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.

April 30, 2004

let's find a place / a happy place

Shena Ringo - "Stem (daimyou asobi hen)". Absolutely breathtaking j-pop - as exciting as sound as it is enthralling as music. A tour de force, for real. It opens with a slow zoom in, a plummy bass pointing out blurred lights and staggering greysuited men. Shena begins with some of Britney's threatening sultriness before bounding up into the clouds with a poise and play that recall Leslie Feist. She's sexy and genuine, a lilac voice amidst the tune's marvellous baroque glitch production. The track is astounding - from the joy and push of Shena's delivery to the remarkable arrangement. It's some kind of chamber pop, sure, but the depth and variety of it blows my mind. This isn't just the typical alt.rock move ("let's throw in some strings!"): there's several different movements, entirely different aesthetics. The Nigel Godrich visit to the orchestra is soon overwhelmed by reassuring strokes of strings, then a cold dip into piano scales and jerky staccato marching. We stumble through drumrolls, a pumping ascent, and suddenly we're smack in the middle of crashbanging electric drums and bass. And the cellos/violins are still there, singing forward like wave after wave of marauding seabirds. This is the main theme from Shena Ringo's 2003 film, Tanpen Kinema Hyakuiro Megane - but the official single seems to be the considerably inferior, cheesed-out English-language version.

Vincent Gallo - "Laura". It's not raining tonight, but I feel like it should be. A thin, bleak drizzle. Since listening and listening to the Vincent Gallo/PJ Harvey/John Frusciante "Moon River", I've dug deeper into Gallo's musical work and am enjoying the hell out of When. Woebot was right when he commented that Gallo's fulfilling some of the promises that Badly Drawn Boy gave up on after his initial EPs. While there's much to say for the pop that Damon brought to this sort of shambling disintegration, Gallo's done him one better with his mastery of atmosphere in these slack, earnest indie folk songs; it's a loose and drear sound to drown your melancholy in. "Laura" is a lovely song. A strummed and almost meaningless guitar goes on unending under Gallo's plaintive call: "Laura, Laura, come back." A bassline drips, catches the light. The Velvet Underground on a night when it's raining. Thin, bleak drizzle.

Thanks for listening, and for your comments. See you Monday.

Posted by Sean at 12:54 AM | Comments (19)

April 29, 2004

frog eyes and the broken spindles

Frog Eyes - "One In Six Children Will Flee In Boats [acoustic]". The original "One In Six Children" is my very favourite Frog Eyes track, and you can listen to it here, courtesy of Absolutely Kosher. Whereas the original's got a drunken and staggering allure - shiny, wet, jubilant - this acoustic version takes things to a calm, close place. Somewhere between Iron & Wine, Devendra Banhart and a Neutral Milk Hotel bootleg, there's a nobility in the way that Carey Mercer's voice goes small, in the way that the drums clatter, bang and knock in the rear. It doesn't feel drained of power, like a merely "mellower" take (as do a lot of acoustic interpretations) - it feels like a song with different things to say. When Mercer sings of "creaking," we can hear that sound more clearly in our minds; there's a new futility, a fresh slow sinking. Mesmerising. (From the band's fascinating new acoustic EP, Ego Scriptor. Read more Frog Eyes/Destroyer blogging at catbirdseat.)

Broken Spindles - "Fall In And Down On". Dark electro with a vicious dance beat and a streak of black-silver makeup. Kind of like Nine Inch Nails doing garage... there's a squelching bass beat and Petersen's serious/energetic goth voice, but then stabs of dissonant strings, a musical puppet jerk that recalls David Axelrod's "Suburban Hell" remix of "Rabbit in Your Headlights." This is the sort of dance music that plays at raves in episodes of Inspector Morse, but it's very good: what it lacks in outright fun it more than makes up for with fierce and spastic crests. (Broken Spindles has moved from Tigerstyle to Saddle Creek, of all places. But then I read that Joel Petersen plays bass in The Faint, and it all fell into place.) Offa the upcoming Fulfilled/Complete.

Jay-Z's new video, for "99 Problems," is both an entertaining story (love the biker dude Rick Rubin [thanks tim]) and a fantastic array of sparse, black&white imagery. By Mark Romanek, who did the excellent piece for Johnny Cash's "Hurt," really outdid himself here: gravitas mingles with play, bragadocchio with vulnerability [ie, it's Jay-Z]. Also, Hov gets shot at the end. [via aaron]

Sadly, the new Beastie Boys single (which I think is available on iTunes) is not very good.

Posted by Sean at 1:51 AM | Comments (13)

April 28, 2004

i looked at landscapes

Two folky indie cutlets, of the usual high calibre:

Adem - "Ringing In My Ear". It's no surprise that Adem's debut was released on Domino: if there's another artist that their sound recalls, it's Domino's James Yorkston and the Athletes. Rhythmic acoustic guitar playing and a yearning vocal melody coaxed out from the repetition. Adem Ilhan is one third of the IDM outfit called Fridge (another third, Kieran Hebden, records as Four Tet). Here, however, clipping organic samples have been replaced with the natural tap and squeak of a folkie, and the po face of Fridge's electronica has been overtaken by an everyman's smile. The strength of this song is that Adem's not trying too hard - he's not pushing or whining or demanding attention. It's by no means Julie Doiron, though: he's still singing loud, and glad, but there's the feeling that sunlight would be a fine audience on its own, that these are meditations in a bright kitchen as vegetables are chopped up.

Clem Snide - "I'll Be Your Mirror". A soft, downplayed take on "I'll Be Your Mirror," from Clem Snide's Beautiful EP. Throughout the song, it is kept wonderfully quiet: even when the cello joins the voice and guitar, there's still a sense of inertia. Eef's refusing to give the tune flash or overblown emotion; it makes everything thoughtful, delicate, but most of all, honest. You can see the creases under the eyes, hear the awkward pauses between verses. "I'll be your mirror / reflect what you are." As the other vocals chime in, totally unassumingly, the song steps up from pretty and into the beautiful.

RIP parka 3.

Posted by Sean at 1:11 AM | Comments (7)

April 27, 2004

what the hell is happening?

The Robot Ate Me - "You Smile". A crisp leaf of bedroom pop, with curly strings and a slowsmiling organ. It shuffles towards you like a kid with a deep crush, an awkward child full of disappointment and infatuation. "Something makes me shiver / your eyes were laced with ice." Like Ugly Casanova gone twee, with Phil Elvrum producing. Spooky and romantic; strange but very compelling; a first kiss. From the band's debut, They Ate Themselves. The new one, On Vacation is out now, and (sadly) I haven't heard it yet.

Boy - "French Diplomacy". Boy's Stephen Noel Kozmeniuk recorded this album in his family's Yukon home, in a basement he dug out himself. He's since moved to Toronto and made enough waves to appear with Broken Social Scene and The Dears, among others. His brand indie rock is a long way from either band, however - it's Sloan doing the twist with The Strokes, Rufus Wainwright jamming with Paul McCartney. This is a jaunty chamber-pop stroll, a navyblue parade with oboes and a string section. Lest you dismiss my Strokes comparison completely, understand that "French Diplomacy" is the most Beatlesy thing on the record, but the pop panache is typical of Boy's style. While there are moments of precocity ("Nobody said that you were Escher"), it's sung with more of a shrug than a wink. The song's in thrall to the melody, and everything comes together around the hopeful marching splendor of the chorus. (With all the Risk I've been playing lately, I feel a deep empathy when Kozmeniuk sings "Might it be that France just isn't so sincere?")

Jeremy Brendan's interview with Wolf Parade scores a number of make-my-day scoops: 1) Spencer used to play synthesizer for Frog Eyes; 2) the Sub Pop rumours are likely true; 3) Isaac Brock will be producing their record.

No Frontin', Just Music is a new mp3blog with a fine Knife In The Water song for you and y'all.

Posted by Sean at 1:00 AM | Comments (9)

April 26, 2004

please have a little heart

The Beat Hunters - "Angie's Night". A fine, sleek mashup of Angie Stone's "Wish I Didn't Miss You," with some Nightmares on Wax ("Les Nuits") and Bjork ("Hyperballad"). It's a breezy twilight with long, dark stretches of water. Angie sounds perfectly velvet over the sweep of strings, the stuttering jazz guitars and organ. As with all the best mash-ups, the way that the Beat Hunters (Phil Neumager) has put this song together, it feels totally effortless, obvious. The casual repetition of strings emphasizes the sleepiness of Stone's voice, the slow candle fade. It's gorgeous. Neumager's a french designer/illustrator who's released a few house tracks and has put together a fine portfolio of bootlegs.

Loretta Lynn - "Have Mercy". Hopefully everyone caught the track that Matthew posted, but if you ask me, this is the gem of Van Lear Rose. Electric blues with crashing White Stripes flourishes, courtesy of producer/arranger Jack White. It's explicit without giving it all away, fiery while remaining its composure. With the martial drums and pushy, freespirit electric guitar, Loretta Lynn's not begging for mercy - she's making a confident, tight-lipped 'suggestion'. The jazzed down bridge shows the marked contrast between "she" -- loose, flimsy, a passing fancy -- and the brash, strutting power of the singer. "You listen," she warns at its end, and you imagine earrings that glint like knives.


new and noteworthy mp3blog: The Suburbs Are Killing Us.

Music For Robots has been so good lately that it's making me crazy. Variety out the wazoo, and (almost) all of it is extremely, deliciously fine. One of the very best mp3blogs out there right now, and I don't say that lightly. While you're there, be sure to nab the fine soul of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.

It's gonna scroll off the page shortly, but Stereogum's got a more-than-worthy alternate mix of Modest Mouse's "The Good Times Are Killing Me". It doesn't exactly revolutionize the track, but I prefer it to the final version. You will too. This version's closer, busier, more distracting. There's more of a racket, and the walls are thinner. What's more, for those of you who were a-wonderin', the tap-dancing clearly is just that.

Tofu Hut is out of transition week and although I'm still the intermediary for john-on-the-move, the tracks now come with full and healthy commentary.

Posted by Sean at 12:54 AM | Comments (5)

April 23, 2004

everybody falls on hard times / eventually

Eamon - "Fuck It (I Don't What You Back)". Doubtless familiar to my British readers, here's a cup of slinking angry soul, a man in a cool suit and kohl-dabbed eyes. Though Eamon sounds a little squeaky, he's also charmingly forthright - unflinching in the simple expression of what's on his mind. "Fuck you ... I don't want you back." All this over a sighs, strings, and a drum machine beat that would make Babyface proud. Don't misunderstand, though: it's a venomous comedown track that'll be among the best singles of the year. As if the New Radicals went R&B.

Another song for a tough week -

The Boggs - "Hard Times". Arena Rock signed The Boggs in 2000 or so. They must have been expecting something of them. That indie bluegrass might explode, I suppose. That the moosh-haired Strokes, Stripes and Vines would be replaced with moosh-haired, washboard-wielding, oldtimey hooligans. But it didn't happen. Instead, I guess, Interpol did. Or OutKast did. I'm not sure. But I think that I can safely say that neither Interpol nor OutKast suggest market demand for a Brooklyn sextet of twentysomething bluegrass revivalists.

Which is too bad. Because We Are The Boggs We Are was a pretty excellent record, full of shambling, cracked, quiet or riotous tunes. "Hard Times" is an excessively simple stretch of folksy blues, a man with a dog's voice singing out over round-and-round guitar picking. "Been hard times for so long / that I forgot / the good Lord above me / shines down with love." There's a glimmer of resignation, of regret, but stronger still is the feeling of hope. "This too shall pass," and so it does, ending with an abrupt and humble silence.

The Internet Archive's astounding Live Music Archive. Featuring more than 150,000 tracks from 10,000 shows and 500+ bands, including Pinback, Damien Rice, Soul Coughing, Antibalas, and, inevitably, the Grateful Dead.

Also, the very finest biography of Walt Whitman that I have ever read. And I've read more than one. (via clap clap).

Posted by Sean at 1:22 AM | Comments (12)

April 22, 2004

older chests reveal themselves

Just got back from the Frames/Damien Rice concert at Theatre Outremont. It was strange seeing a performance from up in the balcony; with all the indie rock shows lately, I'm not used to being more than twenty feet from the stage. Still - twas lovely.

In the almost two years since I reviewed his record, Damien's become a star in North America. He's no U2, certainly, but he recently appeared on Letterman for the second time, the Short List Prize, yadda yadda yadda. There was definitely more adulation tonight - more unequivocal reverence - than at the show I saw in NYC last summer. It's understandable, really. The songs on O are remarkable, flush with feeling and musical sweetness. In person, he can sometimes do the same but better - freeer, braver, more playful. On the other hand, live, Damien can come off a bit precocious - and given my increasing impatience with big strummed acoustic guitar chords, there were moments when I couldn't help but wish he'd get on with it. (In addition, what's with his new material's fixation on, um, naughty words for 'penis'?) Nevertheless, Mr Rice brought with him the wonderful, plucky Vyvienne Long (on cello) and the incomparable Lisa Hannigan (on smoky vocals), and played some Leonard Cohen ("Hallelujah") in the man's hometown. There was a great deal to like, particularly the finale "Blower's Daughter," and a nearly drunk karaoke version of "Cheers, Darlin'," the high-point of which was Ms Long sawing on an imaginary cello.

The Frames opened, playing a short set. Which is a pity, because what they played was absolutely terrific. They are a band of such shining talent, so deserving of an audience. Quiet-to-loud with a sincere will to move; lyrics that rung out clear and sweet; rock'n'roll that reared and roared. I relished Glen Hansard's clumsybeautiful explanations between songs, the struggling to make poetry out of the rattling sounds of his heart.

Today, then, another installment in my diligent Frames advocacy. Two more songs that point to their poignancy and power. Dance the Devil and the Albini-produced For the Birds are records to buy.

The Frames - "What Happens When the Heart Just Stops". Introducing this song, Glen said something like this: "This is a song about letters... Because when you feel something it's important to write it down. To get it on paper. Because then it's physical and- and when something's physical you can hold it in your hands, and you can- you can burn it. Or tear it up. Or frame it and hang it on your wall and look at it every day." This song grows slowly, like moss over a grave, guitars tripping through and around the vocal melody, a synth tremble in the corner. When the horns rise up from the earth, wide and thick and blooming, it's enough to drown in. To dream in. And then it stops; cuts off; falls quiet. And you're left with grey. (Listen and listen loud!) From 2002's For the Birds.

The Frames - "Your Face". Something quieter: a beautiful and terrible lovesong. Such shining, languid loveliness, and yet that distance - that gap - that only the violin can cross. Electric guitar that mumbles like Julie Doiron (or, at 2:51, like Adam Sandler's character in Punch-Drunk Love), a melody that confesses like Jeff Buckley, and such confident use of stillness. It's a song about distance, about closeness, about "sending a tape" and remembering a face. "But if you wanna try again / I'll fall / ... / And all you have to do is give / Give me that look again." Off of 1996's Fitzcarraldo.

And finally, in the same spirit as The Frames' crashing live show -

Seachange - "Anglokana". Brought to my attention by James (many thanks!), here's a song from Matador's latest coup, Seachange. It's a breathtaking song, equally coarse and pretty, opening with a long stretch of seashore and then closing with a raucous mess of electric guitar, like The Wrens with a dose of English rain. The genius is in the way the different modes are two sounds of the same coin - the noise that roars under the melancholic drear, the hollow sadness that persists beneath the yells. This is what I daydreamed that British Sea Power sounded like - the reality's rather more boring.

Matthew's One-T and Cool-T song from a few days ago is wonderful, multicoloured pop.

Aaron pointed me to the quite likable sneak-peak of Royal City's upcoming record, Little Heart's Ease. It's a song called Bring My Father".

A day with Quentin Tarantino.

Posted by Sean at 2:14 AM | Comments (9)

April 21, 2004

ink and blood and bone

Wazimbo and the Orchestra Marrabenta Star de Mocambique - "Nwahulwana". Recorded in 1988, "Nwahulwana" ("Nightbird") is the sound of Wazimbo and a glittering, echoing guitar. This is the pop music of Mozambique, albeit at its most rested, thoughtful extreme. Mixing Portuguese fado and early alt.rock, the Orchestra Marrabenta Star de Mocambique is at home with a wide range of sounds, but here things have time to glimmer and fade: Wazimbo has a voice like wheat and heartbreak; his ballad floats out of an orange sunset and then falls back into it. Perhaps he's immolated, perhaps he tumbles through it, perhaps he appears on the other side of the horizon - somewhere kinder, happier.

Wild Colonials - "Charm". From one of the great forgotten releases of 1996, this is folk-rock with a squawking fiddle and Angela McCluskey's fine, cigarette-stained voice. The band zags towards the choruses, spruces surging from the ground, guitarists treading carefully in plain brown shoes. Things burst open: snowdrops, buttercups. Things burst into flames. We dive through wet green leaves as McCluskey declares her indisputable truth: "I'm freezing to death in the warmth of your arms / I'm wasting my charms." Pop music for a forest on fire.

Posted by Sean at 12:38 AM | Comments (1)

April 20, 2004

wolf parade / greg macpherson / upwards and onwards!

Wolf Parade played a house-party in Montreal on Saturday night, and Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock was in attendance. So was my friend Dan. Isaac told Dan he was his "biggest fan." We'll never know why Isaac was in Montreal, but I think it's fair to speculate that he was here to see Wolf Parade. Last summer, Win of the Arcade Fire called the the best band in the world, and now rumour has it they've been signed to Sub Pop. They're originally from Victoria. They're a fourpiece. Their members play synths, drums, guitar, and laptop/theremin. And their guitarist is the coolest man alive: Jack White crossed with James Dean.

I've gotta admit, the band's not always to my taste - sometimes there's too much mess, too much purposeless back-and-forthing, - but at their best Wolf Parade provide an acrid blast of yellow-and-grey rock, brilliantly sharp new wave, Joy Division crossed with the Decemberists. I can't wait to hear what they do in a proper studio: and neither should you.

Wolf Parade - "Dinner Bells". Off their self-released EP, this is a long, rock dirge; a guitar that staggers alongside a wavering organ; a mournful song for death, and in the end, recovered life. Harmonica like a lone streetlight in the middle of the night, drums like the heartbeat that somehow keeps beating, a tune like a convertible shooting into flames. Listen to that electric guitar as it turns and whirls and falls, listen to the sounds that come out of the smoke.

Wolf Parade - "This Heart is On Fire" [live]. Recorded by Dan a couple months ago - and it sounds as good as something from a lofi studio. A rocker with a pounding bass-drum and ravaged vox, thrusting synths to drive feet on a dance-floor. At 2:30 there's a frenzy of feeling with a silver corona, and yet it keeps going, running and rutting forward. "Sometimes you rock and roll / I'd rather stay at home" - I don't really believe him.

Finally, as offered-and-requested, OutKast - "Ghettomusick [Benny Benassi remix]". (Thanks, Mark!) The hip-hop original's been cut apart to make way for straight-ahead club synths and an indisputable call to dance. I can't help but repeat what I said last week: this'll make you rock out "like an electric motherfucking flower," strutting and preening and curling toward sunshine. And wearing sunglasses. Techno with big-beat bump and a smiling over-the-shoulder glance at Big Boi/Dre.

Saw two shows this weekend: Sunday night was Dragana - a six-voice women's choir that does mostly Macedonian folk stuff, in the style of the Voix Bulgaires. They were very competent, and in places - particularly the songs with only 2 or 3 women singing - genuinely haunting (sad, real, true). Also performing with them were a goofy, extremely likable barbershop quartet called Four Brothers: basically a bunch of college boys goofing off, arranging old yiddish folk songs, and singing in tight harmonies. They wrestled a bit on stage.

Also saw Greg Macpherson, solo, on Friday night. The show only affirmed my belief that right now, Greg is one of the very greatest talents in Canada. In fact, if last Friday was any indication, he's got it in him to be as good as Billy Bragg, Joe Strummer, or Woody Guthrie - no joke. The man uses his guitar like a muscle - it is loud, shining, fierce, - his lyrics are crisp and fresh, his voice is a strong, thick song, and not simply a rocker's yell. Although I was disappointed by his recent EP (too plain, too acoustic, too boring in its politics), Good Times was a marvel, and there was too bright a flame in his eyes to think that the next LP will be anything less. Remarkable. (Sorry, Hayden.)

For the next month or so, as John is en route to his new home-base (best of luck!), I'll be managing the behind-the-scenes at The Tofu Hut. Do keep reading - it's one fine song every single day, with full commentary by mr forksclovetofu. When all is said and done, Tofu Hut is probably the best musicblog on the net: eclectic playlists, fantastic descriptions, astute research, boundless enthusiasm, and exquisite taste.

Posted by Sean at 1:40 AM | Comments (15)

April 19, 2004

what i'm gonna say is going to be important

There's a pleasant symmetry to the two artists profiled today.

Ball Boy - "A Day In Space"
. Ball Boy's a UK oddity, always sounding too indie to make the mainstream, and yet successfully charting (at least to some degree), with the help of John Peel. For the most part, they sound like Belle & Sebastian playing proper rock instruments, but really the differences run deeper (in spite of the common Scottish heritage). Ball Boy is a much more forthright band, more confrontational, less sensitive. They have more in common with The Streets, in a way, than they do Stuart Murdoch.

All that aside, of course, it's impossible not to notice the similarities between "A Day In Space" and B&S's "Space Boy Dream," off of Boy With the Arab Strap. Or, if not that, to notice the connection to the Scottish monologues of the band Arab Strap. I assert, however, that this is something rather different, that there's something new in Ball Boy's sarcastic wit and dreamy sincerity. This is a nifty spoken-word song that opens with acoustic guitar and Elvis Presley lyrics, sliding soon into long stratospheric synths and Gordon McIntyre's clear-eyed monologue. It's inherently goofy - a man's desire to visit space - but the gravitas of McIntyre's delivery, the full sincerity of the emotions expressed, make me both laugh along and share the silly fantasy. (The bit at the end, the dialogue he narrates, when he tells them he's going to say something "important," is comedy and truth and dream. in short, it's quietly wonderful.)

Donkey Boy - "Upchuck". Donkey Boy's stuff was passed on to me by Dave, whom I assume is Donkey Boy himself, and it's fine, splintered alt.folk - like Sparklehorse with toy instruments and a lofi pop glimmer. I like the wryness that breathes within the dustiness, the way the singer has withdrawn slightly from the back-and-forth of synths and sound-effects. It's sweet and forlorn, but there's a grin behind all that - it's a heartfelt song that ends with someone smilingly talking shit.

Posted by Sean at 12:34 AM | Comments (2)

April 16, 2004

can't you see-ee?!

Again, sorry today's post is so late: I just turned in the final paper of my university career.

To make up for my tardiness -- an extra-special three-song cavalcade to kick-start all of our week-ends.

First up, Chris Lee - "Cossacks of Love". One of the breeziest, most joyful rock songs of last year - a chuffed guitarline, handclaps, and Lee's gladfly voice. It takes a moment for the song to really sink its teeth in; I'm always put off by the bassline in those opening seconds - it's like the bassline for a song I don't like, somehow. But by the time we're rushing into the chorus, whiteblue wind in our hair, all is forgotten. I'll avoid the "cossacks" and "tedious gangsters" of love, just so long as Lee keeps singing - excited, euphoric. Joycore in the kindest, creamiest, most middle-aged way.

Outkast ft. Sean Paul - "Hey Ya! [remix]". A straightforward remix of "Hey Ya!" dropping Sean Paul and a bullhorn into the midst of the Outkast beat-turned-riddim. Spizzazzz didn't like it ("Terrible!"), but I don't really see much to hate, unless you hate "Hey Ya!"/Sean Paul to begin with (which I don't). Not as good as the original, certainly, but this version's got some dancehall. Which is very pleasant on a Friday evening.

(n.b. This is actually the weakest of the three OutKast rehashes I've heard this month. The other two are Will Young's live r&b version of "Hey Ya" - really nice and slow, with blue piano and purple backup singing [it sort of falls apart at the end with a bongo breakdown, but-], - and the Benny Benassi remix of "Ghettomusick," which Mark sent my way, and which will appear on StG if there's any interest. It will make you dance like an electric motherfucking flower.)

Finally, Hanson - "Underneath". Listen up, indie kids - you're allowed to like Hanson, now. That's right: they quit Polygram and released the new one on their own label, 3CG. Come, you repressed indie rocker! Rise and embrace the pop ambrosia that is Hanson - the sweet vocals, the sugar-hooked melodies, the divinely inspired bridges. But wait! You think that they've already peaked? That they can do no better than they already have? That 2004's Underneath, as well as its title-track, will necessarily be a load of recycled dung?

Well, you are mistaken! Not only is "Underneath" a glittering, ringing, awesome pop-rock ballad, not only does it have a bracing piano and brotherly harmonies, Coldplay guitars and strident strings, but it was co-written by Matthew Sweet. That's right: the teenaged brains behind "MMMbop" united with the mind behind Girlfriend. It's like an insane pop superhero crossover, and the best part is that this isn't a clumsy career-grab by Sweet (or Hanson): it's a jubilant, catchy hit. It's like "MMMBop" for when it's pouring outside; Treble Charger without the grit; like singing to the storm in a smiling, unabashed way. (And it's also not the lead-off single.)

Other things:

Icepeople downloads includes music recorded by cabin-feverish ne'er-do-wells in Antarctica. Not all the links work, but you can download the complete album of "McMurdo [Station]'s Other Band," in mp3 format. It's good-natured folk-pop, with a few instrumentals. Particularly good are tracks 16 (guitar, bongos, and a solemn saxophone), and 15 (a shuffling ode to amphetamines: "I don't have a bad time / I don't need to come / for I have become an amphetamine bum. / If you don't like sleeping and / don't want to screw / then you should take lots of amphetamines, too." Then they go into an enthusiastic "ampheta-pheta-pheta-...-phetamines" chorus.). Oh yes, and track 3 is fun cuz it's a sad-sack guy-with-guitar, singing "every day it's colder and colder / and darker and darker / until it's gone," but it's true because he's in Antarctica. (Many thanks to my sister for the head's up!)

Also, be sure to peep the new (and really excellent) group mp3blog, music (for robots). great variety - hardcore, dance, hiphop, indie and more. with an ear to the ground in the fluxblog way. (I'll probably be posting a different track by The Killers, next week.)

TTIKTDA has had a great week, as well. The horn theme at first seems kind of stilted, but Keith's picked some great tracks to share. The must-haves: orchestral ska by the Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution (no really, it's good), the delirious, sweet Long Winters cut, gypsy-punk by Gogol Bordello, and the insane, riotous Giddy Motors song.

Other tracks of note: Vincent Gallo (sleepy Badly Drawn Boy alt.folk) and Architecture in Helsinki (indie pop) at new (ish). [no permalinks (!!!) so you gotta scroll down.]

Oh right - I see that Said the Gramophone is listed on kinja now, and I'd like an icon to go with our listings there. Art's not my forte, though, so I'm hoping someone out there has a little more ability and wants to give it a shot. If you're game, send me a 32 x 32 pixel image, and I'll dropload the winner something good from my vaults (I've got the new Streets and Badly Drawn Boy, f'instance). Thank-you in advance!

Posted by Sean at 8:25 PM | Comments (0)

April 15, 2004

i love you for the things you feel / so thoroughly that they turn real

Happy Thursday, fellows and lassies.

Shearwater is the project of Austin's Jonathan Meiburg and Will Robinson Sheff, both of whom are members of the fan-fucking-tastic folk-crash band, Okkervil River. The group was conceived before Meiburg had joined the other band, as an outlet for Sheff's more barren songs, which would not have fit with the muddy aesthetic of Okkervil River's early releases. I've never heard their first album, but their second, 2002's Everybody Makes Mistakes, was a quiet and crushingly-depressing exploration of, well, accidents. Lonely pianos, Meiburg's high, plaintive voice, and a great deal of space. Winged Life, which was released earlier this year, flies closer to Okkervil River's rustling melancholy; it's very good, though, and there's a slowness, an ache, which was lacking in Okkervil River's last LP. Folk-pop for weeping - Sufjan Stevens without the prayer, Low without the bass.

That's the bio, then. Now the songs:

Shearwater - "Well, Benjamin". Perhaps the most 'stompy' of the songs Shearwater's released - closer to Okkervil River, certainly, than the bulk of their work. But the dauntless friendliness of the melody, the burbling organ, make it hard to refuse the track's appeal. It's about a pilot's lover, fatalistic love - "Because I thought it out, in the time I?ve got, and I don?t care if I drown or not: I just want to crash into that same cold sea." Sheff sings with a calm sincerity, that is, until a bowed acoustic bass sets the wheels in motion, folds the landing-gear up, sets to the air, and then stares back to earth. A dry-but-pumping love-song; an old love; a silly, serious, wonderful one.

Shearwater - "The Set Table". The final song off Winged Life, it's a long and meditative slide into feeling, electric guitars that tickle at long-calling voices. It takes only tentative steps till the drums stutter in, then finds room for a violin and some real (loud) voice. It's like yelling into a pitch black night, but only until a few lights begin to flicker on. Sad and fierce music for a big, lonely world.

Posted by Sean at 1:13 AM | Comments (5)

April 14, 2004

je n'aurai plus peur des orages

Mickey 3D - "Là". This French band has released two records of rock for sensitive slackers, sincere but sloppy. "Là" is a terrific piece of quiet-loud mope-pop, reminding me a great deal of Snow Patrol's hit "Run". Whereas Snow Patrol is incontrovertibly nice, however, Mickey 3D's a little more honest in its melancholy-glad semilovesongs. To translate from the first verse: "One day I'll be there, well-hidden underground / And no one will see me / Looking under girls' skirts." Bass and drums trot along until they hit a wall of electric guitars, a waterfall mist of good-natured noise. Organs clamber in for the climax, like reliable brothers who promised they'd be there to see the city fall.

Hank Dogs - "Same New". Ovaltine for the ears. Sleepy blushing folk, with dreamy sighs and a glittering fingerpicked guitar. I wrote a couple of years ago that it was music "like eyelids fluttering open". This continues to feel true. The bassline wakes slowly, birds alight on bare branches, and Lily sings like a carefree Beth Orton - beauty with nothing to prove. "Everything to come will just be more of the same." It's a resignation that's dabbed with spots of hope, long strides up a hill, a quickening heartpattering pace. As folk-rock goes, Hank Dogs are descended from the Bert Jansch/Fairport Convention line, instead of Bob Dylan or Woody Guthrie. In other words, they're from the UK.

Posted by Sean at 1:12 AM | Comments (2)

April 13, 2004

i'm the stranger's lonely glance

Two wonderfully fun heyday yee-hah zoomzoomzoom tracks!

The Divine Comedy - "Gin Soaked Boy". The release of this Divine Comedy original (sorry, Tom Waits fans) coincided with the band's 1999 greatest hits album, Secret History. It's a chugging, pulsing chamber pop tune, a circular melody festooned with piano and synths and electric guitars. The song's slightly stupid, but wonderfully so - it's a stolid showcase for Neil Hannon's crooner vocals, for ba ba ba la la's and, most of all, goofy/brilliant rhyming couplets. The inane bumps up against the wise, the cliche against the startling. "I'm the spirit in the sky / I'm the catcher in the rye / I'm the twinkle in her eye / I'm Jeff Goldblum in The Fly..." It's a great deal of fun, carefully arranged, fearlessly excited.

Wheat - "I Met a Girl". The sparkling opening track from Wheat's 2004 record, Per Second, Per Second... Every Second. It's a gutsy, vivacious bit of guitar pop - a delirious, backwards-bending chorus that's brought some verses along for tradition's sake. The drums smack like a solo bedroom dance-party, the guitars zip up and down the speakers, and one of them wiggles like a Modest Mouse runaway. Even more amazing is the middle eight: instead of doing more of the same, Wheat throw in a whole half-a-song of something else. There's a caressing build, a radiant rise - and then we stagger back into the arms of the twisting-and-jocund main melody. Fearless and feelgood, a celebratory dream of freedom (from, uh, being "with someone").

Posted by Sean at 4:25 AM | Comments (3)

April 12, 2004

my huckleberry friends

Vincent Gallo, P.J. Harvey, John Frusciante, Jim O'Rourke - "Moon River" [live]. Last week, StG-reader Kieran attended Vincent Gallo's show at London's Royal Festival Hall, and then told me about this performance. I knew immediately that I would spend many hours hunting for it. Because I'm like that.

To my astonishment, I found the song. It's a beautiful duet - slow, tentative, vulnerable. Gallo sounds like Chet Baker, Harvey sounds like heartbreak, and Frusciante's solo is surprisingly (and quite beautifully) humble. Everything feels on the verge of breakdown, and yet it's ignoring this, it's trying hard not to care, it's floating with a peaceful smile. The harmony at the end - not right, and yet right - is why we listen to music.

In Kieran's words:
For a man unfairly known first as an egomaniac and second as an actor/model/director/artist/musician, Vincent Gallo makes surprisingly tender, quiet music, such that the cavernous RFH threatened to engulf it. As Gallo admitted, he was used to playing alone, and despite able support from Jim O'Rourke and Steve Shelley, the concert began nervously. ... As Gallo began to wind up the show he mentioned that he had tried to rehearse another song with PJ Harvey and John Frusciante, but that they had been more concerned with going to parties and so hadn't given him their undivided attention and so he was reluctant to perform it. Perhaps it was showmanship, but implored by the crowd's clamorous response, Gallo capitulated and PJ Harvey and John Frusciante made their way to the stage. ... [I]t was evident that the addition of Frusciante and Harvey had taken the focus taken off Gallo enough for him to relax to the immediate benefit of his vocals. Indeed, he even sat down mid-song to allow a kneeling Frusciante the spotlight for his obligatory guitar solo. It may sound under-rehearsed in places, but for a perfectionist such as Gallo this song is a rare unguarded moment, after which (like the best bits of Buffalo 66) you can't help but love him.

On a different note -

DJ Format - "The Hit Song". This was Andrew's favourite hip-hop song of 2003. It's a friendly, smirking track, word fun over a laid-back, Tribe-style groove. Andrew says, Everything just works so well; the effortless drumbeat, the lazy bassline, the careful samples, and most of all the lyrical gimmicks, performed by Abdominal with what can only be described as aplomb. Utterly, utterly brilliant; a dizzying high from a towering album. Me, I just like the part which goes: "once i hit my comfort level / hit record / soon enough we'll have another / hit record". Because it's mid-April and we all deserve to have some fun.

some other things i've been listening to:

Nirvana - In Utero. Is it bad that I keep skipping to the singles? There's such thick, resonating genius in "Pennyroyal Tea," "Rape Me," "Dumb," "All Apologies" and "Heart Shaped Box." The rest just feels like yelling. It makes me sad that someone who made such strong music disappeared the way he did. It's like a storm folding up and falling into a lake. (splash) Nirvana's guitars ring like church bells.

Of Montreal - Satanic Panic In The Attic. Yikes - why is this so whiny? People keep comparing them to The Kinks - but the Kinks would never make music so downright irritating. These are indie popsters who could use some Shins records to help them mellow down. Also, song-titles like "Vegan in Furs" make me want to kill someone (or else treat this like some unsolicited slush-pile crap). And I like Olivia Tremor Control.

Ghostface - Pretty Toney. On my first couple listens, I like "Love" and I love "Save Me Dear". But the rest simply burbles together and doesn't make an impact. (I need hooks in my hip-hop, dammit!) I'll do more listening, though, if only because Mark's so enthused... I'm getting a little tired of epic hip-hop records that have a fair bit of mediocrity (see: Madvillainy).

Modest Mouse - Good News for People Who Love Bad News. "Float On," "Bukowski," "World at Large," and "Blame It On the Tetons" are enough to make this very good. But it's too bad the band didn't cut out their hearts and brains and replace them with pieces of "Float On," because Modest Mouse would be way better if those guitar riffs zoomed down their veins, if those hooks were bouncing in their skulls - in short, if they took some disco dancing lessons.

Zero 7 - When It Falls. Don't look at me like that. This album is incredible, really. We tend to think of musical genres (at least sometimes) as slowly advancing, merging, perfecting older ideas and introducing new ones. Well, When It Falls is like the Omega Point for all downtempo-lounge-trip-hop. In terms of the genre, When It Falls is supreme, untoppable, as good as it gets. It's like some sort of astonishingly advanced weapon's grade technology, like the sort of album we'd be able to make after trading with an incredibly advanced alien civilization. "Warm Sound" makes everything else redundant. No one's going to record a better amalgam of Stereolab, neosoul and mid-90s electronics.

Wilco - A Ghost is Born. At first I loved this record, and then I thought it sucked, and now I'm back loving it again. What I like:

  • "At Least That's What You Said" remains utterly, blazingly brilliant. I feel like the guitar solo could go on even longer, could climb different ladders through breaks in the cloud, could get burned in different places. This song will be one of those few tracks (by any band) that I will seek out live versions of. (Especially with Nels Cline - sweet jesus!)
  • the way the guitar at the end of "Muzzle of Bees" sounds to me just like the horns on "Only a Northern Song," only better, truer, and more bravely foregrounded - and yet still far too short;
  • when Jeff Tweedy sings "and I felt / all right" on "Handshake Drugs";
  • the way that "Company in my Back" is basically about waiting for the guitar/mandola/thing to flutter in and strike you dumb with beauty;
  • the chorus of "Hummingbird," higher-pitched than anyone singing wants it to be, but which compels my girlfriend to sing along, full-voiced, joyous (and the fact that the chorus really only happens once, once!). Also, the guitar (?) which sounds like a kazoo;
  • the rhyme "One two three four five six seven eight nine / Once in Germany someone said 'Nein'";
  • the tumbling way that the chorus of "Wishful Thinking" appears - a happy inevitability.
  • Needless to say, there's also crap: I can't get over the deadness of "Spiders (Kidsmoke)," the dance-beat that's there only for artiness, whose aesthetic is one of stasis and aloofness, boredom and a hipper-than-thou yawn (for almost eleven minutes). the 90s britpop guitar bit doesn't save it. also: "late greats"... I appreciate Wilco's desire to do a back-to-basics roots-rock hidden track (and Glenn Kotsche's drums make me want to appreciate the way they do it), but to be honest, there's almost nothing here to care about. The only good bit is when the song suddenly goes away, collapses to dust ("he just looks a little too old"), and we hear the ringing, never-ending piano path into nothingness... (The band has made available a full album stream, here. If you've downloaded the album and want to thank the band, donate to their charity-of-choice here).

    holy crap it's almost five AM.

    Posted by Sean at 4:34 AM | Comments (17)

    April 9, 2004

    i wanted you

    I received Jolie Holland's debut in the mail a little over a year ago. It's called Catalpa, and at that time it was self-released (the album's since been rereleased on Anti). The album packaging was exceedingly simple; the title card a one-sided piece of cardboard with "(C) 2002" written in Sharpie (Jolie's handwriting?). But within moments of slipping it into my CD player, I was arrested, compelled, smitten. Her voice is thick, run through with ribbons of highs and lows, smearing tones. It dips and lilts. Her writing is simple, traditional, but without pretense. In this, as in much else, Jolie Holland recalls the genius of Gillian Welch. Without David Rawlings' guitar-work, Holland's recordings feel simpler, plainer, but not less beautiful. No less sad. It's bluegrass that's only rarely hokey, songs reverent and resigned. Holland's new record, Escondida, is out very soon.

    You should listen to these. They're pretty special.

    Jolie Holland - "Roll My Blues". Catalpa has a dusty and lofi feel, a woman in a small room with sun filtering through the blinds. Jolie sings quietly, unremarkably, swallowing blame with a nod and a strum. Nothing pushy here, just the small truth, the sincere little blues. "Never have I longed so dearly," she smiles, "My mind sees you arrive so clearly." This is a song that flutters and glimmers and feels like it could blow away.

    Jolie Holland - "Do You?". The opening words (the round, long vowel sounds) are sung with such slow, true honesty. (Soul and mind and life and heart.) The track comes slowly to life, like earth warming at dawn, and when the haze of cymbals breaks I can feel the fingers of the sun falling on my face. A long, high whistle - a (wo)man on a mountaintop, staring down. The words tumble out like a Yo La Tengo confessional, but the music is stronger and purer (and obv. more Appalachian), rolling toward the little rosy-lipped surprise at the end. (From Escondida.)

    Posted by Sean at 1:09 AM | Comments (6)

    April 8, 2004

    d'you still love me!?!?!

    Maher Shalal Hash Baz are an enigma. Their name is hebrew. It means "the spoil speeds, the prey hastens." It was the name of the prophet Isaiah's son, as ordered by God.

    The band, meanwhile, is Japanese, but inspired by Scotland. Their website is extremely opaque, filled with images of frontman Tori Kudo's ceramic work, and some errant pages with a handful of links. Blues du Jour was released by Domino in November, 2003, and it seems to have received very little press. Which isn't really surprising. I imagine it's difficult to write a fluff piece about a band who come out somewhere between Joao Gilberto, Belle & Sebastian, and Volapuk. I'm having the same trouble (and it doesn't help that it's four o'clock in the morning.) Maher Shalal Hash Baz do breezy tracks with clumsy singing, awkward english and the occasional sentence in Japanese. Bossanova and indie pop, wacky gypsy folk stirred through with a whinsome melancholy. They're as strange as moomins, but not as finnish. Blues du Jour isn't exactly perfect, but I love it all the same. I really do. (It's got forty-one tracks! I hear their previous one had eighty-three! My gosh!)

    Maher Shalal Hash Baz - "Post Office". A little bossa, modest and small-smiling, acoustic guitars and sunnygold trumpets. It's a cloud that bops along the sky, hopping over church-steeples and making faces at the bushes. It's perhaps the wimpiest thing I've ever heard, but fuck you - wimpy is great. I want to be a wimpy cloud, with wimpy friends - just so long as there's music like this, for tea-shoppes and summer showers, for abashed or unrequited lovers.

    Maher Shalal Hash Baz - "For A Recorder and a Euphonium". MSHB at their most twee and sedate. The title pretty much sums it up, except that it leaves out the trombone (which is a pretty egregious oversight). There's a tambourine, too, and an acoustic guitar. But mostly it's a winding one minute of instrumental calm, a soundtrack for a village playground, which would feel like 'interlude music' if half of Blues du Jour wasn't made up of just such pretty nothings.

    Maher Shalal Hash Baz - "Peter Said". This is almost a proper pop song, with electric guitars that jump in, heartfelt exuberance, and a dance-beat for nice-and-friendly dancing. Of course, that only lasts for about 30 seconds - but in a 78 second track, that's not so bad. What I appreciate is the way that it's such a gift: something sweet and small that will soon pass, certainly, but that's beautifully alive while it's playing. Such joys are fleeting, but lovely (and maybe somehow sad) while they last.

    Et pour ceux parmi vous qui connaissent le francais, je répête la recommendation de largehearted boy: il y a d'excellentes petites choses à

    (oh yes - you must visit today's tangmonkey link-o-the-day: Subservient Chicken. It's an ad for burger king, but listen to me: it's better than anything you thought possible.)

    Posted by Sean at 4:40 AM | Comments (6)

    April 7, 2004

    desperate dreaming

    to take a page from josh blog (which seems to be back)... some ideas on film, easily applied to the indie (mentalist, bourgeois) / pop (sensualist, working-class) "war". (see comments in the 'float on' thread.)

    "What concerns me is how ... women, children, whoever, are being asked to dael with their previous enjoyment of [popular movies] - a pleasure shared wtih family, friends and their general social and cultural environment. It seems that they are being left little room for any response other than feeling stupid, or despising those who are still enjoying these 'perverse' pleasures. ... Rather than seeing the pleasures of 'the masses' as perverse, perhaps we should acknowledge that it is the bourgeois 'will to truth' that is perverse in its desire for knowledge, certainty and mastery. ... The crusade to save the masses from the ideology that dupes them can obscure the real social significance of their lpeasures and, at the same time, blind us to the perversity of radical intellectual pleasures. The alternative is not a populist defense of Hollywood, but a reassessment of what is involved in watching films. This becomes part of the experience of oppression, pain and desire. Watching a Hollywood movie is not simply an escape from drudgery into dreaming: it is a place of desperate dreaming, of hope for transformation." -- Valerie Walkerdine, "Video Relpay: Families Films and Fantasy."

    Posted by Sean at 5:29 PM | Comments (0)

    like i give a fuck!

    !!! - "Dear Can". I like the dance-punk, I really do. It makes me want to dance. But while I worship the ground DFA walks on, !!!'s never really been my cup of tea. There just isn't enough whimsy, or restraint, or maybe there's too much grease. "Dear Can," however, is something else. It's the second song from the band's forthcoming Louden Up Now, and it's dance-punk with whiskey in the jar. Bassline, high-hats and jumbling, chugging guitars, certainly, but also a dose of eyebrowed rage, swearing at the top of lungs. It's a stretch to say it sounds like Limp Bizkit hanging out with the Rapture, but I don't think it's far off to imagine a stomping, smoky mosh-pit with a flashing, rainbow disco floor. And people in sunglasses. (I smile when the chorus comes back at around the five minute mark. At that point that anger's altogether silly, a gratuitous Furnaceface yell that can't (and doesn't want to) undermine the two minutes of crisp, funky plasticene beats that preceded it. But the punks gotta have the last word. [And it's even more silly because he's yelling "like i give a fuck!", which is delightfully contradictory.])

    The Lucksmiths - "Self Preservation". A complete change from the above, here's one of my most favourite indie pop songs of all time: jangly guitars, a circumambulating bassline, cool horns to downplay the neat-and-clever lyrics. If my imagination had its way, Australia wouldn't have beaches and sunbathers, just kids like this (and kangaroos, too), all dressed in cardigans and singing along with carefree pink lips. Oz could be a twee utopia, with ee cummings anthologies on every bench, bright blue skies that only rain when you feel like a few minutes of drizzly melancholia. This is from the group's absolutely fantastic Why Doesn't That Surprise Me?, which is like a picnic at the open-air library.

    Jeff at the Architectural Dance Society had some interesting thoughts on the college music poll I mentioned last week. I think he makes some cogent points on what surveys like this (if they're true, more generally) should indicate to the music industry. As people scramble to explain the (successive) 10% drop in record sales over the past three years, particularly in the wake of that 'downloads don't damage sales' paper, questions like this are really pertinent: why [are] so many college students ... apparently more fulfilled digging through their parents' record collections (or their grandparents' forchrissakes) than buying new music (even if it's new old-music music)?

    If you liked the Nickelback comparison song from Monday, you may enjoy the same treatment as applied (rather more clumsily) to Linkin Park.

    Posted by Sean at 4:53 AM | Comments (8)

    April 6, 2004

    the second plague

    Jeremy Steig - "Howling for Judy". Frenetic, stricken jazz with Steig's shrieking, howling flute. The calm, steady swiftness that opens the track is soon overtaken with a resolute wildness, a fierce-eyed fervour. Soon he's almost screaming into the instrument, pushing it further and further, driving it off the edge with drums and bass in tow. It's a far better track than the one that made it famous - thanks to the Beastie Boys' "Sure Shot," "Howling for Judy" is instantly recognizable, a feverish, familiar whistle. (many thanks to pog smuggler for passing it my way.)

    The Bran Flakes - "Good Times a Goo Goo". 'Sonic scavengers' the Bran Flakes have put together a playful, pogo-hopping remix of the Muppets' "Movin' Right Along," and it sounds like a tasty pizza topping. The repetition and beats carry the listener over into an alternate universe where Kermit's a disco DJ king and banjos are a cliche of early 90s dance-pop. Plunderphonics for the kids who couldn't care less about its politics. Much more to download from the Bran Flakes available here (Thanks to Tuwa for this one!)

    A very happy Passover (and a premature merry Easter) to all who are a-celebrating, this week.

    Posted by Sean at 12:44 AM | Comments (2)

    April 4, 2004

    i can touch the sky

    Happy Monday!

    Neva Dinova - "Poison". From Neva Dinova's split EP with Bright Eyes, here's a charming three-minutes-forty of poppy, sleepy Xylophone and mandolin tiptoe over a fog of feedback and pedal steel. The singer's got a drawling voice I find it very hard not to like, especially with such a simple and pure melody, such long strips of blue. M. Ward at a sleepover with Wilco, and there are lights hung up in the trees.

    Garmarna - "Greenest Branch (Viridissima Virga)". Sweden's Garmarna presents a skittering, minty interpretation of Hildegard Von Bingen's medieval lyric. Emma Hardelin's vocals are light but forceful; they push forward like a cold wind over the Atlantic, even as nordic strings saw, synthesizers blend, and a glitchy beat starts, stops, and starts anew. It's a rave for elves, music for the cyber-fjords (i can't believe i just wrote that).

    William Hung - "I Believe I Can Fly". An extra-special third song, today - it's the third because I didn't feel right posting this at the expense of something genuinely good. No, this is for those who relish the truly terrible - taken from William Hung's new single, it's the American Idol reject in all his glory, raping and pillaging the R. Kelly original with shameless abandon. It keeps getting worse and worse, like an endless dinner with in-laws, where dinner-guest after dinner-guest admits responsibility for one genocide or another. It leaves me breathless, flabbergasted, awe-struck. In short, it's beautiful.

    You owe it to yourself to download the astonishingly yay "Merengue," over at tofu hut. Franco and OK Jazz seem to have bottled Sunday morning fun, and this is just about the only thing that got me through the daylight savings time-change. (Obviously, you should be reading Tofu Hut every single day.)

    Someone named Bumble has made a wonderful, silly track combining Nickelback's "Someday" and "How You Remind Me". He calls it "How You Remind Me of Someday" and it's not a mash-up or anything hip like that. No, Bumble's simply put "Someday" in one channel and "HYRM" in the other, made a few little edits, and revealed to us all the ridiculous (and almost masterful) symmetry of the two songs. Yes, if you ever had the inkling that Nickelback's songs "sound the same," here's your proof. And it's catchy.

    Hunter pointed me to Bishop Allen, the very finest Brooklyn band that I had (almost) never heard of. "Little Black Ache" (previously seen at Fingertips) and "Busted Heart" are out-fucking-standing pieces of guitar pop, brave and catchy and good good good.

    Sincere thanks to all those who followed-through on my request for some new music. Some of the stuff that's been recommended is truly fantastic, and I'll be putting up some of these tracks later this week. I'm still looking, however, so if you think there's a song (or band) I simply need to hear, I'd appreciate it (a lot!) if you emailed me about it, or droploaded me a file. (An extra special thanks to Hunter, Kieran, quasimodern, Dave, Tuwa and, uh, Pog Smuggler.)

    Posted by Sean at 10:59 PM | Comments (11)

    April 2, 2004

    get myself arrested

    From what I understand, Gomez come out with a new album in May. I watched the video for the new single, and I wasn't impressed. It's dreadfully tragic to me that a band which was once my favourite in the world has, in a matter of five years, slid down my list into near irrelevance. In Our Gun was such a woeful, hollow muddle - Gomez with the soul bleached out, "swamp-rock furnished at IKEA". The band, famous (and maligned) in Britain, is in North America the subject of a small, devoted fanbase, and an amorphous blot of jam-band aficionados who think that Gomez fits the mold. I remember how upset I was when I heard that alot of British indie fans loathed Gomez, mostly because the members of the group look too college-reared and fresh-faced to legitimize their (once-) boggy, weird-o backporch sound. Now, however, I'm beset by a similar affliction: it's hard to like Gomez because their American fans are so annoying. That, of course, and the fact that they're recording forced, faux, vanilla music.

    But anyway - Gomez's first two albums, Bring It On and Liquid Skin, are masterpieces of texture. Their sound takes all of these muddy genres - blues, soul, classic rock, surf, 60s pop - and sublimates them into something new, strange, fresh. Beck staying over with the Grateful Dead, Tom Waits in the hot-tub. I don't think the band was ever genuinely hip, but it really doesn't matter: not with the richness of atmosphere on "Hangover," the playful scifi tumble of "Whippin' Piccadilly". The albums are brilliant and smoky; they sound so thick that they almost feel wise.

    Gomez - "Get Miles". The first track from Gomez's first album, Bring It On. A haze of guitar, the trot-along-the-docks percussion, and then Ben Ottwell's fine, throaty voice. Some people have criticized this for its insincerity, the way the listener doesn't believe Ottwell's assertion that he "don't get no peace." These criticisms are fair, but they miss the point. Ottwell's not singing the blues in the same way as Howlin Wolf or Leadbelly might. He's not trying to roar out his sorrows, to croon them into the fields. No - "Get Miles" is a mantra, an incantation, an affirmation of the narrator's position and (more importantly) the way to escape it. It's not someone looking for sympathy, it's the statement and restatement of the State of the Person, and what he must/should/longs to do. It's a drone, it's self actualization, it's will. "I love this city, man / but this city's killing me." Remember this, he's telling himself. "Gonna leave this city, man / gonna head out towards the sea." The guitars - feedback-filled, glittering - are the coughs of smoke that billow to other side of this wet, walking narrator, who is trying to pull and push his life together, out of the damp, mixed-up pieces.

    (More than that, the song is sad - it's almost pathetic - because for all this singing, for all this bullshit, the narrator hasn't yet left: he's still trying.)

    Gomez - "Shot Shot [Folk Shot]". The only good song on Gomez's latest album was "Shot Shot," a joyous, catchy, horn-filled riot. It has a theremin, saxophones, a chorus that sparkles more than anything you would expect. What we have here is something altogether different. A remix from the "Shot Shot" single, "Folk Shot" decelerates the original pop song, grinds it down to a simple voice and acoustic guitar, but then unleashes this dreadful volley of noise, a flattening gale. When the chorus still breaks through the stormclouds, fleet and almost beautiful, it's like an apple falling backwards, a glass filling back up, an apocalypse being undone. This is a golem falling in love, a giant learning to sing.

    I'm interested in hearing some new sounds, off the beaten path. If anyone knows of any terrific tunes that I likely wouldn't have heard, and thinks they're worthy of sharing, drop me a note (or just dropload me the file)! Anything is cool - from bluegrass to indie to dance to folk to world music. Thank-you!

    Posted by Sean at 12:20 AM | Comments (5)

    April 1, 2004

    everything you've done wrong

    Julian's taking a class at McGill where the professor asked the 200 students to submit their favourite bands, which he collected and compiled into a global ranking.

    01. Dave Matthews Band
    02. The Beatles
    03. Led Zeppelin
    04. Bob Marley
    05. Pink Floyd
    06. U2
    07. Bob Dylan
    08. OutKast
    09. Radiohead
    10. Ben Harper
    11. Rolling Stones
    12. Counting Crows
    13. Grateful Dead
    14. Neil Young
    15. Simon and Garfunkel
    16. The Tragically Hip
    17. Aerosmith
    18. David Bowie
    19. The Doors
    20. Jimi Hendrix
    21. Madonna
    22. John Mayer
    23. Sarah McLachlan
    24. Phish
    25. The Who
    26. Michael Jackson
    27. Louis Armstrong
    28. Beastie Boys
    29. The Band
    30. CCR
    This is both really and not-at-all interesting. I mean, it's hilariously accurate to the cliche. The jam bands are there, the stoner bands, and a very healthy dose of the rock canon. No sign of the contemporary Top 40, outside of heart-on-sleeve troubadours like Mayer and McLachlan, and OutKast. OutKast's presence is actually very interesting - it suggests that the Pazz & Jop tokenism thing is slightly more complicated than (rockist/racist/closedminded) critics trying to seem rounded. I doubt these students would have felt compelled to have 'at least one' hip-hop record on their list of "favourite bands." More likely, they genuinely engaged with Speakerboxxx/Love Below, in a way that they haven't with most other hip-hop albums. (I'm assuming that Dre and Big Boi wouldn't have made the list a year ago.) Maybe it's because S/TLB is more 'conscious' (or proggier?) than the (presumably mainstream) rap these white kids have been exposed to. (The absence of indie rock on the list is as telling as the absence of undie rap.) It's strange, though, to see that OutKast isn't just the hip-hop group for indie fuxxxors who dig the Flaming Lips - it's the group of choice for the chilled-out suburbanites who smoke fatties and listen to Zeppelin.

    Also interesting: Radiohead below U2!

    In other indie rocker news, the most-commented-upon thread on Said the Gramophone is my post on Modest Mouse's "Float On". Not because I said anything interesting, but because google likes it. The thread is a fascinating excursion into the indie ideology war - it's all right here in stone-engraved caps:

    "I pray to the gods of indie rock that the rest of the cd has some merit and this is just the crappy radio single epic forced them to produce."

    "a frat boy sing along chorus that is not becoming to a talented band like modest mouse ... now they are using pop chord progressions. [This is meant as an insult. --ed.]"

    Then there's the indie kids praising Thrice/Dashboard and the other indie kids attacking Bright Eyes/Thursday. It's a bloodbath, really. But beyond all this - there's also a lot of really intelligent comments, of people who are listening to their instincts and understand that the politics/social hierarchy is stupid: what matters is the music, not who's listening. Whether it's "sold out" or not, is it any good?

    The Beatles - "Norwegian Wood" [take 2]. Because the mainstream rules. (One day I'll post a favourite Dave Matthews tune.) An alternate take from The Beatles' Rubber Soul recordings of "Norwegian Wood/This Bird Has Flown". "Norwegian Wood" is one of my very favourite Beatles tracks, playful and wry and ultimately black-hearted. This version is fascinating, almost terrifying. All the life has been stripped away, all the humanity. The sitar's been sedated, the drums and bass are grey and lumbering. John and Paul's vocals, mischievous in the final recording, have been turned ominous and uncaring, nearly psychopathic. The ambiguous final lines are no longer solemn-but-grinning; now, they're almost threatening. Who let this man into their house? Didn't they see the white of his teeth? The mud in his eye sockets? The zombie's hands? It's a nightmare song.

    Sloan - "Everything You've Done Wrong". There was a time when maybe, just maybe, Sloan would have made the college kids' top-30 (in Canada, at least). Now, however, they continue their slow slide into irrelevance. Nevertheless, I can remember the first morning I heard them, the first day I read their name. I had awoken early before school, had tramped downstairs to watch the tube before I had to catch the bus. And there on MuchMusic was this casual, earnest pop jewel - a magnificent melody, blushing vocals, horns and handclaps and a bassline like my stammering silly heart. "Sloan," I noted at the end of the video. "Who?" I wasn't one to follow contemporary radio music, especially not Haligonian pop bands. But so began my two weeks of Sloan hunting, waking up at dawn, waiting downstairs by the TV, and hoping (dreaming!) of maybe hearing "Everything You've Done Wrong". It was my white whale, my Loch Ness Monster, my first love affair. It's honestly one of the very finest pop songs that has ever been recorded - effortless, dazzling, catchy, perfect. Three minutes and twenty-seven seconds. Years later, I own two copies of the album and a half-dozen mix CDs with this track somewhere in the running order. As much as I may listen to other songs, "Everything You've Done Wrong" is always on repeat, over and over again, somewhere deep in the kindest, happiest parts of my brain.

    Posted by Sean at 12:25 AM | Comments (16)