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.

December 30, 2005

What Little We Can Do

Otis Rush - "I Can't Quit You Baby"

The blues scale is blue in a number of senses. It might be literally blue for the synesthete, for instance. It’s dark and depressing, of course, but also filthy and unspeakable. It’s as sloppy as the band who plays this song. Here the scale is employed by several instrumentalists simultaneously, who sound like they’re playing together (or, more accurately, against each other) for the first time, and after a long night of debauchery. Each instrument is insistently pointing to Rush’s pain, squawking and honking and harping on the blue notes. When Rush sings “You know it hurt me way down inside” at 2:54, the band brings us closer to the nerve centre, the very source of the blues, with dense unrestrained runs of the scale: a seriously blue moment that causes even the pentatonic scale to blush. [Buy]


Paul Newman - "Plastic Jesus"

This song is part of the film Cool Hand Luke, which I haven’t seen in years and so can’t remember the context in which Newman performs it. But even without context, there is something oddly captivating about "Plastic Jesus."

Newman begins his song with the line “I don’t care if it rains or freezes,” and he sings it perfectly. He’s cautious and languid and sweet. It’s about all he does perfectly in his minute and a half of recorded musical output, but there’s something fitting about his stops and starts, his fumbling vocals, and his out of tune banjo. It’s his best shot - a modest and honest rendition. [Buy the DVD]


See you all next year, I hope!

Posted by Jordan at 7:20 AM | Comments (8)

December 29, 2005

My Two Sisters

Celebration - "China"

Whoever sings this song probably likes snakes. They probably have, like, three as pets. They probably feed them stuff that's not dead yet, because they think the snakes would like that. And they sing like a snake, the drums dance like a twisting and weaving head, the beep beep is sung with flashing eyes. Its weakness lies in that I never remember the song after it's finished; it's new every time. This is not actually a weaknessssssssssssssss. [Buy]


Bodies of Water - "I Guess I'll Forget the Sound, I Guess, I Guess"

The first half of this song is being led into a wooded area (where sunlight drips, Pony da Look lives). The second half of the song is a promenade in a circle, ceremonial (where hands are held, Tilly and the Wall reads Updike). Bodies of Water are new children, nobody is just like their brothers and sisters. [site]


let me ask you some questions about myself.

Posted by Dan at 4:07 AM | Comments (3)

December 28, 2005

Said the Winner: Matt Christie

[On November 3rd, Matt Christie won our "My Funny Valentine" contest, sending me a studio recording of the Gerry Mulligan Quartet ft. Chet Baker, and in so doing winning the contest. The prize: the chance to post here about whatever he pleased. And so here, ripe with Christmas spirit, is Mr Matt Christie and some songs that he likes. The special bonus? That he writes with verve and that his songs are great. A very worthy contributor to StG.

For more from Matt, visit pas au-del‡, or check out his contributions to the groupblog Long Sunday.

Welcome and congratulations, Matt. --Sean ]

Tiken Jah Fakoly - "Plus rien ne m'etonne"

I confess there is something in the world-weariness of Tiken's singing voice that I find overwhelming (a quality--one could say--that he shares with Ja Rule and others). This, his most iconically-identifiable track (the one you heard on the radio and immediately wrote down on that napkin long since discarded), has a chorus that goes, "They divided up the world // Nothing astonishes me anymore..." It's from the excellent album, Coup de Gueule. A tough choice between this track and the more precise, politically-charged, "Quitte le pouvoir" (if you've never heard Afro-Jamaicans rap in fast French and in harmony, then you really should).


Chris Smither - "No More Cane on the Brazos/Mail Order Mystics"

It starts out as a molasses-slow rendition of a great Dylan song, and blends into one of Smither's most biting, least sentimental numbers. I love the lyrics (though the delivery on the single track is even more cynical and biting).

[Buy Happier Blue]

Greg Brown - "'cept you an me, babe"

He sang this song recently, on a winter night in front of a slightly over-contemplative audience, just him and a guitar on stage, standing for over two hours. He doesn't like computers much, this seems clear, and he tends to wallow like the best of them. But Greg Brown spoke to something in me that night, sitting next to S. I wish I'd recorded it, maybe something of the strange magic in the silence would have come across. This from the album Covenant, although Further In is also one of my favorites.

[buy Covenant and/or Further In]

The next song, were there space, would be Leonard Cohen's "Take This Waltz", but with that I might be banned from Christmas-time forever.

Posted by Matt Christie at 2:27 AM | Comments (4)

December 26, 2005

strawberry pie and gooseberry pudding

If you are an artist who objects to any music posted here, please please please get in touch with us directly. We are very happy to comply with your wishes - our intent is really not to piss you off. But it makes it much easier for us if you just let us know!


Konono No. 1 - "Ditshe Tshiekutala". What's Konono numéro 1? I didn't really know. I saw it on a few year end best-ofs last year, and then it populated even more this time around. So I investigated. And good golly, would you listen to this.

Konono No. 1 is a Congolese band led by a man named Mingiendi. Mingiendi plays the likembé, aka the thumb piano. Recently, Toronto's indie scene has been mildly buzzing about the thumb piano - Laura Barrett's been plinking around town with her kalimba. Unlike Barrett, Mingiendi plugs his likembé through a distortion box, making his instrument sound more like a blurry staccatto electric guitar, a fast-flashing sound that dances around in the body of the listener. The rest of his band is made up of other likembé players, percussionists, megaphone-yellers and whistlers, and according to this page, three dancers and a "president".

While Congotronics is their most-talked-about CD, this recording is taken from Lubuaku, a live recording from a gig in Holland with unlikely tourmates The Ex. It's very important that it be listened to loud - the band usually play before a wall of speakers, plzzzonking into wooden microphones, the tumbling beats and darting likembé-notes rolling through the air like flurries of dust, sand, heat, spirit. To my ears it's not unlike the rhythmic racket of the DC go-go scene - its roots are after all similar, - but there's this brilliant hazy psych aspect, too; the ceaseless circling elicits an almost trance-like response, a falling into the music, solos driving up the elbows and feet, tossing heads back, scattering smiles, gasps and beads of sweat. It's the opposite of most "Christmas" music, and therefore all the more appealing as this writer goes diving toward Norway, spending a few days near the fjords.

[buy for $18.95 shipped]

Heron - "Yellow Roses". The mighty Goldkixx beat me to Heron earlier this month, but it's too worthy a thing to go unheard. Formed in Maidenhead in the late 60s, Heron were one of the country's hundreds of fresh-faced folk bands - peers of Fairport Convention, the Incredible String Band, Pentangle, etc. Their first, self-titled record was recorded "only in fields", in 1967. It's an appropriately pastoral record, warm as sun and sweet as lakewater, that feels as reminiscent of The Zombies as it does the Incredibles.

"Yellow Roses" is built on a flowerbed, piano and acoustic guitar, voices crisscrossing in a lazy dusk. Each part of the song - chorus, verse, bridge, - is a perfect little delight, and the band approaches each of these sections with a slow, sure pace. It takes its time: relishing the warm voice-on-voice, string-on-string, hand-on-hand, breeze-on-breeze. My favourite folk singer of this period is Nick Drake, I guess predictably, and so I hear "Yellow Roses" and I think of "Northern Sky" or one of Drake's happier songs - the evening's just opening right up, a life opening right up, a song sending you whirling through the million possibilities that lie ahead.

Heron - "Sally Goodin". A twenty second trifle, a clap-clap sing-song that I include because it makes me glad, because she must be quite the gal if you put aside strawberry pie and gooseberry pudding. She's there, in the window of that cottage over the ridge; squint and you'll see her, fair hair glinting.

Remarkably, Heron reformed in the Nineties and is releasing new music. There are lots of mp3 samples, new and old, here.

[buy Heron]


You Ain't No Picasso has a great mp3 mix from another member of Bishop Allen, Justin Rice.

Kathryn Yu's favourite albums of 2005, and the descriptions thereof, are very worthy of your perusal.

And with that, I'm off to Oslo for four nights. See some of you there! I leave you in Dan and Jordan's steady hands.

Posted by Sean at 2:01 AM | Comments (10)

December 23, 2005

recovery process

Our file-hosting is back up, for the time being, and the last little while's mp3s should once again be available - this includes my Best Songs of 2005 feature, and lots more. Scroll down, browse the archives, etc.

To all those shortly celebrating Christmas: may it be merry, merry, merry.

To everyone else: have a happy weekend.

Posted by Sean at 5:40 PM | Comments (3)

Said the Guests: David Barclay (The Diskettes)

In the history of Said the Gramophone, we have posted seven songs by The Diskettes. I think this is a record. Are they Said the Gramophone's dearest band? Perhaps. They play a doowop that's sunnier than the beach, an indie pop that's cooler than the sea, a bossanova that makes me think of cute girls in sweaters and neat shoes. Dave, Emily and Maggie aren't just great musicians - they're friends. And so even though Dave B has become an official fixture at Popsheep, after months of prodding he is finally poking his head in here, to share some records that make him glad.

Dave Barclay studies oceans, but in the meantime he's also been responsible for the lunatic synthpop of The Parka 3, the pop-punk goof of Andrew Droid Webber, the percussive patchwork La Guerre des Toques (there is a CD on its way!?@!?!!), and the aforementioned Diskettes. He did sound for The Unicorns' first-ever Montreal show, had Mirah play in his living-room, and was Montreal's friendly-dopiest and most unpretentious hipster. Now he lives in San Diego. And he's still great. Please make him welcome. -- Sean

Beau Dommage - "Tous les palmiers"

Take the metro up to Beaubien. 7760 St. Vallier is on the second floor with two kitchen chairs bumped together on the tiny balcony. A few weeks after the spring melt, the roads and sidewalks are cracked and crumbling and the trees lining the street are freshly bloomed. The first song from their first record is about leaving everything and coming back to this like a giant fuck you to music, professionalism and anything other than 'home'.

[buy for CDN $6.99]

Lonely Ponies - "Ounce Dice Trice"

Basically, I wish I was the Lonely Ponies. Their 10" on Stitch-Stitch Records (18 Penfield Road, St. Werburghs, Bristol, England, BS2 9YG) is perfectly played and wonderfully recorded. They play in a million other great bands and they make really great drawings, paintings, knittings, crafts and zines. They have a party on their birthday every year and despite the fact that they're vegan, they only eat really tasty, inventive and savoury foods that would make the rest of England blush.

[more info]

Medical Mission Sisters - "Joy is like the Rain"

I have always wanted to break a record - just start off by trading around few copies to friends, maybe right a research article about it for a zine or get some CBC jockey to play it, then finish it off with a full blown reissue and a mediocre comeback show/live album. If I could choose any record to be the subject of this fantasy, it would be La Bande a Benny, but maybe Joy is Like the Rain is a more realistic pick. It is a beautiful and simple collection of minimally accompanied amateur song.

[more info]

[Sample all things Dave Barclay here. There are tapes, CDs and fun times to be had.]

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

Posted by David Barclay at 3:03 AM | Comments (3)

December 22, 2005


Said the Gramophone is still having some cause-unknown technical issues. I am waiting for Apple to reply to my three support queries. A couple people have come forward to very generously offer us temporary hosting (thank-you), and if things don't work out in the coming couple days we will act on that. In the meantime, Dan has set up a very-temporary hosting solution and so I offer you (again) these songs. The links work and you can download them. Unfortunately, all our older tracks remain unavailable for the time being. But please enjoy these and let us know what you think!

In the morning we will have a guest-post (yes, with mp3s) from one of Said the Gramophone's favourite musicians. (Hooray!)


Emilie Simon - "To the Dancers on the Ice". The first time I listened to this, it was a nothing - a ring of synths, a mouse's precious voice. And the second time, too. But the third time I listened I realised that I was listening for a third time. And a fourth. And soon Emilie Simon's simple little song - a kinder Múm or Stina Nordenstam, a lovelier Cocorosie, a less peculiar Hanne Hukkelberg - was so dear to my ears that I couldn't ever turn it off. I just had to hear it through one more time; hear one more time that "my lover is gone", see the pirouetting ice-skaters, dream of cracks and the collapse of the pond.

Thanks, Audrey.


Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions - "Only You Babe". only YOU, babe. .... only YOU bABe... How to transcribe this? I need a notational system that has room for sexy croon, for glad-silly swoons, for back-up singers who sound both like schoolyard chums and former lovers. I need to be able to indicate, with dots and lines, that a trace of 80s cheese is sometimes a lining of gold: i need to explain how a jazzy bump-and-swing has all the pleasures of a brisk afternoon in the mellowyellow sun.


You Ain't No Picasso's 12 Days of Mixmas continues with an mp3 mix from Bishop Allen's Christian Owens. Bishop Allen is one of the best bands in the world, but I am much less impressed with her song picks. It's cool that there are so many bands in the neighbourhood, but scene boosterism good music does not make... Anyway, that's just me: you will likely disagree!

The Kimmel Center in Philadelphia is having a Haiku Contest. Write a Haiku about a gig you saw this year and you could win a ticket to their Gary Burton/Brad Mehldau gig at the end of January.

Fluxblog's posted by favourite track from the upcoming Islands record (by Jaime and Nick & friends, formerly of The Unicorns). It cops a riff from my favourite Unicorns song ("Thunder and Lightening"), and I love the way the return of that thunder-crack chest-shaking sound splits the end of the song in two. Pop with thunderous guts.

Molars has put up pt. 1 of his favourite (50 or so, i guess) songs of the year. it's a mix, track-listed and all, with describing words (yes!) and downloads full. and a wide variety of good things, much of which i do not know.

Also elsewhere... many of you will remember Drew Heffron's guestblog here, where he illustrated songs by ELO and The B52s. The latter piece - The B52's "Trism", rendered in noisy-bumping colours and symmetry that isn't, - is now for sale at The Drama store, printed on vintage velvet cover stock! I do suggest you take advantage.

As of this writing, there also still remain prints from Tiny Showcase's last print of the year, a raucous doodlework by Ron Regé, Jr. (Oh, and somehow Drew's BBQ print is still available as well.) Great art for the price of a new CD...


Like I said, we'll have more in the morning!

Posted by Sean at 6:04 PM | Comments (0)

December 20, 2005

crinkle crinkle crack

Emilie Simon - "To the Dancers on the Ice". The first time I listened to this, it was a nothing - a ring of synths, a mouse's precious voice. And the second time, too. But the third time I listened I realised that I was listening for a third time. And a fourth. And soon Emilie Simon's simple little song - a kinder Múm or Stina Nordenstam, a lovelier Cocorosie, a less peculiar Hanne Hukkelberg - was so dear to my ears that I couldn't ever turn it off. I just had to hear it through one more time; hear one more time that "my lover is gone", see the pirouetting ice-skaters, dream of cracks and the collapse of the pond.

Thanks, Audrey.


Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions - "Only You Babe". only YOU, babe. .... only YOU bABe... How to transcribe this? I need a notational system that has room for sexy croon, for glad-silly swoons, for back-up singers who sound both like schoolyard chums and former lovers. I need to be able to indicate, with dots and lines, that a trace of 80s cheese is sometimes a lining of gold: i need to explain how a jazzy bump-and-swing has all the pleasures of a brisk afternoon in the mellowyellow sun.


You Ain't No Picasso's 12 Days of Mixmas continues with an mp3 mix from Bishop Allen's Christian Owens. Bishop Allen is one of the best bands in the world, but I am much less impressed with her song picks. It's cool that there are so many bands in the neighbourhood, but scene boosterism good music does not make... Anyway, that's just me: you will likely disagree!

The Kimmel Center in Philadelphia is having a Haiku Contest. Write a Haiku about a gig you saw this year and you could win a ticket to their Gary Burton/Brad Mehldau gig at the end of January.

Posted by Sean at 3:09 PM | Comments (6)

December 19, 2005

when i'm in nee-e-e-e-eee-eee-eed

Kanye West - "Gold Digger (Diplo Final Remix)". This isn't a Kanye West remix at all - heck, unless my ears deceive me it's not even a Jamie Foxx remix. No - here's Diplo going round-and-round with Ray Charles, the same sample on and on and on, like a man dancing up the boulevard, hop-skip-and-jump, suit-tails flying. He whirls round the lampposts and lights each one in turn - gold! gold! gold! And then he gets down, breakdancin' in the middle of the roundabout, stars swaying happily with the handclaps, clouds stop-start-stuttering and then evaporating into a bare black still sky. (This fellow definitely wouldn't like it.)

King Creosote - "Marguerita Red". KC RULES OK. This is both the name of Creosote's 2005 album, and the truth. The secret to this song is the particular friendship of voices: man and woman together and melancholy, filling in the blanks in each others' sentiment. The piano's simple, the violin plain. Reverse the polarity and you've got Vanessa Carlton, slow it down and you've got Cat Power, but for now it's something gentle and earnest, a song that pulls tight the drawstrings of your heart, making sure nothing precious tumbles out.

[buy (uk)]


Saw Narnia and King Kong last week. The former is a puff, a bubble, a disappointment that made me long for new CS Lewis books. And the latter - well, it's wonderful.

Any Said the Gramophoners thinking of attending All Tomorrows Parties weekend 2 in May? Spoon, Clnic, Decemberists, New Pornos, Shins, Sleater Kinney, Dinosaur Jr, etc? I'm looking for a cabin to share...

Oh, and since I'm doing some double-duty on Gramophone these days, if anyone's got any particularly rad songs they think I might like to hear (and which I've probably not heard), please do zap them to me. (YouSendIt and stuff preferred.) Thanks!

Posted by Sean at 3:00 AM | Comments (17)

December 16, 2005

it's the most wonderful time of the year

TAS - "Round Da Corner". I found this song while flitting round the net. It was in a directory of sumptuous indie rock. "What's this?" I thought. "What's da corner?" I put it on, casual-like, not paying much attention - and there (slip), the song's slithering persistent horn sample, its little green snake, slipped into my brain and lodged there. It's a sound green as palm-tree leaf, tail-wagging and twisting all over my dull and heavy grey matter.

I emailed the source of the song: "That's my roommate, Tracy," he wrote back. "Moved [to Toronto] from the Bahamas. ... She did this last week. ... Every verse is about a different dance. Apparently, people in the bahamas know how to dance to this song already because the lyrics tells them. It works a lot differently than it does here."

I don't entirely agree with Ryan. Things don't really work that differently here. When I put this on I listen to the rapidfire beat of feet, the imperatives of TAS herself, the way the music advances and retreats, like a party, the way a party's noise seems to swell and ebb away and swell again. And I can see how you're supposed to dance. Yeah - "skullin'" is like this... "Goombé is this". It's pretty darn clear. Just listen to the beat and move your hips like this - yeah, like that, you got it. Yeah. Let dem know who in charge.

Also - O less-ignorants-than-i, - is this ragga? What ought one call it?

[Thanks to Ryan. If anyone knows where to hear/buy more, please let me know.]


Gavin Bryars with Tom Waits - "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet (excerpt)".

Gavin Bryars: In 1971, when I lived in London, I was working with a friend, Alan Power, on a film about people living rough in the area around Elephant and Castle and Waterloo Station. In the course of being filmed, some people broke into drunken song - sometimes bits of opera, sometimes sentimental ballads - and one, who in fact did not drink, sang a religious song "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet". This was not ultimately used in the film and I was given all the unused sections of tape, including this one.

Bryars copied the tape loop onto one continuous reel, he composed an orchestral accompaniment, and he recorded an album of the tramp's song - a meditation, a psalm, a slow-cresting paean. It was originally released in 1975. When a revised, extended edition was being prepared in 1993, Bryars secured a contribution from Tom Waits, who had cited the original as his favourite piece of music. And so, here is a slice of it.

I heard about this composition about two years ago. I made a note to try to find Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me, and then forgot all about it. And then today I stumbled across this track, from (I believe) the coda, and I remembered; it all came back.

It is amazing.

Not just because it's beautiful, because that homeless man's voice turns back on itself and changes from weary to utterly joyous. Not just because of the shine on those strings and horns. Not just because Tom Waits takes his time, digging in his deep coat pockets for something to say - then dredging up a quiet expression of his heart's own discontent. Not just because of all this. But also because of all that it suggests must have preceded it. This is the end of a piece: the crescendo of feeling, the climax and denouement. And so there's a beginning and middle that came before. I feel like someone who has been wandering through the black woods, through the white snow, and who has fallen over the tip of something golden poking up from the ground. And you dig and you dig and you realise it's a tower, a shrine, a cathedral, a city, a world. All of it there for you to find.

[be like me: order it US/UK]


You Ain't No Picasso continues its Xmas series of guests-choosing-mixes-of-mp3s with a guest selection by John Vanderslice.

Clem Snide's Eef Barzelay, ever the good jew, offers a free download of his version of "Joy to the World" [mp3]. It's tender as a hand on your hand, a soft expression of humble hope hope hopes. It's careful and quiet; it's gorgeous and very earnestly meant. I love Christmas carols too: all that community, all that feeling, so many dreams wrapped up in ivy, laughter and candlelight. And good tunes, too.

Download the Memphis Industries mini Christmas album, with artwork! Featuring the Go! Team live in Toronto, and The Pipettes doin' "White Christmas". Hooray!

Posted by Sean at 3:01 AM | Comments (7)

December 15, 2005

Destroyer and José González: passionfruit and promise

Destroyer - "Rubies". It took a very long time, and a lot of talkin'-it-over, for me to enjoy Your Blues. So many synths, so very many glossy synths. I struggled against the Verfremdungseffekt, a little irritated that Bejar wouldn't let me enjoy the thing. And then I got over myself - Destroyer did want me to enjoy it, in spite of its falseness. That was the point. Maybe. It was the point I got. And so I did.

Destroyer's Rubies is a very different thing; a move back towards This Night and the earlier records - it's indie rock at midnight, the concert-hall overrun by giddy rockers. Part of me had been hoping that Bejar would now leap from genre to genre, each album a new sonic experiment: What happens to my art when it becomes bluegrass? Or opera? When I let other people sing it? Instead, Destroyer's Rubies is a familiar sound with a more voracious flash - a record with a gemstone glitter, a lusty, luxurious, deep bloody scarlet.

And it's bloody great. It's catchy and fun, epic in form and humble in feel. Above all, what Destroyer's Rubies is is jubilant. Each song is so thoroughly enjoyed: sounds tumbling out of cracks in the wall, bursts of chorus, lyrics that jumble and jangle in your mind. Lyrical pointillism.

The title track is the album's first song: it opens with buzzing and a mutter, but then it's a story, wry smile on face, a story and then clink-bang-boom, a pop song. With Destroyer, every line is an aside; no line is an aside; we listen from all sides, and he knows it. There are jewels, there is Ruby, there is a drumkit that keeps throwing itself across the studio floor. Bejar's wistful and moony; he's a dandy; he's exact ("typical / rural / shit"), and abrupt ("I won't repeat them here"). He's a Bowie-like frontman and later just a man with an acoustic guitar - a guitar with a plaintive reaching theme. He's a mimic; he's a looter. And yet he rejoices in the artifice, he chews the scenery, he celebrates the pleasures of the song and the truths he hunts for in the wood.

I want desperately for someone to do a dance remix of this - please please oh please.

(Destroyer's Rubies is the first great album of 2006.)

(I was trying to hold this back so I'd have the chance to read Carl's promised treatise first, but the song is oh-so-great, and I can no longer bear to wait. Update -- op! he put it online as i slept.)

José González - "Hand On Your Heart". Are your best friends the ones that hold your hand? Or the ones who don't? Are they the ones who scamper on ahead, into the snow-covered field, and wait for you there?

José González takes a Kylie Minogue song - a song of demands, yeah of sadness, - and he makes a case for love using only the promise of his voice, the persistence of his gaze, the warmth you sense in the fingers that play the guitar. A shaker starts, he keeps playing, but he's got no more to say. He stares at you. And there - one two three four - you are standing in that snowfield, deciding whether or not to follow. Snowflakes? None. Just you and him and a still afternoon that's about to move.

(You should read, too, what Nicola Meighan writes about this song, heard live, at The Stypod)

[buy the Stay in the Shade single US/CA/UK]


SCTAS is holding a contest where lucky Americans can win a copy of the Chad Van Gaalen DVD - go enter, you sons-of-a-gun. (There's a cute mini interview with him, too.)


The End-of-Year BMR Haiku Contest is over. We received over a hundred haikus, each a three-line description of the poet's favourite album of the year. It was impossible to pick just one, and so with the consent of the contest's instigator, the submissions were whittled down to two.

Sam Solomon and Scott Wilson will be receiving a prize-pack from songwriter Brian Michael Roff, including the dust-and-sun full-length called Inventory, a copy of the ultra limited Pre-Inventory promo EP, and a BMR button.

Their submissions were as follows:

Sam on Sunset's Rubdown's Snake Got A Leg:

You're grey and green and
I'm the garden in the Fall
and your apple shines.

Scott on The Go-Betweens' Oceans Apart:

Find lost love not lost
again, again, pick up, pick
out new days for us

And here are some more of my other favourite submissions:

Justin on Jason Anderson's The Wreath:

just write 'i love you'
sideways on your wrist and you
will feel like i do.

Justin on Sleater Kinney's The Woods:

Wrestled to the ground
By well-timed solo freakout
It's the loud we need

Christopher on Thanksgiving:

"We listen slowly.
The steady love of our friends
punctuates all loss."

Cory, double-barrelled, on Wolf Parade's Apologies for the Queen Mary:

Snare your mirrors light
in corners of eyes tonight
and I will miss you

Dance a foolish dance
and when rain falls from your hand
Ill be jealous then

dekadetia on John Vanderslice's Pixel Revolt:

news, blood for paint, our
home flecked in a frame, a dance
dance revolution

garrincha, en français, on The National's Alligator:

En novembre - silence
En novembre - attendre
Sous les frondaisons bancales

Josh on Broken Social Scene's s/t:

White die in a cup
Rolled until the shore of waste
Each toss soaked with zeal

Chris on Sufjan Stevens's Illinoise:

tinge, pluck, finger snaps
ghosts from fall's Catholicism
all our psalms/kisses

marc on Peter Licht's 14 Lieder:

A moment of joy,
a bright light in the shadows
that guides you from here

Yoshi, also on Sufjan:

he states his wonder
in a State of wonderment
writing all alone

John on Devin Davis's Lonely People of the World Unite!:

White black bang hit crash
Blue red smoke-filled brush stroke strums
Color in my ears

Miranda on The Boy Least Likely To's The Best Party Ever:

Songs sweet and sad like
when I drop my birthday cake
off a paper plate.

Posted by Sean at 3:03 AM | Comments (5)

December 14, 2005

John Fahey, the Lazarus

John Fahey was clearly one of the most important American musicians of the past hundred years. The "important" thing is so ambivalent, though. What does it matter if an artist influenced his peers? What does it matter if he inspired people with his adventurousness, his feeling, his chops? For me, listening at home, what matters is if he was good. Was John Fahey good? Yes, John Fahey was good. He was damn good. If Bert Jansch, John Renbourn and the British folkies could be said to have resurrected a pastoral spirit, something English-Scottish and green, then over the ocean John Fahey was starting something: he was pulling mud and weeds and inventing an America that feels obvious to me now. A mythic blues-and-folk-reared place that I can only really conceive of thanks to the compositions of Fahey, the Old, Weird sounds, his music's soulful dusty riverbed spirit.

When asked, Fahey would readily admit that he repeated things. His compositions are series of knots, themes untangled one after another. There's something cathartic in that sequence of unknotting. And there's something magic in it too. Each time you hear one of those same knots untangled, glinting with sun- or moonlight, the threads seem to come apart in a different way. Like John Fahey's fingers are finding strings where there oughtn't be any. Like that.

In February, Vanguard Records releases I Am The Resurrection: A Tribute to John Fahey. The calibre of artists they recruited is a testament to Fahey's talent: Pelt, Currituck County, (inevitably) M Ward, Calexico, Grandaddy, Cul de Sac, Howe Gelb, Devendra Banhart, and many more.

These are a couple of songs from I Am The Resurrection. And I'm including the Fahey originals, too, because they're even better.

John Fahey - "Commemorative Transfiguration & Communion At Magruder Park".

Sufjan Stevens - "Variation On 'Commemorative Transfiguration & Communion At Magruder Park'".

Sufjan's "Variation" more than anything recalls his Hark Christmas records that have been popping up over the web - not just because of the reverent prayer that he sings at the end of the piece, but also in the song's sleigh-ride spirit, the wintry snowtracks of percussion, flute and oboe. If Fahey's original is a back-porch affirmation, a solitary coming-to-grips with epiphany, for Sufjan the song is a communal affair: it's a gazebo full of friends, a church choir with a Charlie Brown conductor. And yet Surfin' Stevens doesn't get carried away. This never gets too showy or dazzling. Fahey's modesty remains intact, there amid Stevens' glad frankincense and myrrh.

John Fahey - "When The Catfish Is In Bloom".

Peter Case - "When The Catfish Is In Bloom".

Peter Case is a name I didn't know, but his track is by far the best thing on all of I Am The Resurrection. Funny that it's also the closest to the original in sound. (When I got the CD in the mail I thought "Oh god - thirteen artists trying to outplay Fahey.") What's different between the two? Case's is warmer, softer, it's less fierce. Case is playing something about dusk or dawn, while Fahey plays about night. Case loves the song more than Fahey does - he's tenderer with it, more attentively examining the curve of its hip. Fahey's hungry and Case is content; Case plays from memory and Fahey plays from instinct; Fahey's dead and Case is alive.

[Hear more at the I Am The Resurrection MySpace page]
John Fahey: [buy Requia or The Yellow Princess]


Haiku Contest results tomorrow, probably (and Destroyer, too): so many fantastic submissions.

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

December 13, 2005

But I Can't Cursive

The Aislers Set - "Chicago New York"

Here The Aislers Set play a twee shuffle, like Belle and Sebastian with just a touch of Phil Spector pop percussion.

The weeks-long alcoholic bender reminds me of the pathetic binges of The Beautiful and Damned. [Buy]


Ike and Tina Turner - "River Deep Mountain High"

Whereas the Ronettes were swept along by Spector's production, their voices like finger snaps or hand claps, violins or booming bass drums, merely one part of Spector's epic soundscapes, Tina Turner sings over the bombast. The grandiose arrangement serves as a platform on which she can express the depth of her feeling, the height of her devotion. To get a sense of the latter c.f. 1:16 to 1:35, to get a sense of the former just listen to the unhinged timbre of her voice, to her unrestrained cries as the song comes to an end. [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 2:41 PM | Comments (3)

December 12, 2005

revoke their diplomas!

"The Physics of Meaning." One day we'll have a physics of time-travel, okay, and Daniel Hart & Alex Lazara can go back in time and change their band's totally stupid name. The undergraduate cleverness of the name was enough to make me dismiss them outright - and my opinion did not improve as I perused the nonsense on their website.

But - (buts being so often responsible for the best things in life) - The Physics of Meaning is well on its way to great. While Hart plays a violin (yes, like Final Fantasy, Patrick Wolf and Andrew Bird), his band sounds more like Grandaddy, Broken Social Scene, John Vanderslice - crunchy drums, backward-spinning electric guitars, tumbles into cut glass. Though the lyrics sometimes carry the insipid philosophising bemoaned above, often they fall closer to the giddy side of emo: everyday phrases repeated until they begin to glow. The strings are arranged marvelously, with unexpected harmonies and then sudden dashes of feeling. At their best - stripped to modest pretensions, pop music instead of treatise, - they're electrifying.

The Physics of Meaning - "Down at Columbia and Cameron". See this is what I'm talking about. Roll-over-and-over drums, blended vocals that would make Fountains of Wayne blush, and it's a song about girls (or maybe boys - he doesn't specify). There's a breeziness here, the way the synths bump into the strings like they've been distracted by some cherry-blossoms. More exciting still is the way the band finds another vibe in the second half - a woozy regalness, the prince having a lazy spring fever spazz-out. The sort of song you want to parcel into a parcel, tape up, and send over the water to make someone smile.

The Physics of Meaning - "Manhattan Is An Island". Drum machine, boy and girl, Notwists of synth: a slippery song, slick and supple, strings sneering. And then the slap of sound, the surge of static, the ceiling slipping. I love the aqueous feel of the whole thing, with the vocals set slightly apart. (On an island, natch.) But when the voices stop and the skyscrapers begin to fall; well, they fall.

Also highly recommended - "Oregon, My Only True Friend", available here.

[buy for a scant US$12]

Mogwai - "We're No Here". The final track of the upcoming Mr Beast has a massive girth, a total ambivalence to everything - like the fat Mr Beast has come strolling through your door, stamping down the kids, tearing handfuls out of the drywall, gobbling your chandelier, raking finger-nails through the art. If he drinks, it's milk, and water, and crude oil. It's not him that lights things on fire - it's the punks who follow. Mogwai's always been a part-time metal band but now at last they're playing fat metal chords, too; they're playing with the gravity of the melody, seeing how weighty this instrumental rock can be, seeing how far they can throw the rock down the well.

[album not available for pre-order yet, so buy Mogwai things here]


The trailer for Sofia Coppola's next movie, Marie Antoinette is now available. And holy cow does it look great. I love the braveness in its choices, the period-drama mixed with late 20th C coming-of-age: arm waving out the side of a coach, royals scampering down the manor stairs to the electric yellow of Bernard Sumner's voice. History is just lives, and how I love to see these lives filled with a familiar shade of vitality. The title graphic makes me grin ear to ear.

A newly uncovered Elliott Smith song at (the indispensable) You Ain't No Picasso.

New little Skinny live reviews by me: Hawk and a Hacksaw/George, Martha Wainwright.

Last chance: Our BMR/haiku contest ends Monday night is now closed.

Posted by Sean at 12:01 AM | Comments (17)

December 9, 2005

How Do You Do It? I Just Don't Care What Anyone Thinks Anymore.

Make Everyone Happy

A great razing. Like a big fuckin' forest fire, everything's a carpet now. And this is the celebration music. Bang crash bang crash bang crash bang. And then the birds come, the banjo stands up, ugly. This song is intended, at 3.25 on both clocks, to bash your ears so hard together that you sneeze, and you prove that you have no brain.

Virgin Mary Highway

I see midnight grass, garbage, a parking lot lit like a war helmet in a museum. we were never there, but we're there now. Come on, babe. I'll deny your existence if anyone asks me. Our love was recorded on analog tape. It was a live show. Best show I've ever been to.

Posted by Dan at 12:49 AM | Comments (3)

December 8, 2005

One Jens and One Nils

Nils Økland - "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". Nils Økland takes his Norwegian fiddle, his Hardanger, and unaccompanied he makes me forget The Beatles ever played the song. There's something in the timbre of the thing, the play of strings on strings, the wood-and-string dissonance. Strange that slow, stripped, tender, "Guitar" sounds lighter than the hackneyed classic rock version. Strange that these wild twists of notes feel less diffuse than the original, like there's something surer in Økland's winding phrases than there is in the solid chew of an electric guitar.

I played it for my flatmate. "Do you recognise the song?" I asked, a little smug, certain that he wouldn't. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," he answered immediately. I was astonished, I couldn't understand. I can't keep George and Nils side by side in my mind; I can't hear George in Nils. When I try to sing along, - awkwardly, plaintively, - I lose my balance. Like a man coming up out of the sea and wondering Is this what walking is like? This clumsy thing?

I wonder what this would sound like if I didn't know it was from Norway? Would it still sound of a wood? (With tree-trunks straight as slats, a clear-blue horizon between the parallel lines?) Would it still smell of salty sea?

If it was from New York would I hear streets, halal hotdog carts and rock & roll? Would those traintrack whispers, reel-to-reel murmurs, be the subway? If this were from Montreal would I hear rooms in an old house, and not the out-of-doors? If it were from Liverpool, what would I hear?

[Ripped from BBC Radio 1's One World broadcast of White Album covers. The recording seems to be unreleased, but Økland's got a few CDs - recommended by Wire, - so BUY: US/UK. (I will do so in Oslo.)]

Jens Lekman - "Maple Leaves [EP Version]". Yeah it's pretty with those rose-garden violins on repeat, but I thank god (I thank god and I grin) when the bass and proper drums kick in at 0:23. Suddenly this song's got a bit of boogie; you could maybe even take it to one of those twee club nights. And there on the dance-floor you'd dance with your shy friends, lean into a rosy face, kiss on cheek. You'd imagine the song's springtime swell was enough momentum to take you all the way through a love affair. (It's probably not.) But don't worry, chickadees; don't worry. Just enjoy the sweetness of this, the icing, the way Lekman's like Magnetic Fields but with pathos instead of arrogance, earnesty instead of cleverness. "And when she talked about the Fall / I thought she talked about Mark E Smith / I never understood [cue jingle-bells!] at all." The secret's in the jingle-bell cue. And the twirl.

I was late to the Jens-party. Last year I was sent When I Said I Wanted To Be Your Dog but I'm not even sure I ever made it through the whole thing. Too rich, too rich, and with such dog-dumb rhymes. So what happened? To be honest I think it's just that Oh You're So Silent Jens is oh so much better - such songs, such melodies, such lovely humble stories. My favourite comp of the year.

[buy / then go and convince Jens not to give up music]


Our end-of-year Best Album Haiku Contest is still on (til Monday, December 12) is now closed. Enter to be witty and maybe even win a Brian Michael Roff prize-pack.

Posted by Sean at 3:03 AM | Comments (11)

December 7, 2005

The Set of All Things You Deserve

Neil Young - "The Painter"

I've known a few painters in my life. And it seems there is a range of kinds: the two extremes being the painters in, say, Malkmus' world and, the other, the ones in Neil Young's world. I've known both, but this song is about who my heart is currently with: the latter kind. They have humility and pride, the best kinds of each, honesty, and I love them, suddenly, and in bursts. And you will love the painter in this song too, for sure, because trying to ignore Young's own infectious love for them (I think "her") is like trying to ignore someone who's hugging you.

Neil Young - "Man Needs a Maid (feat. the London Symphony Orchestra)"

Sometimes it's time. Tossing out a picture.


Posted by Dan at 3:33 AM | Comments (8)

December 6, 2005

Norwegian Query

While you're here...

I'm thinking of going to Oslo for a few days between Christmas and New Year's. I'd just wander around and drink warm drinks and write prose. And maybe stare at snow and ice. Anyone know somewhere good (or cheap) to stay? I'm looking at this place and this one (the latter being twice as expensive). Friends and tour-guides are, as always, welcome.

The last time I was in Oslo it was for less than 24 hours, with the Arcade Fire, and what I remember most clearly was the sushi we ate. (It was okay.)

Posted by Sean at 3:54 PM | Comments (12)

2005's Best Music

What follows is some of my favourite music in 2005 - oh, and a contest! It is long but I only do this once a year.

My 22 Favourite Songs of 2005

Twenty-two is an arbitrary number, but a good one. Hopefully you will know most of these but if you do not, each of the twenty-two songs is available for you to download. I hope you like them.

1. Robyn - "Be Mine!"
So what is this song? Besides a rainshower, a sunshower? What is it, besides a chance to get rainsoaked on the street and then to walk into the park? In the park everything will be too green, with flowercolour diluted by the rain and by tears. But it'll be wide and open, with lawns and strips of asphalt for you to run along, with soil and sky and space for your whipping feelings. What is it besides that? It's astonishing and complicated emotions - it's the triumph of acknowledging your own sorrow, an affirmation of sure feeling. In that way it's Dylanesque, Joyce-like: it's subtle and messily real, and Robyn makes it feel so easy to realise. And what else? What else is this song? It's a pop song - yes, for dancing and cheering, with zips and pows, with cellos that stab and whirl til the park's right here in the club, in your room, and there's space for feeling everywhere. (more StG on Robyn) [buy (free worldwide delivery)]

2. Okkervil River - "For Real"

Okkervil River do something else. They draw the red windowshades and they kneel in their living-room - they kneel because they're turning their guitar amps up. Like I said, it's that perfect boom of word and sound, barbed yells and crushing blows. It's sinister but elegiac, scary but true. It's about murder and feeling, voices crying for sensation. "There's nothing quite like the blinding light / that curtains cast aside." The electric guitars are stuck through with spruce branches, with nails, with bits of eggshell. It's like the stamp in the middle of Wilco's "At Least That's What You Said," only instead of Tweedy's guitar solo there's the lamplight of a rhodes, the mounting panic of Will Robinson Sheff, and then a terrible tumble of drums, the searing chorus of pierced guitars, the knowledge that you're hurtling downhill, downstream, downtown, toward the smack and clasp that will make things clear. [buy]

3. The Strokes - "You Only Live Once"
The list's latest entry. But listen, kids - I can't shake the bra-na-na na na of the guitarline, Julian Casablanca's crooked vocals, the doubleclink of drums, the way the "oh-oh" feels already like something I'll sing, ruefully, when I'm 60. And the chorus is but a stall, a sideways-dancin' intermission so that when we return to the verses, it's fresh as daisies in a coffeepot of water. [pre-order]

4. Imogen Heap - "Hide and Seek"

More spell than song, a glamour spread over four and a half minutes: a moment of beauty, a moment of beauty, another. Let's all wear this song round our wrists, let's wonder at it. When does a vocoder begin to sound more human than a human? How do you write such a string of sounds, an almost unrepeating pop-song that still wraps full circle? How can I learn to sing like this? [buy direct from Imogen and avoid evil Sony rootkits]

5. Broken Social Scene - "Ibi Dreams Of Pavement"

A rock'n'roll steamship that wheels straight into the gale, straight into the whale's mouth. Old Blue dives deep, past coral towers and ravines, past death, and all the while there's Broken Social Scene inside - playing a lunatic pop-song, breathing seawater, battered by noise and bliss and that cetacean's pink tongue. If only all "art-rock" was this exciting; if only all rock songs could break surface and so brightly spout. (more StG on "Ibi Dreams...") [buy]

6. Sufjan Stevens - "Casimir Pulaski Day"
The marvel is not that Sufjan Stevens has written another pretty song. (A song of oboe and mandolin, of harmonies and his own tender voice.) The marvel is what he's hidden inside it. It's a song of repetition: repeated melody, repeated chords, instruments one after another repeating Sufjan's simple ditty. Stevens sings small domestic scenes, - the touch of grass on feet, sunlight through a window, a kiss, - and these images too begin to repeat. Echoing snatches of familiar phrase, as if the chorus is wrapped into the story itself, the mundane borrowing part of the mortal, the spiritual stowing away with the sexual. All of this accumulates, piling up with every circle of acoustic guitar strum - til the slightest change catches your breath in your throat, till the perfect repetition makes your heart stammer in your chest. The way Stevens sings "mouth"; the way you see her running, bare-footed; the plaintive/peaceful/pained/precise way that Stevens sings, finally, that "He takes and He takes and He takes". Stevens has made such small things say so much, turned real-life imagies into full-bodied statements of the erotic, the transcendent, the mournful. And all of it in such a pretty song, such a trifling song, a song light as air and too diffuse to even be caught in a stained glass window. [buy]

7. Kelly Clarkson - "Since U Been Gone"

How can I be more clear than the pinpricking of electric guitar at 0:34? The way that glint flickers into fullblown flash - and of course the way the mountain then falls on your head. (Don't worry, you are awesome enough to fight your way out.) [buy]

8. Herman Dune - "Not On Top"

What does a real life sound like, in one's twenties? (Beyond?) It sounds awkward, it sounds sloppy, it sounds well-worn and yet secretly glad. If you're lucky there's a guitar solo like a bird darting in a tree, a cute girl on backing vocals, a chorus like a Tin Man who's already got a heart and just needs to learn some up-to-date dance-moves. "There's 67 better ways to make some sense." Yeah, whatever! (more StG on Herman Dune) [buy]

9. Amerie - "1 Thing"
How did this song sink to #9? Lordy! I wade into "One Thing"'s go-go waters, just bellow my belly-button, and then I let myself be tugged by the off-on flow of the guitar, I let myself get snagged by Amerie's fish-hook voice, the twinkling lights of her "bing bong bing", and above all I get caught up in the ratatat drums. The drums they make me feel like I'm standing up even when I'm falling down, they let me take to the air even when I'm trudging all the way to work. (more StG on Amerie) [buy]

10. Wolf Parade - "I'll Believe in Anything"
You wait for the organ to resolve but first the drums butt in, big as Babel Towers. The rest of the song takes a long time to live up to the sprawling height of those bass-drum Towers. Voices twist, guitars tangle, but we don't go summit-scaling till the chorus at two-minute-something. It's then that suddenly the windsocks are full, that your hands are full of brickwork, that you're climbin' climbin' climbin'; it's then that the gargoyles spread stony wings, blink lunatic eyes, and swoop off into tomorrow. When the Tower falls it's the gargoyles who'll teach the world to talk. (What Jordan said.) [buy]

11. Smog - "The Well"

Quoth i: Every instrument seems to rub a different spot, and Bill Callahan's voice comes coffeecrackly in your ear, perfectly close-and-removed, perfect perfect perfect. ... Every time each part of the song arrives (cymbal shush, violin scrape), it's like a bud springing into bloom. It seems to be on a loop, but there are those little beats of difference, voices answering Smog's song, when everything changes (slightly, slightly). And, of course, it's hysterical. ... [W]here I'm moved is when the drums gear up in the end, in the rainbow moment where all the song's rhymes and themes burst up together, astonishingly written, wry and poetic, a lesson taught, a lesson learned, a joke and a parable. And my heart just swells on a woody springtime day. (more) [buy]

12. Page France - "Chariot"
I read somewhere that this song was about the Rapture. Not the dancepunk band; the big Messianic hooray. That's cool: there's room for that. It's also about plain old small-case rapture, about when a feeling's tugging on you so hard that a thumpthump bass-drum isn't enough, that a tambourine isn't enough, that you need a whole parade of singsong. Let's fill the gardens, friends. Let's take out the nightingales and bluebirds. Let's fix bells to our shoes and clap our hands. Let's put fairytales in our pockets and paint murals on the walls of our mouths. Let's follow a Piper into a mountain and turn the mountain into a cathedral, a circus, a place for us to break bread and quaff wine, and laugh. (more StG on Page France/guestblog) [buy]

13. Sugababes - "Push the Button"
On Bonfire Night we went to beautiful Musselburgh and stood in front of an enormous bonfire. The fire seemed more liquid than solid, something kinda dangerous despite our smiles. They set off fireworks - bam fizz wow! And through it all they played pop music, they played "Push the Button", and me I scribbled down lyrics so that I could google them when I get home. I smile at this song, I love the chorus' slow rev up, but I am pretty sure that if I met The Sugababes in an alley they could stop me breathing just by thinking it. Bam fizz wow! [buy]

14. Dirty Three ft. Cat Power - "Great Waves"

Quoth i: I don't know if I've ever heard Cat Power this mystical, so urgent without being desperate, so in control of her talents. ... Jim White play[s] behind her, [a] rattle and blur that leaps against my heart. Even more startling is that she sings of hurricane and flood, yes you got it, and there are so many images fresh in our mind. "The world is gone." A violin sounds like a ukelele or else it's a plain old mandolin and I imagine ... the individual bodies that are exploding when Chan sings "the bodies are exploding", the individual humans running for cover when Chan sings "humans running for cover", the cars "intersect[ing] in the middle of the sky". ... If there's going to be a song that makes me think of Katrina, me who was in Slovenia when the storm hit, me who doesn't have a TV, me who feels a million miles away and hasn't really been able to care, well then let it be a song that's a swamp, a morass, a thick soup of sound - and also a reservoir, a pool, a gift: every twig, leaf and raindrop, every brush of snare and thump of tom, everything unrehearsed and yet perfectly placed. [buy]

15. We/Or/Me - "Aimless Day"
Funny that a song that felt so strongly of summer becomes so dear in the winter: the glockenspiel's the only warm thing in the room, something to gather round, to stare into. (i wrote a lot more here.) even tonight, it seems to be better than "pink moon". [go see them in Chicago in January]

16. LCD Soundsystem - "Daft Punk Is Playing At My House"
Me, I want LCD Soundystem playing "Daft Punk Is Playing At My House" at my house. The song has me at "H'OW-ow!" and it's still got me when things get spacey and cow-bell-y. "I've got a bus and a trailer at my house." When I listen to this I want to have (started and then) quit cocaine, so that I can open a window on an absurdly clear day and dump a million kilograms of it out the window, laughing madly, and yeah yelling "H'OW-ow!" as it blizzards in my pleasant Edinburgh block. [buy]

17. MIA - "Hombre"
Tiny hammers in my ears, tingtinging to get me into the right mode, beats tenderising me so that when MIA hits her stride I'm ready to join her: dancing like a girl and not like the hombre, imagining the joy that comes when you're out and this song suddenly comes on - like a musical interlude where we're all supposed to dance and bop and bump, glance-glancing at the girl who sings the chorus. [buy]

18. Andrew Bird - "Fake Palindromes"

Quoth i: We need to cut to the meat of the matter in a patented Said the Gramophone run-on sentence. The song's clear and obvious claim-to-fame, the wet and beating heart, the energizing whip-snap, is that killer fiddle hook, that four-note earworm, that vivacious blast, that indian sneer of strings with the thunderstomp of drum-and-shaker. And if you don't fall in love with the tune in the first two seconds, you will when Andrew Bird drawls "coulda died... shoulda died". Or when you notice the weird electric guitar that's stalking through the briar in the back, with long long legs. ... Or when "Fake Palindromes" ends (it ends!) after a scarce two minutes and fifty-two seconds. "I want to drill a tiny hole into your head," he sings. Well sign me up - just let me hear this thing again! Put it on a whirling repeat in a purple room with the blinds drawn. Run through that barrage of images, the formaldehyde-swap, the singles ads, the blood in her eyes. And then open the wardrobe and loose the violins, the super strings, the brown swooping things what lift me out the closed window and straight to the moon. [buy]

19. Stars - "Ageless Beauty (Most Serene Republic remix)"
Quoth i: 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. [buy]

20. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - "Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth"

The reason this is one of my favourite songs of the year is because of what happens at 4:08. What happens? The same thing that happens a couple minutes earlier. But this time something's come over me, some regression to my Polish countryman's roots, to the tall-boots and high-jumpin' dance-steps. I am whooping with sneakers on, I am rolling my eyes, I am wearing this band's hype like a cape. I am introducing the Medieval poles to disco-beating indie rock, and I bet you they are loving it. [buy]

21. Agent Simple - "Brother"

Finally a song where I feel like Petit Nicholas, skipping to school, my leather satchel swinging alongside me. If Stephin Merritt is gonna be a stuck-up grump, a no-fun bully, it is so good that Agent Simple has been discovered. Finally - a wry and clever friend who writes songs for the Mister Men to sing along to, heads waving in the breeze. (What Dan said.) [buy]

22. Paul Duncan - "Oil In The Fields"
Good combinations: peanut-butter and strawberry jam; white wine and Nico; sadness and inevitability. Duncan is willing on his melancholy march. He knows he must go - "drawn back home again". He's been drinking, dreaming, getting lost in fields of big blooming flowers, mellotron orchids, under the blackgold starry sky. He's been feeling blue, but you know? the blue is turning to a hot reassuring purple. Molars said it well, too. [buy]

Runners up: R. Kelly - "Trapped in the Closet pt. 2", Elbow - "Mexican Standoff", Mountain Goats - "Dilaudid", New Pornographers - "The Bleeding Heart Show", Antony and the Johnsons - "Hope There's Someone", Spoon - "Sister Jack", and on and on...



So, yes, Said the Gramophone has another contest. Boston's Brian Michael Roff and The Deer released an album this year called Inventory. It is a great record, dusty late-summer with a harvester's generous smile. I last wrote about it in April.

Brian is offering up a copy of Inventory, a copy of the ultra limited Pre-Inventory promo EP, and a BMR button. And shipping! And what do you need to do?

These are my ten favourite albums of 2005:

1. Final Fantasy - Has A Good Home
2. Robyn - Robyn
3. Broken Social Scene - Broken Social Scene
4. Smog - A River Ain't Too Much To Love
5. Herman Dune - Not On Top
6. Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy
7. Sigur Ros - Takk
8. MIA - Arular
9. The Constantines - Tournament of Hearts

10. Page France - Hello, Dear Wind

(Runners-up: Young Jeezy, Antony and the Johnsons, Fiery Furnaces, Jon-Rae and the River, Sunset Rubdown, The Clientele, Damian Marley, Clem Snide, The Evens, Jose Gonzalez, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah ...)

To win BMR's prize-pack, all you need to do is to pick your favourite album of 2005 and then write a haiku about it. Three lines, a total of (5+7+5=) 17 syllables.

Then either email me your haiku with the subject "CONTEST ENTRY", or post your haiku as a comment on this here post. The deadline is 11:59 EST on Monday, December 12th. The contest is now closed. Good luck!

(Did I mention how great the packaging is on Inventory? It is an elegant hand-made somethin'-special.)



Tuwa has two terrific songs and apt accompanying words. I particularly love the Ian Love track - just Josh Rouse enough to please, hurtling forward with stars in its eyes.

Frank has heard the secret unreleased version of the last (fanTAStic) Wheat album, and has some samples for your enjoyment.

Plan B is selling prints of some of the fantastic photos that have appeared in the magazine. Outstanding shots of Afrirampo, Daniel Johnston, Kevin Blechdom, Arcade Fire, Devendra Banhart, and many more. A total steal at £10 each (or five! for £20). In related news, the December/January issue of Plan B has short reviews by me of the new Robyn and Mt Eerie records, and of Explosions In The Sky's visit to Edinburgh last month. Let me know if you pick it up.

The December issue of The Skinny has, among other things, a review by me of Stars (I know, the UK is slow), and another episode of StG-lite, The Easy Gramophone (starring Devin Davis, Bishop Allen, Dizzee Rascal, and more).

If you made it this far: thank you.

Posted by Sean at 3:00 AM | Comments (90)

December 5, 2005


The Silt - "Happy Wheat"

This is ominous country music. Music for serious farm work with heavy, rusty equipment, and grinding gears. For feeding slops to dirty pigs with flies at their tails. I'm reminded of the ever-setting sun in Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven. The lead guitar, sliding and bending, is either caught up in, or is itself a storm. The synthesizer sounds like something that might land in a field of wheat, and leave a crop circle in its wake. The vocals are the work of a traumatized farmer whose stories have become less and less lucid, more and more surreal, since whatever happened to him happened to him. [Info]


Son House - "Low Down Dirty Blues"

Listen to the way House plays guitar after each of his vocal lines. He plays a slow and spartan run, bending each note, drawing it out. It's so simple, just five quarter notes, the part that least displays virtuosity. But in its simplicity and restraint can be heard House's sadness, his frustration, and his anger.

After you're done listening to that, why not move on to appreciating House's beautiful vocal jumps up into falsetto? After that, make your bed. Then buy a Son House CD. Then put on Remain in Light and dance around your house/apartment. Then go to bed. Eat breakfast in the morning. [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 5:01 PM | Comments (4)

December 2, 2005

Mensonges: The Songs You Sing To Me(n)

Stone Jack Jones - "Smile"

Stone Jack Jones is from northern Alberta, he grew up on a farm there, and became a farmer just like his father. Married at a young age, he had to start working to support a wife and three boys. Then, at 43, his wife killed herself, and left in her note some information that lead the courts to believe his boys were no longer safe with him, so they were taken away. Then he made this album.

Stone Jack Jones - "Evermore"

Stone Jack Jones is from Connecticut. He travelled the country at 22, didn't we all, and met a girl from Maryland, in Los Angeles, of all places. He went to Dentistry school, she went to Pre-Law, dropped out. They settled in Portland, had twin daughters, one became addicted to bad choices, the other finished the Law school her mother couldn't, became tremendously successful. Then Stone's wife left him for a lawyer (unrelated), and left in her note some information that made it into this song, because he wrote this album right after she left.

[this comes out in February, but until then, his older stuff]

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

December 1, 2005

A Cross Between Pale Fire and Fear and Trembling

Oh yeah, I'm looking good today. This green really brings out my eyes.


Cat Power - "The Greatest"

The drumming here is as good as drumming can be in a context like this. Give the man a Grammy, or a bottle of scotch, give him a bath, because, frankly, he's dirty. He's done something so beautiful here that I've almost had a nervous breakdown trying to express it in words. He leaves me weak. His drums frame and reframe, saying again and again "look at the song this way, then like this." He's a tour guide and the song is some natural wonder which he completely reveres. "Have you noticed how the piano and guitar interact, pay attention to the down-beat, pay attention to the up-beat, just listen to her voice, to her overdubbed harmony tracks, so lowdown and just out of reach, now listen to that guitar break into a million pieces." His tight drum rolls and tentative snare/high-hat interplay provide a perfect dynamic counterpoint to Marshall's piercing piano chords.

Also, I love it all: The "Moon River" quoting strings, the deep soul guitar, the round tone and careful placement of the bass, and most of all, Marshall's perfect vocals - broken, scared, awed, serene. [Info]


The Double Stops - "c44"

"c44" sounds a bit like Kelley Stoltz's "Prank Calls," posted by Sean the other day. But whereas "Prank Calls" is the work of one man, a studio perfectionist with an affinity for the Beach Boys, "c44" is very much the work of a band, a chugging, sloppy team with an affinity for the Velvet Underground. Like early VU, they employ a sort of 1 2 3 go approach to song, squeezing out small climaxes from a limited dynamic range. [Info]

Posted by Jordan at 2:57 PM | Comments (5)