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.

October 31, 2005

sadness and so much lamplight!

First -- the "My Funny Valentine" contest. Thank you all for your submissions - wow and holymoly. Strictly speaking, there are two winners, as the winning entry was submitted by two different people. Matt Christie and Dave Federman, I salute you! In order to settle the stale-mate, the prize will go to Matt C - who was (by a large margin) the first to submit the song. Matt, please email me at so we can arrange matters. David, I salute you again.

I will talk about the winning rendition on Thursday, as well as the other submissions. Sorry to make this such a prolonged affair, but so it goes! :)


Happy Halloween. I don't have any good halloween music.

But you should support UNICEF and rock out to the remixes by buying the Do They Know It's Halloween single/EP. Now with purchasing info for canadians/europeans/etc!


Nina Nastasia - "Bird of Cuzco". This song was written for John Peel, the late BBC Radio DJ. It is a modest song. Nastasia sings it with her usual tilted voice, sings lyrics that move like silhouettes. A shadow-play; shadow-forms that glimmer into colour, a white backdrop that blooms into a sunrise. Nina Nastasia asks questions, asks for help. She supplicates, quietly; she takes the answers where she can. She plays her guitar and she listens for the piano notes. She squints in the night and watches a bird.

I spent most of my life as a Canadian. I continue to live it as a Canadian, really, although I live in Edinburgh. But this is just a long way of saying: I didn't know John Peel. I didn't listen to the BBC over the net, or download almost any of his Sessions. I didn't - and don't - know him. But I need to say that as someone who dwells here now, who rubs shoulders with musos and critics and musicians, John Peel is perhaps the figure around which there is the most warmth. Not respect exactly; not reverence - but warmth. An affection that borders on love. People talk of him like a beloved friend. They stick up for his memory. They get into fights when John Peel Day seems to have been usurped. They talk about the way he taught them to love music - not just to appreciate the weird, to embrace the unexpected, but also to take full real pleasure in everything that gives you pleasure. The way he loved the songs he loved, the way he loved to love them, the way he made loving a piece of music a thing of triumph, of joy, of central human importance. The way that even if you didn't share his taste, you envied it - because it seemed so fierce.

I wish I knew John Peel. RIP.

(thanks jef jed)

[read about Nina and John at Spoilt Victorian Child]

[buy John Peel: A Tribute at]


Stars - "Ageless Beauty (Most Serene Republic remix)". It's only a week and a half since we wrote about Most Serene Republic, but here they are again because they've lit all the lights, the hundred-candle chandeliers, and they've made me very happy indeed. On Set Yourself on Fire, Stars make "Ageless Beauty" a bionic pop-song, a press of synths that seems thicker and stronger than any life I've ever lived, and I think I've only lived one. Imagine my glee when I hear what Most Serene Republic have done with the tune: they stripped the synths away, stowed them in the closets, then wheeled out the stringy guitars and threadbare pianos. They made Amy Millan stand right there in the middle of the ballroom as the candles were getting lit, they asked her to sing just the same, but now it's not a superhero's song. Now it's a song for the scale of my life, for all the goofs and the joys, for the way beauty sneaks up out of dusty corners, the way it manifests itself as glints in peoples' eyes. The song has got today's loveliness and not some shiny tomorrow's: it's got friendship and revelry and good craic. It's got a voice sweet as honey cake and some friends who will gobble it up.

[hear the original for free]

[buy the "ageless beauty" single us/uk]


Toronto Life has a marvellous interview with Dave Newfeld, Broken Social Scene producer. Dave is an enormously friendly character, bubbling-over with ideas and enthusiasms, passionate without being bossy. The interview's special because Dave is so honest, so forthright. A great read.

"It drives those guys nuts when we make an album; we’re not going to make any more albums like this one anymore."


"Because I spend so much time on my own that they feel I’ve taken a chunk of their soul and said, "Here, let me fucking groom it while you’re not looking," and then they come back and I go, "Look at your soul, I’ve put platform shoes on it, what do you think? Looks nice and tall now." Aagh! (laughs) Whereas their attitude is now: you’ve worked on this one, finish it this way, but on the next one we want you in not as producer, but we want you in as a band member. We want you to come in and play—I’ll play on this one, too—we want you to have input; it’ll be like a group thing. You’re not going to take this and fucking monkey around with it, and then let us hear it..."

Hopefully we'll hear more from Mr Newfeld soon... [via zoilus]

A little over a week ago, Drag City released a 7" called Mr Jews: In search of Silver Palace. It was ostensibly a toe-dip into the long-rumoured collaboration between David Berman (Silver Jews) and Will Oldham (Palace). 500 copies were pressed, and I suspect all 500 have been snapped up. Fret not, however - you can hear this very strange thing here (click on "media"), and see the MAD Magazine-like cover art here. For those who don't mind having the surprise of the album spoiled, click through to this post's comments and I'll lay it out.


update: I nearly forgot.... Some of you may know of November as National Novel Writing Month, but it is also NaSoAlMo: National Solo Album Month. Write and record an album in November - go on, do it! Other people are!

Posted by Sean at 12:55 AM | Comments (8)

October 28, 2005

It Is Becoming Clearer How Little Record Store Clerks, and I, Know

Red Pony Clock - "Nothing's Worse Than Being Uncool"

Matthew from Asaurus records connected me with this (and other) marvelous band(s) last week. If we were in 3rd grade, he would be my "new best friend"; instead, he is simply my best new friend. Red Pony Clock's Tunes From Terrace Towers is the best bedroom album I've heard since Bishop Allen, it has that start-to-finish, can't-wait-to-listen-to-it-again quality that you don't get very often. Part Diskettes and Parka 3, part Cake as a mariachi band, and part psychedelic family-fun-times music (thanks to M-tones for that one), with lyrics delivered like Pavement (well, one of the vocalists, they have two), but written like a swearing, clever, Velvet Underground. Whew. I don't usually mention other bands when I review songs, I guess that's been building up for a while. As for this song, it's a peach with no pit. Let's just revel in the great and true words, and bursts where the musical instruments introduce themselves, run waving across the stage. This song overstays its welcome a bit, which just makes it all the bulkier, awkward, uncool, perfect.

Red Pony Clock - "Sir Glorious In Your Insignificance"

The album is a heterogeneous mixture of the mariachi-infused clever bits (represented above) and the psychedelia-chorus-of-rainbowland-creatures parts (represented here). Let it take you to a place where normal people are born as twins, the streets are made of tiles that light up when you walk on them, and everything is five minutes from everything else*. Listen as the flute comes up like a bird beginning to fly just in time before hitting the ground. She had it all the time.

Also, there are like 4 other great songs on this album, but I thought better than to post them all.

[they have a geocities website!]

*either a pretty mediocre Ray Bradbury novel or a kick-ass episode of Sliders

Posted by Dan at 2:10 AM | Comments (6)

October 27, 2005

My Affinity for the Infinite Infinities

Leo Kottke - "The Fisherman"

One thing that sets John Fahey apart from other folk-revivalist finger-pickers is how slowly he plays. He draws out his patterns, leaving room for rhythmic play and filling in. It seems like Fahey could continue to add melodic lines to a part ad infinitum, like he has a million fingers, nine hundred ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety of which he only brings out on special occasions (concerts and recording dates) and even then only one at a time. But that’s just a beautiful trick. There are players as technically competent whose playing might not initially sound as dense, because they play fast all the time, from beginning to end, never adding, or taking away, just playing as hard as they can, almost artlessly, like how Brotzmann plays the saxophone and like the opposite of how he plays, too. One such guitarist is Leo Kottke, a pupil of Fahey’s.

That Leo Kottke can play guitar with startling precision and control is clear from any of his recordings. His ability, however, to write a good song is not always so clear. Sometimes he’s just showing off, a glorified acoustic Steve Vai. And sometimes he sings (yikes). But here he gets it right, playing precise (there is no other word) zigzagging runs, and steady, unrelenting bass patterns. There’s something satisfying in how light and sure his touch is (Fahey is clumsy in comparison), and there’s something deeply comfortable and familiar about this melody, this fisherman’s fugue. The real heart of the song, though - what makes it one of Kottke’s few great compositions - is the interval of 1:20 to 1:35 in which the treble loses its precision, ceases to serve as curlicue and flourish, and begins a short, convulsive ebb and flow. Meanwhile, the bass begins to descend and descend, eventually relenting, finally, for a moment leaving the treble alone to its simple two note seizure, before the song resumes its typically rigid Kottkean form. [Buy]


Panda and Angel - "Mexico"

Panda and Angel have an ear for the minor detail, for the small accompanying part that makes the difference between a dull song and a beautiful one. In fact, “Mexico” is nothing but those details and small parts, and the pregnant spaces in between. The percussion at the beginning, the repetitive vocals, the unambitiously picked acoustic guitar, the occasional electric guitar and tom hits – each is put in its exact right place. So that when the parts get bigger, and the drums commit, and horns, melodicas, and recorders are added, it has the desired emotional impact. This is Mexico on a cold morning by seaside. It is a lonely place, not recommended for tourists. [Info]

Posted by Jordan at 2:23 PM | Comments (3)

October 26, 2005

Said the Guests: Page France

The best musical suprises are the ones that knock you with a big stick and then leave you on your back, dazed, stars circling. It's like falling in love, heck it is falling in love, and this year Page France are one of my dearest sweethearts. As I wrote glowingly here, the band play a sparkling folk-pop that taps on my heart and jangles my brain. See: Beulah, The Shins, Royal City or maybe Ron Sexsmith, but really just see (and listen to) Hello, Dear Wind, cos it's great. You can buy it here for $10 USD.

Anyway it's with tremendous pleasure that I invite Michael Nau, Page France's principal songwriter and voice, to take charge of today's Gramophone. As you would expect from the lead singer of an indie-folk band, he writes about Sly & the Family Stone. And much else besides. Please show him your rosy faces and smiling smiles. (Many, many thanks, Michael.)

sly & the family stone - "if it were left up to me", from FRESH.
I just couldn't pass on this one. The first fully integrated group in rock history. There was no precursor for the Family stone, and in 1967, not too many people were prepared for birth of the funk genre. When I first heard 71's, There's a Riot Goin' On, I was floored. I purchased a copy, and lost it about two days later, so I quickly snatched a new one, along with Fresh, only to find that the latter of the two proved to be even more moving. I had never experienced such soul and camraderie sonically, and I haven't since.

"If it were left up to me" is a perfect example of that very camraderie. Each time that the song begins, the melody cripples me immediately - the way that the group shifts registers - I just can't help but grin and re-cue the song at least 3 or 4 times before letting the record move along. If I would have heard this record before Hello, Dear Wind, this is how I would have wanted it to sound. I'm not too sure if we could have made the funk and soulfulness work, but I would have loved to try.


margo guryan - "i'd like to see the bad guys win", from 25 Demos.
Alright, so everybody has heard "take a picture", whether it be from owning the record, or simply hearing it serve as the background music for a documentary on the history of pornography - nonetheless, while that record sits in millions of top 10 lists, most folks are not aware that Margo has a healthy number of other gems glowing below sea level - some of these were finally dug up, and released in a compilation filled with demos from take a picture, as well as demos from a record that Margo had been working on at the time. It's the sort of ill-sorted apology for those of us who have acquired the nagging habit of falling in love with artists who only make one record.

If someone asks me what I like about Guryan, I can hardly give them an answer. I'm not certain that I even know. Is it her voice? Is it her bangs? Is it the way that she holds her cigarette? These are questions that keep me up at night. Hell, must I even have a reason?

Likewise, I wonder why I even like this song? "I'd like to see the bad guys win" is a shoe-in for my 'favorite songs' list. Is it because it is just so damn clever?-the funky-bump keys and the sinister wit in her voice when she sings, "wouldn't it be thrilling to see a happy ending ending unhappily"? Regardless, I recall the first time that I heard this song... we were on tour, stopping through New York, where we would nap in central park... I had just picked up the record before we left for tour, so I didn't get to give it a proper listen, but I remember the song coming on... it's one of those songs that ruins your day - in a good way, though. No matter what I did, I couldn't get away from it - it was too sticky. I tried to run and hide but it followed me everywhere. I think that nearly everyone has said to me, at least once... "hey, let's cover that song". I wouldn't dare!


broadcast - "before we begin", from Ha Ha Sound.
HA HA Sound, by all means, is one of my all time favorite records. It's played ad nauseam wherever I go. It's quite strong from start to finish. I like that this album sounds a bit more human than Broadcasts debut - there is just this rare, unmistakable roughness to it, which causes the brilliance of their song craft to become more apparent.

"Before we Begin" reminds me of an outer-space version of a song that could have easily appeared on, Take a Picture. I've developed a sentimental connection with it, simply by beating it into my brain for the past several months. Those who know me best are afraid to sit in my passenger seat while I'm listening to a song that I am in love with, and rightfully so. I totally zone out. I still recall.. about a week after I picked this record up, I was driving through rainfall, and nearly smashed into the rear of a car that I was following... I then hydroplaned out of control and nearly kissed the guard-rail - I've swerved wrecklessly one too many times for this reason. Nonetheless, one of my "Before we Begin" memories involves a near-death experience. Too dramatic? Of course it is!


[Michael Nau is the voice behind Page France. After writing and partially recording two records, those songs were scrapped and Hello, Dear Wind was written in two weeks last May, recorded by a cast of friends over the summer. A series of further EPs are on the way and Nau has also completed a record with his other band, The Broadway Hush, which will see release in early '06.]

(Previous artist guest-blogs, in and out of the Said the Guests series: Hello Saferide, Edward Droste (Grizzly Bear), Will Sheff (Okkervil River), Devin Davis, Brian Michael Roff, Howard Bilerman (producer: Silver Mt. Zion, Arcade Fire, etc.), Damon Krukowski (Damon & Naomi). There are many more to come.)

Posted by Page France at 3:01 AM | Comments (6)

October 25, 2005

You Can't Blame The Horses They Ride

Wolf Parade - "Unknown Title (Bones Song) (live)"

note: this track has some volume problems, so try playing it in a player that can boost it up (iTunes, winamp, something). it NEEDS to be LOUD.

I saw them last week, and this (and another) song was very very encouraging. I felt like a pile of Mr. Garbage's trash, so I was sitting with my head up against the sound booth the whole time, watching their shadows huge on the walls, and all the faces. It was a nice way to watch a show, though when I did look it was amazing to watch the amount of sweat that dripped off Spencer's face, it was like he was crying a cartoon amount of tears onto the stage.

the song: It's a marauding prowl that becomes a fire-eyed plea: don't give up (on me). The most important line, what makes the song in my opinion, "we'll force them in to place", is brushed by like a main character in a crowd. But by the tenth or so listen, you're waiting for it, you can let it hit you in the heart. Then, it's always in your mind during the 'oh, come on's, as if the song were wearing clothes. clothes that explain everything.


And Spiders - "Worry is the Devil"

This song takes place in the cold cold south, a place of grey front porches, and apostrophes instead of "g"s. Two friends (apparently Bing Crosby and a tall bird) swing their hands and pretend to walk around, talk about where they're pretendin' to go, all the mistakes they'd make when they get there. And the bassline and cymbal crashes are the two old trees, huge craggy, the first things you see when you round the corner of the path from down in the town.

This song is dedicated to Bertrand Russell and Baruch de Spinoza. It ain't you, fellas, it's me.

[Buy for $6USD]


Also, I received this e-mail the other day:

"after you posted boogie dancin, it sort of became my anthem for a couple of weeks. I played it for friends, and now, i've recorded a cover. At least you might think it's pretty funny. It's called "boogie dancin'(acoustic CRUNK)""

and I do think it's funny. But it's not trying to be funny (outside of the band name, of course), which makes it re-listenable, danceable, adorable. So, here you go:

Mr. Bron Von Chowsen - "boogie dancin' (acoustic CRUNK)"


if you missed it (which i did), listen to Sean on Front Row yesterday. lightning quick questions, Sean's actor-trained enunciation (I love it!), and kind of a bleak future predicted. Eventually we get paid so much money we turn into computers!

Posted by Dan at 1:28 AM | Comments (12)

October 24, 2005

you have to either sit down or cheer up

The "My Funny Valentine" contest is over. Thank you all for your submissions - the winner will probably be announced next Monday.


Blanket - "All Love is Dead". Sit down, sit down. Don't go anywhere. Sit. There's a candle on the table and Lauren (we will call her Lauren) is in the kitchen, washing dishes. She speaks to you over her shoulder. She's wearing her short skirt, the one you like, but her hair's falling across her face in an ugly way. Her eyes look hard. You're sitting there as she speaks but you're not listening for the first long time - you're listening to her voice, the sweet and mumbly flow, the voice you love to hear close-up, right in your ear, marble-mouthed, - but you're not listening to the words. And then you begin to hear, over the tapwater shhh, over the scrub scrub of her rubber gloves, over the sighs of the backing vocals in the corner -- you begin to hear what she's saying and you realise she is telling you off. You deserve it. It's a rage that sounds for a moment like a whine, then sad sad sad, then like someone deep in love. And then like all three and neither. Because she's gone cool again, sharp and collected, back straight, and the only soft thing over there, at the other end of the room, is a voice and a pair of lips. And they're not coming closer.

Girls, I don't know what you'll hear. But this is a song of easy, dusty unhappiness; a folky tune that owes almost everything to the singer. Part Rickie Lee Jones, part Isobel Campbell, a face you want desperately to see smile.

[Brighton's Blanket have things for sale, but I can't see where to buy them. This is their website. I heard this track on the Crystal Cabinet Harvest Festival sampler.]


Phantom Buffalo - "Cheer Up My Man". It's a weak story but it lets me name-drop:

So when I was at Rough Trade's London offices, flipping through their CD shelves, Richard from the Arcade Fire/Bell Orchestre pulls out this Phantom Buffalo CD in a clear vinyl sleeve and says "Have you heard this?" and I say "No" and he's like "It's really good," I think he explained someone from the label had played it for him, or maybe it had just been recommended to him and he hadn't heard it yet. But anyway I was like "Who are Phantom Buffalo?" and he shrugged and I put it in my pocket to take home with the Sufjan, Furnaces and Cameras. When I got back to Edinburgh I put it by the stereo and forgot about it. Occasionally I'd glance at it, but come on - Phantom Buffalo? An album called ShiShiMuMu? Clearly this not a good band. Probably some syrupy Japanese psych-pop, or a third-tier Polyphonic Spree imitator. Months went by. And then in September I put on the CD because I couldn't find my copy of Hayden's Everything I Long For (I think someone must have stolen it, or I lost it in Outremont -- heads will roll!).

And good god - holy cow, - boy... oh boy. ShiShiMuMu is fantastic. Phantom Buffalo play a supple guitar-pop that falls into a constellation with Bishop Allen, Reindeer Section and the Presidents of the United States of America, that bounces along rainpuddle chords to smallscale fireworks. It feels so British to me, though, so dry in its happiness, so bright in its melancholy. (Of course typically, they're from Maine. And sometimes they're called The Ponys.)

One of the record's greatest strengths is the sequence of tracks, the way melodies hide in one-other, the way harmonies come a bumping out as one song fades into the next. It's a great album, not just a series of hoppin' songs, and so it's difficult to pluck one out and expect you to fully understand. But I'll try.

"Waiting for my Man" this ain't. Instead it's squiggles of guitar and cantering drums, vocals like a long drink of milk, a reassuring jingle to take us through to the epic album-closing finale, a breakdown with that guitar sound, you know the one, the one that shines blueflaming in the dark, that lets us simultaneously lift our lighters and jump dance jump, a furious getting-down to music that's not quite getting-down itself. Sometimes you need a song to leave you room to fill in the blanks with your own vicious dance-moves.

[ShiShiMuMu was released in 2002. It's available from respective UK/US sources for $12/£9.99. According to their blog there is a new LP on the way, and also I think an EP or two has come out since ShiShiMuMu, but I have heard none of these. I would very much like to. More info.]


A terrific relaunch-with-redesign at Poptext. Abby's promised more writing, more frequent updates, and yes indeed lots more music. Yay!

I keep forgetting to link to Who's the Boss 2006, the second annual awesome-off coordinated by my old friend Ed. It's a tournament of Excellence, pitting random things against each-other, with only a small nod to rhyme, reason and common-sense. Merlin defeats Beetlejuice, Vonnegut takes down Tom Robbins, black forest cake knocks out Halle Berry. (Last year's final was Christopher Walken vs Death.)

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

October 21, 2005

tell me it truer

The "My Funny Valentine" Contest continues apace... You have until Sunday night to send me the best version in the world (vocal or instrumental, it don't matter). Submissions as of midnight Thursday UK-time include renditions by Chet Baker, Chris Botti, Elvis Costello, Etta James, Frankie Machine, Gotan Project, Jackie Gleason, Matt Damon, Miles Davis, Tom Barman, Over the Rhine, the Ray Brown Trio, Victoria Williams. (Several of these have been repeatedly submitted.) Do keep them coming - but only if they'll win.

Entries should be emailed to, or, if you're worried about the attachment being too big, via the ever-wonderful dropload.

Two people have sent versions that were not by the artist they thought, but rather by Chet Baker. Yay for P2P! :)


Yo La Tengo with Daniel Johnston - "Speeding Motorcycle". How to put this song into words? How to say that this is, tonight, my favourite song in the world? How to say that it is as funny as true love, as true as the best jokes, as crazy as a wedding, as joyous as the end of a very, very bad day.

Yo La Tengo play like it's their first date, like they're not really sure. (This is of course because they are on live radio, trying to remember the song, trying to cooperate with this man who's yelling over the phone.) Daniel Johnston, meanwhile, goes wild, goes glad, goes angry and jubilant and desperate and proud. Yo La Tengo have an agreeable acoustic guitar, an organ, a pinch of drums. Daniel Johnston has his swaying, crackling voice: a voice so rich that it's sprouting vines, little bursts of flower, feathers and heartbeats.

It starts out like a comedy: a strange conversation and then Johnston's skewed accapella. But when the guitar comes in, Daniel gains an Elvis swagger, a James Dean unh. The strength comes into his jellybones. And now he can high-kick, jump-start, catch bouquets and tear off clothes. It's hilarious, it's ecstatic, it's tender as a fresh cut and red as all that blood.

Daniel Johnston recorded "Speeding Motorcycle" on 1989's Yip/Jump Music. He is a splendid, crooked songwriter who you should read about. Yo La Tengo covered "Speeding Motorcycle" on 1990's Fakebook. They are a sweet noisy pop band who you should read about. Late in 1990, Yo La Tengo were playing on Jersey City's WFMU (as they do), and Daniel phoned in. They decided to play a song. The song would be "Speeding Motorcycle". Yo La Tengo stood in their half-circle at the studio, all hesitant glances and grins. Over in Texas, Daniel stood in his socks in the kitchen and boy, he yelled his heart out.

(thanks to _highatus and bug138)

[buy Daniel Johnston stuff]

[buy Yo La Tengo stuff]


The Pipettes - "Dirty Mind". Shimmy-shammy doo-la-la, clapclapclap and shiny guitar. The Pipettes are Brighton's polka-dot girl-group, the Cassettes are their back-up band, and "Dirty Mind" is their first single for Memphis Industries (see also The Go! Team, Dungen). It's got lipstick sass and the upward flit of skirts, lyrics that fall somewhere between Rachel Stevens and The Lucksmiths; it's got coordinated dance-moves and bumper-car backup vocals.

It's not retro, though, not quite - there's too much of today in the girls' flirting, in the songwriting. These kids have studied The Cure as much as they have The Shirells; they take some Lady Sovereign with their Diana Ross. They drink Guinness floats not Shirley Temples, and I bet they smoke cigarettes. (Then again, the 20th Century girl-groups probably did too.) It also sounds like they must have degrees in songcraft - this is such a perfect pop composition, all those bridges and choruses that fit together like girl and boy. Or, less scandalously, like man and woman. (Okay, or less scandalously again, like hand in hand.) In short: it's a hit.

[you really ought to pre-order the single at Amazon (the b-side is fantastic too)]


In real life:

Frances are playing at NYC's Pianos tonight, at 10:30, with a horn section too.

Me, though, I'm a continent away -- I will spend Friday night at The Skinny's Glasgow Launch Party, at The Bastille: howlin' blues from Uncle John and Whitelock, DJing from the Reindeer Section (aka members of Mogwai, Snow Patrol, Arab Strap, etc), and lots lots more music. Free till 11. Say hello to the Canadian with beard and glasses. I might even buy you a drink.

Posted by Sean at 8:39 AM | Comments (8)

Covering Covers

Ali Farka Toure - "Cinquante Six"

Divide the guitar part into three: the bass (be patient, it comes rarely); the middle (repetitive and swinging); and the treble (running frantically in all directions - sometimes responding to the middle, sometimes ignoring it).  Then put the parts back together, if you can. Hear it as a whole again.  Start from the beginning, if you have to. Listen to the beginning's tentative teasing refrain in which the three parts act as one.  Then hear the treble leave and wander and do coy things and violent things.  Do you hear that it is simultaneously circular and linear?

Drink water as you listen: this song is bone dry.  Trust me.  I'm no camel, but nor am I a particularly thirsty man. [Buy]


Irma Thomas - "Ruler of My Heart"

A stand-up bass stutters, constantly relocating the groove with its careful placement and delicate staccato phrasing.  That it stutters is nice, but relatively inconsequential compared to the important fact of why it stutters: namely the awe-inspiring voice of Irma Thomas, an instrument which possesses that most rare quality of at once being both smooth and rough, sweet and sour. [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 2:20 AM | Comments (6)

October 19, 2005

LIKE your fingertips!

It's been a victorious week: after winning contests at Molars and I (Heart) Music (enter now for a chance to win the new Bell Orchestre record), I am in a competitive mood. So here is a Said the Gramophone contest. A very modest one, where the prize is more modest still. Really it's just a request, a question, with a smile and a handshake at the end.

What is the best version of "My Funny Valentine"?

Chet Baker Rodgers & Hart's "My Funny Valentine" is my favourite jazz standard. I am looking for the world's best recorded version, something that will hold a candle to the interpretation I heard by a small man at a piano in a Latvian basement bar.

Send me the best version of "My Funny Valentine" in existence, instrumental or non, vintage or contemporary, by either Dropload or email, to:

The deadline is Midnight EST on Sunday, October 23.

I'll (almost certainly) post the winner on here, with words too.

The prize? A little Said the Gramophone soapbox - you'll get to choose any one song (<10meg), with comments, here on the blog. It can be any track you like - pimp your own band, a friend's, U2 or (better still) something no one knows but everyone will love. Heck, you can even post a band I dislike - GG Allin, Rilo Kiley, the Arctic Monkeys... basically anything's fair game.

A silly prize, sure, but it's a silly contest.


Ok, now onwards --


The Cardigans - "In the Round". To be a Great Song isn't like being a Great Man. Julius Caesar had to win respect, cross the Rubicon, fight off assassins, and eventually get killed. Einstein had to learn some real tough math, to stick his tongue out on camera. And Harriet Tubman was given a very hard time.

A Great Song, though? Capital G, capital S? Well look how close "In the Round" comes, and all because of a guitar and bass - a golden guitar-line, a beat-copper bassline, - and, of course, an engineer who could record them. They're musical circles, bracelets, and yet in such perfect sympathy that the song begins to float, fly and hum.

Nina Persson helps, of course. The way she holds a note a little longer than You might, letting the pitch stay steady for an unexpected moment - a lingering thought. Cat Power after taking lessons from Kathleen Edwards. She asks people to clap their hands but we hear only dry computer claps, like someone who knows to only do as he's asked and no more. A robot who knows what he's good for.

It's not quite a Great Song, though. No. It's missing the chorus that would make it so. But look how close it comes - with guitar, bass, robot, singer, engineer. Look how close. Then stop looking and just listen again.

[From the Cardigans' new album, Super Extra Gravity, which is at least a lap-steel away from the light country of Long Gone Before Daylight, an edging back toward pop. -- uh, BUY.]


They Live By Night - "Truth or Dare". Dirty drums rattle under They Live By Night's bending neon guitar and everything's a glad Killers-style garage-disco until the chorus comes along and things get a little complicated. Not too complicated, mind, just a swirl of M83 synths and "da-da-da" vocals that seem ripped from an old Camera Obscura LP. It's grungey garage with a twee girlfriend, the Mr Tough Guy who goes home and listens to The Pastels, a bully who's gone head-over-heels for the girl in the Belle & Sebastian jacket.

[more info on these Swedes]


Elsewhere -

Mirah has released a download-only charity single for the victims of Katrina.

The ever-wonderful You Ain't No Picasso has the late Elliott Smith covering Big Star's "Thirteen".

Also at YANP, check the marvel that is the "Do They Know It's Halloween?" music video.

Let Son House's voice shake the blues out of you at Tuwa's Shanty. (my pick: "Walking Blues")

A big welcome to Musings of an Indie Kid.

Posted by Sean at 1:45 PM | Comments (13)

October 18, 2005

Can't Quite Construct It

Twin Atlas - "Roll On"

Can someone please tell me what kind of guitar is used to play the simple lead here? Its tone is clean and chiming and contrasts perfectly with the wash that constitutes the song’s base. While you’re at it, can you tell me what kind of voice is used to sing the double-tracked, reverb soaked vocal? I know that it’s the same kind used in Red House Painters and My Bloody Valentine, but I don’t know the model, the name of which I must find out if I’m to buy it on Ebay and record my own album with it. [Info]


Most Serene Republic - "Where Cedar Nouns and Adverbs Walk"

The word for Most Serene Republic is ‘precocious.’ In their youth and ambition and skill they remind me of another precocious talent: Jonathan Safran Foer. Foer seems to want to fit every idea he ever had into every word he writes, making for a dizzying read that is mostly as grating as it is impressive. Most Serene Republic has a similar problem/talent, and their debut promises that with some Ritalin and some patience they could record an album that would be enjoyable as well as impressive. As it stands, however, they are stressing me out (too many changes, too many ideas). Also, is their name supposed to be ironic? [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 8:35 PM | Comments (8)

October 17, 2005

Pap Pap Pap

The Rosebuds - "Hold Hands and Fight"

If you gave the title of this song to the guy at, I hope he would draw the picture that I see. Which is not two people with swords, facing danger, their free hands clutched together, but rather two people with both hands holding the other's, but screaming at each other. There's something more affecting about that image: the simultaneous aggresivity and vulnerability. I'm not sure which way the band interprets this song (shout-out to my man Barthes) but I think it could go either way. Apparently, they're married.



The Beautiful New Born Children - "Paper Mill"

It's like one of those dreams you have where you're running and you're going so fast you don't need as many steps to maintain your speed, so you spend way more time in the air than you do touching the ground. Run-flying, because fly-running sounds entomological. Speaking of logical, it makes sense to scream to this song, because it's hot to the touch.



Also, you've probably all seen this by now, but in case you haven't: try it, it's hypnotizing. I'm not a political person, so it could be anyone's face, but there's something serene/desperate about his expression that makes his eternal descent all the more fascinating, quietly empty.

Posted by Dan at 1:52 AM | Comments (10)

October 14, 2005

You Misunderstood, And That's Your Fault

Ist - "Evelyn Harper"

This song is devilish, that is, "like the devil". And for 3:52, I do. What's so devastating is the perspective: it seems to be of the man with whom Evelyn Harper cheats on her husband. Which is fine, but the first half of the song is the man describing how shitty her life is, and how much she wants this affair, and the second half is about how much of a whore she will feel like (and how much of a whore he will consider her) after its over. It's like a Mike Leigh film, especially with the ending, which is deftly executed on the part of Ist, not sung like an ending, sung like the end of a verse, like it's not the end at all, but that's all we're told. The rest, well.



The Fiery Furnaces - "I Am Leaving (Junior Kimbrough cover)"
Junior Kimbrough - "I'm Leavin' You Baby"

Someone was talking on some blog somewhere, some blog everywhere, probably, about how a mash-up should heighten the enjoyment of both songs involved. I really felt this come true in this case, though it's not a mash-up. These two versions compliment, and complement, each other. It somehow becomes one story, the Fiery Furnaces version taking place before the Junior Kimbrough version, in time. Eleanor is singing to her lover, Kimbrough to himself. She's banging on his front door, his windows, trying to get one last reaction before jumping in the car. Kimbrough, however, has been on the road for three hours, and he's just repeating these words at every city-distance sign that waves beneath the headlights (L.A. 3000, NYC 3000). Hence the extended silences, the slower pace, the constant return to that low note, that's the tar lines clicking beneath the wheels. He's sorry right now.

[Buy Sunday Nights or sample more / Junior Info and Buy]

Posted by Dan at 2:30 AM | Comments (0)

October 13, 2005

Said the Guests: Devin Davis

There is no doubt in my mind that one of the most dazzling talents to hit shelves in 2004 - in a year with debut LPs by the Go! Team, Joanna Newsom, Kanye West and many others, - was Devin Davis. I last wrote about him, ebbuliently, in May, and his jubilant, boisterous indie-pop songs remain fixtures on my iPod. Devin's still selling copies of the independently-released Lonely People of the World, Unite!, and you can download the deliriously-great "Iron Woman" (among others) over at his website.

It's with great pleasure, therefore, that I welcome Devin as a guest-blogger on Said the Gramophone. His picks are fascinating, weird and great. (Dan, you gotta get a load of the Brian Doyle-Murray recording.) Please give him a warm welcome. -- Sean

(Previous artist guest-blogs, in- and out- of the Said the Guests series: Hello Saferide, Edward Droste (Grizzly Bear), Will Sheff (Okkervil River), Brian Michael Roff, Howard Bilerman (producer: Silver Mt. Zion, Arcade Fire, etc.), Damon Krukowski (Damon & Naomi). There are many more to come.)

The Bonzo Dog (Doo-Dah) Band - "Jollity Farm" & "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" / Brian Doyle-Murray - "Stand Up"

Well, I labored long and hard trying to decide on which three songs to choose for this assignment. I knew immediately, however, that I had to include The Bonzo Dog Band. After a little bit of thought I decided to choose two shorter cuts from their first LP Gorilla which are, in fact, presented in this sequence on the album, although I removed the gap between them here for the sake of continuity. The Bonzo Dog (Doo-Dah) Band eventually turned into somewhat more of a "straight-forward" Psych-Rock band on their subsequent albums (penning the song "I'm the Urban Spaceman" with Paul McCartney for instance) but at their beginning they were more of a Dixieland/British Music Hall/Oom-pah/comedy band on acid. They always retained their absurdist comedic elements, but they kind of ditched some of the Dixieland/carnival aesthetic after Gorilla (which, bythe way, doesn't mean that their later records aren't awesome!).

Anyway, the Bonzos were featured in the Magical Mystery Tour film (they are the band at the strip-club), which eventually went on to inspire Ben Gibbard and company to name Death Cab for Cutie after their song of that name. Band member Neil Innes went on to score much of the music for the Monty Python films, as well as appearing as Sir Robin's minstrel in The Holy Grail. In addition to recommending the album Gorilla I also strongly suggest finding one of the bootleg compilations of their short films and TV appearances if for no other reason than to see (band member) Roger Ruskin Spear's performance on his "leg thermin" (a theremin installed inside a female mannequin leg). These guys were nuts folks! The first tune here "Jollity Farm" was written by Les Sarony a performer who had huge popularity during the 1930s. Following that is a hilarious rip on "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" replete with fake audience chatter and a great "thank you track.".. ooh.. so dry.

Next up in my "comedy mix".. if you will... is a cut from the National Lampoon album Gold Turkey featuring Brian Doyle-Murray (a native Chicagoan I might add). The older brother of Bill, Brian Doyle-Murray was one of an astoundingly talented group that worked for National Lampoon. In the back cover photo of Gold Turkey alone are Richard Belzer (Law & Order), Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis (writer and director of Caddyshack & Vacation/Dr. Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters), John Belushi, and Christopher Guest (Spinal Tap), and other alumni include Michael O'Donoghue (Saturday Night Live), and Chevy Chase. The name "National Lampoon" has, in more recent years, been bought out by some "suits" who have taken the once proud franchise of films, records, and radio programs and turned it into an outlet for Girls Gone Wild-esque Cancun Party videos. It's pretty disgusting, but the archives from the late 60's and early-to-mid 70's remain. The frantic pacing of this particular segment always stuck out to me for some reason. His word play is pure genius. He has such a great comic voice too. Anyway,.. it's bad to "analyze" comedy and I realize that this is not "music".. in the traditional sense at least... but I hope that you enjoy it anyway!

[buy Bonzos stuff / buy Gold Turkey]

Chuck Berry - "Thirty Days" (1956) (originally a single)

One of my first musical memories is listening to my parents' American Graffiti soundtrack, and the first song I ever learned on the guitar was "Johnny B. Goode", so I decided to feature one of my favorite Chuck Berry songs. I got this particular song "Thirty Days" from the Chess LP Chuck Berry's Golden Decade although I'm sure it's available on a gazillion other compilations. I don't know what it is exactly about this song that I like so much, I just love how raw the recording is... the drums sound f'ing incredible.. you can tell that it was obviously cut live with everybody together in one room (it was in fact recorded at Chess Studios in Chicago.. the Chicago connections here seem to abound). Given the historical context of the song, and what came before it, it doesn't even matter how revolutionary he was... the song STILL cooks. I love the call and response gang vocals in the background too... no mics.. just everybody just yelling over the instruments.. it makes my hair stand on end. Ladies and gentlemen this is rock & roll!


John Oswald (aka: Plunderphonics) - "Brown" (1989-1990)

For the final MP3 selection, I chose a track from the Plunderphonics Box Set. As with the Bonzo Dog Band, I knew immediately that I would have to include a Plunderphonics song but to choose just one was a very difficult decision for me... as I consider the box set to be a solid and continuous gem.

If you are not familiar with Plunderphonics (and the reason why I include this track is because of the overwhelming "no" response I get when I ask folks if they've heard of it), it is the project of Canadian composer, musician and "sound-artist" John Oswald. The guy is fucking nuts. I think that his Plunderphonics works are, in my opinion, THE most intensely psychedelic (and arguably psychotic) recordings I have ever heard.

Very simply put John Oswald's approach, in his own words, is taking recognizable audio quotes and presenting them in a varied context, but it goes SO far beyond any kind of "remixing" that I've ever heard. In the liner notes for the box set are the bold typed words "TAKING SAMPLING FIFTY TIMES BEYOND THE EXPECTED." One of the only relatively analogous artists I can think of would be The Bomb Squad (producers for Public Enemy's masterpieces It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back and Fear of a Black Planet), but even the densest moments on Fear of A Black Planet don't even touch the tip of the Plunderphonics iceberg.

Oswald deals with a very interesting psychological phenomenon. His work arguably crosses over into the real of what some might consider "subliminal sound." He uses, almost exclusively, popular music (rock, blues, rap, straight pop.. "the hits" if you will) for the source material and then cuts out tiny bits and then assembles them into insanely dense walls of sound. The fascinating aspect, to me, is how short a snippet of a sound can be and have you still recognize it's source. A great example of this is his piece "Explo" by "Jensen Pox Lesion Blues Corp" (aka: John Spencer Blues Explosion... Oswald creates an anagram for every artist he "plunders") where the blips (all taken from the Orange record) are JUST long enough for you to recognize where they're from, but are weaved together into a ridiculously spastic wall of drums and free form vocal blips that sound NOTHING like the original (you'd have to hear it.. it is hard to describe in just a few words). Insane stuff indeed.

This track entitled "Brown" by "News Orb Jam" (aka: James Brown) I decided on due to it's highly comedic results (most of the Plunderphonic songs are absolutely HILARIOUS!). Here, he uses hundreds of James Brown snippets (many being assorted grunts and screams) taken from dozens of compilation records along with some Public Enemy (who are here sampling James Brown themselves) and some Charlie Parker saxophone. It was also done, I might add, in 1989... just before Pro-Tools and other non-linear recording platforms made stuff like this a lot easier to produce. He did most of it on a keyboard sampler... literally "playing" it himself.

A few years back I made about a dozen Plunderphonic sampler CDs and gave them to all of my friends at Christmastime rabidly hoping to "spread the word." The verdict seemed mixed. Some people consider it to be the most unlistenable music they have ever heard. The CD became known to some as the "party killer" CD.. meaning that if you wanted the stragglers to leave your party at 4 am.. just throw on the Plunderphonics!

I, however, think that it is one of the most enjoyable and uniquely amazing things I have ever encountered. There is so much great stuff on the box set; a vast array of popular music that gets "torn to shreds" if you will... (Metallica, Michael Jackson.. who sued Oswald for his reworking of "Bad".. The Beatles, The Doors, Dolly Parton, and Carly Simon to name a few, as well as swing standards, and orchestral music). Anyway,.. I've gone on too much here I think... I just hope that you enjoy this track, and if you do.. I highly recommend picking up the box set, as this one track certainly does not do the collection as a whole the slightest bit of justice.

[buy 69/96]

Best regards to you all,

-Devin Davis

[Devin lives in Chicago, IL. Having returned from a recent tour of the Western U.S. and a trip to NYC for CMJ, Davis is currently working on new songs and playing shows (both with a band and solo acoustic) in support of Lonely People of the World, Unite! While working on his next album, Devin has plans to record and release an album of acoustic versions of some of the songs on Lonely People as well as some favorite covers played during his solo acoustic sets.]

Posted by Devin Davis at 8:31 AM | Comments (9)

October 12, 2005

A Chance Encounter

Sorry everyone. Technical difficulties.


Bill Ricchini - "Like An X-Ray"

I just got my learner's permit. So I started driving a bit, and I'm really good. I don't use the turn signal yet, but I turn often and so well that other drivers honk in celebration.

Since I didn't have my driver's license in high school, I was very lucky to have liberal parents who lent their car to my friends to drive me around in. Once, the comedian Joel Taylor (sometime StG commenter) drove me to the bus station in my parents' two-tone brown Oldsmobile. On the way, he turned the wrong way down a one-way street (one of the busier streets in Ottawa) and the steady flow of oncoming traffic forked around us. I remember the sound of a thousand horns. We somehow emerged unscathed and pulled into a parking lot at the side of the road. I was in complete shock and Joel looked like, well, Abraham Lincoln, actually. I looked out the window and saw about ten squeegee punks laughing hysterically. Joel waved. They washed our windshield.

Anyway, when I first heard "Like an X-Ray," I immediately thought of being driven in that car, listening to AM radio (the only option), singing along to Oldies 1310. The song's jangling guitars and sunny melody are very AM. And the trumpet calls to mind the end of weekends and the final days of summer: times I spent and contemplated in that car. At 0:55 snare hits begin at two, two-and, and four, providing just the right emphases and swing for a nostalgia inducing AM classic. [Info]


Iron and Wine and Calexico - "Dead Man's Will"

Iron and Wine is fine, but boring (I think). I thought that maybe Calexico would be just the medicine for Mr. Beam, but alas, it's not quite the case. There still remain faint remnants of undynamic dullness on their collaboration, the ep In the Reins. Still, Calexico does add something - namely, their unusual and unexpected instrumentation and arrangements. Here it's a marimba, a piano and backing vocals that reveal the ghostliness of the material, and bring out the title's second meaning: this is not just a will and last testament written by a living man to be read after his death, but a dead man's exercising of his ghost-mental faculty for choice and action, to speak his regrets and desires from beyond. [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 4:37 PM | Comments (6)

October 11, 2005

for a tues-day at work

These are two songs to be played in sequence. (There's also another song, at the end, that you can play after.) Seriously -- you trust me, right? Download these first two, put them in your tracklist, and play one after the other. In order. Like so:

1. Clogs - "Limp Waltz". This is a piece that's been sitting in a corner of my mind, looking up at me when I look at it, otherwise just sitting there. The best mornings are the ones when I get up in time to sit in the early light and put on my headphones and listen to this, still not quite here. I look at the piece in the corner of my mind and it acknowledges me and I acknowledge it, all soft dawn looks, and we both turn to gaze out the window.

This is classical music with only a kiss, a long black kiss, of indie-rock's texture and structure. It's so slow you can watch its fingers move. So slow you can hear Padme Newsome's viola turning in his hands, dark to darker, darker to brighter, brighter to light, to hope. It flowers, but the flowers lie there on the table waiting for someone to pick them up.

Unfortunately, Clogs are also burdened with hipster credentials: enough to fog things up and make it hard to see clearly. Sharing members with The National, admirers of Sufjan Stevens, tapped by the Bell Orchestre to tour with that Arcade Fire-buzzing troupe. But Clogs are at their best when they move away from Rachel's circular fables and the Orchestre's jazzy tracts - toward Reich and Mahler, long spaces and unrepeating sounds.


2. Anita Humes - "Don't Fight It Baby". But look, we're not gonna get through this Tuesday with you just sitting there. Don't fight it, baby. You can't win. Don't fight it, baby

So off - rampadama ding-aling of drums, ticktocking percussion, - trundle down the steps and hop on along. Don't fight it baby.

Question: Does she really have her "voodoo working"?
Answer: No, but because she says so, yes.

Learn a lesson from Anita and her Northern Soul song, from her gang who will back her up, from the clapclap hands that make sure you make it through every set of doors you need to get through. Learn a lesson - and that lesson is, inevitably, don't fight it. Baby.

[try to buy ?]

Milo McLaughlin - "I Ain't Your Mailman".

I'm not quite done. This is a toss-off song, some scraps of guitar, some chords, a guitar and a microphone that's turned on. It's a song of "justs" and yet it's so phenomenally perfect, so entirely right, that the front of your face swings open and the id inside yells "YES".

Because seriously - This here request is merely humiliatin'... you're asking me to pick up the mail that is waitin'. Well. I ain't your mail man.

Work sucks, sometimes. Work sucks. And here's Milo who sings it just right, who sings it pissed-off and silly and pissed-off and happy (because he's off work), part Mark E Smith and part Leadbelly, showing me the way that the blues has gotta be here, right here, and in this day and age. He's so frustrated that he can't help but laugh, that he can't help but go home and record a song. And the song: true and awesome.

[info and more music]



A terrific music video for Hello Saferide's "My Best Friend" - animations that slip in like shadows and dance like a dance party. And Annika's a cutie.


Lots of really great stuff has been posted lately, I think. But we rely on you guys to tell us how we're doing. When you neglect us I promise we feel sad and wonder if we're screwing up. :(

Please listen to Agent Simple (Magnetic Fields crossed with fun! [!!!!]), The Shelleys, The Winks, White Foliage and The Rollercoaster Project, and tell us what you think. About the music, about the words, about both. Or just about how you are. How are you?

Posted by Sean at 3:04 AM | Comments (15)

October 10, 2005

Give Thanks for Agent Simple

Agent Simple - "Make A Right At Jordfallsmotet"

You play the shaker on this one. And never, never stop. This is the kind of song that the mushrooms in the forest sway in unison to; singing harmony while the squirrels play flutes so small you can't hear them. It will make everything around you sing. And it will make you want to go home. Even if you're sitting at home right now, it will make you want to go to your favourite place in your home, one you always loved but have forgotten about. It'll make you realise why you have to leave every day, and why you might eventually have to leave for a long time, but the squirrels, the mushrooms, they'll still be there if you want to come/go back. I try not to swear on this thing, but holy fuck this song is good.

Agent Simple - "Brother"

Agent Simple's first language is not English, but we still communicate. He tells me over and over that he loves his family and his girlfriend (other songs), and I understand perfectly. Here he is singing practically at the bottom of the ocean, about the boats and sharks that swim happily up above, and how he knows he's related to them (both ocean dwellers) but he wishes he could be even closer, know even more. He doesn't like it when he looks in the mirror, but he seems comforted by the knowledge that he is loved, whatever it is in him that people find to love. Yes, Agent Simple and I communicate very well.

Buy his EP, "I Got Mad At The Kids", from his website, I'm trying to find out how my Canadian dollars can buy this still, but try with me, we'll inundate him.

Also, included in both mp3s are pictures that I found that I think best illustrate how I imagine (want) Agent Simple looks. They are children's drawings of Abraham Lincoln (one in which I believe there are worms and insects eating the flesh off Honest Abe's face; kick ass), but there's just enough of Hank from the Hank Collective in there to make the look just perfect.


even though I said it last week, get your NAHPI singles now now now (out in stores today!)

Posted by Dan at 12:56 AM | Comments (10)

October 8, 2005

One Talking Mule or Many Identically Named Countries: Choose Your Own Adventure

Frances - "It"

Ironically referencing the "Star-Spangled Banner" in its opening bars, this is a song of frustration and helplessness. The low wheezing of the accordion, forced out in long drones lagging just behind the melody, is a nice reflection of the artist's frustrated attempts at communication. [Info]


B Castanon has done it again. Frankly, I don't know who this guy is, or if that B stands for Brian, Bradley, or Bronson Pynchot, but until I hear differently, I'm assuming it stands for Brains! If you ever get an email from him (and you will) in which he recommends some music, listen up; he is keenly perceptive when it comes to identifying the Good. For example, please check out this cover of the calypso standard and Andrews Sisters hit, "Rum and Coca Cola," by Les Shelleys. This exquisitely sung version is by far the best song about Trinidadian prostitutes I've heard all night. Hand-claps! Clap your hands.

Dan, do you remember when I sang this to you in your bedroom? You were sitting on your bed, I was posting the blog. Will you deny that you were moved?

Posted by Jordan at 4:10 AM | Comments (7)

October 6, 2005

flock music can have casios or mandolin

Mt. Eerie - "The Dead of Night".

On Your Blues, Destroyer built his songs on a platform of straw and straws, strips of satin - casio synths, drum machine, fake strings and electric piano. This fakeness? he seemed to be saying, It was always this fake - you just didn't hear it before. As he told his skewed stories, sang happily and sadly and obliquely, as he swam in those sleek waters, this is what I heard: Art's always been fake. It's made by people. Beauty's fake too. But that's okay (I think) -- art's still art. Beauty's still beauty. And booty's still booty.

With Eleven Old Songs, which is available now at Mt Eerie shows, Phil Elvrum revisits eleven of his old songs, and he does so with casio synths, drum machine, straw and straws. And in Elvrum's hands, these materials say something different than they did with Dan Bejar: Beauty's not fake -- "fake" is beautiful.

Bejar might say that he means that too, only sideways. But I think Phil would say that's too complicated.

I'm not sure who's right.

As a sample from the record, "The Dead of Night" is a bit of a cheat - for two reasons. First, the track was only previously released on the limited Live in Copenhagen triple-LP. Second, there isn't much of that casio.

I love this song, though, because I love the trick of it. Phil sings with his usual wistful seriousness, words like pebbles skipped onto a lake, and it's anchored by this repeated sample of a singing crowd. The sample goes round and round, the rhythm not quite right, like a wheel with bad balance. It begins to come apart - and you begin to get sick of it. And then something changes - at two and a half minutes, Elverum dies. (Spoiler: he doesn't.) And the sample changes, it twists and stretches and fades in and out, human voices that cease and restart, and if you hear it right it stops you in your tracks, the wheel is suddenly perfectly weighted, but it's not taking you anywhere. You hang... -- and yes there is that casio, sounding like the most vivacious and ebbulient thing, living itself, the skipping realworld plantlife heartbeat.

On his recordings, Elvrum's greatest strength is his ear for song-texture. It's why the unflashy No Flashlight (2005) kinda sucks. But it's why a song like this can leave you gaping, at least a little bit.

The Harvey Girls - "Mountain".

The terrific mp3blog Spoilt Victorian Child has launched a record label. Mike Seed's Songs For The Wintering Show Troupe is quivering and wintry - like the end of winter, though: the onset of spring, the moments after you turn off that M. Ward CD, when there's heat in your fingers. There are samples here (I highly recommend "William In A Trance").

The Harvey Girls are another beast entirely. They're a duo who play avant pop, indie folk, eclectic and soft-hearted weirdness.

And clearly they can also play a kind of bluegrass.

"Mountain" is a song where the engineer's done half the work for you. Listen to that mandolin. Listen! My gosh - listen to it! It's the sound of everything I love in my life. Listen! It's the cat with the fiddle, the silver spoon, the man in the moon. Hiram Lucke is singing something, but I need to listen so hard to hear it - the mandolins are dazzling, brilliant, the only things I want to concentrate on. Listen to them!

All right, all right. I'll pay attention to the lyrics... "Fold your hands to listen now." Okay! Will do! Mandolins!

(Final note: Lucke's lyrics are of course very good, but "Mountain" sure don't need rely on 'em.)

[All SVC Releases come as high-quality mp3s with full artwork. And they are extraordinarily good value -- The Harvey Girls' Wild Farewell costs £4 (or $10-$15 on CD), while Mike Seed's album is a mere £3.50. Twittering electronica is also available from The Palace Lido, for £3.50. -- so do BUY.]

Posted by Sean at 3:00 AM | Comments (5)

October 5, 2005

As Promised and With My Apologies

Frank Black - "I Burn Today"

“Yesterday I will burn/for the times I did not learn,” sings Frank Black in his warm and wide voice. Probably because he never learned about tenses in school, or maybe because his friend the “tarot maid” taught him that tenses are an artificial human construction (will be a human construction, were a human construction, are being one, etc.). Or maybe he was just distracted by the beautiful playing of his pianist, who finds hidden aspects of the melody and brings them out with a single note or a few sparsely timed chords. [From September's Paste Magazine sampler]


Listing Ship - "Baise Ca"

“Baise Ca” can be understood as a suicide note of sorts, but its macabre elements extend beyond that interpretation. I’m reminded of the stark black and white images of the bayou in “Down By Law:” the anxiety inducing stillness of the water, a boat cutting through the green surface cautiously, mist and mazes. I’m also reminded of galleys and fires and war in muddy trenches. When I wrote about Think About Life about a month ago I flippantly referred to Heart of Darkness, and now I wish I hadn’t. Because above all, when I hear the tribal click and thud of the percussion and the funereal fiddle, when I hear the singer’s voice emerge, breathless and resigned; I think of Marlow sailing down the banks of the foggy Congo, losing his grasp on reality, seeing a harlequin waving eagerly in the distance. [Buy/Info]

Posted by Jordan at 1:45 PM | Comments (8)

October 4, 2005

spaces: White Foliage and The Rollercoaster Project

The White Foliage - "Drug Song". The White Foliage used to be just "Foliage". I can understand why they changed their name. If this music were a tree it would be a single birch in a grove of spruce; if it were a fish it would be from deep deep deep; if it were in a wardrobe it would be a ghost, and not a fur coat.

The band is two people, a boy and a girl. They're not brother and sister but I like to imagine that they are. If the Fiery Furnaces hadn't been weaned on The Who, epic poetry and sugar-bombs - if they'd grown up listening to Richard Youngs and Born Heller, watching 2001 and collecting perfumes. If if if - if Bruce Springsteen was raised in an 18th Century court, this is how he would play piano, circa Nebraska. But he wouldn't have played it with all the rest of this rattling racket: it's as if someone dumped him out on the prairie, asked him to play his song, listen to his muse, even with a storm moving in from the west.

I don't know how they made this track work so well, what thread they used. It must have been gold thread, or silver thread - a rare substance plumbed from some rare place. I wouldn't know, see, how to make a blanket from these things, let alone a warm one: homeless synths, gale-caught vocals, a filligree of electric guitar.

[buy the White Foliage's debut EP (and grab the new Page France while you are there) | listen to more White Foliage]

The Rollercoaster Project - "If the Man Says Burn". We last heard the Rollercoaster Project in the form of a remix of The Cribs' "Another Number", the song made all bent-around and lanky. Johnny White's first album, however, is another story: forget goofs, forget awkwardness, forget play. Wait, wait - don't forget them. No. Put them where they came from and then remember them. The Rollercoaster Project make electronic music that sounds like memory. Not like memories -- like memory. Synth drones overlap and bleed, sounds and voices intercut and get confused, revelation's there - it's there, - but it's also just out of reach. This is a song about loss (of childhood, of spirit, of inspiration), but it's also about how easy it is to hang onto these things, how they remain caught up in the warm white ice of remembrance. When William Basinski's riding a Ferris Wheel, he can still remember that DJ Shadow song from last night, he can still remember his best friend's steady serious gaze.

[buy Hatefield | listen to more]


Happy New Year to those for whom it is a new year. Happy Year to everyone else.


Odds 'n ends:

This piece by Eppy starts off talking about freakfolk (Wooden Wand: blech), but really it's about kindness in music and musicians, about the danger in it, about the knife-edge that is compromise. And it didn't get nearly the attention it deserved.

Daring Fireball, the best written mac-nerd blog in the world, is once again holding a renewal drive. Consider investing in John Gruber's strong, sage prose.

Robin writes in with word of Kangaroo Alliance's excellent animated video for a mediocre Of Montreal song. (Click "Work".)

Catbird Records is a new label launched by the inimitable Catbird Seat. Their first release, a hand-made split CD with SSLYBY and Michael Holt, is now available for ordering. Holt plays summer-sighing folk-pop while SSLYBY flash their gums and do a rockin' shimmy. (I've ordered my copy.)

The second song to leak from the upcoming Strokes record, "You Only Live Once", is (as opposed to "Juicebox") extremely awesome. My friends' early reaction has been mixed, but me I love the sloppy vocals and stubborn guitar riff, the Rolling Stones at a roller-rink, and I can't wait to hear this all winter long. I've put up a YouSendIt download for those of you who are quick-and-interested.

Late to the party: The first half of Amir Nezar's review of Spoon's Gimme Fiction is some of the best music writing I have read this year. Outstanding (and it made me laugh).

I was astonished to discover in a mass email last night that Greg Macpherson, seriously one of Canada's most potent musical artists, is on a quick euro tour. He's even visiting Edinburgh in a couple of weeks (venue TBA). Although he's coming off of a rather weak record, please please please please do yourself a favour and go out and see him in person. The live show's incendiary. Tour dates here. (I last wrote about Greg here.)


And finally --

This week comes the news that Paul Ford, author of ftrain and one of my favourite writers in the world (he is deft and good and sure), has published his first novel.

The surprising part is not that he has done so - it was a happy inevitability, to be honest, something I've been awaiting for years. What's unexpected is the subject matter. It seems, you see, that Paul Ford was the nom behind the nom-de-plume of The Morning News' "Gary Benchley" series.

If you missed it, "Gary Benchley" is "a callow, indie-rocking youth who must find a way to live--and rock out--in the hipster neighborhoods of the East Village and Williamsburg, Brooklyn". In a series of missives to TMN, he wrote of band drama and girlfriend trouble, dodgy managers and the Arcade Fire. It was snarky, silly, human - and whipcrack funny. Then Gary announced he had a book deal, and he disappeared.

He reappeared, of course, as Paul Ford.

Gary Benchley, Rock Star, by Paul Ford, is now out on Plume, and in your bookshop if you live in the USA (or maybe Canada?). I am ordering a copy across the ocean. I suggest - with unwavering conviction - that you do the same.

Posted by Sean at 3:00 AM | Comments (6)

October 3, 2005

I Know Many Of You Live Where You Live

So, this weekend was Pop Montreal. And, call me a grumpy gus, but I was doing the math, and I calculate about 35 minutes of pure enjoyment in the 26+ hours I spent at shows this weekend. But I don't want to talk about what disappointed me, that's the job of critics who get paid (and an unfortunate/unnecessary job it is). Instead, I'll tell you about the (by far) best thing to come out of the weekend: the free PopMontreal sampler cd. Since many of you couldn't be here to snag one from an ashy beer-drippy table, I'll share the best, in my opinion, of the 21 tracks.

Islands - "Bucky Little Wing"

The Islands set comprises about 25 minutes of my 35, and was definitely the best show I saw. The band is a strange gang, made up (possibly only at this show, who knows) of Nick Diamonds, Subtitle, Mike Feuerstack, Jim Guthrie, J'aime Tambeur, and a string section. Live, they oscillate between poppy sugar bursts and slow, persistent song-mazes. I hope, hypothesize, that the album will be a cohesive thing, and this piece makes me think I'll be right. Everyone is gone (or standing silent, like parents) as the singer tells a story so weepingly personal, this isn't a joke anymore, it's just called one. It's so sweet, direct, and in-teg-ral *hands making the sides of a box*. perfect.

[Buy your NAHPI single]


Telefauna - "Turbulence"

Listening to this song is very similar to feeling one gets at a Telefauna show: yes! yes! yes! ye..yeah, okay. It struts like Beck and Ratatat, but it lacks a direction, it struts in circles. But their talent is clear; this song stretches and snaps like a rubber band, and the rest of their ep is no let down, this band is just literally too much fun.

[Buy/listen more] (I recommend "Put Your Hands Together for the Offbeat")


Think About Life - "Paul Cries"

Jordan wrote about this band in the summer, and I immediately anticipated more. When I saw them on Friday, however, I didn't have a great time, but this song restores my confidence in what I think will be a great debut from this....thing. Get set, get set, for the ride.

[a bit more]


Plywood 3/4 - "Tavailler dans l'Beurre"

This is the closest I will ever come to posting Primus. This song is a married couple, the kind of couple you look at and think "I could never stand being married to either of them, but together, they somehow work."



Gordon Thomas - "Boogie Dancin'"

Imagine walking through a valley, mountains in the distance, lush and green, a bright day, and then God starts playing this song, his voice booming from the clouds. Just keep walking.


special mention to The Sunday Sinners, TTC, and Socalled, maybe soon!

Posted by Dan at 4:51 AM | Comments (16)