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.

March 31, 2004

blowing smoke over the things that i've done

Greg Macpherson Band - "Slow Stroke". I've been reading Michael Turner's Hardcore Logo and since I'm not a fan of British Columbian 80s punk, I've been kinda imagining Greg Macpherson in place of Joe Dick. The substitution doesn't really work - the novel-poem's protagonist is a proud, well-meaning incompetent. (Macpherson, meanwhile, is wholly competent.) Macpherson is one of the finest voices in contemporary Canadian music - like a snarling Bruce Springsteen, Joe Strummer raised on Woody Guthrie and Winnipeg winters. Nevertheless, he's mostly unknown here, kept in the long shadow of former labelmates The Weakerthans. While I'm a fan of those folk-punkers (and we'll likely hear them on Gramophone some time soon), I'm willing to assert that Macpherson is in fact the stronger talent. The coals in his eyes smoulder and flare more brightly. His songs are fierce but instantly catchy - pop hooks with stark, clear-cut lyrics, a fighter's spirit. They blaze. Live, Macpherson's a monster, yelling and consumed by sound. "Slow Stroke" is fairly straight-forward, but there's nothing to yawn at in the yellow guitar licks and goofy, fabulous "hoo-oo-oo"s. Dig.

Nacho Vegas - "Seronda". A mesmerizing sliver of Spanish alt.folk - a doubletracked voice over acoustic guitar, organ, and a lazylaidback palette of drums. There are little blossoms, too, of horns and fiddle, as well as a brazen, smiling theremin (or something), whinsomely singing in the dawn. Howe Gelb teamed with Hayden, en español. Since recording this album (2001's Actos Inexplicables), Nacho's become a permanent member of Acaruela/Sub Pop signees Migala, who play black-and-red post-rock. This is better.


A downright enormous folk music library (with RealAudio and AIFF files) at Southwest Missouri State University: The Max Hunter Folk Song Collection.

Posted by Sean at 2:09 AM | Comments (11)

March 30, 2004

i've got the spirit

Joy Division - "Disorder" [live]. Taken from Joy Division's superb live record, Les Bains Douches. Recorded in Paris, December 18th 1979. Joy Division can be a hard band to discover. For those of us who didn't grow up with Closer playing on either our stereos or those of our older siblings, it's a difficult and somewhat baffling listening process. The first response tends to be one of distaste: this is cheesy 80s moping, weak on hooks, with a lame-sounding echoey production. Whereas New Order is able to break through the generation gap through its similarity to contemporary dance-punk and electro, Joy Division can sound embarassingly dated. Les Bains Douches, however, puts a new face on the aesthetic of the J.D. studio releases: it is nimble and visceral, and it strikes me dumb with its fury. The songs become frenzied, rock'n'roll, and I can hear an anger that the track seems to direct against its own debauchery. It's dance-rock that's tearing itself down, nails out. Eyes blackened, booze spilled.

Wiley Kat - "Bird Tune". What I've heard of the new Wiley record I like a whole lot. I'm a pansy, so it helps that he feels nicer than Dizzee Rascal, but I also appreciate the skewed organic sounds that bruise his productions. "What Do You Call It?" is totally charming to me - it's the horns that do it, punched through with brittle garage tics. "The Game" is great too, like G-Unit after a punch in the gut. "Bird Tune," though, is older - and in this case, it's not a vocal mix. The track is hollowed out, a little desperate: a captured bird that squirts out song like a creaky door, steam from a valve. It marches on with a kind of sick determination, tabla hanging on like a craven accomplice.

[minor edits at 5:13pm]

Posted by Sean at 12:59 PM | Comments (3)

March 29, 2004

around the web

because these things are good and you should see them (aka, clicky):

alex at Close Your Eyes does an excellent audio round-up of Sufjan Stevens's work, through the ears of someone who is bedazzled and still exploring.

pop has posted a lovely, honest quote by radiohead's Jonny Greenwood: "You know, there's a certain Tom Waits song that whenever I hear it I, you know, it just... it makes me talk in this inarticulate way that I'm using now. It's so good. It seems to me quite disingenuous to be embarrassed about it. . . . [Music] should be ambitious, and good music does deal with life and art and all these wonderful things. I used to be ashamed talking about it, but now I just think it's fraudulent to pretend otherwise." It's worth reading the whole thing. Greenwood's expressing that intangible, enthusiastic feeling of oh-my-art-is-wondrous that i am so often struck by. he's smitten and can't find the words. It makes me glad.

Audio Lunchbox. I can't believe I had never encountered this before: a music shop with $0.99 (US) tracks, $10 albums. Everything's on DRM-free 192 kbps mp3, available internationally, on any platform. It's indie labels (obviously), but there's everyone from Anti (Tom Waits) to Badman (Hayden), Troubleman Unlimited (Tussle), Absolutely Kosher (The Wrens), and Koch (2Pac, Lamb, The Kinks). Like the iTunes Music Store, but available to Canadians, and even less restrictive. Hooray! (a little weak on world/jazz/classical/hip-hop, though...)

(my first round of $0.99 recommendations: The Mountain Goats, "Family Happiness"; The Wrens, "Happy"; Tussle, "Don't Stop"; The Long Winters, "Cinnamon"; Solomon Burke, "Don't Give Up On Me"; Tom Waits, "Alice"; The Weakerthans, "Our Retired Explorer..."; Hayden, "Dynamite Walls"; Pedro the Lion, "When They Really Get to Know You They Will Run"; Kepler, "The Changing Light at Sandover"; Elliott Smith, "Division Day")

Posted by Sean at 5:45 PM | Comments (6)

give me one more chance

Good evening!

Our mp3 deliberations are (mostly) over, and thanks to the generosity of our anonymous patron, things are (mostly) back to normal here. We won't, however, be putting last week's songs back online, so for those of you who missed out, my apologies.

Today's tracks are both from a terrific and strange little Vancouver band called P:ano. For a time, I had thought that no-one could use a colon to make a band-name more awkward than Songs:Ohia, but wouldn't you know it, Nick Krgovich & friends proved me wrong. The group plays a hushed chamber pop that falls somewhere between Low, The Microphones and The Beatles' "Julia." It's acoustic and loose, Nick Drake fronting The Unicorns.

P:ano - "Tut Tut". Quite likely my favourite track from the band, this is taken from their lovely When It's Dark and It's Summer (2002). Krgovich and Larissa Loyva duet above the sound of light through blinds: piano, clarinet, the kindliest of drumrolls. An organ nudges in just in time for the softest, wussiest, finest ode to a Jackson 5 song that's ever been recorded. And then it ends with the sound of a seaside memory.

P:ano - "Working". From 2004's The Den, here's a brisk little number that shows Nick singing happily along over piano and some mixed-up percussion: "I can see this getting worse / for me". Flute and harp flutter in, tiny zippy airplanes, then some operatic voices hurtle down, like thick yellow bands of sunshine.

Go catch the trailer to Jim Jarmusch's new film, Coffee and Cigarettes. Witness as Bill Murray chats with the RZA and the GZA, as Iggy Pop and Tom Waits get all passive-aggressive. I can't wait. (Anyone out there catch it at the Toronto Film Fest or SXSW?)

Thanks to all those who commented on my Vaganza tracks; any further comments remain most welcome! And for those who care, twas a fun, if gruelling 24-hours.

A heady thanks to John Sakamoto, as well, for the kind words about StG in this week's Anti-Hit List (we're apparently a "passionate, culturally literate blog"). If any of you are visiting for the first time, please stick around! There's no more Wilco to be heard, but I promise more good stuff, every day.

Posted by Sean at 12:52 AM | Comments (11)

March 25, 2004


Said the Gramophone headquarters is having some tense deliberations on the subject of mp3 sampling and cease and desist orders, so we're going to have to pause our regular scheduled programming. Not to worry your pretty little hearts, however - I still have some things to prattle on about.

First of all, I just came home from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It's beautiful and funny and sad: in short, it's everything it should be, and I'm so so glad. Moments of complete intimacy flutter against the backdrop of normal, mundane life, and then fade into it. Houses collapse. Tears trickle over smiles and voices break into morning haze. Every loss is tangled up with hope, every broken heart affirms its importance. And the best of all, the snowy crown, is that amid the sublime (ice) and the ridiculous (bird-house), the doubters are allowed to doubt (and we're all doubters, some days). Those hopes may be false, those loud broken hearts may diminish with every hour, those footsteps on the beach may vanish into the surf. In short, it may be a loop of love or a loop of senseless loss. In short, it may be a loop of love or a loop of senseless loss. A loop

Gondry's music videos feel like they were practice for this. The underrated Human Nature feels like a slapstick working-up-the-energy. And I get my own back against all the Jim Carrey haters (he's slow and small and brilliant). Lovely, heartless, both.

Onward and upward -

For any and all of you in Montreal, this Friday is VAGANZA, a 24-hour improv marathon, all proceeds from which go to charity. If any of you are in town and wish to drop in for an hour (or sixteen) of ridiculous, absurd, good-natured (and unscripted) fun, tickets are a measly $3.00. I will be on the stage. (right, so: 9am-9am, Feb 26-27. 2nd floor, 3480 McTavish St.)

Every year for the past three, in honour of this thing called Vaganza, some friends of mine and I record a song. These songs are nonsense, but they are also an excuse to get together and make nonsense music. Kyla Drushka on guitar; Julian Smith on clarinet; myself on vocals. Submitted for your approval, then, are two little slices of whimsical fun.

Drushka - "Devil's Dance/Vaganza". 2003's entry is a bizarre, windy bit of Tom Waits klezmer; a twisting guitar line and some terrific improv from J. The best bit is the quiet interlude in the middle - some mystical chasidic chants, with a squeeze of absurdity - and then an accelerating finale that quickly degrades into hisses.

Drushka - "The Dark Vaganza Dawn". Recorded/composed last night (Feb. 23, 2004), in the space of about three hours. The increased production values (ie, ocean sounds and percussion) come courtesy of Apple's GarageBand. Everything else makes its way in through the built-in mic on my iMac. "The Dark Vaganza Dawn" is a humid european cabaret that's been visited by the javanese gamelan orchestra and mr Scott Walker. There's also a crazy girl in the back (a member of modest mouse?) who's playing slide-guitar. I dream of brown and pink elephants, ice, and good tobacco.

Admittedly, they're good and they're not, but I'd love to hear any of your thoughts.

Posted by Sean at 1:21 AM | Comments (9)

March 23, 2004


something seems to be up with our file-hosting - hopefully it will be resolved soon. in the mean time, read the entries and imagine what the music would sound like (or visit any of our lovely sidebar links).

Posted by Sean at 5:11 PM | Comments (1)

there ain't anybody left to impress

Today is Beck Day at Said the Gramophone. Beck Hansen is fascinating: he seems to have a knack for all the finest opposites in music - coolness, sincerity, eclecticism, dedication. He's done the lo-fiest of lo-fi, novelty hipster pop, zinging pleather soul, sample-knit hip-hop, angst-ridden folk... and all of it with what seems like a genuine love, an unquenchable desire to explore. He has not yet produced a masterpiece, but I nevertheless cling to the hope that his day will come. I cling and cling and cling...

In the meantime, though, he's released eight albums of gutsy ambition, from the static-and-cement of A Western to the patchwork of Odelay, the Prince routines on Midnite Vultures, and the tragic, mediocre Sea Change. Add to this countless b-sides, robot dance moves, and a penchant for surprising me - yes, if Beck was on the ballot in a Canadian political leadership race, I'd join the party in question, vote, and then follow through at the general election, NDP or not. Beck would support the CBC, wouldn't he?


Beck - "I Get Lonesome". I referred to this track yesterday, and then felt like sharing it today. This song is just so painfully dead, so rotted through from a "lonesome" ache that there's only a husk left; dry bark. The drum thumps and thumps, something standing in for a heartbeat. You can hear the way the singer's already hit a dead-end, that he's "a slab / stiff as a stick on a board": there's an awful irony to the "I get lonesome" of the chorus, the way it implies he's still changing, still getting lonesome, not already locked into this grey chipboard casket. I was once in a play where a character threw himself in front of a train to the tune of those closing "ooh-oohs." This is taken from 1994's One Foot in the Grave; it's Beck in his early mode, tangled and hoarse, long before he moonwalked at the Grammies. A steal from K Records for $12 USD.

Beck - "Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime". It's my most anticipated movie of the year, the one that bloggers and critics alike are hailing as a masterpiece, but yes, I have yet to see it. My date with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is Wednesday night, and I'd rather like to skip the intervening moments (have them erased?) and jump straight into the opening credits. To help me along, then, is Beck's new song, recorded with Jon Brion for the film. A cover of the 1980 hit by the Korgis, Beck's wearing his troubadour hat - he murmurs sadly, sincerely, over small sighs of strings and a Brion signature organ (see Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love). An electric guitar weaves in and out of the scattered drum hits, but it's Beck's voice that pulls us in, like Leonard Cohen's velvet croon. Listening to something like this, it becomes easy to imagine the role Beck will play fifteen years from now, evolving into a deep-voiced hipster emeritus, an Elvis Costello, David Byrne, Tom Waits. (For more Kaufmania, today's Tangmonkey Link-o-the-Day, the incomparable Being Charlie Kaufman.)

Posted by Sean at 2:21 AM | Comments (6)

March 21, 2004

i'll stay away

I think that the saddest emotion in the world just might be resignation. Deep, gaping sorrow can be devastating; the ache of loneliness can be a torture; an angry hurt can blaze and blaze; and yet, there's something even sadder in that moment when you swallow the sorrow and say that you'll move on. When you pretend to have bright eyes, when you try to have a bright smile, when you nod and say "right. fine. okay."

I've long been a collector of sad music. And the two tracks I'm posting today are perhaps the crown jewels. Not as tortured as Bright Eyes's "If Winter Ends," not as paralyzed as Beck's "I Get Lonesome," not as broken as "Pyramid Song," but maybe even more stinging. These singers don't whinge and whine about how unhappy they are; they don't tell us about their blues, as if asking for sympathy. Instead, they sing to one person in particular, a lover who isn't, and they repeat the devastatingly cheerful cliche that we saw earlier: "right. fine. okay." It's all so beautifully done that maybe you miss it, maybe you think the kinds words are sincere, that the "have a good life" isn't laced with irony, with resignation - that the song is a happy one, and not the grey-inked opposite.

Jude - "I Do". It was with this track that Jude justified his existence. His album is pleasant, it's witty, but suddenly, here, it's as if his hipster duds have been torn right open: the shirt-buttons ripped out, the sunglasses smashed, the suede shoes burning slowly into ash. It's a song about love; a song sung in a bright voice. But there's so much hidden by that sly, invulnerable tone: so much that's been left behind. Jude took a risk when he made "I Do" so terribly sweet, in voice and in instrumentation (strings, acoustic guitar); but the pay-off is worth it. The beauty gradually becomes monstrous, twisted, tragic. The pretty song only underlines Jude's masochism, the despair he's trying to obscure.

The Montgolfier Brothers - "The World is Flat". Here's a song you can hear a dozen times without realizing the anguish it conceals: there's the crystalline flutter of guitars, like a dream composed by Clientele, a slow piano and Roger Quigley's lulling voice. He seems to be singing of a perfect relationship - "we'll watch the dawn," he sings, "and we will raise a family. . . I'll be the apple of your parents' eyes / they'll raise a glass to us / and I won't drink the bottle dry." It's in that negative, the "won't drink," that there's a sign of what's going on. That the entire song calmly, discreetly proceeds from a false premise. There it is in the second line: "The world is flat and I've still got a chance with you." The lovers' idyll necessarily collapses, necessarily drifts to shipwreck: the divorce is a certainty, a yesterday. "God is good and / life is fair," Quigley sings, and there's so little bitterness left, so little misery: just that permanent heartbreaking ache, that tragic, unredeemable resignation. Ye gods. (for more on this record, see close your eyes.)

and on a happier note...

updated the blogroll. thanks for the suggestions. the following have been added to my daily mp3 blog fix (ie, they're the ones who post music that makes my heart sing). i'm sure they're old hat to all of you: but they're fresh to me, and truly delightful! to all these musicbloggers, my thanks!

fingertips music - grand, varied, outta-nowhere legal mp3s.

cocaine blunts & hip-hop tapes - tracks and news from a discerning, eclectic hip-hop ear.

new(ish) - good indie-ness, with a nice emphasis on folk + idm.

soul-sides - oliver delivers vintagesoul mp3s!

the big ticket - indie rock and sports and simple, contagious enthusiasm.

talkie walkie - group livejournal with all sorts of things: the bestest is the indie canadiana.

Posted by Sean at 11:51 PM | Comments (7)

March 19, 2004

think of me as just your fan who remembers every dress you ever wore

Hood - "They Removed All the Trace That Anything Ever Happened Here". Taken from Hood's quite-good 2001 record, Cold House. It's a strange, lingering, late winter song. Narcoleptic indie rock that intercuts melancholy murmuring with electronic flickers, a wary electric guitar, and an erratic rap by Doseone (?). Better than it sounds, I think; like late Talk Talk crossed with Clouddead. Hood's earlier work (six albums, countless eps, comp tracks, etc.) is excellent, too. They're dark water music. (i was gonna post the song myself, but then i realized hood offers it for free on their site, so there you go.)

The Magnetic Fields - "I Don't Really Love You Any More". Gay and liberated chamber pop, cantering along at a speedy pace. Stephen and Claudia's vocals blend into a single, arch-but-genuine voice. "I am a gentleman / think of me as just your fan." There's also ukelele, cello and drum taps, as well as something wheezy and sincere deep in the background. It's a trifle that in the right circumstances could be absolutely joyous, absolutely euphoric... that is, unless you turn it on one day and wonder if maybe Merritt's being ironic, whether perhaps there's a possibility here for devastating, glassy-eyed resignation, false cheeriness. And then you can't listen to it properly again. (oh and yes, taken from the Fields' I, due in may.)

elsewhere: be absolutely sure to explore the haunting bulgarian vocal music at tofuhut, and the light dance delight that is the Katerine track at fluxblog.

see you on monday, although i may do a non-mp3 post over the weekend!

Posted by Sean at 1:54 AM | Comments (3)

March 18, 2004


Gianmaria Testa - "Per Accompagnarti". For those of you who are dying for more new Wilco (sorry), here's something that resembles A Ghost Is Born, in its own humble way. Sure, there aren't any blazing electric guitar solos; nor is it a stupid eleven-minute avant-dance piece of shit (Wilco's "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" is rather awful). But "Per Accompagnarti" has the earnest, coffee-house feel: piano, upright bass, acoustic guitar, dusted drums, a muted trumpet. Testa even sounds like Tweedy, only more Italian. I first heard Gianmaria Testa on the stereo at a Second Cup, (no joke,) and liked it so much that I got up and asked what was playing. "Per Accompagnarti" is taken from 1996's Extra Muros, but La valse d'un jour is also excellent.

The Streets - "You're Fit But You Know It". Subpar (one-channel) radio rip of the new Streets single. It's Mike Skinner in his bouncy, silly mode (and I've always preferred his meditative, bittersweet side), but still, there's much to like. What's good is the trenchant guitar riff that underlies the whole thing, the understated chorus hook, Mike's I-know-it's-awkward-but-fuck-off lyrics: the cardboard "so/when/i/looked/at/you/standing/there," and "chips and drinks"; the off-key "don't/you/just/know/it" the wry "yes yes, oh yay"; the wonderful "i'm all right / don't touch me," and the return to bounce which follows. Of course, The Streets isn't exactly Dizzy Rascal, and this isn't a brazenly brave track; what it is is damn entertaining, clever, good-natured and generous with its laughs. I would like to hear this song in commercials.

(re my wilco source. it's private - sorry. i'm sure that the leak will disseminate quickly, though. if, in a couple days, there's still no sign of ghost on soulseek, i'll post another track - but i don't intend for said the gramophone to become the www equivalent of a 0-day irc room.)

Posted by Sean at 12:02 AM | Comments (12)

March 17, 2004

you are moving too slow (wilco and c.o.c.o.)

So I didn't think I'd post this as I hadn't intended to be "leaked music central," but as the song keeps coming up on my iTunes playlist, I keep being bowled over by the sheer honesty of the electric guitar solo, the way that it's bashful and rock'n'roll at the same time. I haven't heard the whole album, but from what I have heard, A Ghost Is Born sounds like it's Wilco's Let It Be. Gone is the bounce and sparkle of Summerteeth, the silver gauze of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and instead - knit sweaters, cigarettes, drums, and men trying to express themselves the only way they know how.

The internet feels like it's home to more Wilco haters than lovers, but I'm one of those kids who fell in love with YHF, and while my crush has waned, I'm happy to be excited about the band again, happy that this song sounds so good to my ears. If you're still too sick of them, however, please feel free to skip ahead.

Wilco - "At Least That's What You Said". A voice and a piano, with flickers of guitar far, far in the background (memory). If it wasn't Tweedy, I might hate it - self-indulgent singer-songwriter crap. But (but!) there's an elegance to his simple, bittersweet vocals; there's the feeling he's sorry that this might sound trite, that he can't help it. I can hear the wounds, the vulnerability as he sings "mad," "serious." When the electric guitar stands up, begins to jam with piano and a simple drum-line, there's still an order to this, a self-conscious play-by-numbers. "Now we'll jam out." But things get out of control, things break down, things just break. I can hear the mess and the freedom and the regret. I can feel it. I turn up the volume and I wash myself in it. I scoar myself with it. And the shiny piano keeps on going (see Lambchop Aw C'mon/No You C'Mon), like the shiny kitchen and the shiny sun and the shiny grasses that still wave outside, regardless of you in your room, hands balled up, eyes squeezed shut. A clear cold glass of water that you pick up and drink.

Other songs that are like this song:
Elliott Smith - "A Distorted Reality is Now a Necessity to Be True"
OutKast - "Hey Ya!"
Kepler - "The Changing Light at Dawn"
Radiohead - "Just"
The Tragically Hip - "Grace, Too"
The Unicorns - "Thunder and Lightning"
Songs:Ohia - "The Lioness"
Modest Mouse - "Trailer Trash"
The Frames - "Fitzcarraldo"
The Beatles - "Helter Skelter"
Clinic - "Dj Shangri-La"
Arab Strap - "New Birds"
Dirty Three - "No Stranger Than That"
Nick Drake - "Pink Moon"
Sparklehorse - "Happy Pig"

And then, for those of you who don't and won't like the Wilco, or for those of you who need a shimmy-shammy right now (and not a hot flame), I bring you, from K Records (of all people), the finest song that C.O.C.O. have ever released:

C.O.C.O. - "Move On". Bass and drums pitch a devastatingly simple dance beat, a devastatingly simple lyrical hook, the sort of thing that should be played on vinyl, that should be danced to at a party in a loft on St-Denis, in black-lacquer shoes and stupid sunglasses. Oh - and a bowl of cherries nearby. Cherry cola, too, with those bendy straws. And a girlfriend.

Posted by Sean at 1:18 AM | Comments (24)

March 16, 2004

jimmy morrison has elevators

Received a copy of the Jay-Z Construction Set in the mail today. Will update you when my Black Album / Astral Weeks bootleg is complete.

Prompted by this ilm thread, have been relistening (quite a lot) to the new Destroyer record. The horrible thin fakeness that came through on my speakers is dampened when listening on headphones, and there's room to appreciate the lyrics and indeed the music. It's coming across as quite a beautiful album, as well as a funny, mad one. Some of the arrangements are complicatedly lovely - layer upon layer of synthesized sounds, each flat enough to lie smoothly over the other.

Have also discovered Frog Eyes. No idea how I missed The Golden River, but it's great disjointed indie rock, with a fiery-eyed Bowie at the head (the vocals are also extremely reminiscent of Montreal's Wolf Parade). I'm really wishing the Destroyer/Frog Eyes tour was passing through the city.

i = super excited about the upcoming Jolie Holland record, and you should be too. Her debut was gorgeous, and from the sound of "Old Fashion Morphine", Escondida will be another linen-soft sliver of dusty bluegrass. hooray!

now then

Pipas - "No Suspires Mas". Discovered via the fantastic Anti-Hit List, who recommended the light and easy "Jean C". Indie pop rather terrifies me at this point - I get so many freakin' indie pop records in the mail to review, and so many of them are damnedly uninspired. Thank god, then, that a band like Pipas comes along, recording music so effortlessly great that a sunny day comes climbing through the window, even in the depths of winter. Sure to be a hit for anyone who enjoys kids like The Lucksmiths, or even a beachcombing Belle & Sebastian or Isobel Campbell. While I can't understand this song, I still come very close to singing along. It's the way that I wanted to feel at the party after high-school graduation. It's the sound of golden, twinkling stars.

CocoRosie - "Terrible Angels". Touch and Go never ceases to impress me with its ear for idiosyncratic talents. Rachel's, Dirty Three, !!!, Nina Nastasia, Enon, Black Heart Procession, TV on the Radio, and now CocoRosie. They're like Rosie Thomas crossed with Jandek, which is an analogy almost impossible to comprehend. Pink and black women's voices, doubletracked and gentle, bleeding over the scrape and snip of metal, decapitated samples. Devendra Banhart's bluesy twin sisters, caught in an AM radio. I can't decide if it's beautiful of creepy or both - but it's as compelling as anything I've heard this year. (more here.)

Still looking for heads-ups on the best of the new mp3-blog crop. If you've got a site that you think I might like, please do make yourself known!

Posted by Sean at 1:55 AM | Comments (11)

March 15, 2004

norah jones wins

Feist - "Mushaboom". From the upcoming solo debut of Leslie Feist (By Divine Right, Peaches, Broken Social Scene). As fluxblog attested, the demo to this song was beautiful, and the final version delves even deeper into the wonderful. It's whimsical and violetbright, filled out with piano and drums and shaker and xylophone and horns. Feist is cream-voiced and pleased to be there, her melody a pretty and small-petalled flower.

Feist - "When I Was a Young Girl". With its bongos and handclaps, the song risks being something indulgent and rather inane. It's saved by the long stare of a sharp electric guitar, however: a cowboy glare that clears away the incense. Still, more than anything, "When I Was a Young Girl" - like much of Let It Die - is pretty. This is a blessing and a curse: while Feist will be perfect alongside Hem and Nedelle and other silken-voiced indie-jazz chanteuses, she's hardly the anti-Norah that some predicted.

Posted by Sean at 12:18 AM | Comments (0)

March 11, 2004

vampires at mardi gras

It's a piano sort of day, here in Montreal. Clear skies and brisk breezy roads, clumps of snow at the street-corners, people sauntering around and singing to themselves. No sign of birds, yet, but I'm sure that they're en route.

Professor Longhair - "Go to the Mardi Gras". I first heard Mr Longhair through Mr Kafkaesque, which is sort of embarassing because Longhair's one of the founding fathers of New Orleans R&B, and that speaks to my knowledge of early r&b. This was his signature tune, with several different versions (with slightly different titles) recorded. It's a fantastically bouncy boogie-woogie-ing number, saxophone bumps over a hush-and-stumble drum patter, a bright and friendly whistle, Longhair singing with matter-of-fact exuberance. "If you go to New Orleans," he says, "you oughta go see the Mardi Gras." And then there's the whistle solo at the end, the rhythm section cutting out so that there can be a little smiling moment.

Gordon Downie - "Chancellor". The Tragically Hip are the biggest band in Canada, and so it follows that their vocalist must be the biggest rock singer in the country. But listening to Downie's solo debut, Coke Machine Glow, the idea seems preposterous. The album's got spoken word and peculiar broken songs, Julie Doiron and Atom Egoyan, people yelling from the backs of rooms and hardly an electric guitar to be heard. What it showcased, however, was Downie's remarkable panache for vocal delivery as well as for lyrics. "Chancellor"'s melody is something lovely and unforgettable, dancing with absurd imagery and letting the gushing flow of Downie's voice carry it up and around mossy outcroppings. It's difficult to identify precisely why the song is so wonderful, so starry and quietly fine, but the proof's right there - in the clattering drums, the generous piano, the acoustic guitar strum; in the way that in 2001 I kept it on repeat for hours, in the way that I'm compelled to now do so again.

You may notice a new description of stg on the right sidebar. Obviously, I take this business of good music very very seriously. (Do you boys and girls think I need to put in something about 'supporting artists'? If you ask me, anyone who reads this thing knows and does, many times over. But I wonder...)

Posted by Sean at 8:53 PM | Comments (3)

March 10, 2004

don't back down on me now

Jim Guthrie - "Who Needs What". Toronto's Jim Guthrie may be best known as a member of Royal City, but he's a successful musician in his own right. He's got several albums under his belt - from dusty baroque pop to PlayStation-produced indie rock, - and his newest one came out earlier this winter. (Note: none of his albums have been entirely amazing.) "Who Nees What," however, is Guthrie's very best song, taken from the good-but-not-as-ambitious-as-the-title-implies A Thousand Songs. It's pretty simple stuff - stringy guitar, man muttering gently, - but it shines in the way it does little things well. The chorus hook doesn't push for attention, and yet it's quietly excellent, catchy as heck. I love how Guthrie shoves a bunch of words into one awkward lyrical stretch: it's not just eager, it's embarassed and funny and self-aware. Guthrie's loathe to be the mopey-guy-with-a-guitar - "Shit yeah, I can dance!" he yells, just before an electric guitar hazy-blares out, drums bumble noisily in.

The Zoobombs - "Mo' Funky [pt 1]". There was a time in the late 90s when the Zoombombs seemed to be everywhere: they signed to Emperor Norton, they toured with the Flaming Lips and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Now, though - poof pop zip nada - gone. If they've dropped out of the collective unconscious I'm going to do my best to drag them back: 1999's Let It Bomb is a staple of my party set-lists, and "Mo' Funky [pt 1]" regularly appears on my mix cds. When talking about bands from Japan, it's difficult not to compare them to each other, but in the case of the Zoobombs, such analogies aren't very fruitful (uh... Pizzicato Five meets Melt Banana?). They're dance-punks, basically, but bongos and organs take the place of DFA's synths and squelches. The Rolling Stones in a Tokyo disco. "Mo' Funky" showcases a mellow funky rhythm that drifts headlong into a manic Japanese free-for-all, made all the more absurd when they shout English lyrics as if they have marbles in their mouths. Not only does it make me want to boogie; it makes me want to be one of those people who boogies regularly.

I've been monitoring the boom of new mp3 blogs linked at fluxblog, tofuhut and elsewhere, but I've been pretty preoccupied, and haven't had the time to hit up each one. If any of the new mp3 blogs strike you as particularly great, or if you own one and want to pimp it, please do draw it to my attention in the comments. After all, we're the next big thing.

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

March 9, 2004

i coulda meant it if you let me

Running late, so this will (sadly) be a little brief:

Broken Social Scene - "Marketfresh". From BSS's upcoming Bee Sides b-sides record, which arrived in the mail today. This song hardly breaks new territory for the band, but it's got that same cutting vocal texture that touched me so deeply on You Forgot It In People. The simply sung lyrics brush by the folds of ambient hiss, the blooms of guitar and keys, and the drums punch and shuffle in the background, like a boxer practicing moves under a red sunset. Gently beautiful.

Daniel Lemma - "If I Used to Love You". The most instantly memorable song from Lemma's soundtrack to Morning Train, and the one which made some radio headway. Lemma is sort of a more continental Van Morrison, minus the crazy. This song is simple, adoring fun: a smiling, twinkling statement of love, with the blush of soulful organ, electric guitar, horns. [thanks anne!]

Posted by Sean at 7:39 PM | Comments (3)

March 8, 2004


DJ Jazzy Jeff f/ Eminem and Parl Yams - "When To Stand Up". Poorly ripped from a 12" which isn't mine, here's Eminem circa 1999, rapping atop a horn-and-scratch heavy track from Jazzy Jeff. This isn't exactly Eminem at the top of his game, but it's interesting to hear Em's snark on a track that features something other than sneaky organ-lines.

Pedro the Lion - "Keep Swinging". Taken from the new Pedro the Lion LP, Achilles Heel. The record's all right - the same sort of territory as Control (ie, electric guitars) - but neither the stories (lyrics) nor the songs (music) are very compelling. I'm beginning to think that It's Hard to Find a Friend is where Bazan's artistic career peaked. Anyway - what I like about "Keep Swinging" is that it actually seems concerned with being a pop song, at least to the degree that Pedro the Lion is capable. There's a shaker and a meandering pop bassline, not to mention some close vocal harmonies. To my great surprise, it sounds a lot like something that Sloan could have recorded circa Navy Blues, albeit after a medium dose of downers.

Saw a bunch of terrific films with Dan this weekend (thanks, dan):

All the Real Girls - A really beautiful love-story, more concerned with truth than with comfortable cliche. Beautifully shot, beautifully written, beautifully acted (although Zooey Deschanel is considerably better than Paul Schneider). I loved the languorous pace of this, the way that David Gordon Greene uses cuts like a good poet uses punctuation - ie, doing more than simply separating throughlines of meaning. The scene with the lovers standing in the bowling-alley seems imprinted on my mind... Oh, and special kudos for opening with a Bonnie Prince Billy song.

Man Bites Dog - A viciously funny French mockumentary about a serial killer. Benoit was a fascinatingly realistic character study - and much of his performance felt improvised, brilliantly so. The subject-matter was horrific, and yet I'm fascinated by the way that the movie made me self-conscious about how inured I was to seeing such violence. Like I said to Dan, I was glad (and disappointed) that the inevitable/expected ending was the one that the filmmakers followed: I would have been very unsettled to see something more open-ended.

Take the Money and Run - Woody Allen's second film. Good-natured and most hilarious for the way that it is at odds with Allen's contemporary reputation. Much closer to Airplane! than Annie Hall, it seems like something that sounded funny on paper ("a crook who is an incompetent loser!") but which falls flat on screen. All the same, Take the Money and Run is funny for the way that it falls flat - so totally and unashamedly, as if it has no idea.

In the Company of Men - A mean, maddeningly well-acted film about men, business, and something approaching evil. Two colleagues decide to target a "vulnerable" woman, lavish her with attention, seduce her, and then pull the rug from under her. Their selected target - Christine, a beautiful deaf receptionist - falls hook, line and sinker. I was too drawn into the action to like this movie, but I admired it as a film - and I think that the distance afforded by future viewings would allow me to appreciate its construction/effect, without being so wholly affronted by the subject-matter.

Woman Under the Influence - My first exposure to John Cassavetes. This is a brilliant piece of filmmaking, with a restrained directorial hand (esp. w/r/t the genius use of music), and arresting, astonishing performances. Gena Rowlands, Peter Falk and the children who play their kids are breathtaking in their realistic depictions of a family strained by mental illness, but the movie goes farther than that, exploring the characters and relationships in such a way that we feel we're standing right beside them, understanding the joys alongside the strife, experiencing the tension in a first-person way. Exhausting, uplifting... and it feels so true.

Posted by Sean at 5:30 PM | Comments (1)

March 5, 2004

i awoke thinking of her

Fluxblog posts a fantastic cut by UK hip-hopper Ty. In the comments for that track, jeb identified the main organ sample from an Os Mutantes track. Suddenly, all I could think about was the Sao Paolo pop outfit (well, them and The Bees) - and hence today's mp3s. The songs I had planned (new Pedro the Lion, an old Eminem/Jazzy Jeff track) have been displaced into next week. Sincere apologies to those who intend to die over the weekend and had hoped to hear some more Dave Bazan before you passed on.

Os Mutantes - "A Minha Menina". Not only were Os Mutantes the definitive Brazilian psych-pop band, they were one of the world's very finest experimental pop acts. Blending electric pop with tropicalia, lofi fuzz and musique concrete, the group swung to prominence in 1968 with their self-titled debut, from which this track is culled. Os Mutantes borrow music and lyrics from many of the South American greats - Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, and on this track, Jorge Ben. What we find on "A Minha Menina" is a rearing, big-hearted pop number, with doo-wop and vocal harmonies cheering above a rippling latin rhythm. For its opening few bars, the song sounds like a charming brazilian cliche - until a sopping wet guitar slides in from the rear of the soundstage, raspberrying like the favourite drunken pal. Then it dances like Bill Cosby in red suede, grooving till it falls asleep amidst the streamers.

The (Band of) Bees - "A Minha Menina". This pair from the Isle of Wight released one of the great unappreciated albums of 2002: Sunshine Hit Me is like Pet Sounds with dust in the speakers, Beck and Marvin Gaye working with The Zombies and, yes, Os Mutantes. While The Bees picked up a Mercury Prize nomination for their debut, it didn't make much of a splash. When they tried crossing the Atlantic as The Band of Bees, Paul Butler and Aaron Fletcher met a similar ambivalence.

Regardless its Pazz & Jop rankings of 415 (2002) and 948 (2003), Sunshine Hit Me is pretty fantastic, and case in point is their cover of "A Minha Menina." The Bees don't quite reimagine the song, but nor do they simply rehash the Os Mutantes version. Instead, they inflate the original's giddiness, bind tighter the loose harmonic threads, and replace the sopping guitar with a fat-and-puff-cheeked electric cello. The song is beyond lovable - it's love itself - it tramps through fields, stands on fence-posts, and yells (sidekicks harmonizing from behind): "Tell everybody in the world that I love her-oh-ooh-ooh!"

Oh yes - I'm desperately trying to find the new Cee-Lo album. I loved his first one, but my sources for newly-leaked stuff are being frustratingly indie-rock-o-centric. If anyone's got some mp3s they want to point me to, my gratitude would know few bounds... (translation: pleeease, please please please!)

Posted by Sean at 7:04 PM | Comments (13)

March 4, 2004

the beta band try being actual hotshots

Okay, so everyone's already heard that Lit song. Fine. But is it not amazing!?

Anyway, today I'm offering up two tracks from bands that appear to be reinventing themselves. Reinvention's a very tricky thing: although groups are often slagged for a lack of "evolution," said evolution can easily ruin a perfectly good act. One of my old roommates once bitched me out for criticizing an Orchestre Baobab album as "just the same thing" as their earlier work. And her criticism was apt - in retrospect, I wouldn't want those crazy Senegalese fellows to change. Still, there's a lot to be said for pushing yourself and exploring as an artist - see Radiohead, the Velvet Underground, the Beatles, the Stones...

But ultimately I don't really have any point to this rant, and I'm certainly not telling you anything you don't already know, so I'll simply stop.

The Beta Band - "Assessment". The debut single from the Betas' new record, Heroes to Zeroes (check out the art!). Everyone's yelling that the fumbling stoner experimentalists have gone U2. I'm not really familiar with those Irish fellas' oeuvre, but I'm told that the guitar riff is the same as in U2's "I Will Follow." U2 seems to me like an unlikely Beta Band influence, though - I think it's much more likely that the band's been listening to Interpol.

Trouble is, although upbeat-mellow vocals from Steve Mason, an upbeat-mellow bassline, and Interpol (ie, souped-up Joy Division) guitars, sound like they could be cool, the track is pretty mediocre. I'm always a sucker for slammed bass drums and a horn section (hello Gomez's "In Our Gun"), but even that noisy finale isn't enough to sell me on the 'new' Beta Band. I much prefer the dusty shrugging of "Dry the Rain" and "Dr Baker."

The Cardigans - "Communication". On the other hand, here's the much-ballyhoo'd single from the Cardigans' 2003 turn to And it's wonderful - one of the best songs of the year. Nina Persson's voice is cream, and the song itself is sunset: catchy and careful and so casually proficient. They do this much better than they do alt.pop, "Love Fool"'s sassy hook aside. The only woeful bit is the drowsy solo at the three-minute mark, but it's soon washed away by the song's dusk-sun spread, its muted mona lisa smile. (And yes, I know that many of you have probably heard this: hear it again!)

Finally, a necessary shout-out to the video of Alberta Slim's "She Taught Me To Yodel". He's the most ancient, emaciated Canadian yodeller you'll ever see, but if there was ever to be a superhero battle between Johnny Cash and a same-genre antithesis, Slim would be it. (via chris)

Posted by Sean at 7:39 PM | Comments (6)

i didn't mean to call you that

Lately I haven't actually been listening to much. That is, I'm listening to a lot of music, but it's basically been the same handful of records: Susanna & the Magical Orchestra (bjork meets julie doiron, not really that good), the new Bonnie Prince Billy, King Creosote's "Lavender Moon" (available at badger minor... whinsome acoustic folk that reminds me of Dick Gaughn; I downloaded the record, which is good, but this is definitely the best song), and Sufjan Stevens' Seven Swans. Seven Swans has grown on me a lot: Stevens' incessant repetition becomes much more of a strength with Michigan's prog-folk arrangements stripped away. The key to loving the album, I've found, is to play it loud.

I overplayed G Unit in my Norah Jones/G Unit playlist, so now I'm tired of that, and although the Kanye album continues to be great, I get a little annoyed whenever I think about it (ie, the anti-college schtick gets me down), so it's been off the turntable.

Consequently, a couple of old, very disparate tracks for your consumption:

Bert Jansch and John Renbourne - "East Wind". I realize these fellows are very well known, but for the uninitiated-- Bert Jansch was an acoustic guitar marvel, amazingly skillful but never showy; always sincere. He and Renbourne were the twin princes of acoustic folk in the mid 60s, mostly due to their instrumental prowess. This short track is like a brief sparkling demo of what they have to offer, taken from the 1966 Bert and John LP. Like John Fahey's British uncles. (John Renbourne went on to do some much more boring neo-folk stuff with Pentangle, which you should avoid, but almost all of Jasnch's stuff is worthy.)

Lit - "My Own Worse Enemy". A complete change of pace from the instrumental track above; I have no idea if Lit blazed US radio like it did the rock radio in Canada circa 1999, but if they didn't - they should have. A dark green pop-punk melody, gleeful but serious, guitars that stomp through bracken, stride through flaming brown carpet. I love so much about this song - the queasy vocoder/pitch-correction before the chorus, the brazen and proud teenage lyrics, the self-conscious self-loathing, the final chorus with "aah-oohs" and an epic arena feel (even though it's not an epic, arena song). This was one of my biggest "guilty pleasures" in the 90s, and one of the breakthrough tracks that got me to reevaluate how I thought about (ie, dismissed) pop music. The pleasure's not guilty any more.

Posted by Sean at 1:04 AM | Comments (6)

March 2, 2004

firecrackers crackling

Two tracks from the upcoming Mirah album, C'mon Miracle, due in May. I don't have the track names, so they're going to have to be mysterious and untitled. The record is more sedate than Advisory Committee, more humble and reflective. It feels less performed, for better or for worse. Although I like these songs, they don't come close to the outright majesty of Mirah's best cut, "Cold Cold Water," and nor does the album-as-a-whole reach the carefree, small-and-wild heights of You Think It's Like This But Really It's Like This.

Oh, and for those unfamiliar with her, Mirah does dusty, sexy, cherub-faced indie folk. She is also very sweet in person.

Mirah - "Track 1". Lulling, serious, plucked strings, and then long bolts of cello. A dark, Grimm's Fairy Tale of a song, not quite sold on its message of love: "Stars will kiss your pretty face / Come away with me today / Everything should be okay."

Mirah - "Track 7". This one's probably called something like "Argentina Sky." Drums patter behind a friendly acoustic guitar and Mirah's savvy, winking voice. Great use of cymbal tinkles and a big-bosomed accordion -- extra points for the smattering of Portuguese in the middle, backed by a wussy Microphones chorus of harbour "lai la lai"s.

Posted by Sean at 6:12 PM | Comments (6)

March 1, 2004

14 years, right down the drain

I'm happily returned from an equally happy holiday to Toronto and Ottawa. No new musical insights, except that Stars of the Lid are really cool. Oh - thanks to those with the Mieskuoro Huutajat follow-ups. (nick, I'll be looking for you online.) Check out the CBC interview (via cyn and my mother). Their label actually answered my email, so it looks like I'll be able to nab me a copy, just as soon as I fax them my cc number.

Elvis Presley - "Are You Lonesome Tonight" [live]. "Do you gaze at your bald head," he asks, "and wish you had hair?" This is an infamous recording of Elvis cracking up in the middle of "Lonesome," snickering away as the back-up singer warbles on and on. (I imagine Elvis's manager before she signed her contract: "fuck up once, honey, and you're out. i don't care if the four horsemen of the apocalypse come marching through the theater - you don't stop singing, hear?") Perhaps not quite as cathartic as the Anthology version of the Beatles cracking up to "And Your Bird Can Sing," but good for a smile all the same.

Now two tracks from Madredeus, Portugal's vital, famed post-fado group. My dad's crazy about this stuff, but Madredeus doesn't follow the strict fado formula. Instead, they blend all sorts of European folk traditions, eking out songs that vary from oceanside loveliness to near-sinister gypsy blues.

Madredeus - "O Pastor". There's something dark and forceful to the accordion-pulse of this track, further underlined by the accusatory passion in the vocals. This feels like it should be the opening song to some brave, human film - a little boy bicycling frantically up a hill, the moon full and yellow above him. In fact, this is like the mature older-sister to the Oscar-losing Triplettes de Belleville track. You should download it.

Madredeus - "Oxalá". Madredeus at their most casually beautiful - it's a lazy, summery guitar melody over the light skip of an organ, and then Teresa Salgueiro's cream-and-lemon (but not-curdling) voice.

Posted by Sean at 6:38 PM | Comments (7)