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.

August 30, 2005

Not Kept In Jars

Jon Brion - "Theme" (from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)

Do you remember Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Starring Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet and Frodo Baggins, it's a movie about love and memory. It's also about the relationship between what we know and how happy we are, and the intrinsic value of knowledge and truth. It raises the question of whether it is better to bask in the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, come by dishonestly, or to suffer the part cloudiness of the mind spotted by sometimes unpleasant memory. Like the cave analogy of Plato's Republic or Robert Nozick's "The Experience Machine", Eternal Sunshine rejects comforting unreality and opts instead for tricky truth. And that's the way we at STG like it.

I assume that Jon Brion lives his life based on Socrates' great maxim that the unexamined life is not worth living. He also wrote the theme for I Heart Huckabees, a movie that references Plato's cave explicitly. If more evidence is needed, look no further than this theme, in which he demonstrates great self-understanding through his uncanny evocation of memory and its yellow-tinged, hyperbolic cousin; nostalgia. Pay particular attention to the delicate backward keyboard coils, which sound like a feedback loop of memories of memories, etc.

You can erase Jon Brion from the new Fiona Apple record, but you can't erase him from our memory, or, at least, we'd prefer that you didn't. [Buy]


Michael Hurley - "Blue Driver"

Michael Hurley is "looking out the rear-view mirror for the highway patrol." It seems that he's in trouble with the law. Not surprising, since what makes his singing sublime is its oddness, its small surprises, its off-kilter rises, falls and quivers. Listen to the last thirty seconds of this song and tell me that he's not criminally insane and I will tell you that you are criminally insane and then have you arrested. "Woooooooo oooooo ooooooooo." [Hi Fi Snock Uptown, the album on which "Blue Driver" was originally released, has not been released on CD. Long Journey has been, however, and I strongly recommend that you buy it.]

Posted by Jordan at 7:18 AM | Comments (16)

August 29, 2005

Bob Wiseman Hates My Comedy

Bob Wiseman - "Born To Love You"

This song is a straight line, perhaps a phoneline, through an unknown part of town. It's like there used to be a regular, kind of played, song about love with lines like "I was born to love you" and a melody that's cool but not amazing. But then, after it was recorded, there was too much real love infused into the song, too much sincerity and open-eyed truth, that it electronically exploded inside its 1:40-skin. It's shaking with vitality. Plus there's a great video that goes with it (simple, also a straight line), but apparently Much Music won't (haven't) play(ed) it.


Bob Wiseman - "Cousin Dave"

Hear we here the best example of Bob Wiseman's style and charm. It's the super-honest, songs-are-my-diary style of music done so perfectly that it proves this style can work, and be fantastic. Not only is he wearing his heart on his sleeve, he's also a wearing a shirt that says "my heart is on my sleeve". At first listen, it might appear like this is a "joke song", but as I've said before, it's when upon second and third listen when you can reach past the joke and feel the back of a head, a nervously bouncing knee, a real mouth with a real tongue, then you know you've come the right way: you were right to take the time.

[Buy It's True and his other albums or visit his site]

Posted by Dan at 4:42 AM | Comments (1)

August 26, 2005

A Constant Wellspring

Friday posts are the best. but Jordan's post yesterday was so good I don't want it getting overlooked (it was only up for like 6 hours). So here's a song for your party tonight, and then consider yesterday's and today's post as a send-off to the weekend after the great greatness that was Will Sheff's contribution this week.

Organized Rhyme - "Check the O.R." I grew up in Ottawa, so I will always believe that Tom Green is everything he doesn't claim to be; very very smart. Beyond this getting some attention after his rise to fame (simply for that reason), it deserves acclaim on its own merits. I can't think of another Rap Song that makes me grin so wide.

| go here now. and then have a good weekend.

Posted by Dan at 2:04 AM | Comments (4)

August 25, 2005

Accordingly, Frau Planck Was Turned To Ash

General Miggs - "Broken Hoof"

When I listen to unsolicited submissions I try to keep an open mind. I try to approach them optimistically. I've been on the other side of the equation; sending my music out into the abyss, to be discarded, or worse. But, realistically, the chances that I will like any particular submission are relatively slim. Often submissions are well conceived, competently executed, or widely appealing, but just don't speak to me (take note: I require songs to address me directly). So when a song as good as this one is submitted to me by a band I've never heard of, I cry for days on end, inconsolable for having realized that I am so lucky, while others suffer in a variety of ways. I am, after all, a deeply modest man.

"Broken Hoof" is unrelentingly catchy. Through verses, bridges and choruses it never loses its momentum, never loses its strict shuffle. The drums and bass play at chaos like clowns play at being drunk: pretending to fall over each other though they are in complete control, pretending to be crude and clumsy though they are supremely elegant. During the first bridge, at 1:23, a steel drum is introduced and manages to sound simultaneously exuberant and aching. The same could be said of the brilliant vocal performance, an unadorned and persistently energetic presentation of the melody. [Info]


Think About Life - "Serious Chords"

Think About Life manages, through outstanding vocals and solid pop songwriting, to find tenderness in the Heart of Darkness (i.e. among abrasive keyboards and a house beat). [Info]

Posted by Jordan at 3:55 PM | Comments (3)

August 24, 2005

Said the Guests: Will Robinson Sheff

[It fills me (Sean) with pride to welcome Will [Robinson] Sheff to Said the Gramophone. Will is my favourite songwriter on the planet. He leads Okkervil River and stands side-by-side with Jonathan Meiburg in Shearwater. He swims in brown rivers and watches forests burn, he nurses birds and takes lovers to the mountains. Both of these bands are very dear to this blog. Okkervil River's newest LP, Black Sheep Boy, is one of the very finest records of the year, glimmering and flashing, fiercely moving. (I most recently wrote about it here.)

But today Will is here, and he's telling us about Tim Hardin. Please make him feel welcome.]

Tim Hardin - "Eulogy to Lenny Bruce"

Because Black Sheep Boy, the most recent record by my band, is written around a Tim Hardin song and occasionally very lightly references Hardin's life, I've been asked many times this year to hold forth on the topic of Tim Hardin. Journalists ask me to expound on the connection between our record and Hardin, to explain what specifically about Hardin and his music inspired us on to base a record on one of his songs. They want to know: is Black Sheep Boy based on Hardin's biography? Is it based on my own biography? These are all annoyingly difficult questions to answer because I'm not sure there are very simple reasons or even that there's a very close connection. Interested fans, on the other hand, merely want to know what Tim Hardin records to buy. This is a much easier question, so I'll answer it first:

Buy Tim Hardin 1 or Tim Hardin 2. They're available individually on vinyl and together on the CD Tim Hardin 1 + 2, distributed by the Repertoire label and available in the United States as an import. From Polygram you can also buy a decent and very affordably-priced no-frills CD entitled Reason To Believe (The Best Of), assembled almost entirely from Hardin's first two records. Both of these collections contain little-known Hardin gems alongside Hardin's original versions of songs that other artists covered and made famous.

These famous songs were my first exposure to Tim Hardin, and I knew them long before I knew his name. I knew them as sung by artists whom I mostly scoffed at, like Bobby Darin, with his hit versions of "If I Were a Carpenter" and "Lady Came from Baltimore," or the insufferable Rod Stewart crooning "Reason to Believe." When I heard Hardin's original versions, though, I found that they were nothing like those covers. Their arrangements were largely acoustic and elegantly simple, mixing the earnest earthiness of singer-songwriter folk with the sophistication of Cool Jazz artists like Chet Baker. And Hardin's voice - though possessed of a tremolo quality that's very different than what's in style today - was startlingly intimate, emotional, and direct. Hardin's music transported me to the same tender, warm little world that I associate with artists like Nick Drake and Van Morrison, and I realized that both of these artists were probably in fact deeply influenced by Hardin and his then-famous, jewel-like little songs. (These days, Van Morrison is a legendary figure and Nick Drake has achieved a posthumous fame as perhaps the definitive treasured cult songwriter, but Tim Hardin's revival has been slow in coming.)

As I listened to Hardin's first two records over and over again, I also started having that weird proprietary feeling that I get towards Drake and Morrison: no matter how famous their music is, I have this odd and comforting sense that each time I cue up the record they're singing just for me. I became obsessed with Hardin's songs on Tim 1 and Tim 2, with the economy of their language, their swooping, lyrical string arrangements, the halting rhythms of Hardin's acoustic guitar playing. At first my favorite Tim Hardin song was "It'll Never Happen Again," then it was "Don't Make Promises," then it was "Misty Roses," but before long I became especially obsessed with the song "Black Sheep Boy," with its mysterious lyrics and darkly confident theme, which, as far as I could figure out, could be summed up thusly: "I know I'm fucking up - leave me alone."

One night on one stop along a particularly draining solo tour, I spent the night on the floor of Chris Swanson, co-owner of our record label Jagjaguwar. Before going to bed, I scanned briefly through Chris's CD collection - spanning floor-to-ceiling the entire wall next to my sleeping bag - and I came across a Tim Hardin box set. I already loved Hardin's music but I didn't know much about his life, so I started flipping through the liner notes for the box set and I learned that Hardin had written "Black Sheep Boy" while visiting his family back in his hometown of Eugene, OR. During the visit, an old friend offered heroin to Hardin, an ex-junkie who had been clean for several years. Hardin started using again and, as I understand it, didn't really stop until 1980, when he died of an overdose.


In 2003, I was trying to make my rent working as a video store clerk here in Austin, TX. Our store was located right next door to a porn shop and the guy who night-managed the porn shop was really friendly. He'd spent a lot of time as a touring musician and a session guy, doing everything from big arena tours in the 80's to European specialty gigs with lesser-known footnotes of 1960's surf rock, and, it turned out, he'd done some session work backing Tim Hardin near the very, very end of Hardin's life. Thrilled that I'd met someone who'd met Tim Hardin, and wanting information that might eventually help with Black Sheep Boy, I pumped him for information about what Hardin's personality was like during the sessions. He answered, "I couldn't even tell you. He was just really gone."


Tim Hardin - "Lady Came from Baltimore"

Tim Hardin - "Red Balloon"

The song "Black Sheep Boy" appeared on 1967's Tim Hardin 2. It was the third track, and immediately after it was "Lady Came from Baltimore" a love song to Hardin's new wife Susan Morss - referred to as "Susan Moore" in the lyrics - and one of the simplest, purest, and most affecting love songs you'll ever hear. Immediately before "Black Sheep Boy," though, came Hardin's "Red Balloon," which could also be described as a love song - but in "Red Balloon," the object of Hardin's affection wasn't Susan Morss, but heroin:

Bought myself a red balloon and got a blue surprise -
hidden in the red balloon, the pinning of my eyes.
You took the love light from my eyes. Blue, blue surprise.
We met as friends and you were so easy to get to know,
but will we see each other again? Oh... I hope so.
The sleeve for Tim Hardin 2 features my favorite picture of Hardin, seen through the window of his house, with Susan Morss standing to his right. Morss is pregnant with her and Hardin's first and only child, Tim Damion Hardin. Tucked inside their cozy little house in Woodstock, NY, Morss and Hardin look so wholesome and so happy.

After Tim Hardin 2, both the quality and the quantity of Hardin's songwriting began dropping off noticeably as his inspiration reportedly just dried up. Tim Hardin 3 was a sloppy but fiery live album; after Tim 4 Hardin took a two year absence and then began work on a home-recorded concept record. Entitled Suite for Susan Moore and Damion - We Are - One. One, All In One, this very ambitious record was supposed to be Hardin's testament of his enduring love for his wife and son, a sort of album-length sequel to "Lady Came from Baltimore." However, Hardin's escalating drug use and increasingly unstable mental state caused Morss to leave him in the middle of recording, taking Damion with her to L.A.

Suite for Susan Moore and Damion - We Are - One. One, All In One is an unbearably sad record, and its sadness comes not from contemplation or from clear-eyed and hard-won wisdom but from how empty Hardin's pronouncements on romantic commitment and fatherly love ring. There's a sense of despair to the album, but deeper than that there's a sense of confusion, of disconnectedness, not just of Hardin from his message but of Hardin from his muse, and maybe from himself. It's one of the most enervating records I've ever heard, full of directionless melodies, words that seem vulnerable and sincere but that barely add up to anything, clumsy and vapid noodling, songs that strain to mean everything and mean less than nothing. Here and there, though, Hardin stumbles onto lyrics as great as in his heyday, as in "Magician," when the clouds seem to part and Hardin presents the listener with what's probably a warped self-portrait, keening:

You should see the troubles that he goes through
to free his house from sin.
Magic wands and weapons together in a room...


Maybe the best answer I could give to the question of why I decided to make a record somewhat inspired by Tim Hardin is that, if I hadn't done it, I wouldn't have had the amazing opportunity to meet Tim Damion Hardin, Hardin's only child.

A few months after Black Sheep Boy came out, I was stunned to receive an e-mail from Hardin's son; he had heard through the grapevine about our album and he'd ordered it off the internet. Then he'd looked up our website and found a contact address. He and I e-mailed back and forth a little bit; he seemed really excited that there were younger musicians out there making music that referenced his father. When he saw that our next tour would take us through Florida - where he currently lives and works as a painter - we agreed to meet in Orlando. I put him on the guest list and, shortly before we sound-checked, this stout and friendly-looking and soulful man in a florid green shirt walked up and introduced himself to me.

I was startled at the ways in which Damion Hardin resembled (particularly around the eyes and nose) the pictures I'd seen of his father, and I was shocked to realize that - for as much as Hardin's music had naively convinced me that in some way I knew him - in the heat of my fandom and my abstract appreciation of Tim Hardin's story I really hadn't seriously considered Tim Hardin as a real human being. Now I was faced with evidence of Hardin in the person of a man who not only resembled him but who had loved him and struggled with his legacy as a human and as an artist in ways far more serious and meaningful than I had.

It wasn't too long into our conversation that Damion and I discovered that we'd spent a significant portion of our lives living only a handful of miles away from each other. Susan Morss was from Vermont, and after she'd permanently separated from Tim Hardin she moved back up to the Northeast with Damion, and he enrolled in high school in Hanover, N.H. My father was an administrator at Hanover's Dartmouth College and my family lived two towns over - about a 20 minute drive away - in Meriden, N.H. Hanover was my favorite haunt; the only town nearby with a cool video store, a real coffeeshop with crappy art on the walls, a theater that would occasionally show foreign films. I had friends who went to Hanover High. During a sizable period of my life, as it happens, Tim Hardin's son lived a short jaunt down the road from me.

On the subject of his father, Damion Hardin speaks with the kind of wisdom that betrays an entire life in the cool long shadow of those classic songs, haunted by ghastly stories of his father's heroin abuse, stung by harsh judgments on Hardin's later work - like my verdict on Suite for Susan Moore and Damion... - filled with a kind of bitter disappointment in Hardin's failings as a father that I could only imagine, warmed by stray memories of Hardin's kindness and love that I could never be privy to, possessed of an understanding of Hardin's drug addiction that comes from years of battling serious drug problems himself (he's now been successfully clean and sober for eight years).

As it happens, my parents are friends with the daughter of one of Damion Hardin's high school teachers, something they only realized after we'd released Black Sheep Boy. When my mother told her their friend that I'd met Damion Hardin, she expressed her surprise and added "Well, I'm glad to hear that he's still alive."


I found that Damion retained a sense of humor about his father. When I mentioned that Hardin didn't seem all that sober in his sequences in the Woodstock documentary, his son looked at me and said, "ya think?" Before long, though, the jokes got grimmer and Damion confided that his mother had told him stories about when Hardin and Lenny Bruce roomed together that were too disturbing to repeat. "Drugs ruined him," he added, matter-of-factly.

It's true; we too often associate drugs and heavy drinking with wild creativity, but in the case of Tim Hardin - and in many more cases than I think people realize - all of his great work was done in spite of drugs, not because of them. Drugs ruined Tim Hardin as an artist, and in many respects they ruined him as a human being. Still, as he makes clear in "Black Sheep Boy" and, as I guess is part of the point of our little record of the same name, that was his choice.

Which brings me to (finally!) talking about the mp3 I've selected for Said the Gramophone - it's a little bit of a lesser-known Hardin track that only appears on that live album, Tim Hardin 3: Live in Concert and it's called "Eulogy to Lenny Bruce," or "Lenny's Song." It's one of Hardin's longest and loosest songs of the period - stretching to six minutes where most of Hardin's songs barely exceeded two, and rambling and sloppy where most of Hardin's songs were tight and concise - but, unlike Suite for Susan Moore and Damion, every second of it throbs with vitality. Driven by a dirgey waltzing piano, the song circles and circles around itself, sounding like, with every go-round, it's drilling deeper into, and cracking through, a new layer of Hell. Hardin repeats in constantly more anguished tones his tribute to his beloved drug buddy, alternating direct language like

I have lost a friend and I don't know why,
but never again will get we get together to die.
Why, after every last shot, was there always another?...
You kid, those teardrops glisten - I know it's hard to listen.
with more Dylan-influenced lines like "and Honey Harlow, gypsy burlesque queen / how did she know you needed morphine?" The song pounds and pounds at you and spins around itself interminably, a funeral march soaked though and dripping with pain and sympathy. Maybe too much sympathy. Definitely too much.

Of course Hardin sees himself in Bruce, but he's not strong enough to recoil, to keep there from being - after every last shot - always another. Through the song, he seems to reach out to the fallen Bruce with the understanding and the indulgence of someone who's falling faster and faster himself. Appropriately, even this relatively rare song of Hardin's has been covered by another artist - Nico, who obviously saw herself in Hardin seeing Bruce, and who felt, maybe for both men, all the frozen tenderness that someone unable to repent themselves can feel.

Damion Hardin told me that, once, when he was rebelling from Susan Morss and had taken a trip to visit his father on the West Coast, Nico dropped in one day for a recording session. I asked him about Nico, what she was like. He answered, "I couldn't even tell you. All I remember was her arm."

[Will Sheff is the lead singer and songwriter for Okkervil River - whose newest album Black Sheep Boy came out this year - and a contributor to the band Shearwater. Sheff's freelance arts criticism has been published in Pop Culture Press and The Austin Chronicle; a sampling of Sheff's writing for the latter publication can be found at here.]


(buy Tim Hardin stuff at Amazon/Insound/GEMM)

(buy Okkervil River music direct from Jagjaguwar, and Shearwater CDs from Misra)

Posted by Will Robinson Sheff at 11:42 AM | Comments (28)

August 23, 2005

No One Ever Stops Being a Prick

Simply Saucer - "Bullet Proof Nothing"

If I knew anything of context, if I even read the papers, I'd tell you about it. But I'm just standing at the bottom of an empty bowl of cereal, tossin' up the hits. Catch this one with your bare hands, it's soft like melty ice cream. And throw your lower jaw forward when you sing along.



You might remember that I asked people to send me a song if they wanted me to name their band. It was a casual remark, I didn't even think I'd get one submission. But within a day I had got five requests for names, so I decided to make a thing of it. Not only is it very fun to think up names for stuff (I will call that "benomenclating"), it became an interesting sample of the kinds of readers that StG gets. First of all, everyone reading right now writes, plays, and records music (send me your song). Second, some of you aren't bad (note: I am terrible at writing music). So here are the five bands I named:

Turquoise - "Adrienne" My favourite of the submissions, albeit a little lengthy. Other possible names included Two-Day Weekend and Tin. I also named their album: so this is now a song from The Gore of the Summer.

Numbers Add Up - "They Searched My Car" I titled the song as well (the original was called "Jackoff Geod 03". so, I changed).

Nödé - "All I Do" Totally needed a one-word, heavily accented name.

French Request - "7.28" Their title, which I like. It starts out great, but the dreamy bridge comes too soon, too often. Also, your sell-tickets-with-the-name-alone name would be Adulterer-Guardians.

Break Lamps - "Garbage Day" I can barely hear what's going on here, but I think these are the proper names for what I do hear. Alternate, more jokey, names include The Butt Mission or Butt Mansion.

So there it is, thank you all for submitting, and I hope you like the names I picked for you. Here's to everyone having a mind, here's to doing something instead of nothing.


Elsewhere: You almost definitely have by now, but if you haven't, go right now to read Matthew P.'s review and listen to the song from the new Fiery Furnaces thing. I hope one day I get it together enough to write an entire post in crazy FF-style alliterative, hyper-rhyming, stream-of-thought super-story.

Posted by Dan at 2:24 AM | Comments (10)

August 22, 2005

The Money In Your Wallet Is More Important Than The Money In My Hand

Need New Body - "Peruividia"

I used to get really excited (I was like 15 and listening to film soundtracks exclusively) when I would hear what I called "credits music". I guess now that genre can be defined better as merely "cinematic", but at the time, I would always just imagine people's names and a title over certain songs and get all jittery and smiles about the movie that never existed or would exist. The feeling I'm trying to explain is one of promise. A credit sequence promises something about the movie ahead of it, so I have no problem with a long credits sequence (like in old movies when they show all the credits first) if it has a strong sense of promise. This song has SO much promise in it. I see settings, I see pieces being placed, I feel already submerged in story, and on that last drum beat, I want to start something hopefully fascinating.

[Buy Where's Black Ben?]


De Novo Dahl - "Jeffrey"

Imagine this being the only song on a 65-minute experimental instrumental minimalist noise album. No, don't imagine that. Just at the end when there's like 30 seconds of quiet strumming, I was just thinking what if the whole rest of the album were like this? That would totally change my feelings about this song. But it's not, so it doesn't. And here are they: nailed the verses, missed the chorus. I can swing it like a hammer around my head, but if I throw it it doesn't go very far.

[Buy Cats & Kittens]

Posted by Dan at 1:02 AM | Comments (3)

August 19, 2005

New To Do

So, first of all, I'm sick as a dog. I'm all congested, got a big cough, sinus headache, etc. I can't think of eating anything but ice cream, and so I end up eating way too much ice cream and feel even sicker. That's the situation here, and it could affect the things that happen below. My cat won't even hang out with me.


FemBots - "Count Down Our Days"

The first half of this song is a slow-building The Band-like piece of Americana. Vibraphone and glockenspiel start things off in unison. A satisfying and familiar chord progression on propulsive acoustic guitar, and the singer's charmingly imprecise voice. Then the FemBots' signature sustained honky-tonk piano leads into the drums and bass. Now there's a room full of people - hard-working people, with ruddy hands, in a weathered wooden room. They have hard black shoes and they stomp the ground. They are banging out a song with their hands and feet and yelling in harmony while they do it.

I saw Magnolia Electric Co. a few weeks ago and witnessed not a band of indie-rockers, but a gruff group of heavy-set, whiskey-swilling, southern-rockers. Only the drummer looked like someone I might know. They played for an hour and a half and what little stage banter was attempted was done so uncomfortably. The FemBots sound like the Electric Co. looked (so did the Electric Co.) except, if Magnolia Electric Co. sound like they're from the south of the States (they're not), then the FemBots sound like they're from the Canadian prairies a hundred years ago (they're not).

But then, at the song's halfway point, something happens. Everything cuts out but the acoustic guitar, yet the presence of the whole band is felt. It's almost time to go home. The song is a countdown, and every step towards the end is an intensification of the celebration. The band comes in and what was in the first half a beautiful mess is now severe and precise. The stomps turn to hand claps, the honky-tonk to doo-wop, the blue collar rock into something like heavy Philly soul. We end with an anthem, the workers adorned with sequins: "Turn the light out/before they turn the lights out." [Info]


Tom Zé - "Brigitte Bardot"

Elsewhere in the world: a man is dressed all in white linen. He lies in the shade, contemplating the pouting French actress Brigitte Bardot. My Portuguese is a bit rusty, but I think he likes her. It's oppressively hot outside. Or, maybe I just have a dangerously high fever. [Info]

Posted by Jordan at 12:47 AM | Comments (2)

August 18, 2005

Okay the real Halloween Jubilee - ooOoOooOOooOOoo

North American Hallowe'en Prevention, Inc. (NAHPI) - "Do They Know It's Halloween"

This is an mp3-rip of the lofi stream available here.

So here it is! Ballyhoo'ed, speculated about, an oddity of the highest degree, the NAHPI has now launched with pictures, lyrics, press release, full details, and even a stream of the tune itself. Out October 11th, with all proceeds going to UNICEF, "Do They Know It's Halloween" features the likes of Beck, Feist, Karen O, Devendra Banhart, Sum 41, Sparks, Malcolm McLaren, Buck 65, The Arcade Fire, an Inuit throat singer... man the list just goes on. Masterminded by Nicolas Diamonds (formerly of The Unicorns, now of Islands), it's astoundingly absurd, slightly unmusical, but above all gleeful. It is the sound of many people having a great deal of fun (albeit in separate cities, corresponding by post). What I like most about it is the total lack of irony - this is goofy as heck, but there's no snickering, no sarcasm, just happy hamming. Listen to that chorale chorus, like A Silver Mt Zion crossed with Scooby Doo.

It's hilarious how some of these people - Buck 65, Wolf Parade's Dan and Spencer, David Cross, Beck, - are inimitably themselves, unmistakable voices sticking their heads in the door to murmur a few spooky words. Others, however, (check Win Butler's ghoulish deadpan at 3:00,) have submerged themselves into other characters, Rocky & Bullwinkle villains. I imagine the corresponding Halloween party, everyone in mummy-wraps and black mascara, some unrecognisable (and not just because I have no idea what Roky Erickson looks like), some still inescapably themselves. Even in full Frankenstein duds, Narduwar wouldn't be able to hide (but I suspect he would be able to break-dance).

Like I said before, it's too bad that some of the non-hipsters didn't make it out of the rumours stage (Clay Aiken, I'm looking at you!), but when Elvira is duetting with Leslie Feist, it's very hard to complain.

Good on you, Nick.

[full info here / full lyrical breakdown / definitely go out and buy this in October!]

Posted by Sean at 2:17 PM | Comments (9)

halloween jubilee!

Okay so this looks like it might be the best thing in the world, ever. Maybe. I kinda wish a few more of the early rumours (Clay Aiken/Spike Jonze/Wayne Coyne) had been proved correct, but the mad cackle of this single looks set for pure awesome.

Am I right or am I right?

Posted by Sean at 7:42 AM | Comments (6)

August 17, 2005

nairobi heron: Alina Simone and Gareth Auden Hole

Alina Simone - "Prettier in the Dark". Simone's debut EP, Prettier in the Dark, is only two-toned, but those tones are silver and black. While she's got all the longing of Chan Marshall, these songs match that teary wistfulness with a snap and snarl. This approach has mixed precedents - PJ Harvey, Tori Amos, - but in her best songs, Simone succeeds utterly. There's something ephemeral that separates one kind of singer-songwriter (good) from another (bad): songwriting, or presence, or probably just spirit. When the drums pick up, the second guitar chimes in, when Alina Simone is singing a snatch of notes that she really loves, well - all that stuff's here. This is the music to shake up a melancholy night, to maybe shake it somewhere better. (via songs:illinois)

[alina's website / buy]


Gareth Auden Hole - "Drink Up". It's tricky when I have friends who are musicians. And I do. A pal shares his or her stuff, knows about Said the Gramophone, and this sort of expectation hangs in the air. And while I've stuck to my guns here, never posted anything that didn't meet the quality expected, sometimes it's tense, tough, grim.

My friend Gareth makes it very, very easy.

"Drink Up" is fantastic. The song's been hammered, been torched, been hammered again. Its metal has been stretched, its gleams extended; the song's substance has been worked until it's long and deep and intricate enough to bear the music's feeling. And no more. Evoking The Microphones, Jim Guthrie, Calexico, Micah P Hinton, even early Smog, "Drink Up" moves slow, stares slow, cracks its chest open for a look at its longing. But it doesn't stop there. At the end of the second minute there's something else - there's passion. There's movement. There's the kisses, the birds, the space and the bliss. There's mandolin, there among the guitar and the words and the keening pedal steel. "For the wind may blow us off our heels / and the bird may drink us off our wheels / and the stars be safe from falling down." It's exciting, it's brightly sparkling. A desert's birdsong (literally). And then back to the dry, dry, dry life.

Gareth's not got anything to buy. He'll soon have a website thing I'll point to. He is newly arrived in Ottawa, however, and is looking for people to play music or start a band with. Share your comments or get in touch here.


I am loving what Jose Gonzales (a sweet fellow) is doing with his new band, Junip. mp3s at the ever-essential catbirdseat.


A mysterious source (Gramophone has "mysterious sources" now! Cool!) tells us that StG-faves Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! are signing to 4AD, and will later this year be touring Japan with The Pixies. You heard it here first (and perhaps last).


Early notice - I'm going on holiday to Slovenia on Saturday (for two+ weeks), and will have patchy-if-at-all email, so please get in touch soon if you need to talk to me about anything. Cheers.

Posted by Sean at 1:17 PM | Comments (4)

August 15, 2005

Poolside Deliberations

Gorky's Zygotic Mynci - "Better Rooms"

1. St. Francis of Assisi studied with the Troubadours. That's one fact about that saint. Another is that such was St. Francis's charm and his sympathy for all living beings that none could resist him, not even the birds, the bees, the bears or the trees. Anyway, I don't know why Gorky's Zygotic Mynci didn't name the song "St. Francis of Assisi," but I've renamed it that anyway, so it doesn't matter.

2. My buddy Claire gave me this song. Claire likes desert folk music. The dustier, the hotter, the drier, the harder to breathe, the better she likes it. Sometimes she doesn't drink water for weeks at a time. Half of what she sees is mirage, her favourite chocolate bar is Mirage, she only drinks Shiraz... out of a canteen.

3. Can you hear the clatter of spurs, the play for guns, the spit into spittoons?

4. The snare hits in the second verse provide an example of how little needs to be done in order to avoid repetitiveness, to reframe a theme, to deepen and illuminate. [Buy]


Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers - "If The River Was Whiskey"

I could deny it and evade your questions, but eventually you would discover the truth: that I love Diet Pepsi. It's my favourite drink. My favourite drink, that is, to the extent that a cigarette is a smoker's favourite thing to put in her mouth, light on fire, and its contents inhale. I'm addicted and have been for as long as I can remember.

If there was in fact a river of whiskey, I would probably take from it an occasional nip, and in it, an occasional dip, but really, it would mostly serve as a novelty to show out-of-town friends. However, by simply transposing whiskey into Diet Pepsi, I can relate to Charlie's desire to "dive to the bottom and never come up." [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 10:24 PM | Comments (3)

So: moondog and the clientele

Moondog - "Symphonique #6 (Good for Goodie)". So according to this article in the Oxford American, Moondog was a blind homeless man who spent three decades on the streets of NYC, begging, composing music, wearing a cloak and a viking helmet. For real. Sure, after he was 'discovered' he was flown to Germany and leading American orchestras and receiving fan-mail from Philip Glass, but in the meantime - there he was, day after day, enough of an institution that the New York Times devoted two columns to the story of his obtaining a different pair of trousers.

It's a good story. Too good, almost. It's as if Moondog's life was purpose-built for a Robin Williams-starring biopic. But before we giggle at the tall tale, before we let the attention focus too strongly on this strange man's biography, let's listen to the music.

Because, ladies and gentlemen, it's wonderful.

It's a stew of sounds, this is. It's a conspiracy of counterpoint. It's clarinet and bass and flute, french horn and tuba, violin and this numbskull snare. It's an orchestra's joyous assembly, a union of likeminded folks, everyone speaking for themselves and yet twittering in sympathy. It's friendly as a warm pie with one slice taken out. I hear Mark Mothersbaugh, Jon Brion and certainly Philip Glass, but Moondog's playful, arbitrary, he chooses places to point at (clouds! town hall! mullberry bush!) and the music skips to new destinations instead of pummelling incessantly the same spot. I saw Annie Hall last night, but a few weeks ago I saw Manhattan, and if Gershwin hadn't written Rhapsody in Blue, or if Woody Allen had chosen high angle instead of low angle shots for his opening Manhattan montage, this woulda been the movie's soundtrack. I'm pretty sure.

Moondog - "Lament 1".

I include this track as well because, whoa!, it's so familiar. Mr Scruff's gleeful "Move On" is built on samples from Moondog's "Lament" (for Charlie Parker). In this excerpt, the drums are skid-scampering like hot sneakers over pavement, violins seesawing like shadows over twenty-four hours, saxes singing the praises of someone, reminding each-other of someone, telling those old stories, trying to capture that someone's old tics, smiling with the memory.

These tracks come thanks to Lawrence. I am very taken with this Moondog man, but apart from the above know little about his work. Looking on Amazon, I see there are rather a lot of records (including a remix album). Can anyone suggest any in particular?

[buy Moondog stuff at Amazon UK/US. And pick up the music issue of the Oxford American.]


The Clientele - "Since K Got Over Me". So earlier this week I was in a certain Edinburgh record shop, lookin' to buy the new Beard, maybe hoping to find an inexpensive copy of the new Akron/Family or R. Kelly cds, flipping through the cheapo bin, and what do I find but a promo-sleeved CD by The Clientele, called Strange Geometry, for £1.99. I own - and love - The Violet Hour, but "Strange Geometry" didn't sound familiar. I had a vague recollection of a b-sides/EP collection, so figured this was it.

Instead I got home and found that this is their new CD, out September 5.

The Clientele are a band of singular purpose, singular sound. They play a sort of music that seems obvious, that's so familiar it's already dear. It makes me think of The Smiths' golden guitars, the hushed vocals of (Felt, and) a hundred shoegaze bands, but then I think about it, I slip on some headphones, and I realise there's nothing like this. This is dreamy but lucid, it's melancholy but not unmoving, it's quiet but loud. And the Clientele are fiercely evocative, bringing visions of a place I've never seen.

It's England, I guess. A London of honeyed fog and smothered light, or else hills and heath, will o' the wisp between the trees, swirls and glimmers and faint recollections. I can never decide if they play music for cities, or for the country. I suppose it's both, but separately. It's for dusk and for dawn: violet hours.

"Since K Got Over Me" is the first single from Strange Geometry. It's all those things I said before, mist and gleam and smokestacks and moors, but it's also got a stronger stare than anything on the previous record. Strange Geometry is a break-up album. Maybe. "Everything's so vivid and so creepy since K got over me," MacLean sings, then much more insistently, "THERE'S a HOLE in-SIDE my SKULL with WARM AIR blowing IN". The drums are realer than on The Violet Hour. Elsewhere there are Five Leaves Left-style strings, maniac "Revolution 1" electric guitar. And also a familiar (dear) sparkle, a shine, a whisper. Here and there, the band play the same parts as they did on the last record. But that's okay: they're just remembering them, like we do.

[read my old review of The Violet Hour]

[More mp3s at The Clientele website, and watch Merge and Pointy for ordering info over the coming month.]


The strangest thing in the universe? Probably K & K Mime.

The new OK GO music video, all lo-fi tripod dance-moves style, is indeed pretty rad. But so is the DIY Clap Your Hands Say Yeah thing that some fan did, in order to bring attention to the Awesome Guy In Shirt-Collars Who Is Dancing. (both via mefi)

Posted by Sean at 12:01 AM | Comments (10)

August 12, 2005

to a parisian pal: The Wilburn Brothers and Menlo Park

Menlo Park - "Cochon Cochon". I stumbled across this CD in an Eastern European bargain bin. I didn't know what it was, only that there was substantial allure in the wood and woodsmen of the cover, the flair and the leer and the little niggling bit of threat. The liner-notes made me think they were from Belgium but subsequent Googling shows that Menlo Park are "based in the UK but with members from all over the globe". This is a relief as I had been wondering why Belgians would so mispronounce the words "cochon cochon". Now all that's left is the mystery of why an Englishman is drawlin' like a Louisiana hog-man. And that's not really much of a mystery: it sounds good.

"Cochon Cochon" is a naughty song. Don't be misled by the awkward romance of the opening, Chris Taylor's Herman Dune-like scene-setting, the sliding violin and sunshiney mandolin. Soon enough the rest of the band will jump into view, splattering mud, stamping muck for the pure fun of it. "Cochon, cochon! Tu est le garçon qui molestait mon fille!" Taylor doesn't use the french u, or the gentle European patter of syllables. No, it's clumsier farmhand enunciation: "Too est lé gar-sonnn key m'lestay mon fille".

(Come to think of it, there's a mystery here. "Mon" (my) is a male-gendered adjective. "Fille" (girl) is obviously a female noun. So is Taylor's grammar wrong? Or is he really saying "Tu est le garçon qui molestait mon fils!" (You are the boy who molested by son!")? And is "her lily-white leg" connected to all this? Is the singer goin' after the whole family? How very, uh, rural.)

What's most impressive about the song is the spontaneity of the chorus, the way everyone can decide at once to throw dirty leaves in the air, to hop and holler. That all it takes to make a riot, a hoe-down, a drinking song, a hijink, a crime - all it takes is for everyone to join in at once, to tie their fortunes to a kicker of a melody, to play the guitars, mandolin, violin, drums and Hammond, to revel in the grimy glad moment. And to try to avoid the farmer with the shotgun.

I trust, Jordan, that this is the sort of adventure you are enjoying this week in Paris.

[I am astonished to find that Menlo Park's albums seem to be out of print. You can buy some EPs, though!]


The Wilburn Brothers - "Trouble's Back in Town". One of the things that Edinburgh does best is evening. The light's diffuse, a flat grey. Everything still feels bright, but muted - pausing, taking a breath before doing something else. (That something else is, inevitably, night.) It's the streetlights that look most beautiful in this grey hush haze. The orange is so orange, the bright is so bright, the still is so still. As Robbie Burns said, "There are no stars as lovely as Edinburgh street-lamps."

One of these evenings I'm going to camp out and watch the street-lights come on. Ping ping ping, down the street, a glow coming in amongst the grey. And as they do this, I am going to listen to "Trouble's Back in Town". "Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh" - everything lights up, kindly and beautiful. The Wilburn Brothers will remind me of the humanity in a city, and the bass and piano will remind me of the groove, the beat. Such kindly "trouble". Such happy trouble. Such longed-for and welcome trouble. Yes, we'll let this trouble come. On, lamplight! On, dusk! Let's huddle in the twilight, under one of those bright orange globes, and look out for the "girl with big brown eyes and ... smile so sweet."

This is country music in gold and velvet, vocal harmonies to come wafting in through windows. If the Inkspots were more whinsome, if Aaron Presley didn't die and he and his brother remained good little boys. But enough ifs - these fellas discovered Loretta Lynn, and that's reason enough to listen to their finest song.

(This track's taken from the comp that accompanies the current - Music - issue of The Oxford American. It's a great, varied comp, running the gamut from Elvis to Bubbly Puppy, Lightnin' Hopkins to Erykah Badu, Dale Hawkins to Buddy Holly. Moondog! Better still is the magazine. There's an article on each of the CD's artists, pieces full of verve and wit. Don McLeese's Buddy Holly profile is personal, modest, incisive; I admire the small reflections of Anthony Doerr on Howard Tate; and there's a real grace to Warren Zanes's take on The Wilburn Brothers. Best of all, however, is Roy Blount Jr's remarkable, tender take on Ray Charles -- one of the best pieces of music writing I've read this year.)

[Check out The Oxford American and buy Stars of Grand Ole Opry]



"The Sleeper", over at Tuwa's Shanty, is a humble and handsome (read: outstanding) cut by Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane. A piece like a first date. Or a stranger handing you a piece of fruit.

I really like the messier version of Andrew Bird's "Sovay", played live with My Morning Jacket, which you can grab at the very elegant new mp3blog, Baskerville's Syndrome. Note to jez: please let us have permalinks.

Posted by Sean at 3:13 AM | Comments (7)

August 11, 2005

J'ai dormi pendant 13 heures la nuit dernière

I write this from Paris, and I do so slowly. Slowly, because this keyboard has forced me to revert to the two fingered approach to typing I favoured prior to grade nine keyboarding class. As I mentioned in my last post's comments, I'm here for a week and looking for suggestions for what to do (my interests include music and baseball).

Because I forgot to upload songs before I left Montreal, I will not be posting any today. I will instead refer you to the website of an artist whom I've long wanted to post, but whose music has eluded me (I'm Captain Ahab; the non-streaming music of Yellow Jacket Avenger is Moby Dick).

I particularly recommend "Moonlighter, Prizefighter," a masterful piece of pop counterpoint. The guitar work is elaborate and quick and the vocals clipped and energetic, yet the overall effect is one of delicacy and vulnerability. Interestingly, Rocky Balboa could also be described as quick and energetic, yet delicate and vulnerable, and he was, in fact, both a moonlighter and a prizefighter.


I also recommend Paul Simon. And for those of you who like everything up to, but excluding Rhythm Of The Saints (I know you're out there), listen to "She Moves On," bracket out the highly dubious slap bass, and bask in the Americo-Brazillian sunlight.

Posted by Jordan at 7:04 AM | Comments (3)

August 10, 2005

two delicious pops

This week I heard both of my favourite pop albums of the year. Okay, it's only August. But I think it unlikely that anything will unseat these babies. They're not just sugar-sweet -- they're "Sugar Sugar" sweet.

Robyn - "Bum Like You". I mentioned Robyn on Monday, pointing you all to "Be Mine" at PopText. I then saw that Matt had posted "Crash and Burn Girl" at Fluxblog. But look, and this is important - this album is fantastic. You really oughta hear it. I think I probably hated Robyn before this week. The radio single from her last album, all those years ago, was a boring pink smear. The video? No, not exactly my thing. And maybe I'd still dislike this Swedish pipsqueak if I were to see her on the tube. But in the face of albums like this - melodic, glowing, full of surprises, - who cares? Who cares.

There's beats and strings, there's dry-voiced asides, there's melody and counterpoint and then these sudden splashes of beautiful harmony. The choruses are so plentiful that you'll forget them and then break into a smile each time a song comes back over repeat. It's truly great pop music. It's like the stuff of Lennon, McCartney, Robinson, Merritt, Harrison, Holly. Yeah, for real.

If you weren't persuaded by the synths and strings of "Be Mine" or "Crash and Burn Girl", well then maybe try this one on. "Bum Like You" is guitar - ringing, dinging, empty basement electric guitar. Robyn's sick of it. She's sick of him - of "you". But she's also kinda still in love. You know how it is.

So Robyn sings. Maybe she starts sitting but soon she's standing. She's a smoker, the rascal, but she smoked her last cigarette earlier this morning. Now she's just listening to the creak of her leather boots, she's singing. She's got a sheet of lyrics in her hands, scribbled out. Lyrics about mittens, about pie.

She sings "your car's a dump and you're broke," but I love the way there's this instant aside, this quiet spoken lovesick doleful shrug - "But that's alright."

Later Robyn takes the song into studio. We add overdubs, so that the song's not sad. We add an acoustic guitar, so we'll hear that fret squeak, fingers on strings, the noise of hesitation. And we add drums. Such simple drums - no synths, no mad beatz. But with those first bass drum thumps, gosh, the chorus has got me by the lapels and it's holding me so close that I can't look away from Robyn's eyes, the song's acheing sentiment.

Is this a love song? Is it a break-up song? Is it a fantasy?

No - it's just an exchange of looks.

[Inexplicably, absurdly, there's no clear word of a UK/US release. But sooner or later, it's gotta happen. In the meantime, see Robyn's website]


Sigur Rós - "Hoppipolla". Iceland's biggest boy-band are back, and Takk is a doozy. Agaetis Byrjun is one of my favourite albums in the world, such a joyful and mysterious confluence of post-rock and pop, swashes of sound that resolve into sing-along melodies, reveries, themes. ( ) was much more of a muddle, like all the band's pop bits had been drowned in the Arctic ocean. Torrid, turgid, overwrought. Gems of beauty, but all of it swathed in "difficult" bits. The album wasn't just high-concept (and dull), it was also stricken. There were dense, tense, knitted emotions at play, hard to pluck out of the churn. I think I might love it if I were to hear it at precisely the right moment, everything twisted in me according to a similar weather.

Here's a diagram:

ARTY/TORMENTED ---------- balance ---------- POP/GLAD

( ) ---------- Agaetis Byrjun ---------- Takk

Takk is everything that the last album was not. It's happy, it's stupid, it's clearly and blindingly beautiful, it's without silly pretenses. It's pure pop, glacier-huge. The songs glow then they shine then they combust. Coldplay look like insects next to this crew. They look like bugs. Because Sigur Ros are the Light Brigade if the Light Brigade were as awesome as their name suggests. They're collapsing continents and exploding blues, they're singing goofball unsubtle songs that make the sky shake in its cloudy foundations.

"Hoppipolla" is my favourite tune in an album full of joyful climaxing tunes. Everything's wrapped up in a solar shimmer of strings and drum reverb, and for the first couple minutes you think that maybe that's all there will be - warped Icelandic vocals, an inane-and-lovely keyboard line, flurrying strings, smacking percussion. So when things go quiet you wonder what could happen. Faster? Louder? Well, yes - they sure as hell know the tricks. But first, counterpoint! Swirl! Windows are opened in places that you didn't know windows could be. (In your shoes, in the backs of your hands, in the shadow of that bush.) And then there are horns - cresting, cheering, fanfaring. Yes! Yes! Hooray! Yes! Yay! Yes! Hooray! YES!

Only boring people hold their noses at songs that are so clearly glad, that play so uninhibitedly on our weak human minds, pushing the musical buttons that make my ribs spring open and lift my heart out on stupid little wings. Love it!

[pre-order at Amazon]

Posted by Sean at 3:00 AM | Comments (32)

August 9, 2005

One's Own Head

Angels Of Light - "Forever Yours"

It's the brightest day of your entire life. Stopping at a roadside antique shop, you park in the yard among rusted tools and bed frames, broken down vehicles and bath tubs. There's a slow moving man with a tape measure on his tool belt. He watches you, but says nothing. Inside the store - a creaky wooden house - there is row upon row of stuff: wooden chairs, porcelain plates and lampshades, old board games hermetically sealed in plastic bags, a collection of pornographic plastic figurines, an ancient guitar with the neck bent so far back it would be useless even for slide, a plastic banjolin, warped beyond repair, but miraculously in perfect relative tune. Near the door are the two brothers who run the store - one rustic, with stubble and overalls, the other, like Willy Loman, in a cheap suit and a perfect side part. You don't buy anything. You pass the stoic worker on the way out, his eyes fixed unabashedly on yours. You drive away, and trying to get your mind off the oppressive heat, you turn on the radio. If this song isn't playing, go back, park, and repeat until you get it right. [Buy]


Dan Goldman - "The Kids' Song"

There is something scary about Dan Goldman's rendition of Dr. Seuss's "The Kids' Song." That's good, because fear and wonderment are close friends (with a common interest in questioning and a common distaste for answers), and any friend of wonderment is a friend of any kid. [Info]

Posted by Jordan at 2:45 AM | Comments (8)

August 7, 2005

from room to room: The Constantines and The Tall Grass Captains Of Greater Chicago

The Constantines - "Soon Enough". So the Constantines are hot and sweaty, sore-throated from the indie rock house-party of Shine A Light and The Constantines; they climb up the stairs from the basement and they nod at the girls in the shoulderless t-shirts and they put down their brownbottle beer on some stranger's settee and then they hike up the steps to the second floor, feeling cream carpet under their socks, and they go into the owner's kid's room, airplane wallpaper, and they go to the window and they heft it open and then they stick their shaggy heads outside into the starlit night, starspecked night, cold black night, they feel the cold on their face, the sky in their eyes, the wind - it's always the wind, isn't it? - and that's what the new album, that's what Tournament of Hearts sounds like. They haven't forgotten the cocksure rawk of earlier, no, but there are longer moments of concentration, dearer things held up to the light.

And this song, my my, it's of such unconfused sweetness, such plain sentiment. Bry Webb's voice is unwavering, Strummer and Springsteen and Garvey but without any hesitation: say the words and they'll mean what they'll mean, they'll say what they say. During the slow, starry guitar solo in the second minute, I imagine him standing and waiting, unbothered, unrushed, the words not going anywhere as they're there in his heart.

(Compare this with the fantastic Elevator to Hell cover by the Cons, on the new Believer comp. There, the lyrics are held back because at the chorus everything's gonna rush right out and everything'll be drained dry, nothing pent-up anymore: no! freedom!! And pop music!)

The drums sound like hope, oh hope!, the hope that's there if you want it. And the organ, buried deep back there, is a sympathetic resonance, the way you wish bones were, that you might find your true love by listening for a person who ringsringsrings with your dreams.

The album, which is out in October, is - like I said - called Tournament of Hearts. So when Webb sings "a tournament of hearts / somebody's gotta lose", suddenly the album title unfolds accordion-style, new facets catching the light, and I fall in love with it. Every time.

If you like rock music, I think you'll probably like this song.

[Tournament of Hearts is out in October. We'll give you a BUY link as soon as we can, as you really ought to buy this. And in the meantime, Canadian tourdates]


Tall Grass Captains Of Greater Chicago - "Countless Days On". Hopefully some of you heard TGCOGC over at Mystery & Misery, last week, but if not it's important that you swirl this ounce of song in your glass, breathe in and then take a nip. "Countless Days On" weaves through a forest of influences, Brendan Benson, Elliott Smith, mid-90s guitar pop, Crosby Stills Nash & Young ca. "Our House"... The critic's buzzword would be "AM radio", but there's also a hi-fi thickness to the production, a diffuse warmth. I can only imagine it as a swell of sound on a film-soundtrack, Almost Famous or something by David Gordon Green. Jangling guitars, thumping drums, vocals that fuzz into feeling - a kid seeing his girlfriend kissing someone else, a mother staring at birds through her window, a grandfather putting on his grandson's records, listening loud, trying to spark some life back into his chest.

[buy She Moved Through for $12]


Abby has posted a remarkably awesome song by Robyn, over at Poptext. It's insistent and catchy and leaves some of its cards unshown. I've since sought out the whole album and holy crow, folks, Robyn might be one of my favourite records of the year.


I just came back from a set by Eugene Mirman at the Edinburgh Fringe. It was fantastically funny, absurd and heartburning stand-up. Eugene's delivery was sharp as nutshell, his jokes like nuts thrown at my head. Don't stay home eating that bowl of tears, go see him.

In related news, although I had expected to be doing Fringe reviews with The Skinny, their press passes seem to have fallen into limbo. If anyone out there wants a writer, or has any shows they think I ought to see, please let me know.

Some of my recent reviews/features are online. The better ones: Architecture in Helsinki (AWESOME) and Smog. I'm also pretty happy with Devendra Banhart and Sir Richard Bishop reviews, from their gig last week, which should be up soon which are online now. I hated Devendra but loved Bishop.

Posted by Sean at 6:44 PM | Comments (7)

August 5, 2005

What Is Like A Planetarium?

Robert Fripp - "North Star"

A couple of years ago, on the way back from a road trip/mini tour out east, my editor, Max Maki, put on a mix tape I had made for her a few years prior. When this song came on, we were near home (Ottawa) and were bone tired and stir crazy. Max's insistent calls for "small talk and chit chat" had driven us (me and our drummer, Kyle) into a murderous rage. "North Star" had a calming effect. The rhythm guitar, perfectly clean, in the right speaker. And the Frippertronics, like the cooing of a love-struck whale, in the left.

I didn't recognize the song as "North Star," and thus did not recognize the singer as Daryl Hall. This latter irrecognition aided my appreciation. And allowed me to forgive Daryl for his great many sins. Absolved and benign, Daryl did the same for me. We still live together. [Buy]


Jonathan Richman - "New Kind of Neighborhood"

Well, this new kind of neighbourhood sounds pretty good. The song’s great coup is that it sounds like the neighbourhood it describes. You don’t have to be Kurt Godel then, to deduce that the song sounds pretty good. You do have to be Kurt Godel, however, to deny this song’s goodness (that would require an advanced (modal) logic). But since none of you are KG, we all agree. Good. [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 1:25 AM | Comments (4)

August 4, 2005

On Order And Timing

The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir - "Tear Down the Opera House"

All the way from 2003 (a place, far away) comes a song that sounds like it's from longer ago. It's about senseless destruction, or apathetic anarchy to be more fair, but it gives me a completely different feeling: progress! growth! I see a line of babies' cribs swinging to the beat, and people growing so fast out of them, their arms and legs are coming out the sides, like spider legs or something, until they just stand up and march, again to the beat. They pick up hammers and beat all the old people to death, and take all the thrones and crowns and jewels they leave behind. Get scared, the kids are coming in.

[Buy I Bet You Say That To All The Boys from their site]

Also: This band is getting better as you're reading this. They have two new (really good) songs on their MySpace page. "This World Has No Place" = turn-it-up.


Sunset Rubdown - "Snake's Got A Leg II"

You thought the last one was scary (no you didn't).

First: I mentioned off-the-cuff that I was disappointed in this album when I first listened to it. Now, that was true, but hear my weak defense, because of its peripheral point: I was listening to the album out of order, and I thought the order I was listening to was correct. Now this is not a proper defense against calling the album disappointing, because it's blowing my damn mind now, but it is an interesting fact that this has happened on multiple occasions with similar results: Fiery Furnaces' Gallowsbird's Bark and Frog Eyes' The Golden River. Both albums I couldn't have cared less about when I listened to what I thought was the right track order, but then when I realised I'd been listening to it wrong, gave another shot, and was blown away. Tell me this has happened to you. Please. Anyway, the song:

This song is an alarm-bell. It's saying trouble just got worse. What we used to be merely afraid of is now more powerful in ways we didn't think possible. It's also something like a reprise, but the first version was much slower and less desperate. It was a plan to work things out, but by the time we reach this song in the album (the first version is the 2nd song, this is the 2nd last) the plan hasn't worked out. We're fucking sinking. And the last part of the song, where it kind of changes to the other side of the rhythm, isn't about hope either, it's not even a prayer. It's merely a description of what this thing is going to do to us when it gets here. This must be why it's so easy to dance to. I think the feeling of being doomed (for 3:51) is the most danceable feeling there is.

[Buy this album, make sure]

Posted by Dan at 2:36 AM | Comments (6)

August 3, 2005

Said the Guests: Grizzly Bear

[Yesterday, I received an email from our intended guest, a bandleader of some repute, telling me that his computer had died. The downside to this is that his guestblog won't appear till another time. The upside is that I put in a panicked email to Edward Droste, the man who wears the headdress in Grizzly Bear, asking if he might be able to contribute a little earlier than expected - and bless my soul, here he is.

I wrote about Grizzly Bear just last week. Horn of Plenty is a marvel of new stars, chapped lips, healed-over scar tissue. It's a folk music full of seams. It's great, it's original, and it's an honour to have Edward here today. Thank-you!]

"Glory" - Liz Phair.

I haven't spent this much time in my childhood home since highschool. We'd been trying to figure out a space to record music in for months and Brooklyn just kept taking it out of us. Constant distractions, muggy mold-ridden basements without windows everything seemed like a massive creative barricade until I realized my Mother would be away from home for most of the summer and my home that my parents moved into literally the day I was born in 1978 in a suburb of Boston called Watertown would be vacant and the perfect spot to get out everything new we'd been collecting and bottling up on various digital files for the past months.

So after an urgent email from Sean saying he needed a guest blogger asap, and a bizarre restless night and 6 am rise, induced from the semi-oppressive heat and a mild hang over, I'm sitting here, at the desk i used to do homework at, wondering what song I'll pick.

Everything in my room except for this and a shelf with 80 odd CDs I used to listen to growing up and various childhood books like the great gatsby and lord of the flies, has been changed in my mother's attempt to make a proper guest room. But underneath all this wall to wall carpeting (puke) and robin's egg blue paint there is still the room that I obsessed various musicians in. 7th grade brought on an unhealthy love for U2 and REM. In 8th grade thanks to the random purchase of the sliver soundtrack I latched on to Massive Attack. 9th grade Jeff Buckley and the Pixies took reign, but for the rest of High School my most listened to CD and still perhaps one of my most loved was Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville.

I wasn't really cool enough to know about her when her first album came out. In fact I found out about her through the tenant that rented the third floor in our house who was an artist in grad school and sometimes invited me up and lent me CDs I made mix tapes with. It where there I heard "Whip Smart" and fell in love and immediately bought "Exile in Guyville" and for some reason "Glory" was the first song I played when I got it. Not sure why. And for some other inexplicable reason, perhaps the short, simple melody yet impossible guitar lick that I could never figure out on my own, it became my favorite track on the CD.

I totally had the Rolling Stone cover with her on it. Which was her in a nightgown , or maybe slip crouched and in a blue light, very similar to this morning light I'm sitting in now. Computer screen meets beginnings of sunrise. Or as Liz put it in one of her songs "Chopsticks", ..."It was four am and the light was grey, like it always is in paperbacks"...

Anyhow, I wont go into all the reasons why I loved this album, mostly b/c they are probably why so many other people did but I will say it's without a doubt the most listened to CD in my entire life and with that...............

I will quickly give a head nod to my most listened to song of recent years. Thanks to my nifty smart playlist I can see what I've listened to and how many times I've played each track.

"I Keep Everything" by Lansing-Dreiden has been played a whopping 168 times!

Wow! I feel a little exposed showing people how easily I can just play a song OVER AND OVER again, but I think there are others out there. Now mind you i have a few friends that come over and update their ipod on my computer and my incredibly smart itunes takes note of every play they've made so this might be slightly skewed but I feel pretty safe saying I've listened to that song an unhealthy number of times, the album too. It doesn't speak to me emotionally like Liz Phair did back in the day, but damn it's got to be one of the most beautiful songs I've heard in a long time, and it's long too. I never have to worry about it ending too quickly like "Glory" did... this one just rolls on and on. I don't really feel like describing the song much as that it's early, I'm tired and definitely rusty with my writing skills and I'd probably use lame adjectives like "shimmering", so I can only urge people to download it and listen and enjoy it. I have no idea why this album got trashed by so many people. I think it's amazing. If you can get past the incredibly pretentious nature of the band and ignore their whole "manifesto" crap, the music they make is pretty spectacular sounding.

In other news, Liz Phair is coming out with another studio slick album. I don't hate on her for that, but I know for sure had her most recent album been the one I was first exposed to back in High School I most certainly would not be writing about it now.

[Edward Droste is a member of Grizzly Bear. Visit their website, visit their MySpace page. The band's 2004 debut, Horn of Plenty, is out on Kanine and will be reissued in the fall with an accompanying CD of remixes (Final Fantasy! Solex! Alpha from Massive Attack! Soft Pink Truth!).

They are also playing two shows this week, with Scout Niblett. Check them in Boston tonight, at TT the Bears, and then in NYC on Friday, August 5th - at the Knitting Factory.

Please show Edward some love - and gee whiz, go see Grizzly Bear live, cos from what Gramophone commenters have said, they kill.]

Posted by edward droste at 1:31 PM | Comments (5)

August 2, 2005

Even The Bullies Celebrate Christmas, They Do

Suburban Kids With Biblical Names - "Jullåten 2004"

I've never eaten a burger during a wedding ceremony, or heckled a band more than once, or given one of my professors a noogie, but I imagine the feeling I'm having now to be something similar. Like, awkward, but too busy being a silly goofball to notice. So it stops being about seriousness, you see where you stand, and it is what it is. In this case, a Christmas song that sounds like sailing a boat. It's rosy, it hums, and you will think about it later. I guess kind of like a sunburn, then, if sunburns had positive aspects.

Let's (not) talk about the band name, though. yeesh. at least Pretty Girls Make Graves has Dan Bejar involved, don't they? If I see an ep called Hospitalized For Approaching Perfection, I'm gonna flip (at you). If it were up to me, you would be called Pardon My French.

Note: If you don't have a band name yet, send me at least one song and I will name your band for you.

[Buy, in Sek]


So So Many White White Tigers - "Paws" "Macaulay Culkin"

Listening to this whole album (it doesn't deviate too too much much) is what I think watching a small village be attacked by a dragon Home Alone would be like. Just relentless, unstoppable carnage bliss. Though in this village outdoor festival, while the peasants peasants are screaming, the queen, who's been bored to tears until now, is pretty turned on by the whole thing. She's the one voice you can hear above the din, and it's kind of orgasmic immature. There's an erotic, nay, pornographic quality to this music song. Because while it seems like she really believes what she's screaming, one can't shake the awareness that she's still just an actressor.


Posted by Dan at 2:21 AM | Comments (9)

August 1, 2005

elbowing fela

Fela Kuti - "O D O O [edit]". Okay, screw Bono. This is the egomaniac I want at the head of my political movement. Nobody would be poor, nobody would be hungry, nobody would be unhappy. Racism: poof! Sexism: pow! Homophobia: zap! Instead - cowbell, chumchumstrum of guitar, brass, "ga ga goo goo". We'd build buildings that sway to music, everyone would know how to surf, love would be the easiest thing in the world. I guess the world would have a black president, too, which is worth a shot.

The best part is maybe that apathy would be annhiliated. How can you be apathetic with those horns tooting at you? If Fela looks you in the eyes, you'll take a bullet for him. If this Revolutionary Army comes by, even the tories will somersault into position, take up arms. Forget white wristbands - we would all get hot air balloons, every colour in the rainbow, floral patterns and cool modernist stripes, and our balloons would march (okay, bob) to the seats of government, nudging and bumping, so insistent and so glad that people would for sure pay attention. Cause even George Bush couldn't turn down Fela Kuti, "O D O O", truth, compassion, and a hundred million hot-air ballons.

[buy Black President: The Best Best of Fela Kuti, or one of his 77 albums]


Elbow - "Mexican Standoff". Just when you've given up on British guitar rock, Elbow comes along and reminds us why they were always the most interesting of Radiohead's children. Sure, we're a long way from the indie-prog suites of their debut, but this album's got a spark that at times bursts into flame. Guy Garvey's feelings don't just prance about over silvery piano-chords -- they punch holes in the walls.

"Mexican Standoff" begins with one of my favourite possible recorded sounds - a yell from the back of a room. And then we're off, clapgalloping down a hill, headlong into... what? A thicket? A moor? An army of Moors?

I admit that these are clumsy metaphors, but how else do you articulate the majesty of this song's ending moments? The electric guitar that buzzes like shields catching the light; percussion like horse-hooves; the rising warcry chant. Garvey may be nervous but he isn't going to be cowed into spitefulness. Instead he makes his band radiant, triumphant. He'll nab the princess by the sureness of his sword, the dazzle of his smile, the sweetness of his song.

I assume it ends as it does because Elbow won, so they don't need to strut around any more. To the bedroom!

[pre-order for September]

Posted by Sean at 5:00 AM | Comments (8)