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.

April 28, 2006

Different Moods

A couple of weeks ago, I received the following email: “hello I would like to send you some music. -bill.” No questions, no personal pleasantries, no links or information, almost no punctuation, just a perfunctory greeting, a statement of intent, and a name. He didn’t bother with a subject heading.

A week later I found a cd in my mail by a band called The Red River. The cover was a poorly drawn (sorry Bill) picture of a boat with a tree growing out of it, sailing on blue waves that looked more like eagle talons. The drawing was in the medium of magic marker on lined loose leaf paper. The liner notes contained one credit and one email address and nothing else. The credit was “by Bill Roberts”, and the email address was the one Bill had written me from.

Needless to say, I was terribly excited to hear Bill’s songs. I felt as if I were about to hear the music Marcus Aurelius would have made had he had access to Pro Tools.

The record, Some Songs About A Flood, is, somehow unsurprisingly, great. The Red River plays simple songs with simple melodies, and plays them mostly on the acoustic guitar, shaker, voice, and backing voices. These songs are so carefully sung, so delicately arranged, that listening to them can be as tense as watching a game of Jenga, the outcome of which determines who will live and who will die, generally.

I still know nothing about Bill Roberts. But I have my suspicions:

1. He likes the Microphones a lot.
2. Based on the sophistication of his music and lyrics, I would be very surprised if he were any less than 14 years old, and based on his energy and aesthetic, I would be utterly shocked if he were a day older than 79.
3. Besides his obvious adherence to the Stoic philosophy of life, I think it’s safe to assume that Bill Roberts has a soft, muddy spot for the Romantic Naturalism of Ralph Waldo Emerson and his follower, Phil Elvrum.


The Red River - "The Mighty Tide"

A composition about and of waves, “The Mighty Tide” is a gospel song whose vocal solo near its end is both hilarious and sublime. Listen to him breathlessly sneak hoots into his vocal line as if his awe of and deference to the power of nature would not be apparent if he did not include all the hallmarks of a good gospel solo.


The Red River - "Real Danger"

The song builds, becomes denser, richer, yet always remains perfectly clear, never muddy. Each instrument is a pane of glass: as they are piled on top of each other, the quality of what they transmit changes, but the centre of the song (its long-unfolding vocal melody) is never obscured, just differently lit. [Info]

[Update: You can buy or trade for Some Songs About A Flood by emailing Bill. He is very nice, and confirmed that my three suspicions were indeed correct.]

Posted by Jordan at 5:10 PM | Comments (22)

April 27, 2006

I Just Fake It

Sunset Rubdown - "Us Ones In Between"
**note: this is another StG video compressed for a video ipod, or just for you to watch. Our new server doesn't seem to like .mp4, so you might need to "save link as.."**

Whew. I finished this literally minutes ago. I'm not going to gush any more about how much of a powerful force in music Spencer Krug is. I know you're all sick to death of me saying it. This song is so much. So much gleaming and crash. It's been raining for four days straight in Montreal, and I've also been listening to this song for four days straight. It's that strong. [Buy this right now]

Soltero - "Rosie Day"

By the gravel-road intro, you're expecting some sort of "this rosie day has a thorn" kind of song, but not so, it's a skipping, dusty lark. Rosie is the coniferous Girl from Ipanema. Watch out. She'll getcha. Rejectcha.
[Why did this not go huge? It's a powerhouse album! Buy!]

Zoe Baker - "Speech for the President"

8-year-olds wrote speeches for the President. An impersonator recorded these speeches. What results is funny, really silly, but also unnerving, disarming. The repetition of "are you intimidated?" here is really striking. it's like a radiohead cd insert. Plus, admitting your nickname is Toilet is hilarious. [more]

Posted by Dan at 6:31 AM | Comments (19)

April 26, 2006

Said the Guests: Eugene Mirman

I've only seen Eugene Mirman once. It was in Scotland, at the Fringe Festival, in a room of nimrods with crossed arms. I meanwhile was collapsing like a marionette whose pins and strings had been removed: just a pile of wood for Eugene to tiptoe over to, giggling, and light on fire. Eugene Mirman is a comedian who doesn't rely on cheap gags. Oh he uses cheap gags, sure, when he can. He's no fool. (NB: He is a fool.) But no what Eugene relies on are knife-tricks and cloud-shapes; dreams; the gentle, the offensive, and the absurd. He's a wonder, a laughbomb, a "friend".

Eugene Mirman is signed to the same label as Nirvana and the Postal Service; he frequently opens for Yo La Tengo; he writes a blog for the Village Voice; Dan blogged about him; and he so very kindly agreed to tell us about some cakepunch songs.

Do say hello. (Thanks Eugene. And hi!) -- Sean

Eugene Mirman

I would like to say that I can’t play any instruments or sing or anything. I don’t know how to talk about music in much of a way outside of saying something is pretty or annoying, lyrically pleasing, maybe energetic, etc. With that in mind here are some pretty songs with pleasing lyrics and some energetic ones.

Robyn Hitchcock - "She Doesn't Exist"

I love this song. Some of my favorite things are sad and pretty (like you! — let’s meet up.) When I was a teenager I heard Robyn Hitchcock and loved him, at first for his somewhat goofy songs like My Wife And My Dead Wife, and then eventually for perceptive, obtuse/ sincere love songs and abstract analogies. Plus I like beautiful melodies (sorry, John Cage.) At some point I began a tradition of listening to this song every time I broke up with someone. Also, you can start your own tradition. For instance, every time you have sex with someone give them a thumbs up and say, “Good job buddy.” [buy]

Jonathan Richman - "Velvet Underground"

This song combines a lot of what I like — fifties sounding music and the Velvet Underground. I love the Velvet Underground (as everybody does, but why tell you to go and buy the newest re-re-re-issue of Loaded with extra photos? You should though, it’s great.) I guess you probably have Jonathan Richman too. I don’t know what to tell you. Should I suggest you get the Diamond Nights EP? It’s like the Cars but modern and sexy.

White Hassle - "Star Position"

Guess what? I like White Hassle a lot. I first saw them at a small one day music festival in New England like 8 years ago. Unlike countless assholes, they have finally figured out how to blend country, rock, turntables (this song doesn’t use them), and pretty melodies with charming lyrics. They often have pots and pans and things as part of their percussion. [buy]

The Essex Green - "The Late Great Cassiopia"

This is a great indie-pop song. I don’t know what else to say exactly. I’m right. It is. Listen to it.

In conclusion, I have a comedy album coming out May 9th on Sub Pop called En, Garde Society! Feel free to buy it. It’ll have a DVD with it as well. Two discs? Yes.

[This is Eugene Mirman's website, with audio and video and more. This is his blog. And this is where you can pre-order his new double-disc album. You can buy his previous album (which is awesome) here.]

(Previous guest-blogs, in and out of the Said the Guests series: artist Dave Bailey, Agent Simple, artist Keith Andrew Shore, Owen Ashworth (Casiotone for the Painfully Alone), artist Kit Malo with Alden Penner (The Unicorns) 1 2, artist Rachell Sumpter, artist Katy Horan 1 2, David Barclay (The Diskettes), artist Drew Heffron, Carl Wilson, artist Tim Moore, Michael Nau (Page France), Devin Davis, Will Sheff (Okkervil River), Edward Droste (Grizzly Bear), Hello Saferide, Damon Krukowski (Damon & Naomi), Brian Michael Roff, Howard Bilerman (producer: Silver Mt. Zion, Arcade Fire, etc.). There are many more to come.)

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

April 25, 2006

Brendan Reed in a t-r-e-e

Brendan Reed (Noh Cars Go) - "Unknown title". Brendan Reed has always traded on a mixture of madness and gentleness, at least when I knew him in Montreal. Kind as a kitten, happily weird, with work that goes suddenly violent, abruptly monstrous. I remember him swinging around, inside a school bus that had been transformed into a tour-bus, weaving a story. A smileyface in the evening: redhaired, gentle, unfathomable. I like him, I'm a little scared of him, and he's one of the best drummers I've ever heard. A former member of the Arcade Fire, a current member of Les Angles Morts, The Letlowns, Noh Cars Go, so many more, unstoppable in his music-making. He had a series of experiments, experiments where he had to do things like create whole, finished songs - lyrics, melodies, harmonies, drums, guitars, bass, everything, - in sixteen, or twenty-four, or thirty minutes. Then he went out to a park and collected a few hundred objects, cataloguing rubbish for a dvd, intending to write a song for each. Brendan's never had one sound, one look - he digs in the dirt and sees what he finds. He finds a lot of dirt - dark, thick soil. Soil that tastes like soil. And while others get distracted by the 'treasures' - bells, whistles, old boots, - Brendan remains focused on his hole and his dirt. The work of excavating brown-black song from brown-black mud.

This song sounds unmade. Its parts seem unassembled. A row of tools on a workbench; a series of smells; rock, paper, scissors. Charlie Brown piano and a meandering bassline. Fingersnaps and mumbles. A soup, a swamp, a back-room, a daydream. And yet this is why I come back to the song. All these disparate parts, jangling together, flowing along different currents, and then th-th-there... a moment of union (you'll hear it when it comes). "You're sick in the centre baby," he sings, like an opening (ugly) birthday card. Then more lyrics I can't make out, clouds, deterioration. What does it mean? I don't understand. And yet - It's such a right confusion, so absolutely fucking difficult and yet when you let it go, so simply right.

Do I sound like a fool?

See also the strange (and probably more lovable) 49-second marvel called "Gold July".

There is a plethora of Brendan Reed music (and friends' music) at whitewavewhitewave. He also presents new songs and opaque blog-thoughts at the main nocarsgo site. Email him to buy things - they come in magic boxes, cardboard chests of art and spirit. Do email him. He is kind.


Jacob Faurholt & Sweetie Pie Wilbur - "Let Them Go". Faurholt is one of these singers that feels like he needs to sound like he's dying in order to express his unhappiness. Oh, how emo, how old-school Bright Eyes. But in spite of this drama there's a majesty in the plain acoustic guitar, here, the creaking folk plinks and strums. In the introduction of strings. In the Grizzly Bear squint and Sparklehorse scope. And more than anything, the reason I have posted this song is its ending. It's an ending that almost knocked me down, that made me lift my eyes to heaven when I first heard it.

At first I thought the sound was a hiss, a kiss, a whisper in my ear. I thought it was something someone was saying to me. And then kettle drums. But no, no! Haha, how mistaken. No the "sound", the ending, is a rocket. It's firecrackers. It's fireworks. It's explosions in the sky. It could go on for hours and I would be happy to hear it.

[buy / more info]


It is suggested that Gramo-friends consider tuning in to Tiny Showcase at around 9pm EST tonight, for this week's print may be of particular interest to those who like the things we do. (And I have a feeling it will sell out.) Subscribe to their mailing list if you require more advance hints. :)

Things that are awesome: Tofu Hut with The Chips' "Rubber Biscuit"; Tuwa's pointer to an utterly fantastic Tom Waits b-side; Bruce Springsteen's version of "Mrs McGrath" from his new Seeger album; Kagan McLeod's poster of the history of rap.


if you are reading this, snf: oh happy b.

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

April 24, 2006

Wyrd Visions listens to hip-hop

Masta Ace - "Hold U (ft. Jean Grae)". Masta Ace and Jean Grae make the sentimental simple, simple, simple. Nothing cute or precocious: a story; an explanation; unostentatious honesty over a warm, looped sample. I am always struck by the way hip-hop cuts meat from bone. It's got a poetry that's often much more precise than folk, rock, pop, or even the blues. Like the way Fitzgerald or Salinger can explicate something, secular words painting a picture of grace. Here's a love song that strolls effortlessly through the body of a love affair, blossoms all around, never stopping to be cute. Because this song demonstrates that it's not cuteness that sits at the centre of love, nor even the absence of doubt. It's the agreement, whole and plain, that: you, me, we're in love. Ha, so simple! Good thing I've got it all figured out. (He rolls his eyes.)


Wyrd Visions - "Bog Lord". Both Grizzly Bear and Final Fantasy have been speaking with wonder about their tourmate, Wyrd Visions. It was the first time I had heard the name, and to be honest I wasn't attracted. The phrase "Wyrd Visions" makes me think of the little occult/elf figurine shops in small-town New Jersey, places with big crystal balls in the window. Places that smell of incense and flash with mirrors. But I'm a fool, I'm a fool. I should know better; I should know to trust Ed Droste and Owen Pallett. While Wyrd Visions is certainly part of the, uh wyrd folk movement, there's a play in the music that keeps it skittering over the cloud-tops, never stuck in its mud. This song is ten minutes, eerie and also smiling, like the man in the corner at the all-night diner. It sucks you into its long landscapes and slowly-moving figures; organ, harmonium and crisscrossing guitar. It slows to match your breath. "Wyrd Visions only listens to hip-hop," says Owen. This is not hip-hop -- it reminds me more of Alexander Tucker than anything else, -- but oh it resists getting trapped in the old folk groove. It wanders, it skirts, it flows, it swings. It moves across the floor and whispers to your girl. It's a will'o the wisp in our Sunday night, murmuring through the grates.

[more info, album to be released on Blue Fog]


Some recent pieces of mine in The Skinny (and I have my own Final Fantasy intvw that's not been published yet): Akron/Family interview, Scatter, McClusky, The Knife, Belle and Sebastian, The Hussy's, The Streets, Kepler, Spinto Band, Alexander Tucker, Craig Thompson's marvelous graphic novel Blankets. Oof.

Posted by Sean at 3:00 AM | Comments (7)

April 21, 2006

Keep On Moving

Jolie Holland - "Springtime Can Kill You"

1. I’m not a man who has ever been killed by a season. To be honest, I always felt that seasons lacked the agency for murder. Alas, as per yuj, I was wrong. A season killed Jolie Holland.

Winter was questioned first, it being the usual suspect in terms of seasons. Now, seasons don’t look like humans - that is probably the first thing one comes to understand in life. But still, Winter, with a cigarette dangling from its lips and another one tucked behind its left ear, calmly explained to the coppers that it had no motive: “Jolie’s from Texas, see? So, I never even knew her. Why would I want her dead?”

2. From beyond the grave, Holland warns that springtime could kill us too. Her advice to us is, essentially, carpe diem. She tells us to go outside, leave our houses, not be too shy. She attempts to lure us into an appreciation of the outdoors, of spring moonlight, of lilacs and honeysuckle. But this advice is given as if springtime were holding a gun to her back, feeding her lines. She says it knowing full well that it was exactly this kind of rhetoric that led her out into the streets where she met her own sinister fate. She is warning us through clenched teeth (i.e. the tense tapping of the ride, and the tight, nervous whisper of the guitar).

3. Imagine the instrumental bridge at 0:47 and then again at 1:56 as a play, Springtime. In it, the whistling plays the role of a little boy running, in his clumsy way, down a narrow residential street, dragging his wooden bat across the concrete. The baritone horn, travelling in the opposite direction up the same street, plays the role of a small funeral procession: black suits and white shirts, a hearse, dour faces. Springtime (the sour voice of Jolie Holland) is faced with a difficult choice: should it rain or should it shine? The rim-shots play the rain, falling in slow heavy drops. The boy turns around, runs home. The bereaved are comforted. Springtime laughs, throws down some lightning, kills somebody, eats some ribs, exeunt. [Buy]


Kaizers Orchestra - "Mister Kaiser, Hans Costanze og Meg"

This is probably the best Norwegian military waltz I’ve heard all day.

For Claire, who was asked to dance by the the job she most desired, then asked to wait until the end of the night, then erased from the dance card entirely. She should know that when she arrives in Montreal, she will find at least two dance cards dedicated pretty much exclusively to her. [Info (kind of)]

Posted by Jordan at 4:33 PM | Comments (15)

April 20, 2006

Beirut - Gulag Orkestar

For the one of you keeping track, these are my favourite albums of the year so far. Some of them are officially out, others are not.

Destroyer - Destroyer's Rubies (StG) [buy]
Espers - Espers II (StG) [pre-order]
Final Fantasy - He Poos Clouds (StG) [pre-order]
The Knife - Silent Shout (StG) [buy]


Beirut - Gulag Orkestar [buy]

Wait - Who? Beirut? Is that the guy you kinda mentioned in passing last week?


Beirut - "The Gulag Orkestar"
Beirut - "The Canals of our City"

I give you two songs. There are already two more, loose and free. So now that's four from an album of eleven: it's a sample and a half. But I'm not worried, friends, about sharing this with you. Because of two things:

1) As mp3s, these songs do not nearly swing, soar, thump or boom as they do on the CD. It's an album of wide, gold and silver sounds, the sort of thing that comes alive when loud in a room. You should buy it to hear this.

2) The album is really, really great, and after these I think you will know this, and you will buy it.

"The Gulag Orkestar" is the opening track on Gulag Orkestar. It is a throaty, burnished introduction: wobbling 'n weaving horns, a pile of shoes, a night getting slowly to its feet. And then, almost like a reggae tune, the drums take some unsteady steps and fall into place. Jingle jingle thump, jingle jingle thump, horns in line behind. And out from the curtains: it's Beirut. A smiling Balkan troubadour - part-gypsy, part-Wainwright, with a caravan full of Neutral Milk Hotel records and maybe Gogol Bordello's sparkling shoes. (A voice nourished on schnapps.) And if it doesn't make you wonder what follows (a track called "Prenzlauerberg"), well go home to your Wonderbread and Miracle Whip.

"The Canals of our City" takes Beirut's voice and a chorus of trembling trumpet, the rattling strum of an old guitar, and it turns these things into a mirror. It's a backward glance that's forward-looking, all of your past telescoping back behind your shoulder. Remembrance - remember the sparkle? remember the stammer? - and nostalgia. Squeezebox and gathered voices, that strident song, brassy till it evaporates. Two minutes and twenty seconds that feel like the invocation of a whole beloved world.

The Gulag Orkestar is a feat because it is a folky record that is so much fun. That is so much fun without being about dancing. That just raises cup after cup of wine, pulls wind after wind out of its pockets (north! south! east! west!), gives you breadcrumbs and also the opportunity to get lost. It's an outstanding, endearing debut. It's when you're wandering in the dark in a pasture, in a country of cornfields and herbal liqueurs, and you come across a barn that's full of fire and dance and song. And you go in. It's like that. The truest kind of souvenir.

[buy ($10 incl. postage!)]


Fantastic stop-motion music videos by Potions Made For Children (colour and trees and prints and rag-dolls and splendour!), and Wolf Parade (the new one is "Modern World").

Posted by Sean at 3:00 AM | Comments (13)

April 19, 2006

A Hand-Shaped Shadow

Danielson - "Cast It At The Setting Sail"

Danielson is no longer a family, and yet they are still a family. People show up half-way through the song, the drummer scruffs their hair and keeps blowing up the giant, tassly balloon that this song is.
It's like keeping five balloons in the air at once.
Like a scene just before a rocket launches where all the departments say they're ready.
Like moving all your pawns one by one, in a steady wall that just bowls over the white pieces.
I heard this song last week on the Best Show on WFMU (thanks to Fluxblog for continually recommending it). I'm now a subscriber to the podcast, which host Tom Scharpling recently explained has 2 subscribers. Me and another guy, I guess. But it's well worth it; way better than streaming archives or listening online. Though the music is removed for (possibly) rights reasons (we talked all about podcasting rights at that conference in March, and it's as clear as a bag over your head). So I only got to hear the first few notes of this song, but immediately I knew I wanted it. [Buy May 9th] [Danielson Documentary]

The Doers - "We're Open"

Did anyone go to a high school where "talent show" was confusingly replaced with "coffee house"? If you did, then this was the best band to ever play a coffee house. It's 5pm, you still have to be home for dinner, you have finite homework, you've just seen two horribly misconceived Green Day/Metallica amalgams and a magician that screwed up his trick. But all that leaves your mind when you hear this beat, it's actually tight, and this feeling, woah, I thought those kids didn't care about anything. [Buy]

Charles Aznavour - "For Me...Formidable"

I heard this song at a karaoke bar, on the monitors put there so you can sing along with the main singer-along. I thought if I could find it, I'd definitely post it, and then forgot about it. Then, I heard beautiful French crooning coming from my roommate's record player a few days later (not this song) and I had to find some Aznavour. Turns out he was responsible for this, so the two separate strings are actually two ends of the same string, and here you are, something you can play on Date Night. [Buy]


Also, I'm in a play, so if you live in Montreal, you should go. It runs tonight to Saturday, and the same thing next week. 10$students/12$regular. 9pm. Théâtre Ste Catherine.

Posted by Dan at 2:38 AM | Comments (7)

April 17, 2006


Yes, we're having some technical difficulties. Working on them. Mp3s should be back online soon, and I will be some dollars poorer. So it goes!

Thanks for your patience.

UPDATE: Everything should be working again. let me know if you have any trouble or there's anything weird...

Posted by Sean at 3:11 PM | Comments (4)


Sam Cooke - "Cupid [live at the Harlem Square Club]". The second of my two sons is named Intensity O'Clock, and every night he sneaks out to go to the Harlem Square Club. At first I had no idea. While me and the missus dozed, Intensity would tiptoe past our doorway, lift the window, and spring out into the night. As we dreamed, he would be shimmying down the poplar and going out into the street, running in his tomato-red sneakers. A friend would pull up in an old car - and they'd be off, smiling in the dark.

One night a few weeks ago, I happened to get up for a drink. I noticed the window open but thought simply that the wife must have wanted a breeze, an airing-out of the upper floor. Downstairs I poured myself a glass of water and stood in the dark by the front window. And there I saw Intensity O'Clock, all flying hair and shining eyes and red shoes, dashing through the garden and into a waiting Buick.

I set down my glass of water and folded my arms. When the car had driven away I went upstairs to make sure I had not dreamed the sight. There was Intensity's bed, neat but empty. I went through, kissed the missus on the cheek and then took the newspaper and went back into Intensity's room. I rubbed my eyes and I read the paper and I awaited his return.

Intensity didn't get back until close to 5 am. I admit I had fallen asleep but I heard the slam of the car door, heard a laugh, then soon enough heard the creak of the window shutting. Intensity came into his room and he saw me in the old wicker chair. His face suddenly went very grey.

"Dad," he said.

I stood up. "Good morning," I said. "Where were you?"

Intensity was still breathing heavily from the climb up the tree. "The Harlem," he said. "The Harlem Square Club."

"Girls?" I said.

Intensity shrugged. "Music," he said.

There was a look to Intensity's face that I wasn't use to seeing. There was a red in his cheeks and a lightness in the skin around his eyes. He looked at once very young and very old, dressed in black and white and red. I could feel the dawn rising behind me.

"Who?" I asked, and he knew what I meant.

"Sam Cooke," he said quietly. He took off his jacket. "And boy did he ever."

I let Intensity go to sleep. I went back into my room and sat up watching the windows lighten, lighten. I thought about my son's face, his breath, the tenderness with which he had said Mr Cooke's name.

The next morning I called into the office and told them I wouldn't be coming in. I explained everything to the missus and she nodded, amused with me. She was meeting Gloria and the girls for the day, so we shared breakfast and then she left. The kids were at school.

I went up to Intensity's room. He kept his records on one of the lower shelves of his bookshelf, where the fairytales had used to reside. I flipped through them. So many names I didn't know. And there: Sam Cooke.

I took the record downstairs and I put it on. I sat in my deep, familiar easychair and I listened. The house was big and still and soft.

Cooke's voice rattled me. It flew out of the hi-fi like a group of birds, like a flock of them. There was something in his voice that shook all over - in the feet, the hands, the head, the chest. It was almost too loose in his throat. It rattled and shook and went free through the house, bright as teeth, bright as laughter, like bracelets swinging on wrists. I wouldn't dance, alone in my house, but I sat there and saw clear as day Intensity in his red shoes and leather jacket, twisting on the carpet. His hair flew and his eyes lit up and there was a bliss there that was better than anything I had seen in him before. It wasn't a safe sort of happiness, not quite, but the recklessness was young and sure and I trusted my son in it. He was brave enough to come home, stars tucked into his pockets, music in the soles of his feet.

So when Intensity O'Clock arrived back from school that day I was again waiting for him in his room. I had put the Sam Cooke record away. I sat with a mug of coffee and a copy of the Times-Sentinel, as a father ought to. He went stiff when he came in and saw me but I told him to sit down and said "It's all right". I told him he could keep going out. I told him to be sensible and not to let school suffer. But I said it was all right, he could go, and that he should enjoy himself.


Typhoon - "So Passes Away the Glory of the World". I spent the past week in the isles of Orkney, with sea-birds and sea-waves and sky. And as I walked in the tufted hills one of the things I listened to was this, Typhoon's self-titled LP. A record drawn from the stuff of Okkervil River, Mogwai and A Silver Mt. Zion -- a record that's got sea-birds and sea-waves and sky. And also twilight, desolation, shipwrecks. It's really fine. "So Passes Away the Glory of the World" is I think the first song we have ever posted that is in Latin. But that's okay - don't worry. I've provided a translation of the lyrics. The track has monastery vocals, kettle drums, staccato strings. It has a cut off at the end which is to convince you to buy the whole thing. It has size, my friends, size - like glimpsing a mountain through the fog, like a tall ship coming out of the mist, like cresting a hill and seeing a field laid out in front of you, black with bracken. There's death here, but also the first sparks of life - the baby blinking, gasping for air; lifted into hands.

[buy for a mere $8!]


The new Contrast Podcast is up, without any contributions by me, but with lots of good things.

Unpop is a new mp3blog, careful and gutsy at the same time, based out of Brighton's "pop gone wrong" DJ night of the same name.

And this is a series of comics drawn on the same sheet of paper, then rubbed out. Until things get a little desperate near the end, there are moments that are really frightfully funny. For fans of Pokey the Penguin and Buttercup Festival.


Finally, not two weeks after paying (thanks to you) for a whole year of mp3 filehosting with Apple, they've gone and changed their terms & conditions, drastically reducing the amount of traffic their accounts allow. There is thus a distinct possibility that our songs may be knocked offline some time... If this happens, please leave a note in the comments. We will (sigh) be looking into other solutions. Thanks.

Posted by Sean at 6:03 AM | Comments (15)

April 14, 2006

Mary Maudlin Tells Us Today

Manu Chao - "Dia Luna... Dia Pena"

What’s this song about? Anyone? Something about the moon? The moon is brilliant tonight. About suffering and death? Well, I can understand that. First off, I seem to be watching a TV movie adaptation of Crime and Punishment with Patrick Dempsey as Raskolnikov. While Raskolnikov suffers and causes death, Patrick Dempsey, with his inconsistent generic European accent, causes suffering and forces me to hope for his death. But it’s better than being outside; that much is for sure. I live in the McGill University student ghetto, which is a bad place, particularly in spring. As soon as the temperature rises above zero, the neighbourhood’s residents become possessed by a sort of libidinous rage, running around naked, fighting, having sweaty, random sex in the streets. It’s scary. I just went out into the melee and barely escaped with my life, and didn’t escape with my dignity - running as I did from a black SUV that appeared to be pursuing me slowly in reverse. I ran past horrors of every sort, not every one of which relates directly to this song, so I’ll spare you the details (think of Dante). Eventually I stopped in front of a man sitting meditatively on the curb. I could see in his face - his brow furrowed in deep contemplation - that he, like me, stood outside of (yes, above) this Gomorrah; that he suffered for the indignity of our neighbours. I looked at him and I felt recognized. He opened his mouth, and I stood ready to receive the warm, gentle greetings of a sympathetic soul and fellow philosopher. But no such greetings came out. Instead, he puked everywhere and for a long time.

Luckily, Manu Chao is here to comfort me with a song clearly recorded inside a room separated from a more complicated outside. We can barely hear the tumult of the external world, though Chao made sure to leave the window open. Voices from the street waft in on a breeze I can feel. There’s the sound of a television, of a child’s toy, of a mariachi band receding into the distance. There’s a woman screaming. I can hear the hissing and clicking of snakes. Manu and I will stay inside, thank you. [Buy]


Half-Handed Cloud - "You've Been Faithful To Us Clouds"

Apparently when Dan Bejar moved out of that pixilated CGI forest he occupied while recording Your Blues, Half-Handed Cloud moved in. It’s not that the song doesn’t annoy me (it does), but that its melody draws me in - so pure and strong that it can adapt, survive anywhere, even in this Midi-earth devoid of nourishment.

Also, this song appears to be about Mary Magdalene, that lovely, hair-covered wild woman who bathed Jesus' feet in tears and was the messenger of his resurrection/wife (sue me). Happy Easter, merry Passover, and have a good weekend, everybody. [Info]

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

April 13, 2006

Everything Rises But Matzah

Bobby Bare - "Everybody's Talkin'"

Lately, in my song selection and writing, I’ve been guided by the many convergences I see in music, my experience of music, and my life outside of music. I don’t think of these convergences as significant teleological phenomena, but as ways of organizing my thoughts and writing. Or, in other words, I’m in the mood for anecdotes.

Sometimes you want to be presented with an enormous platter of raw beef, rice noodles and egg noodles, onions, mushrooms, spinach, and cabbage. Other times you want a hot cooker to be placed in front of you, greased up with pork fat and filled with a broth of sweet soya sauce. Still other times you desire nothing more than to dip your food into a bowl of raw egg and then roll it around in sticky rice. When all of these desires converge, I suggest that you go to a Japanese restaurant and order sukiyaki. I think you’ll find it satisfying on all accounts, including gastronomico-aesthetic ones not mentioned above.

Last night was one of those nights for me, and, following my own sage advice, I sought some sukuyaki at Sakora. Once there, guess who I saw dining with a friend? That’s right: Sacha Trudeau. Sacha is filmmaker, a writer, and the son of former Prime-Minister Pierre Trudeau.

My first experience with Sacha was a surreal one. It was the summer of 2001 and I was working at the Human Resources Department of the federal government. I wasn’t doing anything wrong, just minding my own business, when my boss’ boss’ boss’ secretary approached me and told me that Sacha Trudeau was on the phone waiting for me. This was unexpected to say the least. What did he want to speak to me about? Perhaps Doctorow’s Ragtime, I mistakenly conjectured. I’ve always liked that book, and thought that he probably did too (doesn’t everybody?). I figured he had probably heard of my considerable interpretive skill and far-reaching knowledge of American cultural history, and wanted to “get my take on it.” But no, what he actually wanted to talk to me about was real-estate: apparently, he’d found for me an unbelievably affordable two bedroom apartment in Mile End. We exchanged pleasantries, he told me about the apartment, I thanked him and said goodbye. Unanswered questions persisted. I wondered if he did this for everybody – a sort of year-round realty Santa.

Eventually it came out that the surprise call was the result of the backroom machinations of another Santa: the Real Santa. I met the Real Santa (Steve, he humbly prefers to be called) when I told my boss’ boss’ boss that my band was recording an album.

“Oh, well, you have to meet Steve,” she said of her friend and coworker.

I didn’t know why I had to meet Steve and was, frankly, extremely skeptical about how imperative it was that I do. It turned out that she was right. In fact, it’s probably true that everyone has to meet Steve. For one thing, Steve owns an island. He’s not a rich man, but he owns an island. In addition, he’s fond of telling a story the moral of which is “keep your mouth shut when riding a motorcycle,” the subject of which is the time he swallowed a whole bat. The veracity of the story, I’ve been told, was once challenged by Steve’s good friend Sacha Trudeau; whereupon, Steve proved, analytically, that the story was 100% true. (I haven’t seen the proof but apparently it follows directly from Russell’s (1872-1970) Paradox). He is also – and this is the reason I had to meet him – a lover, collector, and maintainer of vintage music gear. Over the years, he has sold me many guitars and amplifiers for unreasonably low prices, including the only person who truly understands me - my 1961 Gretsch Country Gentleman - for a pittance. He is an extraordinarily generous man. When I told him that I was looking for a place in Montreal for September, he told his best Montreal friend to try to find a place for me.

I can at times - as Sean and Dan can attest to - be something of an absent, or at least foul-weather, friend. Since I stopped going back to Ottawa for the summers I’ve lost touch with Steve. The last contact I had with him was an email I received on my twenty-third birthday (I’m now 63) whose subject was “ukulele” (he gave me one, via my parents, as a birthday gift), which stated simply:

“Everybody's Talkin'
Fred Neil

Everybody's talkin' at me
I don't hear a word they're sayin'
C7 F
Only the echos of my mind
People stop and stare
I can't see their faces
C7 F
Only the shadows of their eyes
Gm7 C7
Chorus: I'm goin' where the sun keeps shinin'
F Cm7 F7 Gm7
through the pourin' rain
C7 F F7
Goin' where the weather suits my clothes
Gm7 C7
Bankin' off of the northeast wind
F F7
Sailin' on a summer breeze
Bb C7 F
Skippin' over the ocean like a stone

C7 F
And, I won't let you leave my love behind
C7 F
No, I won't let you leave my love behind
C7 F
And, I won't let you leave my love behind”

No explanation or nothin. And I haven’t heard from him since.

His email renders me kind of superfluous here, but I can say this:

Bobby Bare’s version is like a Robert Altman film. Everybody’s talkin’ at the same time - we pan across the band, each part of the conversation moving into focus briefly, and then falling to the background. [Buy]


Shotgun and Jaybird - "For The Kids"

This song is a tiny Marc Chagall (1887-1985) painting. It’s a ukulele in a barbershop. A barbershop in a storm. A thick bolt of muted yellow lightning (the electric guitar) bisects the corner of the canvas. [Info]

Posted by Jordan at 2:22 AM | Comments (10)

April 12, 2006

Said the Guests: Dave Bailey

Land Ahoy! - "Endless Diction"
David Bailey - "Endless Diction" (click for full size) [more info on Land Ahoy!]

Former Bullies - "The World Ended"

David Bailey - "The World Ended" (click for full size) [more info on Former Bullies]

[My name is David and i live in Manchester. My friend Lucy Jones and I call ourselves Mount Pleasant and we have the drawing fever. I like making (intense) posters, (extreme) record covers and thinking about making (funny) books. I'd like to do more of all these things. I do some work for magazines, most regularly Plan B and NME.

I recently painted an eye on a mountain and some maggots coming out of a skull. I also like drawing 3D letters, splurging tubes and hairy arms. There might very possibly maybe be some Mount Pleasant exhibitions in Manchester and London in May/June but keeping a watchful eye on our site is the best way to sift the fact from the fiction. You can buy posters from the site, they're £3 each or 4 for £10 plus a little p&p, e-mail me yo. You should also go out and snort up all the Land Ahoy! (RIP) and Former Bullies you possibly can.]

(Previous guest-blogs, in and out of the Said the Guests series: Agent Simple, artist Keith Andrew Shore, Owen Ashworth (Casiotone for the Painfully Alone), artist Kit Malo with Alden Penner (The Unicorns) 1 2, artist Rachell Sumpter, artist Katy Horan 1 2, David Barclay (The Diskettes), artist Drew Heffron, Carl Wilson, artist Tim Moore, Michael Nau (Page France), Devin Davis, Will Sheff (Okkervil River), Edward Droste (Grizzly Bear), Hello Saferide, Damon Krukowski (Damon & Naomi), Brian Michael Roff, Howard Bilerman (producer: Silver Mt. Zion, Arcade Fire, etc.). There are many more to come.)

Posted by Sean at 12:22 AM | Comments (2)

April 11, 2006

Let Go (Of My Cuff)

Built to Spill - "Conventional Wisdom"

Dessert comes first today. The solo is in the opening, and we start out talking and then realise we've said it all already. I've said this all already. /\///\//\//\\/\/\/\///\\/\//\/\\\\\\\/\\\/\///\\/\
\/\\\\\////\/\\/\/\/\\////\/\\/\\\//\\\///\\. [Buy]

Rodrigo Y Gabriela - "PPA"

I heard this on Tofu Hut and knew you would like it. Hear them building a monster in the first half, and then be scared as they make him dance, growl, lunge, in the second. [Buy]

Carrie (feat. Cat Power) - "Cat Power / Yesterday is Here"

The publicity person of an artist named Carrie sent me one of Carrie's songs, unfortunately bearing the name "Cat Power". I couldn't listen to it properly, obviously. What I heard instead is more like what you're hearing now. A complete mess: the song itself, extremely fluffy (cats are her favourite pet), with Chan Marshall moaning in the background, somehow living inside the song, killing it, killing everything. [Buy Carrie, Buy Cat Power]

Posted by Dan at 4:35 AM | Comments (5)

April 10, 2006

"Goodnight, Silly." "Goodnight, Billy."

Bishop Allen - "The News From Your Bed"

This audience, this StG readership, this is probably old news to you by now. Bishop Allen is making an EP per month for twelve months, ending in an album. And this isn't even from a new EP, it's from February. But this song is so much better than anything else I could tell you about today, just hold my hands and listen for a second. I just bought Mutual Appreciation (which apparently you can't do anymore, until later) and now, despite thinking it impossible, I've gained even more affection and interest and rosy-cheeked, almost embarrassed, love, for Bishop Allen's songs. This song is as simple as a door opening and closing, as tidy as your first homework assignment for the year, as Eleanor Rigby as it can get today without just crying all day. We tried that first kind, that was so dark it was cold to touch. This is a warm back, spiny bumps under your fingers. [Buy]

Leo Kottke - "The Train and the Gate: From Terry's Movie"

I kind of look at these posts as little singles. Like mini releases that we are putting out every day. I think it's an easy transition to make, I mean, look at the catbirdseat. So yeah, my point is this second song always feels like a b-side, and this is the kind of b-side that you ignore at first but keep coming back to. Leo Kottke performing his song from Days of Heaven (not the original, though if you have it, I would love it) with eight hands and one giant thirty-stringed guitar. He's singing as well, only all his energy is focused into his hands, so his vocal chords aren't able to vibrate. It's for the best, the lyrics are only reiterating what the guitar is jumping up and down and yelling.
[Buy The Essential Leo Kottke, or Days of Heaven]

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

April 7, 2006


The Pendulums - "Brand New Song". This song is a memo. It is a debriefing. It makes things known. It is a song about having things. These are the things that are had and the people who have them:

MichaelBonzo Dog Band (album)
MartinCommodore 64 (keyboard)
Jamesshiny trombone (trombone)
Vinnycircular tent (circular)
Solveigpair of socks (stripey)
Carolball of wool (tangled)
everybodya brand new thing

I'm not making that up or being metaphorical. The song is a memo, it's a debriefing, it makes the above known. In plain english. And also with la-la-la, taddle-um, violin, guitar, bass, and with a trombone that will come right up to you and shake your hand. Who's got the trombone? James.

Okay, but don't you hate memos? Don't you wish memos were soft-boiled eggs, with bacon and root beer? Maybe some mushrooms on the side? Don't you wish "memo" was code for jumping from fencepost to fencepost? Well The Pendulums are from Glasgow and Edinburgh, they like Gong and Pentangle and the Incredible String Band, and the Bonzo Dog Band too. They are that and they like those bands and they have the things mentioned above. And to them a memo's a song; a song's a breakfast; a breakfast's a hop, a skip and a jump. It's the funnest thing in the creek.


Catbirdseat introduces us to a remarkably great artist called Beirut. Balkan strut and lake-buzzy trumpet, but wearing the Magnetic Fields' suits.

Volume II of the Contrast podcast features songs selected and introduced by various mp3bloggers from around the world. Tunes by Ween, Wilco, Cursive, McLusky and many more. Also featuring a song selected by me, by a band called Sexual Harassment (posted here more than two years ago). And yes, you can hear my silly, creaky, crinkly voice.

And (inevitably) a great (happy) piece by Marcello Carlin on Ornette Coleman and (!) The Constantines.

Posted by Sean at 3:00 AM | Comments (8)

April 6, 2006


Final Fantasy - "Song Song Song"

I was at a Final Fantasy show in Toronto in August of last year, it was a crowded, orange night. There was someone who shouted "pretentious crap!" after the second song, and you could see Owen Pallett trying to ignore it and move on. And then it was like an idea came to him, and he played this song, with vigour, with screams, and completely note-perfect. Halfway through, everyone could tell it was something special, because he added yet another loop, and it was that glorious final "riff" (can I use that? I don't want to). He was bringing this song to it's finish, and we're all 3 feet in the air, and he lets us down by our noses. The crowd was literally screaming, and it was one of those Evil Mayor situations, where he can't help but clap, he couldn't deny, as a few of us cast him so-there glances. It was a glowing feeling.
He Poos Clouds is completely marvelous. And listening to "Song Song Song" is like finding a new puppy inside of another new puppy. From its army of tiny drummers at the beginning, to its unwashed "smart for a girl!" rage, to its ascension into the clouds (yes, clouds are in heaven, yes, that's what they're made of). He sings of credibility, reform, and generally making yourself okay, respectable or even respected. Pressing what is left into new. As I write this a man is howling "Bridge Over Troubled Water" in the park outside my window.

[May 9th (we'll remind you) on [][][][][][] and Tomlab]


La Guerre Des Tuques - "EU"

Surfing at the speed of walking, sunsets that last 3 days, a beach is just a desert with water. I love the dichotomy of this song; is this the best thing that's ever happened to me, or am I completely wasting my time?

[4$! (plus, I'm in the liner notes, so get it to see that too!)]

Posted by Dan at 3:54 PM | Comments (4)

April 5, 2006

Speaking of Israel

Simon Finn - "Patrice"

Freak-folk from back when it was called Acid-folk. Simon Finn has delusions of grandeur ("my poems rule the universe..." ), a tendency toward the trite psychedelic image ("may eagles lead your way," etc., etc.), and a voice that falls easily out of tune. Yet, his mossy songs are worthy of our attention. His spartan, quiet arrangements reveal the undeniable melodies at the centre of his work. Listen to the delicate acoustic guitar pattern; invariable, yet gaining power as Finn wraps it in increasingly dense layers of flute tones. Also, sometimes he delivers lyrics like Destroyer does.


Simon Finn - "Jerusalem"

If Leonard Cohen was less careful, if he could lose his temper completely, subordinate his intellect to his emotions entirely, he might have recorded "Jerusalem".

Simon Finn invites augurs to determine what they will from his insides, which he has conveniently put on display. I'm no augur, but Finn's organ does not appear to me to bode well. [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 7:25 PM | Comments (8)

I Don't Want To Alarm You...

...but I think Sean and Dan are trying to get rid of me. Every Sunday, Dan and I receive an email from Sean that contains a solution to one previously unsolved problem in mathematics (Goldbach's conjecture is true, btw) and our weekly posting schedule. This Sunday, I received no such email. According to Sean, he sent it, and clearly Dan got it, but I waited all day, refreshing my Gmail every thirty seconds and crying loudly. I emailed Sean to find out when I was supposed to post this week and he barely got back to me, eventually replying with an email that was so vague and hesitant that it made me reconsider my welcomeness here at StG. "If you really want to post, I guess you could post Whensday [sic]. I was going to do it - or failing that, Dan or someone else - but I guess you could, maybe. But, overall, I'd prefer that you didn't." I asked Dan what was up and he replied with a simple but very hateful email, essentially suggesting that I "move back to Israel." But I never lived in Israel, which is weird. Anyway, all this to say: sorry, late post today. Songs and words will be presented by me this evening. Whether Sean and Dan like it or not.

How's everybody's day going? Working hard?

Posted by Jordan at 3:01 PM | Comments (5)

April 4, 2006

Big Plans To Make Plans

Daniel Johnston - "Careless Soul"

This song has a spike right in the middle of it. You can't avoid it, you're going to walk right into it, even though I'm telling you about it. It's going to go right through you, in your chest and out your back, and you're going to have to walk around with a spike sticking out of you for the rest of your life. It's a voice that cracks with tears.

[Buy 1990, and get excited about the Daniel Johnston movie]


Hi Lo Trons - "Oh, My"

I wrote about Hi Lo Trons' new album, Bella Simone, in November, back when I didn't have the rest of the album, and only had "Look, Wow". Well, it turns out there are 2 best songs on this record. And they're allowed to share this title because they're so different (despite both having word-comma-word titles).
"Oh, My" is a one-sided duet, where both vocalists conspire to one end: a mood of anticipation, forthcoming regret, and old moves you thought you forgot. Oh, this is how it feels, right. Those eyes are open again. It definitely takes place on a summer night.

[site. (email them, tell them to sell you a cd)]

Posted by Dan at 2:32 AM | Comments (13)

April 3, 2006


Bruce Springsteen - "Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street". Taken from Springsteen's "first-ever radio station show and the earliest circulating 'live' material with the E Street Band", what I like best is that it doesn't feel like "Springsteen" or "The Boss" playing - it just sounds like a guy called Bruce, and his pals. Bruce is full of such joy; he's so happy to be there. Listen to the way he says "Yay!" at the end of the session. It's "Yay!" for chrissakes, but you can hear the smile. And before that, too - when Bruce droopy-slurs his way through "Rex said that lady left him limp"; when the accordion tips his head inside the door; when the saxophone shuffles carefully in, spinning and trying not to knock over the furniture; when Bruce gives two uhs and a "sock-it-to-me", as if he's trying the whoops on for size. These are the kinds of things I want to use to wallpaper my room.

On this recording, Bruce has a voice like Dylan or Van Morrison: a voice that strains into its lyrics; a man fitting into a suit that just barely, precisely fits. It's a singing that's suited to sudden jubilance, to exhortations, to whirls of feeling. He doesn't go overboard here, no, but you can hear the tremble in him - he's feeling like a real musician, a real singer, a real songwriter. Like someone who's finally caught in the current of his own career. Some lucky young matador.

The Desks - "We Will Rise, You Know, We Will". I think by this point we've established that I have a soft spot - nay, the softest of spots, just a hole in my heart, - for a certain kind of dusty murmured song. At least when said song is good. And "We Will Rise, You Know, We Will" is decidedly good, decidedly dusty and decidedly murmured. Like Julie Doiron, The Robot Ate Me, Doveman, Damien Jurado, Thanksgiving - oh, the whole boat of them. Here it's The Desks' electric and acoustic guitars, a creaky larynx, an organ and an electric harpsichord. And a song that's catchy, in its own tiny way. Like a big acheing ballad turned into a little train - a locomotive the size of an orange, puffpuffpuffing its way around your apartment.

[more songs/info] (thanks tim)


P.S. There aren't any readers in the Orkney Islands, are there?

Posted by Sean at 3:00 AM | Comments (12)