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.

April 28, 2003

another latenight playlist

So this is another night like the last time I posted, but I'm going to sort of monitor what I'm listening to as I do it, rather than trying to do an honest retrospective.

Clem Snide - Soft Spot
The new (unreleased) Clem Snide record sounds like it might be really good, if I were to pay enough attention to it. I like their quieter folk stuff (see: Favorite Music) more than the nosier rock things (see: Ghost of Fashion), and this album is more the former than the latter. In the background now, though, it's pretty beige - I can't help but feel that the Snide would benefit from an injection of folk-blues a la Iron & Wine. (Oh, for those of you who don't know them - Clem Snide is like an awkward, shuffling, American version of The Weakerthans. But less punk.)

John Fahey - Red Cross
Well, it's nice. But not exactly rocket science. He can (could) play acoustic guitar real good, but nothing here makes me shut up (ie stop typing) and pay attention. I like the version of "Summertime", though.

The Dears - No Cities Left
Gee whiz was this a surprise. I'm not big on The Dears - even living here in Montreal, I've never gone to hear their dark chamber pop stuff. The last record was comfortably moody but didn't have much depth... (I was just listening to it the other day, actually, and found myself simply putting "Hollywood" on repeat repeat repeat. That song is jubilant and wonderful... but that fucking two-minute organ solo at the end dashes its chances at mix-cd glory. fuck.) This new one, though, whoa! I was expecting something cheesy-political (e.g. Chumbawumba) given some of their recent concert antics (I heard stuff about air-raid sirens and diatribes and angry young men). Instead - dark, lush, with dazzling guitar bits and terrifically diverse melodic lines. This is a rich, rich record - one I'm going to come back to. Strings, horns, choirs, piano, organ... Radiohead with an orchestra and a dislike for straightforward song structure. Or something.

The Velvet Underground & Nico - s/t
Gave this thing another chance given my recent VU discovery/binge. Liked it more than the last time, but still not remotely ga-ga. I don't know how "Venus in Furs" never sounded really really interesting before. Because, egads, it is! "Heroin" also sounds much better than before - the best part, hands down, is the sad, regular drum clump. I like Nico's voice, but I wish she didn't sound like she was reading phonetic transliterations of the lyrics ("and wut coss toom shell de poo gull oo-eh"). Many of these songs are too long.

Moxy Fruvous - Bargainville
I've been nostalgia tripping this week, and this does the trick. Well, not really. I only ever knew "King of Spain" growing up (and "Green Eggs & Ham"... why isn't that on this record? Copyright reasons? Or is my chronology wrong?). Surprisingly pretty, in a fresh-faced-and-harmless accapella kind of way. Lyrics about new and amazing "cellular!" phones make me feel suitably ancient. But why do Moxy Fruvous feel the need to sully a lovely ballad like "Fell in Love" with a gag about corn niblets? At least the Barenaked Ladies (used to) know when to hold off on the chortling.

Mercury Rev - Deserter's Songs
Hm. I'll have to put this on again. As interesting sounds washed in one ear and out the next, I got the impression there was a lot worth hearing that I was missing. Like the Flaming Lips only a) minus the squelching synthy things, and b) not so lyrically inane.

Clinic - Internal Wrangler
I am listening to this for the fourth time in a row right now. It's very good - unexpected blooms of harmony, dusty drum machine, hypnotized bluesman vocals, gruff and sneaky streaks of guitar. And you know what the best part is? I had no idea. When I heard this album three years ago, I didn't like it. Not one bit. Too messy, maybe - too bluesy? too dirty? (I'm running through the list of usual reasons why I don't like things, and yeah, I can see myself maybe jumping the gun and finding this not-to-my-tastes.) Fact is, though, that it's swell. It has so many interesting things to hear on it - it's clever but laid-back, nonsensical but proud. Like The Notwist's older brother, maybe - the one who prefers Howlin' Wolf to Men Without Hats. Check out when things speed up at the end of "Distortions," and the sax juts in for a moment... The grin of the mosquito who swoops in over congo drums in "Voodoo Wop," introducing a mellower groove (and then the unabashed organ strains that might be the sound of The Strokes when they're dreaming). I think that I might like The Dears record more - some of the noisy stuff on here will simply never be close to my heart - but this is probably the better record. Did I mention it reminds me very much of the Velvets? It does. In a good way.

(Now I need to find Walking With Thee, Clinic's newer one, and give that a re-listen. Well, first I need to finish my paper [and listen to Internal Wrangler some more].)

Posted by Sean at 2:56 AM | Comments (0)

April 23, 2003


It has been a very tense day-and-a-half. These are the records that I was playing while I worked and worked and worked. I am glad they existed.

The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground (I really like the quiet, mellow emotion. "Candy Says," "Pale Blue Eyes" and "Jesus" = goodgoodgood! But what's the deal with the "Murder Mystery" wankfest, etc?)

The Velvet Underground - VU (Not as good. But ok. The mood felt right at 3am.)

U2 - Joshua Tree (Who knew that U2 had released a good album, albeit fifteen years ago?)

Dismemberment Plan - Emergency and I (Only "Back and Forth" was really working when I listened, but.)

Yo La Tengo - Summer Sun. (I like this record less with every listen. Most recently, its musical content sounded like it had been reduced to nothing more than sheer [bland] atmosphere.)

Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon (First time listening to it in a long time. I got bored quickly. But "Money" still sounded fine.)

Well.. That's strange. It seems that when I write them out, the records I listened to sort of sucked. hm. I guess my playlist was redeemed by the scattered presence of 50 Cent's "In Da Club," The Clique's version of "Superman," Iron and Wine's "Such Great Heights," the two new Blur songs I like and, um, no, that seems to have been it.

Did I mention that it was a long, torturous night?

Posted by Sean at 9:25 PM | Comments (5)

April 21, 2003


Nina Simone has died. She will be missed so very much. With the exception of Billie Holiday, no other jazz singer ever approached such heights. "Little Girl Blue" is one of the marvels of the 20th Century: so very strange, sad, and small.

rest in peace.

Posted by Sean at 4:14 PM | Comments (2)

think tank

I was in a car the other day (which is a rare occurrence for me), and lo-and-behold, the new Blur single came onto the radio. I had listened to Think Tank, which I didn't like much, but I was loathe to discover that the most atrocious song on the record - "Crazy Beat" - was the one that the label had selected as lead single. From the squelching vocoded chorus to the pedestrian indie-in-the-club verses, yikes! I don't know what I would have chosen as fit-for-radio, but it certainly wouldn't be that monster. It's too bad that my favourites on the album - "Sweet Song" and "Out of Time" - are too mellow to be chart-toppers. "Out of Time" spreads sad-sack Albarn vocals over a muted Beck-like guitarline. I particularly like the weird sounds and conversation in the background. "Sweet Song," meanwhile, is simply pretty. Slightly sad - felt piano notes and soothing oohs - but still many steps away from Sarah McLachlan kitsch. Very much like The Reindeer Section or Archer Prewitt or something. And Blur makes it sound so easy.

Posted by Sean at 12:39 PM | Comments (0)

April 14, 2003

cat power at théatre outremont

Cat Power was breathtaking. We got there early enough to nab great seats, and went on to watch perhaps the finest (and certainly the most punctual) concert I've ever seen. Far from being the disaster/therapy-session Cat Power shows are renowned for, Chan Marshall played for almost two-and-a-half nonstop hours, performing with soul, spirit, and a touch of grief. Highlights included an altogether different (richer, fuller) version of "I Don't Blame You," and a elegiac cover of "Knocking on Heaven's Door." She closed with a White Stripes tune, but even that was terrific.

(The opener, Entrance, who did a Devendra Banhart-meets-Led Zeppelin schtick, on the other hand, stunk to high heaven.)

Posted by Sean at 1:58 AM | Comments (3)

April 11, 2003

doom and gloom

The major labels are reporting another significant drop in CD sales in 2002. Sales have declined 5 or 7% each year for the past three. This is a big deal. Economist Stan Liebowitz argued last year that there was not yet evidence suggesting any significant effect of file-sharing on CD sales, but as each year passes and sales continue to drop, the evidence points more and more to consumer piracy being a problem. Though I (and most of my friends) use P2P for sampling purposes, and continue to buy records, I certainly know many people who are buying next to zero albums.

This article in the Christian Science Monitor suggests that the indies are making money, however. It's got no metadata from CIRPA or other indie-label groups - for all we know, the majority of indies could be reporting losses - but the article paints things in a happy light. If savvy indepenent labels are indeed making money - and by saving precisely the costs that make the majors so horrible - then I'm really happy. I'm not one of those who is opposed to the concept of a record label: I think they are valuable institutions through which artists may gain support, exposure and resources for their music. That said, I loathe the habits of many (particularly major) labels, who waste so much money on CEO salaries, limos, videos, and radio-play, at the expense of artist development and musical integrity. The artists suffer - in debt to their label, the victims of creative veto. The public suffers - artists aren't fostered, they're simply mined for hits.

Still, I don't hope that P2P obliterates the world's record labels (or the ability for artists to make money through recordings). I've long been an advocate of a flat-tax on computers, burners, internet and recordable media, as a way of helping artists to cope with P2P-related losses. (Similar things have already been instituted in Canada - blank tape levies as the trade-off for home taping.) Though it's perhaps not an enormous issue today, within ten years, the files you download will likely be absolutely identical to the product you might purchase: we need to address KazAa's challenge before it's a crisis. If frugal indie labels (and thus, their artists) are making money regardless of file-sharing, this is doubly great; anything that helps to sustain quality career musicians, whose work is being appreciated, is worthwhile.

Posted by Sean at 4:19 PM | Comments (0)

April 10, 2003


a few days ago, my roommate A (who is from winnipeg), walked in and asked me if I had heard of a band called "manitoba." I had. She had just learned that they (or rather, he) existed, and was very very amused, being from manitoba herself. "a band called manitoba!" she said.

a day or two later i was reading ilm and stumbled across a thread in which everyone was going absolutely crazy for the new manitoba record. my memories of manitoba were fuzzy (vague shades of Boards of Canada and my typically ambivalent response to organic laptop music). nevertheless, the enthusiasm of the usually grumpy ilm'ers was enough to spark my interest. to p2p i went.

and what i found was Up in Flames. people had been referencing My Bloody Valentine and Spiritualised, but this thing is better than that wankery. it's noisy and warm and pop and electronic and gee-whiz-wow! I hear Hood and The Notwist and heart-on-sleeve Cornelius... echoes of Broken Social Scene, Mum (but better), The Books, and yes yes yes The Beatles and the Beach Boys. the drums are as oo-er as people had said, and the songs are listenable! listenable! like - radio-style listenable! singable! danceable! lovable!

needless to say, Up in Flames + Loaded has made for a wonderful week. Cheap Thrills had no copies of the Manitoba record, and HMV was selling them for $23 +tx (eek). I went a-browsing on cheap cds, and, thanks to one-click-shopping, ordered a copy without realizing what i had done. oh well. (also: hooray!)

Posted by Sean at 6:07 PM | Comments (1)

April 9, 2003

before the summer sun

Yo La Tengo's 2003 WFMU covers telethon can be downloaded (in bite-sized mp3s) here. Every year, the band takes requests from one and all and performs them (well or poorly), via radio/webcast, in support of the station.

I've never been able to find a cut-up version, before; and was loathe to listen to the whole thing through. This is great (particularly Barry White's "Can't Get Enough of Your Love Babe"), but it's a classic example of generation gap. How many of these 28 songs do I know? I mean know. Um.


[via chromewaves]

Posted by Sean at 11:01 AM | Comments (0)

April 7, 2003

Piano Tuners

Looking at that last post of mine, I realize how much I sound like a buffoon. This blogging thing is new to me, so I'm not sure if the blown-up, pretentious flourishes are due to a) literary tendencies, b) growing pains as I adjust to proper blogging tone, or c) a reflection of the pompous ass that I truly am. Methinks the latter.

I wonder what piano tuners listen to at home. Complicated Bach fugues, where a multitude of notes weave around each other, in complex and perfect harmonies? Or do they sit in dark rooms with the blinds pulled, pieces by Morton Feldman or Schoenburg at high volume: gloriously dissonant, where nothing ever sounds right, and all that order undoes itself.

Our guy looked like he was probably a fan of Bruce Springsteen or Roch Voisine.

Posted by Sean at 4:16 PM | Comments (1)

sinking ships and melancholy strum

I went to see The Arcade Fire tonight at Petit Cafe Campus. They're breaking up - finishing up the last of their scheduled shows, then splitting. I won't go into the details, but I can't help but feel that this is a huge mistake: the magic of the group (and there is magic - they are one of the greatest bands I have ever heard) comes not just from the songwriting-in-the-strictest-sense... Dane and Brendan on drums make the pop songs so much more sublime.


I bring this up because, although the songs all sounded pretty good (the crowd certainly enjoyed them), it all just felt somehow bleak to me. Somewhere in the music was this encroaching feeling of dread, of it-doesn't-matter... I felt like I was watching a sinking ship. This is much the same sensation I had when I saw Radiohead perform in Barrie - I wrote about it then - and those predictions/observations turned out wholly false. Hopefully, this too is a projected illusion. Hopefully these musicians' music will soar again, be it in their current configuration or no.

Ok, enough with the scenester musings.

The last few nights, I've done a lot of walking in the cold and quiet - nights, afternoons - and each time I've happened to be listening to stripped-down acoustic bluegrass. The lovely Jolie Holland record (which I'll be reviewing for TM soon) on Friday/Saturday, and The Boggs today. There's something oh-so fulfilling about this simple, acheing music when the sky hangs heavy above you, when the streets are silent or empty. The music is so simply true... none of this rock'n'roll nonsense and posturing.

Posted by Sean at 1:43 AM | Comments (1)

April 6, 2003


About a month ago, I was at a party chez Dan's, and he threw on this wonderful classic rock album, with Beach Boy "ba ba bas" and cracked-voice lovesongs and guitar-solos that work. It's pretty and gritty, lush and raw...

"What is this?" I asked.

"The Velvet Underground," he said.

He had to be joking. I thought I knew the Velvets. I had heard The Velvet Underground & Nico, dismissed it, returned to it, tried harder, and gained some modest appreciation. I understood the appeal of the band's grey-and-yellow melancholy, but couldn't love it. (Apart from "Pale Blue Eyes," that is, discovered in a show by Montreal post-rock film-scorers Les Angles Morts. This was one of those songs that was just waiting for me to pay attention to, but that went ignored due to lazy listening. After the LAM show, though, I returned home to hear the original - and found myself thrown into a cloudlazy crush haze.)

Anyway - I had heard The Velvet Underground & Nico, and not been impressed enough to explore the VU's catalogue any further. I assumed that this was all that they did - the messy drug-mussed protopunk.

But what Dan put on was Loaded.

I told him I wanted to borrow it, and then yesterday he remembered to bring it over.

Jesus Christ!

What a great record! Why the hell did no one tell me that the Velvets' later record explored new territory? Why didn't they tell me that they were the missing link between The Beatles and The Who? There's sunkissed love-songs and outright rock'n'roll - the brokendown lyrics (and Lou Reed's delivery) are genius, here. I was at another Les Angles Morts show last night, for the Unicorns' CD release, and all I could think about was how this afternoon was going to be wonderful because I could put on Loaded. And listen to it. More than once.

rock'n'roll epiphany! and they've got another album or two, right?

Posted by Sean at 4:40 PM | Comments (2)

April 2, 2003

"We Suck Young Blood"

Current Best Song in the World: "We Suck Young Blood" - Radiohead

It's the handclaps that sell it - the relentless move deathward, the flatness of it. The bass flops like a dark joke. Thom Yorke is absolutely broken: the bravado of "You and Whose Army" has been crushed by "Life in a Glass House." The daring was shown to be foolishness - there's no one left to laugh at (to taunt) but himself. It's an inevitable move towards oblivion, now: Yorke's hope was fully, grotesquely, hilariously wrong. "Pyramid Song"'s black angels now swarm - they're everywhere - singing sweetly, lulling, staring with whiteless onyx eyes... The piano breakdown in the last third - feverish, a desperate assertion of life - suggests the horn-led revolution of "National Anthem," but here it is oh-so-quickly halted by the malachim. The blue stained-glass windows rise into an infinite night: "young blood" plummets from the heavens, fast asleep, falling into the angel's open mouths, onto their moonwhite teeth.

The record, as I said, is good, but it is not astonishing. I have quite a lot of faith, however, that the finished, mastered version (which this is not) may be possessed of that missing secret.

Posted by Sean at 12:44 AM | Comments (3)