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.

November 30, 2004

I Need A Favour or Pay Up

Term papers are enemies. This is indisputable. Please write them for me. Something on Kant or Rousseau or whatever. Just mimic my style and refer to some of my favourite bands and I think we'll get away with it, OK? Good. In return, you get free mp3s. Now it is time for you to pay.


Gordon Lightfoot - "(That's What You Get) For Lovin' Me"

It was using the guitar/bass introduction/theme to this song that my editor, Max Maki, taught me that Gordon Lightfoot is good. Will you prove to be as good a student as I was? [Buy]


Melon Galia (feat. Conor Oberst) - "n'en parlons plus"

My editor, Max Maki, has as of yet been unable to teach me that Bright Eyes is good. I don't really like him. But, I can attest to the powerful soporific effects of this tiny baby of a song. It sounds like a record player in a light rainstorm on a warm night or it feels like pulling a heavy quilt up to your neck on one of those late fall/early winter nights when it's cold outside but before the heat in your building is turned on.

It is, however, entirely amoral. With no regard for consequences or my well-being, "n'en parlons plus" wants me to go to bed right now instead of soldiering on and studying a bit more, like I should do. [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 5:58 AM | Comments (5)

November 26, 2004

From One Thing Comes Another

Calexico - "Alone Again Or"

Thanks to Claire for pointing me in the direction of this cover of Love?s ?Alone Again Or? (I posted the original the day before yesterday).

Calexico moves ?Alone Again Or? from urban California to rural Arizona, from Spanish classical to drunken mariachi. Love?s sunny folk-pop is subtly reconceived as a down and out Ennio Morricone epic. The loneliness dealt with in this version is deeper and more desolate, deriving not from social alienation but from physical isolation. The song is a brief respite from a long desert travel.

Clap your hands for hand claps (i.e. every time you hear a hand clap, clap your hands. That way we?ll keep it going forever.)


Microphones - "Solar System"

From soft static emerges the Microphones? signature panning guitars and very careful closed mouth singing. Elvrum sings like a curious kid, his eyes fixed and incredulous, his mouth twisted down. ?Solar System? is an investigation, a reflection on the infinite possibilities of the infinite universe, of our relative insignificance, of divinity and mortality.

Celebrate the drum at 1:03.

Embrace the phasing that plays the role of the ?solar wind.?

And the snare chains that represent water.

Posted by Jordan at 10:17 PM | Comments (17)

Humans Are The Best Philosophers

The Phonemes - "Steeples and Peoples"

It's kind of like running on the spot. But also more than that. It's like running on the spot while your friends perform a carefully choreographed and highly precarious dance/ritual in a circle around you. Some of your friends are spinning plates and others are "riding" stick horses, a few of them are somersaulting or pretending to be monkeys. This is not chaos or without purpose, this is culture battling entropy (culture wins (what?)).

The singer already sounds tired when she counts the whole rigmarole in. And at 1:41, when the dense guitar/vibes/high-hat/bass drum/organ/bass/hand claps/piano/found-whatever action is dispersed by the cymbal swell and the clear voice explains "we have to take care of each other," we understand that she was already tired because the whole thing goes on and on with breaks to take breathers and to express gratitude to those around the on-the-spot runner for pulling their weight in order to preserve the delicate balance that relies on the tenuous interconnection of all the players, before restarting the dance/ritual like it's an OK thing to do (it is not). You know?


Lambchop - "Is A Woman"

There's something of the lounge singer in Kurt Wagner (Lambchop's front man). If you took early Tom Waits out of a dingy New York bar and put him in an upscale Nashville wine bar (with a twisted clientele, mind you) you would have something like Wagner.

The production on "Is A Woman" is so clear, so intimate that if you listen to it in your bedroom with the lights off, you might think he is speaking the song just to you. That maybe if you shined a spotlight into the corner you would find him there at his piano, sweating (the light is hot and he's working hard), with his bow tie slightly undone. At 1:26 after he asks "can you be sure," he leaves you four seconds of heavy silence to answer. He stares at you (now you're not so sure you want him in your bedroom) and though you don't understand his question exactly, panicked, you think of how you should respond. Then he continues with the song (relief). And then, at 2:32 when the song turns Caribbean, the spotlight broadens its focus, encompasses the whole band. Now you can see that there are a lot of people in your bedroom. Backup singers even. I don't think you'll be getting to sleep tonight. But it's OK. You have nothing to do tomorrow anyway.

Posted by Jordan at 5:37 AM | Comments (3)

November 25, 2004

Go Team Go!

Burning Spear - "Down By The Riverside"

Today, as a birthday present, my friend Kyle gave me the complete Studio One Burning Spear recordings. It was an impulse purchase, based on the front cover: a picture of Burning Spear looking straight ahead, his eyes smouldering, burning his pain into us, hotter than the serene sun setting behind his left shoulder. He is playing an ancient-looking guitar, dwarfed by his impressive, confident hands.

And, man, the music is so hot. It's intimate to the point of inducing claustrophobia. This gut-wrenching soul reggae, although for the most part concerned with Jamaican politics and the living of a righteous Rastafarian life, is astoundingly expressive of a broad range of human emotion, from desperate depression to manic joy.

"Down By The Riverside" is the intoxication of new love and the fragility and vulnerability that comes with it.

A guitar plays the steady familiar reggae rhythm. The organ sings the newborn connection. And the muted lead guitar line is the ecstatic beating heart of Burning Spear.

He pulls his love into him and points to the beating heart:

"Don't break this heart that loves you."

The heart is not within his control. It loves without his permission. And so he pleads. Not only an acknowledgement of love, it's an expression of his complete vulnerability.

It is with the same passion and focus that he sings of Jah and of Jamaica.


Love - "Alone Again Or"

Arthur Lee was (and is still) a true pop auteur: the intricacy of his arrangements and the full realization of his vision are here to be heard on "Alone Again Or." The sunny folk of the acoustic guitar, the Spanish tinged solo and trumpet, the restraint of the ascending strings and the seamless vocal harmonies all combine to create a piece of elegant, transparent pop. Lee puts on a songwriting clinic in Forever Changes. Nothing is out of place. It is a truly ambitious and ingeniously constructed record.

Love was unjustly overshadowed by their California psych-pop rivals, the Byrds (as great as they are, is there not room for two genius jangle bands?).

Posted by Jordan at 1:44 AM | Comments (9)

November 23, 2004

Tonight's The Night

The Halo Benders - "Halo Benders"

The way I see it, nothing can be bad about a song that shares its name with the band that plays it.

The Halo Benders were the first Calvin Johnson band that I ever heard and are probably still my favourite. (Though they are equalled by Beat Happening at their best, the Halo Benders are the more consistent band).

The Halo Benders are like two schoolyard outcasts (one tall and skinny and the other short and plump) railing passionately and innocently against injustice. Maybe they aren't ideal bandmates - the tall skinny one being completely preoccupied with treble frequencies and the short plump one interested in the bass end of the spectrum to the exclusion of all else, but the jarring incongruity of the two sounds together create something like perfect harmony. These are two buddies with a shared purpose and no other friends.


The United States of America - "The Garden of Earthly Pleasures"

This United States of America, like the other one, is an ominous country. This song is a maddening psychological journey into a sinister synthesized jungle taking shape in the chemically altered mind of a lady. "Venomous blossoms, violet nightshade, blackening mushrooms and petrified willows, twisted and brown" are just a few of the things you will find "in her eyes." But be careful, because like in that other garden of earthly delights, obtaining the wrong kind of knowledge is gonna change things. For the worse.

Posted by Jordan at 9:07 PM | Comments (10)

It Never Quite Works

I finally got my new computer. Rejoice.

However, I can't figure out how to use it. Be saddened.

Sometime, hopefully later this morning, I will be posting.

I hope you're all sleeping. I wish I was.

Posted by Jordan at 5:34 AM | Comments (3)

November 20, 2004

Science Is My Game

Jackson C. Frank - "Blues Run The Game"

In his childhood, Jackson C. Frank was one of the only survivors of a schoolhouse furnace explosion. His face was severely scarred by the fire and he was tormented by depression from that point on. Later in life he was institutionalized off and on for paranoid schizophrenia (misdiagnosed), lost his only child to cystic fibrosis, and was shot point-blank in the face, leaving him blind.

The depth of his sorrow and the extent of his suffering should be kept in mind as you listen to "Blues Run The Game," a song about the imperative importance of hope and perseverance in the face of whatever adversity.

As Frank himself wrote in the liner notes to his one and only album, Jackson C. Frank: "Living is a gamble . . . loving is much the same . . . There's always a chance to break even"

Though his words may leave something to be desired, his song is as clear a statement as there is.

But don't be sad...

Two fun facts about Jackson C. Frank:

1) He dated Sandy Denny for a while.
2) Paul Simon produced his album.


Cerberus Shoal - "Asphodel"

In Greek mythology the asphodel is the flower of Hades and death. If this song isn't underworldly, it certainly is otherworldly. I can not positively identify any (any!) of the instruments used in "Asphodel."

I guess this song was recorded sometime during the medieval period, but I can't be any more specific than that. Maybe it's something like what would happen if Boethius, Aquinas, Eno and Tiny Tim got together to write a funeral dirge.

Posted by Jordan at 3:40 AM | Comments (13)

November 19, 2004

While You're Getting Changed (To Go Out)

La Guerre Des Tuques - "Welcome to Paradise"

Well, I didn't think it would be so soon, but here's the first recording from this band. David Barclay (and Greg, and Elliot) is/are currently the most underrated thing about this town.

Ottawa - Tonight
Kingston - Saturday
Montreal - Sunday

Posted by Dan at 6:51 PM | Comments (5)

November 18, 2004

Something Is Not Itself

Magnetic Fields - "Strange Powers"

Stephin Merritt (the creative force behind the Magnetic Fields) cites Abba as his favourite band. I do not. I do, however, cite The Magnetic Fields as one of my favourite bands. Can I not hear ABBA in the Magnetic Fields? I can. I hear elements of ABBAESQUE gaudiness and saccharine poppiness. But the Magnetic Fields set these elements in a wholly (and holy, mind you) Merrittorious context. ABBA does not have lyrics like these:

"In Las Vegas where the electric bills are staggering,
the decor hog-wild and the entertainment saccharine.
What a golden age, what a time of right and reason,
the consumer's king and unhappiness is treason."

And Merritt isn't just channeling ABBA, he's turning the sound on its head. He creates from the pop showiness of ABBA and the dense harmonies of the Beach Boys, as well as the simple and melancholic melody of Joy Division, something entirely his own. He creates his own world of seedy Ferris Wheels, cotton candy, electric lights. And he manages to pull off that most difficult of feats: to mirror the whimsy of his lyrics in his music. This is all perhaps best exemplified by the triple album 69 Love Songs but is also present on the more easily swallowed Holiday from where I pulled this track.

"Strange Powers" also kind of feels like a contemporary pop "I Wanna Be Your Dog," but that might just be me.


Flying Saucer Attack - "In The Light Of Time"

Let's say some people on a ship off the coast of Blackpool had been sailing around for maybe a few hundred years and lo and behold discovered a four track cassette recorder. And let's say one of the sailors was a sage. Then I guess they probably would have fashioned some guitars and harnessed the music of the seas, as well as the spheres, and recorded "In The Light of Time."

Or let's say some flying saucers came down from the skies and attacked the Earth not with beams, but sheets of snail-paced, pastoral and delay-drenched drone-folk, then that would be a Flying Saucer Attack.


Posted by Jordan at 6:25 PM | Comments (4)

November 17, 2004

Honestly, I Can't Fight This Feeling Anymore

Polvo - "Fractured (Like Chandeliers)"

Guitars careen off in all directions, particularly towards the east where Polvo has clearly picked up a melodic trick or two. The sound is heavy and squished into the foreground, immediate and visceral. Albini's production adds monumental force to the sound of the bass drum. The lyrics are articulate and sung with an easy sense of dynamics and melody; the vocalist is not intimidated by the power of his band. All of this in combination with the scream at 2:52 makes this song inappropriate for babies and the weak of heart/mind.


The Spinanes - "Kid In Candy"

It's appropriate that the lyrics of "Kid In Candy" revolve around "West Coast weather" and "sun," as the music is most definitely evocative of those two phenomena.

The programmed clicks and castanet claps are blindingly bright reflections on the straight highway that is the bossa nova bass line. The highway disappears into the horizon, collapsing into the guitar line slithering up the middle of the road like painted white lines. In the distance, the impressionistic keyboard is the setting sun.


I have the flu. Soon I will give in and die.

Posted by Jordan at 12:29 AM | Comments (8)

November 16, 2004

The Rule of Reductio

The No Shirts - "Don't Come Any Closer"

The first time I saw The No Shirts, they were called the The No Shirt Motherfuckers and they played stilted mathy bizzareness about owls for something like an hour and a half. It was one of the first indie-rock shows I had ever seen and I wanted it to stop. Being perverse and prone to asceticism, I saw them often after that. To my great disappointment, then, they kept getting better. Their sound became more focused and began to display a heavy Wooden Stars influence; tight guitar dialogues and increasingly confident, expressive vocals.

And then they released the highly unexpected Damn American Cars!, a collection of love songs about those most Beach Boysy of subject matters, girls and cars. Besides singing about cars, they must also have been listening to the Cars, because added to the Wooden Stars math, was an eighties artpop sensibility and some unnatural sounding synths.

"Don't Come Any Closer" is, despite being wrought with affectation and obscurity, a tender examination of unrequited love:

Lyrical muted guitar and singing organ accompany a jilted voice:

This hope is so real
Your heart I will steal
Wanna whisper in your ear
Make my vulnerability clear.

Eminently listenable and catchy, The No Shirts, unfortunately, broke up after the release of Damn American Cars!, freeing up the name No Shirt Motherfuckers for your own band's use. Think about it.


Moebius and Plank - "Missi Cacadou"

If George Lucas was a German scientist and reggae aficionado (and I'm not saying that he's not), then he would have indubitably recorded this song (and I'm not saying he didn't). Whether or not George Lucas wrote and performed this song, Conny Plank and Dieter Moebius certainly did. They were just two bad German dudes who decided that this was the kind of music they wanted to make. And I guess that's OK?

In grade eleven, some friends and I decided to write a play. We met at my house and Joel (one of the friends) asked whether the rest of us would mind if he put on a cd. This is the cd that he put on. No play was written.

Posted by Jordan at 3:34 AM | Comments (3)

November 12, 2004

Civilization is Dying

Jordan told me to tell you he's getting a computer for his birthday (your tax dollars) which is Sunday. After that, he will be so diligent, you won't even know how to spell hiccough.

Danny Kaye & The Andrews Sisters - "Civilization (Bongo, Bongo..)"

Does loving this song make me a racist? Unfortunately yes. But if we all love the song, then racism ceases to exist. And with racism gone, who's to say what we can't achieve? Certainly not you. You're not going to tell me what to do.

What I like about this song is what I like about Bugs Bunny cartoons. The timely (and extremely dated) references it makes, to 'uncivilized pictures' the newsreel takes, and concern for the 'atom bomb' (not dated at all). Or maybe I'm rationalizing my love for kitsch. I really hope not. [Buy]

Weights and Measures - "A Most Efficient Method of Removing Pants"

Horrible title. Really good song. This band's song titles are very hit and miss. For example: "Yes As In Meaning No" = yea, "The Weekend Is For Making Babies" = nay. But that doesn't matter, it doesn't. When I saw them play (for absolutely no reason I was drawn to their 'break-up' show) I did not want to leave, but Jon and I had to. You know Jon, with the foursquare cap.

I didn't know this at the time, but drumming in this band is Jeremy Gara. If you haven't heard of him, this guy is responsible for the percussion in every band you've ever heard. [Buy]

Also, since .mac servers are acting up lately (for me), I'm using two different hosts for the music. To our regular guy, a huge thanks as always, and to this week's helper host, go play his video game.

Posted by Dan at 3:28 AM | Comments (10)

November 11, 2004

I Am That I Am That I Am, etc.

The Feelies - "High Road"

It's like the Velvet Underground, circa The Velvet Underground, but in a really, really good mood. Or like an interested Beat Happening.

The Feelies advocate following the high road, whether moral or literal.

After brief explorations and adventures, it is time, the Feelies suggest, to return home. And that is just what they do in their music: tentative explorations and a comfortable, satisfying homecoming. The Feelies like home, and as they approach, their growing anticipation and excitement is mirrored by the increasing density of percussion: more bass drum and then shakers. Sounds like New York country.


Eno - "Needle In The Camel's Eye"

The drummer plays as if this is a normal rock song, even though he knows that it's not. The guitars are completely haywire; electric shocks flying off in all directions. Eno's voice is urgent, sprawling and multi-tracked (there are Enos everywhere).

Sounds like an out of control subway heading straight for us. "Bye bye bye."


Happy Birthday to my editor, Max Maki. You are so old, it boggles the mind.

(Note: Please send gifts via Jordan to 3622 Durocher, Apt. PHB, Montreal, QC, H2X 2E8. My birthday is on Sunday, so please keep that address. I don't want to have to repeat it.)

Posted by Jordan at 4:07 AM | Comments (9)

November 10, 2004

Part 2: On The Kingdom of Darknesse

In last week's installment: Stranded in the Swiss countryside, perhaps on my way to a Cat Power show, I spotted what was either refuge or mirage and if the latter, a further indication of my deteriorating mental health.


Emerging in the distance was a big white tent, growing as I approached it. Cat Power was supposed to play later that evening, so I was surprised that there were maybe only ten cars parked nearby. When I reached the giant tent, I noticed a small cabin beside it. I went inside and found five or six large, pierced and tattooed gentleman.

"Hello," I said cautiously.

They turned to me but did not speak.

"I was hoping to see Cat Power tonight."

One of the men - the biggest and most intimidating of the lot - turned to me and struggled in his thick German accent to say:


He left the room and I took a seat in the corner. It was very dark and I was afraid. The sun shone in through the window directly above my head and focused its light on me. I removed myself from the solar spotlight, hoping not to call attention to myself.

Evidently, I was successful, as some of the Germans (German speaking Swiss, technically, I guess) started doing illegal things that I assume they would not have been doing had they been in the least bit concerned with my presence. I became eager to leave.

It seemed to me that it was very unlikely that this was the location of a festival. But instead, that I had been the subject of an amusing hoax, propagated by my editor, Max Maki and the country that you call Switzerland (I call it France, but that's my mistake). I thought that maybe I would be murdered by the Teutonic ruffians so that Max and Switzerland could have a good laugh. And just as I reconciled myself to this fate, an indie-rocker (just like you or me) walked into the room. He approached me.

"You are looking for tickets to the festival?" He was soft spoken.
"I'm sorry, we're sold out."

That hurt.

"I'm just kidding," he said dryly without breaking a smile.

Not funny.

I was wearing a Ui t-shirt and he commented that he liked that band and that he hoped that they would come and play the festival some time. Then he grew tired of me and explained that I could stay and wait there for the show to start in a few hours, or return to Dudingen and come back later - there would be no shortage of tickets. I did not relish the idea of walking all the way back to Dudingen proper, but as I was deeply frightened and had nowhere to stay for the night, I decided to make the walk and arrange for a hotel.

When I arrived back in Dudingen, haggard and sweaty, I went to what I believed to be the only hotel. No one was there and I heard the barking of wild dogs. I left and went to a restaurant.

True story: I ordered a salad (which I have since dubbed, "4 primary colours salad") and listened to a polka quartet comprised of three accordions and one stand-up bass. They all yodelled. They switched instruments and each played all with ease.

Full of something like vegetables and a thick-crusted bread, I returned to information to ask whether there was another hotel.

There was someone in front of me in line. A lovely woman, who I recognized as Cat Power. My heart stopped beating. Reborn, I decided not to speak with her. What of interest could I say? I stood behind her and listened silently while she tried to determine, with the help of Informant 2 (remember her from last week?), how she could best get to Berlin for the following day. Informant 2 went to check something in a filing cabinet in her corner and Cat Power's eyes searched the room finding mine (love). She saw that I was carrying a guitar and asked if I was playing at the festival.

"No, actually, I came to see you."
"Wow, really? That is so strange. That is really strange," she said, seemingly genuinely perplexed.

Unfortunately, I can not remember anything about the five minutes of conversation that ensued after that tid-bit and before the next, but I can assure you that it was something very near to God and The Good.


Me: Are you looking forward to tonight?
CP: No. I've had a very bad few days and I was forced to leave my boyfriend.
Me: Romantically or geographically? (that is seriously how I phrased the question. I was in a state, I assure you.
CP: Both. (I believe was her answer)

At which point a cab driver arrived and said that she was there to drive Cat Power to the show (doing something like interrupting what was about to be our first kiss).

CP: Would you like a ride to the festival?
Me: No thanks. I think I'll take a nap.
CP: What's your name.
Me: (Hello, my name is) Jordan.
CP: I'll put you on the guest list.
Me: Thanks, Cat Power. You are a friend.

That's ok. We can't all be heroes. I decided that instead of taking a fifteen minute car ride with Cat Power, I would go find a hotel, alone, and take a nap. So, that's what I did. I dreamt of lost opportunity (a lifetime of ecstatic domestic bliss with my wife, Cat Power) and the life of loneliness I would lead. Of science and entrepreneurship as well, but that was unrelated.

I then walked all the way back to the festival and upon my arrival, found that Cat Power, true to her word, had put me on the guest list and saved me something like sixty bones. Nice lady.

The show was a travesty, as I understand sometimes happens. Even though she is just as astoundingly brilliant a vocalist in person as she is on record, she wouldn't play her songs all the way through and kept stopping and complaining about her new guitar (an Epiphone Les Paul, for those of you who just need to know, no matter what the cost to my story).

There were, however, two good aspects of the show:

1. It was the first time I heard "I Don't Blame You" - such a simple and clear showcase for her voice and the best song on You Are Free. I will always associate this song with the sort of disorientation one experiences when traveling/touring alone for extended periods.

2. During her playing of "Satisfaction", I was nodding along with the music. She caught my eye and mocked me with mimicry. Felt good.

I'm not going to lie to you and tell you that I didn't try to find her after the show. Because I did. But couldn't. And ultimately I returned to my hotel room dejected and desperately trying to etch into my memory each aspect of my experience over the preceding several days, because there was no one there to discuss it with or to remind me about it later.

I still maintain that You Are Free is actually about me. It's hard to meet me, I think, and not write an album about me. Watch out!

Posted by Jordan at 12:59 AM | Comments (10)

November 5, 2004

Part 1: On The Kingdom of Darknesse

Not to be outdone by my archrival, Sean Michaels, I have prepared my own true story of European travel. But mine is much longer than his (and far greater in quality) and therefore requires a telling in two parts.


I was really hoping that Cat Power would release an album during my tenure as author of Said the Gramophone, but as that now seems unlikely (I've heard nothing about it), I've found another excuse to tell this story:

Not last summer, or the summer before, but the summer before that (my antepenultimate summer, if I were to die today), I took a trip through some Mediterranean countries. I went to Spain, Portugal, Italy, France and Morocco. I came (via Geneva), I saw (Macy Gray at a bar in Madrid, among other interesting things), I conquered (all of the Mediterranean countries simultaneously (I'm a military genius)), I ate, I danced, I drank and fell asleep in public. I met my friend Vanessa in Geneva and my editor Max Maki in Spain. The latter of whom I traveled with for a while. Then I met up with my sister in Florence where she was studying for the summer. Everything was going just as I had planned. But as my plans ran out, so, too did my money and my Eurail pass. As I left my sister and Florence, I had two days to kill before my flight out of Milan, and no money or friends to kill it with.

I got an email from Max about a Cat Power show at a music festival in Switzerland. Now, I'm no different from anyone else (and you can take that to the bank), which means that I love the music of and the lady that is Cat Power. I had never seen her perform, so I decided I would make it a pilgrimage, give my last few days in Europe a purpose.

There was, however, a major snag:

I knew the name of the festival and the address for its (entirely unhelpful) website, but had no idea where specifically within Switzerland the action was to take place.

So, being a logician by trade, I ventured to the nearest thing to the middle of Switzerland that I could think of, its capital, Bern. At the train station's information booth, I asked if anyone knew anything about the festival. They did not.

From a Bern internet cafe, I watched Ronaldo and Rinaldo and other men with similar names destroy the German soccer team in the finals of the 2002 World Cup. I emerged from the cafe and ran through the streets waving a Brazilian flag and chanting "Brazilia" along with the rest of the hordes (there were actually hordes chanting "Brazilia" in the streets of Bern), and when I came to my senses, returned to the cafe to double check the festival website. On this particular perusal I noticed the number of a ticket hot line, which I called, yielding the suggestion that the festival might be near Fribourg.

Fribourg sounded good to me, so I hopped on the next Fribourg bound locomotive. When I arrived, I again asked at information whether they knew anything about the festival. Never heard of it.

Hope began to fade. A pervasive melancholy took hold and as I was overcome by a sense of loss and purposelessness I decided to board the next train, wherever it headed. Such is the way of the traveler. Such is the insousiance of me, The Traveling Man.

Dudingen was my destination; disconsolation, my mood.

When I arrived in the tiny (TINY) Swiss/German bordertown of Dudingen, I made one more pathetic grasp for glory at information.

Me: Do you know anything about the festival?
Informant 1: Sorry, no, never heard of it.
Informant 2 (hidden low and in the corner): Oh, yes, sure. The music
festival. It's just down the street.

It took only 45 minutes of walking in Informant 2's suggested direction for me to determine for sure that she was lying. I mean, it was nice. Huge fields of tall flowers and cows rolling around like it didn't even matter, real cowbells clanging at their necks. In the distance I saw what I can say with certainty and without hyperbole was (and is to this day) the tallest peak I have ever seen. Though, at this point I realized that I would die within a week in the Swiss countryside at the foot of what I can only imagine is the summit of the entire Swiss Alps, I decided to keep walking. Because why not.

Then something strange happened. The mountain started singing to me. It was a good song, and one that I recognized. The mountain was covering "I'm Waiting For The Man," off of The Velvet Underground and Nico. So, I realized I wasn't so much walking deeper into the Swiss countryside as I was walking deeper into the darker recesses of the pathological human psyche. Or, wait... What was that in the distance?

Moby Grape - "Naked, If I Want To"

Sunny, but completely off-kilter. Pay special attention to the "Fourth of July" harmony. A great musical moment.


Cat Power - "Naked, If I Want To"

Sounds like Cat Power: languid and pared down.

Posted by Jordan at 11:21 PM | Comments (8)

Counter Countenance: Why I Carry Myself As I Do

Elvis Costello - "New Lace Sleeves"

As if Costello has a problem with language - mumbling, babbling, failing to make any sense - the song starts with the band gently trying to coax him into articulating his point, careful not to disturb him, not to get in his way. Then his story is born fully realized, completely cogent. The drums untighten, the bass and guitar unmute. Everyone relaxes. It opens up, unfolds sideways. It develops and builds in ways never expected but always satisfying.

And as Costello's vocal performance becomes more and more soulful and expressive, the organ and the rest of the band become increasingly enthusiastic. "Yes, this is what we wanted."

Like a classic soul cut, but not.


Roxy Music - "Re-Make/Re-Model"

After the party and the Elton John piano intro, the song starts in earnest. The instruments are full-out from the start (the earnest one) and don't co-operate, but play against each other; the sax, guitar and electronics battling it out for supremacy in the backwards polity that is this song.

Brian Ferry sings like a cabaret Lou Reed; raising his eyebrows and bouncing his shoulders. Sometimes he praises, but mostly he admonishes.

Then everyone gets a solo. And we get the sense that whereas after every other instrumentalist solos, the band smiles and quietly applauds, after Eno's blazing electronic assault, there is only stunned silence and confusion. But they play on, anyway. Because they're abnormal.

Posted by Jordan at 1:21 AM | Comments (6)

November 4, 2004


Well look what the wind blew in.

Hi there. I've missed you. But my travels are far from over, so it'll be a while till I'm making regular appearances. This epistle comes to you from Dublin, from the bank of the Liffey, from an internet cafe with bright orange signs and the maddening inability to let me rotate images (you will understand the significance of this later).

It's been about a month and a half since I last wrote. I've been on the road, in the air, over the water. England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Eire. Friday we leave for Finland.

Jordan's struggling with time and technology, but he's been doing wonderful, wonderful things here. I'm jealous of all of you: I don't get to play the mp3s. (Hi Jordan!)

But I did play Glenn Gould as I stood on Brighton beach at five a.m. I listened to Nick Drake as a bus pulled into Cambridge. John Coltrane in Edinburgh. The Arcade Fire on the northern irish coast.

I've bought some CDs (too many, too few), stuffed them into my backpack. Inexpensive surprises, immediate must-haves... records by Lou Reed and the Flaming Lips, the Go Team and The Frames. A Leslie Feist single. A compilation record benefitting a Leeds animal shelter. I heard Shostakovich's 8th string quartet in England's oldest music room. Bobby Watson gave a master-class. Bodhran and pipes in Doolin, then sitting on rocks by the sea.

It's a good thing, travelling. Clears the blood. You feel lighter, feel the wind stronger. You suddenly find that you can climb mountains, or get lost on them. That a familiar song sounds suddenly better, that Leonard Cohen goes with wine and cheese even miles away from Montreal.

I've met fine, kind people. Readers here (Hi Ross! Hi Matthew! Hi David and Adrian and James), and a few new friends.

On Halloween in Dublin there was fog and firework smoke. Around statues and the Spire you heard bangs, shouts, strange laughter.

Last Saturday was Julian's birthday, and we went to see Joanna Newsom at a red-lit place called the Sugar Club. It was a fine, fine thing. I'll answer some of your questions:

1) Yes, she does!
2) No, she speaks like a normal person. A west coast kinda drawl.
3) Actually, she's a babe.
4) I mean it!

Such superficialities aside, she was a little marvel. She sung and yowled her wise and complicated words, she grinned and bore it, she clapped her hands and played with pluck (ha). Her fingers bounced all over that big ole' harp, they pulled high notes from unexpected places. She sang a killer "Sadie" and an even better "Book of Right On". She sang a new one about "kith and kin," where at least fifteen times she sang her chorus and broke things in our chests: "OH DON'T I MISS YOUR PRECIOUS HEART!?"

She sang the b-side from her new Europe-single (which I couldn't find). She said it was about the USA, and the election, and an impending "crisis". I think she might have cried a bit (and I'm sure she cried a bit more today). It was a song about porpoises in their "snatch of sea".

And then, in encore, there was the following exchange of beautiful absurdity:

Joanna: Oh, I don't know... Any requests?
Random heckler: Play some Zeppelin!
(I expect he was not requesting a spangled, whimsical song about giant balloon-boats.)
Joanna: Ooh. I'll do you one better... (Pause) How many of you have seen the movie The Last Unicorn? Or read the book by Peter S. Beagle?
My own weak, solitary voice: Woo.
Joanna: Well it's a wonderful movie, and the band America did an absolutely beautiful soundtrack. So I'll play a song from that.

She then, in an act most definitely advanced, played the song "A Man's Road," from the animated Last Unicorn movie, which is terrible.

But you know what? Her version was pretty good.

Here is a picture of her, sideways. See how she swooshes.

And so, awkwardly, we're brought to Tuesday.

Ireland is five hours behind central Canada and the american east coast, so we bought biscuits and crisps and stayed up till six a.m., watching the u.s.a. presidental election.

Four more years?

I'm not angry, I'm not even surprised, I'm just disappointed. Disappointed in America, I guess, but really disappointed in humanity. Bush could have been elected anywhere - in Britain, in Germany, in Japan, in India. He speaks the language of human beings in the twenty-first century - the language of surety, of confidence, of 'righteousness'. We invented human rights and the categorical imperative, responsible government and karma, but ultimately we're dazzled by the firmest handshake, the straightest stare, the biggest boom.

Democrats aren't categorically different. They'll be complaining that Kerry was a poor candidate, that he didn't show enough resolve. They wanted him to out-bullshit the president, to repeat the same empty rhetoric. They wanted him not to flip-flop.

But I want a leader who flip-flops. I want someone who changes their mind, who adapts to circumstance, and isn't afraid to revise their thinking. This isn't a quality of Democrat or Republican, Right or Left - it's the quality of those who consider compromise, indeterminacy, the world's smear of greys. Kerry couldn't project W's unwavering assurance -- well, good on him.

Now the Republican White House will go back to its smirks and bargains, its pigeonholes and xenophobia. The Democrats will pull out the tapes, put them up on their screens, and work on mimicking Bush's straight strong stare -- for next time. And America (like the rest of the world) will return to the economics of daily life, of work, of worrying about family; they'll sleep and eat and shop and type, vaguely disquieted, not quite content, and turn to their leaders - their bosses, wives, presidents, - turn to them for that blank and confident look. They'll be reassured that all will be ok, that the scary bits can be eviscerated, that the cancers aren't complicated. And we'll go on, stumbling into sudden hatreds, avoiding eye contact with the people in the street.

I woke up on Wednesday with tight springs in my shoulders. I had slept fitfully, dreaming of red maps. I went out and walked. There were knots of cloud over the Dublin skyline, the newspaper vendors were closed. I had my headphones on and I put the iPod on random. I waited to be distracted from Bush, from my molasses pessimism. I wanted to forget that stuff. I went into Tesco. I bought yoghurt and carrots, put them under my arm. And then outside in the sunlight I was listening to the song "Astral Weeks" by Van Morrison, and even though I was in Dublin not Belfast, the shaker set something loose in my joints, the rhodes lit up in the back of my skull. As I waited to cross the road, waited for the pedestrian light that makes a sound like a laser-gun, I noticed my foot tapping, the birds in my eyes, the guitar that had creaked open my heart and let all that sleepy nonsense sadness out. I noticed I wanted to dance, to dance as I walked, to smile and let the strings throw me, catch me. I swayed a little.

Forget protest songs, I thought. Forget funeral songs. Forget that Van is singing about love or laughter or reincarnation. Maybe if I just played this song for people they'd see the birds and hear the bass, they'd stop voting against gay marriage and start clapping their hands, they'd do good things and not worry about the best things. Maybe they'd open their windows and sing, or break them and run, or stain them, or make them, or stare right through them. Maybe they'd listen, and think, and love, and lean back on the cool glass, the blue sky glass, and use it as a cool and blue sky pillow. Maybe things would change a little, one brave kindness at a time.

There's a song in which a xylophone rings and an electric guitar makes mountains. Win Butler sings, in a big brave voice, that "I GUESS WE'LL JUST HAVE TO ADJUST."



Tomorrow I leave with Julian for Finland. We will be visiting Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Italy. I am trying to buy a CD in every country I visit... If any of you want to recommend Truly Great Albums from any of these places, national classics or should-be-classics, I would appreciate it very much. Folk, singer-songwriter, pop, jazz - you name it. Who is the Leonard Cohen of Zagreb? The Amalia Rodriguez of Slovenia?

I'll try to say hello again before Christmas. Happy winter.


Posted by Sean at 7:26 PM | Comments (26)

November 3, 2004

The General Will Is A Residue

Meat Puppets - "Up On The Sun"

Tight melodic bass and hyper-active intertwining guitars recall theTalking Heads, but with Curt Kirkwood's laid-back vocals, sung wisely from a rocking chair on a back porch somewhere sylvan (whittling, perhaps, while singing), instead of David Byrne's ecstatic punch.

Even when the song builds behind him and gets heavy and bright, Kirkwood seems distracted, in his own world. Very careful. And sometimes like a Walkman running out of batteries.

One of Kurt Cobain's favourite bands.


Captain Beefheart - "Tropical Hot Dog Night"

1. Whatever Beefheart tells you, do not believe that "like two flamingos in a fruit fight" is an analogy for something. It's not.

2. He's "playing this music so the young girls will come out...tonight." But they won't. Because they're scared of both the song and the fact that his name is Captain Beefheart. They don't want to "meet the monster tonight," at all.

3. "Like stepping out of a triangle, into striped light?" Also not an analogy for anything.

4. In the imperative:

"Step out of a triangle, into striped light. Turn around and step back into striped light."

I don't want to do that. How do you do that?

5. Everything's wrong but at the same time it's right.

Posted by Jordan at 11:43 PM | Comments (9)

November 2, 2004

We Are Children, And People

The Parka 3 - "What's The Question"

This is a Parka 3 song. And I like them. But, there's this other band called La Guerre Des Tuques, and they play Parka 3 songs, but in such a way that I like LaGuerre waaaaay better. So, since I can't post a song by them yet, I'll post a Parka 3 song instead. So this is a great song, it really is, but imagine it played with like 6 percussionists (shakers, little toms, soft bass) and a clarinet, still sung with the same marvelous monotone. Yeah..magic. [more!]

Whysp - "Seedling"

This band is so much fun. Although, they're so...intense (for lack of a better) that it seems like they're having fun despite their best efforts not to. I would have bought their album on the spot, but they only had vinyl. I mean, I understand what cool is and all (note: I DO NOT understand that) but come on. If you're going on tour, bring SOME cds. [Buy it anyway!]

Pavement - "Saganaw"

Keeping on the 'medieval' feel of the last song, here's a great Pavement song. [Buy the Crooked Rain reissue, make Stephen Malkmus rich!]

note: I (Dan) am not making this post to appease anxious commenters. I simply think these bands all deserve more attention, and everyone needs more music.

Posted by Dan at 3:53 PM | Comments (5)