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.

August 31, 2004


I'm back.

Thank you so very much to the guestbloggers who filled in when I was away, and to all those who shared your comments. Thanks to Adrian for making it possible. Thanks to Monica (whose mystery was solved), to Howard (read the comments for a crackin' Loveless argument), Liz (I wish her well as she tramps across the Continent), Sasha (amazing eloquence, and UB40 with bite [!]), Julian (the Jim Giuffre 3 track is like a sad, strong, hot, long drink), Dan (yes, he would be pink), Brian (buy his new EP), Benjamen (read the comments for a discussion on the ethics of murderers' music, and, well, politics), and Tuwa (succulent, blue sounds). I hope it was as much fun for you as it was for me to read your pieces, listen to your selections, and then to see what others had to say. You must all start a group-blog called Music for Awesome People Who Rule.

Thankyou also to those places, like Fluxblog, who pointed people our way. Matthew kindly called my vacation "well-earned." It probably wasn't. :) But you must not miss his MTV VMA play-by-play, if only for this cogent observation: "The guy from Yellowcard looks like Alan Cumming playing Eminem in a tv movie." Let me tell you, the "guy from Yellowcard" was a stain upon my MuchMusic-watching hospital stay.

There's music below, once we make it through the long grasses of the opening monologue --

So it was a very pleasant holiday, all staring at a lake and listening to music (Glenn Gould! Kanye West!), and reading thrown in for fun. Started on Saturday with a drive to Shawinigan, patronage capital of Quebec. Kosmogonia is a swanky outdoor rotating-stage circus thing, where acrobats fight creaky flamethrowing "oiseaux-tonnerre". It was extremely earnest, quite capably performed, and burdened with a most convoluted, synchronistic plot. ("The Alphas choose their Omega babes this time! But the thunder-bird is angry! So they fight! And he turns into the Sun! And steals some girl to be the Moon! And then Time comes and he has giant fingernails! So they lift-off on an ancient greek rocket-ship!") What I found most interesting about it was the idea of Kosmogonia as Canadian tourist attraction. Contrary to your expectation for such things, it wasn't the content that felt Canadian (it was a weird Xena-fantasy pastiche, albeit with aboriginal design flourishes) - but the form. This is the sort of theatrical, high-concept circus that Cirque du Soleil brought to worldwide prominence, and I'm sure that most of the performers were trained in places like Montreal.

The next morning, visited Noah's Ark, which brought us to Shawinigan in the first place. It was really an outstanding collection of sculpture - thoughtful, entertaining, and immediately compelling. An extraordinary variety - from Picasso to Nick Park, - but it never felt pretentious; always whimsical, clever and inspiring.

And then to an auberge on Lac à la Loutre. En route, the roof-rack blew off, we blew a tire, found the spare was flat, and I closed my dad's hand in the car door, but all emerged (mostly) unscathed and spent the next seven days in deep relaxation. Since the shower relied on lake water (and I still nurse a lake-infected wound), I didn't wash. But smelly people can still enjoy a holiday, and since coming home I've rectified the situation.

I read some books:

Mordecai Richler - The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. Sean's attempt to catch up on the classics continues (see also this summer's forays into Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Nathaniel West and Flann O'Brien). Richler is (was) the grande old father of contemporary canadian fiction, and it was a pleasure to dip a toe into his early 20th c Montreal. Very peculiar to be reading a book where much of the action takes place steps away from my old house. I was taken by the characters, by the scruffy energy of the book, but ultimately... I don't know. The ending sort of slipped into a grey lake and I didn't quite care. Richler's prose was surprisingly dull; like a masculine Atwood, utilitarian and without panache.

Peter Carey - Oscar and Lucinda. Carey writes wonderfully. His books are dense with charm and detail, like bits of seaglass pressed into a wall. I enjoyed Illywhacker very much, up until the dreary end, and Oscar and Lucinda suffers from the same flaw. Carey takes such care to build up his structures, to erect them for a shining moment in the middle - but then he knocks them right down, always just a little too soon, before we will quite have a sense of what we lost. Still, it's an excellent and surprising love story: gambling, god and Australia.

Tove Jansson - Moominland in November, The Exploits of Moominpappa and Moominpappa at Sea. As memory-jog for the upcoming trip to Finland, I grabbed three of the melancholiest moomin books (couldn't find Moominland in Midwinter). And it's reaffirmed: Jansson was a treasure. These books are so filled with whimsy, sadness and love - like the wisest stories that a child might ever imagine, or the best things an adult might ever dream. For those of you who don't know them, you must. Go find Finn Family Moomintroll immediately. Thank-you.

Mark Haddon - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Haddon's "murder mystery" has scaled the bestseller charts, and it's easy to see why. The writing is light, intelligent, and full of humour - better still, the autistic protagonist is totally arresting. We never sit too long on a particular topic - prime numbers, red-car-counting or outer-space - and instead skip about, catching only snatches of what's 'truly' going on, the blunt reality of Christophers mum and dad. Unfortunately (sense a trend, here?), the ending is awful. Everything is wrapped up in a neat few pages; the resonances are silenced; and the lasting impression one of mere fondness, not depth.

James Joyce - Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. I like Dubliners very much, and hated most of Ulysses. I hoped Portrait would be a middle ground, but - sigh. My frustration with Joyce is in his indulgence. He is an astonishingly gifted writer; he plays with language in ways I can only envy-

He was alone. He was unheeded, happy and near to the wild heart of life. he was alone and young and wilful and wildhearted, alone amid a waste of wild air and brackish waters and the seaharvest of shells and tangle and velied grey sunlight and gayclad lightclad figures, of children and girls and voices childish and girlish in the air.
But as a novel - as a novel to enjoy, to sink into, to draw personal meaning from - Portrait (like Ulysses) sucks. There's much to admire formally, much to think about (and oh yes, many connections to be drawn). But I feel such frustration, dredging through the 15 pages of the preacher's sermon. Who cares? And turning the final page, that's the foremost thought. What of this lingers in me - in my heart and not my mind? Why wouldn't he stop fucking around!?

John Le Carré - Absolute Friends. This is the best novel LeCarré's written in years. And - woosh! - the man's found some new fount of energy. The whole book is electric, its characters positively brimming with life. Munby is a delight - kind, whole-hog, smart and certainly as naive as his beret-wearing pal, Sasha. We travel from post-raj Pakistan to Berlin's radical 1960s, then through the fog of the Cold War and into today's harsh, clear air. It's a dazzling, exciting, likable book, and one that punches you in the gut just as it's wrapping up. It's a cruel world, this post-911 place. If only the ending weren't quite so clumsy, politically. LeCarré commits - for the Left - the very same sin that his characters criticize in the Right: he portrays all of the baddies as a single, colluding group. That's blind, partisan foolishness.

and I'm mid-way through Jose Saramago's Stone Raft, which is very good. But has too many commas. (Like me!)

Why aren't there bookblogs, like mp3blogs, with thumbnail reviews and two-page chunks so we can sample a bit? Someone start one.



The new Tom Waits has leaked, and it's something very interesting, but you won't hear anything here because no songs on Real Gone are truly "Singapore"-level fantastic, and you're all gonna listen to them anyway. I'm tempted to post something more from that fresh Wolf Parade EP, though, because it is rad.

irregardless, you should listen to these:

Dinah Washington and Brook Benton - "Baby (You've Got What It Takes)". Tuwa wanted to include this in yesterday's post, but it just didn't fit. Since we don't want to let grand things go to waste, however, here we are. Oh my - listen to (feel) the guitarline, the highglossy nudges of strings. And oh oh oh of course there's Washington and Benton, playing and smiling. Cherries and milk chocolate, a first date that's full of nonsense. It rains umbrellas, there's chain-gang on the board-walk, the philharmonic is wearing victorian swimming duds. Through it all they dance dance dance, their shoes squeak, and (fade out) the night won't ever end. no. (This was recored in 1963. Dinah died three years later. Sleeping pills.) [buy]

Antony - "The Lake [live]". A - the - lake. Antony's voice trembles like water ripples. The piano starts bare as ice, then thaws into a deep, full blue. He got his start in NYC's afterhours cabarets and you can hear it here - Vincent Gallo's sipping a chilled drink, Devendra Banhart's sober and blackeyed. The song is so wobbly and yet so strong - one moment erect, then suddenly tipping leaning swooning over that darkbright still-lapping lake. It's peculiar that such a thing can be so powerful; that the artifice fades in the flow of the song, that its affectations fade under the dilute light.

Antony does interesting, arty things - he's in Buscemi's Animal Factory (anyone seen it?), and sings on Lou Reed's The Raven. I heard this on Banhart's psychfolk Golden Apples of the Sun comp, which is basically impossible to find... But you can buy "The Lake" on the Live at Saint Olave's split. Antony "and the Johnsons" also have an EP due coming out in November, and an LP due next year, both on Secretly Canadian.


Music is a Virus is a fine, fresh mp3blog (yes, another!), that runs the gamut from Herbie Hancock to My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult. And, reminiscent of Mewsic, it's got a nice Democratic sheen.

Pregnant Without Intercourse is Ottawa-based (!) and points to fine local acts such as the Hi Lo Trons (heard here last week), and Jim Bryson.

It seems Julie Doiron has a new album coming out in September called Goodnight Nobody. I haven't heard it yet, but there are two mp3 samples here, and both are wonderful. Herman Dune is the backing band. I am very excited.

Finally (hoo boy this post is long), the sidebar now was a little addition to show me just how much lifetimes have been spent, writing here. Said the Gramophone is currently words long.

Posted by Sean at 1:21 AM | Comments (28)

August 30, 2004

je ne sais quoi

[Ed. - I've never met Tuwa, but he sends me the most wonderful songs. I think he's from Xanadu.]

Hello. Tuwa here, a long-time reader. I've been asked to guestblog for a day while Sean is on vacation, and I was surprised and delighted at the opportunity. I'd like to thank Sean for inviting me, and I hope you enjoy the tracks.

Cesaria Evora & Marisa Monte - "E Doce Morrer No Mar". I got this song on a mix CD from a friend. The instrumentation is spare and confident, the melody piercing but sad. The overall impression is one of beauty, but the song is rooted in longing. It's a traditional Brazilian song, the lyrics lamenting a lover who left one night and didn't return: the sailor died at sea and made his bed below the waves.

Evora and Monte's performance of the song is apparently a bit of a rarity: it's available only as a bonus track on the European version of Cafe Atlantico. has the U.S. version of Cafe Atlantico, minus this and the other ten songs on the import. And then, too, there's Cesaria Evora's Miss Perfumado, also without this song but nonetheless recommended.

Lousie Attaque - "Du Nord Au Sud". Another maritime song, this one in French and Spanish. The lyrics focus on a sailor in love with the journey, traveling "to the four winds without effort."

The song starts well enough: the drums syncopated and calm, the bassline restless and low, roaming and quickly returning. But it's when the violin comes in that I'm sold on the song: it's that aggressive melancholy riff, the lurch at the end, the occasional low stabs. The singer's assertion that he can return home if he wishes lies not too far from the addict's assertion that he can quit any time; on all sides he's singing that he can sail to the four winds without effort, without stopping. The song's ending seems a bit sudden, and it's easy to imagine the person the song is meant for left behind, fading into distance at the end of a dock: the song an attempted explanation that serves as little consolation.

The band's name is a riff on "Violent Femmes"; they were fans of the band and Gordon Gano served as producer. They put out two CDs which are not widely distributed, and then two of the members broke off to record under the name Tarmac, while the other two work with Ali Dragon. People who hear their first disc first tend to like it more; people who hear the second disc first tend to prefer that one instead. I'm not sure what that means. Check out the second album, perhaps overpriced, or peep Cuisine Non-Stop, Luaka Bop's sampler of new French music.

Posted by Tuwa at 12:30 AM | Comments (3)

August 27, 2004

prison break

[Ed. - Benjamen Walker is the passionate, knowledgeable and unstoppable force behind a whole bunch of radio, in Boston and beyond. We first got in touch when he was putting together Blog Jockeys, an NPR piece that was one of the very first big-media looks at mp3blogging. Last week, he was in NYC on a secret mission. This week, he's here with us - and spitting fire.]

Destroyer - "Notorious Lightning [live]".

My introduction to this mp3 blog thing came from trying to find a recording of Destroyer's absolutely mind-blowing performance at this year's south by southwest in Austin, Texas. I have been a fan of this band ever since finding a copy of Thief in the slush pile at WZBC, a radio station I work at in Boston. I do like the latest release, Your Blues, but its a bit uh, weird... Listening to Daniel Bejar and the talented members of Frog Eyes perform the material from Your Blues was much more enjoyable - the songs resonated with an intensity and power that is not included on the little silver disc. So, like I said I decided to search out if anyone out there in the audience recorded the performance. I found Ryan's site the catbirdseat, and while there was only a review of the show there were a bunch of mp3s and links to other mp3 blogs, and thus, one million hours later ? I was not only hooked but extremely excited about what I felt was an actual NEW thing. I cannot stress how wonderful that feeling is ? to happen upon something you find truly original ? especially ON THE INTERNET. Long story short, I pitched the NPR program On The Media the idea and lo and behold I did a piece that you can listen to here, or here (the latter version has more lawyers in it). (fyi: the term "mp3j" is not my fault)

Anyway I am thrilled that Sean asked me be a guest er mp3j "person" - So lets start off with my recording of Destroyer performing Notorious Lightning - live at the middle east rock club in Cambridge, Massachusetts where I hail from these days. Now, I don't want to sound like I am dissing your blues, the only point I am trying to make is that, performed live, the songs are BETTER. Rumor has it that Merge is going to officially release a Daniel Bejar/Frog Eyes recording of your blues soon ? I can't wait! [buy Your Blues]

PS: Ok.. I just wrote this (8.18.03) and clicking on the catbirdseat to put the link in... I find that Ryan has linked to a CBC mega post of Daniel Bejar/Frog eyes tunes.. sigh.. and I thought I was going to be COOL!!!!! Sigh... for all of you out there who think this mp3 bloggin thing is easy: well you are WRONG!

Dennis Lobban ? "Runnin' from Babylon [live]".

In November 2001 I found myself in Kingston, Jamaica producing a late night talk radio show on Jamaican radio. My adventure began in Tower Street Prison with a bunch of Harvard professor types who politely tapped their shoes and swayed their hips as murderers, rapists and victims of police corruption performed reggae for us. It was a giant production; the prison officials really wanted to distract our attention away from the fact that the men of Tower Street live in conditions pretty much the same as when the stone dungeon building was used to offload slaves in plantation times. Dennis Lobban was really the only performance that blew me away. I remember marking my mini disc to make sure I didn't erase it. And then one of the guards leaned over and told me that this giant intense Rastafarian was in fact the man who shot and killed Peter Tosh. I never got a confirmation on this until a few months ago, when I returned to Kingston for more prison/radio wackatudness (including another concert at Tower Street). The running man performed another tune, this time introducing himself as Dennis something. Well, when you type in "Peter Tosh" and "Dennis" into Google you get this:

Staying at Tosh's home during this time was an old friend of the Wailers, Dennis Lobban. However, he left in a fury after an argument with Tosh's girlfriend, Marlene Brown, returning a few days later on September 11, with a gang of friends. Lobban later claimed he had merely intended to threaten the artist, and perhaps rob him, but panicked. The end result was that Tosh and all six of his friends who were hanging out in the room were shot in the head. Tosh lay dead, as did the radio DJ Jeff "Free I" Dixon and a third friend. Marlene Brown, ex-Soul Syndicate drummer Carlton "Santa" Davis, and two other of Tosh's friends miraculously survived. Lobban was arrested and sentenced to death.
I am still unsure if this song is a cover or a version of a reggae standard, or if this is in fact Mr. Lobban's own creation ? But the performance is most certainly his own. When you hear the crowd go crazy, midway into the song, it is because Dennis is running in place totally frothing at the mouth, determined to stay one step ahead of Babylon. I am amazed at how the visual intensity and insanity of this performance translates sonically.


My favorite unknown genius is my fren B-lite, the world's only blind rapper who performs with the aid of photoshopped PowerPoint karaoke slides. Think Giorgio Moroder doing the hotel conference room circuit ,delivering inspirational life-affirming lectures for the low-wage-earning artistically inclined.

Like all misunderstood geniuses, B-lite struggles with the fact that he is still unemployed and not famous - BUT - I am proud to say that recently he has sold almost all of his possessions so that he can take some ridiculous tour across North America where he will most certainly perform to crowds numbering in the tens... Fame is just around the corner now!!! Check out his website for the tentative tour schedule ? maybe he's coming to your town.

On the website there are also about a dozen songs up for your listening pleasure. You might as well start with the introduction, where you can hear what its like to be a slacker-bee. My favorite number is definitely the ode to poor boy/rich girl love, "Curbside Lover," because it's got the line "hey girl just because I'm taking the bus doesn't mean there isn't room for both of us!"

But I also love "Peepers", one of the many songs B-Lite wrote about autumn for a series of radio programs I put together called Decline and Fall. And then of course there is the Wallmart song, containing the line: "just look at this country it's a piece of shit, you can't do anything but drive around in it."

and on that note...

John Prine ? "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Any More".

Sean and his fellow Canadians may not realize just how bad things have become here in Freedomburg but I just have to say that thanks to that half-wit born-again dry-drunk in the White House and his administration of blood-sucking Fascists I have had the worst 4 years of my life. Now, I'm not trying bum anybody out here with some political rant but I know I am not the only one has discovered that there is nowhere to hide from these fuckers, not in music, not in books, not in art. Yes, they have ruined everything. But the real pain comes not from this gang of criminals that is hell bent on taking us all over the precipice but the mother-fucking idiotic PEOPLE who are letting them get away with it (and my friends, if my recent unscientific poll of taxi drivers in Singapore, Jamaica, Africa, Geneva and Canada means anything, us ?good' Americans are totally screwed ? because the world just isn't buying this line about there being a difference between the American people and the American government anymore - but can you blame them???) Well, the point of all this is that I have found a song that, when I find myself weeping and gnashing my teeth in total fucking despair, helps me feel a tiny bit better. Maybe it will work for you too.

Posted by Benjamen Walker at 12:50 AM | Comments (29)

The Days Ahead are Past and Gone

We start in 1970 and Mike Cooper is "Sitting Here Watching" (from Trout Steel), looking forward and feeling good. He might be hitting the road, maybe to gig, maybe to ramble, not to run. Kicks in and I think Incredible String Band and that is all right. I feel good when I listen to this, like anything is possible. Fills me with the optimism that only kids can maintain. The cancellations of the electric guitar are a welcome jab. [buy]

This joy lasts for two years and then John Hartford slowly swaggers by and reminisces forward about the past by going "Back in the Goodle Days" (from Aereo-Plain). He is up too, but different. Not so positive all the time. He longs a bit and wonders a bit. But all the time he is sure that he will still be fucking cool, you know, smoking joints and drinking wine at the city dump type of cool. Relaxed, with free and airy musicians. They recorded it all around one microphone in the old bluegrass radio show style. [buy]


I?m Brian Michael Roff. Sean asked me to do a guest post for him while he is away. I was so glad to agree. It would be impossible for me to get close to writing as well as he does about the music he shares, so I just did my thing. Thanks to Sean for this fun opportunity to share a couple of my favorites.

Also want to plug (with Sean's blessing) my new EP called In the Analog Woods. It is out on KEEP recordings in a hand signed/numbered limited edition of 100. It is 6 songs with banjo, accordion, guitar, and voice. You can listen to an MP3 and buy it at the KEEP site.

[Ed. - Brian has a warm voice and a steady eye. And, apparently, good taste. I especially like the American Richard Thompson verve of the Mike Cooper track. Said the Gramophone previously featured Brian Michael Roff's music here.]

Posted by BMR at 12:30 AM | Comments (0)

August 26, 2004

I wanna make you laugh in a serious way

[Ed. - Dan Beirne is a great friend, a fine film-maker, and at least 20% of the talent behind Better than Shakespeare (that's Canada's darkest, funniest indie sketch troupe). He recorded an album last weekend, but I haven't heard it yet.]

The Diskettes - "Come On Over". This band is like the sunshine and bubblegum version of The Halo Benders, and this song, for me, sums up their emotional impact and undeniable charm. It's like... doing things on purpose. Every part of this song feels like it's there for a reason. The fun is lined up single file. It's frolicking with a completely straight face. It's doo-wop with a dark side. "she: I can't wait for your hair to turn all gray / he: I'm wasting myself and I'm wasting my life away". If I knew more superlatives, this would be longer; the happiest sad song I own. [buy ($5!)]

The Hi Lo Trons - "Mania". When I first heard the Hi Lo Trons I wasn't huge on them. I says to Jordan, "They sound too much like Devo." And he replied, "They are not trying to hide that, Dan." That was a good point. So it sounds like something else, so what? This is just a really fun dance tune. When the organ kicks in at around the 1:00 mark, you can't help but move just a little bit. [buy]

It seems like each guest blogger is some sort of genre-Planeteer, each with their own specialty and, upon combining powers, make up the Captain Planet that is Sean's taste in music. It just sucks cause I think my suit would be pink.

Posted by Dan at 12:30 AM | Comments (8)

tootling, sadly

[Ed. - Julian Smith is my longtime roommate and dear friend. Born in Cambridge, he came to Canada in his early teens. Now he's a fine writer who moonlights as a musical thug with the Ceremonial Guard. This fall he will be joining me on my European jaunt. Volapuk is a great band, and "Cry, Want" is highly recommended.]

Such is the force of Sean's enthusiasm for music that, after having lived with him for three years, my tastes in pop music have become almost identical to his own. My favourite songs tend to be his also, so when he asked me to guestblog I didn't know what I could say that wouldn't sound redundant or amateurish. In the end I decided to stick to what I know best and write about songs featuring my own instrument: the clarinet.

The Jimmy Giuffre 3 - "Cry, Want". This tune is haunting. If I were a ghost, I'd play this music as I drifted through the steerage of a rotting ship. You can hear the swelling of waves in the piano, the creaking of timbers from the bass. It's lonely here. There's emptiness and lots of space. This is jazz come loose of its moorings. The piece is from an album called Fusion from 1961 (re-released along with Thesis as the double-album 1961). The clarinetist is Jimmy Giuffre, a much-overlooked free-jazz pioneer who got his start playing for the army (like me). On piano is Paul Bley, a Montrealer by birth, who would later give the first ever live performance on a synthesizer. On bass is Steve Swallow, who became one of the top electric bassists in jazz and was once sampled by A Tribe Called Quest. [buy]

Volapuk - "Technova". This is joyful, mischievous music. It'll trick you into dancing and then change time signatures so you fall on your bum. Then it'll prance around laughing with a twinkle in its eye. It's got clarinets, a cello and a piano, a pulsing electronic beat and European folk melodies. There's lots of banging and hitting of things and there's a strange whipping noise near the beginning, suggesting a sadistic streak to the track. But it's a kind of amoral sadism that's ultimately a lot of fun, like Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream. This track is from Polyglot, the third album from this quirky, playful French trio. [buy]

Posted by Julian at 12:30 AM | Comments (4)

August 25, 2004

apples and razor-blades

[Sasha Frere-Jones is a member of The Sands, a rock band, and the pop critic for The New Yorker, a weekly magazine. He has a website and lives in new York City with his wife and two sons. (He also has a really, really cool name. - Ed.)]

UB40 - "I Won't Close My Eyes" and "Love Is All Is Alright".

I got UB40's UB44 for Christmas in 1982. My mom bought me the limited edition LP issue with the kick-ass hologram cover, but then my finicky dad used a razor blade to remove the price sticker, producing a shallow but permanent hashmark in the upper right corner that still drives me bananas.

Two years later, in my freshman year of college, I heard the frat boys blast Labour of Love and with it, UB40, right out of the hipster's circle (where they didn't have more than a month-to-month lease anyway). Even more damning (for some), UB40 decided to keep Cliff Richard's adult pop dollar, dialing down the reggae and dialing up the covers. I thought they worked fine as a pop band, though they eventually jumped the shark and let pop's conservative tail sneak through the cat chute behind the pleasure-seeking head. Forget all that for the moment. UB40 were born in that killer late 1970s convergence of British reggae: Steel Pulse, The Specials, Linton Kwesi Johnson, etc. There's a common thread of melodic suspension tying these groups together beyond geography, from "Chant A Psalm" through the unfuckwitable "Ghost Town" to much of UB40's first four albums. I miss the melodic sensibility these groups had ? which still feels distinct from contemporaneous pop and reggae - and I sure as fuck miss the willingness to step up with some political valence.

UB40's purview was predominantly political until they switched abruptly to love songs and covers. There's a distinctly European aspect to their political songs ? Stephen Biko and sub-Saharan starvation were closer to London than Newark in 1978, sure, but there's a general politicization of youth in Europe that helps explain why so much of the hot political shit (at least records coming from live bands) from the last twenty years is not American. (I would post "The Earth Dies Screaming" from the first album if I had it to hand, but I don't.)

"Love Is All Is Alright" just floats, daring you to notice the chorus: "Love is all is alright, but you've got to find a little more hate." "Fuck off, hippies," says my translator. "I Won't Close My Eyes" is a similar combo platter: "Our cries for justice are shots in the dark/But our strength's in our bite/And not in our bark/It's time to stand." My translator says "Bricks, not sit-ins," but the words suggest a range of resistances. As much as I love the band feeling self-assured enough to bring the hate, I love equally the rhetorical trick of hiding razor blades in the apples. It sure as hell doesn't sound like they've found a little more hate. The music is just laughing gas ? it never fails to make me a little high. Ali Campbell ? along with Terry Hall, Martina, Tracey Thorn, and Roland Gift ? is part of a mixed race (aesthetically and literally) team of singers that just makes me want to up and kiss England on the schnozz. And I never get enough of the production style: that Dennis Bovell dry slapback with the 6 against 2 Sly and Robbie delay trick (check "My Jamaican Guy"). Old dudes up in the place today! [buy]

The Fontaine Toups "Who Told You".

(That's funny when you add "The" to anybody's name. It's like cutting out someone's head from a magazine and making it say stuff. Always funny. Here, the article tells us this is a band, not just a person, which is kinda cool, though not all that funny.)

I don't know much about Ms. Toups and I would not be able to I.D. her old band if I had an hour to do it. This song, though, is my kinda shit. It is made from ingredients I am always happy to see on my plate: sharp, simple drumming with a good foot, flat and clear vocal delivery, nasty but not overly huge guitars, more than two hooks and concrete, audible lyrics. I get similar things, in different doses, from Spoon, The Fall, Wire. You know this steez.

In "Who Told You," Fontaine is hearing the gossip folks talk shit. This all makes her want to get away and remember what she thinks before she hears another word from someone else. "Who told you that I was leaving? Who told you I was your friend? I have a feeling that I'm losing everything I once had, but I'm not sure what that is." Let Calgon take you away, girl! Fuck those haters. "I don't want to drink every night and smoke all the cigarettes" is a recurring line, a sort of pre-chorus, and it is two things: An accurate reduction of what it feels like to confront a night out in NYC; and a perfect use of the small words "all" and "the," which make the line very big and very good. "I don't want to follow anyone without seeing what I'm doing." She's wide-awake and so's the band. The whole thing just bustles my hedgerow. (No, it sounds nothing like that.) [more Fontaine Toups]

Posted by Sasha F-J at 12:30 AM | Comments (12)

August 24, 2004

a new day parade

[Ed. - Liz is a sweet american with an Irish MFA. She writes fiction while trying to write poetry. And I thank her for the story, here. It's not about me! :) ]

Oh wow. I'm getting to guestblog and write here and it's very exciting if not a bit nerve wracking -- what if y'all don't like my songs? But as I've done my best to pick really good songs, I am just sure that will not happen.

I currently live in Galway. Being as I live here, I thought I'd promote Irish artists. Everyone knows about Damien Rice and Snow Patrol and The Frames, and Sean already posted a Bell X1 song a few weeks back (you can hear more samples at their website. I recommend you do just that). And all are definitely worth knowing -- if you don't already, find them and listen! But for my purposes, I'll start with a band centered right here in Galway itself:

Cane141 - "New Day Parade".

Last November I went up to Belfast to spend the weekend with a good friend. We'll call him S. His room was tiny: there was barely room on the floor that night for my little sleeping bag and me. We stayed up late talking, whispering, listening to songs. After My Bloody Valentine's Loveless he gets up to put on this album.

You ever heard of Cane141? he asks me. No, I tell him. They're from Galway. I'd've thought you would've. His stereo has a remote control, so once he's put the cd in he hops over me and back into bed. It is so cold this night and his window won't close all the way. He is a boy, he is only sleeping in his boxers, and I see his tummy and shoulders before he slides under the duvet. This is an old album, but I don't have any of their new stuff. And he plays the first track, which is nice, but then skips ahead. This is their best song.

First there is the sound of a train, and then acoustic guitar. I am a sucker for acoustic guitar. Then a -- flute? I do not know. But the song moves ahead, and I can't keep with it because I'm so cold, wrapped in the sleeping bag, listening to this heartbreaking, mournful, hopeful, somethingIcannotname instrument singing high, low, high and their voices subdued and all I want to do is climb into his bed, wrap under his duvet, whisper to his face instead of the bottom of his bed, and my whole body stops for this instant to hear the singer say "freeze-frame on my new day parade" and I swear I can't breathe. But of course I can, and I come back from my own little drama to hear the song fade away. Again? I ask. S and I, we are the same in this respect, we like to listen to songs on repeat. We do not get tired of them after their initial three or four minutes.

So he skips backward, and the train again, and we lie together in the room only not together, listening to this song, wanting something neither of us has. And that is what this song sounds like: something you want but do not have. A sort of nostalgia. Or longing. Or bittersweet memory. [buy]

Paddy Casey - "Fear". Quite very different from the first song, but I really like it. Some have compared Casey to a young Bob Dylan, but being as I don't hardly ever listen to Bob Dylan I can't say the same. Casey's second album, Living, came out in Ireland back in the Autumn and the radio was flooded with his single "Saints and Sinners". I don't mind the song, but I didn't think it was all that great either, so I never bothered really finding out more about him. Then a month ago a friend bought both his albums, and she lent them to me. "Fear" is first on his debut album Amen So Be It.

I. Love. It. It's not a masterpiece, but it's good. An honest, folksy-with-electric-instruments song about a father's love for his child. It reaches an emotional core, and I don't quite like any of his other songs near as much as I do this one. You can hear samples of all of them, and see videos for some of his singles, at his official website. [buy]

Snow Patrol - "An Olive Grove Facing the Sea". Now I know I said everyone knows Snow Patrol, what with their single "Run" getting all high up in the charts and whatnot. But how many of you have actually heard their earlier stuff, huh? The latest album is the best, and it shows real maturation of songwriting and musicianship. But there are still gems if you listen earlier, the biggest one being "An Olive Grove...", from When It's All Over We Still Have To Clean Up: a plaintive song, the kind you listen to while staring out the window of a bus as it travels far away from the one you want to be with and it lightly rains outside, clouds blurring the mountains in the distance. Gary Lightbody does that whole oh-my-god-I'm-heartbroken-and-always-messing-up-relationships thing really well. Maybe it gets tiring after awhile, but thank goodness he does it cos we need these songs sometimes. [buy]

Posted by Liz at 12:30 AM | Comments (16)

August 23, 2004

a classicist's songs

[Ed. - Howard Bilerman is a gracious human being, a skilled musician, and an exceptional producer - most notably as he helps to run Montreal's famed Hotel 2 Tango studio. He has recorded/mixed albums by bands including Godspeed! You Black Emperor, Wolf Parade, The Dears, Tricky Woo, A Silver Mt. Zion, Elizabeth Anka Vajagic, Jordi Rosen & Rufus Wainwright, and the Arcade Fire. The Peter Laughner track he's picked is absolutely amazing. And stay tuned for a live version of "Notorious Lightning," from another guestblogger, later this week.]

(Update: On September 30, 2009, Howard Bilerman issued a correction for one of his comments here.)

I confess, for someone who has recorded over 150 records in the last decade, I don't listen to much "modern" music. Most of the popular stuff I hear these days references something else out there in a way that makes it far too derivative to enjoy. Maybe I'm just getting old... or maybe I simply expect more from music than I used too. In any case, I have become a big stickler for good lyrics as of late, and I think a good deal of lyricists are lazy & aren't saying all that much.

Bob Dylan - "One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)". I'll start with something "old". I do believe that Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde is as close to a perfect record as there is out there. That stretch of songs starting with "Visions of Johanna", followed by "sooner or later one of us must know", followed by "I Want You" & then "stuck inside of mobile with the memphis blues again" is flawless. Each of those songs makes me wonder how in the world someone wrote something so perfect... let alone a whole double-album's worth (minus "rainy day women #12 & #35," which I'm afraid is the weakest lead off track to ever grace a masterpiece). It's a coin-toss?but here's "sooner or later one of us must know"... just for that perfect triplet drum fill in the chorus... and his spine-tingling phrasing at 2:23... "how young you werrrrrrrrreeeehhhrrrrrrr". Dylan is the tree that grew branches like elvis costello, beck & bright eyes... but for my money, no-one has yet to surpass him. [buy]

Destroyer - "Notorious Lightning". I have yet to listen to all of Destroyer's Your Blues... mostly 'cause I keep on needing to go back to the top and listen to "notorious lightning" again & again. I know some people have trouble with this record ?cause of all the midi'd instruments, but I think it's fantastic. Bejar blends real guitars with mostly synthesized music, and manages to make it sounds organic. This song is an amazing journey, and to me it's lyrical perfection. Many reviewers have compared him to bowie, and I can see why, but I'm gonna go out on a limb and say this song is miles better than anything bowie has done in the last 25 years. [buy]

Peter Laughner - "Amphetamine". I don't know much about Peter Laughner. I believe he was in Rocket From The Tombs, and I know that he died pretty young. When I was living in new york 9 years ago I saw Gerard from matador records perform this song at an "all covers" evening. I remember asking him who wrote it, and it took me 7 years to find the original. Most of the record was pretty standard 2nd generation Dylan-y stuff, but "Amphetamine" alluded to the kind of genius he would have achieved were he to stick along long enough. [buy]

The Jesus & Mary Chain - "The Hardest Walk. I discovered The Jesus & Mary Chain's Psychocandy in one of the best summers for music in my lifetime. Companied with Costello's Blood & Chocolate & The Smiths' The Queen is Dead, it was one hell of a year for new music. Hearing "the hardest walk" on late night radio (CHOM FM would you believe?!) gave me goose-bumps. I didn't know what it was all about (I still don't), but something in my 16 year old brain told me it was sexual, and that I'd never heard anything quite like it. I despise My Bloody Valentine's Loveless primarily because it is a soul-less, low-rent, overly produced rip-off of something that the jesus & mary chain crafted years before. This record still gives me chills. [buy]

Posted by Howard at 12:50 AM | Comments (32)

Monica's Up to Bat

[Ed. - Monica is a kind and lovely friend who lives in Montreal. Her cat is called Dartburo.]

In attempting to write something heartfelt and filled with gratitude for today's post, i ran out of time and decided not to even try to measure up to sean's eloquent and beautifully descriptive posts. [Ed. - Don't thank me, lady! You're the one who's doing the favour. As this posts, I'm doubtless lounging about the Laurentians, reading Oscar and Lucinda.]

So here are the three big choices for my 15 minutes of fame:

Pinback - "Syracuse". In general, I have found that Pinback has been somewhat of a hit-and-miss band for me, and Sean has made it known that he is not a fan of their as of yet unreleased album, Blameless in Abandon. This song, I feel, is the most danceable of the dance tunes on the album and can and should be listened to only while dancing.

Corwin Fox - "Stone in your Shoe". Corwin Fox is the older brother of an old highschool friend of mine whose name happens to be Terry Fox (no relation to everyone's hero). [Ed. - non Canadians see here] The simplicity of the chorus initially turned me off, but listening to the rest of the words, i began to feel the intricacy and delicacy of this sad love song (my favourite kind). "Feeling alone is like having a stone in your shoe"; ain't that the truth. [buy]

Unknown - "Unknown". This lovely song came to me through a mix which unfortunately contained no track listing, and the maker having forgotten most of the band/song names he used. I have been working over many months to find the singer, who I think sounds a bit like Smog, but Sean assures me it is not. So please, if you know the maker of this, one of my favourite songs, please post the answer, and you will win the grand prize of [insert Grand prize here] and fame like you have never imagined. Enjoy.

Posted by Monica at 12:30 AM | Comments (9)

August 21, 2004

holiday holiday

So! As I said on Friday, I'm going away for a week to read books in the Laurentian mountains. If all goes well, we'll also be swinging through Shawinigan to check out Mr Chretien's new gallery. The reading list includes Richler, Joyce, Saramago, Jansson, Carey, Burgess and Haddon. Wish me luck.

Said the Gramophone will be left in very capable hands. That is, I've arranged things so that posts should automatically be made August 23-27, and again on Monday the 30th, so I can have a day to get back in the saddle. It's remotely possible that something will go wrong with the pre-posting script. In that case, never fear, all of these guestposts will appear the week after.

On Monday, Thursday and Friday, there will be two posts.

The guest-posters for Said the Gramophome are, in random order: Dan Beirne, Monica F, Howard Bilerman, Julian Smith, Brian Michael Roff, Sasha Frere-Jones, Liz W, Tuwa Baap and Benjamen Walker. I extend to all of them my most heartfelt thanks for answering the call and doing me a big favour. Please make them feel welcome by leaving comments on their posts. :)

Thank-you again to the guests, to Adrian for helping set up the techie end, and thanks to all you readers. I'll see you all on the 24th.

Posted by Sean at 12:30 AM | Comments (4)

August 20, 2004

idaho and donkey boy

Oof - Friday already. It's funny how weeks will sometimes slip right by you, tigers in the grass.

I wrote a couple of days ago that the new Idaho record, Vieux Carré, was doing very good things to my ears. And you know, it really is. But I was a-thinking about how much I was enjoying it, and how familiar some of the songs seemed to be. And then I checked the track-list again. Oh my. Well aren't I the fool. Vieux Carré is a German compilation. I don't know if it's a "best of" or simply a retrospective, but these songs have all been previously released.

All the more reason to buy it when it's released in September.

Idaho's not a household name, even in indie circles. And yet for twelve years Jeff Martin and his shifting band has been recording thoughtful, breathing rock music - like a river that snakes through the deep woods, dark grey and rarely visited. Idaho's not an act with sparkle, with confetti bursts. But in their best work, the slowdrifting songs seem to come alive with feeling. The overcast sky bursts suddenly, terrifically, into a downpour. Whereas Low's beauty seems heavily considered, worked towards, Idaho makes these overcast songs that occasionally and unexpectedly blossom. When the band fails, the songs simply drudge and drudge and end (see also the Red House Painters). But when they succeed, the music is glorious, magic, and maybe even timeless.

If inconsistency is the plague, however, a well-selected compilation is the cure. And Vieux Carré is wonderful. Some selections:

Idaho - "Bass Crawl". Rudderless noise and then that slow bass crawl, a human pulse. This is a song about breaking out of love, gulping up for air, of leaving it so that you can return. The love is whitecharged, beautiful. It's the arcs of an electric guitar, the rosy shadow of Malone Koenig's backup vocals. When Martin begins to sing, she's there - the guitar's smile, that quiet "underloaded" voice. Later the guitar circles back, still calling him, but when we return to Jeff Martin's singing - Koenig's gone. He's left her behind. Now Martin's alone with the guitar's beautiful pleading sound, that visceral memory. He steels himself, he tries to explain, he listens to his bloodflow and tries to feel the grounding bassline. He lets the noise flame on its own. Originally released on 1997's Forbidden EP.

Idaho - "To Be the One". 2000's Hearts of Palm featured the same basic lineup as the Forbidden EP - Martin with guitarist Dan Seta. "To Be the One," however, showcases none of "Bass Crawl"'s guitar solos. Instead, it's a flush, whirring love-song. An organ winds around Martin's voice, drums appearing like perfect coincidences. It's at once gloomy and aglow, a warm piano and cool atmospherics. Martin lets the song slow to a plod, everything stretching out for just a moment... and then drums, chord change, the stirring lift of the chorus. "What you're talking 'bout is pure." Perhaps they're words for doe-eyed indieboys, but as the song warms it's so very hard to stay cynical. [buy Hearts of Palm]

And, because I wouldn't want to finish the week's mp3s on such a dreary note...

Donkey Boy - "Midnight With Simon". Yes, it's a song that's centered around masturbation, but man, the beats here are awesome. The crunch of the downbeat, the seething feedback, and then the coda's astonishing slip into acoustic guitar. This is part of a new album by Donkey Boy, to be released in 2005. Dave DeCastris is writing song-stories about the absurd sheen of Midwest normalcy, the "freak" neighbours who stare through the window as you eat your cereal. The song's protagonist has his hand in his pants, yes. He watches TV and then he falls asleep. But around it all, the buzz of guitar, the tumble of percussion, and that peculiar shift into glimmery guitar.


A big cauldron of summery folkpop is available from The Twin Atlas, a Philadelphia-NYC duo. My favourite is "Rooftop Sounds," with its jangly acoustic guitar and tree-swinging bassline. Elliott Smith jamming with Saturday Looks Good To Me.

Here's a wonderful photo-essay on a Japanese arcade. Madness lives there. [via whimsy incorporated]


Next week I'm on holiday at a cabin in the Laurentians (so long as the doctor lets me go!). There will be no break in programming, however - I have a wonderful list of guest-bloggers lined up. More info to come.

Posted by Sean at 12:56 AM | Comments (7)

August 19, 2004

what a nice piece of mind

Elizabeth Anka Vajagic - "Iceland". Whiskey fumes and an overwarm room, this is an extraordinary tune from Vajagic's gothic folk debut, Stand With the Stillness of this Day. Elizabeth has a thick, bluesy voice, with just a little curl of madness in the chorus. "I'd like to go through Iceland / now," she sings, either confident, desperate, seductive or drunk. A piano plinks hauntingly in both speakers, with occasional passes by a beautifully recorded cello. The song's smeared in shadow, but there are also little flames of blue light. She's always one step away from a cabaret stage, completely lost in the song. Singing like Thalia Zedek or maybe Carla Brozulvich, she wanders in and out of the wings when it suits her, the other players taking their cues from tilts of the head, the way her hair falls over her face. [buy]

Splashdown - "Mayan Pilot". And, for those of you not so given to latenight Drambuie sipping, here's a lovely melon slice of pop - funky bass and spanish guitar. Melissa Kaplan sounds like a more restrained Nelly Furtado, nimble-voiced as she dances from lyric to lyric. The drums are just as light, a scattered dancepulse of snare and highhat. Perfect at less than three minutes, this is one of those pop hits that never was, a self-contained little world with rearing brightblue waves, an ever-assembling beach fair. Splashdown broke up after releasing the 5-song Redshift EP, so Capitol shelved their debut LP, Blueshift. Never fear! The internet being what it is, some enterprising and enthusiastic fan managed to nab a bootleg promo, and mp3s of the record are available here. Kaplan's solo project, Universal Hall Pass, has an album coming out in the fall, and you can hear her on, um, the Chronicles of Riddick soundtrack. The drummer, Kasson Crooker, plays with Freezepop. (thanks, kyree!)


Mark has posted a great, rare Dntel track over at Music for Robots, and beat me to the punch with a fun cut from the new Presidents of the United States of America album.

At Rodes's fine suggestion, I'm going to try to remember to put "gramophone" in the ID3 comments of any StG mp3s; those who are so-inclined will be able to keep track of 'em.

Cat left a comment on my Can post from last week, asking for more information on the band. I could fudge it, but are there any authorities out there who feel like dropping her/him an email? Fresh meat!

Posted by Sean at 1:36 AM | Comments (10)

August 18, 2004

livin' for the hit parade

The Legendary Jim Ruiz Group - "My Bloody Yugo". Well isn't this a funny thing. The best tagline I can come up with is "No Depression ska". Yes - it's a song with backbeat, trumpet, and a Yugo fixation. Jim Ruiz sings with a sort of wry Elvis Costello swing, and Stephanie Winter-Ruiz gives the chorus a wistful glaze. The clarinet accompaniment strips all pep from the horns, and ultimately the tune's bouncy beat - and "la la la" bits - are a comfortable incongruity: I don't I understand why such macabre lyrics would be played by a sedated Sublime, but I really don't mind. It's as if an indie country band wandered into studio, found a bunch of weird genre accoutrements (and session musicians!), and adapted their grim tune accordingly. And added a wispy chorus! And angels singing in the finale! The album has the unfortunate title of Oh Brother Where Art Thou? (and the Amazon reviews are full of folks who got the album by clueless soundtrack-seeking relatives). It comes to me via the fine Annette. [buy]

The Delgados - "Everybody Come Down". It's been a couple days, and I no longer think Universal Audio is one of the year's very very best. (The new Idaho took UA's spot on the list.) It's still good, however - a lateral move from Hate, full of unexpected melodies and big noisy choruses. "Everybody Come Down" opens with jangle guitar and everyman drums, a stroll from residential streets onto a bustling carcrash causeway. The Delgados' do chamber-pop differently than everyone else: their earliest records were pretty punk, and now - even when the production is huge, a swirl of synth and guitar and voices, - it never feels like the gloves are on. It may be good-natured and melodious, but there's always the danger of a bassline collapsing onto your head, the drum fuzz setting your speakers on fire. As the band tumbles smiling into the end of this tune, part of me can imagine them destroying their instruments, crushing them to smithereens amid a pile of petal-plucked flowers. "Everybody come down!" Emma Pollock sings, gathering an Oliver! army or grimy, earnest kids. [pre-order]


my mean magpie has an absolutely wonderful Mountain Goats mp3, called "Korean Bird Paintings". It's sweet, lovestruck, and it has a banjo. (via the essential catbirdseat)

Red Lotus Radio is new to me, and might be to you; it's a great blog with an international, folky scope. Last week was Garmarna, one of my fave nordic groups; this week, "Persian classical music." I slather with anticipation. :)

My sincerest Canadian-Scottish thanks to Adrian for the help he gave me today installing MT-Trickle. You'll all be thanking him next week (wait and see!).

Posted by Sean at 12:55 AM | Comments (2)

August 17, 2004

shipwrecks and jackboots

The Song Corporation - "The Bug Speaks". Check the squeak of guitar on this song, the dauntless whitewater flow of lyrics. It's a boat plowing headfirst into a cliff, a raincoat-clad bug at the stern, ranting into the clear day wind. I like the guitar that wanders like Miles Davis through the belowdecks - the quiet one, the one underneath the verses. Waves shove the hull, a girl's "oh-oh"s in the back, and then as things hit a crescendo the boat crumples into the rock-face, a welcome destruction. The best pop song to ever have been inspired by Hannah Arendt's "The Origins of Totalitarianism," this is democracy and its collapse - accompanied by a guitar solo. "You are not aloooone! Hit it!" Yes. From the Song Corporation's new 3-song EP.

Pure Morning - "Scum". Before Ade Blackburn and Hartley formed Clinic in 1997, their band was called Pure Morning. There was no clarinet, no surgical masks. And whereas Walking With Thee conjures up a sinister organ-grinder, a menacing grin, Two Inch Helium Buddah is more like expressionist sidewalk chalk, angry teens sketching greybrown frustration. It's a mess, really - mean boys playing Radiohead's "Just", droogs after a break-up, drunken grunge, stinging nettles under fireworks. But man, the jackhammer blossom of that electric guitar, the way the noise takes over those angry lyrics, the way it says it all so much better... Grafitti on a cloudcovered sky. [OOP, but findable]


I've fallen quite in love with "Tomorrow on the Runway," a song by the Innocence Mission, which you can download here. Bryan tells me that their 1995 album, Glow, is even better than Befriended, but I haven't heard either. All I know is that at the middle and in the end there's guitar like silver pinpricks, and the rest of the time there's Karen Peris's lavender voice, like small flowers waving in the breeze.

Posted by Sean at 12:20 AM | Comments (4)

August 16, 2004

Wolf Parade and Taiwan song

And would you look at that - Monday already.

Bunun Tribe / David Darling - "lugu lugu kan-ibi". A beautiful dawn song, twenty-three Taiwanese singers accompanied by the subtle work of cellist David Darling. This isn't a strict field recording; Darling lived with and recorded the Bunun, but later composed and performed his cello parts in studio. The result is a beautifully round piece, a circle of rich sound. On a Monday morning it's difficult to be unaffected by the community of singers, those gathered voices, and the underlying lace of Darling's plum, tender strings. When the Bunun's song returns in the last minute, it's like that warm slipslipslip back into dream, when instead of waking you can stay in that soft, happy place. (I heard this on the CMN Comp that came with Songlines magazine, but Amazon sells the album, Mudanin Kata, here. I bet it's good.)

Wolf Parade - "Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts". Lead-off track from Wolf Parade's new EP, another self-recorded collection of songs to tide us over for the Sub Pop LP in early 2005 (?). The band's pulled their shit together, however: this song is clear as glass, sharp as basalt. It opens with the clipclop of sticks and hungry ghost voices, then a bleary buzz of synths and a roll-up into soulful rock. Spencer yowls and chants, leading the march over a decaying clay floor. Drums go from clatter to clomp and back, everything setting off a dustcloud haze that stings the eyes. The "la la la"s are hysterical, the delerium of a drunk man in the smoke. Watch out for the precipice. [buy soon]

Optimus Crime reports a possible "secret" Wolf Parade show at Montreal's Le Swimming (!?) on August 25th. Consider yourselves advised.

Hot Sex Kitten is a fresh mp3blog that likes sad and angsty things (hooray!) - in many ways it's a kindred spirit to the missing (and missed) in action Listen Closer. The writing on Hot Sex Kitten is good, too, or at least the author shares my penchant for convoluted, wistful metaphor --

"This record [Karate's "'The State I'm In' aka 'Goode Buy from Cobbs Creek Park'"] makes me want to lay on my bed and stare out the window, and at the same time I?m tapping my toes and nodding my head. It?s as though the sun-dress girl wants to tell you about the special spot in her heart for Douglas Coupland; when she realizes she?s rambling she starts tickling you, and you both end up in hysterics as you wrestle around on the grass.

And before you know it you?re in love."


i am in need of a something that will allow me to stack a bunch of MT posts and post them automatically once-a-day while i'm away from the computer. this script didn't work. (fwiw, i have scripting access, but can't commandline into the server.) can anyone point me to a solution?

Posted by Sean at 12:13 AM | Comments (1)

August 13, 2004

fall on me like a domino

Bright Eyes - "I'll Be Your Friend". I was at a bar tonight and on came the Counting Crows' "Mr Jones." It's a wonderful song, and not just because of the way it sends me spiralling into nostalgia. August and Everything After, like Coldplay's Parachutes, is a critically-maligned album that I'll go swinging for. Even if both bands have long been treadmilling, hashing out the same lukewarm stuff, those debuts are chockablock with great songs, full of feeling. The schtick wasn't yet schtick, and there's bravery in the now-familiar sound.

Bright Eyes isn't the same deal. His music mostly sucks. Conor Oberst has become a poster-boy for indulgent indie nonsense; he inspired invoked the term "sadcore," and then made it a joke. In general, I'm on-side with his critics. I really liked Letting Off the Happiness, with its almost absurdist dose of grief, but I haven't enjoyed anything since (except maybe the EP before Lifted). The wailing and gnashing is beyond tired. I don't care when he releases a new record, I don't even bother to read the newsflashes on Pitchfork. His angst isn't enough to make his music matter, and he's not impressing me when he rehearses the same formula.

And yet, well, you should never write someone off. "I'll Be Your Friend" is taken from Oberst's split EP with Neva Dinova. Lyrically there's something interesting going on - a begrudging friend, leaned upon, scornful and tired but maybe a little in love. Better still, the boozy trumpets slide all the way into a 1988 bender, a mocking Perfect Strangers sax solo. The protagonist sighs and shakes his head, but the song won't let him take it too seriously; we hear the absurdity of his self-inflicted situation. The protagonist keeps his upper lip stiff, asserts his dignity - "I'll be your friend but you just haven't made me yet" - but there's no escaping the oafish bassline and smirks of horn. It's a bad scene, but he chose to wander in, to drive up in his Chevette and guide this girl through the debauched, pathetic fray. You're the pansy, kid. So laugh - at yourself, at your high, sober and gullible horse. [buy]

French Kicks - "Only So Long". Cody has been a vocal advocate for the new French Kicks album, and the band has certainly done some quite extraordinary things. Gone is the garage-rock fixation of their 2002 release; instead, Trial of the Century is richer, warmer. Less of Velvet Underground, more of The Smiths. I don't care if they're pretty or rich or cool - this is a fine song, the ticktacktoe of drums nested against a hungry rumble of electric guitar. For all the lyrics' softness, that reassuring touch of piano, there's always a return to the guitar and its precipice. That is, until the end: "Never made up my mind / never liberated / feel you coming alive / and you turn around and / wait a little bit more / I'll parade around then." And the vocals stop. That's it - no happy ending, no embrace. But the rhodes is like a dose of soma, a creepy lethargy that saps the frustration away, puts it to sleep, applies a smiling mask. 'Forget,' it seems to say. 'Lie down.' [buy]


A wonderful Dolly Parton track at Spoilt Victorian Child.

#644 has two fascinating, beautiful, strange tracks by Umka & Bronevichok, a russian acoustic guitar duo that are part Jobim, part Kings of Convenience. Light as a Soviet summertime, sweet as borscht. Recommended.

In a mere two weeks, I've heard four new albums that will likely break my top ten of the year: The Arcade Fire's Funeral (yes, like I said, more later); the Go! Team's Thunder Lightning Strike, Devendra Banhart's Nino Rojo, and now The Delgados' Universal Audio. Finally 2004 is shaping up.

Till Monday!

Posted by Sean at 2:38 AM | Comments (0)

August 12, 2004

let's rock this break

The Go! Team - "Bottle Rocket". A choice cut from The Go! Team's upcoming debut, Thunder Lightning Strike. This is a one-of-a-kind act, flashy fun and fresh, their bodacious spirit matched only by their musical panache. It's like Belle and Sebastian jamming with the Furious Five, recorders and melodica that bump like toy boats against sample-flush tunes and double-dutch raps. "Bottle Rocket" is an effervescent single that high-kicks to the sky, marching down the street with floating balloons and spinning batons. There's energy to spare, a generous joy, just the right traces of melancholy - it's a triumphant back-to-school return, dancing to your own song on the abandoned beach. One of the year's best!

Spoilt Victorian Child has some other tracks online, as does Keith. Thunder Lightning Strike will be released on September 13, one day before The Arcade Fire's Funeral hits the shelves. A good week.

Obray Ramsey - "Rain and Snow". Plucked banjo and Ramsey's puckered voice, this is bluegrass for all seasons. It snakes a narrow line between sadness and perfect contentedness, every regret washed away with a swig of resolve. Obray Ramsey makes this seem easy, words squeezed out over a dance of strings. But I wonder at it, try to imagine it in utero, before this whole and simple thing sprung out and onto record. It can't be done. I cannot believe that this was slowly composed, written verse by verse, chord by chord. No - it emerged fullgrown. It grew among berries. (Thanks, Annette!) [buy]

Does anyone know which issue of Q magazine mentions this blog? If you could leave the info in the comments, I'd appreciate it very much.

Posted by Sean at 1:06 AM | Comments (9)

August 11, 2004

sorceror's luau

Yes indeedy, so glad to be back. Thank-you again for your welcomes and hellos; a welcome and hello, too, to any who have wandered over from the Morning News Round-Table. Gape as I go kinda crazy at MB (sorry, sir), yawn as I prattle on about joy and responsibility. One thing I forgot to do was to fully annotate my comments with links. Here, then, are those missing clickies:

Cheap Thrills, Montreal's finest record shop.

Bands that are great [with links to the most relevant blog entries]: Okkervil River [1 2], The Arcade Fire [1 2 3 4], Bishop Allen [1], Wolf Parade [1], Jim Bryson [1], Greg Macpherson [1 2], Les Mouches [1].

Moving on...

Devendra Banhart - "At the Hop". A sure stand-out from the upcoming Nino Rojo. The album comes out of the same sessions at Rejoicing in the Hands, and to my great surprise, it's better still. This year, Devendra's shown a remarkable depth, a diversity of songwriting that raises him far higher than the witchy Oh My Oh My and the bulk of his freakfolk peers. Like Joanna Newsom or to a lesser extent, Sufjan Stevens, he uses this new oldtimey music to say a bunch of different things - sometimes precious, sometimes fierce. On Rejoicing there was "Autumn's Child," with its elegiac piano chords, its reverent pulse. On Nino Rojo there's the coquette "We All Know," the goofy-serene animal song "Little Yellow Spider," and then the woozy lurch of "Electric Heart." He's not just a novelty act: his recordings have breadth, are made with care. Devendra is willing to nurse a song in its nest, till the wings and teeth grow in.

"At the Hop" skips along with Banhart's queer grin, the twisty mouth that's half smile and half frown. His acoustic guitar bounces along as part of a long caravan, a journey through fields, heads poking out and hoping to see the stars. "Wrap me in your marrow / stuff me in your bones / sing a mending moan / a song to bring me home." Gayness and hope, a reassuring background sigh, the jumble of voices... it slowly dissiates, thins out, till legs are dangling out and the air is cool. [pre-order]

Andy Iona - "Naughty Hula Eyes". This tune comes courtesy of the splendiferous Tuwa. It's light, fragrant and hawaiian: an evening song for slippywalking down a dock (don't fall into the water and cut your leg!). As the uke strums, as the lap steel sings, I'm as smitten as Andy - caught by that dancer's bedroom gaze. This isn't the sound of true love, it's the sound of a dreamy holiday night, shoulders loose, when you can't help that you're smiling at her (or him). There's simply something in the air, in the way your feet are stepping to the beat. buy


Later this week, something from the excellent, one-of-a-kind album by the Go! Team.

Posted by Sean at 12:03 AM | Comments (16)

August 10, 2004

i was tired of waiting

So here we are then - one week, twenty needles and a whole lot of antibiotics later. Thank you all so very very much for the good vibes, kind words and well wishes - in the comments, by email, and elsewhere on the blogosphere (I'm looking at you, Keith). I can't tell you how my heart swelled when someone brought me a comment print-out last Wednesday, or when my acheing bones finally returned to the computer and I glanced at my email today. Your kindness and love is overwhelming; I'll do my best to return it if you ever need it. :)

Last Sunday I fell out of a canoe as I was getting into it. This is where I make excuses and try to defend my canoeing ability - it was round-bottomed! it was full of stuff! it was tied to the dock in a peculiar place! - but really what it comes down to is that there was an uh accident, I tumbled into the water, and as I scrambled to right the canoe and save my friend Lindsay from wet, the edge of the boat swung back and gashed me in the leg. It was a small but deep wound in the shin. We drove to the nearest hospital where I was x-rayed, tetanused and stitched up. The rest of the day was fine - I played Solar Quest and ate roast vegetables and experienced very little pain.

On Monday we drove back to Ottawa. And within a couple hours of being home, I fell into a fever. We drove to the hospital ("4 and a half hour wait, sir") but after hearing my symptoms was admitted immediately. What followed was an exhausting whirlwind day of swabs, injections, blood-pulls, an MRI, and at least five doctors. Until Wednesday, they feared that I was suffering from necrotizing fasciitis. Yes, uh, the "flesh-eating disease." And no, that's not a good way to start one's week.

But in the end my infection turned out to merely be a rare and frustratingly uppity breed of lake bacteria, easily squashed with the help of tons and tons of IV antibiotics. Fear of contagion, misdiagnosis or unexpected developments resulted in a seven day hospital stay: I got home this afternoon. Furthermore, I'm on this weird IV pump thing, which will be dosing me with antibiotics for another ten days.

Overall though, I'm totally fine. I've got a bunch of needle-pricks in my arms, I'm missing some hair where the nurses tore away tape, and my leg aches and lacks mobility; but frankly, those are petty worries. I have my health, my sanity; I'm alert, happy, and good-to-go. The hospital food wasn't much, but the Ontario health system treated me remarkably well. The nurses at the Ottawa Civic were all kind souls, and the doctors knew their shit. And better yet - twas all for free! Thankyou tax-payers! :)

Now then; what did I miss? The Beta Band broke up! Dizzee Rascal leaked! But what else? Let me know! Comment, email or dropload. Thank-you!


Can - "Mighty Girl". If I'm going to burst back out of the ether, what better way to do it than with this trundling, bleating, yearning, unstoppable tune. I won't claim that I would have known it, if Aurelien hadn't sent it my way. But now I do, and it's been noodling around my brain for well over a month. This is an epic jam, a pressing blue flame, electric guitar and drums that wind and weave, cresting and dissolving, all in the service of that piano line - all so that the 7:30 return is rich as a band of silver. Listen to it go! Listen to it climb! It's Rocky coming over the hill, the kids and their wagons, a sun that sets and rises and sets again, it's me bursting out of the hospital, a white gown fluttering round my bare bum. [from a Peel Session]

The Trews - "Tired of Waiting". I watched a lot of TV in the hospital. Much more TV than usual, and I got more channels. Noteworthy among these was MuchMusic - the Canadian MTV, long absent from my own abode. Since I was a little worried about theft, I didn't have my iPod or CDs with me - MuchMusic was my only source of song. So I caught up on all the new pop ("Dip It Low"'s first five seconds are fantastic, and then I'm bored; dig the Jadakiss; like the first half of the K-Os single). I gotta say, though, I'm pretty disappointed with all the second-rate pop-punk on the Canadian charts. Billy Talent oughta sit down.

And yet all was redeemed with this song by Niagara's The Trews (#20). In a lot of ways, it's a run of the mill midtempo rock single: guitars poking at each other, an over-and-over chorus that rises into a rousing group chant. But for me the song rises into the sublime with Colin MacDonald's outstanding vocals. At first he sounds like a ruffled Ontario Michael Stipe, or maybe Adam Duritz with his belt loosened. But the way MacDonald plays with his vocals, approaching the silly chorus from different sides, twisting the lyrics round in his hands - it's wonderful. He pulls real golden soul out of those five words, stretches the yearning like taffy. It's almost disappointing when the crowd sidesteps on board, when the backup vocals rise up and cloudcover his sky. Sure, there's some majesty in those rolling white clouds, but I liked it when his voice was stabbing down in clear bands of yellow light, crying and asking and pushing on like Van Morrison on the Liffey. [buy]

Posted by Sean at 12:30 AM | Comments (31)

August 3, 2004

Oopsy daisy

Hi folks.

Unfortunately my weekend of cottage-dwelling relaxation came to an abrupt end when I had an undesired canoe-tipping/cutting episode. I am okay, but it looks like I will be in hospital until the end of the week, while they look after an infected wound. Hopefully I'll be in tip-top shape ASAP. In the meantime browse the side bar and listen to good music!

I'll get my sister to post another updated when there is more news.

(The doctors do think I will be okay, but the antibiotics need a few days)

Posted by Sean at 9:26 PM | Comments (44)