny, is that they said it, out loud, "so many times". They said it so many times; they knew it; they knew they should go. And perhaps they didn't.


by Sean

Agnes Obel - "Familiar". "Love is a danger," Obel sings, and here she seems to be singing the contours of that trap - its rough sections and mirrored ones, the way you can be lured by a reflection. There is nothing more sinister than an almost, a not-quite; here she hides the uncanny behind walls of glossy strings, columns of harp; here she hides it behind another Agnes's face. The cello's a compass-needle pointing back toward safety, back toward home. Don't gaze too long into the chasm. Don't gaze too long into the other Agnes's eyes.

[official website / european tour this fall]

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