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.

December 15, 2003

the hidden cameras and the arcade fire

[Hi Googlers! Please head on over to this post on the Arcade Fire - it's a heckuvalot more recent, and a whole lot more accurate. Thanks!]

I'll try to do some intermittent blogging as I wait to get hosting sorted out... so far I've got a couple of extra 1and1 accounts that have been offered. With a couple more, I should be set - so again, if anyone wants to sign up for an account and email the details my way (no credit card needed; just a phone number), I'd deeply appreciate it.

Sunday night I went to see the Hidden Cameras, at Le Swimming of all places. The place was as packed as I've ever seen it, but it was strange to see the piles and piles of indie rockers crowded up alongside the pool tables. The Parka 3 opened things up, and I realized it had been far too long since I saw them last. Still earnest, still awkward, still with killer energetic pop hooks, even if it feels like a bit of a stretch to call them "hooks." Suffice it to say that though the group was a little rusty, they were still happygreatfun.

Next, London ON's The Two-Minute Miracles, who despite their self-deprecation ("we're a baby band") just didn't impress. They continue to play competent, pleasant country-rock, but don't - and never have - been anything more than lacklustre. Also, lyrics like "I'm feeling horny in Californie" don't help.

And then: the Hidden Cameras. They were a celebration, to be sure. Six or eight people on stage, everyone giddy and glad, singing out the choruses like they were excited 10-year-olds in a church choir. As Julian said, they were slightly cheesy, sure, but that was more than made up for by the sheer gaiety (in, uh, both senses of the word) of their performance. Acoustic guitar strummed vigourously, xylophone smacks, drums pounding out like a disco marathon, synchronized dance-moves, harmonies. The dancefloor ran amuk with boppin' and jumpin', people singing along with the words (projected onto the stage)... A smile still climbs to my face when I imagine the riotous, proud singing - "Ban Marriage, oh-oh, oh-oh ohhhh!" It was an invitation to let oneself go, an invitation to be swept up in the reverie.

And it reminded me a great deal of the 'old' Arcade Fire. The Hidden Cameras seized onto the lunatic energy of their music, its potential to overwhelm people (no matter how twee it may be), to force a dance-step into their feet, to lift a smile to their faces. It's the sort of effervescent live-show that actually brings a glitter to peoples' eyes. Like with the Flaming Lips, the audience gets to reach for the sublime, cracking through the everyday and truly feeling.

A year ago, the Arcade Fire had precisely the same effect - it was amplified, even. Not all of their songs were happy, but the way the sound washed out - vast, catastrophic, dazzling, bright, - there was that exact same potential to close your eyes and be completely (gloriously) lost. This isn't just Godspeed style reverberations, either -- the Arcade Fire/Hidden Cameras/Flaming Lips compel you to lift your hands in the air and wiggle your fingers, to burst open at the chest and send out light in all directions. The Arcade Fire's "Headlights (Look Like Diamonds)" was always, live, like the sound of life that bursts through a cage, something vibrant and marvellous and thriving. The Arcade Fire are a better band than the Hidden Cameras - smarter, fuller, more varied and rich - but their recent turns toward darker, 'rock' material has undermined a lot of their celebratory potency. It's not that they can't tackle unhappiness - they do, and brilliantly - but when I saw them in September, they seemed lost in the muddle of alt.rock. All the new songs sounded the same - electric guitars snarling, lyrics angry and yelled, their new (pathetic) drummer slamming the skins like they were clumsy arena-rockers. "Headlights" was transformed into something moody, creepy - which isn't a problem in and of itself - but I can't imagine ever wanting to hear it (in that form) more than once or twice... all of that transcendent shiningness had leaked right out. The Arcade Fire were a band that you loved to see and hear, something that rejuvenated you with every show; their new direction (while it's been very well received in Toronto) left all of my friends here entertained, but unmoved. It wasn't a show - an experience, a feeling - that any of us could feel fanatical about. The primary response: disappointment. A band that I could have once imagined listening to forever, over and over again, being destroyed and created by the songs, was no longer wonderful. It merely rocked.

Win, Regine, Tim, Richard (and even Will!) were at the Hidden Cameras show. Maybe they saw what went on there... and maybe they'll remember the beauty of those old moments. Maybe. I hope so.

Posted by Sean at 1:31 PM | Comments (1)

December 9, 2003

for the time being...

...until I figure out a solution to this problem, the mp3s listed here are unavailable. I'm hoping to collect 4 or 5 free 1and1 accounts from friends, and host the mp3s there. If anyone has signed up for an account with 1and1 (all you need is a north-american phone number) and wants to make it available to me, please email me. my gratitude would know no bounds. Ditto if you have a .mac account or something that you don't mind sharing (I know, it's unlikely).

Posted by Sean at 7:56 PM | Comments (0)

December 8, 2003


looking at the statistics for the mp3 depot site (shakeitlikeapolaroidpicture), it looks like I've gone through the 5G limit in about ten days. In other words, so many people have been downloading these mp3s that I've passed the webhost's limits for traffic in less than a third of the month. This is a problem.

I'll look into possible solutions on this end, but I may have to kill this mp3-posting thing as quickly as it started... I can't afford to pay for more bandwidth... Please, if anyone can offer hosting for mp3s and wants to see this blog continue [in its current form], I beg that you contact me. (sigh)

Posted by Sean at 2:41 PM | Comments (2)

yeah yeah yeah

Unless you hate fun, go download LCD Soundsystem's "Yeah (Stupid Version)" at Fluxblog, right now, because it is indeed, um, fun. Hell - I'm only 6 minutes in and I'm already suggesting you grab it. (Three more minutes of insane dance fun to go! Holy shit, cymbal breakdown at 6:40!)

Posted by Sean at 2:10 PM | Comments (0)

marching to a different beat

Missy Elliott - "Wake Up" feat. Jay-Z

My favourite track on the uneven This Is Not a Test - I guess it reflects my predisposition to 'conscious' hip-hop, but I think what I dig most is the subterranean sonar production, the submarine swimming among sharks. Dizzee Rascal's cold-cold-steel sound is too alienating for me, but this - less cruel, more human - is endlessly appealing. Hov's solo is kinda phoned-in, but the blurred and echoing "wake up! up up" that closes it makes it all worthwhile.

Isobel Campbell - "The Breeze Whispered Your Name"
Isobel Campbell - "The Cat's Pyjamas"

Two cuts from the new Isobel Campbell record, Amorino. It's her first album since she quit Belle & Sebastian, and also her first that doesn't bear the Gentle Waves pseudonym. Better yet, it's the best record she's recorded, and is indeed (I think) as good as, if not better than, Dear Catastrophe Waitress - though very, very different. Amorino lives and breathes a luscious 70s filmscore aesthetic, sometimes noir, sometimes pastoral, but endlessly surprising. The instrumental bits are even more successful than the vocal ones - trumpet, violin, flute, brushed drums, bass... "The Breeze Whispered Your Name" blushes with a jazzed guitar backbone, Campbell singing like a wisp. Where it becomes marvellous is at about 3:30, when Isobel's quit singing and instead pulls out a trumpet, sliding into the song like a knife between ribs, a sharpened Cootie Williams.

"The Cat's Pyjamas" opens with a dark piano tinkle, breaking into a delightful Dixieland surprise. It's upbeat and gay and sounds just like someone having fun. Which is a good sound, on a Monday morning.

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

December 7, 2003

cherry blossom girl

Air - "Run"
Air - "Alone in Kyoto"

Two songs from the new-and-as-yet-unreleased album by Air (or, as they're known on my sister's Felicity soundtrack, 'Air French Band'). It's called Talkie Walkie, which is either a Serge Gainsbourg reference, a slightly kooky deconstruction, complete gibberish, or simply the way that they say 'walkie-talkie' over in France.

"Alone in Kyoto" appeared on the Lost in Translation soundtrack too, but it's good enough to be shared again. Acoustic guitar like slow-mo cherry-blossoms, airy beeps out of a fantasy airport. "Run" definitely suggests that Air - like me - has been listening to the title track on Kid A. It's peculiar but appealing, slightly dark but still with enough fluffiness to take it airborne. Most of Talkie Walkie is like this - it's almost goth in bits, certainly more sinister than 10,000 Hz Legend) - but it's also essentially a return to the gentle and beautiful lappop that made Moon Safari so nice. In short, the album sounds very Air (though I hear a lot of Cornelius as well).

It's too early yet to say whether this is a great album, but it's certainly at least as good as Moon Safari. For a genre that I thought had basically run itself dry, Talkie Walkie there's still somewhere to go. (Contrast Goldfrapp, who have singlehandedly (well, I guess with the help of Morcheeba,) decimated any faith I had left in trip-hop.)

Posted by Sean at 12:22 AM | Comments (0)

December 5, 2003


The Unicorns - "I Was Born (A Unicorn)" (original version). With everyone making so much noise about the Unicorns lately - well, with Pitchfork and Exclaim making so much noise about the Unicorns - I figure I might as well chime in with my own thoughts about these pseudo-Montrealers. First off, they're gloriously inconsistent. Their records are inconsistent, their live shows are inconsistent, their personalities are inconsistent. Corresponding with Niel Diamonds before they signed to Alien8, he was cordial, enthusiastic, and even slightly twee. Now, I'm told, they're smug, cool, and arty. But forget that - they're joyous, weird pop iconoclasts, with creative kick and googly-eyed genius.

Still, as much as people seem enthusiastic about their new record, Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone, I don't enjoy it as much as I did their first, Unicorns Are People Too. The new one sounds better - and the Unicorns' bristling and juicy guitar sound rises more to the surface - but things aren't quite so much fun, or so true. Unicorns Are People Too is full of (literally) the first drafts of songs that were rerecorded for Cut Our Hair, and the jumbled originals are often superior to the more arranged 'finished versions'. Case in point, "I Was Born (A Unicorn)" - present on both albums, and among the best tracks of both. (The very best Unicorns song, by the way, is called "Thunder and Lightning.") While the newer version has a ringing guitar that kicks more melodic ass, this ramshackle original is more charming, less pleased-with-itself. In short: it's spastic, peculiar and fun, with a pop hook to hang your robin hood hat on.

Charles Wright - "Express Yourself". I said here that this was the Best Song in the World, and it might still be. The jingling guitar in the left speaker makes the greyest december day glad, the drums are as good as anything Four Tet's put together, and Charles Wright, he's a natural wonder, like a mega-tsunami or a whirlwind, something big and human and free and better than caramel corn. hooray!

Posted by Sean at 3:20 PM | Comments (0)

December 2, 2003

i practice moves out in the yard

Little Wings - "The Shredder". This is my favourite track off the new Little Wings album, Discover Worlds of Wonder. I saw Kyle perform in Montreal last month, and it was a strange and lovely little evening. Whereas I expected a cardigan-clad Stuart Murdoch type, I was met with a bronzed, lazy-smiling surfer dude. I had my doubts as I glanced at him before his set began, but once on stage - nope, there he was, sounding just right (unselfconscious, singing as quietly, easily true as he could). Little Wings, I realized, wasn't mopester music, but surf-folk closer to Jack Johnson - only, um, mining deeper depths. This song is creamy as foam on a beach, the latest in a series of songs about the Shredder... skateboarding and driveways filter out over cool drum skittering, casually plucked guitar, and - hooray hooray! - twee handclaps.

Eminem - "We As Americans". This is a leaked track from a mystery recording by Eminem, rumoured to be an upcoming EP (if not an album proper). The sound quality's not 100% but it's just fine. The production's fascinating, like a slowed, wary, deconstructed take on "Lose Yourself." I like the song a lot - the chorus slides out like a lizard - and the verses are up to the usual Eminem calibre. It's "serious" Eminem, but that's always what I've preferred... it oscillates from cautionary observations to i'm-so-dangerous grandstanding: I'm not yet sure whether I like what he's saying... but he does actually state that he'd like to see the President dead. That boy just keeps raising the stakes!

addendum: the Eminem track appears to be called 'we as americans'. i apologize for my source's foolishness!

Posted by Sean at 9:52 PM | Comments (2)

December 1, 2003

he played the drummer

I've been listening a lot to the new Sun Kil Moon record, Ghosts of the Great Highway, lately. It's different from the Red House Painters albums, somehow. There's more vitality, more ringingness to the guitars. Whereas most of the RHPs' work - and for sure, Mark Kozelek's solo record (though the whole acoustic-covers-of-AC/DC lends a certain cachet) - leaned towards the (beautiful) dopiness of Pedro the Lion, Sun Kil Moon seem to have a little more Neil Young in them - maybe some R.E.M., even.

I've not been a longtime fan of the Red House Painters. I had heard most of their stuff - downloaded Old Ramon, Songs for a Blue Guitar - but it hadn't clicked. I picked up one of the untitled albums ("the one with the bridge") a couple years ago - $3.99 at Sam's - but even that just sort of drudged over me. It's all very moany, you see. As I said, it reminded me of Pedro the Lion, whom I love, but lacked the snap and crackle that Dave Bazan feeds into his tunes. (Case in point, my fave Pedro track - and rather less manic-depressive than the bulk of their work - the brilliant and near-poppy "When They Really Get To Know You They Will Run".)

Recently, though, I've been doing a lot of difficult/stressful work on the computer, and when I sling on my Grados, that Red House Painters album sounds just... perfect. Kozelek's voice calls, and along with the guitars, it's this reassuring thrum. Exactly the "warm blanket" thing that a lot of people throw at sad music (and which I feel is often a dismissive gesture).

Which brings me back to Sun Kil Moon. This is a better record than the Bridge album, more bristling, energized. Surprisingly, I've been enjoying the more rock'n'roll tracks over the acoustic ones. "Salvador Sanchez" is one of those: feedback laden, declarative, quite beautiful. It makes me wonder what would have happened to Slowdive if they had become Nirvana fans. (Are they Nirvana fans? Why don't they show it? Man... If Neil Halstead covered "Heart-Shaped Box"...)

Posted by Sean at 12:38 PM | Comments (3)