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.

March 30, 2005

building a causeway

In Ireland everything was white and green. Belfast was battered and somehow happy, Bangor was cool and twinkling, the Giant's Causeway was a marvel - oh, the list goes on. Except for Cork. I didn't like Cork.

In Northern Ireland we stayed with the kind and wonderful Ross, whom I first corresponded with when he sent me one of his band's tunes - "Wait for Me". When I posted it last May, I said that it reminded me of Idaho, that it was taunting. Listening to it today, it's Grandaddy I hear, and I hear dressed-up desperation.

Five Dollar Soul (Ross' band) recently released a collection of all their demos and lofi recordings. "Wait for Me" is on it, and so is "You'll Never," or at least it sort of is - it's tagged on at the end as a hidden track.

Five Dollar Soul - "You'll Never". Sooner or later they're going to get around to releasing a Nuggets 3, and I have the feeling that there are hundreds of songs like this from the turn of the twenty-first century, songs that run in a direct line from those first comps, from early garage and proto-ponk, through the Kingsmen and into grunge. "You'll Never" is messy and childish, poorly recorded and full of off-key yells. But it's grand, it's great - it's a joyous chain of guitar riffs, of repeated chants, classist put-downs shouted back in the authorities' faces. It's not the Sex Pistols, it's just kids with a melody and their fists in the air, with goofy half-laughs and grins, with rage amongst their kindness, with a soaring silly song that they can bellow at the top of their lungs.


The Frames - "Trying". 2004's Frames release, Burn the Maps, is a tough one. After the intimacy of For the Birds, it's jarring to come up against such an alienating record, one so sparse with its hooks and its catchy. I've heard it compared with Kid A, but I think Amnesiac is a much better touchstone. Electronics have been mixed into the band's folk and rock, but unlike Kid A, where the bleeps seemed the most human thing about it, on Burn the Maps and Amnesiac the electronics are confrontational, splintering, intimidating. (Of course, let's not go overboard: The Frames don't exactly play drill-and-base, they don't even get as noisy as Wilco on Ghost is Born, and everything's always pretty mellifluous.)

Furthermore, the album's full of knotty little half-songs, vignettes of frustration or disappointment, one twisting into the next. Burn the Maps is like a bad night's sleep, all that wasted energy, that squandered feeling, those tangled sheets. The nightmares hardly get started before they wisp away, so hard to hold onto. And in those few moments of rock single, of articulated anger, it's only that hopeless fury of waking from a dream - of finding the reality to be something other than the somnambulist fantasy.

It's a better album than it is a collection of songs, so I struggled choosing one as a sample. But -- here.

"Trying" is for me all about when the drums, the tom or timpani, come on. The acoustic guitar and Hansard vocals are just the treading of water, like someone saying in long, run-on sentences that they're stuck in a pool of dark water, waiting for torrents, waiting for some kind of change. I wish it went on ten times longer, a hundred times longer, that stormy shriek with its banging drums, that we really could get flooded out and pushed into some new landscape. But we don't - isn't that the point? And like all the album's other songs, it fades away and into something else. (On the album, this "something else" is a blast of melody called "Fake," the first single.)


Posted by Sean at 9:50 AM | Comments (5)

March 29, 2005

lonelily daffodily

All right, let's begin.

On September 23rd of last year, my friend Julian and I embarked from Canada on a three (or was it four?) month transit across some of Europe. Along the way, I bought at least one CD in every country, trying to get a taste of some of the underexposed indigenous music.

For my next x posts (interrupted with Dan and Jordan's worthy contributions), I'm going to try to take you through the best of that music.


We landed in Brighton. We visited Cambridge and Oxford and London, where I was finally able to buy the Go! Team's fantastic Thunder Lightning Strike. But there's no point in trying to introduce you to that - doubtless, you've already been introduced.

In Scotland I didn't fare very well, in terms of buying 'Scottish music'. Instead, I bought a Mouse on Mars CD for £3 at Fopp.

My "British" selections are therefore taken from a comp I bought at Dublin's Road Records, but which is English in spirit.

Misplaced Pets is a CD compilation benefitting two Leeds animal charities, the Whitehall Dog Rescue and the Leeds Animal Rescue. It's a great record with a startlingly fine track-list, unreleased tracks by Hood, Martin Finke, Havergal, Adrian Crowley, and more. You can (and should) buy it here.

Sufjan Stevens - "Niagara Falls". This track from the Michigan sessions is also available at the Asthmatic Kitty website. It's an oddly imbalanced track, purposefully so, Sufjan's dulcet words set off balance by the thump and sigh of the instrumental bridge, the song's sudden end. Stevens' consistency is amazing to me - he manages to imbue song after song with some aspect of the transcendent, piano and mandolin beating angelwings in his urban stories' skies. This is a song that comes and then quickly leaves, almost unfairly so, like the jarring momentous sight of Niagara Falls out the window, massive and godly and then gone.

Alasdair Roberts - "Lullaby to Holly". There's been a lot of talk about Roberts' new record (and rightly so), in the Scottish press. His work (before and after Appendix Out) is fascinating; his pure-laine folk revivalism is beautifully sincere... No, it's just plain beautiful. He's been doing Iron & Wine longer than Iron & Wine has, striding the heather and murmuring the old songs. My dad called it "real hair-shirt music". Nevertheless, it's easy to get lost in Roberts' old ballads, for these glittering songs to fold into one-another, interchangeable. It's thus with great joy that I heard "Lullaby to Holly" - it's another Alasdair Roberts song, and yet not just another Alasdair Roberts song. There's something supple in the melody, in the right placement of words and rhyme, that make it among the best things he's ever recorded.

Charlie Parr - "Roses While I'm Living". Duluth, MN's Charlie Parr sounds, like Alastair Roberts, as if he's been snatched from another era. It's trad american folk with all the passion and resignation of the greats, powerful and ghostly. "Roses While I'm Living" is indeed not an upbeat song, but Parr performs it with just the right note of sadness, letting the fact of its statement buoy the listener. He does no disservice to the Dock Boggs original.

Tomorrow - Northern, and The Republic Of, Ireland.


It's with some amusement that I see that the Arcade Fire is this week's Time Canada cover story. The band wasn't interested in being indie-rock poster-boys (or poster-girls), and wouldn't do a photo, but I guess Time just grabbed something from the press file and did it anyway.


Matt Haughey's "Since U Been Gone" : Clarkson Industries Annual Report

Posted by Sean at 8:54 AM | Comments (3)

March 28, 2005


Welcome to this bank-holiday-weekend edition of Said the mahataflutta' Gramophone. All of these songs come courtesy of Jeremy, the bangingest dude to have ever played with Kepler, Julie Doiron, Jim Bryson and the Arcade Fire.

The Legends - "Call It Ours". Well would you listen to this. The Legends don't even give us a few seconds of mope before hitting us with their goofy, gravy guitar riff, that playful dance-on-the-flower-carpet sound. There's handclaps on the song's every downbeat, boy-girl harmonies, tamborine, and then the slightly phased blur of the main vox, "I said no, no no no-ooo," jangly twee crossed with The Hives' mangey scruff. Maybe there's a bit of Jesus & Mary Chain, too, but more important still is the Happy, the innocence, the kiddy glee that tumbles down the tarmac and into urban decay. Thinking of when I wandered in Stockholm a couple of weeks ago, watching a drunken sausage-scromping Swede admit his love for Eric's Trip, I could imagine this music in the crack of underfoot ice, in the way the messy snowlight stung your eyes. [buy]

The Roches - "Hammond Song". The Roches were a force from my childhood, the lulling silly soundtrack for cartrips to Toronto, the monotonous windowwash of Ontario forests. I was listening to "We," this week, that Roches calling-card, immortalized on Tiny Toons, and I heard in the girls' weaving harmonies the following line:

"A trio we are, born on the fourth of December."

Yes, that's right. The Roches were born on the same day as Jay-Z.

If this isn't a glorious coincidence, the sort of synchronicity that this blog feeds on, then I don't know what is. So I toyed with posting Jay-Z and The Roches, "We" and "Izzo", fraternal twins side-by-side at last, smiling for the camera.

But then I decided not to.

"Hammond Song" is something more suited to today's episode of the Edinburgh spring, where the sunny daffodilled streets have gone slicked and grey and rainy. It's a song of reluctant goodbyes, of head shakes and slow stirs of tea. And in the sigh of that organ, the wringing of the voices, even the - beautiful, beautiful, - elegiac flowerings of guitar, there's a sorry inevitability. She'll go. It's inevitable. And it's an inevitability we all know so well, we've all seen in eyes across the table. The Roches, often such giddy cartoons, are here just birds, and friends, and streets, and New Years': all straining at the thought of your ["her"] departure. Such thick, full, blue-green music, such a bleed of voices. (Produced by King Crimson's Robert Fripp!) [order]


More of The Legends over at The Big Ticket.

Posted by Sean at 8:51 AM | Comments (6)

March 24, 2005

You'd Better Be Right

Freddie & The Hitch-Hikers - "Sinners"

I bought a cell phone today. And I literally caught someone elbowing their friend and saying, "Look, at the sucker." Sigh. I felt like my former self (my pre-celf, if you will (please don't)) was singing this song to my future self as I sat there and actually said the words "If I have a choice, I'll take the free mp3 player." This is how it starts. Soon I'll be buying $30 shirts, and saying things like "I really like that belt." What's interesting about Freddie (and the boys) is that he knows the sinner is wrong, he seems to take pleasure in describing the suffering the sinner will endure. He's so sure of it, he can play the laziest (and smallest) guitar solo I've ever heard, and get away with it. [I got it here]

Daft Punk - "Technologic"

In keeping with the spell-it-out style of social commentary that is the new Daft Punk album, I will immediately follow a paragraph about cell phones with...yeah, we get But forget all that, because Daft Punk is here to LET you dance. [Buy]

Posted by Dan at 2:43 AM | Comments (6)

March 23, 2005

try a little tenderness

Good afternoon to all. A special thanks to all those who came up to me and said hello at the european Arcade Fire shows last week. Twas a pleasure to meet you all.

The Grates - "Sukkafish". This Brisbane trio is knocking round the Australian charts like marbles in a cardboard box, but they're lakewater fresh to these ears. "Sukkafish" struts with a bowlegged gait, dawnblinking after an all-night DJ set with the White Stripes and The Kills. There's the pluck of a plucky banjo, corner-store drumming, and above it all the squawk and squeal and song, the girl-sounds, of Patience Hodgson. She's the ozzie hillbilly equivalent of Controller.Controller's Nirmala Basnayake, which means she wears pointy boots and chases boys into the creek. (Speaking of Nirmala, Google-hunting reveals this gem [check the comments].) I don't know what a sukkafish is, but it seems as song-worthy as the kookaburra. Still, I can't help but feel that in Edinburgh this tune is a little premature. It needs humidity and cold drinks, the old summer bake. So I'll wait. [buy The Ouch. The Touch EP]

Mystery Jets - "Alas, Agnes". The Mystery Jets come from a place called Eel Pie Island. I wanted to say "It comes as no surprise that-", but let's be honest. Eel Pie Island shouldn't be a real thing. It is, though! It is! It's off of the south of England. And the Mystery Jets are from there. Richard from the A.F. passed me their demo, which I assume was passed to him at the ULU show. And boy oh boy, it's great! It's messy and silly and noisome fun, ramshackle as heck, the frantic cousin of fellow natives-of-a-weird-island, The Bees. "Alas Agnes" has random tumbles of drums, swooning arcs of melody, the Fiery Furnaces' epic musical ride. It's about illicit love and King's Cross station, champing riffs and the oink of a pig. It's dust being swept off the table, it's spring fever nonsense. And someone ought to sign them, soon. [visit their website]

Two quick orders of business:

1) We are still looking for a new mp3 webhost. If there's anyone out there with a .mac account to donate, or who wants to donate hosting, etc., please get in touch.

2) This is a long-shot, but I've been listening non-stop to Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness" lately, which is a phenomenal piece of music. (No really, it is, like, more than even its canonicty would suggest.) But I'm being driven crazy by the fade-out that happens just as the song's getting going. I understand that this was a necessary evil back in vinyl days, but still - still! I'm hunting desperately for a full-length studio cut of the 3:20 version from The Very Best Of Otis Redding... I found a 3:50 version (which seems to be slightly different), from Otis! The Definitive Otis Redding, but it too fades out prematurely.

I guess I'm just looking for any studio recording of "Try a Little Tenderness" that is neither the 3:50 nor the 3:20 version. Better yet, maybe it doesn't fade out. If you've got one, I'd love if you could share it with me via dropload. Thanks!

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

March 22, 2005

Fuck You For Liking Stuff

Stephen Malkmus - "Baby C'mon"

It's 4:24.

My brain is really nervous that whatever review I give, whatever statement I give, will seal me in a tomb of regret to wake up in later on. I want to be right. I want to convert you. okay, here goes:

Boy is chained to the floor, guitar strap glued to the back of his neck. Teaches himself to play and everyone gathers around and claps. Keeps playing for 10 years, every day, a constant parade of clapping, cheering people, he's still chained to the same spot. Eventually, his arms hang by his sides and he stares out at the crowd. His stare turns to conscious examination, he is fascinated why the crowd hasn't left. He begins to see why, in their expressions, in the mirrors they're holding. He shrugs, picks the guitar up from his waist and resumes playing, to much applause.

I really believe that Malkmus is trying to Face some Truth, but his truth still looks and sounds like lies.

It's 4:40

[if you're american, buy the single off iTunes]

Posted by Dan at 4:40 AM | Comments (9)

March 17, 2005

How Not to Edit a Movie

I'd like to start by clearing up an issue with yesterday's post. I think I spoke out of turn:

It was not cLOUDDEAD backing up DoseOne, it was in fact Boom Bip all along. My deepest apologies to both cLOUDDEAD and Boom Bip, you really do sound nothing alike, I'm not sure how I could confuse you. Mea culpa.

All right, with that out of the way, on to today...

McLusky - "She Will Only Bring You Happiness"

Like jumping rope, and the rope is getting longer and longer, and you're able to jump higher and higher, until eventually it takes like 15 seconds to do just one jump, and the rope is like a hundred feet high, it's brushing the wings of airplanes and making a whistling sound that's deafening.

McLusky - "Alan is a Cowboy Killer"

These musicians are broken up now (november?). Apparently they did it for 10 years. Don't they sound young? They feel young; not an insult. "You were such an awkward child" rings true for some reason. A problem with most movies about childhood is that they romanticize what kids are like. Kids are dumb, they don't know what to say, they say the wrong things, they latch on (with extreme fervour) to things they like, they have no sense of personal space, their social behaviour is often very ugly. Not like in the movies. [Buy]

speaking of movies, to change the pace..

Anton Karas - "The Third Man Theme"

I have a longer, cleaner version of this, but this just gets right to the point of the song, I believe it's pulled right from the movie. It's such an engaging melody, I really can't believe it sometimes. Story: Carol Reed heard Karas playing at a bar, demanded that he score his film, holed Karas up in a hotel for 3 days, after which Karas emerged with this. Karas did not speak a word of English. After the success of the film, he toured around just playing this (and other zither songs of his composition) like....contemporary comparison...Bobby McFerrin? [Buy]

Posted by Dan at 5:35 AM | Comments (3)

March 16, 2005

Harlan County, Que.

Today there is a one-day student strike at Concordia University. But no matter where you go to school, even high school (in fact, especially high school), please show your solidarity by not attending classes.

Boom Bip & Dose One - "Birdcatcher's Return (Circle) [Live]"

My friend Jon sent this to me with the message "this is great". Agreed, Jon. Is it hip-hop? No one cares. From what I can tell it's Dose One (or doseone) being backed by cLOUDDEAD (as I believe they do on his whole album) but in a John Peel Session. I guess consider this my contribution to the Peel retrospective thing that's been going on. I read somewhere that one of the most striking things about him was how he could stay so open to new music for so much of his life. I really want to be like that. If you're reading this, and you wrote that, take your credit in the comments. [Buy other doseone]

video games - TMNT Arcade Game Fire!

I'm just writing it down like it appears on my computer. This is a relic from back when I would just search kazaa over and over again for the words 'arcade fire', knowing full well I wasn't going to find anything. But I kept this because, if I remember correctly, this is from the opening level of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II (and then a colon and something like "Arcade Version" or something). The fire comes from the level being set in a burning hotel. Yeah, I had that game.

Also, our gracious music host, [un]known to most of you as "Steve", is no longer able to host the music. But thanks so much to him for all he's done, and all for free! If anyone has any ideas on what to do next, or if you want to thank Steve, email me

Posted by Dan at 2:16 AM | Comments (8)

March 15, 2005

The Raven Is A Writing Desk

Willie Nelson - "Always on My Mind"

The studio version of this song, a saccharine piano ballad, is unlistenable in the extreme.

Willie (wearing white tux and sitting at piano in middle of emptied out ballroom, sings with reverb drenched voice): If I made you feel second best...

Female Backup vocalist 1 (in black sequinned gown, lying on top of piano): You did, you did.

Willie: Girl, I?m sorry, I was blind.


This live version, however, from a concert with Johnny Cash, is an entirely different ballgame (let?s say the studio version is game three of the 1919 World Series, whereas this version is game six of the 1993 World Series (apologies to those readers in Philly)).

Willie sings sensitive material in ?Always on My Mind?. The idea is that though he wasn?t always the best partner, though he didn?t love her ?quite as often as [he] should have,? maybe he didn?t treat her ?quite as good as [he] could have,? though he committed a series of other (quite serious) offenses, she was still ?always on [his] mind.?

That she was always on his mind seems to me dubious grounds for forgiveness, and any woman worth Willie?s attention would assuredly be astute enough to realize that. It?s an implausible make up song.

But here, in this live version, he?s not trying to make up, he?s accepted his defeat, he?s admonishing himself. When he sings ?I guess I never told you, that I?m so happy that you?re mine,? he means I?ve been so unhappy since you?ve no longer been mine.

This version, the chords played in aimless, ambling arpeggios, works as a lonely, introspective lament.

At the end, as the crowd cheers, hear Johnny Cash?s rumbling laugh of approval.


Jennifer O'Connor - "Saved"

This is a clean and damp (rained on and quiet) guitar/cello ballad. Jennifer O?Connor sings a little bit like Edie Brickell (as does Mirah on her latest album). I think, therefore, that we?d be crazy not to conclude that Edie Brickell not only saw it all coming, but aside from being clairvoyant and omniscient, she?s probably a fast runner and extremely generous with charities. [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 12:32 AM | Comments (5)

March 14, 2005

Look We've Seen This Kind of Thing Before

Destroyer - "Jackie, Dressed In Cobras"
Black Mountain - "Bicycle Man"

Destroyer gets posted a lot here, I know. And he either probably loves it or hates it (most likely too busy being bohemian to even notice). But I listen to music every day, and new stuff from him is just better than new stuff from other people. This isn't exactly new, it's from a thing done last year, the two of them, on Spirit of Orr.
Black Mountain, where did you come from? Beatles-y Girl-You-Really-Got-Me-Goin-y great time. I'm now really excited about your new album. A huge surprise after being left nothinged by both Jerk With A Bomb and Pink Mountaintops. Maybe I'll go back..

Other possible titles for this post:
New York Sick, You've Had Your Chance
What I Really Need Now Is Ideas
On A Train Devouring the Land

[You can get this and 3 other 7"s from Spirit of Orr for 15$US. Deal!]

Posted by Dan at 4:13 AM | Comments (4)

March 10, 2005

We're Not Talking About Things, We're Talking About Stuff

The Barmitzvah Brothers - "Agatha Read"

I have never seen these girls and boys live, but now I want to. This song puts me into the same great bassy placey that Magnetic Fields' "Love is Like A Bottle of Gin" does. I never want to leave, it's such a warm, sad hug.* [Buy]

Midlake - "Kingfish Pies"

I think this band might suck. But I think this song might rule. A sentence of advice to Midlake: "Don't force it, fellas, despite what you may think/have been told, it's really not a cool competition". I sit on such a high horse, it's disgusting.** [Buy]

Elsewhere: if it's still up, and you haven't been, go check Keith's post on F. Apple. It is totally fantassss.

*they might having an alternate assemblage of members called The Guitarmitzvah Brothers, which I would also like to hear.

**guy's voice reminds me of Thom Yorke's voice in Kid A (the song).

Posted by Dan at 4:31 AM | Comments (4)

March 7, 2005


supply teachers do not supply teaching. I'm Dan, and this is my girlfriend Monday.

Aphex Twin - "To Cure A Weakling Child"

I just read a letter I wrote to myself when I was in 8th grade. I thought it was pertinent:

"Dear Future Self,

How's it goin'? Hope U R cool by now. If Melanie Brisson isn't still with Guppy you should ask her out. Was just listening to AT's "Weakling"; prediction: tongue clucks will be the new handclaps by the time you read this.

- Daniel

ps. go to locker 3434, there's a false bottom; enjoy."

I don't know why I thought I'd be anywhere near my Junior High by this time, but if anyone lives near St. Kneedlies in Carson City, you should go check it out. Also, my prediction was way off. But surprisingly, my taste was not, this song is still great. [Buy]

Silver Jews - "How To Rent A Room"

It's very easy to think about your life when you listen to this band. In fact, it's all I do. That and grin. Imagine there was always this yard stick that followed you around, everywhere you went. Putting on your coat, eating a sandwich, trying for a window seat, that sort of thing. And it never actually came out and said what exactly it measured, but you always had to look up to see the top. That's the feeling I get when I listen to this song. [Buy]

Posted by Dan at 2:33 AM | Comments (9)

March 4, 2005

Part 5: Music That's Been Blowing My Mind, At Least A Little Bit

The Sugarcubes - "Fucking in Rhythm and Sorrow"

After Phil embarassed my Van Morrison chronology, yesterday, I'm not going to play musicobiographer today. Just the plain facts: This is from the Sugarcubes' record Life's Too Good. Ta-da!

Now that Bjork is up to her ears in Wallpaper pretension ("So trendy / so trendy"), and not to altogether negative results, this song remains a defiant, wonderful statement of everything lively, everything silly, everything joyous that Bjork's still got inside her, behind that veil. It's lovely to turn the dial back to 1988 and hear a song from Iceland that is dedicated entirely to fun, with gasps and coos and yells and weird Yellow Submarine synth-horn toots.

"There's a naked person in my flat [blaw-waaaa] / who's got a weird expresion on his face! [doooooo]"

Heels will be kicked up. Hips will be twisted. A tap-dancer will ring the door-bell. Pleasure bombards this song, jouissant streamers flying from it, confetti popping in your eyes. She shrieks, she yells, she mutters, she runs out of breath and then yells louder again. She's Robert Smith crossed with an eight-year-old girl, singing the bodily things that the eight-year old never knew. The song's a celebration of love, not of some imaginary idyll, but of reality's messy riot. "Sweet and sour!" she bellows and drones, tongue lolling in her mouth. "Tak tak tak tak tak tak - ee!" It's enough to make you want to fall head over kicked-up heels. [buy]


Devin Davis - "Giant Spiders"

I downloaded this song from Music for Robots. I've not heard Devin Davis' album, Lonely People of the World Unite, but boy do I want to. Because holy cow is "Giant Spiders" a good time, full of Hulk Smash drums, the hissing blur of an electric guitar, The Who's organ jitterbugging in the back. Davis sounds a lot like Pedro the Lion's Dave Bazan, but whereas the latter applies his moan to contemplative little stories, Devin Davis seems happier to yell a big pop-rock song. A big pop-rock song that knows a thing or two about retinas. "No, I won't sit still / till I'm upside-down in the back of your eyes." The track is arranged wonderfully, shot with bolts of different sounds, a thicket of drums and the soaring point of a rocket-blasting chorus. "We should be fine if we can survive THE GIANT SPIDERS!" he yells, sounding not unlike Brendan Reed (ex of the Arcade Fire), full of panicked sincerity and crazy love.

I'd like the Shins a lot more if they sounded like this. [buy]


Antony & the Johnsons - "Hope There's Someone"

I posted about Antony's "The Lake" last year. It was strange and splendid, haunted and aglow. "Hope There's Someone," though, might be even better. I've no idea if the LP will measure up. Advance reviews are over the moon, but there's room for I Am A Bird Now to be overserious, overwrought, and overrated. Carl's expressed some anxiety about where Antony's positioned himself as an artist, and there's a pretty good discussion there with Alex Ross.

But - the song. It's a tender one. And despite being a piano ballad, emotional, minor-chord, melismatic, Antony goes glib at just the right moments, echoes himself in doubletrack at just the right moments, and even - yes, - makes a mistake at just the right moment. I was listening to a Chet Baker version of "Little Girl Blue" today, thinking about the line between the poetry and the delivery, the way it's sad without being entirely "honest," in a rockist sense. Baker isn't experiencing these feelings as he sings them, at least not in toto, and definitely not for the first time. And I hear a similiar performed-ness in "Hope There's Someone," a level of remove that keeps this from being a Tori Amos or Bright Eyes song. "There's a ghost on the horizon," Antony sings, almost helplessly, but it's almost helplessly, and he shifts so swiftly to the narrative voice, in the studio with the piano.

This makes the song fake, but not any more fake than Ian McEwan's Atonement, Baker's "My Funny Valentine," or David Gordon Green's All the Real Girls (that is to say, not in a bad way). Despite the preparedness, the self-awareness, the songs is approached with care, with feeling, with truth. And with some degree of obligation. Sitting by those black and white keys, Antony's reading the words he wrote and trying to convey them to the listener, trying to make them sound as they felt when they were imagined.

The LP's not out yet, but you can download this song from the Secretly Canadian site.


The Diskettes - "Don't Let Me Down" (unmastered)

Dan already wrote about The Diskettes' fine new record, but it's time for some more.

Some people may wonder how Canada can produce such moonlight beach-time music as this, with its vinyl-string guitar, its harmonies and distant tide sounds. Don't bother wondering. It's because Canada has summers, and beaches, and lovers, too.

"Don't Let Me Down" is a trifle, but a magnificent one. Xylophone and surf, a bit of acoustic guitar, then the shimmer of jingle-bells and a scampering playtime beat. Sing along. Sing-along. "Please don't let me down." Actually, it's "Pleeeeease dooooon't leeeeeet me dooooown." The quick request just isn't enough. This is something that has to be made clear. Friends, are you listening? Sea, are you listening? World, are you listening? PLEASE DON'T LET ME DOWN. It's not an order, it's a request. PLEASE. DON'T LET ME DOWN. I don't know if there's a more powerful prayer you can make. (Is it a coincidence that "don't" sometimes sounds like "God"?) PLEASE DON'T LET ME DOWN.

And then it's done. Will the world let you down? Probably. But you've put your trust in it, you've declared your faith in kindness, you've sing-songed and crossed fingers and willed something with friends. So maybe it won't. The world.

[preorder from BlocksBlocksBlocks]


Max de Wardener - "Hundreds and Thousands"

When I met the marvellous Matthew-in-London, he gave me a copy of Matthew Herbert's great compilation, You Are Here. This is the track that opens the CD.

It's an electronic track built out of the interweave of an organ, that queer whalesong of tones. It's music for three hundred years after the wreck of a church. Max de Wardener uses pauses. He lets beats approach slowly. And then he only lets them skitter across the organ's jersey surface, flickering and flashing. When things break up there's a new force that comes sweeping across the horizon, and another, and another. The Quick settle, explore, love and lose, die out; then there are more of them, different ones. And again more. But always there's that Slow organ tone, that deeper voice, that spirit that can't be shaken off. Until the strange tragedy of the sudden ending, the moment where against all expectation - silence.

This song is remarkable, moving, melancholy, sad. It doesn't need words.



It's Friday today. Which means that my week on Gramophone is at a close. And I haven't even been able to touch on the brilliant mix of Brazilian music that Anne gave me. Goshdarn.

But I'll see you again when "Gramophone 3.0" begins in two or three weeks - until then, Jordan and Dan have things up their sleeves.

Also - I'm going to be selling merch for the Arcade Fire on this fortnight's mini European tour. So if you're going to be at one of the shows in London, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Stockholm or Oslo, please come and say hello. (Hopefully you'll come say hello when I'm not altogether mobbed.) I'll be the fellow in beard and glasses selling t-shirts.

take care!

Posted by Sean at 7:18 AM | Comments (11)

March 3, 2005

Part 4: Music That's Been Blowing My Mind, At Least A Little Bit

Andrew Bird - "Fake Palindromes"

Within hours of my posting about Final Fantasy, Kathryn - so on the ball she is the ball, - emailed asking about Andrew Bird. He's an obvious Final Fantasy connection, I guess, what with his fiddling and stuff. But as Kathryn pointed out, it's to "a far, ah, less fey result." Where Has A Good Home seems reared by Sufjan Stevens, Camera Obscura, the Hidden Cameras, and Bach, The Mysterious Production of Eggs (great title) suckles at the teat of Ryan Adams, Calexico and (if we're being cruel,) Pete Yorn.

(Of course this is Bird's fifth LP or something. The only earlier one I've heard, Weather Systems, is a whole lot more "fey" than you might guess.)

Preamble aside, I'm not qualified to talk about Andrew Bird. I only heard of the guy last week, when this tune, "Fake Palindromes," made its way to my ears.

But gee whiz - gee whiz! - is it a good song!

First of all, it's only two minutes and fifty-two seconds, which is a very good sign. Also, I don't think the lyrics contain any palindromes. But we're putting the cart before the cattle (is that an expression?). We need to cut to the meat of the matter in a patented Said the Gramophone run-on sentence. The song's clear and obvious claim-to-fame, the wet and beating heart, the energizing whip-snap, is that killer fiddle hook, that four-note earworm, that vivacious blast, that indian sneer of strings with the thunderstomp of drum-and-shaker.

And if you don't fall in love with the tune in the first two seconds, you will when Andrew Bird drawls "coulda died... shoulda died". Or when you notice the weird electric guitar that's stalking through the briar in the back, with long long legs. (Is it a "monster that walks the earth?") Or when "Fake Palindromes" ends (it ends!) after a scarce two minutes and fifty-two seconds. "I want to drill a tiny hole into your head," he sings. Well sign me up - just let me hear this thing again! Put it on a whirling repeat in a purple room with the blinds drawn. Run through that barrage of images, the formaldehyde-swap, the singles ads, the blood in her eyes. And then open the wardrobe and loose the violins, the super strings, the brown swooping things what lift me out the closed window and straight to the moon. [buy]


Clem Snide - End of Love

Clem Snide's new one is a good 'un, probably the best since Favorite Music, which is no small compliment. It's got dazzle and wit, unabashed love and niggling doubts. The sentimentality of Soft Spot has been put into a poorly-welded box, only to be wheeled out on special occasions. There's exactly the right amount of meanness, and perfect shirt-sleeved descents into noise. That is to say, they take risks - the right ones. (And the album's weak points, "Tiny European Cars" for instance, are those moments when everything's on auto-pilot, Eef's whimsy accompanied by merely pleasant music.)

Since hearing it in concert last year, I've been waiting for the crazy tango of "Something Beautiful." It's caustic and sincere partner for the Mountain Goats' "International Small Arms Trader Blues," rough and fleet-footed. "Made for TV" is so sweet it'll melt the coldest of hearts; but it's not just schlock, it's not just 'a duet with a kid' -- the kid's uncertainty, the mistakes, make it something scary and true.

And "End of Love," my favourite song on the album, is just plain good fun, a rock song where Eef's voice squawks in perfect rhythm with the tune. The vocals are genius, bouncing so effortlessly, taking new twists of emphasis and letting the words hang there in front of your eyes. I don't know how he manages to make the lyrics matter so much, how he pulls such feeling with little, little changes of tone... but he does. "DON'T be apocalyptic," / "what is true-oo," / "SO WHAT," / "secret's [the slightest of pause] safe with you" / "Are you still feeling bad?" / "GUESS what, your pain [with sudden empathy] 's been done." Then there's the coda, of course, the big blow-out where it's all been leading, the horns that sound to me like reversed guitars, everything getting sucked into a black hole at the very end of love.

I was going to put "End of Love" up here, but I see that the fine new blog, Borrowed Tunes, beat me to it. So go get it there, and read John's thoughts on the record as well. (He says it starts like the Counting Crows. Is this a bad thing? [Answer: Sometimes.])



Loudon Wainwright III - "The Swimming Song"

Another tune from the marvellous anne rousselot.

This is such a clean tune, for all the bluegrassy arrangement. The mandolins are well groomed, the banjos have brushed their teeth. And Loudon's never carried away, he just sings the hopskotch poetry of his lyrics, letting the joy of the repeated words speak for themselves.

"And I moved my arms around."

Even the "Aaaay-hoo!" sounds like something planned, polished to be presentable.

But where this would normally put me off, this preparedness, this shine, here it's wonderful, it's just right. This isn't a hoedown, a barn-burner, a moment of the ecstatic - it's a lesson. It's wisdom. It's a glad and earnest recipe for life, a simple suggestion. It's easy, what Loudon's singing, you could do it. I could do it. "Self-destructive fool[s]" could do it. And there will be bright-and-shiny people to help you through, bright-and-shiny water to catch you fall, bright-and-shiny sunlight to see you do it, to see you hold your breath and kick your feet and move your arms around. To see you swim. Because I know you might have drowned. But you won't. Just listen.



M.I.A. - Arular

I've not been following the prep-school-Tamil-Tigers-politics-and-art debate about M.I.A., mostly because I only have internet access for a brief time every day, and can't spare the minutes. So I'm going to keep this short:

I get the bombs to make you blow. I got the bits to make you bang bang bang.




Van Morrison - "(Straight To Your Heart) Like A Cannonball"

The last time I went on about the masterpiece that is Astral Weeks, some commenters on this blog entreated me to go back to some of Van's other old records. Their feeling was that despite my blanket assertion that everything after Astral Weeks sucks (with the exception of "Brown Eyed Girl" and "Crazy Love," I suppose), Van's done a lot of good work, on records like T.B. Sheets and Tupelo Honey, etc.

Well, I went back and listened. And in the end, what do I think? Everything after Astral Weeks still sucks, but with the exception of "Brown Eyed Girl," "Crazy Love," "Wild Night" and "(Straight To Your Heart) Like A Cannonball".

Ok - download and listen to this song. Please.

Now play it. And ignore the wiggly ringo starr guitar-line. Bear with it. Listen to Van Morrison and his little existential drama. Listen to the girls who sing to his left. And wait. Wait. WAIT- YES. Flutes. Flutes! How could flutes be so wonderful!?

But oh, they are! They are they are. Keep listening. You're waiting for the flutes, aren't you? You're waiting for that two-and-a-half-bar sounding that seems to affirm all the delight in the world, that seems to affirm all the promise of love.

Van knows how good those flutes are. He knows it. He makes you wait. Then he looses them in a row. Oh god, oh gosh, how much there is for me in those silly breathy brushes of sound, that chorus of woodwind.

Am I wrong?




LazyWeb: I realize this is a long shot, but I recently heard that Gmail Swap was mentioned (in passing, or a sidebar or something) in Time Magazine last year. Does anyone happen to have seen that reference? I'd love a scan of it, or at least the date/issue, so that I can add it to the appropriate file. thanks!

Posted by Sean at 8:54 AM | Comments (25)

March 2, 2005

Part 3: Music That's Been Blowing My Mind, At Least A Little Bit

It's snowing in Edinburgh. Which is fairly unusual. The upside is that there's motion outside the window, a flurried kind of momentum. The downside is that I can't go to the end of the street and check my email, leeching wireless internet with my laptop.

I read on Carl's blog that the CBC is reworking its youth/alt. music programming. CBC Radio 3 will soon be deceased, at least in its online form. While I do have some faith that the CBC knows what it's doing, that the net result may be positive (could Canada even have a new radio channel, dedicated to this stuff?), I'm extremely distressed by the news that Brave New Waves is going to be taken off the air.

Since the 1980s, BNW has been one of the most amazing things about the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Here's a show that comes on for several hours, (almost) every weeknight, across the whole country. It's a show dedicated to good music, to "brave" music. And it never seemed to care what that music was. I heard The Streets on BNW. I heard the Unicorns ("before they were big"). I heard an interview with WIRE and a profile of Zoviet*France. I heard contemporary classical music, rock music, hiphop, jazz. I heard senseless noise and two-minute pop songs. I heard boring stuff and marvels, instant classics and the obscurest of the obscure.

All of it was presented with a particular sort of Canadian enthusiasm, a calm earnestness that made you give every single piece of music a chance. That made me put up with the white noise, the twang or the rapping, even back in the days when I couldn't stand that stuff.

BNW taught me more about music - about the variety, about searching to understand, about hunting for the gleam, - than any other institution. And it was an institution, for tens of thousands of Canadians. Millions? Maybe.

I'm not the only one who got into interesting music because of, or due in no small part to, Brave New Waves. There are farmboys from Saskatchewan who spent their whole days waiting for midnight, for those moments when they would win access to something beyond the endless fields. There are girls from Quebec City who had never imagined something like what they heard on 103.3. And I can only imagine the impact it had during the explosion of Canadian indie rock at the end of the 80s. I can only imagine because I was still a kid.

So - if you loved Brave New Waves, like me, even a little bit, I suggest you contact CBC and tell them how you feel. Because no matter what happens to the country's "youth" programming, I want to be able to go back to Ottawa and Montreal, to come home from a party at 1:30am, to turn on my radio and hear Patti (or whomever's) reassuring voice, then the nonsense squall of some new noise act. (And if that doesn't persuade you, even The Books love Brave New Waves, or at least Ms Schmidt.)

Anyway, on to the tunes!


Josephine Foster & the Suppose - All the Leaves are Gone
--listen to "The Most Loved One"

I discovered Josephine Foster through the cold and warm music of Born Heller, which we've seen on Gramophone before. She has a sharp, muscular voice, like the evil stepsister who trained in opera and sorta regretted that Cinderella stuff. Born Heller plays very still music, trembling but direct; I assumed that a Josephine Foster solo project would be more normal, more typical. Instead of skeletal arrangements with free-jazzing bass and strings, it would be plain songs with acoustic guitar. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus.

But, uh, I was wrong. Josephine Foster and the Suppose don't do pretty James Taylor covers. Instead, Foster sings with all her wildness, all her itch, and the band dives into messy, free-wheeling electric guitar noise. Where Born Heller is poised, the Suppose tear stitches and kick down fences. Like the Velvet Underground and Nico, I guess, only everyone's gone a little mad, trapped in a snowy cabin till 5 in the morning. Or maybe the Minus Story brings home a woman they met at the dive down the street, the one who kept talking about swans.

I don't know - those descriptions are silly and insufficient. Josephine Foster & the Suppose have recorded an album called All the Leaves are Gone, and it's been Blowing My Mind. It's a record about decay, but it's also about messy bursts of life, the biggest swoops of feeling. It's as frenzied as Frog Eyes, as inflamed, but also shows sudden dives into Cocorosie-like melody, into tender acoustic couplets.

"The Most Loved One" shows both of those sides, the off-kilter shrieks and the murmured promises. Some lines are crazy, the words of someone you can't look in the eye. "Sometimes I feel," she sings "like stealing your seed / and sailing away. / I [her voice heaves] don't need you / come closer dear, / come down on my knees." The next moment, there's a gossamer wooziness to the proceedings, a message whispered into your ear: "Don't be guilty son / oh no / it's hard to love the most loved one." When the song clicks, on those afternoon when it's got its claws in my brain in all the right places, I feel helpless before it, sent skipping down whatever trails it chooses, ever the singer's plaything.


Beck - Hell Yes EP

Man, I wish I could share some of this with you. But the blog's one brush-in with lawyers may well have been the result of a Beck post, so you'll have to forgive me if I play it safe.

By this point, lots of people have heard the leaked tracks from Beck's upcoming LP. It sounds ok. I'll resist passing judgment until I've heard the final mixes. But yeah, it sounds ok.

This EP, though, this Hell Yes record, is absolutely joyful, absolutely kick-ass, the sort of thing that convinces me of Beck Hansen's genius, his capacity to bounce back from one or two albums of missteps. (You can read my thoughts on Sea Change here).

Hell Yes is a 4-song remixy b-sidey kind of thing, with all of the tracks dreaming in 8-bit GameBoy sound. Sounds like the stuff of a Beastie Boys side-project circa 2000? I guess. But forget that this idea is ten years from fresh - there's such life in these tunes, such scamper and play. Listening to the midi flowers on "BAD CARTRIDGE (E-pro)," or the save-the-Princess aria that underlies "BIT RATE VARIATIONS IN B-FLAT (Girl)," I don't hear kitsch - I hear bright, bursting life. I feel like I could squelch and buzz my way to true love, score wedding marches on a touch-tone phone. There's none of the heaviness of the album versions, none of that serious and willful eclecticism: there's just the free flow of sound and words, hip-hop and Nintendo tunefulness, stylish sandbox goof-offs.

It's beautiful and unpretentious. It's hip and childish. It's happy, it's grinning, it's one of a kind. [buy]


Lambchop - "Is A Woman"

Another one of Jordan's picks, from a long time ago.

I don't know what to make of this song. I keep turning back to it, turning it to another angle, trying to find an answer in its subtle steps, its slow progress toward reggae.

Taken moment by moment, from the glistening piano notes, to the careful singing of the words, the "can -- you -- be -- sure," the crescendoing vocals and the quiet answer of the instruments, the way he sings "cloudy cloudy day," and then the way we slip into backbeat (and out again), - taken moment by moment, - it's as lovely as anything I can remember. I'm held in Lambchop's hands, I'm brought from one lamp to another, I'm treated with such care.

Maybe that's because it's being sung to a woman. To women. Or maybe it's becase it's not really being sung to a woman, but to the memory of one. To the dream of one. To debauched moments in someone else's imagination.

I don't know. I don't understand the song, its tone of voice. But I'm struck by it, I'm captivated by it, I'm maybe a little obssessed by it. I keep putting it on. I keep trying to figure it out. [buy]


Amerie - "One Thing"

My friend Anne made me a mix CD and this was on it. And - whoa. Holy cow. Etc. Amerie sings like it's 2005, but the production - all real drums, ding-a-ling cymbal, plunging bass, - is like a chunk of vintage organic funk. And as the beat grabbed me by the lapels, I just couldn't get over it. How does something as old fashioned as this, as unsynthesized and un-cut-up, how does this anachronism sound like the freshest sound I've heard this year? The Neptunes are playing with pong bats, Timbaland with indian strings, but this is the sound that feels like a bold new idea - this retro sample (is it a sample? who knows/cares). Never mind M.I.A. - I'm agog at a Beyonce with drum-kit.

Maybe I'm wrong to feel this way, maybe the feeling will pass. But for the moment "One Thing" is juicyfruit, somersaulting between my ears whenever I put it on. I bump when the guitar bumps, I ding dong ding when Amerie ding-dong-dings, I flex my feet in my socks and imagine tomorrow's pop music, tomorrow's Source cover, a resurrected James Brown. (Oh wait, he's not dead. Okay, just plain alive James Brown, storming the charts.)

"Is this one thing that caught me slipping?"


(When I was travelling I fell totally out of touch with the r&b scene, so I still don't know if Amerie broke the charts bigtime, whether she's still climbing, or whether she's yet to appear. All I know is that she's majorly on a major.)


Still to come this week: uh, did I mention Van Morrison?

Posted by Sean at 8:45 AM | Comments (13)

March 1, 2005

Part 2: Music That's Been Blowing My Mind, At Least A Little Bit

Thanks to all and any for their welcomes! Please keep commenting - it makes it all so much better. :)

(Oh, and I would like to make a special mention of Matthew Fluxblog Perpetua. When I said, yesterday, that it was hard to blog every day, there's one person who seems to have met this challenge, head-on, with little difficulty, for almost two years (more?). And that's Matthew. Kudos, sir, to one of the very finest. [And yike! An outdated link to Fluxblog on the sideblog! Remedied!])


LCD Soundsystem - S/T + Bonus Disc
When a CD with "Losing My Edge" and "Yeah [Crass Version]" is the bonus disc, you begin to question how reality could get this good. When I get down to "Daft Punk Is Playing At My House," I imagine it's like when Monica and her sis get down to that Ratatat song. I've got elbows and knees, I've got a head that throws back. I say things like "Ooh ooh yeah." But the best part of LCD Soundsystem is the diversity, the surprise. Pink Floyd seems to be doing "Never as tired as I'm waking up"; there's Junior Boys cool on "Too Much Love"; "Great Release" is a bending, rising singalong storm; and "Disco Infiltrator" makes me want to have a cold. It's a dance album for kicking dust with friends, sure, but it's also a record for big empty houses with big expensive stereos, for prancing the floorboards on your own, for loud and resonating frequencies, the head-bang bliss of those opening three beats. [buy]


King Creosote - Sea Glass
--listen to "For the Last Time: Hello"
So I live in Edinburgh now. I arrived almost a month ago. We've found a flat, but I'm still looking for a job and trying to meet new faces. Whereas in Montreal I recognized the People To Know, I knew where to hang out and which boards to check, here I'm at a bit of a loss. Still, when I saw a sign for a King Creosote gig, last week, I figured it would be the perfect chance to get acquainted with the Edinburgh scene. It was the launch for a zine affiliated with K.C.'s label, Fence Records, with him and a few other bands. Out at some place in Leith. Trouble is, I've yet to visit Leith, and was a bit intimidated about going wandering out there myself. Since I'm an incorrigible nerd, I went online and posted a message on one of the relevant websites, to see if I could tag along with anyone to the show. The answer: "Do you have a ticket? Because it's sold out." I did not, and indeed it was, in the ten hours between my first visit to Avalanche Records and the second.

So I didn't go see King Creosote last week. Nor did I meet some cool and funny scottish indie kids. Instead I read The Human Stain.

But never mind that - here's some King Creosote. Sea Glass is some of the man's best tunes, recorded with a simpler, more oldfashioned sound. Squeeze-box, some guitar, bits of drums and backing vocals. Although it lacks the smart spark of Kenny and Beth's Musakal Boat Rides, it's a better album overall - modest and pretty.

King Creosote - "For the Last Time: Hello"
Such a melody on this one, whinsome and pure, like a letter than was long in the writing. It's a goodbye song. It's weary. And it's angry, although you might not know it. "Doesn't it show - how sick I am of this? Learn to read my lips. For the last time: Hello. ... Hello. Leave me alone." They're words that never ought to have had to be said; words that circle, once loosed - words to which you keep returning. And it's all caught in the thick lull of the accordion, that seductive sigh. [buy]


Milo Jones - "Sandro and the French Guy"
This track comes to me purely and entirely via Stypod. What I know about Milo Jones comes from that post plus his website (where you can DL a whack of mp3s). And although I feel a bit funny reposting another (excellent!) blog's stuff, this is a Song That's Blowing My Mind. So.

This is a tune about Sandro, and about the singer. Sandro said he sounded like some French guy. Hell no, not Serge Gainsbourg. And although the singer knows next to nothing about Sandro, he thinks he's in love with him. That's the story - that's it. No drama, no tragic ending. But there's so much in the notes that Milo plays. There are a dozen memories in the gleaming theme which opens and closes the song; there are a dozen conversations leaning into Milo's sloppy slur, in those fat curls of guitar.

It's not hard to pretend that Milo Jones is singing gibberish. That the only real word is "Sandro," that everything else is a story told in sound. That "Sandro and the French Guy" is vowels and consonants, latenight wondering, soft pangs of heartache on a bench, in a park, in the spring. [buy]


Okkervil River - "For Real"
The press release page for Black Sheep Boy, the new album by Okkervil River, had me excited enough that it made my day. And when I downloaded this tune - available free on that page, - it just about made my week. The band called Okkervil River is one of the greatest things in the world today, but recent EPs have shown that they can record lacklustre tunes.* You, like me, will be relieved to hear that "For Real (There's Nothing Quite Like The Blinding Light)" is one of the best things they've ever recorded, that perfect boom of word and sound, barbed yells and crushing blows. It's sinister but elegiac, scary but true. It's about murder and feeling, voices crying for sensation. "There's nothing quite like the blinding light / that curtains cast aside." The electric guitars are stuck through with spruce branches, with nails, with bits of eggshell. It's like the stamp in the middle of Wilco's "At Least That's What You Said," only instead of Tweedy's guitar solo there's the lamplight of a rhodes, the mounting panic of Will Robinson Sheff, and then a terrible tumble of drums, the searing chorus of pierced guitars, the knowledge that you're hurtling downhill, downstream, downtown, toward the smack and clasp that will make things clear. (The joke's on you though - you don't quite get there.) "Those blue bridge lights might really burn most bright / when you watch that dark lake rise. / If you really want to see what matters most to me / just take a real short drive."

April 10th can't get here soon enough. Said the Gramophone will write on Black Sheep Boy again.

[buy the For Real EP]

* The new EP, by the way, centered around this song, is an exception to the rule.


Still to come this week: Van Morrison, Andrew Bird, and Beck.

Posted by Sean at 9:08 AM | Comments (17)