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.

August 28, 2003

i was a big ole bear once

Bonnie Prince Billy, tonight, at Babylon in Ottawa.

What a strange, lovely show. It would indeed have been more wonderful if the two hours had been honed down to a transcendent forty-five minutes, but instead we got this peculiar elfin man warbling and lulling and coo-ing at us, taking requests and making spasmodic faces. seeing him live, i finally understood why bjork had taken him on tour - he's got that same words-from-other-places music that mrs gudmundsdottir does. flashes of absolute genius among long moments of pleasant yearning. it was very very hot. will oldham has small, round eyes that you don't really see in the master and everyone album cover. as he sings, he often looks like a rosy-cheeked gnome, eyes in the air, and the effect is seriously reinforced by whistling solos. his voice is amazing - breaking from reed-high to a vigorous tenor. and he seemed to have all of his seven hundred million songs memorized.

towards the end of the show, he began to play "2/15," from the EP with the Dirty Three's Mick Turner (aka the Marquis de Tren). "When you ask me to sing it feels my heart would burst with pride," played oldham to the silence of the room. sweetness. then, as we watch, he breaks all our hearts (and his own): "Drunk with the joy of singing, I forget myself and call you my friend." in that candleglow goldcrisp moment, he segues most beautifully, oh-so-beautifully, into the rainwashed build-to-joy of "New Partner," my favourite song of will oldham's and one of my favourite songs in all the world. $18 right there. thank-you thank-you.

i had hoped he'd be selling the new one for a good price, and the amalgamated sons of rest EP (with songs:ohia). no dice. mail-order it will have to be.

i was packing today. listened to Punjabi MC's record over and over. a tabla-bouncing beat-spiked delight.

the new (leaked) belle and sebastian track really is something special. "Step Into my Office Baby" is full-and-all-and-out autumn pop, vibrant and dazzling and whole. melancholy: gone. lazy crush: there, but with sunhazy harmonies. yes - about those harmonies... the "bum bum bum"ing over stuart murdoch's soft-sung bridge has all-of-its-own gotten me excited about belle and sebastian again. hooray! where's my cardigan?

Posted by Sean at 1:27 AM | Comments (1)

August 27, 2003


Sean returns from the cottage. Listened to lots of lakelapping, birdcalling, as well as p:ano, damien jurado, getz-gilberto, bach, and other lazysundappled sounds.

tonight went out for ice-cream. when i dropped mike off he found a cd-r on the street. it's labelled "2001 mix." i was delighted: a lost mix cd! exciting! cool sounds! guess the sort of person who owned it!

unfortunately, the cd seems to be very damaged and is playing very funny on my stereo. on the bright side, it sounds a whole lot like dizzee rascal. maybe i've got my ear to the ground to the newest grime sounds offa the streets of London. maybe.

Posted by Sean at 12:20 AM | Comments (3)

August 18, 2003

sun days

I'm glad I managed to squeeze out that flaming lips review, with the lights on, before departing on a short promenade to southwestern ontario. some anonymous chucklehead already sent me an email saying that "travis morrison isn't a drummer." well, duh, but if you've seen him live, he definitely is "schizoid." i acknowledge that the construction of the sentence is a little ambigious, but give me a little credit, snarky-person.

some songs i'm listening to a lot right now:

the flaming lips - "she don't use jelly." I don't know what music-train I was on in 1993, but it sure wasn't the Good Music Locomotive, or at least, I didn't have my ear to the ground. even if i missed "she don't use jelly" then, however, after last week's show, i'm not going to miss it again. feel-good and absolutely stupid, dazzling with its gummy chorus. but is it just me or does it never fully congeal, climb to that transcendent place with the guru in the clouds?

radiohead - "i am citizen insane." Pitchfork apparently doesn't like the new radiohead b-sides. me, i find them pretty interesting. "i am a wicked child" is indeed a genuine bore (thom's voice does sound, for once, thin, even when doubletracked). but "gagging order" is fascinating, showing the bizarro-radiohead that never left "Fake Plastic Trees," finger-picked acoustic guitar and sincere whiteboy sorrows. My favourite, however (and the only of the b-sides i expect I'll ever really listen to regularly) is "I am citizen insane." It's a peculiar, ambient instrumental with skittering beats and rocketlaunch bleeps - but i like that meandering droplet synthline. it sounds like someone i might like.

Elliott Smith - "A Distorted Reality is Now a Necessity." One of the two tracks off Elliott Smith's new 7". they both sound really good - definitely more awake than Figure 8, doing something remotely novel. "A Distorted Reality" shows typical melancholy, but is laced with a slightly mischievous organ-line, and - more importantly - a superterrific electric guitar, straight outta the Beatles in a different way than usual, Let it Be-bleedin'. but it fades out. (sigh)

Outkast - "Hey Ya." This leaked single from the Dre side of the upcoming Outkast double-record is as much punchy fun as, well, spiked punch. more marvin gaye than "mrs jackson," it's a song i can't put down, that i keep sipping and sipping. pink boas tromping down a brown street, stars dripping streamers. "heeeeeey ya. hey ya!"

Nathan Lawr - "Spanish Armadas." [download] Pleasantly lazy, pressing forward through acoustic guitar strum and lap steel with piano and a little female vocal support. He just toured with The Arcade Fire, has played with Royal City, etc. I very much want to hear his album.

Mark Knopfler and Chet Atkins - "Imagine." Found on The Site That Will Not Be Named, this is delicious adult-contemporary fare, instrumental loveliness. When it tumbles into the familiar chorus, it's like birds alighting on an electric-wire, acting out the photograph you imagined moments before.

Okkervil River - "Blackest Coat." The best thing on the Julie Doiron/OK split EP, the song starts awfully. An ugly-and-monotonous back-and-forth on guitar, but as melody and voice slowly layer on, something extraordinary happens, and at precisely 4:11 it's one of those moments that elicits a shuddering physical reaction. it's not pain, or bliss, it's just a juddering opening-up, a heart that creaks open. and then (gloriously, gloriously) the band somehow climbs into a loud-yelling-crashing victory finale. good god, i love this group.

music posts (here and at TM) may be interrupted for the next seven days as my internet access will be severely limited. sorry!

Posted by Sean at 1:56 PM | Comments (2)

August 15, 2003

darkness falls

"Darkness Falls" is the headline on today's Ottawa Citizen. I like it rather more than the Ottawa Sun's alternative, "Lights Out." The city's astonishing. Driving back from my friend D's last night, the streets were pitch-black, houses all unlit, traffic lights invisible against the sky. We drove slowly, taking care not to sideswipe cyclists, pausing at intersections to allow right-of-way, laughing as we talked about looting or Byward Market bonfires. Sitting in the back-yard, staring into the heavens, we could see a blanket of stars for the first time that I can remember. For once, there was no city glow, no "light pollution" to wipe them out.

This is how it happened: I was sitting in my cubicle, typing away. I work in Gatineau, Quebec - across the river from Ottawa, Ontario. (Today is my last day of work. Shortly, I will return [hooray!] to Montreal.) At 4:30pm or so, a muttering rose around the office. Though our electricity was still coursing, people had begun to notice panicked news-stories on,, etc. Given that this is the federal government, several people huffed about bourque falling offline. (I notice that it's back now, but Mr Bourque is presumably lost-in-the-dark, as the website has not been updated.) Quebec, you see, has its own, functional electrical grid - I like to give credit to the province's traditionally left-wing government. Ontario, meanwhile, with its cutbacks and privatization, is tied to the American system. And when they go down, apparently we do too.

Though a lot of people were twittering, I wasn't really worried. I left work at 5 and noticed the enormous crowd of people waiting at the bus-stop. "Something's not working there," I thought, and crossed the bridge to Ottawa on foot. Indeed, as I hit the halfway mark that switches from the province of Quebec to Ontario, the traffic-lights had ceased to function. Cars were dribbling one-by-one through the bridge intersection, the drivers red-faced. I eventually caught a bus on the other side and made it home. There, it was appropriately dim. We gathered candles and flashlights, turned on a battery-powered radio. Ate sandwiches and finished the ice-cream (well, we had to!) D phoned me to invite me to our weekly game of Ultimate Frisbee; I had presumed that the game would be cancelled - that my Ontario-dwelling friends would be crazed and panicking - but apparently they were as calm as I, and the game was going forward. For the drive down, I pulled out a Godspeed You! Black Emperor CD. This was the apocalypse, after all.

The game was good fun, but night fell quickly. No streetlamps to give a glow to the field. No bars to grab a beer. We wove in a bicycle caravan through the eerie streets, toward D's house. It was dead quiet, except for the squeaking of crickets, the muttering of cicadas. Pedestrians with their dogs smiled and waved.

A barbecue by flashlight. Still-cool soft-drinks in frosted glasses. Pressed apricots, smoke from a hookah. Delicate jasmin hashish.

People gradually drifted away, conversation lulling. A neighbour on the other side of the fence called over some friendly words - a disembodied voice.

This morning at home, still no lights. I showered very quickly, not to use up all of the hot water. No electric razor.

And back here at work, it's a motley crew. Quebec residents who saw no reason not to come. Ontario residents with a sense of responsibility, or just a sense of there being nothing better to do. We're going to out for lunch, and then for beers in the afternoon. We hear rumours of lights in Ottawa - traffic signals on Holland and Carling, patches of U of O's residences. Browsing the web, some websites are still offline. The people with cordless phones can't be reached.

I was planning on having a review of Wednesday night's Flaming Lips concert ready for today. If things get really slow here, I may, yet - but without computer access at home, it was nothing-doing last night. What had struck me Wednesday evening, however, was that it was a show for the End of the World, all explosions and confetti and joy and blood and madness. It was beautiful. And I can't help wondering, maybe they were right.

(a lightning strike!?!?!!)

Posted by Sean at 9:49 AM | Comments (4)

August 11, 2003

long and the short of it

The long-list for the Shortlist Prize was just announced. Modeled off of the UK's Mercury Music Prize, the Shortlist tries to award the non-megaselling best album of the year, using arty standards (as compared to, um, the Grammies). The previous winners were Sigur Ros and NERD.

What makes the Shortlist interesting, though, is that it's a group of "tastemakers" from the industry that nominate and select the winners. Everyone from The Roots' ?uestlove, to Beck, to Baz Luhrmann and Spike Jonze. This year, we get to see nominations by Dave Matthews (apparently he likes the recent Turin Brakes record, which is mushy uninspired balladry not unlike, uh, the Dave Matthews Band's last album), Nic Harcourt (who seems to have taste that mimics and exemplifies the college-graduated Yuppie Indie Thirtysomething), and Tom Waits (he liked Catalpa, he liked Orchestra Baobab! He also liked (what!?) the Eels' Shootenanny), among others.

Who would I like to see win?

Damien Rice, Jolie Holland, Four Tet, The Streets, Orchestra Baobab (based purely on their amazingamazing live show), or the Postal Service.

Spent the weekend camping; listened to little apart from a couple of tracks from a Bill Cosby comedy record. The man is funny.

Posted by Sean at 4:26 PM | Comments (0)

August 7, 2003

metal miracle

This lovely incongruity positively made me beam: Ailing teen gets her dream: meeting Queensryche singer. 17-year-old Brittany Woneis suffers from an ugly, painful, debilitating disease - and what gets her through her days? Metal, particularly Queensryche. While I don't have any fondness whatsoever for the band (or the genre), it sounds like the band showed her sincere generosity, respect, and kindness. Music helps her to live - this is why art is so vital, so important, even if god doesn't exist and there's little money to be earned.

Posted by Sean at 1:47 PM | Comments (3)

August 6, 2003


FreakyTrigger returns. This is the great UK webzine that boldly, articulately declared that chartpop was good music too. It spawned I Love Music and NYLPM and more. Tom Ewing (plus ILM) is what got me to be able to agree that the "All the Things She Said" kicks ass, and it's largely responsible (i imagine) for Pitchfork's recent acceptance of pop. Yes, the pop-heads are teaching the indie-kids a thing or two.

So Freaky Trigger has relaunched, and it's now a zine with movies and food and stuff, rather than just music. Which is fine. But you know what? There's not one article on there right now that is worth reading. Ie, their inaugural content is boring, indulgent and poorly formatted. sigh.

Better will come, though, I imagine (hope?).

Posted by Sean at 1:09 PM | Comments (0)

August 5, 2003

Love's bittersweet, life's treasures deep.

From ILM: things you have learned from Tom Waits.

Look at all these beautiful things:

The only kind of love is stone blind love.

Never drive a car when you're dead.

Hell doesn't want you and heaven is full.

You can't unring a bell, junior.

There are diamonds on my windshield.

Posted by Sean at 9:11 AM | Comments (0)

"Express Yourself"

Current Best Song in the World: "Express Yourself" -- Charles Wright

This song is one of Anne's favourites, and she slipped it into the opening slot of her deliriously great I Know You've Got Soul mix - not only a groovy, heart-swelling pack of organic funk tunes, but one of the very best compilations I own. For those of you who wish to make your own, let me know, and I'll post Anne's careful-and-brilliant tracklist. :)

But it's "Express Yourself" that rules this disc, a king with a crown of gold and jujubes. The bass boop-dee-doops (it's wearing a fuzzy hat and a long poofy shirt. The shoes are beautiful brown leather, though), the guitar rings out a good, open time, horns toot and root and add punctuation marks (! ? . , : !!!!!!1!!). And Charles Wright? Well jesus god, he is simply the voice of that spirit we want living inside all of us, hollering and coaxing and screaming. he throws aside "uh"s like the sun tosses off sunbeams - they're casual, magical things, the pixie dust that gives Peter Pan his air. and that bass just keeps struttin', the horns building to a loose, long cadence that cuts off just before things end, giving Wright another excuse to prove that the baptists have got it right: random warblings are the holy ghost, that glorious pow-pow-powering sound that puts lives together and lets the birds sing.

Posted by Sean at 12:40 AM | Comments (3)