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.

January 30, 2004

brainsick, tick, tick

Since I've basically been listening to "Float On" all day (with the exception of the couple hours I spared for Dan's Arcade Fire/Wolf Parade bootleg, and Jordan's Flying Saucer Attack album [why vocals!? why!?]), I didn't have time to do very much real thinking on "moody hip-hop." Although I originally planned to pick out something like Notorious BIG's "Suicide," here's a track I like a lil more.

MF Grimm - "Tick, Tick" [f. MF Doom]. Reluctant, pissed off, belligerent, with fine rhymes and brilliant, brilliant, fast-and-slow tempo shifts. It's jazzy and dark, with both a high-concept mentalist form and a rough, from-the-gut delivery. When it come to currency, love is nonexistent / Foes magnified, Friends become so distanced. (from MF Doom's Operation Doomsday.)

Posted by Sean at 7:07 PM | Comments (4)

January 29, 2004

holy crap! Modest mouse: "float on"

Forget the day-by-day schedule, I just heard this track and can't keep it to myself -- Modest Mouse's "Float On." The new single from their upcoming album, and the best thing they've ever done, it seems to me.

Modest Mouse - "Float On".

The guitars and drums jangle and flip in the background, happy to float on, with Isaac Brock squawking and rhyming in the front. It's like an amazing bird party that humans are never invited to, where there are strange bird drinks and strange bird rock'n'roll dances. And a river. And love. But you MUST TURN IT UP LOUD SO THE DRUMS AND BASS MAKE YOU CRAZY. holymoly! dan!!

Posted by Sean at 2:07 PM | Comments (119)


So by popular request, day, uh, four of Moody Week features the one and only Kadane brothers, Matt and Bubba. Bedhead often get that "slowcore" tag, but really they just sound like indie rock to me, neighbourly and spirited - but yeah, I suppose a little down on themselves.

The group's coolest track is something they did with/via Macha, on the Bedhead Loved Macha EP. Namely, "Believe," a lethargic-and-lonely cover of Cher's 90s dance hit, replete with clumsily-pushed buttons on a telephone, and vocoder. It's probably the most widely-circulated thing that the band's ever done, though - I saw it pretty recently at Chromewaves, for instance - so if you're curious, you're just going to have to track it down yourself.

Because me, I want to push Bedhead's LPs: this stuff's very, very good. The AMG description of the group's "tones" seems pretty otm: "Somber, Plaintive, Autumnal, Laid-Back/Mellow, Hypnotic, Earnest, Melancholy." Although I'd spell "somber" "sombre."

Bedhead - "The Unpredictable Landlord". From the group's 1994 debut, What Fun Life Was, this is as upbeat as the band ever gets. The sound is typical, though - intercrossing guitar sounds, drums that tumble away to some sort of resolution, a vocalist (Matt Kadane) that hides inside the blur of guitar tones. WFLW is probably the most alive of the band's albums - the most spirited and colourful - but everything else they did as Bedhead is worthwhile, too. Bedheaded and Transaction de Novo are simply heavier on their feet, greyer, thicker with a sort of grief. (Unfortunately, the Kadane's post-Bedhead project, The New Year, was completely boring.)

Bedhead - "The Rest of the Day". My alltime fave Bedhead track, from Bedheaded. You can hear what I mean about the group's lassitude, I think - the way this song sort of trudges up a hill, leaves falling. When it reaches the top, though - as the repeated guitar strains peak - it soars with drums pounding, a bell/xylophone thing ringing, guitars beating like wings.

There are a number of Bedhead bootlegs out there, worth seeking out. There's a live show in Vermont, in particular, that sounds as good as anything on Transaction de Novo. I really, really wish I had had the chance to see them live.

Tomorrow: moody hip-hop. (I think.)

Posted by Sean at 1:34 PM | Comments (1)

January 28, 2004

check your mirrors

It's warmer in Montreal this afternoon, but I will not let my wintry, frostbitten spirit be thawed: Moody Week continues.

Today, we listen to Logh, a Swedish band that has recorded two albums of glacial rock music, falling somewhere between the desolation of Low and the warmth/melody of American Analog Set. Further touchstones, I guess, are Kepler and Jimmy Eat World circa Clarity. Anyway, while last year's The Raging Sun was a bit of a disappointment, the group's debut, Every Time a Bell Rings an Angel Gets His Wings is a fine, half-frozen thing, and these tracks have both been plucked from it.

Logh - "In Cold Blood". Like ice-floats on a river, this is a slow and ruminating song; tones of ennui, loss and love swirl around slurs of guitar, murmurs of voice. And then the whole last minute is a wonderful, rounded organ drone. A camera slowly dollying back, panning away.

Logh - "Note on the Bathroom Mirror". Here we've got verses you can bob your head to, a chorus with its own opaque-but-catchy phrases. Logh don't let themselves get too much caught up in the fun of a rock song, but when the bass (or whatever it is) pipes up at 2:13, there's a whole lot to like: it's like a highspeed ride down a grey-and-snowcaked highway, when the scattered green trees suddenly break into view.

Moody Week's got a few days left, yet, and there's a whole lot of stuff I'm considering throwing up. Feel free to vote on which of the following bands you'd most like to see showcased: Kepler, The Dears, the Tragically Hip, 'moody hip-hop', Harvey Danger, Bedhead...

Posted by Sean at 2:35 PM | Comments (6)

January 27, 2004

insects like a neon choir

So apparently fluxblog, said the gramophone and ILM are shortcuts to becoming a music insider. I appreciate the sentiment, Hugh, I really do. And I wish it were true. Matthew may have his ear to the ground, but as for my listening habits, they're reviled by hipsters ("What, you like Jay-Z!?") and post-hipsters ("What, you like Coldplay?!") alike. Also, it seems my exuberant prose makes me a bit of a circus freak. Still, enjoy!

I made a naive post on ILM looking for some drone recommendations, and my needs were returned a hundredfold. Now I just need to find an afternoon to explore Aquarius Records, AMG, and, uh, CD Esoterik. Does anyone here have thorough drone recommendations? What albums make your body thrum like a tuning fork?

Right, so -- Moody Week continues! This time, with Manchester mopers Elbow. Elbow's a terrific band, absolutely unknown on this side of the Atlantic. Their greatness stems mostly from Guy Garvey's vocals, on-key and earnest, and Richard Jupp's exciting, unexpected drums. Furthermore, they make grand use of electric guitars, organs and synths, samples, vocal harmonies, and indeed, piano. When I saw them open for Goldfrapp a couple of years ago, they blew my hat off: they rose louder, fiercer than anything on their record.

I considered presenting a couple of b-sides, or one of the more interesting tracks from Elbow's debut ("Newborn," esp.), but ultimately I decided I'd rather share some of the highlights from their excellent 2003 LP, Cast of Thousands. (Cast of Thousands was #13 on my Best of 2003, btw.) Rest assured that the band's back-catalogue is also worthy of exploration, should these cuts strike your fancy.

Elbow - "Grace Under Pressure". The big epic ra-ra-ra from Cast of Thousands, this slow-starting celebration boasts the Glastonbury audience on backup vocals, and a glorious, high-energy battery of drums. It's really just the repetition of a single vocal theme, a reassuring mantra, trite but only if you don't feel like giving Elbow the credit.

Elbow - "Switching Off". A different sort of track, and probably more representative of Elbow's typical tone. Dark blooms of organ flower behind Garvey's voice, and his lyrics are something extraordinary. It's pre- and post-breakup at once, resigned and devastatingly nostalgic. Beautiful.

Posted by Sean at 1:08 PM | Comments (6)

January 26, 2004

Moody Week begins!

In honour of the bitter, blue-grey winter with which this city is afflicted, I think I'm going to present a week of moody, whinsome rock.

It's a tricky genre, because all of its bands orbit the same creative gas giant: Radiohead. That doesn't mean that they can't do creative work, but, well, comparisons are going to be made.

It's funny, then, that the group with which I commence Moody Week - The Stills - is a band for whom Radiohead isn't the first point of reference. Or even the second. Listening to Logic Will Break Your Heart, which made an astonishingly small splash when it finally arrived, I can understand why the A&R people were shitting themselves, why the band was hyped. The Stills sound like Interpol crossed with Coldplay, plus streaks of U2 and the Strokes (not to mention Joy Division). From this description, they should be the very recipe for alt.rock superstardom, and yet - and yet - has anyone heard them on the radio? I dunno if the Stills' PR people simply suck, if their live show is too heinous, if the band's ska origins are too laughable, or if I'm simply the only person who thinks they're any good, but the Stills' continuing anonymity doesn't make any sense to me. Is this anti-hype backlash?

In any case, submitted for your approval, two cuts from the Stills' debut LP, Logic Will Break Your Heart: yearning, wintry rock'n'roll, straight from the streets of Montreal (via NYC).

The Stills - "Lola Stars and Stripes". The song that opens the record, "Lola" boasts brilliantshining guitar over the simple smack of drums - I like best the way that guitar sound comes and goes, and that it's only used to mark the end of the chorus (which is casual and lovely), and not to jolt us at the beginning.

The Stills - "Let's Roll". Not sure if the thumping bass drum sounds more like something ripped out of Radiohead's "There There," or outta an Offspring or Green Day record. The band loses points for their line about a "wormhole," but the shiny Coldplay-esque chorus is the sort of thing that warms me right up as I tramp the streets. It's banal but absolutely reassuring.

(Oh, some web notes: 1) There have been some great songs posted on fluxblog lately, for any here who don't stop by (particularly the Tussle, DJ Dangermouse, Tussle, and Jose Gonzalez tracks). 2) I've seen the Charlie Brown-does-"Hey Ya" video, and I think it's unexpectedly lame - cool idea, but the same shots repeated endlessly, and with surprisingly little whimsy beyond the initial concept. 3) I was similarly unimpressed with the 40+ minute All-of-the-20th-Century mash-up by Strictly Kev (a contributor to DJ Food). Things were worked together in certain interesting ways, but the matches didn't reveal any of the deeper (melodic/thematic/rhythmic) connections which usually make mash-ups so fun. As I remarked in the MeFi thread, it sounds more like a run-of-the-mill soundcollage than a bona fide remix/mash-up for dancing or active listening. Also: how the heck is this representative of the 20th Century proper, and not just tiny slivers of it [particularly 1999-2003 hip hop and late 1960s pop]?)

Posted by Sean at 1:24 PM | Comments (3)

January 24, 2004

you can have one but i have to charge

two hip-hop bside rarity things today.

Beyonce ft. Ghostface Killah - "Summertime" (remix). This is a lovely, sashaying little remix, taken from a Ghostface mixtape. Ghostface is amusingly confessional, but the sincerity is ultimately really endearing. "this shit is real."

Kanye West and Common - "Better than Yours". A remix of Kelis's "Milkshake," and although it's missing the robotic "la la la la" of the original (ie, my favourite part), it's sorta cool to hear the song as bravado-filled rap, by Kanye and Common of all people.

it's really, really fucking cold in montreal right now. the wind is like this monstrous knife thing, cutting at your face. it makes me weep, really.

Posted by Sean at 7:18 PM | Comments (0)

January 23, 2004

the arcade fire [live at sala, 21/1/04]

so the Arcade Fire are my new old favourite band.

I hadn't given up on them when I saw them at the end of last year, but I had, I think, lost faith in them. I wasn't sure I trusted their judgment. The group wasn't bad, but it wasn't the same band as the one that I had fallen in love with.

And they're still not. For the most part, the show last night lacked the particular pastoral magic that typefied the group's 2002 performances, and their s/t demo. After the concert I bumped into M from the Daily, who said she liked it but that she missed the record's feeling of "snowflakes-gently-falling." The disco bits are mostly gone, too: "Headlights" has been slowed right down, fuzzed right up, and it's difficult npw to imagine the song as a crowd-pleasing dance anthem.

B-b-b-but, the Arcade Fire last evening were extraordinary. They took advantage of me, opening with a shuffling sort of country waltz, like a cabaret version of Royal City: this is the sort of stuff that automatically makes me warm&fuzzy. Once they were in the door, though, they threw off the shambling folk clothes and loosed an hour+ of brazen, brilliant, breath-taking rock music. They were monsters up there, the size of mountains, stamping through cornfields and cities and oceans. The "angst" and "anger" that had bugged me before was reframed as momentum, passion, fierce love. The sheer volume of it - the blast of electric guitars, the sneer of accordion, the panic and poetry of Win's vocals, Regine's siren howl. And the drums: I owe Howard a big apology. Whereas the last time I saw him I heard sloppy, one-note drumming, this time he was thunderous, intelligent, massive. He was a giant hurling fiery boulders down the Marianas Trench. The band's rendition of "No Cars Go" may have been the best they've ever done - the frenzy, the spirit, the musicality, the iceberg-huge crashing, blazing finale. Drums drums DRUMS, violin as a worthy substitute for Will's synths, the yelling and the repetition repetition repetition. The Arcade Fire don't do chamber pop any more - in fact, they don't do pop - but the rock they play is wild and varied and rich. Apart from nu-"Headlights" and "Alexander [?]", every single song they played could be an indie megahit - heck, maybe even a bona fine Billboard hit, with the right producer. Their sounds-likes circled like frantic birds (from Modest Mouse to New Order to Coldplay), and yet it was braver, wiser than all of this. Like Broken Social Scene with its gloves off (and with lyricists worth their salt); like the Flamings Lips if the Lips had been living in a post-apocalyptic no-dancing dystopia and were only now emerging, high-hats ringing, broadswords raised, to reclaim the Earth for youth and love and dream.

The band had stripped away the slightly-annoying theatrics, and Regine (at least) had reinjected her familiar-wonderful fun-wicked allure. It was serious business though: I do miss the whimsy, the gaiety. Still, this new thing - this awesome, driven, clear-eyed music - is as fine as anything else in the whole world right now. It's far better than Montreal's other wunderkind-du-jour (the Unicorns, the Stills, Wolf Parade, uh, Sam Roberts). It's brighter and more lovely and more long-lasting. It's liver and wholer and smarter. It feels, and it fills, and it's got choruses that you can sing along to. It's magnificent.

So yes - the Arcade Fire are back. And if they can make a record which meets the promise of their material, it will explode. Maybe I'll explode. Maybe.

(next show: with the wrens on feb 6!)

Posted by Sean at 12:43 AM | Comments (3)

January 22, 2004

fresh cuts

Iron and Wine - "Naked As We Came". The second tracked from Iron & Wine's freshly leaked album, Our Endless Numbered Days, destined to be released this spring on Sub Pop. Gone is the hiss of Sam Beam's home-recorded debut, and while it does come at the cost of a little fuzzy intimacy, the clearer fingerpicking - as well as Sam's light (!), free voice, - means that for the first time Iron & Wine doesn't sound like a wet blanket. This is twinkling, fleet-footed folk music, something that I can finally imagine arising out of Beam's Florida home.

Mùm - "Weeping Rock, Rock". Well isn't this interesting. Also from an upcoming album (in this case, Múm's Summer Make Good), this is a noisier, more muscular track than anything I remember off Finally We Are No One. The Icelandic lapfolk group shows a surprising musical depth, here, with the distant blare of horns, the snow-giant crash of drums, and a ghostly-sung melody which feels like something out of Jeunet's Paris-gone-weird City of Lost Children. This is real song, albeity a peculiar one, but isn't nearly so expansive and flat as the band's previous work.

Posted by Sean at 2:44 AM | Comments (0)

January 20, 2004

the people want to know and they want to know now

Jonathan Richman - "Give Paris One More Chance". Boy am I kicking myself for missing Jonathan when he was in Montreal a year or two ago. He's like the happiest punk ever, so punk that he needn't be. I love where he almost-sort-of-laughs, here, how he strums away with saxophone and backing vocals, how his goofy rhymes just tumble ever-forward, bad french and all. This track makes me dream a) of Paris, b) of Jonathan Richman playing "Dave" on a new-and-awesome Chimpunks record.

King Geedorah - "Monster Zero". This is the awesome sample-ridden interlude track from last year's MF Doom/King Geedorah record, Take Me To Your Leader. It's a strange little concept album, but this cut boasts Doom's sense of play at its best: oldschool sci-fi samples weave and build into an impressive little climax, and some of the quotes are absolutely terrific (from old records to 2002 anthrax-guy TV coverage). All of this, of course, over a smashy drum sample and a comfortable jazz organ-line. There's no rapping to be found (which means that it's not representative of the album as a whole), but "Monster Zero" should be a hit for the Kid Koala/DJ Food/DJ Shadow crowd.

Posted by Sean at 5:45 PM | Comments (2)

January 18, 2004

so so la so

I had intended to be finished reading The Iliad by this time this evening, but instead, I've not cracked the book open. Alas and alack. Achilles and Hector will have to wait for another day.

As part of some late-winter-cleaning, I put together a big list of CDs that I've got for trade (and, I guess, for sale), which I posted at montrealshows. As you can see, there's an extremely wide variety of material - not all of which is good - but if there's anything that you're interested in, either email me with a list of CDs that you've got for trading, or else a $ offer. Blog comments work, too. Montreal or Ottawa residents preferred, but if there's a will, there's a way. Hopefully some fancy-ticklers there...

As per Michelle's challenge [via tons of other blogs], I've tried to come up with my own "favourite artists for each letter of the alphabet." It's much harder than it looks, if only because artists-one-couldn't-care-less-about (eg: Xiu Xiu) try their damndest to make it on. And then, of course, there's the glut of great bands that orbit B, O, and S. But anyway, in onanistic fashion, here's my personal alphabeticized musical profile-of-the-moment.

A: Arcade Fire, the
B: Beatles, the
C: Cat Power
D: Davis, Miles
E: Eels, the
F: Frames, the
G: Gomez
H: Hayden
I: Iron and Wine
J: Jurado, Damien
K: Kid Koala
L: Lucksmiths, The
M: Mogwai
N: Neutral Milk Hotel
O: Okkervil River
P: Palace
Q: Quest, A Tribe Called [yes, i'm a cheater]
R: Radiohead
S: Songs:Ohia
T: Tragically Hip, the
U: Unicorns, the
V: Velvet Underground, the
X: Xavier Cugat [see Q]
W: Waits, Tom
Y: Yo La Tengo
Z: Zombies, the
Has everyone heard the weird Radiohead remixy things at The Loophole? The band solicited, and apparently these are the best of the submissions. Let me know if you find one that's particularly great (I got bored pretty quickly).

Oh right: some music for you to download.

A Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band with Choir - "Sow Some Lonesome Corner So Many Flowers Bloom". I don't think many people would argue that A Silver Mt. Zion have let themselves go, a little, when it comes to their band-name. They also let themselves go when it came to the title of last year's album, "This Is Our Punk-Rock," Thee Rusted Satellites Gather and Sing. But the fact remains that a) they're better than Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the band for which this is a "side-project," and b) they've recorded some of the best post-rock in the world. Crashing crescendos, sure, but also an ear for timbre and composition that exceeds the simplistic dynamics of both Godspeed! and other lesser peers. "Sow Some Lonesome Corner..." is the best thing on Rusted Satellites, a drear collage of thrusting strings, downward-winding electric guitar, and a fantastic mountain-music "so fa la so" choir. The band uses silence wonderfully, and over the track's sixteen minutes, there's a bit of everything - from lulling calm, to noise, to a melodic mist and broken-up samples. If you're interested in catching them live, ASMZ is playing Montreal on February 1st and 2nd - and tickets are only $6 - but word is that the shows are almost sold out. (I'll be going on the 1st.)

Posted by Sean at 6:32 PM | Comments (4)

January 15, 2004

yesterday's people

Radiohead - "Skttrbrain" (Four Tet remix). The song is a perfect match for Four Tet, first of all. The original is stretched-out and whinsome, Yorke's voice like a piano playing gently in an empty room. Four Tet adds in jumbles of percussion, a more flickering guitar, bells and steampunk sounds. All of a sudden, Radiohead's barren, boring tune has this thick inner life: it's like we're hearing the thump and ooze of Yorke's lovesick robot heart. Organic and fascinating and a much, much better track than the original.

Jim Bryson - "Sleeping in Toronto". A review of Bryson's new record, The North Side Benches will be posted soon on tangmonkey, but here's the album's most radio-friendly cut, a sing-along bit of anti-Toronto propaganda. it comes as part of a long line of Canadian pop-rock with a slight country twinge, but Bryson does it better (imho) than Kathleen Edwards or Blue Rodeo. His voice is so lovable, his "ba ba bas" so serious-but-fun. Like old-school Wilco, with the Beatles-prog removed.

Oh - ILM is inadvertently doing this astonishing Rough Guide thing, with CD-length introductions to every genre/artist conceivable, and new ones being added every hour. Look here. (I've only done one so far.)

Posted by Sean at 10:54 PM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2004

we get back up again

Flaming Lips and Dave Fridmann - "Tubthumping (Remix)". I remember reading about this online when it was released as a single, and I didn't know what to think of it. On the one hand, it's a blatant cash-grab by Chumbawumba's label; on the other, I can't understand why the anarchosocialist Chumbawumba would go along with it. Maybe they're just very hungry. I suppose there's also the attraction of hearing what the Flaming Lips might do to your song, but why this, why now? It's all very peculiar.

But then, the peculiarity of the situation doesn't take away from either the shambling pop majesty of the original "Tubthumping," or the stepping-home-from-the-pub pile-on of this remix. It's not incredible - the original Chumbawumba strings and horns aren't good enough for this to be great - but that Flaming Lips synthesizer sound (like a hounddog being pulled through a black hole, or something) is special.

The Hidden Cameras - "Boys of Melody". Inspired by alex's post, here's a succulent taste of the Hidden Cameras. In concert, their best song was certainly the shake-it-baby anthem "Ban Marriage," but "Boys of Melody" slipped through in second-place. The genuineness of Joel Gibb's delivery, his comfortable earnesty, makes it fun to listen to even when it's just Joel and a harp. All the better, then, that the Cameras throw in xylophone, strings, harmonies, and as much volume as "gay church folk music" can handle. The silly angelic choir at the end makes me smile every time: it's so full-throttled and proud.

Posted by Sean at 1:29 AM | Comments (2)

January 13, 2004

i never i never

John Vanderslice - "They Won't Let Me Run". From John's upcoming Cellar Door. This track isn't as manic or intense as much of Vanderslice's recent work: in fact, it's downright laid back. In places it almost sounds like Modest Mouse, were Modest Mouse to clean up, arrange harmonies, and decide to go all baroque pop. I guess it's really closer to Pinback, Starlight Mints, or, I don't know, a sour-voiced-and-sunny Sparklehorse. The song is full of these little sonic details, these whimsical flourishes that thicken the springy, string-fed jam. It's nice. [I just noticed this track is available, with other mp3s, at John Vanderslice's own site. Oh well!]

The Eyesores - "Bent at the Waist". I was flipping through the $5 CD rack at Cheap Thrills today, and stumbled across the Eyestores' Bent at the Waist. I had never heard of the band, but I recognized immediately the artwork of William Schaff. William is the mastermind behind recent Okkervil River, Songs:Ohia and Godspeed! album-covers, and he's also a phenomenally gifted, astonishingly kind artist. I remembered reading something about his work with some alt.folk bands in Providence, so I figured I might as well pick the record up. It turned out to be a wise choice: the Eyesores play a thick and pungent sort of dark tango that falls somewhere between the Squirrel Nut Zippers and Sixteen Horsepower. This title track is vigourous, good-natured, fiercely striding. Upright bass, accordion, lightly pummelled drums, and (Schaff's) mandolin combine for a surprisingly light-footed folk round. It's like a soundtrack for ivy.

Posted by Sean at 12:33 AM | Comments (1)

January 12, 2004

i've lived!

My piece on the top songs of 2003 is finally online, and I can't believe (argh) that I left out Jay-Z's "99 Problems."

Kanye West - "My Way". A marvellous cut from Kanye West's upcoming LP, rich with a particularly familiar sample (accelerated, of course), laced with strings, but skipping with a good-natured beat: hand-claps, oohs, a feeling of may-be-so, so-be-it. The music is light, full of an idealized, childhood innocence, but then - things are really heavier than that, sadly. Much heavier.

Nena - "99 Luftballons". This is here because Julian thinks it should be. He (rightly) believes it's a song everyone should know, and really, most of you probably do. It's 80s pop at its best, the synthy guitars dancing about in tight pants, zinging and zagging as the drums jump around. The german version of the song is peppier than the english translation: I couldn't care less what Nena is saying, so long as she keeps doing it, singing out that chorus with a big-eyed-but-sultry smile.

Posted by Sean at 1:03 AM | Comments (2)

January 10, 2004


Hmm... it looks like sometimes when you download one of these mp3s, it cuts short - ie, it only grabs the first 2/3 of the track. The full-length files are on the servers: anyone know why peoples' browsers (including mine) might not be cooperating? (Techies: we need your help!)

update: the tracks seem to load fine if you play them in-browser (rather than saving the link), but this is no solution...

Posted by Sean at 11:27 AM | Comments (5)

January 9, 2004

and i searched and stared

Bubba Sparxxx - "Comin' Round" [full version]. Since there's some interest, here's the version of "Comin' Round" that I downloaded, from Deliverance. As was the case with "Nowhere," this version is significantly different from the one that appears on my (Canadian) copy of the album proper: the strange country-squelching-hip-hop (fiddle alongside Timbaland beats) slides toward its end into the backwards-and-forwards hook from Missy Elliot's "Work It." It's very good, but you won't like it if you hate fun.

Okkervil River - "Okkervil River Song". I really should upload one of the songs from 2003's Okkervil River releases (Down the River of Golden Dreams and the Split EP with Julie Doiron). After all, a song from each appears on my forthcoming Top 30 of 2003. And yet... I couldn't help myself. Okkervil River is one of the very best bands in the world, and this eponymous track is their very best song. Taken from the group's second LP, Don't Fall In Love With Everyone You See, it's a long, soothing and passionate marvel. It's about death and life and living and dying. And loss. It builds with such amazing ease, flowing forward with musical and lyrical verve. The words are perfect fits, the rhymes snug, it holds together as secure as the riverbed. Guitar with organ, tom-patter drums, and a mandolin that's a sunbeam, a barn-burning, a childhood game and a dirge. "The Okkervil River Song" is never hokey, simply home, and while on the record it fades into birdsong, long and wild chirps, I give you only silence, here: you're just going to have to go and buy it yourself.

Posted by Sean at 11:06 PM | Comments (3)

January 8, 2004

carparts and cutlery

Bjork - "Hyperballad" (Brodsky Quartet remix). My dad, of all people, dug up a copy of the Bjork remix album, Telegram. He knows I'm into kooky Icelandic sounds, and passed it along - it wasn't really to his taste. (He was disappointed, though: from all that he's read about her, he wants to like Bjork. He was relieved when I told him it was a remix disc, and not necessarily representative of her usual work.) I'm not really a Bjork fan, but I'm extremely partial to her songs here and there, and Vespertine is certainly something worth swimming in. Telegram is actually quite good, highlights being the industrial LFO remix of "Possibly Maybe" and yes, the Brodsky Quartet's peculiar string+vox rendition of "Hyperballad." It's helped, of course, by the fact that "Hyperballad" might well be my favourite Bjork song. As I so famously told a couple of my friends, the way she says "cutlery" makes my hair stand on end, makes me feel all cool and warm.

This remix is lovely because it's a string arrangement, which ever since "Eleanor Rigby" is like a sean hotbutton, but also because it's weird. Rather than just doing a straight cello-violin arrangement, as, say, the String Section has done for Radiohead tunes, the Brodsky Quartet channelled some of Bjork's idiosyncratic energy and made things lovely but just a little off. The instruments don't sound as if they're tuned quite right, and when they dash in vigorously for the chorus, they're not quite on the beat. This isn't an accident - no more than the string seagull sounds. It's an intentional flaw, a chink, a distortion in the glass.

The Weekend - "80s Rockstar". In the wake of my rather gushing review of the album from which this track is taken, I figured I should share some of what I got so excited about. "80s Rockstar" is a synth-stoked pop-punk should-be-hit, enthused and joyful and catchy melody fo' sure. Even the bridge is exciting, a ticklish "ohshit this is going to be great" intro to the chorus' return. Avril Lavigne eat your heart out.

Posted by Sean at 11:41 PM | Comments (2)

January 7, 2004

down from the mountain

Two folkie cuts today:

Jack White - "Never Far Away". One of the pile of tracks Jack White recorded for Minghella's Cold Mountain (in which he also acts). Contrary to the plugged-in, yammering blues of the White Stripes, on these pieces, White shows his admiration for Appalachian folk and bluegrass arrangements. This track, however, isn't really that - in fact, it's the least oldtimey of White's contributions to the album. Instead, "Never Far Away" refigured Jack White as Paul McCartney circa "Blackbird," just finger-picked acoustic guitar and the long strokes of a cello (?) that fill out the back. He plays well, but to be honest, it's not really that good (is it?). My quest to 'get' White continues.

Herman Dune - "You're So Far From Me. Belgium's Herman Dune (I think it's Belgium) just finished recording an album with Julie Doiron, to be released this year... "You're So Far From Me," however, is taken from Turn Off the Light, and it's definitely not Doiron singing. :) Instead, there's a gnarled and weird voice to match the creaky acoustic guitar. Where it goes from so-so to wonderful is in the chorus, where the singer scoops the words up with a clumsy, noncommittal emotion. "Not feeling," he sings, and it really does sound like something's broken.

I bought Bubba Sparxxx's Deliverance today, only to find that the version I downloaded isn't the same one as on the record. Gone are the kick-ass Justin Timberlake and Missy Elliott vocal samples, to the songs' considerable detriment. Argh!

Posted by Sean at 6:29 PM | Comments (1)

January 6, 2004

plagues of the south

It's 2004 and we're back! With the help of some new and slightly complicated hosting solutions, mp3s are back and hopefully nothing will buckle under the bandwidth. Many, many thanks to Dustin, Andrea and Kyla. Also thanks so much to those who sent in words of support.

So, without further ado...

Bubba Sparxxx - "Nowhere". In the wake of my Top 20 Albums List, I'm doing the inevitable re-evaluations. Reading other peoples' lists draws attention to all the stuff that you didn't hear but should have, and as I try to gather my bearings and work out my top singles of the year (to be posted on TM within the next ten days), I'm also trying to listen to the most glaring omissions from my 2003. The highlights of these adventures so far - Sun Kil Moon, MF Doom's King Geedorah disc (lauded by Exclaim), and Deliverance, Bubba Sparxxx's masterful, enigmatic, folk-roots hip-hop record. [Incidentally, if any of you are curious about the King Geedorah, let me know.]

"Nowhere" is representative of what makes Deliverance so obviously great. It opens with a peculiar, ghostly collage - the crunch of O Brother Where Art Thou chain-gang, a truncated operatic note, a mocking delivery of the typical wise words from an old man. Then - beats, r&b swooning, rap. Strings climb in a way that's entirely emptied out of schmaltz - as the chorus steps out, as those operatic themes come back, there's this overwhelming feeling of tragedy... And then that determination, the talk of self-improvement, and after a nod to Eminem, Bubba turns to Justin Timberlake and self-effacingly steps back into the shade. It's not mere pastiche, it's the full integration of all sorts of different things - hip-hop, romantic, opera, r&b, pop, folk. Integration, and then transformation into something new. golly.

Jason Molina - "Long Desert Train". The beautiful closing track to Jason Molina's upcoming vinyl-only release, Pyramid Electric Company. Though he's abandoned the Songs:Ohia name, "Long Desert Train" has that classic Songs:Ohia feel, along the lines of Axxess & Ace, rather than the whinsome rawk of Magnolia Electric Co. In short - it's a man with a guitar and his remarkable, supple voice. The resignation here is stronger than the frustrated sadness that has marked much of Molina's earlier work. He takes his time, mourns in peace - the pacing is wiser, more natural than even the slow burns on Didn't It Rain. It's gorgeous, robust - something that might bend but will not break. It slowly disappears. (Cf. Gillian Welch's "I Dream a Highway.")

Posted by Sean at 5:56 PM | Comments (3)