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.

January 28, 2005

Rocksteady and Chicago Soul

Stranger and Patsy - "Down the Trainline"

Stranger and Patsy sing in exquisite harmony throughout ?Down the Trainline,? but the subtle highlight is the four seconds when, starting at 0:25, Stranger sings alone, a most subdued and sleepy soul, drawing out every note, taking his time. The bounce, click and tap of the rhythm section is pleasing to me also.


Baby Huey - "Hard Times"

Baby Huey was a four hundred pound man who produced from his huge body a huge voice. Though his name was almost certainly conceived ironically, there is also something true in it: the baby?s lyrical approach and gritty whine are like that of a child hard done by.

?Hard Times? is a claustrophobic and sinister Chicago soul number. The low frequencies are filled with bass and brass, and the treble ones with skittering and crooked guitar lines. The middle of the sonic space is occupied by a full horn section and Baby Huey?s anguished and passionate voice.

Pay special attention to the psych-funk build-up to nothing starting at 2:05.

Posted by Jordan at 4:07 AM | Comments (6)

January 26, 2005

Failures to Communicate

Exuma - "The Obeah Man"

Who was Exuma?

He was a spirit who came from a planet, now extinct, brought to us on a lightning bolt, who had communed with Charon, the ferryman of the River Styx and Vodun priests. When he informed the world of his travels and even warned of the armageddon, he left the Earth, perhaps tiring of the corporeal and moving to the ethereal. (Brian Philips, Exuma fan site)

Yeah, so this is what this and all other Exuma songs are about. He sings a sort of Bahamian jungle gospel, praising the greatness of himself, the lord.

The singing is astounding in its religious fervour and soulfulness, the arrangement is dense and playful, the back-up vocals are almost as insane as Exuma himself.

?When Exuma say the word, you gonna turn into a big black bird,? so watch out.


Richie Havens - "Here Comes The Sun"

In trying to decide on a companion piece for Exuma, I first thought of Nina Simone. She covered a few Exuma songs (believe it or not), but I couldn?t find any of those covers. I did, however, listen to her cover of ?Here Comes the Sun,? which caused me to think of Richie Havens?s cover of the same song. On a number of occasions during their respective careers, Exuma and Richie Havens shared a stage. It is also arguable that they shared a certain aesthetic.

Havens?s thumb-barred chords propel the band (pedal steel, bass and drums) forward. Atop the band, his voice floats with an ease and integrity that justifies his covering a Beatles song.

Posted by Jordan at 4:22 AM | Comments (7)

January 22, 2005

Emptied Out

Shotmaker - "Uninhibited"

From Ottawa and more specifically, from my very own high school (I own it), this screamo band is better than all the others. The bass is a big brick building, coming to life, marching forward, stopping to contemplate, then onward ho. The drums and voice relentless and violent. But it?s the guitar that makes the band what it is: both extraordinarily precise and densely sublime. [Buy]


The Cay - "Hey, Lady"

From the Sala Rossa last night, because the sound was so good (and because I only care about exposing you to my own band). Buy!

Posted by Jordan at 6:30 AM | Comments (6)

January 20, 2005


I have obliged Kill Rock Stars? request that I remove ?The Infanta? from the site. Sorry to everyone for the confusion.


The Prisonaires - "Surleen"

The Prisonaires were prisoners in the Tennesse State Penitentiary. Sixty percent of the quintet were incarcerated for murder. Of the various Prisonaires, John Drue, who was serving three years for larceny, posed by far the least serious threat to Surleen?s health (but not to her pocketbook).


Final Fantasy - "Peach, Plum, Pear"

Final Fantasy (aka Owen Pallett of Les Mouches) arranged the strings on the Arcade Fire record and is opening for the band on their American tour. Here he covers a song by this past year?s other hot indie act, Joanna Newsom. He fashions out of her gumptious harp-pluck, fairy-voice fantasy, a pizzicato, click and feedback delicacy that turns into a rousing piece of bowed violin counterpoint.


For Montreal readers: My editor, Max Maki and I are in a band together called The Cay. We will be playing tomorrow night at the Sala Rosa at around 9:30. If you don?t come I?ll be crippled by self-doubt and might play the wrong chord at the wrong time, thereby ruining music. Are you prepared to have that weighing on your conscience? No!

Posted by Jordan at 2:08 AM | Comments (9)

January 18, 2005

What Needs To Be Done

The Decemberists - "The Infanta"

Why would I post a second song by this band that I don?t really like, you ask? Well, I?ve had enough of your questions. God, I?m not your dad!

?The Infanta? is a trip on a pirate ship setting off from England and travelling eastward. The melodrama appeals to the prog fan in me: tom drums drive, organ pushes, strings swish and crash like a mighty sea, distorted guitar strums explode like cannons, the story is preposterous.

Anyway, it still sounds like a big Neutral Milk Hotel jack with a Fiery Furnaces chord change and some Genesis showmanship. [Info]


Society of Rockets - "Little Road"

Acoustic guitar and reverb drenched vocals present a lullaby for driving and searching. Don?t fall asleep at the wheel. [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 4:28 AM | Comments (13)

January 14, 2005

If I'd Played a Song, Would They Have Stopped Talking?

The Impossible Shapes - "Our Love Lives"

From Bloomington, Indiana, the Impossible Shapes tread incredibly diverse musical terrain, nodding to a wide range of influences along the way, while still doing something coherent and their own. Deep bowed strings, concrete pastiches with superimposed bass melodies, back-porch picked banjo, Love-like sweeping folk-pop melodies, Microphones-like use of sound-space in production (voices coming in from all directions, sometimes right in your ear, sometimes from way over your shoulder; sometimes bass drums hit you in the gut, sometimes snares are warning from a distance).

?Our Love Lives? is one of the most straight-ahead songs on the limited vinyl-only release, Tum. Heavy acoustics are strummed with electric guitar and piano weaving in and out of the mix almost unnoticeably. The voice, like a brass instrument, cuts through the melee and engages in melodic interplay with the round playful bass. At 2:33 the song begins to slip away, moving into unexpected minor chords. When it gathers itself back up and the driving guitars kick back in, the two voices peel away, one in each channel, humming and singing. For the remaining few seconds the instruments and voices take turns falling apart and regaining control.

The ambiguity of this song?s title is cleared up in its first line, ?Our love lives inside the sea.? Actually, writing the line out doesn?t really clear up its ambiguity, so listen and find out for yourself. [Info]


The Invisible Cities - "Synaptic Gap"

On ?Synaptic Gap? The Invisible Cities sound like Yo La Tengo: delayed guitar feedback, deep tremolo, cymbal wash and crisp tom drums. An ethereal female voice floats above.

From their self-released cd, Watertown. [Info]

Posted by Jordan at 9:27 PM | Comments (8)

January 13, 2005

Posted by Neale at 10:46 PM | Comments (0)

January 12, 2005

Silly and Crazy and Hard To Do

Arthur Russell - "A Little Lost"

New York dance music producer and cellist, Arthur Russell died from AIDS in 1992.

In ?A Little Lost,? Russell?s cello never settles into a single mode, doesn?t stop surprising. It alternates between providing long notes (a bed for the lightly strummed, low-mixed acoustic guitar), quick stabs of lead melody, and playful harmony or counterpoint to his amorphous vocal line.

There are no points of reference for a song like this. (Except that) as Joni Mitchell?s songs sound like her own and Neil Young?s songs sound like his own, so too does this song sound like Arthur Russell?s own, the sound coming from within him and belonging to him alone.


Animal Collective - "Leaf House"

Animal Collective blends unadulterated insanity, acid trip psych jamminess, rich harmonies and a surrealist lyrical approach to make something tense, propulsive and beautiful. When they sing ?kitties,? my kitty (Bruno the Berber (purr-purr) kitty) listens, and so should you (and your kitties (and their kitties)).

Posted by Jordan at 4:13 PM | Comments (11)

January 11, 2005

Wanting (It) To Work

Okkervil River - "It Ends With A Fall"

There are a few Okkervil River songs that I like a lot, and a few others that I like significantly less. This is not so unusual, I suppose.

Sheff is undoubtedly a gifted songwriter with a penchant for heartbreaking melody and an uncanny ability to underscore those melodies with subtly blended arrangements. He also manages the impressive feat of writing lyrics that sound like they came into being with the song - not before or after. But sometimes he pushes too hard with his voice, screams over the band, blows apart the confidently written, arranged, performed songs, with uncomfortably, embarrassingly raw vocals. The band is at their best, as in ?It Ends With A Fall,? when the rawness and vulnerability emerge organically from the emotional force of the music. On this track his voice never breaks apart completely, but only wavers, and when it does so, the organs have already made us feel the undoing in our chest. Sheff doesn?t rip out his heart and pummel us with it; he simply shows us something, invites us to empathize, and we do.


Shirley Collins and the Albion Country Band - "Van Dieman's Land"

Shirley Collins and the Albion Country Band have in common with the Fairport Convention:

1. A bassist

2. The use of traditional folk-songs of England in combination with rock instrumentation to forge a new kind of music.

3. Jangling guitars.

4. Gifted female vocalists whose voices cut through the rock din and preserved the pastoral feudal Englishness of the songs.


Shirley Collins and the Albion Country Band differ from the Fairport Convention most notably in this way:

Whereas Denny?s voice is clear as day, Collins?s is overcast, cold and mossy. In this way her voice can at first seem more dated, but also communicates something unique in folk-rock. As Alan Lomax put it: ?What comes through is sincerity, purity... Here one occasionally has that rarest of musical experiences - hearing a young girl singing in the house or garden, dreaming of love.?

Posted by Jordan at 4:31 AM | Comments (3)

January 7, 2005

I'll Be Right There

Elizabeth Cotten - "Freight Train"

Elizabeth Cotten plays slow, deep, aching guitar and squawks her crude and creaking vocal line expressing her inane world view (what does this song mean?).


Destroyer with Frog Eyes - "New Ways of Living"

It took me a few listens, but I've come to embrace Your Blues, Destroyer?s latest album, as if it was my own child. The album?s synth sounds, mostly bad imitations of other instruments, initially come off as corny, but as you explore the fragile melodies (preferably with headphones on) you come to realize that the synth soundscapes create their own fairy tale world, a perfect location for the set of songs.

I saw Bejar (Destroyer?s front and sometimes only man) play in support of the album in Ottawa with Vancouver?s Frog Eyes as his backing band. The synths were replaced by a full rock band and Carey Mercer?s (from Frog Eyes) wild hooting back-up vocals and sharp, loud leads. The latter of which I found overpowering and distracting (though when I mentioned it afterwards, I was jeered out of the room, a social pariah).

This version of ?New Ways Of Living? (recorded with Frog Eyes as part of Destroyer?s CBC studio sessions), (however), outdoes the Your Blues version by a mile. Frog Eyes knits a tight weave of frenetic pop around Destroyer?s camp. The song?s a sustained sprint with Mercer crowding Bejar, pushing him, breathing down his neck. Then at 1:49 Mercer sets in with the perfectly surreal yodel of an undead little girl and the guitars pick themselves up into a wave propelling the song to its anthemic climax.

Posted by Jordan at 1:02 AM | Comments (9)

January 4, 2005

The Best Music of 2004

Some love them, others hate them, but at the end of the year I'm always compelled to make lists. Lists of good music and bad, disappointments and pleasant surprises. I realize I'm late to the party, and that this makes my lists even greater exercises in meaninglessness - but here I am all the same, because I'd regret it if I didn't record things for posterity.

Some heavy caveats: This list is being compiled in a tuscan village called Pari, atop a hill, and I'm many many miles from Canada. What is here, then, is pulled from memory and the little I can browse on my iPod.

Because I went a-travellin', I didn't hear most of the last quarter's releases - neither U2, REM, Annie, Ted Leo, the Bad Plus, Eminem, Stars, Okkervil River, Mase, Estelle or d12. And as I was stooping in Slovakia, hungerin' in Hungary, I didn't catch some of those innumerable things I might have discovered these months, were I at home. Instead, I found Hungarian folk-metal, Slovakian garage rock. Which I'm still sorting through.

All right - on with it.

The Best Albums of 2004

I've read several peoples' year-end lists, and I feel like I might be in the minority when I say that 2004 was a poor year for albums. Exceptional music was recorded and released this year, but I'm not sure it coalesced into too many exceptional full-lengths. On the Best Songs list, below, my cup runneth over; but when it comes to enumerating the year's best LPs, I had to stop at three.

But a few words on the honourable mentions; sparkling and listenable, - even moving, - yet ultimately flawed. Some were too long, others too plain, some too short on singles or just a little bit boring. And yet they're all fine things, worthy of purchase, just not the stuff of end-of-decade compilations, of halls of fame.

They are: The Frames - Burn the Maps, Julie Doiron - Goodnight Nobody, Jolie Holland - Escondida, Kanye West - College Drop-Out, The Killers - Hot Fuss, Wilco - A Ghost is Born, Devendra Banhart - Nino Rojo, The Streets - A Grand Don't Come for Free, the Fiery Furnaces - Blueberry Boat.

And the best records of 2004, doubtless no surprises here, are -

03. The Go Team! - Thunder Lightning Strike

Thunder Lightning Strike kicked me open like a surprise party. No album this year was been so unexpectedly wonderful, so familiar and original at once. The Go Team are like those childhood daydreams, those fantasies of jetpacks and tree-houses. They're the gang I never had, the brood of hooligans that smiles and laughs, with finger-snaps and ball-games and little sleights of hand. It's unclassifiable and mile-a-minute, dance music and pop-music and indie rock and hip-hop. Chalk-lines on a playground, double-dutch rocket launch. [more thoughts]

02. Joanna Newsom - The Milk-Eyed Mender

When I die, if a song is to be sung about me, I would like for it to be written by Joanna Newsom. Not because she plays a harp, a big one, nor because she sings in a borrowed voice, something sharp and spurred and sometimes gobsmackingly beautiful. No, the finest thing about Milk-Eyed Mender is the words, the play of language on a tongue, the images that bound out from her wild melodic turns. She's better than Dylan, better than Waits, better that Sheff. She builds sculptures out of twine, stories out of beetle-shells; she makes me giddy, glad and indeed sometimes sad. But most of all she sings true things that I had never imagined, in a voice too ballsy to lie.

01. The Arcade Fire - Funeral

And the Arcade Fire, well, what can I say that I haven't already. Funeral is splendid and brave and every week I have a new favourite track. This is a band I've loved for a long, long time, and here's an album that will never go away, that I can always turn back to, that will shimmer and flash even years from now. It'll bring memories of dark, hot or flush days; not of childhood but of the time after, of when everything loomed big, when my heart beat big, when I wasn't scared of death, only of life. These are songs whose lyrics flash behind my mind's eye, realer than other scenes; they're songs that are meant, made blazing with feeling, and yet, for all this earnesty and wisdom and narrative, so too are they songs for dancing, for singing, for loving and listening to. These are pop-songs for the end of the world or the beginning of it, for Wendy remembering Peter, for broken, whole and beating hearts. And I thank them. [more thoughts]

Best Production on an Album
David Newfeld's amazing work on The Apostle of Hustle's Folkloric Feel, which goes a heck of a long way towards making this superficial, repetitive record a thing of majesty. Synthesizers, strings and electric guitars; voices, whispers, bursts of noise. It falls together and falls apart, drums tumbling in and out. So much to hear, so well-knitted, so carefully and capably assembled. Broken Social Scene's You Forgot It In People suggested it, but this confirms Newfeld as the best producer in alternative music today.

Best Idea
For the love of god, someone please take Howard Bilerman up on his offer and let him at those Leonard Cohen tapes.

Best Avant-Folk Record
Les Mouches - You're Worth More To Me Than 1000 Christians

Les Mouches did something this year that I can't quite understand, that I don't fully grok, and that didn't feel right next to Joanna and Jolie and the Killers. But listen - their debut LP was shockingly good, strange and noisy and hushed. There's a tremolo voice that recalls Xiu Xiu, but then there's the splay, bang and splat of percussion, the glimmer of chords, and we're somewhere else entirely, on the verge of something, lost, afraid and unsettled - and glad for it.

Punctuation Most Over-Used During Sean's Time at Said the Gramophone
The comma.

The Best Songs of 2004
I could go on and on, and on, about the songs that came out this year, how diverse and rich and transporting. But I shan't. I'll say simply that you should hear and know each one of these songs; that the list could span much longer; and that I feel proud that I shared so many of these songs with you, that Said the Gramophone lived up to its mission statement.

Because it would have drived me nuts, I have only ranked one song by each artist. If they released other songs which would 'rightfully' be in the top 40, I have included those songs in parentheses.

01. The Arcade Fire - "Tunnels" ("Power Out," "Crown of Love," "Haiti")
02. Modest Mouse - "Float On"
03. Britney Spears - "Toxic"
04. Wilco - "At Least That's What You Said"
05. Joanna Newsom - "Bridges and Balloons" ("Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie")
06. Eamon - "Fuck It"
07. Estelle - "1980"
08. The Mountain Goats - "Dance Music" [via TTIKTDA]
09. Jolie Holland - "Do You?"
10. The Go Team - "Bottle Rocket"
11. Wolf Parade - "Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts"
12. The Streets - "Dry Your Eyes"
13. Kanye West - "Slow Jamz" ("Family Business," "Workout Plan," "Jesus Walks")
14. William Shatner - "Common People"
15. Natasha Bedningfield - "I Love You" [sic?]
16. The Divine Comedy - "Our Mutual Friend"
17. Janet Jackson - "Love Me For a Little While" [via The Rub]
18. Mase - "Welcome Back"
19. One-T and Cool-T - "The Magic Key" [via Fluxblog]
20. Sam Bisbee - "Miracle Car" [via TMN]
21. Adem - "Ringing in my Ear"
22. Old 97s - "Won't Be Home"
23. The Hidden Cameras - "Builds the Bone"
24. Royal City - "Jerusalem"
25. Bell XI - Alphabet Soup"
26. Avril Lavigne - "My Happy Ending"
27. Plastic Operator - "Folder" [via Fluxblog]
28. Counting Crows - "Accidentally in Love"
29. Rachel Stevens - "Sweet Dreams my L.A. Ex" [via Fluxblog]
30. Tom Waits - "Hoist that Rag"

Most Anticipated Albums of 2005
in descending order of interest...

Wolf Parade, Hood, Beck, Magnolia Electric Co, Sigur Ros, Greg Macpherson, Bishop Allen, The Clientele, LCD Soundsystem, Destroyer and Frog Eyes, Damien Jurado, Sun Kil Moon...


The Sean update, for those who give a hoot:

It's my birthday on the fifth, but shortly after that I'll be returning to Canada for a few weeks; I'll try to return to the blog with at least a handful of posts on the music I've discovered on these travels.

And following visits to Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal, this little writer will be flying to Edinburgh, to Scotland, where I will stay, work, and write for the foreseeable future.

And hopefully I'll be back to Gramophone, too.

Apologies to anyone who has written me but not heard back, recently; internet access has been extremely brief and intermittent. Things will improve when I leave Italy - and when I buy my new iBook.


Happy New Year! I hope all of your 2005s will be full of laughter, reassurance, and yes some grand blooms of sound.

Posted by Sean at 10:48 AM | Comments (24)

It Won't Always Be This Way

I first heard this song about four months ago on a compilation belonging to my editor, Max Maki. When I told her that I was going to post it on STG she kicked me and said that because she found it, she would post it. Frightened, I opted not to explain to her that it was my blog (for the time being, at least) and that she had no say. Might, however, makes right, so...

Finally four months later she writes the thing and it?s the biggest downer since Of Mice and Men (mostly it?s just Of Mice and Men plagiarized but whatever).

My two cents on the song:

1. The two guitars start the song off like a waterfall; a steady clear flow of descending notes.

2. The song is sung as if by a weary vaudevillian, his mouth stuck open on one side from a lifetime of sneaking out wisecracks.

Now read Max Maki?s comments and try not to kill yourself.

Pseudosix - "Run Rebel"

(By Max Maki)

Christmas is over, the new year has begun. Sure, there are new beginnings, but mainly, as I say goodbye to my family and ride the bus back to Montreal, I?m thinking about endings (despite my new glasses, i?m shortsighted that way).

Although I?m sure my general melancholy is influencing my understanding of this song, I can?t help but feel that not only is Run Rebel about the saddest song I?ve heard in a long time, it?s also a song about some of the sadder things that contribute to the world?s sadness (injustice, false hope, futility and inevitabitliy).

You aren?t real, rebel. You just keep running your crooked course because it?s inevitable, rebel. I?m next, rebel.

Everyone?s empty and you?re empty like the rest of us all.

Happy New Year!

Soft Canyon - "For You"

(By Max Maki and I, written on the bus from Ottawa to Montreal)

Don?t worry, Soft Canyon will cure you of your woes. Like a psychedelic sun-soaked Rolling Stones, they bring together the best elements of late-sixties/early-seventies rock: dense jangle, rich harmonies, catchy hooks and towering distorted leads.

The raspiness of the lead singer?s hard-edged voice connotes both anger at the unjust world, and tenderness towards these most psychedelically interpreted natural phenomena: ?magenta flames? and ?sky so tragic blue.?

Such contrasts will help you find ?that place in your mind where everything is easy.?

Posted by Jordan at 1:51 AM | Comments (2)