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.

May 31, 2006

||||\\\\|||| (((( ))))

Thom Yorke - "Atoms For Peace" (go huntin')

I feel so lucky. I feel like yesterday I was sick, and today I have the greatest father in the world. I feel 8-years-old, terrible at acting. Not funny, not moving, just generally uninteresting. Going home, crying about it, a hand on my back. "You should be the statistician for the play, you like numbers." I loved numbers. Ten different ways to make the change in my pocket. "You could do surveys of what the audience liked and didn't like, change the play." I did, by the last night, the baker's wife survived and the play was a lot shorter. They were right, it was better.

A lot of people have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, and this is the most encouraging song I've heard in a long time. [info]


The OhSees - "The Dumb Drums"

I found the OhSees on the sidewalk, they were in a little package wrapped in brown paper, marked only with the word "country", and an air mail sticker. I picked it up to open it and the brown paper dripped off like pudding, and a laminated picture of cartoon ants playing instruments (with incorrect fingering) was all that was left. This song walks with a limp. [pre-order]

Posted by Dan at 1:47 AM | Comments (4)

May 30, 2006

It Can Stand For Anything

Frankie Sparo - "Back on Speed"

1. If you must know, then yes, I played in a Scrabble tournament this past weekend. So what? Why must you judge me so? In any case, the point is this: it turns out that 'reimbue' isn't a word. Nor is 'heaviosity'. Yet this song exemplifies the quality of heaviosity and could reimbue any lost soul's life with meaning.

2. "Back on Speed" begins with a painfully sparse distorted guitar riff and a shaker on the downbeat. It's a horse's trot in 3/4, a trot into some deeply dangerous territory. Most of Frankie Sparo's second album Welcome Crummy Mystics sounds like slowly dying from a stab wound, so it wouldn't be ridiculous of you to think, for instance, that this intro is the sound of, say, the trotting of the four horses on whom ride the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Not ridiculous, but incorrect.

3. Remember Story Starters? Based on the erroneous idea that children can't come up with their own story ideas, sometimes teachers will, when assigning writing tasks to grade-schoolers, give them Story Starters like "What if Earth were a polygon instead of a sphere?" or "What if 'sphere' were the only word in our language and a perfect polygon the only object in our world, then how could we talk about anything, never mind the only two things that matter: newborns and peppercorns?" etc.

4. Quiet down class. Here's a homework assignment worth 100% of your final grade: take however much of the first thirty seconds of this song and use it as a Song Starter for your own song. Record it and send it to me. I'll judge it, and if I like it, I'll send it around to record labels as my own. Thus is my insouciance in the face of copyright law and the ethical realm. But seriously, I want you to do it, OK?

5. Because none of you, having only heard the first thirty seconds of the song, could expect anything like what follows. The vocals - unlike any elsewhere on the album - have so much fight and life in them. Harmonically, the song moves little: here, as in life, there are small steps up, small steps down, full of effort and tension, but no cadence or resolution. That is, until 2:16, when the choir kicks in and the sparse riff from the beginning reemerges, and now we get our cadence and our resolution, and yes, this is death, but not from a stab wound. This isn't the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the already dead and decayed, this is Ethan Frome and Mattie Silver, or even Thelma and Louise, only now, as they embrace the end, experiencing life fully. [Info]

Posted by Jordan at 3:46 PM | Comments (5)

May 29, 2006

sky's the limit

"I would characterize my music as some cross between Bjork, Three 6 Mafia, and Pinback," he said.

Jamie Radford - "This A Break-Up Song". It's a sad song but it's too reassuring to be depressing. There's a motion, a comfort, a lope. A man suffering through a break-up who decided to stay up all night and make a song about it; he didn't need something to help him through his heartbreak, rather he uses the heartbreak to help him through a song. This doesn't mean it's vapid - far from it. But the emotion in this hip-hop track (a song of late-night humidity, iridescent sweat, swaying Georgia fields) isn't knife-edge vulnerability. It's breathing and progressing, the Bjork sample sounding every time like a beginning, not a farewell. Radford's accent makes him sound most to me like Bubba Sparxxx and he also shares Sparxxx's ability to sound steady on unsteady ground. "I'm broken up / I'm choking up," he says. But he says it with clarity. He's on top of things. While the mbira is tender, Radford's got certainty. This is how I feel. This is it. It reminds me more of Notorious BIG's self-assured "Sky's the Limit" than it does The Streets' aching "Too Late".

Jamie Radford - "You're So Warm". Athens is a very good debut, Bubba mixed with The Eels, glimmer with beat. There are emo-tinged rap tracks like the one above and then there are sparkling instrumentals like this one. It burbles and blushes, flushes and flashes, but while everything ticks and rattles and swoons it's the perfect lasergun kid-voice sample that gives this track its glue. "Boow-boow!" Like someone pointing at you and firing off an imaginary ray. Like a meteor breaking up in the sky. Like the first glimpse of a true, true love.

Listen to more from Athens at Jamie's website. It will be available for purchase soon.

Posted by Sean at 3:00 AM | Comments (1)

May 26, 2006


Grizzly Bear - "Lullabye". The next Grizzly Bear album is called Yellow House and it is an album that rolls out like an army of giants, like a barrage of comets. Whereas Horn of Plenty is slow and swimming, Yellow House crunches villages underfoot, squeezes hearts in its hands, roars and flashes and fires. It's really fucking great and an enormous leap forward. They've been listening to Terry Riley, p:ano and the Polyphonic Spree - orchestral post-pop that you can fit in yr luggage. They've been teaching their garden to sing. They've been finding a drummer. "Lullabye" is a song of build and build and build, the Northern Lights coming crowding out of the sky while the bassline just skates on, impervious. It blows a balloon bigger and bigger, till you think it gotta explode, till the balloon just carries the blower away. A lullabye "Lullabye" ain't. Except maybe the Final lullabye. The one to send you staggering, crowing, climaxing all the way into the next world.

[Yellow House is out later this year. In the meantime you can hear another new song at Stereogum, and a third at the Grizzly Bear website]

Hamza El Din - "The Water Wheel". The Nubian musician Hamza El Din died this week. My knowledge of Hamza's music is limited to one record, Escalay (The Water Wheel), but that is an album which has given me long moments of peace. Hamza El Din was a master of the oud and the tar. I am not sure what he is playing on "Water Wheel". I think the oud, the north African lute. He sings only sometimes. Mostly this is strum and beat and resound. It's peace, like I said. It's progress and stillness and movement and pause. Hamza was trained as an electrical engineer, and in Sufi mysticism. His music sounds like these things - the work of an engineer, a mystic, a virtuoso. He uses the bones, the hair, the organs of the song. He uses every piece of the song. When the song is done, there are no parts left. When I mentioned "The Water Wheel" to J, he spoke of its minimalism. This isn't the busy "world music" of Varttina or Ladysmith Black Mambazo. This is peace. It's strings and voice and the dry, dry south of Egypt. A long horizon.

If it's dawn when you are reading this, put it on. Listen for twenty-one minutes and thirty-eight seconds. If it's not dawn, perhaps you should put it away somewhere. Onto a CD or an iPod. Into a pocket or onto a piece of string. Save it for a dawn, or a hot white day, or a moment amid greenery when you feel a fluttering in the air.




The newest Contrast podcast is made up of songs that are longer than eight minutes. Some notes: (1) It seems Brian has the same favourite record as me; (2) Eric makes me laugh; (3) Green Day are pretty surprising; and (4) You can hear me mumbling an introduction to a Songs:Ohia song that will make you sigh.

Posted by Sean at 6:30 AM | Comments (20)

May 25, 2006


Brown Bird - "Monkey or an Engineer"

Don't look down upon Brown Bird just because he can't decide whether he is a monkey or an engineer. It isn't always easy to distinguish. One point of confusion, for instance, is that monkeys engineer and engineers monkey. Another is that engineers and monkeys both have tails, are good at mathematics, drink white wine to the exclusion of all else, etc. Capuchin? That's a monkey. But, Spider Monkey? da Vinci? Rhesus? Alexander Graham Bell? Who can tell?

Brown Bird is not a sound engineer, that's for sure: tape hiss is featured prominently throughout his song. Then again, the song he engineered is artistically sound, and therefore, yes, in at least two senses he is a sound engineer. We mustn't forget, though, that monkeys are also sound engineers of, for example, monkey nests. So what do we know? Certainly not whether Brown Bird is a monkey or an engineer. We do know, however, that "Monkey or an Engineer" is neither a monkey nor an engineer, but a wise old ballad. [Info]

Posted by Jordan at 8:56 PM | Comments (3)

May 24, 2006

Said the Guests: Arcade Fire (Will Butler)

The first time I saw Will Butler was at an Arcade Fire gig at Win and Brendan's apartment. They had stuck branches all around the ceiling, with apples hanging from twine. Win had the picture of an apple taped onto his guitar and Regine was handing out apples in the crowd. Lots of apples. And Win's brother was there, the famous brother, the kid from Chicago who had a spark in his eye and was playing his heart out on clarinet. Then he was yelling his heart out through a pylon, using it like a megaphone. There was something daring in him, this was certain. And although we hadn't yet exchanged even a word, I felt like I knew the guy. Like I knew the song "William Pierce Butler". Later I said hi, I said good show. Something like that. And he shook my hand.

Eighteen months ago, I asked Said the Gramophone readers for suggestions of Scandinavian and Eastern European music. Will said I should look out for Psi Vojaci and Iva Bittova. I did. I also followed his later suggestions: I ate sweet dumplings from the children's menu at Prague's Imperial Cafe. I visited the ossuary in Kutna Hora. And then months later, I think on the streets of Amsterdam, I made a suggestion to Will: please, please write something for us.

And now he has.

Will: all my thanks. The rest of you: enjoy! -- Sean

Rock and roll has been bizarrely important in Czech history. Here’s a little bullet pointed list to sum things up:

  • 1964: Beatlemania hits the world. Even the Communist world. Kids start playing in rock and roll bands. It’s exactly like the rest of the world. As the ‘60s progress, it’s also exactly like the rest of the world. Kids start wearing bell bottoms and mouthing off to their parents. They smoke pot and listen to the Doors.

  • 1968: The Prague Spring. President Dubcek tries to lighten things up in the Ole’ Czechoslovakia: some reforms here and there, and the Soviets send in tanks to make the regime more oppressive again. The hippies and the kids into psychedelic music get really bummed. From this point on, crazy hippie music and the like becomes illegal. Well, sort of. Here’s a brief explanation of Communist legality:
    Some things are ‘legal’. Some things are ‘illegal’. And everything else is merely not ‘legal’ a.k.a. ‘We didn’t say you couldn’t do it, but we didn’t say you could do it. So you know, go ahead and do it if you want. Because it’s not illegal. Heaven forbid. We’d be a bunch of crazy bastards to make something like weird rock and roll music illegal. But we will arrest you for playing it. Maybe. I mean, maybe we won’t. Because it isn’t technically illegal, mind you. But we’ll look at you funny. I mean, sure it’s fine if you own like three or four Velvet Underground records. Be our guest. But your neighbors will rat on you. And then... well, we probably won’t arrest you. But if you do anything else... we might arrest you. And then again, we might not. Because it’s not technically illegal... mind you...’
    Just after the tanks roll in, this group called ‘The Plastic People of the Universe’ form. They start as a Velvet Underground cover band. They also play Frank Zappa songs and put on weird psychedelic art shows.

  • 1976: The Plastic People of the Universe are arrested for "Organized Disturbance of the Peace". This is how it happened: as their brand of music was not ‘legal', they couldn’t get licenses to perform (you need a license for everything in damn Communist Czechoslovakia). So they would pull tricks like, ‘Oh, this is our friends wedding, and we’re just a bunch of friends playing music - we’re not putting on a show'. Or ‘This is just a simple fireman’s ball — not open to the public. It’s not a rock and roll show. Just a private party. Everything seems to be in order, right?’ And this weird little method worked pretty well, until 1976.

  • 1977: Friend of the Plastic People, future first President of Czechoslovakia (and later the Czech Republic), and then absurdist playwright Vaclav Havel raises a ruckus about the arrest. He organizes various intellectuals and artists around ‘Charter 77’ - basically a document calling for human rights.

  • And now everything else: The Charter 77 group goes on to form the core of the intellectual resistance to the Communist government, which is ultimately toppled by student demonstrations snowballing into everyone demonstrations in 1989. They call the revolution "The Velvet Revolution" because it’s non-violent and everything goes so smoothly. And also because the leaders of the opposition were really into the Velvet Underground. I’m not kidding. Absurdist playwright Vaclav Havel becomes president and in his first month invites Frank Zappa to the presidential castle as a guest of state (US Ambassador to Czechoslovakia Shirley Temple Black (yes, that Shirley Temple) meets him at the airport and asks him how his daughter Moon Unit is doing). Later on in the year he has Lou Reed come as an official state visitor and play songs with the Plastic People of the Universe, who are totally stoked about it.

So here’s some Czech rock and roll. Perhaps you’d like to hear the Plastic People of the Universe. Well, I don’t know them that well, and what I do know, I don’t like that much. I mean it’s fine and interesting and all, but just isn’t my cup of tea. So you can find that on your own, if you’d like.

Here’s the underground Czech rock and roll I like best: Psi Vojaci (Psee Voh-yahtzee).

Psi Vojaci (Dog Soldiers, in translation) formed in 1979, and opened for the Plastic People of the Universe (out of prison by that point) at various illegal shows. They weren’t allowed a license to perform until 1986 - at which point really angry punk rock and roll was getting popular. The government figured it’d better cut its losses and allow weird music that wasn’t expressly anti-government—anything to distract the kids.

That reminds me — The Plastic People and Psi Vojaci and most of these bands didn’t really give a crap about politics. I mean, they weren’t singing diatribes against communism or against the government or anything. They just played dark, weird music. And that’s all they wanted to do. But the government only really approved of bland pop music or upbeat adult contemporary music. Not that the other music was illegal, mind you.

But here’s the music:

Psi Vojaci - "Psi Vojaci"

This is from Psi Vojaci’s first illegal album from 1980- Psi a vojaci. It was distributed by cassette tape - people making copies for their friends, etc. The lead singer and piano player Filip Topol is 14 in this recording. He sounds like he means what he’s saying, whatever it is that he’s saying.

Psi Vojaci - "Ziletky"

This is from their album Narod Psych Vojaku (Nation of Dog Soldiers). This recording is from the 1990s - Psi Vojaci went into a proper studio and recorded songs they hadn’t been able to record under the Communist regime and also re-recorded songs that they hadn’t really done justice to before (if you listed to the first song "Psi Vojaci," you can understand that they’d like to up the sound quality). "Ziletky" is pronounced "Zhiletky" and means "razors". "Zhiletky" comes from the word, wait for it - Gillette. The best a man can get. Truly the world's languages are a marvelous thing.

Filip Topol and Agon Orchestra - "Ziletky"

In 2000 the lead singer of Psi Vojaci worked with the Agon Orchestra (a fairly well respected Czech avant-garde orchestra) on orchestral versions of Psi Vojaci songs. This is a beautiful album. You can hear the clarinetist breathing. And you can hear his playing get ragged towards the end. These Czechs mean what they mean when they play music. This song "Ziletky" is the best stuff of Czech rock and roll. It’s really catchy, but not in a dancey way. The clarinet part isn’t that far off from "Take On Me" - but it’s melancholy and orchestral and Eastern European. And Filip Topol still sounds like he really means what he’s singing. Whatever it is that he’s singing.

Ex Orchest - "Kokend Asfalt"

And here’s a bonus piece of music: Since we’re dealing with avant-garde orchestral versions of European rock and roll songs featuring lead singers yelling their vocals and sounding like they mean it, here’s the Ex Orchest with "Kokend Asfalt" (A version of The Ex’s song "State of Shock" performed by The Ex along with a bunch of loud instrument people).

Have a safe and happy new year.

[more info on Psi Vojaci, and store links]

[Will Butler plays guitar, glockenspiel, synthesiser, clarinet, loudhailer, crash helmet, broken cymbal, and many other things with the band Arcade Fire. While studying at Northwestern, Will was program director at WNUR, which Spin in 2003 declared the best college station in the USA. He hosted a rock'n'roll show as well as The Lit Show, because he likes books. Arcade Fire released their debut LP, Funeral, in 2004. They are currently working on their follow-up with the help of a man from Seattle.]

(Previous guest-blogs, in and out of the Said the Guests series: Al Kratina, Eugene Mirman, 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 (28)

May 23, 2006


Duels - "What We Did Wrong"

Three images:
1. David Bowie hitting a row of tee-balls out of the park. One, two, three, four, five, six home runs, no outs.
2. Matthew Friedberger's piano, finally fixed, rushing downstream, him laughing from inside.
3. The Harlem Shakes, wrapped in a Beatles flag, jumping off a ten-storey building into a waiting hammock.

Duels are loud, without being compensatory, regular without being uninteresting. This should be a "hit". As in, it should hit you. [Buy]

Frog Eyes - "A Latex Ice Age"

On phoningitin, Carey Mercer describes this song as being, about his girlfriend, evocative of great happiness, that every time he hears it (hears himself playing it, I guess) he hears birds singing and sees sun shining. This is the first version of this song where I can relate to that. Every other version is so dark brown, so distant church-bell resonant, I never saw it as anything but another ominous dirge from the best producers of ominous dirges the world has ever known.

But now I see it.

It's a bedtime story, it's a grinning shrug, a giving up on all that doesn't matter. It's still a plodding march, but the kind you do at a wedding, or the way a baby slowly marches towards the light. [Buy The Golden River expanded re-issue]

posted in memory of the cancelled Frog Eyes show. next time, please come soon.

Posted by Dan at 4:52 AM | Comments (5)

May 19, 2006

Nothing Came To Mind

[I asked my good friend Roger to write today's post. It's not a guest post, even though, in my house, he's my guest.] -Dan.

I find it (sort of/entirely) funny that Dan asked me to post just because he knows how few opinions I have. Any opinion I "form" is based on agreeing with attractive women to further conversation. So, what I've done for you is transcribe what the prettiest girls I know had to say about these songs. They get it so you can, too.

Mazarin - "Another One Goes By"

Nico: His voice reminds me of that "Video Killed The Radio Star" guy. It kind of makes me want to smoke even though I really shouldn't. Especially in the summer, it just gets like auggggh. But, yeah, I like it. Is that....goodshouldIsaymore?

Ginesse: I really like that it kind of sounds like a Motown song. And I'm a sucker for slow guitar solos. It gets the gold star of winners, definitely. But I think I like the Walkmen version more. Oh, but now I don't know. Are they gonna read this? Because I really like theirs, too.

Moss: You have really warm eyes. [Buy]

TV On The Radio - "Blues From Down Here"

Nico: I feel like I should be rolling up my sleeves to mop up a slaughterhouse, but at the same time I can't stop swaying my head and shimmying my hips. I love this band. I don't know if any other singer gives me right-away-chills more. Are you checking to see if you have goosebumps?

Ginesse: Wow. This is really sexy in a summer-boyfriend way. You need to make me a cd. But actually do it this time.

Moss: (hard to understand what she was saying because of all the making out that was going on). [Buy old stuff]

Posted by Dan at 8:48 PM | Comments (7)

May 18, 2006

A Few Questions

Orillia Opry - "Lucky Wind"

1. From what little of them I’ve heard, Orillia Opry is a pretty-voiced indie-folk quartet whose long songs are guided by simply strummed acoustic guitar, and complemented by the occasional well placed vocal harmony and solid bass and drums rhythm section. Which is all very well and good, and even your mom would like it, but: you know when you’re sitting at home in a terry cloth robe, watching CSI Miami and eating a fresh angel hair pasta with home-made pesto and you’re like “oh, this is good, man, I’m really enjoying this pasta and this sauce I made and I don’t even think this meal could have been better if it had been prepared by Emeril Lagasse himself,” and then some guy who you’ve never met comes along, and yeah, he’s impeccably dressed, and yeah, he looks a lot like Peter Lorre, and yeah, here he is, uninvited, in your living room with a brick of parmesan and a grater, and he just goes wild on your pasta? I mean, he shows no restraint? And then you just start screaming at him, like “Get out of here! Who are you?!” You know? But then he gets really, really scared because of how loud and aggressive you’re being and he runs away? And now you’re super hungry because of all the adrenaline that’s running through you because of Peter Lorre and probably too because it’s that episode of CSI Miami where Eric Roberts plays the psychopathic nemesis of David Caruso and then kills himself with a pb and j sandwich just so Caruso won’t get to him first, which is really intense, so you take a big bite of your pasta and it is just, wow, it is really a lot better than it was before? In fact, it’s fucking amazing? Do you know what I mean when I say that what was a quotidian snack has now become pure ambrosia?

2. The electric guitar, with its warm, rich tone, affected with tremolo and reverb, is approached in the Motown style of switching easily between a deep groove in the rhythm playing and soulful melodic blues in the lead.

3. Later, when you’re writing your SATs, you encounter the following question:

Your angel hair and pesto was to the parmesan as Orillia Opry is to

a) Prime numbers
b) The historical Jesus
c) That glorious electric guitar

And you think ‘Thank you, Peter Lorre - for the parmesan and the help on my SATs. You sir, blew through my life like a lucky wind.’ [Info]


The Soft Disaster - "Nothing Returns"

What is it about Ottawa that breeds music like this? Probably the same thing that breeds perfect little mp3 bloggers (i.e. bureaucrats). The Ottawa indie-rock scene has quietly been developing its own sound for over a decade now, taking as its starting point the tight structures and crisply distorted intertwining guitars of the Wooden Stars. Here the Soft Disaster uses the Ottawa building blocks to make something delicately fuzzed out, with a cleverly drawn-out rising action, a moment’s climax (just enough for a few “ooh”s), and a brief, tender denouement. [Info]

Posted by Jordan at 6:58 PM | Comments (12)

May 17, 2006

bubbles and violets

Update 1:41 EST: Mostly all mp3s should be working again.

Final Fantasy - "The CN Tower Belongs to the Dead (Many Lives Version)". A b-side from the new Many Lives -> 49mp single, here Final Fantasy takes a playful song from his debut and stirs it in with the string quartet work of He Poos Clouds. It becomes a much slower song, slower in tone more than in tempo, harmonies and dissonances rising like mist in a town of many towers. You can almost hear birdsong between the strokes of cello. The lyrics that stand out stronger: "bones", "alone", "never". At the end of the song - as in the original - there are these spiralling lifts of violin... But here they don't feel quite swift enough to escape the rest of the song's gravity. Too impulsive to get away.


Pillow - "Mixologists and Waifs". The video treatment would start with a number. Which number? I think 8. 878. 8787878. Okay it would be 87878787878, repeating to infinity, just sevens and eights. And these numerals would roll slowly past, the eights maybe wheeling around a central axis, the sevens maybe leaning, and as the camera pulls back you would see the sea of 8s and 7s, the mass of them, the lines and the curves. I do not say "sea" lightly. There are waves! There is surf! There are storms! Further and further we go, the sevens and eights just dots, just points, grains of sand in the heave and crash. And what do you hear? You hear Pillow. An Italian called Luca Di Mira who is not a mathematician but rather a dj, someone laying strings and beats till the horizon recedes too far to remember, till you're floating and drowning at the same time, till you are lying on your back thinking only of Hood, and Sigur Ros, and the way a summer holiday might break your chest right open with pleasure.



A lovely new lovesong by Hello Saferide at Swedes Please.

The Long sisters, who dwell in New England, have made a video called "Suburbs With You", which is a song by Herman Dune. The song is the soundtrack. It has recorders and handclaps. It's awesome. But the important thing isn't the one or the other, the video or the song - it's the conjunction. At least one of the Long sisters is a Gramophone reader and it seems her eyes sparkle with all the same things that mine do, (that ours do?,) because this is the brightest thing I have seen all week - in a week with sunshine and lightbulbs and white birds passing slowmo over a night street. Dan's videos are black and red, they're fraught, (they're great,) but this here is different: girls and greenery, bubbles and flowers, smiles and a life so loose that anything can happen. It's a video that celebrates, celebrates, celebrates; joy to the max; the easy pleasure of friends and running and a neighbourhood you know well. Watch it.


Montrealers, go see Dan's comedy show on Thursday.

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

May 16, 2006

I'll Just Do What I Want

A delightful (relatively) new website,, is responsible for the live recording of four songs a week, by artists of a wide range. Nothing has really grabbed me, though, until now. Of course, it's Casiotone. But whatever, you can't help but be you either.

Casiotone For The Painfully Alone - "Jeanne, If You're Ever In Portland (live on Daytrotter)"

With The Donkeys as the backing band, Casiotone's country leanings begin to lean like one of those push-under puppets. Slumped over into the red. But it's still cutting, it's still full of blades, that slide along the strings and along his vowels, and down the backs of his characters. Because the saddest stories aren't afraid to admit that there's some really good stuff about life.

"It's just miles, it's only miles..",

Casiotone For The Painfully Alone - "Tonight Was A Disaster (live on Daytrotter)"

This drum, this bass, this organ, this growing (like a sponge toy, unwatched) guitar, are your only friends now. Because, as with every Casiotone song, this song is about you, and you deserve all of your feelings. You're so precious, you're in the details, the way you slide off your shoe, the way you cough away from the keyboard.

And then he says "Take it, Tony", and Tony knows where to take it. Up above your head, hovering over you when you're lying in bed, your very own cloud.

[Site] - go, go, go. they are performing such a nice service, like justconcerts has, like phoningitin does. and I'm probably going to post about them again when Sunset Rubdown and Frog Eyes do stuff together on there. That is, if I survive their concert on Saturday.


speaking of disasters, this is the last post I'll do before my first comedy show since a long time. Watching rehearsals makes me pace back and forth laughing, so I hope that's an endorsement. come out, say hi. thank you to those that came to the play last month, it was wonderful to meet you.

Posted by Dan at 2:23 AM | Comments (1)

May 15, 2006

annoyingly coy alt-pop songs sung by corduroy-draped girls trying to lay a boy in glasses

Shelby Sifers - "Half-Naked and Knocking".
Shelby Sifers - "A Happy Love Song".

A good few weeks, these. The reasons are too many to count, but I can say that it was with joy I discovered the work of Beirut - and then more joy, less than a month later, when Shelby Sifers' Yeah And I'm In Love Too made its way to my door. The debut of this California songwriter is modest and unflashy, but absolutely beautiful. Gutsy and strange, and tender as fingers against your cheek. While Sifers' voice can often recall Joanna Newsom, it's Mirah's marvelous You Think It's Like This But Really It's Like That which these songs most recall. Love songs to find in your shoes in the morning, to sit with on a hillside.

"Half-Naked and Knocking" is something you need to nurse to adulthood. A few hard looks will be enough to wilt it away. So be kind, if you're listening; be kind. And if you are kind, if you provide sunshine and rain and maybe a little of your affection, if you sing clumsily along, something will sprout that's green as spring and fresh as kiss. The guitar-line is like something straight out of a Julie Doiron record, the duetting kid has been borrowed from a birthday party (does he have a schoolboy crush on the girl with the guitar?), and when the song does go toward the lonely - Sifers' voice louder, suddenly, and almost demanding, - it's an indignance that feels deserved. A hope that you hope for her too.

"A Happy Love Song" will strike you one of two ways. Either you will buckle under cuteness overload. Or... If you are in love, or something, then this song may feel not just appropriate but necessary - the only thing precious enough to express the googly gleam in yr heart. Sifers brings in some images you'd expect, and some sweet sounds you'd expect too, but then there's the gradual accumulation of shivery unexpected thoughts. Good thoughts, daring thoughts - a bravery to her love that feels far stronger than the twisty soft delivery. "And if I ever find another / well I still love you too! / And if you find another woman / well I'd move next door to you."

[buy yeah and i'm in love too for a disgustingly cheap $10]

(A few words on the complaint that "all [girl] singers sound like Joanna Newsom, nowadays". It's true to a point - out of the woodwork are all these women with unexpected voiceboxes, tulips twined with tongues. But whereas others hear aping, I hear just slightly strange singers. For years (indie?) rock's had male singers with unconventional voices - from Will Oldham to Isaac Brock, stretching all the way back to Bob Dylan or Neil Young, - but girls in general didn't have that liberty. There were pretty-voiced singers (from Jewel to Kate Bush to Rosie Thomas), and intense (mostly pretty) singers (from Janis Joplin to PJ Harvey to Cat Power), but that's it. With the critical and popular ascendancy of Bjork and, yes, Joanna Newsom, I feel like this is changing. Suddenly women with crooked voices are being heard out by kids, by critics, by labels, in a way they hadn't before. Yeah, there are similarities between Hanne Hukkelberg and Joanna Newsom, Conor Oberst and Will Sheff, but these are similarities in vocal style more than anything else. They don't sound like impersonators - just people experimenting in similar ways with their less-than-classically-perfect voices.)


I missed it when it first aired a few weeks ago, but there is an outstanding episode of Benjamen Walker's Theory of Everything (the podcast), with one man's tale of hating Conan O'Brien.

A new trailer for Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette. Now with some dialogue! (Which actually makes me anxious.) But still - i cannot wait.

Posted by Sean at 3:00 AM | Comments (11)

May 13, 2006


Gooblar - "Uh Oh". Okay this is a lovers' fight. One long table, a man standing on one side and a woman on the other. The man turns and says something sharp. He puts a pumpkin on the table. The woman responds with another sharp word. She sets down a large potato. He turns away and picks up a lump of red cheese. He puts it on the table. He says something. She gets a slab of steak. She says something back. A trout. A watermelon. Tofu. Upside-down cake. And so they back and forth, voices rising, angry with one-another, setting down raw groceries till there's a huge pile there on the table. Flotsam between them, in every colour and shape, glistening. If the scene had a soundtrack (which, oh look! it does!), it would be a messy soundtrack: guitars giving uneasy snarls, voices scratching and mixing up. A rising confusion that the man and the woman don't know how they created, it was just suddenly there, and they're holding knives, and the only thing to do is to start cutting through things.


Josephine Foster - "Der Konig in Thule". This is the first song I've ever posted that was composed by Schubert. Also the first that was written by Goethe. Not the first sung by Josephine Foster, however, nor the first in German. So it's a song of firsts and also not of firsts. It's a song not nearly as strange as it thinks it is, whose eccentricity could curl happily at my feet. Foster's operatic vocals are paired with furry, fuzzy guitars, like the theatrical tiptoe of a particularly large monster - inching his way forward to the vanity mirror where he can try on Foster's makeup.

It's a song about a celebration, and wine, and death. And also about silly, silly kings, with too much gold in their robes. It's the clumsiest and most beautiful thing I've heard this week. And I think it probably wears beetles in its hair.

[buy her new album of German song]


The Knife/Trentemoller remix, at Fluxblog, is probably the best remix (of anything) I've heard yet this year.

Posted by Sean at 3:00 AM | Comments (4)

May 11, 2006

Just Me And My Gramophone

Yellow Jacket Avenger - "Moonlighter Prizefighter"

I previously wrote about this song on StG, but without an accompanying mp3. I described it then as "a masterful piece of pop counterpoint. The guitar work is elaborate and quick, and the vocals clipped and energetic, yet the overall effect is one of delicacy and vulnerability. Interestingly, Rocky Balboa could also be described as quick and energetic, yet delicate and vulnerable, and he was, in fact, both a moonlighter and a prizefighter." Upon further consideration, I now reject the above and embrace the opposite position. [Info]


Loudon Wainwright III - "The Swimming Song"

A collection of banalities regarding Loudon's swimming experiences during the preceding summer. Banalities, that is, except for the revelation that there is a swimming stroke called the old Australian crawl. All this is set to densely picked dueling banjos running serpentine, intertwining courses. [Buy]


My band, The Cay (brand new Myspace page), will play our first show in almost over a decade tomorrow, Friday May 12th at the Casa del Popolo in Montreal. We will be opening for two very fine bands: Snailhouse and The Silt (both of whom I've written about here). I encourage any interested readers to drop by. We should be on shortly after 10.

Posted by Jordan at 5:02 AM | Comments (8)

May 10, 2006

Said the Guests: Al Kratina

Jordan and I have known Al Kratina for years. He's one of the smartest, funniest, and most horrible people I know. For at least ten years he has been spending his days watching movies, reading comics, and writing hate literature disguised as film and comic reviews. His horror films have been shown around the world, his sarcasm disguises a passion that rivals the world's greatest lovers, and I'm so delighted with what he's written for us here today. It's so good, it'll make you rip the heads off children. -- Sean

I hate music. Which is why I find it so strange that I compulsively read this site. I suppose I come more for the writing than for the annoyingly coy alt-pop songs sung by corduroy-draped guys trying to lay a girl in glasses who works at the coffee shop on open mike night. But really, I wouldn't know, because I never bother to listen to the tracks anyway. So, when I was asked to do a guest article, I thought I'd return the favor, and write about songs no one would ever conceivably want to listen to. If you do get through the whole thing, however, I promise you a treat.

The reason I hate music is the same reason that most people like it. It's familiar, predictable, and unchallenging, like a baby blanket you've had since you were born. I don't know about yours, but my baby blanket smells like piss and vomit, and I have no interest in reliving that level of familiarity. So, pretty much the only music I listen to is black metal. It's not that this genre is particularly innovative or inventive, or even all that good, it's just that the practitioners of the form seem to hate music as much as I do. It's as if they sat down, went through every record they could find, mainstream and underground alike, and decided to do the exact opposite of what they heard. Black metal songs have no verses, no choruses, melodies, or refrains. They shift tempos and time signatures seemingly at random, the music recorded as lovingly as you would videotape a snuff film, the vocals are usually comically obscured and mocking, and it's pretty much as deliberately far away from pop music as you can get while still using a guitar, bass, and drums.

Mayhem - "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" [buy]

The first band I'm going to give you the pleasure of skipping over and not listening to is Mayhem. The band was formed in the mid 80s in Norway by a guy named Euronymous. The band mates, including 17 year old schizophrenic lead singer Dead, all moved into a house together, and had a great old time, with Dead occasionally dressing in rotten, worm-infested clothes and breathing in the fumes of a dead crow he kept in a glass jar, and Euronymous keeping himself entertained by constantly telling Dead that no one liked him and he should kill himself. Eager to test out Euronymous' theory, Dead slit his wrists and blew his brains out the top of his skull with a shotgun. In a moment of poetic irony, Euronymous found the body. Distraught, he did what any guilt-ridden friend would do, which is run to the store, get a Polaroid camera, take photos that would later become the cover to a Mayhem record, cook and eat pieces of Dead's brain, and make a necklace out of skull fragments. Later, in order to complete the recording of their first album, Mayhem hired session bassist Count Grishnack, which proved to be a poor idea, because Grishnack promptly stabbed Euronymous to death, and is now serving a 21-year jail sentence. Want to hear the song yet? Didn't think so. The song is, of course, fairly awful, but notice how it doesn't really sound like anything that you've heard before, unless you happen to listen to a lot of artillery. The drums are fast, but the song is slow. The guitars are ridiculously down-tuned, but they're playing high-notes anyway, which makes little sense. I like how there's no verse or chorus, but the deliberately off-time vocals do modulate between someone sounding like they're vomiting, and someone bellowing like a beached whale, then vomiting.

Burzum - "Spell Of Destruction" [buy]

The next song is from a one-man band called Burzum. The one man in question is Count Grishnack, whom you might remember from the previous paragraph. Before he was arrested for murder, young Grishnack was being tried for the burnings of three churches in Norway. Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that these guys burn churches a lot. Like a lot. Like 93 of them in the past ten years. When Grishnack was arrested, he was found with 150 pounds of stolen dynamite and plans to blow up a historic wooden church on a religious holiday. Why you would need written plans to blow up a wood church when you have 150 pounds of dynamite is beyond me, but then again, I'm not a psychopath. This song, "Spell of Destruction", is slow and moody, and not particularly contrary musically. It's a very simple guitar riff that quickly morphs into a hypnotic drone, but despite its aversion to traditional structure, it's not the music that sets this song apart. The vocals, which sound not unlike a woman getting eaten alive by something with sharp teeth, are what really do a number on me when I listen to it. Like a Michael Snow film, the experimental work of Burzum isolates one element of a song, and tortures it to death. Enjoy.

Emperor - "With Strength I Burn" [buy]

Emperor, also from Norway, have always taken their music to a level of seriousness familiar only to Ph.D electro-acoustic students and Radiohead. Consequently, they don't have quite the same drama in their personal lives as do the previous two bands. Except that the guitarist went to jail for burning down a church. And the bassist tried to cut a guy's face off with a serrated combat knife, and while he was in prison, his daughter died from a 'Satanic curse'. And the drummer killed a middle-aged man in Lillehammer Olympic Park. But other than that, they're doing well. Along with Dimmu Borgir, Emperor formed the foundation of the 'symphonic black metal' genre, which seeks to several all ties with traditional pop and metal, and bases its structure on the classical music of Wagner and Greig, building the songs around movements and layered instrumentation. This is actually a genuinely interesting concept, and it's too bad that the music still sounds like a machine gun fighting a chainsaw while Gollum sings a lullaby. Emperor has always had a talent for making a whole lot of incomprehensible and unappealing noise, but all of a sudden having one strong, powerful melody rise from within, like Excalibur rising from the Lake, or a dead body with an erection, and this song is no exception.

Graveworm - "Losing My Religion" [buy]

There, that wasn't so bad, was it? Now, it's time for your treat, which is R.E.M... Horribly mangled, as it should be.

[Al Kratina is clinically depressed and lives on a couch in Montreal. He is also an award winning filmmaker and writer. Currently, he writes for The Comic Book Bin, the largest comic and collectibles website in Canada, as well as for his own, shockingly unpopular movie review blog, The 16mm Shrine. In 2006, he will be directing a spec TV pilot, and a music video for math rockers Officer Girl, as well as working on the feature film version of his short film, Alex, Vampire Slayer. ]

(Previous guest-blogs, in and out of the Said the Guests series: Eugene Mirman, 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 (16)

May 9, 2006


For some reason I love: catchy British songs with sassy girls turning down pushy men.


Lily Allen - "Knock Em Out". She's the 2006 blogosphere-MySpace-BBC-musicbiz hype queen, someone with canny marketing and a dad who's a famous actor/singer. She's also someone with a hell of a song - "LDN" is one of my favourite singles of the year so far, and by far the year's most secretly cynical summer hit. And if her leaked demos are any indication, there's much more up her sleeve. So here is "Knock Em Out", a track with slippery piano and drums that keep stepping in and out of the pub. Lily sounds a bit like The Streets' Mike Skinner but she can sing, this clever lady lilt that scampers over horns, twinkles, interjections, scraps of sound. Whereas most popstars seem like bionic women, objects of lust or idolatry but never friends, Lily sounds almost approachable here. When she says, of a man, "Not in a million years!" I can almost imagine her turning to me, her trustworthy pal, so I can tumble over my barstool, make a distraction, and let her slip away.

Doctor and Davinche - "Gotta Man?". With grime breathlessness and tensing synth-strings, this is a much spikier track than "Knock Em Out" - but the goof and play is still there, steel-shiny in the darts Doctor and Davinche pass back and forth. He's confident as an aubergine (yes), she's strong-willed as a courgette (yes). So they bump into each-other grinning, each one as full of character as the other, each one more than up to the exchange of wits. Listen to the way Doctor introduces himself, like a Dickens character extending a hand - or Davinche's squeak of the lips in reply, her fake name, the hard intelligence in her eyes. Such humour hidden under the mile-a-minute flow, the rising military beats.

[buy Run the Road II]


Eric at Marathonpacks has written a marvelous, marvelous post isolating his favourite tiny little moments from The Beatles' back catalog.

Lots of other blogs have been talking about it so I'm not making a special highlight of it, but this month's free & new Bishop Allen song, "Flight 180", is really great. Copping from the Arcade Fire instead of Bishop Allen's usual guitar-pop influences, the track is a moody, driving, soaring song - a dark car falling slow motion off a highway, into the crags or onto an invisible road.

I've been enjoying the new comp by Scandinavian musicblog It's A Trap, particularly tracks by Plain Fade, Hello Saferide, Moonbabies and Munck/Johnson. A great mix of indie pop, post-rock and a little bit of pop-punk. At $6 it's a bargain, and you can stream the whole thing by clicking 'Preview' here.

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

May 8, 2006

The Long Shot By A Length

Existensminimum - "Changing Lines"

You know how famous crooners will cover new songs in an "I'm a crooner" kind of way, with lots of brass instruments, and a tongue in their cheek? Well, two things about this song: i) it would sound so much like an ACTUAL song written by one of those guys, that it wouldn't have that kitshcy quality ii) it really OUGHT to be recorded as one, because I think it would be fantastic. Stephin Merritt, you should do it. All it needs in addition is more obvious running metaphors (or is it subway metaphors?) and a big vocal finish; it should go up instead of down.

That heartbeat, that pulse, is the constant pressing of the "inflate" button. [Buy]

Heypenny - "Parade"

If LCD Soundsystem didn't realise anyone was listening, or if that sequence where all the cards jump off the deck at the end of solitaire, were a song, it might sound like this. I feel like sitting up straight when I listen to this. Sometimes, the song goes and takes a swim (the pool is ten blocks away) and comes back. [Buy]


Harry Truman, Candice Bergen, and Dylan; happy birthday.

Posted by Dan at 12:23 AM | Comments (6)

May 5, 2006

everybody's searching for a place to put their love

Rappers Delight Club - "Hum". The Rappers Delight Club is the "musical sideproject" of a young man who works with elementary high-school kids. Or rather, it's the musical sideproject of a bunch of kids who sometimes work with an enthusiastic adult. In short: this is four minutes of the looped Elmo themesong, but with kids laying it down. They rap like monsters, like beasts, like cheese-shop clerks. Like kids, really - and beyond the ceaseless sparkle of the song, there's the plain flact of their flow. "In terms of making money / I'm a gorilla / I rap so well / they call me rapzilla." Oh yes, yes yes. Minah is my favourite - she's a queenah. Or this: "I'll be sizzlin' / like the chicken noodle soup / I sold more cookies / than your whole girlscout troop." It's endlessly quotable - no, it transcends mere quotes. You want to be these kids, eight-nine-ten-eleven, strutting and whooping and rapping like it's as easy as tying your shoes. The beats are kinda lame but they stomp all over them, squeaky-sneakered. (And if you crave better beats, check the looped Wes Anderson sample on "Tick Tock".) This doesn't sound for a second like some PSA for literacy: it's just joy, friendship, play, immaturity, nonsense. It's all the things you want to stuff in your pockets with the jacks, yo-yos and that extra box of raisins.

[more info]

Okkervil River - "Happy Hearts (ft. Daniel Johnston)". Tonight, after more than four years of chasin', I will finally see Okkervil River for the first time. It will not be in the environs I would have imagined, four years ago. Not in a chandeliered Montreal hall nor by a muddy Russian river. Instead it will be in Glasgow, at a place called King Tut's Wah Wah Hut. But the band will play and me, I will watch. And hopefully I'll be able to take a moment to dance - or just to fall down in a heap, like a happy heap of coats.

One thing is certain: this song will not be performed, at least not like this. I would hope that readers of this blog are already intimately familiar with Don't Fall In Love With Everyone You See. It's one of my favourite records that have ever been made: an album of browns, greys, blacks and reds; of whites; an album that's yearning and loving and reckless with feeling. "Happy Hearts" is a duet between Okkervil River's Will Sheff and fellow Austin songwriter Daniel Johnston. In interviews, Sheff's talked about picking Johnston up from his parents' house, recording the track at the studio, then going together to buy comic books and hamburgers. Remember this, listening to a song about heartbreak.

My flatmate J dislikes "Happy Hearts": he can't warm to Johnston's crackling voice. But for me it is beautiful - a more human, less hidden counterpoint to Sheff's serious tone. And by the time the track reaches its climax, Sheff spelling out the letters of the thing he most wants in life*, Sheff's been converted to Johnston's mode. He's unable to hold back any more: he's alive, alive, feelings flush on his face, a smile as near to his lips as a frown. In the end is it a sad song? Johnston wraps everything up, the sorrowful refrain repeated yet again over play of banjo, pump of organ. Yet there's no darkness here. Instead, there's just footsteps near the door, a knock on the window, a long white night where you might fall in love with the trail of someone's skirt.

* unconditional love

[buy / see Okkervil River on tour across Europe]


A fantastic post by Eric at Marathonpacks about prog-rock and a wise bathroom scrawler.

Bows + Arrows writes with flourish about Lily Allen's terrific "LDN", thereby saving me the trouble.

Congratulations to Matthew of Fluxblog on his new column for the Associated Press.

I have a short interview with Final Fantasy in this month's issue of The Skinny. Also some live reviews of Bettye Lavette (ok), Silver Jews/Alasdair Roberts (AMAZING - longer review forthcoming), The Balanescu Quartet (ok), and Akron/Family & Adem (excellent & lame).

And... Anyone attending All Tomorrow's Parties Weekend 2 - such as, perhaps, the residents of Said the Gramophone's two chalets - may want to look at this mp3 guide to all the artists at the weekend. (Oh and chalet people, I am sorry I have been out of touch - I will send an email this weekend.)

This reminds me: I've been really, really busy lately and if anyone's sent me an email and not had a reply, I do apologise. I've had sweet things on my mind.

Posted by Sean at 3:00 AM | Comments (11)

May 4, 2006

making a short story long

Vashti Bunyan - "Diamond Day".

Carlos Sugar had never been as fast as his friends, but oh he loved to run. His father was an Olympic sprinter, a long lean man with a nose like an arrowhead. Carlos would watch him at the track, fast as poured water. And Carlos would imagine himself up there, sneakers white as seashells, pulled across the clay toward a ribbon.

But Carlos was a poor runner, one leg shorter than the other, something slightly off in his knee. He did not limp - but he ran slowly, the machinery of the act just a little crooked. For some children this would be a hard thing to cope with - always picked last at sports, always the easy catch in tag. However Carlos had a good father and a good mother and he had learned to be happy. He knew that he would be an archaeologist when he grew up, like Amanda. That he could hit a baseball clear over third base. That he could touchback anyone who tagged him.

At lunch-hour one day, Sandy and Paulo wanted to go off to the far corner of the field behind the school.

"Why?" said Christina.

"Because then," Paulo said, "we can go past the birches and down the ditch to where the grass is long."

"Why?" said Christina.

"Are you scared?" asked Sandy.

So everyone went running across the field, past where the bigger kids played soccer, past the last row of garbage cans, onward and onward. And Carlos lagged behind, too slow, and by the time his friends had reached the birches they were just specks in the distance. Carlos huffed, the grass whispering as his shoes passed over it. Come on, gestured Sandy, and then Carlos watched them slip away past the trees and out of sight.

Carlos ran for a little while longer but he was very tired and they were still very far away. He looked back towards the school - it was a small pile of beige blocks, two conifers. Carlos couldn't remember having been so far from school before, not during recess. He looked around at the clear field and the wide sky and wondered why the school had left so much room around it - why it hadn't used the space for classes, or fenced the field in and built more schools next door. Then there would be twice as many kids to play with, yelling jokes to each-other over the barrier. Oh well.

Carlos knelt down and rubbed his fingers through a tuft of crabgrass. It prickled. With that prickling a strange sort of feeling came over Carlos. He sat down, feet straight out in front of him. He felt separate, suddenly. He could make out kids back near the school, playing jump-ball or tag, or just talking. And he could see the long row of birches behind him. But he was sitting there feeling prickles in his legs, under his palms, and the sun on his forehead. He was alone in the field and not even a bird.

Carlos was eight years old. He lay down and watched the blue and just didn't move.

Some time later, the bell rang. Carlos rolled onto his side and then stood up. He walked back to the school but he took his time. He felt the sun on his shins and the back of his neck.

The next day Sandy and Paulo again suggested that they all go off past the birches. "You should come," Christina said to Carlos. "It's fun."

Carlos said he would maybe come. He followed them as he had the day before but this time he ran even slower. It was on purpose. And eventually they had receded into the distance and again Carlos was alone in the field, just him, sky and earth, a little boy in the centre of the world. He lay down and watched the clear sky. Everything felt so balanced around him, like he was a spinning, spinning top.

From that day on, every sunny day, Carlos would run out to the middle of the field behind the school and spend his lunch-hour watching the clear, blue sky. When it was raining he would do other things - a wet game of tag or arts and crafts inside. When it was overcast, then too he would go with his friends and play something, or make up stories. But on the days when it was just land and sky - and days like this were still quite common, back then, - Carlos would go into the field.

Towards the end of the school-year, Carlos was lying on his back on the grass when suddenly a cloud appeared. It didn't appear like clouds usually do, blowing wispy with the wind. No - as Carlos stared into the sky a small white cloud just came up out from it, like a drop squeezed out of a cloth. It was not large or ungainly - it was just a round, soft, plain cloud, directly above Carlos' head. He watched it and maybe it watched him but it didn't do anything. It just floated there, high above.

When the bell rang Carlos got up and walked back toward the school. After a while he looked up. The cloud was still there. Not just still in the sky - but still just there, just above his head. Carlos did not really think about this. The cloud was high up and it was probably some sort of optical illusion, like his mother had shown him in her book. He arrived at the door and lined up with the other kids, then went inside.

After school Carlos came out and the cloud was waiting. It was still the only cloud in the sky - this one random puffball, hanging like a chandelier. Carlos squinted at it for a second but then he shrugged and started walking home. When he got home he looked up: it was still there.

The next morning it was again a clear day. When Carlos left the house in the morning he was surprised, but not too surprised, that the little cloud was hovering high in the sky above his house. Like it was waiting for him. Carlos walked to school, bookbag clumping against his back, and he watched the cloud as he went. Yes, it was moving. The cloud was moving. It was moving with him.

Now in the interests of brevity I will not describe to you each of the days and months that followed. What is important is these things: There was Carlos. And there was a cloud. And the cloud followed Carlos. Carlos would still go to the middle of the field; the cloud would bob along above him until he arrived and then it would settle into a comfortable position directly above his head. On cloudy days Carlos' cloud was still there, a little lower and a little softer and a little whiter than the other clouds. On rainy days it sort of glowed.

Carlos told his parents about the cloud on a Sunday afternoon. They looked up at it. "It's definitely a cloud," said Carlos' father. "Yes," said his mother. "You have your own private cloud."

Years passed. Carlos never really went back to his older ways. He did things with Paulo sometimes. In class, he partnered with Sasha for projects. But at recess, at lunch, Carlos would go off with his cloud. As he got older - leaving primary school, going to junior high and then high-school, - he spent very little of his free time with other young people. It's not that he disliked his classmates, but they were just so noisy, so unsettled. Carlos often felt that way too but instead of rolling around in the feeling, fighting or flirting or learning to smoke, he would just go out to an open space and look at the sky, look at his cloud.

At nineteen, Carlos was serene, and proudly so. He liked that he was deliberate, that he was calm. He liked that he noticed things before other people did, that he heard quieter sounds and sensed softer breezes. He was a good person, gentle and friendly, not more than a little weird. His parents were proud of him as they sat in the audience at his recorder recital, him playing light and deep melodies, hair always falling in front of his eyes. He would toss his head to see the sheet-music and then the hair would fall back. His fingers were long.

And deep down, Carlos was also very lonely.

One Saturday, Carlos decided to go for a walk outside of town. He would walk along the main road and down the path by the lake, but then he would turn off and just wander in the low hills, just see where it led him. The light was dry and soft but the sky was clear - almost. Carlos walked, feeling the wind around his arms, and above him followed his small, familiar cloud.

After almost two hours, Carlos was in the middle of a wide valley, everywhere tall stalks of a waxy green-leafed plant. He stretched. The plants were swaying in the breeze like a clumsy sort of sea. Carlos sat down among them and took off his backpack. He rummaged inside for a granola bar and his bottle of water. He ate, he drank. And when he raised his head, the cloud was gone.

Carlos noticed this immediately. The cloud had become so familiar that he took it for granted, yes, but on days like this with low foliage and high skies there was nothing more certain than the cloud above his head - and there it wasn't. It wasn't there. Carlos stood up, startled, heart thumping. He tried to balance himself. How was he feeling? He was feeling hurt, he realised.

Then Carlos noticed that his cloud was still in the sky. It had just drifted a little away. And now it was hovering there, unmoving. Carlos looked at the cloud and looked at the plants in the valley. He looked at his shoes. He tightened his shoelaces. Then he picked up his backpack and went over toward the cloud. As he neared it, it again began to move. Away from him.

Carlos was perplexed. He didn't know what was happening or what he was doing. He had never understood the cloud but he had been able to pretend he had. And now it was moving. Did it want him to leave?

But then the cloud stopped again, hanging still until Carlos got too close and then bobbing away, light as vapour.

So Carlos followed the cloud. It would move, it would still, he would approach, it would move again. And so they moved through the valley and up a summit and down, then across a footbridge and through a wood and up over a rocky knoll. Carlos was getting quite tired but by now the cloud was not lingering for very long - it pressed on, as if trusting Carlos to follow. Carlos followed.

Carlos had just reached the peak of a small hill, dusk coming down slow, when there - directly ahead - he could see another pearly cloud, like his own, round and soft and perfect. Carlos' cloud started to move toward the other cloud and Carlos smiled. "Oh," he said, out loud. "I see," he said to his cloud. He smiled.

To follow his cloud, Carlos had to scamper down a steep incline of gravel and sand. His heels threw up dust and small flakes of mica flashed in the sunset. "We'll need to get home soon," he said. He jumped from a bigger rock down and almost tripped as he landed. He descended, he descended. When he reached the floor of the valley he raised his eyes and he saw his cloud, he saw the destination cloud, and under that second cloud - there was a person.

Carlos walked towards her, but slowly. He didn't know it was a her at first; it was just a person. Someone in white and grey, standing in the dust and reading a book. But as he and his cloud got closer, he made her out more clearly. And then he was within shouting distance. And then within speaking distance. And she looked up.

"Oh," she said. "Sorry, I didn't hear you there."

"Hi," said Carlos. "I'm sorry I didn't want to bother you."

"You're not bothering me," she said. "I was just reading."

And then they both lifted their heads to look at their clouds. The woman seemed surprised to see Carlos'. "Is that yours?" she asked. "Your cloud?"

"Yes," said Carlos.

"I didn't realise other people had clouds."

"Neither did I," said Carlos.

Their clouds were just hanging out, one next to the other, directly above their heads.

"Are they kissing?" said the woman.

"No," said Carlos. "I don't think so. Do clouds kiss?"

She gave him a look.

Carlos blushed.

It was getting dark.

"I should go," said Carlos. "I need to get back to town."

"Okay," said the woman. "I'm going to go pretty soon as well. I just want to uh finish this chapter."

Carlos nodded. It was much too dark for the woman to read, but he nodded. He hefted his backpack and started walking back up the hill. But his cloud wasn't following him. "Cloud," he said. "Come on."

Nothing happened.

Carlos went back down, back towards the woman and his cloud. "Cloud?" he said.

"What is it?" said the woman.

"It's not coming," said Carlos.

"Would you leave it?" asked the woman.

"I don't know," said Carlos.

His cloud started to move. And so did hers. They were moving together, towards the hill, back the way that Carlos had come.

"We should go," said the woman.

Carlos paused. "I suppose," he said.

They followed their clouds, walking side by side.

"Do you think they're trying to tell us something?" said the woman.

To make a long story shorter: They were.

["Diamond Day" is an old song by Vashti Bunyan. It is quite famous lately so maybe you have heard it. But have you really listened to it? Because I hadn't, not till I saw her sing on Sunday. So, now, do. And then buy.]

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

May 3, 2006

Only Vowels and Verbs

Think About Life - "After the Blue Sun" "The Matt Shane Song"

Think about this song. Think about the most inappropriate timing. For someone to walk into your bedroom. And play chopsticks on a pot they used to make themselves macaroni and ketchup salad. Of a statue, of a basketball player, that gets off his podium and offers it to you. Think about running out of words, and only being allowed to scream from now on. Unintelligible, primal, screams. They would be gleeful. I know that they would. [Buy]

The Sea & The Gulls - "Seagulls"

The loneliest crowded beach in the world. Even when everyone starts singing in unison, folk dancing in the sand, there's not a smile in the bunch. It's still cloudy, kind of cold, the kind of weather where seagulls are really noticeable, are really more like harbingers than decoration. [Info]

Posted by Dan at 12:34 AM | Comments (6)

May 2, 2006

Everything That's Ever Been Said

Yusef Lateef - "Russell and Eliot"

Russell and Eliot is an intersection in Detroit. Clearly some heavy shit obtains at the corner of Russell and Eliot. Some really seedy, nasty business. Maybe there�s a motel there. Fluorescent lights. Transient, desperate living. Suitcases, fedoras, trench coats. Or maybe there�s nothing there. Maybe Lateef was walking up Russell St. when the sinister chord progression started to take shape in his mind. Maybe he thought of that deep soul bass line with the slides at the end of every phrase as he passed Wilkins St., conceived of the lethargic, sun-stroked funk of the drums as he moved up past Erskine St. Maybe he stopped at Eliot, halted by the muse, giddy with his idea: that guitar solo.

�Russell and Eliot� is my dad�s favourite song. For all I know, it was the first song I ever heard. I could sing the guitar solo from memory by the time I was 27 days old. The solo sounds like metal and sparks and oppressive heat and it introduces a new dimension of tumult into an already decidedly unsettled composition. The weak of heart tend to die upon hearing that the solo - a behind-the-beat blues masterpiece - is matched, and subsequently surpassed in intensity by Lateef�s tenor horn: squealing, then calm, then shredding in circles like Pharoah Sanders, but slowly, like John Fahey plays guitar.

I never noticed until now that a piano enters the mix when the solo starts, only to accent occasionally, quietly, almost freely. Nor did I notice the gorgeous, almost Kraut-pop post-solo muted guitar chords.

I haven�t listened to �Russell and Eliot� in years, and now that I listen to it critically for the first time, I can�t believe how good it really is. I first loved the song because my dad loved it, then because it was accessible jazz and I wanted to like jazz, and eventually I came to appreciate it based on its intrinsic attributes. But only now do I see both what it is and what it represents for me. My dad was not an avid music listener anymore by the time I was born, but through records like this one, records that were deeply and apparently meaningful for him, he provided me with an example of and a doorway into the kind of powerful, lifelong love relationship one can have with music. The kind that he and I both have. The kind from which, if well-maintained, the romance never fades. [Buy]


Simon Joyner - "One For The Catholic Girls"

Me: Pretty much just two chords on an organ for six minutes, huh?
Simon Joyner: Yup. And my Lou Reed vocals.
Me: Why doesn�t that get boring?
Simon Joyner: Because I throw in one very brief flourish at 2:30, and then again at 5:25.
Me: But I�m not sure that�s it.
Simon Joyner: Then what?
Me: Actually, I can't quite put my finger on it.
Simon Joyner: Well, you�re a handsome genius; I�m sure you�ll figure it out eventually. Can I borrow fifteen bucks?

fin [Info/Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 4:09 AM | Comments (5)

May 1, 2006

Je Veux T'Oublie(r)

Tilly & the Wall - "Bad Education"

It's too late, you should be sleeping, but you're not. It's an orange, wooden night, and this is the song the band plays the night before you're off. It's not time for goodbyes yet, no, there's still smiles to be passed around; it's time to take advantage. Wring the last drops of enjoyment out of these minutes, force it out, it's all that's left. Choose someone, make eyes, otherwise you'll regret it. Desperate, ferocious, smashing. [pre-order Bottoms of Barrels]

Parenthetical Girls - "Love Connection"

Parenthetical Girls sit in your lap and slap you in the mouth. They write lyrics that devastate and melodies that swirl, music with a sweet power that sneaks up on you, disguised in a plaid skirt, knee-highs. You don't even understand it, but your ass is being kicked, you're being beat up, and you come to when it's over, and you're in love. [Buy new CD re-issue of (((GRRRLS)))] [and this song is covered beautifully on Etiquette]

Posted by Dan at 4:31 AM | Comments (5)