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.

September 30, 2004

Everything That Rises Must Converge

Sam Prekop - "On Such Favors"

What is this song about? My powers of interpretation (which, frankly, I had believed to be considerable) were shown to be feeble in the face of the obscurity of Prekop's song.

Is it about apathy? About having a gift and not wanting to use it? Is it about the road to hell being paved with good intentions? About social disease?

I don't know.

Sometimes, though, I've been up at night when everyone else in the world is sleeping (I know, it's surprising) and the song has meant something to me. I have known that it's true.

The words, the warmth of the guitar, the fragile harmonies, and above all, the tom hits (here's a drummer who knows how to tune his drums! He knows melody!). The song is simple; it never opens up. It's private; not for us. It comes in unassumingly and is gently ushered out by the high hat (are the cymbals made of brushes?).

It should be noted that this song is voodoo. Whatever favours Prekop believes should be rained on, my attempts at writing about "On Such Favours" were repeatedly poured upon. This morning, I left the cd in a computer lab at school and then had to convince a curmudgeonly (model-like) lady to give it back to me (she hated me). And then I missed my bus and was forced to sit around moping for twenty minutes and now it's quarter to one in the morning. So, I don't know, but... [Buy]


Young Marble Giants - "Brand-New Life"

This song was recorded in the Young Marble Giants' living room.

Two of the band members are brothers (as I am your brother (except more consanguineal)).

"Brand-New Life" was later rerecorded as "Brand-New-Life" and released on the YMG's only official album, Colossal Youth.

It's about pain and loss.

That's all you're getting. [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 1:42 AM | Comments (15)

September 28, 2004

Rilo and Chuck

Rilo Kiley - "Go Ahead"

"Go Ahead" is a brave face. Wide open eyes and twisted mouth. At first we're met with crisp, jaunty finger-picking and a courageous voice. She wants no longer to have to put up with the vacillations and threats, inconsistent love and chimerical stability. She seems confident, the keyboard backing her up. But then, something happens. A window opens - the sound is soft and tender - and she admits that if he (or she) wants to stay and settle down, she would like that too (especially, it seems).

Then she gets mad again, I think. I hope, for her sake, that she is being sarcastic when she sings "if you want to have your cake and eat it too, and if you want to have other people watch you while you eat it, go ahead." Because the frightening truth is that sometimes we are alienated from ourselves by the strength of our love, and so we become compromised into impossible situations.

This song either comes from within or from just beyond one of those situations. [Buy]


Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

- Walt Whitman

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Charles Ives - "Song Without (Good) Words"

Charles Ives was the great American Transcendentalist composer - the musical counterpart of Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. It is no surprise then, that Ives favoured repetition and contradiction in his work.

"Song Without (Good) Words" is a slow motion rainstorm. It is at the same time airy and violent, exquisitely consonant and jarringly dissonant. The staggered pacing and the epiphanic unveiling of its unpredictable course add a sublime beauty.

Of course, the song is not only without good lyrics, but also without a human language with words to express its meaning. [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 10:34 PM | Comments (5)

September 27, 2004

To Do And Not To Do

Galaxie 500 - "Strange"

Do you get the sense, like I do, that this song was recorded in a really tiny room; the three members of Galaxie 500 squished together, struggling, for lack of space, to move their hands, their fingers, their feet, to nod their heads?

How can something so standardly composed (G, D, and A minor, over and over again) - and without any instrumental virtuosity in its execution - sound so completely original? It's more than that rattly cymbal and it's more than the reverb soaked vocal performance.

This song is about alienation. About having been in your room for two days, reading and talking to yourself, and finally going outside where you're met with the bizarre, incomprehensible world. "Strange" sounds original because it manages to speak across time (1989 (could you tell?)) and place, from one inaccessible island to another. From their small self-contained solitude (world) to ours.

"Isn't it strange out there?"
"Yes. Thank you for noticing."

It should be noted that this Galaxie 500 is not the same as
the contemporary Quebec band of the same name. It should also be noted that if you're in the process of coming up with a band name, names which have been taken by famous and great bands (The Beatles, etc.) should not be considered. [Buy]


Ornette Coleman - "Lonely Woman"

Is "Lonely Woman" like a Virginia Woolf novel


After a few false starts the bass settles into a stilted, crying lament. The drums push it forward "c'mon, we hafta keep moving." But the bass's pain is unfolded and expanded by Coleman's sax and Cherry's trumpet. Harmonic complexity is displaced by melodic clarity. Coleman breaks free of Cherry and into a raunchy blues. Cherry likes this wallowing indulgence and lets out a "woo". This dispirits the drums. They slow down, "Ok. If it's too hard we can stop for just one moment. But we have our duties and we must carry on."

"Lonely Woman" is an internal struggle. It's a brief, self- indulgent escape from life. It simultaneously wants to push forward and to stop and feel sorry for itself. And when at the end of the song, the bass reaches the end of its sniffling rise and falls back down to its cadence, we get a sense of resolution and finally, reconciliation to carry on. [Buy]


Tomorrow: something (really) old and something (relatively) new (somewhat borrowed and a little bit blue).

Posted by Jordan at 8:05 PM | Comments (0)

September 24, 2004

Sapped and Sappy

Tim Buckley - "Once I Was"

It's not always time for a strummed acoustic guitar and a pretty voice. Generally, I think, it's best to avoid such stuff. So, why then is this song (strummed 12-string and perspicuous voice) any different?

For many of us, when we fall in love, we convince ourselves that the love that came before was somehow less real, so that we can justify the current love as of a higher order, more meaningful.

"Soon there'll be another, to tell you I was just a lie."

Buckley captures (correct me if I'm wrong) a universal moment of recognition in a dying love relationship. That moment when we have to gather up and justify our feelings. Why has this been so important? Have I been as important to her as she has been to me? Does the fact that the feeling fades diminish or invalidate it?

We want the simply strummed, slightly phased guitar and crystal voice because we want to see through it to that moment in our life, when, still in love, we realized that we soon would not be, and feeling ridiculous, hoped that our feelings were not insignificant or impermanent. That maybe there was some way to hold on. [Buy]


Television - "Marquee Moon"

Chalk full of huge guitar talent, Television were like The Yardbirds of the CBGB?s scene.

Three things I love about this song:

1) The production - Everything Verlaine (Television?s frontman, guitarist and co-producer, as well as Arthur Rimbaud?s lover (?)) sings lingers just a moment and then evaporates into the heavy background (tightly distorted guitars, crisp drums, tubby bass).

2) The solo - It starts off like a quarter-speed Lou Reed subway solo and then turns lyrical. The band lays back, probably with nods of understated appreciation.

3) The length - Sure, I like a song that leaves you wanting more as much as the next guy. But "Marquee Moon" leaves you just as you don?t want any more, but before you?re bored. It has an indulgent length. The band knows they're on to something good and they don?t want to let it go. At one point the song stops and maybe the drummer gets up and the guitarists undo their straps, but then they look at each other, and they smile. The drummer sits down and starts playing. The guitars converse, the bass agrees.

I agree. [Buy]


I?ve survived my first week. Barely. Sean clearly has a strong constitution and I am weak. But, fuck, it?s been fun. Any general comments? Words of advice?

Posted by Jordan at 10:03 PM | Comments (20)

September 23, 2004

A Song For One and A Song For Two, Too

John Fahey - "When The Springtime Comes Again"

John Fahey's project was not to unite classical guitar playing with American roots music, rather, that union was one of many ingenious tools he devised in his tireless and brave efforts to realize and perfect his own unique aesthetic.

Fahey started recording music near the end of John Coltrane's life, and, perhaps, there was a cosmic purpose for that. Most restless artists are untrustworthy; they'll take as many steps in the wrong direction as in the right one. But Fahey, like Coltrane, pushed, approached from different angles, increasingly oblique angles, but always successfully, without exception, brilliantly. Don't be afraid of a John Fahey Christmas album. Listen to it. He knows what is good in a very deep way.

"When The Springtime Comes Again" is simultaneously a Bach Concerto, a Joplin rag, and a Spanish folk song. But it transcends all classification when, at 2:33, (the bass note missed slightly) the mist clears away and we're left with a bright cold day. What was merely lovely and impressive starts to ache. His syncopated playing presents a question. What now? This is what we've been waiting for, but what now? The question is repeated until it becomes its own answer, until it is no longer asked, but asserted confidently. And then we start again. It is the springtime after all, and what should we do in the springtime, if not start again. [Buy]


Al Green - "Simply Beautiful"

Shhh. All right.

"Simply Beautiful" is an unfocussed, unstructured self-directed monologue on love. Green is organizing his thoughts, getting ready to discuss his situation, maybe call his girl, maybe write a song about it. His attempts at expressing his feelings in words are abortive, he often resorts to 'mmm's and 'aaah's, 'baby'. His words fail him again and again:

"What about the way you love me and... the way you love me"

"When you get right down to it..."

What? He doesn't know. There are no words.

Finally, he's so emotional, so overcome by the power of his love that he's ready to talk, ready for his song to start. He squeals, "When you feel the love..." (the drums come in (you thought the song was over, but it's just beginning)) "all you've got to do is call me."

"There are so many good things I could say about you, girl. I could say that you really, really..."

And he's said it all. [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 10:38 PM | Comments (12)

September 22, 2004

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

Genesis - "Back In New York City"

I'm not going to claim that Genesis is a popular band, or that the majority (or a large minority, for that matter) of you will like this song, but can we all please set aside our petty biases and misguided opinions for one moment and admit that this shit is objectively awesome.

The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway is a concept double album chronicling a young man's search for self (the plot is a bizarre, semi-religious contrivance, peripherally involving Marshall McLuhan). In this installment, the protagonist gets involved in a gang and explores the seedy underbelly of New York City. He then - and this is to be taken literally - cuddles a porcupine to sleep while lamenting that his hairy heart is getting in the way of his romantic pursuits. You will be relieved to find out that, over the course of the next two songs, his heart is removed, shaved and replaced and, consequently, he is able to (and with panache) lose his virginity.

O.K., so that's ridiculous. But they really mean it, and they sure can play. Peter Gabriel sings with a growl, the vitality of violent youth. Tony Banks (keyboards) and Phil Collins (drums (Phil Collins!)) propel, stop, backtrack, change often and without warning. In high school, my friends and I would drive around listening to this album, embarrassingly playing air-keyboards every time Banks let loose (have I said too much?).

Genesis, while adhering to every laughable prog stereotype (epic songs, wild time signatures, general showing off, magical and otherworldly subject matter (wizards, enchanted forests, special doctors, etc.)), manage to do so while still making actual a unique and integral artistic vision. Feeling skeptical? I myself am dubious. But does my bravado shake your confidence? I need only reach one uninitiated soul. [Buy]


Destroyer - "I Want This Cyclops"

This song contains the word 'cyclops' as well as the word 'sasquatch'. "What could be bad?," as my grandmother used to say.

"I Want This Cyclops" is a lazy, distracted walk away from the listener. The vocal and snare drum look back over their shoulders, whispering to us, increasingly insistent, ?imagine it?. Until they finally turn away for good and the eager but narcoleptic horns take over.

I picture a field and heavy flannel, a three sided barn, but I don?t require you to think of the same things. Think what you want.

Does this song make you like me again? [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 9:44 PM | Comments (24)

September 21, 2004

The Love Song

John Coltrane - "Acknowledgment (A Love Supreme)"

During the year 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life. At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music. I feel this has been granted through His grace. - From the liner notes

"Acknowledgment" is a description of Coltrane's "spiritual awakening". At first there is serenity; simply an acknowledgment of newness. And then the substance of the realization is hinted at by Jimmy Garrison's bass line. Elvin Jones surrounds the band with his ride cymbal and snare, and gets under them with his toms and bass drum. Coltrane's playing is too bright for McCoy Tyner, so he looks away, occasionally turning back towards the piano to throw in his delicately timed and harmonically complex chords. Coltrane hurts, but blows through it, occasionally overblowing slightly, losing control. And then he puts into words what Garrison's been steadfastly playing throughout, that this is a love supreme.

Even more than a love song to god, A Love Supreme is also a tribute to music's capacity to express that love. [Buy]


John Ellison - "Lost The Will To Live"

This is a different kind of love song and a classic of Philadelphia soul. Ellison?s lyrics are an unabashed testament to the destructive power of love lost. Since his girlfriend left him, he?s stopped eating, he can?t go outside for fear of a public outburst of weeping, and he is utterly convinced that he will be ?taken away? (to an asylum?). He can?t even make it through the song without breaking down and crying in harmony with the organ , begging alongside the desperate guitar.

The horn section, like those two bad dudes from the Muppet Show peanut gallery, comments throughout: ?It?s true. He?s in real bad shape.?

Take joy in his suffering. [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 11:36 PM | Comments (10)

September 20, 2004

Talking Heads and Wooden Stars

I'm Jordan Himelfarb and I will be taking care of Said The Gramophone for the next several months.

Is everything working?

Sean had to teach me how to use a computer last week, so that I would be able to do this. I don't want to speak for Sean, but I think it's safe to say that we were both shocked by my general ineptitude in the operation of the ordinateur.

If anyone notices any technical problems, please let me know and I will have one of my many capable friends (Dan Beirne) fix it.

There is also another area in which I hope that you, Sean's readers, will help me. Over the course of this week I'm going to post ten songs which hopefully will communicate my background as a music listener and the breadth of my taste. You might notice two things:

1) That it seems that many of these songs are not commiserate with Sean's taste; and
2) That most of these songs are old.

After this week I plan to keep as in line as possible with what I think Sean would like, while still only writing about songs I love. I also plan to post as many new songs as old ones, and it is in this respect that I hope you will help. I know significantly less contemporary music than Sean does and most new artists who excite me, I either found out about through (Joanna Newsom) or love slightly less than (The Arcade Fire) Sean. So, if you would like to hear more contemporary indie rock and less free-jazz and prog-rock, then I urge you to send me good songs. I'm excited about this aspect of the job, for despite my various incompetencies and lacunas of knowledge, I do love music. I spend a good part of my days playing, listening to, thinking and writing about music.

Talking Heads - "Stay Hungry"

Last night I dreamt that my friend Zach was telling me that the lyrics I write are "moronic." He used that word. It cut real deep. In my elaborate (and highly articulate) defence I referred to the lyrics of David Byrne and the power of this invocation was such that Zach immediately abandoned his position and my words were vindicated. Byrne's lyrics, grounded in mundane everyday life, obliquely hint at something more. Even if we can't agree on an interpretation, we all feel it (don't we?).

Stay Hungry may be more disco than is representative of the Talking Heads' oeuvre, but when, at 1:56, Brian Eno's impressionistic keyboard line emerges from the dueling disco guitars, it brings with it a perfect example of an obscure Byrne lyric. My friend Joel (typically)
is convinced the song is about sex.

Here's that rhythm again
Here's my shoulder blade
Here's the sound I made
Here's the picture I saved

Like a strobe lit memory of a sexual encounter. He actually seems kind of bashful about the picture he saved. [buy]

Wooden Stars - "Baby Barn"

If at first you think Baby Barn is ugly, listen closer. The verse is taut contained energy with electric guitars providing a clunky metallic framework busting open suddenly into the quickly ascending, surprisingly tender and even more surprisingly catchy chorus.

This song is from the Wooden Stars' first album, The Very Same. Though possibly harder to get into than subsequent albums, their debut is their most rewarding. Throughout The Very Same, the Stars do what they do best; berate us with an onslaught of nearly falling apart instruments and clumsy words and just when we're most confused, they reveal the answer which was submerged just beneath the surface the whole time: a gossamer image ("I can see your breath") and a clear melody.

Notably, I think they were, like, six years old when they recorded this (or, at least really young), adding a certain precocity to their question "How can I reconcile myself to die?" [order from label]

I, like the rest of you, will be missing Sean's writing and sage advice. I hope to provide something of the same service. Any advice at all would be much appreciated.

I would also like to thank Sean for this opportunity. In addition to having had the pleasure of reading his writing every day, I've been lucky enough to have him as a friend and worthy Scrabble opponent. Both he and his trusty traveling companion will be missed.

Posted by Jordan at 9:29 PM | Comments (12)

September 19, 2004


This is a special weekend edition of Said the Gramophone. It's long, but there are four whole songs to be heard.


So here we are. About eighteen months ago, I started writing StG. In my second post I insulted Pitchfork and talked about Purim. In my fifth I mentioned the Arcade Fire. Barroso's "Brazil" comes up in post number nine. Said the Gramophone's not been a mirror for me, but it's certainly been a portrait - there's a lot of me in the writing, and more still in the music I've been posting since we "went mp3" in November 2003.

Now, I'm off for a four-month European galavant. If all goes according to plan, that will become an indefinite-length European residency. I'll be away from here for a while, but if I can, I intend to return. So please don't go away.

Furthermore, as I've said, Said the Gramophone is not going off the air. Replacing me during my trip is the wise Jordan Himelfarb - musician, philosopher, wit. I will let him introduce himself, but I promise you that you will not be disappointed.

I'd like to thank all of my readers for their attention, their dedication, and their extraordinary kindness. I throw words at the blog like paint at a canvas, hoping that a likeness or two will stick; it's been endlessly rewarding to know that a few of these images have made an impression. I appreciate the comments and criticism, the songs you've sent, the little notes that say "this song does sound like rootbeer at a picnic after you break up with your girlfriend!" I thank the skies for the people I've met, and for the feeling that I am listening to music with friends. It's been a pleasure sharing things with you, knowing that because of Said the Gramophone CDs are being bought and shows are being attended. Please keep listening - to everything.

Special thanks to: Steve, John, Keith, Cody, Tuwa, Liz, Dave, Howard, Adrian, Annette, Mark, Benjamen, Brad, mr g, bmr, Gretchen, Chryde, Aaron, Adam, Dana, my real-life pals (especially andrea, dan, monica, andrew, miri, robin, and my dear mum & dad), and the cavalcades of others whose names will doubtless come to me a few days from now, while en route across the Atlantic.

If you'd like to keep in touch as I travel, you can write me at sean [dot] michaels [at] gmail [dot] com.

Jordan's Said the Gramophone starts this week. Please welcome him with wide arms; I suspect he's nervous. :)


Some songs.

First, I will end by sharing some of that which which I began. The following are respectively the fifth and fourth songs posted to Said the Gramophone.

The Frames - "Lay Me Down". "II/XV" (below) is barren; "Lay Me Down" is luscious. Glen Hansard moves calmly toward death (toward love?), voice gliding between the shudder and thump of drums. A banjo flickers like soul in my veins, a fiddle dips and soars like a heart in my chest. Nothing "folksy" about this, though - it's almost baroque in its form, in its careful gestures. I love the way it ends: it doesn't explode or implode or burst... it just stops. Steve Albini's masterful production - from the blush of harmonica to the ting of a cymbal.

I like a lot of ugly songs, but "Lay Me Down" is one that's absolutely beautiful. It's such a pleasure as it fills my ears, so rich, flush and lovely. I'm a Canadian-Scot, but these Irishmen impress me to no end; there's only a bare handful of artists with three songs in my favourite hundred - people like The Beatles, Cat Power, Tom Waits and Radiohead, - but The Frames carry just such a crown. (The songs in question are "Lay Me Down," "Seven Day Mile," and "What Happens When the Heart Just Stops".) Their new album is out now. And when I visit Ireland, I will buy it. [buy 2001's For the Birds]

The Marquis de Tren and Bonnie Prince Billy - "II/XV". I don't usually feel odd talking about a song. Songs are sound - they're snatches of melody and harmony and words, ideas rattling in a pouch. Throw in another idea (a cockamamie expressionist analogy, say, or a "this makes me feel like...") and nothing's lost. There's simply another idea in there, knocking against the others. The song might change, but hopefully it's just another tone you hear, a new rhythm that you could follow to its completion.

I sort of feel different about "II/XV". I feel like a new rhythm might upset the old one, that it might make that first perfect thing harder to hear. Like static on a NASA radio, chopping up an astronaut's goodbye. So I'll be careful.

This is one of the most serious songs I own. It doesn't feel so serious - it lacks the gravitas of Cohen or Cave or Conor - but the lightness of Oldham's voice is misleading. He sings like these are casual observations, slow stoned thoughts.

If you listen, though (and this is a song where the lyrics must be listened to), they're not. They're not casual, they're not stoned. They're delicate, purposeful, invested with a whole heart. (I don't mean 'delicate' like filigree, or rosepetals. I mean 'delicate' like skin that could easily bruise.) A human being's bare hopes, awkward and simple and so important. Vulnerable, above all else. They're laid out with weird sounds, and at any time, someone could laugh. Someone could mock or snort or roll their eyes.

But the bravest thing, the most awful and wonderful thing, is that someone does roll their eyes. Someone does mock or snort, or turn away. And it's at the center of the song.

I'll never know why Will Oldham decided to do write and sing this song. Why he made it into something so beautiful, not a self-deprecating dirge. I'll never know what Mick Turner (of the Dirty Three, and aka The Marquis de Tren,) thought. Whether he was nervous in the studio, growing guitar sounds like soft green plants. Whether the two looked at each-other during the recording.

Everyone will have to deal with hurt. "II/XV" is the way I hope one day to be able to bear it. It's music of devastating loss and fragile serenity; music of pain and beauty, self and nothing. Like Gillian Welch's "I Dream a Highway," I imagine it as the sound or nirvana.


Next, some things I've never shared, and which you doubtless know, but about which I thought, as part of this farewell, I ought to make sure.

Van Morrison - "Astral Weeks". Astral Weeks, released in 1968, is one of the greatest works of music ever recorded. I first heard it when we were crowded around my house's living-room, on one of those first nights in Montreal. We had a discman on the floor, two little computer speakers beside it. These were people I had only just met - sudden friends drawn from Ottawa and Italy and Montreal and Virginia. Every moment felt new, felt special. A hormone high ("home on high"?) as we played records for each other, trying to explain the stars we saw in our special songs, trying to describe the magic of Gomez's dock smoke, the majesty of a Puccini aria. Maya put on "Astral Weeks." None of us were thrilled at the idea of Van "Moon Dance" Morrison, nor by the CD's goofy 1960s cover. But it opened as it does, like we're coming into something a few seconds late, and as soon as the strings shivered to life - well, I was struck. My desperate desire to play more for my friends, to share more of my favourite songs, disappeared. All I wanted to hear was the rough lilt of Van Morrison's maniac voice, the other instruments' crazy swooning seriousness. Van sings like a maniac, like a poet who's so excited he can hardly talk - he can only sing. The spirit of it is big and bold and brave and loud, and good! "Standing in your sad arrest / trying to do my very best." Reading the finest bits of James Joyce, I think only of Astral Weeks - the "slipstream" of words and the breathless wonder of life, the yeses that close Ulysses and the epiphanies of Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. And the other musicians! I was in such awe when I learned J's step-dad is Warren Smith, percussionist. Listen to that jazz, the wistful humanity of it. The bass, violin, flute, guitar and percussion are separate but united, amazing talents, fluttering brilliant accidents that make you believe in god or humanity - marvels of coincidence and human fellowship. How can something like Astral Weeks happen? How can it just happen!? Who could compose this? Who could improvise it? It's like a sky that grabs you at that perfect moment, the synchronicity of senses that makes you catch your breath. A song that takes "the dust of familiarity off ... [that makes] it feel new, rich, full of possibility, like I could walk up it and do something different for a change". Most of the album is like this - beautiful words painted in smokeplumes across an enormous sky, messages you look up and notice and which make your day something different. "Astral Weeks" is a joy, "Madame George" is a wonder, and "Sweet Thing" is something so special you don't give it to just everyone. Astral Weeks is an album for when feeling conclusions become breathless beginnings, for when the world blinks and we're "born again" and all roads lie open. "And I'm pushin' on the door." [buy]


Finally (it is finally, isn't it?)

Glenn Gould - "Aria da Capo," from the Goldberg Variations, by J.S. Bach. For the last ten nights, after turning off all the lights, I have sat in bed, stared into the dark, and listened to this piece. The "Aria" is not, like several of the other Variations, particularly complex or technically difficult. It's not that I need multiple listens to figure it out, or to follow the different melodic lines. No - what keeps me coming back is the grace of it. Bach and Gould present something unsettling, unhappy, and then work it through. The struggle is note-perfect, and so beautiful you might not notice it at all. But it's there: In the way some notes hold back, or the way Gould holds on to particular chords.

I was talking with Jordan once about love and happiness... That no matter what you want to feel, no matter what you think you should feel, all that matters is what you do feel. You'll twist yourself into psychic knots, pushing toward the truth you prefer. You'll twist, tear, and break.

But we tread these difficult paths all the same. We ask hard questions: How do you find beauty in the inevitable? How do you be good, and honest? How do you be happy, and true? How do you reconcile the desire to stay, and the need to go?

I find some answers here.

I'm projecting, certainly, as I draw comfort from the notes, reverberations and silences. Some of me is casting a shadow over the song. I'm informing the way I hear Glenn Gould, hear his hums and murmurs in the background, his instant decisions to sound, hold or withdraw a note. But that will always be the way, and it's no use fighting it. The listener takes from songs, and so too does he give. I needn't be embarassed - only aware. And if I find serenity in this music, if my melancholy finds answer and rest, neither Gould nor Bach would resent me. No; I think they sought the same things. And I thank them.

Incidentally, thank you all, as well.

Glenn Gould recorded the Goldberg Variations twice. In 1955, when he was 23, and again in 1981. This is taken from the latter, recorded eighteen months before he died. [buy both]


"And as you leave, the room is filled with music, laughing, music,
dancing, music all around the room
And all the little boys come around, walking away from it all
So cold
And as you're about to leave
She jumps up and says Hey love, you forgot your gloves."

a la prochaine.

Posted by Sean at 5:37 PM | Comments (28)

September 17, 2004

t minus one

Saturday Looks Good To Me - "Lift Me Up". Coffee-cup dance-in-socks bob-your-head-and-talk-to-the-kitten. SLGTM busts out the motown bassline and the cheer of an organ; listen as hands clap, as she sings at herself, as the guitar jangles in the right channel, as the trumpet waves like Belle & Sebastian from a window. Better yet, listen to the harp - seriously, it's killer! It's drizzled like honey over the end of the song, beautiful and giddy. The Lucksmiths in a big studio, The Diskettes on speed. Zip! [buy]

The Apostle of Hustle - "Sleepwalking Ballad". Andrew Whiteman is a big chunk of Broken Social Scene, and wouldn't ya know it, there's a big chunk of Broken Social Scene in his solo project, Apostle of Hustle. Which is fine by me, because Folkloric Feel took all the right bits: murmured vocals, breath and breadth, folkie earnesty and a rock'n'roll spirit. Better yet, there's something familiar in the broken blazes of guitar and drums - Whiteman enlisted Dave Newfeld to produce. Newfeld's the guy who did You Forgot It In People, and if you ask me, he deserves half the credit.

So "Sleepwalking Ballad" is big and wide, with canyons and rivers and cloudy peaks. It begins with Whiteman masked and vocoded, sipping a drink. Whirls build in the wings, guitars arrow in and then go away. "I went in to the wrong house last night / and I crawled in to the wrong bed." Things go quiet - one channel stumbles, falls back, shuffles forward. Noise clutters the soundstage, the corners building with artifacts (old wine glasses, new chandeliers, oversized bowler hats, blinking motherboards). Sounds are pulled out of trenches, cast over the tune like a grey tarpaulin. There are emotions you didn't know were there, hiding in the harmonics, waiting for openings to dive through and snap. There's a wheeze and a moan and a storm and then "dit dit dit" we're done. Utterly brilliant. [buy]


Stay tuned for an extra post this weekend (with mp3s!) -- i will be bidding you all a temporary adieu. Nostalgia, tears and rambling are planned.

Posted by Sean at 12:30 AM | Comments (6)

September 16, 2004

one week till my flight

Systems Officer - "Hael". Ah - this is more like it. Since Pinback's new EP is all spread out and cool, Systems Officer will take the band's place; here are those reassuring curls of electric guitar, winding and weaving, the sigh-call-echo of voices. It's the project of "Armistead Burwell Smith IV (aka "Zach")", a Pinback member and former Three Mile Pilot guy. "Hael" spreads wings and then furls them again - it makes hesitation seem so sweet, makes purgatory sound so natural. Although the song opens with moody Coldplay piano, that's soon superseded. This is about warmth and reassurance; no dramatics. (thankee monica) [buy]

Declan O'Rourke - "Your World". This songwriter has a debut just around the bend, but "Your World" is taken Other Voices: Songs From a Room, a comp of up-and-coming irish talent. Declan's a guy-with-guitar, but this is big and loose, a fullhearted song that doesn't skulk in the bushes. It's so bold, so pushy; the lover who strides into the cafe, singing out his soul, nary a care for the strangers who titter - only for the one he wants to pay attention. The rhymes aren't trite, they're merely earnest. What's a boy to do!? [buy]


I was gonna post The Concretes' "Seems Fine", off the comp that came in the mail - but The Big Ticket beat me to it. It's a wonderful tune, and I'm so glad that he agrees. :)

Posted by Sean at 12:30 AM | Comments (5)

September 15, 2004

travis and abigail

Travis Morrison - "My Two Front Teeth, Parts 2 and 3". When I saw Dismemberment Plan in Montreal a couple of years ago, Travis Morrison was a maniac. He gnawed on his microphone, climbed the wall, spazzed and grimaced and then sang dead-serious choruses. Since the band's break-up last year, Morrison's attention-grabbing behaviour has continued - contrary to the stock indie rock position, he supported the Iraq war. To the horror of hipsters, he also recorded a cover of Ludacris's "What's Your Fantasy".

But on Travistan, which is due out on Barsuk at the end of September, Morrison's not exactly ca-ray-zee. Sure, he takes potshots at Che Guevara, but, uh, yawn. And where the Plan sounded lurching and kinda punk, Morrison solo is much more pop. Like John Vanderslice or maybe an american A.C. Newman. Heck, Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla produces (along with Don Zientara).

But even if Travistan's not Emergency & I redux, it's good! "My Two Front Teeth" is a full, happy-dark pop-rock tune - looping guitar that goes cosmic by the end. At fifty-three seconds there's terrific, crusty drums, and soon after things bustle up to full driving speed. A synth cowbell knocks at Travis's knees. When the piano comes in I think of Charlie Brown at age 17, Good-Griefing with patches on his surplus jacket. Travis gets beat up "in front of the Gap," he hunts for his teeth, he looks "like Gordie Howe." And then of course there's the last minutes' echoing jazzy sweep, crest after crest of vocals. "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth." Serious goofiness.

Abigail Lapell - "Waking up in Boston". A song like a freshly-healed wound: tender, strange, smooth to the touch. I've written about Abigail before -- she's a Montreal songwriter, and this is from her new CD (which doesn't seem to be available on the net). I like this song very, very much. The guitar is a nagging thought, simple and electric. She sings like a lilting dark line - beautiful, sad. "I want to be alone / all alone / in the town where I was born." A sombre plea, and yet a happy one - the lift of major chords, the subtle appearance of a smile. Two and a half minutes of transporting sound, a postcard photograph of pavement, smoke, a woman in black. [buy]


I am so delighted that Tuwa has started his own mp3blog -- Tuwa's Shanty. He's passed me so many good songs over the past months - from Beyonce to bluegrass - and I've shared several of them on this blog. The best thing about Tuwa - and what makes his internet debut so great - is that when he hears a wonderful song, he recognizes its beauty. His taste is sharp as a chisel, and it could carve out a big ole' smiling face. Go get that Taj Mahal song immediately.

Tikun Olam has recently started musicblogging, adding downloadable mp3 and wma files to its profiles of folk and world-music icons.

Posted by Sean at 12:30 AM | Comments (6)

September 14, 2004

communist children

Ed Harcourt - "Something to Live For". A song of tenderness and love, one that is scratchy sad and blooming glad. It's about the beating heart that terrifies and excites, the scary tremble of new love, the fear of a dawn after which it will all be over. Everything breaks, Harcourt knows, but maybe this won't! Maybe! His voice is worn out, but he tries his best as his organ breathes; as his organ dies. It's a sweet thing that he needs to sing now; he needs to pump the pedal and say the words while they're hanging so clear (like cut-out felt hearts) in his mind. From the upcoming Strangers, which is the best thing he's done.

Richard Thompson - "1952 Vincent Black Lightning". A (the?) classic Thompson track - his bleating full voice and the astounding play of fingers on acoustic guitar. They're vocals that shake you with every phrase, that demand to be loved or loathed, cheered on or rejected outright. He sings like a puppet preacher, an off-key shepherd who tells the best stories on the island. He sings with lilt and pride. The Mountain Goats before The Mountain Goats - a song of death, love and a motorcycle.

The Pitchfork review of the Arcade Fire's Funeral is not very good - disengaged, worked over, - but Moore's right when he writes that the album evokes "childlike mystification, but also the impending coldness of maturity." He's also right that it's a 9.7. You should buy it.

Posted by Sean at 3:45 AM | Comments (0)

September 13, 2004

monday hurry

in the midst of a whirlwind trip to montreal; will have to make this quick.

Gareth Auden-Hole - "Angelina". A beautiful song from this Ottawa-Toronto songwriter, who has yet to release his first record. He sings like a lugubrious Danny Michel; his jaunty guitar plays wonderfully against the slow sighing pulse of the song. Guitars crack and stream, like too many sunbeams through a window. I love the happysad of the song, the way two futures coexist - 'It's over this time.' and 'Does it have to be?"

The Avett Brothers - "At the Beach". A melody too catchy for its own good, an energy to carefree-frantic for a holiday. Loose and jumbly guitars, whistle solos, a punk-pop enthusiasm mixed into a barrel of bluegrass. Like that White Hassle song, only more dirt roads in place of pavement. "We're dancin' / dancin' / dancin' with no music." Clem Snide having fun, Okkervil River after a handful of funnypills. [Thank-you, Brad!]


The Arcade Fire's Funeral scores a 9.7 from Pitchfork. This is good news. Unfortunately, Dan and Monica's internet seems unable to resolve the URL, and I have yet to see the review.

Posted by Sean at 12:50 PM | Comments (4)

September 10, 2004

labour-day sunshine

A Whisper in the Noise - "Silence". This is a dark one. Not sure why I picked it... Perhaps it's all the rain. Or maybe Napoleon Dynamite turned me goth. Regardless, let's look at the components: 1) radio static; 2) hauntedhouse pizzicatto strings; 3) affable horns; 4) a ghostly latin choir; 5) parched alt-rock vocals. Oh yes, and then heavy piano footsteps, branch-cracking drums. This wouldn't be out of place on Clint Mansell's Requiem for a Dream soundtrack, nor would I have been surprised to hear a Trent Reznor connection. But there isn't one. A Whisper in the Noise is from Minneapolis and Steve Albini is manning the boards. It's a song that dredges things up from the well and then holds them into the light. Dogs barking in a rainsoaked park, glowing eyes in the ruins of churches. Fear without claustrophobia. (From 2002's Through the Ides of March.) [buy]

Thalia Zedek - "Evil Hand". With October will come the release of Thalia Zedek's new record, Trust Not Those In Whom Without Some Touch of Madness. It was recorded in Montreal (on entirely analog equipment), and I can't help but feel it carries some of that city with it. There's a thickness to "Evil Hand," a depth to the smoke. Perhaps it's the way the drums smash - loud - over the weave of violin. Or the way Zedek never really stops singing. But I remember cool, wet nights in Montreal, walking down St-Laurent at 3am, streetlight glare and the rattlespray of an occasional car. Abandoned, and yet with all that wide city on either side: east and west and north, houses for as far as you could walk. Homes. Zedek's been recording for twenty years - with Live Skull, Come, and on her own. Her delivery carries the weight of years and pushes past it. She glances at the night and then strides boldly into it. She snuffs out candles and lights whole torches. It's the widowed Courtney Love, singing at a gypsy dive. [buy later]


As part of a project asking various (mostly Italian) people about their "5 easy pieces," 5 pezzi facili has my "five most relevant songs." Although the bands are all acts I've written about before, - The Beatles, Julie Doiron, Wilco, The Arcade Fire, Gillian Welch, - I'm more happy with the comments I made there than with most of my recent writing. So please do read, and let me know what you think. (Also, there is a beardless photo of me, which was supposed to be in Saturday Night, but wasn't.)

Preview my interview for Tofu-Hut-John's betterpropaganda mp3blog series.

Add another one to the list of alternate URLs for Said the Gramophone: joining, and, um,, is If you're bookmarking a URL, I prefer you use the unwieldly tangmonkey one (it's better for tracking web-referrers), but for catchy-easy-to-remember, the alternatives are probably superior.


Andrea pointed me to the work of Mindy Smith. You can stream/download a song, there, called "Come to Jesus," which is a wonderful cup of country pop. In the earnest harmonizing chorus, I get all goosebumpy and full. I'm not so sure about the guitar solo, but the rest is great; sweet and grim at the same time.

The Swish is a new english mp3blog with its ear to the ground on a bunch of dance and indie stuff. club-flavoured and very peppery. (also, it doesn't work on Camino/Mac.)

Posted by Sean at 12:53 AM | Comments (10)

September 8, 2004

fancy free?

Erdmöbel - "In Den Schuhen Von Aubrey Hepburn (Klavier)". Richard's the man in Germany, and he sent on this beautiful song by Cologne's Erdmöbel. The title translates to "In the shoes of Audrey Hepburn," and I really haven't a clue what it's about. But I'm kind of glad. The piano streams by as Markus Berges (?) sings; drums press with that fine, steady pressure; horns and guitar join in; and the bass says nothing, but you know he's your friend. It's so effortless and wonderful, such a gentle pleasure. Springtime by a fountain, blossomtrees leaving spots of shadow on the courtyard. "If you are feeling fancy-free," he says in English, and that's enough for me - I'd not want this marred by poor lyrics, nor complicated by good ones. Just let those low notes play on against the high ones, let a doe-eyed brunette spin in my mind's eye, let the clouds break, rejoin, and break again. (NB: This is the piano ("klavier") version of the song, from the eponymous EP, and I see that there's a different rendition on his other LPs.) [buy]

Julie Doiron - "The Songwriter". A week ago, I mentioned the new Julie Doiron record, Goodnight Nobody. There were a couple of mp3s on the Jagjaguwar page, both suggesting good things for the album. Well, it's now out - and yes indeedy, there's something special here. A fine return after the slight dip of Heart & Crime, Goodnight Nobody shows more diversity than any Julie Doiron record I can remember. "Tonight Is No Night" is simple and lovely as anything on Desormais (my favourite Doiron album) - guitar and voice and violin. "Good Night" is a twisting, bare-branched instrumental unlike anything she's done before. Herman Düne provide backing on much of the album, and "Snow Falls in November" shows the perfection of the pairing: the little sounds of banjo, the knock-kneed drum, the bloom of Doiron's voice.

But it's "The Songwriter" I wanted to share with you. This is a song that appeared in different form on Doiron's 2003 split with Okkervil River. But where the first version was soft, barren, the Goodnight Nobody recording is noisy, ablaze. It's the juddering return of the Julie Doiron who played with Eric's Trip, who didn't have to worry about waking her kids. Songwriting with spikes of anger, sudden corners and black patches. Most reminiscent of Songs:Ohia's live record, Mi Sei Apparso Come Un Fantasm, "The Songwriter" is a hard, bright, heavy thing, bursting out of a train-tunnel. It could knock me down. [buy] (Oh my; she's going on a US tour with Mt. Eerie. Go go go!)


Thanks to Kenny, I was able to obtain a clean CD rip of the Kelis/Bjork "Oceania" remix, and I updated the blog mp3 yesterday afternoon. If you missed it, make up for lost time. :)

An interview at The Morning News pointed me on to The Rest Is Noise, a superb musicblog by Alex Ross, classical music critic to The New Yorker.

Readers of Canada's oldest national daily, The Globe and Mail, pick their favourite for the American presidental election.

Posted by Sean at 11:58 PM | Comments (8)

a language i don't understand

Bjork w/ Kelis - "Oceania". It's a mix that's head and shoulders above the original, straight hot feeling taking over for ambiguity. It's lovely to hear Kelis's thick alto beside Bjork's sharp pixie theatrics: Bjork sounds less like the crazy lone-wolf aunt, more like the cherished, mysterious friend. I love the burbling remnants of the old production, the Milkshaking new backing. Medulla bored me, and I was frustrated with how barren the original "Oceania" was -- for all the production flourishes, the chanting and bubbles, the song grew tired long before it trudged to its coda. But this - it's full of longing, full of push and not just pull. I swoon at the thought that Bjork's doing something with Beyonce. [from the limited release "Oceania" single]

The Love Letter Band - "I'll Fall in Love". Twinkling bedroom pop from Even the Pretty Girls Take Medicine. It's remarkable how the techniques of bands like The Robot Ate Me, Mt Eerie, Love as Laughter and - yes, this one, - can be used to make such beautiful things. While The Unicorns turn to big red electric guitars, construction paper cut-outs, the Love Letter Band tries to share its truth by singing simple words. Theremin mingles with acoustic guitar, xylophone and marimba. It's a drone of soft melody, waves smoothing to shore. "I'll move to Mexico / I'll let the ocean wash my pain away / I'll let the desert do its job ... With big brown eyes I'll fall in love." [buy]

today i bought silk longjohns.

[3:46pm update: thanks to kenny, have replaced the Kelis radio-rip with a full-quality version.]

Posted by Sean at 1:37 AM | Comments (7)

September 7, 2004

three-hundred cubits by fifty cubits

K-Os - "Emcee Murdah". With Joyful Rebellion, Canada's foremost "conscious" hip-hop head is back. The album's getting props all over, and to my great surprise, he's even charting - JR had the highest debut ever for a Canadian "urban" artist. (Argh. I hate the quotation marks. By "conscious," I mean that K-Os willfully positions himself in oppposition to the rap mainstream, framing them as poser-thugs, him as honest-poet (this of course is bullshit); by "urban," I guess Billboard means "black".) His success is certainly being propelled by "B-Boy Stance," a fine first single that's even making inroads on MTV2. Like Kanye before him, K-Is is mixing party with thinky, to some considerable success. Joyful Rebellion isn't groundbreaking, but it's heads and tails above the last time I heard him. "Emcee Murdah" opens the album. K-Os is more Wyclef Jean than The Streets, but the song reminds me somehow of "Turn the Page." Perhaps it's the strings, perhaps it's the seriousness, the stony gaze. Guitar loops like the opening theme for a California private-eye, violins lay out the stakes, and Spanish guitar strums out the chorus, blossoming in the final minute. K-Os swings from desperation to determination, pleading and berating. His rhymes aren't exactly Ghostface or MF Doom, but - again like Kanye - there's an eloquence in his simple honesty. "We love hip-hop / stop / please stop / please." [buy]

Capstan Shafts - "Posters for Cats Disappeared". Brad sent me an email, telling me about this strange one man band.

An immaculately packaged mp3 by this band appeared at my college radio station office with no explanation or documentation but I threw it on the cd player and man it COOKS. When I wrote him some fan mail he responded by just sending more cd-rs. Apparently he has released a full length and three 6-7 song eps this year which is completely fucking crazy considering the quality of this lo-fi pop music. Anyways we here in little ol' Geneseo NY are completely enamoured by this guy (and his magnificently packaged full length is only 4 dollars!!)...
I'm inclined to agree: this song does, uh, cook. It's the best use of hiss-distortion since the Daft Punk remix of "Take Me Out" (or maybe Bright Eyes' "If Winter Ends"): the drums crackle like collapsing fences, Dean Edwards Mill's voice sweeps through like a brisk wind. It's bedroom pop with the windows wide open, noise splashing down to the street. Sloan recording in a shed; Beck and Spoon playing broken equipment. Catchy nonsense, a wiggling VU guitar, a bass-drum that leaves you room to hand-clap. A country sock-hop gone wrong. Yes, all this and more. (From the Ample Tribes for Sullen King Pounder EP, which you can email him about. Or order the full-length Chick Cigarettes from Asaurus, for four dollars.)


Stypod is the fantastic new mp3blog by the makers of Stylus Magazine. Catch the fine Skitz (ft. Wildflower, Tempa, Estelle) track.

And Orbis Quintus is excellent and new, from badgerminor + pal. The Borges reference makes me glad, and the politics make me cheer. Also: Les Georges Leningrad!

Posted by Sean at 2:48 AM | Comments (0)

September 6, 2004

these boots were made for walkin'

Goddam Guest - "Pass the Word [Beastie Boys/Beatles mash-up]". A big-eyed, bright-faced mash-up that takes rap and breaks from "Pass the Mic," crooning vocals and organ from "The Word". It's so energized, so bright orange. The Beatles step out hand-in-hand, moptopped sidekicks to the spastic Beasties. The percussion is a machine of gum and string - I love the way the piano drops in, the interrupted "Heyyy-". It's a track that's better than either original, and by the time the MCA is yelling over the organ, back-and-forthing with the chorus, I've forgotten that it was ever any other way.

Nancy Sinatra - "Baby's Coming Back to Me". A new track from Nancy's upcoming record, written by Pulp's Jarvis Cocker. While the song is full of steel guitar sighs, it's the sound of someone lying back in her chair, full of weary relief. The lyrics are definitely Cocker, all wry romanticism, but the Pulpish pomo strutting's been stripped away: "He was just sleeping somewhere / and now he has come to hold my hand." Nancy lets the song speak for itself; she's liquid and happy at her baby's homecoming. "I feel like I am surely dreaming." There are only hints of her underlying resolve, the strength in the emotion. At the close of the song, it's unsaid but clear: if her baby reneges on his word, does not "come back," Nancy won't be sadhearted - she'll be mad. Nancy Sinatra is out September 28th, on Sanctuary Records/BMG. Amid tracks by Morrissey, Jon Spencer, Steve Van Zandt, and another by Mr Cocker, the other clear stand-out is "Burnin' Down the Spark," with Calexico.


Here is a picture of a jellyfish:


I've been writing Said the Gramophone since the spring of 2003, but on September 23rd, I set off for a three-or-four month tour around Europe. During that time, the blog will be left in the capable hands of Jordan Himelfarb - musician, critic, compadre. He will bring an entirely new outlook to the table - different tastes, different knowledge, different words. I'm excited, and you should be too.

We begin a two-week countdown, then, before I pass the reins to Jordan. Hopefully I'll be able to pop my head in the door during my holiday, but after the 23rd, it's unlikely you'll see much of me until 2005. Consider this a head's up.

Furthermore, while Julian and I backpack around, I'm hoping for the opportunity to meet some of Gramophone's international readers. I've heard from many of you, but if you live in one of the following cities and might be willing to show us round, put us up, or even just grab a drink, I'd be delighted to hear from you. The cities where we have not yet found friends: Glasgow, London, Belfast, Tallinn, Riga, Krakow, Prague, Bratislava, Zagreb, Sarajevo. (People in Dublin, Cork, Ljubjlana or Budapest could drop me a note as well.) I truly appreciate everyone's hospitality.

More good music this week - stay tuned!

Posted by Sean at 1:37 AM | Comments (12)

September 3, 2004

doo daah, da-da-dah da-da dah dah

I now understand where the Bush girls get their deadening sense of 'humour': their father.

Sons and Daughters - "Awkward Duet". Dave introduced me to this duo after seeing them on a double-bill with the Fiery Furnaces. Guitarist Adele Bethel and drummer Dave Gow are pals of Franz Ferdinand, and toured with Arab Strap: in short, they're Scottish. They're not twee, though. While the guitar sounds like it could sit on a lap, it's got a sharp edge. Elsewhere on Love the Cup, Sons and Daughters play a song called "Johnny Cash." And he would enjoy this - quietly, with serious eyes and the smallest of smiles. The guitarplay reminds me a little of The Cay, and I like the way the drums rush forward, predicting the press of vocals at the chorus. For all the song's motion, however - the rattle of brushed drums, the weave of electric guitar, the late appearance of a humming horn, - "Awkward Duet" feels essentially immobile. Someone standing by a parking lot, swaying, wanting but unable to move. Originally released on Ba-Da-Bing, the album has been reissued/remastered through Domino. [buy]

Miles Davis & Modern Jazz Giants - "Bags' Groove [take 2]". Recorded on Christmas Eve, 1954, this is to me pure summer. It's Miles Davis (trumpet), Milt Jackson (vibraphone), Percy Heath (bass), Kenny Clarke (drums), and the inimitable Thelonious Monk on piano. Jackson's vibes are cool as raspberry ice, a soft bed for Monk's solo - it's easygoing, then forceful, then a jarring birdcall and the windmill tilting of any love-affair. And then easygoing again. Miles notes the hidden hesitation, acknowledges it, drifts slowly out into the theme. Effortless, brilliant, full of feeling - even if Davis told Monk to shut up for his solos. [buy]


A Million Stories is a beautiful new site for true stories, big and small. I will absolutely be adding one of my own, and so should you. Like Bittersweets but less bittersweet; like Fray without the self-importance. Wonder at it!

Posted by Sean at 2:33 AM | Comments (4)

September 2, 2004

roller-coaster oven-toaster

Glancing below, and listening to the songs in today's post, I've got to tell you. There is some fine, fine music to be found here. So please, dig in.

White Hassle - "Life is Still Sweet". Clatter, chummy oohs, the honk of a big-grin harmonica. Dan sent me this bursting berry song, this stomp with friends through a field. You close your eyes as you dance, wag your hands a bit, let your suittails fall across the face of your 7-year-old cousin, Poppy. She laughs. Life is sweet! No - no. Wait. It's not just that the world rules, that it's "totally amazing". No, life is still sweet. Still. Regardless of that other shit. White Hassle play the happiness that comes after you've recovered from a tumble, after your lover comes up behind you in the rain. "Just forget what I said last week." It's like Bishop Allen with a humble peacock singer, a glad conductor who's stolen bits of Clem Snide. It's a single and it's fun and it sets toes a-tapping, cattails a-wagging, life a-sprinkling. I'll take some more, thankyouverymuch, even with the "toaster"/"wonder" rhyme. [buy]

Wolf Parade - "Killing Armies". The band's signed to Sub Pop, but the new EP's not, and so I do a thing I rarely do - make two posts about one record. This is Wolf Parade's second untitled EP. They're from Victoria and Montreal. They're Frog Eyes with Franz Ferdinand, a brawl between weirdos. "Killing Armies" tumbles over itself as it leaves the gates. Spencer rants like a stoned Oscar Wilde. He lets his hair down; he "heard she's very startling." We clop and sway and sprint and smash, we stall, then - Wait. "I heard you're killing armies now-" And there it is, a guitar that claws at the sky, that runs through houses. Fire and motion and- military back-and-forth, organ climb, Dracula disco, and lassitude sedative trilling noxious driftoff to slee-

(yes, a mess of things. which is fine.) [for you, scott!]

Read a fine review of the EP at My Life As a Reptile. And you can mail-order it from Montreal's Cheap Thrills. Do.

Posted by Sean at 12:10 AM | Comments (4)

September 1, 2004


an advance sneakpeek of the new Microsoft Music Store, courtesy of a pal. $0.99 WMA files (i believe), meant to compete with the iTunes Music Store. To use, must have a PC and be American. Since I don't, and ain't, I'm not sure what kind of limits are on the tracks you download.

On first glance, while the design is surprisingly clean, I'm not sure what this is offering that the iTMS's not. Support for chummy (WMA-wired) devices, I suppose, instead of Apple's AAC files. But the price is the same, the selection is smaller (and weak when it comes to indie, classical and jazz), and, well, Microsoft is evil.

Will this just be a repeat of the music flop? Or does MS have big enough guns to take Apple on - without a better product?

Yes and no, say I. And thee?

Posted by Sean at 4:53 PM | Comments (5)

la nuit mes yeux t'éclairent

Yesterday, we argued about James Joyce. Today, we talk about the Arcade Fire.

Win has given his blessing to the following transmission, and you can look forward to another amazing track to be posted two amazing tracks have been posted over at Keith's. At last, I can make a proper post about Funeral, my favourite album of 2004-so-far.

Regular readers of Said the Gramophone will be familiar with the Arcade Fire, and my hysteria about them. I've been attending their shows since late 2000 (i think) - I've heard the band learn, grow, flame up and burn out. Two years ago, I wrote a mediocre piece for tangmonkey called "Three Albums To Watch". Forget what I said about Radiohead and Sigur Ros, but the third album on the list of hotly anticipated records was the debut by the Arcade Fire. I spelled Régine Chassagne's name wrong, and I wrote this:

As I listen to The Arcade Fire, their music touches on the sublime: that approach of terror, of true awe, when the music seems enough to overtake you.
and this:
If The Arcade Fire's LP approaches anywhere near the hallelujah of their live performances, it will be the album of the year.
Their debut, self-titled EP was not the album of the year. It was a delicious treat, a taste of the golden apple, but the songs were marred by their production, and (it seems) from intra-band strife.

But Funeral, which is due this month on Merge, is no disappointment. It reaches the "hallelujah" of the live show, it shakes and shines and roars. The band no longer sounds anything like Neutral Milk Hotel. Now - as Win always spoke of - it's the Talking Heads with pop-song garlands, Neil Young with New Order, rock music that slips through night streets, singing to the stars with long curls of strings. It's rock'n'roll with a bit of Debussy and even some disco stomp. While electric guitars snarl, harps glimmer; while drums thunder, accordions grin. It's music that's brave, earnest, and that yearns desperately to be heard. You can read the biographical info in this excellent Exclaim cover-story, but as Howard says, "The Arcade Fire are not five kids who listened to the same ten indie rock records."

Also, the album itself - the packaging, the liner notes, - is beautiful. Full of craft and spirit and the sort of whimsical flourishes that turn things into treasures.

So. Here are some samples. And I hope that you'll listen to these tracks, buy the record, see them on tour (with the Hidden Cameras or without), and maybe understand what I'm so worked up about. What I meant when I said something as ebullient as this:

this new thing - this awesome, driven, clear-eyed music - is as fine as anything else in the whole world ... It's liver and wholer and smarter. It feels, and it fills, and it's got choruses that you can sing along to.
or (yes, another self-quote!), this:
It's the beauty of a thunderclap, an avalanche, of the earth breaking under your feet. No more do they cajole you: they shake, they threaten, they yell, they plead. "WAKE UP." Parents, children, siblings, lovers, lonelies, human fucking beings - WAKE.

The Arcade Fire - "Tunnels (Neigborhood #1)". My sister says it's the best song she's heard this year. And my sister doesn't say things like that. This is what opens Funeral, the tune that saunters out of the wood, slips into the starting blocks, and then lightnings into your heart. When the high-hats break out between those guitars, that fierce realisation of a destination, there's suddenly magic loose. And when the steel drums ring like synths or The Edge or Joy Division or aurora borealis or something, the chorus becomes a necessity, a truth I need Win Butler to sing. I'm caught up in it, struggling through those snow-tunnels, lying in other peoples' beds and dreaming fearing screaming. He sings of parents - "What ever happened to them?!" - but when he yells it, I hear something different: "WHAT THE HELL WE GONNA DO!?" It's a song to dance to, to sing to ("ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh"), for cresting love or overwhelming faith. And when at 3:20 we hear that bit of the chorus that's never been sung before, that glorious new rise, I feel like a door's opening up in the sky, a bright goldredgreenblue window: "the song I've been trying to say." [pre-order Sept 3]

The Arcade Fire - "7 Kettles (Neighborhood #4)". Funeral is an album of extraordinary breadth - "Power Out" has Modest Mouse's fury, ""Haiti" has the Sugacubes's smoulder, "Une année sans lumière" keeps some U2 gleam. And "7 Kettles" is acoustic guitars and whispering violin, a ballad whose foundation reaches deep into hills, over and across horizons. It could be a song of loneliness, of faith. But it's probably not. "Woo," Win says quietly, like he's calling to his horses. Kettles whistle. "It's not a lover I want no more. And it's not heaven I'm pining for. But there's some spirit I used to know, that's been drowned out by the radio." Some might snark that "7 Kettles" is about the need for indie rock's ascendancy, for Britney's tumble. But that's stupid. No, this is a dream of kindness and soul, a hopesong for art and community and love. Tenderly they play. They hope so deeply, so strongly. They ache so gold. Let's go home, let's find home. Please. [pre-order Sept 3]

At Teaching the Indie Kids to Dance Again, you can listen to the crunch and sparkle of "Laika" - accordion, dissonant-smooth strings, the churn of guitars. (Dig the spooky vox at 1:50.) You must also grab "Crown of Love," one of the album's highest points. It's a half-cracked waltz, a desperate one-two-three into the evening. As the love and heartbreak soar, the strings are suddenly pushing, the drums are kicking up dust, and we're dancing into that imagined future. Hold on to your hat, clutch your chest.

Keith's right about the way that Win's vocals have matured, but it's also worth saying that on two songs, Régine leads the way - heartfelt, insistent, a little otherworldly.

10:17am update: stream some more tracks courtesy of Merge. (via catbirdseat.)

Word has it that Howard Bilerman, the Arcade Fire's drummer, has left the band. He also helped record Funeral - exceptionally. And he guest-blogged here last week. I'd simply like to thank him again for his kindness, his grace, his work, and his art. Best of luck in everything to come.


Here is Elsewhere has some snippets of what sounds like a really beautiful remix project -- a Manitoba-like revisitation of the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind soundtrack. RealAudio samples are available.

Finally, as Sean the sell-out, I invite you all to check out Hip-O Select, an mail-order site with all sorts of rarities, imports and classic records. From Abba to James Brown to Fela Kuti. Click on the banner to hear some streamed tunes, and to help my chances for a 20G iPod reward.

Posted by Sean at 3:00 AM | Comments (17)