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.

November 29, 2003

in the hallowed ground

After writing about Clem Snide yesterday, I was thinking about other "pet bands" of mine - acts that I, and only I, seem to get excited about. Foremost of these (apart from Gomez, I guess,) is Ireland's The Frames. They're one of the biggest bands of the Green Isle (second only, perhaps, to U2), and yet they're nobodies here, playing at half-empty CMJ shows. They opened for Calexico.

Anyway, the Frames are the milk that the now much-vaunted Damien Rice was weaned on, but for their part, Songs:Ohia and Will Oldham are more often cited as influences. Thing is, though they've gained the ability to hush, to soar, to bloom in soft, folk-rocky ways, they started out as something much closer to Pearl Jam - melodic alt-rock in the typical 90s style, passionate vocalist and all. Though the early records have definite stand-outs ("Revelate," "Fitzcarraldo," "Your Face"), it's only on the last two LPs that the band has become thoroughly mesmerising. They're honestly one of the finest rock bands currently operating.

The Frames - "Lay Me Down". Taken from the band's most recent album, the Albini-produced For the Birds, here's the Frames at their most lush. It's the drums that make it work - they shudder and thump like something live and kindly, something to be cherished. So many folk/sadcore artists get it wrong: it's not the guitar that's the most important instrument, it's the drums. The right brushed fills, the ting of a cymbal. I don't know my "drum theory" whatsoever, but I could hear what Dane and Brendan used to contribute to even the quietest of Arcade Fire songs, I felt the impact when Damien Jurado's drummer flickered to life at Casa on the 10th. Glen Hansard sings without bragadocchio, a fiddle plays careful accompaniment, harmonica - and banjo! And then the song ends - it ends! - it doesn't try to build to some artificial emotional climax, or shatter into fragments, it simply wraps things up and finishes. The drums patter into the evening.

The Frames have done lots more; their palette is full and varied. If there's any interest, I'll share some other highlights.

Posted by Sean at 2:08 AM | Comments (3)

November 28, 2003

like a glad bird

Clem Snide - "All Green". Clem Snide played in Montreal at the end of October, at a little club called le Petit Cafe Campus. I went alone - ostensibly to review the show, but I never got around to it. Clem Snide's one of my pet little bands - I like them quite a lot, but no one else I've played them for has ever become quite so smitten. Eef's lyrics are always clever and sharp, but he has a romantic side I enjoy very much, too.

Anyway, there I was at the show, sitting on my own. (When I came in the door and took one of the stools along the wall, a fortysomething francophone man invited me to take one of the chairs at his table. It wasn't a drunken gesture, an uncomfortably friendly one, or any sort of creepy invitation; it was just a kind offer from one chain-smoking, greying, alt-country-music listening loner to another [minus the smoking thing]. For the rest of the show, I regretted not taking him up on it.) Surprise opener was Jim Bryson - whom I saw at BluesFest this summer - and I was struck with the same impressions as from several months ago. His live, full-band performance is scorching, terrific, bristling and fullhearted. I haven't heard the new one yet, but I do hope that it captures some of Bryson's loud, warm live show.

Er. Anyway... Clem Snide. Your Favorite Music is my favourite of theirs, by far, with the last couple being a little too rock for their own good. Each is spotted with amazing songs, however - seek out "Donna," "Your Favorite Music," "African Friend," "Lost On the River," "Chinese B"... Their new one, Soft Spot sounds like it should be genius - Eef's fallen headoverheels, and here's some pure-and-unadulterated love-songs. Sadly, it's not - the album plods, it lacks the beauty it aspires to. "All Green" is a perfect example of this, but it's still completely great. The instrumental backing just never lives up to the almost-too-good lyrics ("But summer will come with Al Green and sweetened iced-tea / Summer will come and be all green with the sweetness of thee"). Still, that line is good enough to sell whole albums, if you ask me.

Oh - Live? They were good. Not astounding, but good. Eef was distracted but earnest, peculiar and sincere. The highlight was a song called "Beautiful," not yet released... I'll have my ears open.

To continue the live-shows-of-2003 theme, there's this:

Bonnie Billy and the Marquis de Tren - "II-XV". This is from Get on Jolly, a collaborative EP between Will Oldham (Bonnie [Prince] Billy) and Mick Turner (Marquis de Tren, the Dirty 3). When Oldham played in Ottawa this summer, the show's emotional climax came (for me), when this sweet, forceful, devastating song turned over on itself and became "New Partner." This is a track that must be paid-attention-to. It's like a fallen star. Please.

Posted by Sean at 1:29 AM | Comments (4)

November 26, 2003

a fresh beginning

It's been a long time, I know, but I was swamped with travails (ie, french assignments), and felt unable to lift my head above water. What's more, this whole get-interested-in-my-life blog thing was getting a tad stale, so I was thinking about how to revitalize it.

Enter the New Concept!

Matthew Perpetua's Fluxblog is a fantastic blog, and the biggest reason it's fantastic is that he write about good songs and makes them available. Linked right there on his main page are MP3s so you can know what he's talking about, and get excited too (or not). It's a great way to get exposed to new music, to read about music, or simply to gain insight into how other people listen to music.

Of course, I couldn't ever do that here because it would suck the bandwidth outta tangmonkey like some giant vacuum beast. Luckily enough, I am now the proud owner of, and, most recently, elvith, so I've got extra webspace and bandwidth to muck around with. Rejoice! Starting today, then, I will try to center my blogposts around available-for-a-limited-time MP3s, either drawing on new-and-wonderful tracks on the stereo, or things from the archive. (Also: I continue to seek ideas for the two aforementioned domains... something must be done with them!)

Ceelo - "I'll Be Around. In honour of the new Missy album, which came out today (and which Andrew the Scot will be reviewing for tangmonkey soon), here's my favourite new Timbaland track -- and no, it's not from the Missy Elliott album. The trumpets aren't "Crazy in Love," but I love the oldschool music-hall feel, the busy-ness of what's going on in the background, Ceelo's dragging-rushing flow. I keep hearing the chorus ("When you want me to come") as 50 Cent ("When you walk in the club"), but that's just fine - so long as that guitar keeps ticking along like a children's TV mystery theme.

Billy Bragg - "Walk Away Renee". If this wasn't basically spoken-word (and thus, non-"catchy"), it would certainly be my Obssession of the Moment. A Billy Bragg b-side (and sought-after rarity), "Walk Away Renee" has just become widely available as part of the excellent new Best Of, Must I Paint You a Picture. Though Johnny Marr's guitar fiddling in the background is a touch woeful, this is Bragg's lyrical genius at its best: direct, honest, unflinchingly cliched in bits, but ultimately, beautifully beautifully beautifully true. The last line - delivered without gravitas or even non-gravitas - is almost as great as Ira Kaplan's closing lyrics in Yo La Tengo's "The Crying of Lot G" (which I'll leave you to discover on your own).

What was most surprising to me, the apparent pop illiterate, was that "Walk Away Renee" is a sequel. Or a cover. Or a tribute, or something. It's hard to nail down the connection. The NYC trio The Left Banke released "Walk Away Renee" in 1967. It climbed the charts, peaking at #5. Although I'd never heard it, the track is frequently cited as one of the best singles of the 60s.

But how does it sound? Well, listen for yourself. What makes the Left Banke-Billy Bragg relationship strange is that the two "versions" are completely different. Not just in style - Bragg with unaccompanied guitar vs the Left Banke's harpsichord-driven baroque pop - but in toto. Though the melody is essentially the same, you'd never really know it, and the lyrics are absolutely different. Michael Brown yearns for Renee like a sort of proto-Robert Smith, making it a pretty (if slightly rote) song about teenage love. Bragg, on the other hand, took Brown's simple 2:42 snapshot, and in lines of spare prose, imagined the relationship that sparked it.

I like music.

Posted by Sean at 10:40 PM | Comments (3)