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.

July 29, 2005

slovak goat cheese

Svatopluk Karásek - "Zpivam, Pane mec v ruce mam". I stumbled upon this CD in the corner of a Prague CD store.

It has a black and white cover, an awkward snapshot of a man with dated hair, a goattee, and a battered acoustic guitar. Various long-hair kids lounge around him. And above the photo, in a damaged typewriter font:


When I got it back to the hostel and slipped it into my walkman, I swooned with delight. Not only was the music good, it was exactly what the cover had suggested. It's a CD of - yes, - blues and spirituals, sung by a nasal-voiced man with his plain guitar, sometimes joined by a chorus of pals, sometimes not. Recorded between 1979 and 1990, these tracks feel like field recordings from a movie, a staged portrayal of Prague's revolutionary hippies. It's all too perfect, from the mispronunciations to the dazed-and-confused call-and-response, from the whine to the ache.

In the 1970s, Svata (Svatopluk) Karásek was a Protestant minister living in Prague. The Communist government prohibited his work as a pastor, so Svata did what any strong-feeling human being would do: he turned his sermons into songs. He and several other musicians were imprisoned in 1976, but good things came of this --

A diverse group of supporters, including playwrights, writers, professors and other Czech intellectuals, had attended the trial and gathered outside in the hallway. Among the supporters was avant-garde playwright (and later President) Vaclav Havel... Havel left the trial feeling disgusted with the world and resolved to make a difference.

In the months that followed, these sympathizers gathered in solidarity with the hippies and rallied around the [imprisoned musicians]. They dared to establish a human rights organization and released a statement of principles on January 1, 1977, naming their organization after the charter, Charter 77. Havel said that the [musicians] were defending "life's intrinsic desire to express itself freely, in its own authentic and sovereign way"... Charter 77 evolved into a world-famous human rights petition that eventually landed Havel in jail, and was a precursor to the national revolution that occurred 12 years later. [link]

After his release, Karásek fled to Switzerland, but he returned to the Czech Republic in the 1990s, becoming a member of Parliament. Today, he's the Czech Republic's Human Rights Commissioner.

And the music?

Listening to these recordings, a man in a room with some spirituals to sing, I hear Dylan and I hear early Devendra Banhart and yeah I hear early blues acts like Mississippi John Hurt (minus the guitar skills) and Mississippi Sheiks. Singing in English, Karásek sounds cracked, almost funny, but still so honest; I imagine Moses with his stutter, a man on his knees whose words will obviously not be enough. God's so big he makes words immaterial. Your blues are too deep to be rescued by correct English pronunciation.

"Zpivam, Pane mec v ruce mam." "I am singing with the sword in my hand." Hear how serious Karásek sounds. Hear how it's like he's in a different place from the other singers, from his hand strumming the guitar. He's sitting beside himself. He's doing what he can to say what he can't. People sing along, for a bit, but eventually they go quiet. And they just whistle. They whistle along. Like the wind between stalks of wheat.



Zivé Kvety - "Nikto Ti Nepovie Pravdu". The hottest garage-pop band in Bratislava. Yes, Slovakia. I wandered into a little shop and a kind little man showed me the things the city was into. Lakeside folktronica! Men with acoustic guitars! And this, Zivé Kvety, "quite punk," he said, but of course it's not at all. From the school of Richmond Fontaine, the Stones or Sloan, here are fun-time Slovakians who yell juicy choruses and slam drums and let the guitars run in red shorts up and down the street. The website's got all the tabs! The CD's got a cover of "Brown Sugar" ("Zhnité kvety")! "Hey hey hey!" (spelled, in the liner notes, "Hej, hej, hej"), "Ale je nám mej aké sme zlatí!" Oh yeah, that's gonna be my summertime cheer. (No idea what it means.)

There's just enough pizzicatto, handclaps, a girl with a road-dusty voice, chords mashed out like they're the recipe to party.

Okay, this is Said the Gramophone, so I better throw in some typical weirdness. If this song were having a conversation with itself:

SONG: Hey! Are you going to the movie?
Song: Movie? Look what I'm doing!
SONG: You're jumping up and down on the grass!
Song: I'm jumping up and down on the grass!
SONG: Yes! That looks fun!
Song: Join me! Look, I'm baking cookies too!
SONG: My electric guitar is a baseball bat that only hits home-runs!
Song: Thank god we're no longer controlled by the Communists!

[way more mp3s / buy for $14]

Posted by Sean at 3:00 AM | Comments (14)

July 28, 2005

We Have the Ability to Make Music With 100 Instruments

The Harlem Shakes - "Sickos"

To all the fifteen-year-olds who read this blog, step-by-step instructions:

1. download this song and put it on a mix cd.
2. be sure to include a song that talks about "wanting you" or "gettin' with you" to be clear about your intentions.
3. give the cd to an older crush (someone your age wouldn't appreciate it like you can)
4. get plenty of action
5. marry them
6. have kids (twins)
7. keep a diary of these events

Upon submission of this diary to me, I will post it here. To which, the only appropriate response will be, clearly, this song. It's a circle, it's a very strong bridge, it's a wet dream.



Deep Dark United - "Nun or a Bawd"

I love that I can barely identify a single instrument. I think this band might be one of those children's book monsters that breathes out of a lot of different holes and tubes, and someone just taped it as it danced alone in it's room to famous classical music pieces (it is a bad dancer, but that makes it great). The way the vocals and instrumentation interact is like someone writing a grocery list in an earthquake. Like one of those "line of best fit" graphs. And fortunately, opposites



Also: Me, Jon, Tim, Jon's Cousin, and I think Carl Wilson and what's-his-face from Sloan all watched Bob Wiseman beat the shit out of a piano on Sunday night. It was pretty moving. He embodies "Toronto art" for me, I think (yes, I'm still comparing). A highly self-conscious, i-have-a-strong-feeling-this-might-be-bad-and-unimpressive...but-i-don't-care-here's-my-heart style. so much more willingness to admit/discuss how we don't know what the hell we're doing. I'll probably post a song by him once I can get my hands on some good versions. but until then, go to the site, I recommend "William".

Posted by Dan at 2:27 AM | Comments (12)

July 27, 2005

Kitty Takes A Bath (Reads YA Novel)

Buffalo Springfield - "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing"

Are you thinking about Ennio Morricone and Love right now? It’s OK if you are. Though you have reason, I think it is important to keep in mind that those reference points don’t matter. In fact, nothing in this song matters a hoot, except for the 26th second. That second, and also the 88th. Those seconds are second to none.

Neil Young wrote “Nowadays,” a fact which only compounds the goodness of the 26th second switch to 3/4 time. Mr. Young’s devotion to that time signature is like my cat’s devotion to Meow Mix: unwavering. [Buy]


John Cale - "You Know More Than I Know"

Much of John Cale’s solo career has been dedicated to the pursuit of the perfect pop song. Much of John Cale’s solo career has been a miserable failure.

Yet, here Cale grapples with every saccharine pop-ballad stereotype (strummed acoustic, arpeggiated electric, climactic drum fills, a chorus of rising piano and crescendoing harmonies), and emerges unscathed, in control, the master of his art. Though there’s nothing restrained about the arrangement or the production, the music seems entirely unforced. With "You Know More Than I Know" Cale seems to have stumbled onto a song whose every detail is - as in all the best pop songs - necessarily as it is.

So, well done John Cale - you’re the Beatles. [Buy]

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

July 26, 2005

Grizzly Bear and Girls Aloud

Grizzly Bear - "Don't Ask". I expect a band called grizzly bear to have two brown-furred feet planted firm on the ground. I expect an album called Horn of Plenty to smell of moss and wheat and pinecomes. But no, no, no. This is an underwater record. It's seeds in a stream, pebbles in a pond, anemones on the bank, a mind swimming in a big ole' bear's head.

The first song's called "Deep Sea Diver", so that's a hint. There's no sign of fur. Instead, overlapping seaweed voices, the emerge-jar-and-shatter of drum samples, an acoustic guitar like a waving length of old twine.

Why do we go swimming? Because it's fun. Okay. See below. But we also go swimming in order to think. This is stupid. When I'm swimming, I'm always too busy swimming to think. It sounds great beforehand - there's something beguiling about concepts of "water" and "clarity"; there was that thing I heard at a dinner party about the "liquid embrace" of the womb; and, yeah, unbound by gravity I'll really be able to be.

It's nonsense though, right? There's the exhileration of moving face-first through water, breaking through bubbles and into cool eddies and then up up splash into sunlight, but the only thinking happens when you're floating on your back looking at a rock-and-tree or a girl or the waves rippling against the shore.

I find swimming confusing. It's a sensory overload, sight and sound and taste but most of all, too much touch. Touch, all over. I can't keep track. Maybe if I paused I'd be able to keep track, I'd be able to consider these sensations, the clarity and the womb and the freedom from gravity, and I'd be able to really think. But if I pause, see, I drown.

So we swim for fun (see below). And if I want to swim to think, there's Horn of Plenty.

There are similar sounds (Liars, Mark Hollis, Cocorosie, Animal Collective, The Microphones), but these sounds aren't as tender; they live in shells. It's an album full of memory, and feeling. It's full of scraps of wisdom, suggestions, secrets. It's got water and jellyfish and bottomless pits. It's got deep sea diver voices, rattles and brushes, pieces of songs. You need to keep your wits about you, if you want to hear it all. You need to submerge yourself but still keep breathing. And if you do, well, there's a lot to learn.

"Don't Ask" is the easy song. It's the one you can cling to. The tricky thing is that it comes so early on the record. (You can always skip back to it if you need it.) As it repeats in circles, guitar and Kings of Convenience voice, that weirdly out-of-place organ, you might get bored but then you remember that it's there to help you pause and rest and think and so you listen to the words, you wonder about it, you think about Woody Allen's Manhattan, which you watched last night, and you feel - well, you feel pretty good.

This album's being rereleased in the fall, bundled with a CD of remixes. Solex! Final Fantasy! Tim Finney! Booty-shaking from the Soft Pink Truth! Oh yes. They're also in studio, working on a new album (with a band!). And i think it's going to be a marvel.

[buy horn of plenty for only $11.06]


Girls Aloud - "The Show". If you're done with your stupid "swimming for thinking", come, friends, and join me in the POOL OF AWESOMENESS. Yes, this is the place. The water's azureblue and heated, there's steam, and you can zip around in doubletriplespeed. There's colourful swimsuits! There's tropical birds! And ohlook, there's Girls Aloud!

Girls Aloud don't seem to exist in North America, so I'm only just now discovering What Will The Neighbours Say. If you love a good pop song but mourn the dearth of consistent pop albums, well, guess what? You guessed it. Yay!

This song wears regular shoes but struts like they're stilettos, knee-highs, cowboy-boots. There are bits of Avril Lavigne, Anita Ward, The Killers, Savage Garden, Eiffel 65, Rachel Stevens, that obnoxious post-techno dance music that still charts in Europe, and everything's put together so it's great. I mean, even if the synths get your back up, pay attention there's a summer-jangle guitar in there, hiding at the rear.

The song's got a gazillion different sections, and each one's more fun than a Shins record (cheap shot!). I love how it's sung, I love the "chic-a-cherry-cola" play of consonants, I love how each melody tops the one that precedes it, an ourobouros of pop. It's a song so fine I don't want to see the video, cause that would just be distracting. Instead - front-crawl and backstroke and jack-knife dive; swim and dip and arc and leap; yay and wee and zip and pow.

(they have a new "hot" single, too, but i don't like it as much as this. no sir.)



Over at ORTF, some surprisingly well-imagined trip-hop from an artist called Mig. Like early Morcheeba, but with a wider palette.

16mm is the newly discovered blog of an acerbic old friend and marvelous film critic. He was quoted on the box of the Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter DVD, he's got a film at this year's Fantasia-Fest, and I have myself a new bookmark.

"Why the hell would you want to spend all night in a sweaty dungeon listening to some guy in $700 sunglasses play two crappy records at the same time while you get felt up by twenty five ugly people at once? Of course, this is coming from a guy whose idea of a good time is curling up on the couch with a tub of Pringles and a snuff film, but at least I won’t go retarded from the snuff film."
*sniff* it's been too long. [via neale]

Posted by Sean at 4:00 AM | Comments (18)

July 25, 2005

Two Sandwiches

Teardropcity - "Monophonic Afternoon"

The writing in your diary feels like it's things many people have written before. In fact, all diaries are basically the same. This song is no different, but this is where its strengths lie. It's sung as if there had never been a sad song sung before, which is really sweet. The drum is an overgrown dog; serious power contained in a huge silent body that doesn't realise its own existence. When the dog loses control and kills the man and the woman he was waiting for, we get to our next song. It's a lot more loose and punchy; this guy has a lot less to lose. He's pretending not to be afraid of dyin'. Do you believe him?

Headstones - "Three Angels"


Pony da Look - "Vicky"

Gender is a social construct, but so is the building where I work. I get so much tingles listening to "Vicky". It's such refreshing anger, to me. But I can't decide if I'm seeing what's there, or if I'm being a misogynist. Do I like them because they're girls? Am I patting them on the head and saying "way to go, you made something I kind of like." My brain turns on itself, on its side, inside my skull, and that fucking hurts. I can never separate the two and they feel like one uncriticizable reminder. It's incessant, like the bottom half of this sandwich, I take on this psycho-scape, and once again I'm congratulating a "girl". For rubbing her hands in filth. Maybe it's their intensity that's intimidating, maybe I'm jealous. Drool mutherfuckin' fool..

Miranda July - "I Can-Japan"

[pony da look]
[miranda july]

Posted by Dan at 2:14 AM | Comments (8)

July 22, 2005

Said the Guests: Hello Saferide

[Hi! Sean here. I am head-over-heels excited to tell you that Said the Gramophone is launching Said the Guests, a bi-weekly guestblogging series. Yes, you guessed it, awesome folks - musicians, critics, artists and more, - writing about music that they love. There are some positively fantabulous people who are on board, and more still (i hope) to come. Yay!

I'm delighted to start things off with a post from Annika Norlin aka Hello Saferide, heard before on Gramophone, a new Swedish act whose zesty indie-pop is glad, wry, and - most important of all - mindblowingly pop. Go listen to "High School Stalker" and if you're in Sweden, see her live. Either way - please give her a very, very warm welcome.]

So you wake up in the morning and you instantly know it's going to be a good day. How often does that happen? To me, for the last couple of weeks - every day. The reason is spelled "Coffee and Pastries" by the Galactic Heroes. This song has taken over my life in a sticky bubblegum way that hasn't happened since Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al" (and that song was stuck in my head for five years). With a verse that will instantly make you wonder "What other song does that remind me of?" (correct answer: "Kingston Town") and the kind of chorus that you wonder how come no one thought about before, "Coffee and Pastries" is a stroll around an old neighbourhood, with lyrics that are a lot more sad than you first thought they were. The Galactic Heroes are Mike and Ricky, and their last album, Every Sidewalk was released in December, 2004.

The Galactic Heroes - "Coffee and Pastries"

My other Galactic Heroes favorite is "To A Passing Tune", probably the best celebration of a dead parent since... well, always. "And you tried to persuade us to sing / thought that's the last thing I need / turns out I was wrong", sing the Galactics, with as picture perfect harmonies you can get when you are sort of twee.

Their lyrics are sometimes so stupid you just know Mike and Ricky probably are the smartest people you'll ever get to listen to. Their previous album, How About San Francisco, featured 19 short songs about travelling across America, with lyrics about visiting friends ("Wonderful"). "We were driving all day / and when we finally got to your house / we went sledding by the hill by the cemetery / later on, Mike interviewed some kids / his butt was really wet / and Ricky finally got to see the Jefferson memorial." It's so uninteresting it interests me like mad. It's like a postcard from your aunt, and that what makes it brilliant. I want to know everything about that trip. Hell, I want to know everything about Mike and Ricky and their boring lives. What toothpaste do they use? What were the names of their fifth grade teachers? Would they marry me?

The Galactic Heroes - "Wonderful".

PS. Oh, and when my boyfriend ordered their albums from the Galactic Heroes always charming record company, Magic Marker records, he got a note back from the record company: "Hey! You rule." You have got to love that.


Annika Norlin is Hello Saferide. She lives in Stockholm, Sweden, where she's busy finishing her debut album, Introducing: Hello Saferide. It will be released on Razzia Records in September.

Posted by Hello Saferide at 4:27 AM | Comments (6)

July 21, 2005

Losing Our Way

The Book of Lists - "Sweet Malady"

There are few things in this world that I love as much as I do the Book of Lists (ice cream, my girlfriend, Rance Mulliniks: to name three of five). The book is a Siren: its song is that of inane trivia; its murder, that of the intellect. I know this, yet I'm drawn in again and again. Fucking Sirens.

This isn't the sound of the Book of Lists (though, of course, analytically speaking, it is). The Book of Lists would sound like a cat finding its owners after having been separated by five years and an ocean. It would sound like the results of surveys: the five most evil people of all time, 1973; the four most beautiful living women, 1980 (Bo Derek!); the greatest American President.

The Book of Lists, on the other hand, doesn't sound like the Book of Lists, but like a spastic epiphanic dance. Like an Ian Curtis epileptic seizure. (A sweet malady.)

The drummer's insistent thumping of the snare is almost comically linear, organizing waves of reverb guitars into an endless subway tunnel haunted by that voice (a ghost), disembodied and vaguely threatening. [Info/Buy]


Big Star - "Thirteen"

I recently posted this cover of Big Star's "Thirteen," which got me listening to the original.

My editor, Max Maki rightly points out the that the singer is not unlike Cher. Is this bad? No. Cher is the perfect complement to circular guitar patterns, round root-based bass, backing la-la-la's (also by Cher), and the sweetest high school love song lyrics. [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 3:14 AM | Comments (9)

July 20, 2005

What Your Band's Name Should Be

Deadly Snakes - "By Morning I'm Gone"

In my dreams, the kind I have when I don't have to work the next day, it's Sunday night, I'm 8 years old, I've just finished a mug of ice cream, and The Deadly Snakes are playing this song as the credits roll to The Muppet Show. Kermit's bopping along, waving his arms, all the gang are swaying, body first - head following behind, some are playing the horns, and everyone is smile-singing. But it's only here tonight, kids, so enjoy it.



Curtains - "Fletcher"

what I see: A construction-paper boy builds a foil rocket, takes off in it to see how people around his town get their jobs done. They just work hard, that's all. But they make so much Garbage!

These kids are from Hollywood. weird.


total running time of this post = 3:10

Posted by Dan at 1:34 AM | Comments (7)

July 19, 2005


Monster - "Charlatan". Edward sent me this song. We don't know anything about her. She might be from NYC. She might not. She's unsigned. And her name's essentially un-googlable. So this is all we've got. Well, I've got two tracks and I think Edward's got more. But all we've got is the music, the song, minutes.

Monster is fascinating. I can't wrap my head around her. For the first time in my life I have encountered an artist who is almost entirely redundant. Monster doesn't imitate, she re-enacts. She doesn't cover, she manifests. If the songs felt more self-aware, I'd think of her as an impersonator.

Because, see, Monster sounds just like Cat Power.

I'm not talking in vague stylistic terms. She's not like Cat Power in the same way that Joanna Newsom or Scout Niblett are like Cat Power. No, this is on an entirely different level. Her voice is like Chan's, her lyrics are like Chan's, her instrumentation is like Chan's. On "Charlatan" she plays guitar like Chan, on "World Go" she plays piano like Chan. Her back-up vocals, "wee-oh-ooh", are like Chan's. Heck, even in my iTunes Library they overlap, Monster leading immediately into Moon Pix.

I imagine all sorts of weirdo scenarios. Maybe Monster's Chan's new monniker. Maybe she's Chan's sister. Maybe she's the original and Chan copied her. Maybe Monster's Paul Auster.

I wish I could say that Monster "is like a [blank] Cat Power". The rockin' Cat Power, say. The funky Cat Power. The Cat Power who doesn't break down at concerts. But no, no and who knows. She doesn't sound like a weird Cat Power, but like regular Cat Power.

There's no point arguing who's better, Cat Power or Monster. Cat Power obviously wins because she's got a whole buncha records, several of which are fucking astounding. And me, I've only heard two tracks by this Monster gal. But the remarkable thing is no matter how redundant Monster may be, this song's still good, maybe great even, the longer it lives in your coat the more you come to cherish it.* And it shows you that as you listen to a few minutes of singing and sighing, sad guitar and distracted tambourine, toms, nothing really matters except whether or not you've been brought into that moment, whether the song is singing some part of you that wanted a voice.

Lady, introduce yourself. Please!

Update 7:25pm 19/7: Edward tells me they're a band, not just one woman. And they're from LA.

* (This is in contrast to the new Flaming Lips version of "Bohemian Rhapsody, which has no point whatsoever except to give Stereogum something to write about!)

Soeza - "Brackish Waters". Okay so Soeza's from Bristol and their CD label is full of colour and their music's jazzy-glad with a krautrock bent. I feel like they're from an alternative universe, and they are. It's called the UK. The US was hit with a phase of arty emo some time in the late 90s, chugging guitars and surprising jerks of sound, soft harmonies and then the crush of a bellowed conviction. The UK doesn't know that, though. Soeza doesn't know that. So here they are, revisiting the land of Jimmy Eat World's Clarity, but since they don't know about some of the cheasier precedents they can pretend like their music is fresh and mind-blowing, and once you get caught in the spirit of things you might just get convinced.

There's a girl yelling over a storm, a storm of petals and airplane parts, clamouring guitars and wails of french horn. There's a funky bassline. And then they keep getting interrupted; some prog-listening dude and his girlfriend who insists on singing along. It'd be irritating, except that it gives us a pause when we can hear the guitar on its own and then drumsticks-and-bass and then everything rushes in and oh yay it's this again!

[buy Why Do You Do?]


Swedes Please introduced me to The Salty Pirates. "My Academic Beard", which is far too clever for its own good, is furry dashing fun, halfway between Herman Dune and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Dig.

Teaching the Indie Kids to Dance Again is back! Hooray! Welcome home, Keith!

Last month I wrote about a fantastic covers comp called Jeans Cover. Sweden's Groover Recordings is putting together its next release, the aptly named Gene & Cover, a tribute to Byrds co-founder Gene Clark. They're looking for artists who would like to contribute, so if you're interested, run-don't-walk to I guarantee it will be good.

All of you hopefully remember Flotation Toy Warning, a band I waxed lyrical about a few weeks ago. Despite their awful name, their songs are swimming and joyous, mixed-up pop, all soil and space-dust. In advance of their debut's US release, Songs:Illinois and Misra Records have teamed up to let mp3blog-readers buy the CD early, through that special URL. Songs:Illinois still has some sample mp3s, . Please consider picking up the album - it's great, and this experiment makes pudding-proof that audioblogs sell CDs.

Posted by Sean at 4:00 AM | Comments (7)

July 18, 2005

My Kingdom for a Crown

Silver Jews - "How Can I Love You (If You Won't Lie Down)"

Songs like this light up my day. It's like finding a park after all you could see was parked cars and garbage cans. The sweetness gets better with every listen, until eventually, it turns into an urgency, the feeling that maybe the greatness of this song will go unnoticed as it gets filed under "joke song" in people's minds. I have the same fear often about Magnetic Fields songs (this could be a MF song, no?). That the beauty and majesty of thought put into the creation of this thing will die under the weight of its own funny chorus. It's so important, I think, that people appreciate how true it is that love has such an undeniable practicality, you can touch love, you can hear it; and how lovely it is that Berman lives so independent of the "independent", he fearlessly [wrong word...try "obviously" -ed.] makes a song (an entire album, in fact) about getting old. But then, I think, you're a snob, Dan, people can take what they want from it. This song is a wrinkled grin, and maybe that's all.

[Tanglewood Numbers will be released in the fall, until then, Buy]


Viva Voce - "Alive With Pleasure"

My best friend Karin is here to talk with me about this song. This is our talk:

Karin: Doo doo doo doo

Me: Are you trying to predict what's coming next?

Karin: Yeah.

Me: Did you predict that break in the middle?

Karin: No. that's impossible.

Me: I know, it's like two songs grafted together. Like two pieces of soap.

Karin: No, not like that. This song has too many "ingredients" to be merely soap.

Me: Right. Like what? (starts clapping hands, playing theremin, tambourine, and shaker)

Karin: Enough.

Me: Yeah, it gets kind of tiring, right?

Karin: No, you're not understanding me, listening means closed mouth. The best ingredients make the best food so-

Me: -as long as it's there the kid in me will always like it?

Karin: Exactly. Play it again.

The End.
(note: this was not our talk. Karin is much nicer than this.)

[sent to us by PDX Pop Now festival, support Portland music! buy!]

Posted by Dan at 3:02 AM | Comments (7)

July 15, 2005

Not All French Comedy is Funny Costumes, But Most Of It Is

I saw two people, one on the way to work, one on the way home, doing the same crossword. Both with the same wrong answer to "Auld Lang ____". They had put "Sine". I guess they have a point; up with math, down with regret. also, they (a different "they") evacuated the subway today. everyone nerves and smiles.

Spitfires & Mayflowers - "Pirates"

Woah. Party.

I missed seeing this band open for The Barmitzvah Bros, instead I went to Joke Club (holy crap, go, it's good). But I wish I had seen them, if only for this song. I get the sense that they're so unprepared. It's like they can't see the next part of the song around the corner. They're grinning, unsure the whole time, like walking hand in hand through thick fog, you can only see the other hand. Exciting! Fuck the Zipper, S & M to 10!

And there's a great addendum at the end, falling into the intro to a live show (it's the first track on Triumph). I love how one dude is there for the bassist.



David Byrne - "In the Future"

Speaking of people who sing songs about Pirates, I know we post David Byrne a lot. But I'm pretty sure this is really rare. From what I can tell, it's only been available in vinyl before, and only in the UK, it's part of the soundtrack to an eight-hour play by Robert Wilson. And it's gorgeous.

It's the perfect combination of hilarity and horrorshow (they are the same). Self-contradictory and already-here, it's inescapable, you have to listen to every word; that's why they're spoken so clearly.

If I could add one, it would be: "In the future, there will be so much music that if you listen closely, you'll always be able to hear a song playing."

[buy on vinyl]


Also, for Nikos:
The three pieces that I extracted from L'Éclisse 1 2 3
thankyou for being interested. hope you enjoy.

Posted by Dan at 1:06 AM | Comments (12)

July 14, 2005

Who Wins?

Heroes and Villains - "esa-2000"

Ian Curtis and Calvin Johnson stand atop a precariously swaying tower of song. "esa-2000" is the most successful game of Jenga you've played since... God knows when. As such, there's a level of anxiety unknown to you since the last time you played such a successful game of Jenga. This anxiety is exacerbated by the hand-claps almost to the same degree that your aesthetic environment has been improved by them, and your life consequently enriched (if you understand the word 'almost' to mean 'not even close to,' as I do).

At 2:16 something like a guitar solo takes place. It's like everything good that ever happened to you, happening again, at the same time. Really, it is. [Info]


Duke Ellington and John Coltrane - "In A Sentimental Mood"

It's fitting that the young drummer and the young saxophonist play like they're hurt - their pain bottled up, but rising uncontrollably and fitfully to the surface (anguished runs and tight snare rolls); whereas the older pianist maintains perspective, moves a simple chord progression around the piano like he's examining a memory from every angle. How does it sound if I play it like this? Or like this? Ellington returns to his theme again and again: while the rest of the band tries to fight its way out of the titular sentimental mood, he simply revels in it. [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 10:44 AM | Comments (11)

July 13, 2005

aimless day

Boy, people have sure been quiet this week.


We/Or/Me - "Aimless Day".

Sometimes you're exhausted. You're so hot - you're so hot. You're hot and you're weak and you're exhausted. You go home and you pull the blinds closed and you sit in the dark and you just try to feel things. You try to feel the dry cool couch under your fingers. You try to feel the cold water in your throat. You try to feel the air in your lungs. You sense the swell and blare of the sun outside the window, even through the blinds.

You look at your music. You think about putting something on. Coming home you were listening to some old Damien Jurado demos, ripped from vinyl, messy and angry, and that jangly gnash felt good against the white pavement and the heat oh the heat. But now such a racket seems unimaginable; so loud, so sore. So you think of softer things. And you quease. Yes, you feel sick. Because as much as that mamsy pamsy stuff might drag you out of your body, might sedate you and put you somewhere comfy and harmless, you don't want to be sedated. You want to stay in your body, you want to feel the ache and the heat. You want to be able to sense the glare on the other side of the glass and blinds. You don't want to be cut off from today: today was today. You want to know it. You're just so hot.

What you should do is put on "Aimless Day".

Oh, it's soft. Yeah. But-

I don't know how to articulate this. It's a man with an acoustic guitar. Two acoustic guitars. Glockenspiel. A woman sings too. There's a girl murmuring things I can't make out. It goes in circles. But it seems so belittling to say there's a man with an acoustic guitar. It lumps him with all the Toms, Sams and Johns, all the cover-bands and too-earnest jokers, all the crap that comes from letting human beings have free access to musical instruments.

Q: Why do so many people hate "folky stuff with acoustic guitars".
A: Because so much of it ought to be hated.

But this isn't chaff. This isn't boring, any more than a sunset is boring. Sure, you need to watch it. You need to watch it set. You need to project things onto it, to let those curtains of colour carry more than just rain, dust. But if you pay attention, if you crack your heart open and let the dusk in, it'll be a salve. It'll be a peace.

We/Or/Me is Bahhaj Taherzadeh. He's from Ireland but lives in Chicago. And tonight this song sounds better than "Pink Moon" (I just double-checked. It does.). It sounds better than "Astral Weeks". I don't know if it is better, but it's just what I need. It's nostalgic and sad and wiped but so happy in that place, so fondly imagining those trains that went by, those birds that circled, the things "we let slip away".

And if we get too spacey, too lazy and distracted and dreaming, well there's always the glockenspiel. It's beautiful, yes, but it's also real. It sounds like someone in a bedroom hitting their glockenspiel with a stick. It's a real thing, rubber or cork on metal, like all those other real things that happen to us. Like that world out there in the light and the heat. Like our hands right here, this couch, our breath.

[we/or/me play on August 23 in Chicago. He's working on an LP. Visit the website.]


Sloan - "Deeper than Beauty". When I was in high school this was maybe the song I'd listen to when it was really hot. One day after school I saw Marlene standing at her locker with Heather and they were singing the lyrics of this song at each other. I was way down at the other end but I watched and I listened and man did I want to sing along. I was so tired and acheing and so hot and I wanted to raise my voice to a yell, to a happy scream, and say "MOLASSES!" I wanted them to look up and see me and for there to be a look of recognition, of discovery, and then they'd be singing at me, with me, too. "La la la la la!" We'd all be singing, all three of us, hands balled into fists, bending at the knees with the pleasure of it. Yelling this song by a bunch of Haligonians who were signed by Geffen because people thought they'd be the next Nirvana. Of course, they weren't. This was just bare guitar and bare distant drums. He even laughs in the middle. But the next time I heard a guitar like that wasn't until I heard Alden play with The Unicorns, bright bright red, something shaking inside me like a bead on a string.

I wanted so desperately to be singing with them. But I didn't. I didn't have their courage under the yellowy Glebe lights. I didn't really know them. It would have been weird.

Don't worry - Jordan became friends with them instead.

[buy Twice Removed because it's one of the very best Canadian albums of all time. and don't just take my word for it.]


p.s. Who knew that CUTE was so easy to find?

Posted by Sean at 5:37 AM | Comments (27)

July 12, 2005

Sunglasses At Sunrise

Bonnie "Prince" Billy - "Ignition" (live)

Grace from Australia sent me this R. Kelly cover about eight months ago.

Is it right to write about "Ignition" from within my parents' home? No. It's too dirty. Nevertheless...

After reading a Nabokov short story about lepidoptery, do you grab a big net and a mason jar and go butterfly catching?

But, does staring at an Escher lithograph drive you to the study of higher geometry?

Still, isn't it the case that immediately after reading a Dick Francis novel, you ride a horse in a steeple chase/solve a crime through cunning detective work?

Each of the above artists is an expert in the field of his subject matter, and sometimes portrays it from an obscure, inaccessible perspective - one which I can often appreciate, but rarely relate to. This is true too of R. Kelly and his subject matter: doing it. But unlike zoology, math, and the world of equestrian crime, sex is not the domain of experts. It is for us all. When I listen to an R. Kelly recording, I'm not aroused or seduced, but shamed. I wish he wasn't kickin' it with my girlfriend. In his version of "Ignition," Mr. Oldham gives voice to the amateur love-maker. He's self-conscious and ironic, but not detached or untrue. It's the self-aware awkwardness and ridiculousness of his attempt to be sexy that makes it seem so authentic and, well, sexy. When at 3:19, things fall apart, he and his "partner" start laughing. Now they're having fun. This I can relate to. This is hot. I don't know about the lascivious science of R. Kelly, but I do know about being laughed at in bed.


Boat - "Holding All The Globes"

The last slow dance ever. Played by a four-piece band, two of whom seem to have nothing to do but show enough good taste to do nothing. [Info]

Posted by Jordan at 5:07 AM | Comments (8)

July 11, 2005

chapped lips

The Chap - "Auto Where To". Fluxblog tipped me to The Chap when Matt posted "Baby I'm Hurtin'", a greasy-haired electropop song with strings and madcap yells. But when Ham arrived, I found an altogether different thing: like the Junior Boys swirled with Datarock, it's cool synths and a clicking dance-track, all chilled and glassy and occasionally pop-a-pill crazy. "Auto Where To" lives at some middle point between the album's extremes. In the centre of the thing, in its twisty tree-trunk middle, there's that guitar-line. It hops and dodges, it navigates alleys in double-time. And it would be nothing without those pop-pop synths. They'd even makes fashion models dance.

There are vocals too, codeine English vocals, mostly nonsense, and then a racket of clipped percussion, buzzy Four Tet noises, and a growing synth threat. The crush of insects that descent on a land, drinks being spilled on the dance-floor, explosions shooting through the drywall, ash everywhere. [buy at Lo Recordings]


Micah P Hinson - "The Dream You Left Behind". Okay for me this is a special moment kind of song, where I was just walking along and light glanced out unexpectedly and colours waved and a wind blew at my collar and at the same time this song was playing, gold in my ears, this simple mix of sounds, of noise. It's a drum and a shaker, bamf bamf bamf, a guitar, another guitar, another, and there's Micah's still-grim voice, echoing back on itself, and out of nowhere, out of the moon or up from the ground or kicked up by your boot, it's another guitar and this one comes with bells and sparkle. It's a slight and magnificent counterpoint, straying from the melody's path just enough. All of a sudden this quietloud folk-rock ditty has got a monumental strength, the power to jar the world to the right or to the left, to make light glance out and colours wave and wind blow at collars. Yeah, a special moment kind of song, but maybe you'll have one too. [from Micah's new EP, The Baby and the Satellite. I can only see it at Amazon UK, but go buy!]

Posted by Sean at 4:49 AM | Comments (4)

July 8, 2005

Here Is One Hand, Here Is Another

London readers: I'm sorry and I hope you're all OK.


Kind of Like Spitting - "Thirteen"

When Elliot Smith covered Big Star's "Thirteen" he turned the sentimental psych-pop ballad into a melancholy finger-picked nostalgia (i.e. an Elliot Smith song). Kind of Like Spitting carries the song further in the same direction. There is nothing about this version that doesn't mean high school to me. No note, or phrase, no emphasis or delivery that isn't authentically of the high school boy. I recognize that tape hiss: it's the pervasive 'hsss' of late night four track love songs.

KoLS (why this name, Kind of Like Spitting?) chooses mostly on the side of restraint, and always on the side of good. He changes a line: "If it's no, well, I can go" becomes "If it's no, then I can go." This is a better, starker, less snot-nosed line. Less a threat than a regrettable fact. He holds back from running his vocals on the second line ("meet you at the pool"), as the other two versions have it. This has the effect of making the later runs ("Paint it Blah-ah-hah-ah-lack," etc.) more striking; more true to his tentative, grand, clumsy love. When he doubles his voice, he finds his way to the most gentle and careful harmonies. While sung in the present tense, it is set in a past shared by us all (remember?). [Label]


Thanks for asking, Dan. Here are two (very roughly mixed (why so much vocals?)) new recordings.

Removed due to band upheaval. I probably should have asked them before posting the songs in such rough shape. Sorry about that. Hope I didn't get your hopes up too high.

Posted by Jordan at 4:05 AM | Comments (11)

July 7, 2005

Dear London

I hope everyone (Matthew, Gooblar, Frances, Robin [Wilks], the Rosenbergs etc) and everyone else out there is ok.

Posted by Sean at 6:33 AM | Comments (4)

Last Songs of the Night

Hangnail Phillips - "Lillian"

I wanted to post Hangnail Phillips' "Post Cold War World" instead, but I couldn't do it. "Lillian" is just better. So you get no party song today. This song: it's so friendly! These are familiar streets, paved with mandolin cobblestones, soprano sax streetlights, and clarinets doing a softshoe down the middle, no traffic. Phillips' big grandfather voice, sounding almost Burl Ives-y, is another clearly worn path, but in a comforting kind of way; the way the houses and shortcuts seem worn when you walk home today. It's the best kind of slow-dance: you can dance with your crush or your babysitter to this song and it would still feel right.

[Buy or Download]


Tompaulin - "Three In The Morning"

Tompaulin's Into the Black is actually composed entirely of last songs of the night, but this is my favourite. It's not the lyrics - I'm not sure they even really care about those too much - and it's definitely not the bongo drums (too 'dorm room') that make me grin, it's the sheer mood that it forces on me and whatever I'm doing at that moment. I'm like transported to someone's cottage, it's just after midnight, and I'm playing some stupid game (cards, maybe scrabble) that is suddenly the most important thing in the world (more important than the song, too, it merely plays in the background, but is the perfect low background hum to this setting), and I'm immensely glad that something so trivial is so important. Which maybe does tie into the lyrics; something meaningless endowed with meaning. Okay, bye.

[Buy older stuff]


tomorrow: Jordan Himelfarb posts. Maybe he can answer us all this question (we don't talk): when are we going to get to hear more Cay?

Posted by Dan at 12:39 AM | Comments (2)

July 6, 2005

oh, wednesdays!

Today, two songs about wishing other people were dead.

Herman Dune - "Walk, Don't Run". So Herman Dune have released the finest album of their career, one of the very finest albums of the year, an album full of so much humour, feeling, joy, sadness, and so much contradictory human experience that it feels like it ought to have been a group's life-work, the result of thirty years of sweat, tears and recording experience.

Many of you may have heard "Not On Top". It's extraordinary, silly, plucky, a happy blues to persuade you to get out of bed. At their website you can listen to "Good for No-One", brooding, self-loathing, a sort of opposite.

"And then you told me we had some chemistry / and I ran away and scared the shit out of two little Greek kids who called me a freak ... And I rushed to Seven Sisters and I met the magic rabbi there and he called me by sweet name and he took me in his magic cape and he told me the mission that god had planned for me / he said take a plane to Brazil and buy some good drugs there, baby, and then bring them back in your guitar case and sell them at twice the price you paid."
Andre's english is perfectly composed, full of unlikely images and a bird-awkward cadence. The accent, the slightly skewed pronunciations, make everything all the richer. Like with Joanna Newsom, there are plummy phrases you just repeat and repeat to yourself. "I read the script of Unbreakable on a rainy morning..."

But here's "Walk, Don't Run," less funny than some of the others but jumpy in the shoulders, stamping over pavement cracks and nasty tufts of grass. The way that extra words are stuck at the end of lines ("bastards", "baby"), I think of Datarock's vivacious "Computer Camp Love". But there's none of that glee, here, just a triumphant pissed-off-ness. Julie Doiron's messy backup vocals are glorious, glorious, this tangled-up chorus full of snippy anger and gentle humanity. It's a song for an After, resigned but still raging, surprising yourself at the corpuscles of anger in your heart. You suddenly notice that your hands are in fists, and you don't know why. Oh wait, you do know why.

[buy US/Canada | UK]


Jon-Rae and the River - "Prayer to God".

Popsheep taught me about Jon-Rae Fletcher. So now I've ordered the album and boy, you folks ought to as well.

"Prayer To God" is perhaps the most off-kilter of the songs on this album, the verses that don't quite scan, the half-collapsing swagger of the piano and bass. Inevitably, however, there's much to be gained from this gambit; we'll cheer, we'll roar, we'll explode when everything works out, outta nowhere, "THAT'S WHERE YOU OUGHTA KILL HER, IN THAT PARTICULAR PLACE!" Oh yes, it's an angry one, this - angry and harmless, drunk, on the verge of tears and laughter. There's something so wonderful about the sentiment: Jon-Rae wants these two people dead ("him, just fuckin' kill him!" ha!), but for all his Lear-like hollering, he'd never, never do it himself. No - this is a prayer to God, a plea, a hysterical request. It's a torrent of feeling, really, a release; everything coming coursing out through the mouth (yes), all that stored resentment, and just as he runs out of energy there's a girl there singing too, a comrade in arms or an alcohol mirage, but foremost she's simply some company, someone he can sit beside as he finishes yelling and sobers, sobers up.



Over at the John Guilt website, you can listen to the title track from their new EP.

It's called "By Any Other Name" and it's about Winona Laura Horowitz and Robert Zimmerman, only not really. It's a handsome song, a tender one, and it doesn't linger on the things it holds dearest: it wouldn't want to break them. The strings are great, thick cords of sound, like human hair. And just when you think you have it figured out, there's pizzicatto, an organ, a lap steel, and the sky opens up a bit wider.

Josh Rouse better watch out -- people are coming up from behind. (Also: Nashville sucks.)



Ok, again, if anyone knows anyone at, please tell them to update their freakin' links.

(Teaching the Indie Kids, Catchdubs, My Old Kentucky Blog, Final Fantasy, Blogotheque, Scissorkick, Scenestars, Leaf and Lime, Golden Fiddle, Popdrivel, if you wouldn't mind as well?)

Posted by Sean at 7:09 AM | Comments (20)

July 5, 2005

Can You See It?

Architecture in Helsinki - "The Cemetary"

Not former champions of the Howard Scripps National Spelling Bee, Architecture in Helsinki includes somewhere in the range of six hundred different singers (among them: Robert Smith, "Boris" Picket, The Bangles, The Cincinnati Bengals, and Leibniz (Ha Ha)).

One hundred tiny songs threaded on a streamer. [Buy]


Kate and Anna McGarrigle - "La Vache Qui Pleure"

These two voices are familiar playmates. They were, after all, born and raised together. Individually, they each mean something different (one is the earth, the other the sky), and together, when they harmonize, they are, well,

Keep this in mind:

You graze. You chew cud. You're prone to disease. You're feeble-minded. You follow the Socratic ideal, and as such, refuse to engage in escapist thinking - facts are facts, and you know that you are likely to encounter a wide range of unpleasantness in your short life (utter prodding and slaughter, to name just two examples).

Sometimes it's very sad being a cow. [Buy]


Hello everyone. Whatcha knowin'?

Posted by Jordan at 7:00 AM | Comments (5)

July 4, 2005

Save Down

happy american canada day, america.

Balthazar - "Anna Pavlova"

Jon: I heard this song on CBC radio 3.

Me: Play it.

Jon: There.

(snapping, surfing, guitars and cigarillo-smoking, bomber-jacket-in-summer wearing, swaggering frenchmen bring more bareknuckle rhythms and megaphone filters than I'm ready for.)

Me: Woah.



Ghosty - "Clouds Solve It" (featuring Wayne Coyne)

I feel guilty posting only this song by Ghosty. Like having Wayne Coyne is the only thing that makes it good enough. In fact, quite the opposite: he ruins this song. But that's what makes it good (irony? sincerity!). I think he's supposed to be adding back-up vocals (or perhaps they're trying to turn an obvious solo into a duet) but he ends up taking over in a heavy, stumbling manner that just spins quietly out of control (you can feel it turn, right at the sour note). It's as if Ghosty is trying to play their song and Wayne Coyne jumped up on stage and started making fun of their lyrics. But it seems to be all in good fun, so let's all have fun too.


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

July 1, 2005

filibuster necromancy

Happy Canada Day, to those of you over there. (And my woo-hoo congratulations huzzah [to Spain as well!] on the passing of the gay marriage legislation.)

I wrote about Canada Day in a blog entry two years ago. I talk about fireworks, melancholy, and riding on the bus. I still quite like it, and since (probably) none of you were reading back then, you might like to take a look.

I don't have much Canadiana to share with you right now that I haven't already, but I'm absolutely delighted to bring you this.

I was mint-green with envy, reading Carl's review of Final Fantasy's gig in Toronto earlier this week. New songs in a perfect setting, string quartet at the rear. Has A Good Home remains my favourite release of the year so far, but I'm more excited still for what Owen has in store for us later this year.

It was a great pleasure, therefore, to find at the Final Fantasy LiveJournal community that someone had made an unexpectedly exceptional recording of the event. And it was available to download.

So here is a song from Final Fantasy's performance at the Music Gallery in Toronto on June 25.

Final Fantasy - "If I Were A Carp [live]". Somewhere between Caetano Veloso and Shostakovich's 8th String Quartet (yeah, the one about the bombing of Dresden). It's a song thick with dread, utterly compelling, but also a rising dark shape that you daren't look in the eye. The orchestration is frankly remarkable; there's the burnished main theme, those slow sea-strokes, but then you'll hear a shimmering, a sigh, and a lighter motif... But it's an uncanny breeze, a Wrong Wind, and suddenly there's the blackness yawning before you, unshakably so.

In this terrifying section, amid the screaming damning truths, it's hard to make out the lyrics. So I'll share with you what Owen told me about this song, writing a couple of months ago.

"If I Were A Carp" is about necromancy. It's the saddest song I've ever written, there's no humour in it like Les Mouches stuff. It's about a dead man coming back to tell the living: "Death fooled you! No black robes! No scythe! No skeleton! No throne of bone! Nothing! It's all nothing!"
This will stay with you.

[buy Has A Good Home and stuff. "If I Were a Carp" should (?) be on his next LP, He Poos Clouds.]


And because I don't feel right leaving you both in this place, here are two fantastic, beautiful, wonderful songs about girls. They might look like opposites, but they're not. (And if you want, they can also be songs about boys.)

R. Kelly - "Kickin' It With Your Girlfriend". TP-3: Reloaded is a marvel of smooth, round sounds, of heat and melodies and finger-snaps, so masterfully composed that its complexities are essentially invisible. I'm beginning to understand why some people scoff at the Postal Service, say, when used for purposes of seduction. "Such Great Heights" is nice enough - but gosh, isn't this a more true statement of love? Or at least of like-very-much? I don't deny Ben Gibbard's feelings, but the clarity of Kelly's rhetoric seems much more difficult to doubt. His feelings are so sweetly, so gently, so totally confessed that I can't, I cannot disagree with him. Sung like this, so slow-and-easy, his logic seems so sensible. "I did not ask for this / it just happened outta nowhere since the day we kissed." So now he's "kickin' it with your girlfriend". It was meant to be. "I never meant to hurt you / but girl I LOVE HER." (And it doesn't hurt that there's a closet reference.)

[preorder at Amazon]


Damien Jurado - "Apart". I don't recommend listening to this when you're on your own walking through a park on a bright greenyellow leafypicnic summer day. Because it's one of those lovesongs so simple and sappy and magnificent that it can also be real hounddog sad. This is just a man and his guitar, but when Jurado sings with his river-run voice a statement that you believe, a truth that you feel, it's so purely powerful that it may just take your breath away. So plain, so fair, so lovely. The sweetest Rothko painting ever sung.

(from the tour-only Walk Along the Fence LP)


Tonight I saw Antony and the Johnsons at the Liquid Room here in Edinburgh. It was an excellent show. And not excellent because I like Antony and so all he does must be gold - no, because he performed beautifully, because he gave us more than he had to, but most of all because he surprised me. His voice is far more lovely than even his recordings suggest; it's so supple, lifting with every palpitation of his heart, but in person it's also plummy, soft, very easy to listen to. Furthermore, whereas on record he's a rather ferocious performer, (melo)dramatic and forceful, every song very boldly sung, tonight Antony's power was much more restrained. It was an immanent presence there on stage, with vastnesses and fastnesses of feeling that didn't impose themselves on you if you didn't choose to reach out and take them. It helped that his band (cello, violin, accordion, bass and wonderful classical guitar) were superb. Better live than on CD, I think, and definitely worth seeing if you can.


Please consider commenting on today's post. I'd really like it if you did.

Posted by Sean at 4:35 AM | Comments (26)