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.

June 30, 2006

Fresh Young Breath

The Theater Fire - "These Tears Could Rust a Train"

Every bar of this song exudes modesty. Perhaps the guitarist - a player of some skill - had once been accused of hotdogging, because now, though he plays confidently and with feeling, a few bum notes are thrown in for appearance's sake. Sometimes, when he slides up the neck of his guitar, he makes a sound like that of glass shattering - but not wanting to alarm us, he makes it not the sound of enormous window panes falling from the top of skyscrapers, but of bifocals falling off of a short woman's face, or maybe of little blown glass dragons falling out of a child's hand, onto hardwood floors. He loves the person who he is singing about here, but he doesn't make his love out to be of any great importance or consequence. Overall though, he thinks she's as close to perfect as someone can be (for him, anyway), except that he sometimes feels inadequate in her presence. The drummer uses a kit with only two drums and a high-hat; anything more would be like bragging, I guess. [Info]


Horse Feathers - "Finch on Saturday"

Hear hear! I hear Cat Power and M. Ward in the singer's voice, but more than anything else, this song reminds me of Arthur Russell's exquisite "A Little Lost". As with "A Little Lost", here the violin plays outside of all the dominant violin traditions: not as a classical instrument, nor as a fiddle, nor as part of a pop string section. Here it is a pop lead, playing slow and lovely riffs that define the song's melody. [From the upcoming PDX Pop Now! compilation]

Posted by Jordan at 3:50 PM | Comments (5)

June 29, 2006

Captain Bligh Vs. The Time Is Nigh

Dear Readers,

What can I tell you? Well, I can tell you that there was no post today. I could tell you whose fault that was, too. But I don't want to point fingers. Especially because, being a man without joints, I find it particularly difficult to point fingers at myself. In any case, myriad factors went into this breakdown and I don't want to bore you with a tedious multivariate analysis of everything that went wrong; or, rather, I do, but feel that you don't want me to, and you know I only give you what you want, right babies? To make up for it, I will post two whole songs tomorrow. And, what's more: I'll write about them. Big time.

In the meantime, I urge you all to check out Carl Wilson's exceptional and rather otherworldly post from yesterday. I think it's quite unlike anything that has been published on this site, or, for that matter, unlike anything on Carl's own.

Posted by Jordan at 7:08 PM | Comments (1)

June 28, 2006

Let's Begin By Saying Goodbye

Junior Boys - "Count Souvenirs"

Swoon-synth duo Junior Boys was the first overwhelming evidence I had that this music-blog fad might offer not only reams of conversation - which was plenty enough incentive - but indispensible new music. It was late 2003, the track was "Birthday," and the sensation was dizzying: Here a random group of UK critics and amateurs (a word I use here in its best sense, as in lovers) was hyping prodigal sonic sons just a few miles west of my home, Toronto - they were in Hamilton, Ont. And it would be months yet until the album, Last Exit, would come out.

“Some city scenes, you’re like a pre-teen, chasing all the latest news/ But back at home, we fix old radios, wiping off the dusted tunes”

It all seems ages ago now. Ages in music and in my life. Even that era in music blogging seems to have shuffled off its (verbal) coil, for both good and ill. Which makes Junior Boys’ upcoming So This Is Goodbye seem an improbable phantasm, a table-tap out of a seance. All part of the band’s sleight-of-hand, of course - the first album was supposedly a “last exit," yet this next stands on the threshold saying its farewells. The third album, in 2008, will no doubt be called, I Really Must Get Out of Bed and Go, Have You Seen My Socks?. Singer-writer Jeremy Greenspan and collaborator Matt Didemus work in Momento time, moving forward facing back, whistling while they drag the spirits of Cole Porter and Steely Dan unawares into the 21st century via a 1980s-vintage time machine.

"Count Souvenirs" is the most haunted and not coincidentally most compelling of the Goodbye tracks I’ve heard so far, with Greenspan working the sepia vein in his silver nitrate with a hand surer and warmer for its experience (yet still begging, “please don’t touch”). The title calls to mind standards such as "Among My Souvenirs." Yet where that song clearly paints a singer, a “me,” left alone with the tokens of a lost lover, in this version the speaking subject is barely present. Is there even an “I” in this song? He’s a man on the verge of third person, with a “we” that may as well be a “they,” so alienated is he, so outmatched by the charisma of the lover’s remnants. (Because objects dominate consciousness now?) He's become a wisp, a watcher from a bell jar, a mere value adjustor, as the dim prospect of the lover’s return holds the deed to all the space the song can spare.

“Hotel lobbies like painful hobbies that linger on”

The story could be that of American Purgatorio by John Haskell: A man goes in search of the wife who seems to have left him suddenly, without warning. He takes only a few possessions, mostly pictures and other talismans of her, and attempts to zero his instinct, his whole consciousness, on the mystery of where she has gone. As if to read her footprints in the earth's magnetism. And as he goes he finds himself shedding his personality layer by layer, to free his hands to hold on to the past. But of course the past will not be held. Can it even be touched? Or will it puncture?

Listen, as the song slides towards its ending, to the bits of backward-running sound in the breaks, as if the song itself were trying to reverse course. The lyrics linger on souvenirs but the music is eager from the outset to move on, motoring through the first two-thirds of the tune and then soaring suspended into a clearing.... Even by the end, the singer hasn't caught up with the music's hints. Perhaps that’s the body knowing better than the mind. But is music always body and lyric always mind? What of the world and the self, or time outstripping tone, forward trumping back? Maybe there’s not much knowing to be done here at all, under the dire, ever-retroactive emergency of mortality.

I've been living in a similar set of rooms, you see, the kind that disperse unbidden down avenues and bypasses, and that's the best guess I've got.

Posted by Carl Wilson at 5:44 AM | Comments (8)

June 27, 2006

July Thirst

okay, so it's not Carl's first day yet. in fact, it's me again. deal.

The Diskettes and The Port City Allstars made a split mix tape, and it's so marvelous, I want you all to experience some of it.

The Diskettes - "Do What You Need To Do" (preview)

The Diskettes made their side into one giant 15-minute track that is so much fun it gave me like three different sets of chills. I wanted to put the entire 15 minutes track up, but I couldn't in good conscience, so instead I clipped it to a 5-minute preview. It's a series of covers, blended perfectly with both self-referential and not, stock radio clips. But what's so wonderful about this stuff is that all of this stuff is so new: they're not covers people usually do (maybe the MASH theme) and they're not stock clips I've ever heard, everything is so fresh, so good. It's like a free breakfast that turns out to have more than just granola and yogurt. Above and beyond.

The Port City Allstarts - "I Dig Pop"

It sounds like this guy is playing the guitar with his mouth. Or the guitar is somehow in his mouth. And songs that use the alphabet like an easy chair are what AM radio is made of, and yet missing.


Posted by Dan at 9:58 AM | Comments (7)

June 26, 2006

The Prisoner Speaks Fondly to His Bars

Frog Eyes - "Caravan Breakers (Daytrotter session)"

Okay, this blog is becoming a Daytrotter fanblog. I can't help it, when they're posting stuff like this.

The new Frog Eyes album is going to be a beast, a lurching swaying creature with eyes that look so human. It'll be a great flag, raised up to fly in the wind, as a signal to lost peasants and low-flying planes. I want to hear it.

This song is a painting of scenery and characters in three acts:

ACT I - "the teenagers smoke up on the trails.."
What feels like a portrait of suburbia to me. The main character seems to be a kind of drug dealer, and I see those night suburban streets, with orange lights that light the house and the bike path beside it that goes past its backyard. He is walking along the path, hating the people in their homes, telling himself that he knows what he's doing.

ACT II - "I prey on the weak and the old, caravan breakers, they pray for the weak and the old.."
The business in action. The constant pull that he feels between his conscience and the strong rationalization he's set up for himself. Even just getting paid makes him feel at once incredible and terrible.

ACT III - "..."
The aftermath. Perhaps he's sampling his own merchandise, or he's spending his money on something he hates.

[buy a new ep]


David Bazan - "Backwoods Nation"

I feel like a lot of David Bazan's songs could be performed a cappella without much loss of emotion, his voice seems to seethe and bleed on the other instruments, and that's where they get their strength. And his protest-song-literality here makes me think that getting this stuff out of his head was more important than the form it took. He has no time for dressing up a message, it's too important.

[buy a new ep / see him on tour]


tomorrow: Carl Wilson's first day!

Posted by Dan at 10:38 AM | Comments (2)

June 23, 2006

And Just Like That

Ramblin' Jack Elliott - "Engineer 143"

Ramblin’ Jack Elliott’s new album is a masterwork. In his highly melodic guitar strumming - alternating bass note patterns playing counterpoint to the vocal lines - we hear not so much Woody Guthrie, as has been claimed, but what Woody Guthrie begot: early Bob Dylan. More than forty years after the fact, Elliott gives us an album that is more similar to Dylan’s brilliant self-titled debut than any I have heard. And yet this time it’s not all bravado and stance, nor borrowed drama and forced humour, as it was with Dylan, but a naturalistic statement of a life lived ramblin’.* With his first album, Dylan was fumbling toward his own style. Though there was always something unique in his voice, he had not yet fully developed the tools that would allow him to create Bob Dylan Music, and he compensated for this lack with a highly developed appreciation for the music that was his passion: old-timey folk. Elliott’s album also has an aspect of tribute, but it is the tribute one gives to a peer as opposed to an idol, and so it has a very different quality. This Americana folk music is not a stylistic springboard for Elliot, as it was for Dylan, it is his music, and he’s got playing it down to a science. [Buy]

*To avoid charges of Rockism, I should be clear that this isn’t an argument for the superiority of Elliott’s album over Dylan’s (no such argument could be sound), but merely a comparative description.


The Donkeys - "Come On Virginia"

This song is mixed like a bowl of well mixed greens (i.e. well). The vocals sit in the instrumental tracks like my cat Bruno the Berber (Purr-Purr) Kitty reads YA fiction (i.e. comfortably). The piano is like Mondrian blocks of primary colour and the slide guitar is like pastel Riopelle squiggles (i.e. the piano player is Piet Mondrian and he didn’t so much play piano as paint in his usual style, and the slide guitar just sounds kind of like Riopelle, you know?).

The lyric “You like long hair and I platitude the chin” is like Pythagoras’s views on beans, but unlike his views on triangles (i.e. false). I platitude the chin; no one else.

“Come on Virginia” is like an undeniable summer anthem in that it is one. [Buy]


What do you guys think about turncoats? Do you feel negatively toward, say, Judas Escariot? Benedict Arnold? The Hudson’s Bay Traiting Company? My former editor Max Maki?

You: But she was so loyal!
Me: No, that was a facade.

Max will be leaving the StG family and will be adopted by the richer and more prestigious CBC radio family in Quebec City. There, she will become someone else’s editor Max Maki. The Defector knows no one in and nothing about Quebec City, and though, of course, I wouldn’t want any of you to extend even the most miniscule of kindnesses to this back-stabbing apostate, I would appreciate it if any Quebec City readers might contact Max and, along with your lengthy chastisements, let her know where’s good to go and what’s good to do or see. Goodbye, Max. See you never.

Posted by Jordan at 1:26 PM | Comments (6)

June 22, 2006


Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - "The Signifying Wolf". In a month, Will Oldham will release the best record of his career. I can't get over it - while I am very fond of Master and Everyone and I See a Darkness, think warmly on earlier albums with Palace and so on, I had assumed Oldham was fading into a twilight period for me. I couldn't get excited about Superwolf or Sings Greatest Palace Music. I figured the old dog had no new tricks. But in July there is a three-song "single" being released, called Cursed Sleep. The title track will appear on Oldham's upcoming LP but the other songs will not. And each of these three tunes is fantastic, each utterly different. It's the most muscular, creatively realised music I've heard from him... maybe ever? And so far from the (successful) genre exercise Sings. Such wonders: from "Cursed Sleep"'s green country strings, to the hush & glimmer of "God's Small Song", to this - a woozy, post-Tom-Waits pop-song, handclaps and wolf-breaths, a Hansel and Gretel radio hit, thicket pop, a rabbit hole for your stereo. Then the Letting Go has suddenly leapt forward to one of my most anticipated albums of the year. And this is an EP you should definitely, definitely, seriously-I-mean-it pre-order. Fucking 'a.


Pavement - "Gold Soundz". Strange when a song sounds like pure gold, like so many golds, like gold in strings across windows, in bands over eyes, as crowns on dear heads, as rain from clouds, as drops in puddles, as rocks in lakes, as flowers on stalks, as coins in pockets, as secrets in chests. Strange when so much gold comes springing out of a song I guess everyone's supposed to know, by a band I guess everyone's supposed to know - but a song you don't know, a song whose gold is a surprise that glints and glints, sparkles and sparkles; a song for when summer turns to winter and back, for when promises are exciting, for when you want someone (gold) to sing (gold) over guitars (gold) that "you're the kind of girl I like". I don't believe Malkmus for a second when he sings that he's "empty". Not any more.


On Saturday I will be embarking to New Zealand for an almost-three-week holiday. Dan and Jordan will be minding the fort but I am also delighted to say that The Globe & Mail/Zoilus' Carl Wilson will be taking over my duties in our weekly rota, sharing some songs & words. Carl is one of the most thoughtful and feeling music critics in the world, and I feel really lucky to be able to welcome him here. Please make him feel at home.

Posted by Sean at 3:00 AM | Comments (10)

June 21, 2006

Said the Guests: Beirut

Beirut snuck up on us. There was no PR machine, no celebrity guests. Gulag Orkestar (Ba Da Bing) appeared in some writers' and bloggers' mailboxes and we listened and we loved it. A riotous mix of trumpet and drum-thump, Zach Condon's bobbing voice and his boisterous melodies. It's fast become one of the year's most talked-about indie rock debuts, and even a few months on, the band's gypsy stomp has lost none of its gleam. Beirut has drawn comparisons to Neutral Milk Hotel, Rufus Wainwright, Calexico, Magnetic Fields and Hawk in a Hacksaw - he's drawn comparisons but the songs draw for themselves: tall and wobbling pencil-sketches, foreign gates and Slavic villages, mountain roads and fortress walls, wedding nights, dust and dusk.

He's from New Mexico, lives in Brooklyn, is playing summer dates in the Northeast, has mp3 samples here, and you can buy Gulak Orkestar for $10 or $12, postage-paid.

Today, Beirut is going to tell us about four great loves: Balkan brass, eurohouse, dub, and tropicalia. Please make Zach welcome. -- Sean

Balkan brass has inspired me more than any other music I've run into - so I'll mention one of the best songs ever written by the Roma, then move on to music I love from other, perhaps unexpected places.

First, a quick geographical rundown: Balkan brass music was born of the music of marauding Turkish marching bands pillaging through the Balkans, picked up and redeveloped by Gypsy musicians of Macedonia and Serbia. Hot dance music comes from Germany. The Germans are no longer making war. Barrington Levy is from Jamaica. Dub music was created there before dancehall destroyed and patronized the country's culture. Caetano Veloso hails from Brazil, a country he embraced and then was promptly thrown out of.

Kocani Orkestar - "Siki, siki baba" (from Alone at my Wedding) [buy]

Perhaps the best album title ever. The Kocani Orkestar was the first Balkan brass band I happened to listen to, and still remains my favorite. This song is Gypsy music at its most delirious and drunken best. Watching me listen to this song is like watching a hyperactive four-year-old without his Ritalin. Pure excitement. Oddly enough, the chorus of this song is almost identical to that of "Chaje Shukarije" by Esma Redzepova, who wrote and sang that song when she was fourteen... Fourteen! Another one of my favorite tsigane songs. it sounds suspiciously like an old Bollywood soundtrack, which is something I relish.

Justus Khoncke ft. Meloboy - "Hot Love (Freiland/Frei)" [buy]

Seeing as how we get an eviction threat every time we sneeze too loud in our apartment in Greenpoint, I'm entertaining the idea of blasting this song as loud as it will go on the last day of our lease. Who the hell could be mad with a song like this playing in the background? That's like trying to be angry while watching Sesame Street. When will we catch up with house music stateside? This song really pushes alot of the excess boundaries in my head, melodically etc; but that ends up being one of the most fascinating things about listening to it...

Barrington Levy - "Here I Come" [buy]

I'm broad, I'm broad, I'm broader than broadway, wo-oh-oh! It's rare to find someone so free and creative with their vocals. Most people (soul singers included) never achieve that level of total freedom. Where they would just noodle around in the name of improvisation, Levy achieves something beautiful, concrete. It's an unforgettable melody. More people should aspire to this.

Caetano Veloso - "Tropicália" [buy]

I should start this out by saying that deciding on a song of Caetano's to feature was one of the harder decisions I've had to make on this list (besides boiling down all of Balkan brass music to one song, which seems like a crime now). After the year in which I listened to nothing but said gypsy music, I found myself looking for relief from the intensity and darkness that can surround music from that stretch of Europe... a kind of pop music minus frivolity. And lo and behold, I found Caetano Veloso. "Tropicália" is a good example of what Brazilian music is capable of, and in a way, what I want to do with my own music. Caetano starts with the intensity of a traditional sound (here tribal drumming and a typically Brazilian instrumentation) and builds a pop song out of it, each of the two styles enriching the other.

[Zach Condon is the leader of Beirut. You can buy Gulag Orkestar direct (and insanely cheap) from Ba Da Bing, and if you live in NYC, Philly, Massachusetts or DC, see the band live.]

(Previous guest-blogs, in and out of the Said the Guests series: Jonathan Lethem, Will Butler (Arcade Fire), 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 (11)

June 20, 2006

Arguably Something

Spottiswoode & McMahon - "Ukranian Girl"

A song that co-opts some of "Brazil", is structured like Brazil, but has nothing to with Brazil. More to do with Beck, with a waltzing Quentin Crisp, with schoolyard jumprope songs at a school for spies. [Buy]

Casey Dienel - "Better In Manhattan"

This is such a lovely admission. It's a letter that realises halfway through what it's about. "Right that's why we're talking, that's why we always talk. Because I love you, I almost forgot. But all this other stuff is just saying I love you in a different way." And then signed by her and her dog (paw print). [Buy / Also, a pavement cover which is blogged here]

Posted by Dan at 7:39 AM | Comments (11)

June 19, 2006

if you've got nothing to put on...

Deedee Pitt - "Laars Er Op". This song is taken from a comp of 60s Dutch girl-groups. And so we must deduce that the Dutch pop scene in the 1960s consisted of women in tall brown leather boots backed by troops of short Flemish kazoo-players. As Babelfish is unable to translate the title, I must assume that they were also known for singing exuberant and gibberish choruses. It's interesting how the brain plays with foreign words: I don't pay much attention to song titles and for a long time I thought this track's refrain was a castigatory "That's enough! That's enough! That's enough! That's enough!" But, of course, it's "Laars Er Op". Which is fine. But if it were "That's enough," this tune would be oh-so-ripe for remakes. It'd have that Nancy Sinatra mix of steeliness and pout - the sort of pop artifact that todays' popstars are so keen to recreate.

Jacob Borshard - "Grass Stains". I heard this as part of Ryan's Catbirdseat June Mix. It blew breezily past, the first time - but returning to the playlist this was such a stand-out; a beautiful little find. Borshard plays his ukelele in familiar ways, cute sing-song of bikes and mermaids - a sound squeezed in somewhere between Page France and Jens Lekman (& do I hear a touch of The Weakerthans' John K Samson?). But even forgetting the sub-Archies breakdown at the end, eventually the song's aesthetic tweaks a bit: there's something awesome and loose in how Borshard's indieboy romance takes a turn toward the sexy, the way he slips into talk of "birthday suits", the way he casts aside "your bra". Ultimately the artist "Grass Stains" most recalls is (early) Mirah: her casual, shrugging mixture of twee naivete and smouldering, savvy bedroom strum.

The whole record can be downloaded at Jacob Borshard's site. He's also a sculptor (and painter?), whose set of bronze dinosaur sculptures are steadying, tender and very, very nice.



My new favourite blog is 1.618. Every day they post a song they love and, without any further commentary, an image to accompany it. The arrogant part of me would describe it as "Said the Gramophone... in photographs". But their imagery is far more successful than our fumbling phrases: like monks' illuminations of your favourite pop passages. My favourites (already, so many!): Royksopp, Belly and Sebastian, Ellen Allien, The Beatles, Junior Boys, Daft Punk.

I do not live in North America nor own a television but man I hope you caught Stephen Colbert's interview with Congressman Lynn Westmoreland. Hys-ter-i-c-a-l. Don't read the expurgated transcript - skip to the video. (Quicktime/YouTube).

PS: In less than a week I'm going away on a three week holiday. If you need to hear from me about something before then, please get in touch soon.

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

June 16, 2006

nobody there

Dreamies - "Program Ten (excerpt)". Mike lived in Boston and Montreal and now resides in Sweden. He likes lots of bands I like. He told me I should hear this album. This is what he said, not verbatim: "So it's by a guy calling himself 'Dreamies'." "The Dreamies?" "No, just Dreamies. No the. He was an accountant in the 60s and he decided he wanted to make music. So he quit his job and spent all his money making a studio in his basement, learning to use it, learning to play instruments, recording an album. He spent a year doing this. And when he was done he released the album and then went back to work as an accountant and never recorded anything again. Each side of the LP is a single track. Experimental folk weirdness. Lots of samples. It just got reissued."

And then this is what I did not say to him, but might have, had I already heard this song then; had I already cuddled up in its thrum and drone, in its Roy Harper jangle and its proto-Grandaddy bliss; had I already felt the thrill of the theme that fades under sirens and broken dishes, returning like a lover you never expected to hear again; had I already done all this, I might have said:

"Mike, this is amazing. Is it a dream, Mike? Is it a shortwave transmission sent back to us from Venus? Is it what happens when you plug a transmitter aerial into a man's heart? How can a single strum and a multitracked voice keep my fascination for so long? How can something so long forgotten sound so much like Grizzly Bear or Wyrd Visions? How can this sound like "Mother Nature's Son" and "Revolution 9"? How can an accountant make such a beautiful music? If televisions were birds, is this what they would sing? Who was this guy, Mike, and why is his website so weird?"


Camera Obscura - "Country Mile". We established several months ago that I like the sad Camera Obscura songs - well, that and "Keep It Clean". And while others go a little crazy for Let's Get Out of this Country, I'm left wishing there were more small and tender pieces - or, then again, that the glossy soul thumpers were even bigger, even tambouriner. But there's one song on the record I keep returning to, over and over. It's this one. A slow, sad one - a tune about long-distance love that's close to despairing. I interviewed Tracyanne Campbell a couple months ago and this is the song that most recalls her conversational voice: the pauses, the hesitancy, the sudden ardour. She is so front and centre here - forget the strings, the guitar, the keening lap steel. We're here for one thing: the woman spotlighted, sorrowful, and stronger each time she admits "I feel lost". It's not a depressing song, however - not for me. There's too much to long for when she sings "I wish you could be here with me / I would show you off like a trophy". There's a dusky promise when she sings "a blink of these lashes would make you come"... It's not depressing because there's no finality to the song. Strings swell in and out. "I hope," she sings. And it ends without any great climax. (The next song is the upbeat dance number called "If Looks Could Kill".) This is a song like a moment's sorrow. Like a pause for you to wipe your eyes. To write a postcard.


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

June 15, 2006

Operator 12798

Soulwax - "Ny Excuse (Justice Remix)"

Is it that I'm just getting old enough to appreciate this? Is it possible Justice is for the mature palette? Oh, gross, I started a review of a techno song with a line about my fucking mature palette. I really disgust myself. I want to slide, through beer and scum, on a slippery black floor, into a set of spikes coming out of a set of speakers. I want this to hurt. I want to lose my hearing to this song. I'm getting loud with you. [Buy new one]

Klee - "Für Alle, Die"

Das ist für alle, die. Das ist für only me. I am illiterate in German. But I see pink clouds, a costume of fabric wings, a sky that moves like a twenty-dollar room fan. I feel like my bed is sinking to one side, and my sleep is going to fall out my ear, into the headphone splashing out the sides. [Buy]

Posted by Dan at 1:38 AM | Comments (5)

June 14, 2006

A Syllogism

Jesse Malin - "Hungry Heart"

This is the one-thousandth Bruce Springsteen cover I've posted on StG. The truth: this is a Bruce Springsteen cover blog. However, as Springsteen basically jacked everything he ever did from the work of Abraham Maslow, I think it's only fair to call a spade "a spade" and recognize that StG is, at its core, an Abraham Maslow appreciation page, or "fan-site". "Everybody needs a place to rest/everybody wants to have a home," sings Malin reciting Springsteen stealing from Maslow's seminal A Theory of Human Motivation. The only observation that Springsteen adds to Maslow's thoughts is that "everybody has a hungry heart" - a claim that is absurd on its face. Hearts aren't even the kind of thing that can be hungry.

Anyway, ethical transgressions aside, the song's a heartbreaker and the force-of-nature distorted guitar-drum machine combo is like the game of baccarat: outmoded and potentially ruinous. What?! Recommended! [Buy]


The Louvin Brothers - "In The Pines"

A contradiction:

Jilted, the Louvin Brothers leave their home in Tennessee and move in among the pines, where it is both pitch black and quite cold. This is, of course, a babyish response to broken-heartedness.

Louvin Brothers: (stomping feet) Fine! you don't love us anymore?! Then we're going to live in the pines!

"Little Girl": C'mon guys, that's stupid. We can still be friends.

Louvin Brothers: (lying on their stomachs, flailing) No no no no no!

Yet, the occasional mandolin flourishes, and the astounding eight-bar electric guitar solo display such emotional maturity and subtlety that it forces one to question the very foundations of classical mathematics: on what grounds do we believe the law of the excluded middle and the law of noncontradiction? Recommended! [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 1:44 AM | Comments (9)

June 13, 2006

butterscotch brazilnut

Tom Ze - "Ave Dor Maria". A revelation of production, a marvel of sound - one song can't do Estudando O Pagode justice. But even in these scant few minutes you'll hear alligators and bikini straps, tobacco roll-ups and clothes-lines, operatic choirs and fenced-in neighbours. At more than 70 years old, Ze is proving he has more ideas in one Brazilian finger than Sufjan Stevens has in his whole rosewater brain. Ze out-Gueros Beck; out-squeaks Psapp; borrows Final Fantasy on strings; and teaches yours truly to dance.



Loki - "Across the Room". The best artists are the ones who leave you swinging round with your finger, trying to track the influences, name the predecessors. The important part is: trying. The best artists are the ones who slip through your fingers, fish for whom you brought the wrong nets.

Loki is an MC from Glasgow. He doesn't camouflage his accent, nor does he inflate it like some parade float for him to ride in on. It's casual, dry, sharp as a straight razor. He sounds like The Street sometimes - Mike Skinner's humanity but never his awkwardness. He sounds like Nas, leaning upside-down into his subjects. And there's even a touch of Aidan Moffatt, of Arab Strap's plain work-a-day melancholy: the tragedy of plain old real life. It's all here.

Although I live here I'm not really fit to say whether this is Scotland's first great MC. I've not been listening. But I love this. I love the mournful circling of piano; I love the plain drumkit beat; I love the way Loki scampers from horny to bored to melancholy, like all these things are beads on the same length of twine. (They are.) I love the way this song keeps lifting itself up and putting itself back down, a raincloud hiding behind chimneys, a sad song that lurks in a playground swagger. And oh, friends, listen to those closing lines. Insufficient, truncated, true.

[info / more info / buy]


Nothing But Green Lights is the relaunched mp3blog by Mike from Take Your Medicine. It's UK based and excellent, posting only the things that his heart is set on. Mike's also continuing the take your medicine podcast, and the June mix is superb. Beirut, Herman Dune, Robin Allender, my favourite Psapp track - and more.

Marathonpacks' new podcast playlist thing is also v. good if you're looking for 60 minutes of song. Dig the Lupe Fiasco.

Brian says a few interesting words on Live's "Lightning Crashes".

This week's Contrast Podcast is on the theme "I'm the only one who likes this". And so I chose to talk about the Barenaked Ladies' Gordon. This is the ILM thread I refer to, sadly, between snuffles of tears.

Posted by Sean at 12:00 PM | Comments (6)

June 12, 2006

Plants Breathe Garbage

Prototypes - "Who's Gonna Sing"

The much-lauded, and much-blogged Prototypes. So normally, I would just let them have that and talk about something else. But I can't let it pass by. Without agreeing, without clapping my hands over my head and woo-hoo-ing. Also, this is their best song and I haven't seen anyone talk about it yet. It's a turntably, piano-bashy strut, lead by the Prototypes girl, and a giant Kodiak with a mystery accent. It's like rooting through an old chest of instruments, calling them out as you throw them over your shoulder. The labas, les congas, the rods. And it's easy to decide who plays what instrument, but their indecision about the vocalist, while seemingly unsolvable, is solved in the very asking. And then there's some scat at the end, which, on thirteenth listen, might be your favourite part. [Buy *also, Montreal had them for three days, but you still have time to catch them in Toronto on Thursday*]

The Press - "Red Comes Ringin"

There is no confusion here about who will do the singing, but it seems there is confusion about which style of singing to stick to. Glorious confusion. At once giving shades of Joel Plaskett, Isaac Brock, Hawksley Workman, and every singer in a hard metal band, this song becomes a cavernous hallway of giant portraits, all of which can't do anything to keep you safe. You're alone in this song, save a presence that pulls you side to side, first screaming, then crooning, then pressing your face on the floor. Then we hit power chords, and we can feel safe again. But that lasts like eight seconds, more a tease than anything. Yeah, that's it, this song is a big tease, from a band that doesn't quite understand that teasing is at some point supposed to be revealed as false. [Buy]

Posted by Dan at 1:06 AM | Comments (2)

June 9, 2006

Call Zero "Zero"

Gorky's Zygotic Mynci - "Can Megan"

A psychological puzzle: I always moderate my language for the sake of politeness; I walk in an affected, bizarrely prim manner; I only ever eat sloppy joes and mincemeat pie. Why?

A clue: I listen to Gorky's Zygotic Mynci every single day. Why?

An Answer: My editor Max Maki's roommate's favourite band is Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, and as I spend 12-15 hours per day being edited (I'm an illiterate perfectionist), and as Max hasn't left her house since she was 7, when on her first and only ever outing she was burnt by the sun so severely that she ceased to be physically manifest whatsoever, I end up spending a lot of time with Max's "spirit", her roommate, and ergo Gorky's Zygotic Mynci. Which is fine, because I like Gorky's, but also not fine, because whenever I hear their music, I become extremely paranoid. Everything takes on a sinister aspect when Euros Childs begins crooning in his "sweet" falsetto. The walls start to close in on me, my friend's eyes cloud over with... are those murderous connivances? The ethereal Max Maki continues to hoist beer mugs and ice-cream cones, a kind of unmoved mover.

There's a sub-genre of pretty folk or folk-pop music that includes artists like Skip Spence and Simon Finn, as well as Gorky's, and is characterized by an underlying complete fucking insanity. You are lured in by the quiet, understated beauty of their work, and don't realize, until it's too late, that this music is primarily an off-kilter expression of the artist's extreme emotional vulnerability and/or deteriorating mental health.

But listen closely to "Can Megan" - there are clues. The Rhodes organ, for instance, is an insane instrument. It sounds like a precarious manic episode spent on the verge of tears. The rocksteady guitarist is drunk and the Philadelphia soul horn section is slow and lazy from too many downers. Consider please the low-mixed electric harpsichord. Is that not insane? And, of course, the song ends with this refrain: "You make me crazy," sung over and over again.

I assume that "you" refers, in this case, to the fact that the Welsh pronounce 'll' like Semites pronounce 'ch'. A fact that can leave no Welshperson untouched by insanity. [Buy]


Charley Patton - "Prayer of Death: Part 1"

Rarely have a voice and guitar been so perfectly symbiotic; they mirror each other, respond to one another, each consoles the other, they reconcile themselves to their mortal fate, keep on rolling together.

Patton was the subject of John Fahey's Masters thesis and here you can hear the roots of Fahey's slow, dense patterns, singing treble lines, and existential concerns. [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 2:58 PM | Comments (6)

June 8, 2006

You Can Tell All Sorts of Lies With Your Clothes On

Puffy AmiYumi - "Call Me What You Like"

Puffy AmiYumi are back, and they're bringing a flood. Avril's producer, John Spencer, the guy from Polysics, and I think I hear a theremin. Here's what I see: Ami and Yumi dancing in their living room to this song, and their performance of it somehow allows them to bend all backwards and twisty so they become all contorted in an inhuman way. Then someone (a ninja?) steals their record, and plays it for the whole town, and everyone starts contorting and dancing in this way, and our two heros are scared at first, and then annoyed, everyone trying to congratulate them for making great music, but just looking like bendy aliens. Ends with a chase scene.

I really hope beyond reasonable hope that they play their own instruments. [info]

Hidden Cameras - "Lollipop"

It's not okay to eat junk food until you die. You shouldn't run until you faint, even if you're in a rush. You can't knock on every door you see just to find out if there's a party going on inside. Not if you plan on getting anything done. This song tries to do all of these, and yet succeeds. Like finding a quarter in the return slot of a phone every time you look. [Buy old stuff]

Posted by Dan at 2:09 AM | Comments (10)

June 7, 2006

Said the Guests: Jonathan Lethem

Jonathan Lethem writes books. Shorter things too, but he's probably best known for writing books. Fortress of Solitude, for instance, is a novel about friendship and Brooklyn and jazz and rock'n'roll. It's about comics and loss and life. It's about magic - several kinds of magic. The cool kind of magic. The kind you leave at the bottom of your pockets for the moments you might need it. Like an alcoholic keeps a little bit of liquor in a back cabinet.

Jonathan composed about music and birds for the mp3blog Moistworks earlier this year. Go look.

I wrote to Jonathan almost a year ago, asking him to write something for us. I can't express how sweet my creaky heart sang when he followed through. -- sean

Danielle Howle - "Still in Love with You" [buy]
Johanna Billing - "You Don't Love Me Yet" [info]
Vulgar Boatmen - "You Don't Love Me Yet" [buy]

It was Southern California in those days. We all worked in a used record store and we all were a certain age, a clerk’s age, the long middle of our twenties, already wrecked. Some of us were in their thirties already! All the clerks played vinyl on a turntable behind the counter in turns, getting royally sick of one another’s music, a certain bluegrass album a dozen times and you’d start trying to time your lunch break to that track about the horse. Somebody else played African music and you might be coming around slowly. The Go-Betweens, every album was on a different label, it was like putting together a puzzle. All the best bands were from New Zealand, mostly, except if they came from Australia. The guy with the suit and the clipboard from ASCAP came around and said we’d have to pay royalties on the songs we played behind the counter since they were being broadcast in a public place and we said they were only for our own pleasure, our customers didn’t even like to hear music, everyone else tittering behind their hands while someone offered this explanation. We’d all been in a band or were about to have been in one or else just owned a leather jacket. Confused about the difference between Syd Barrett and Roky Erickson and Robyn Hitchcock among other things. Everyone was always breaking up, the record store was even built on a fault. A chasm between failing to start and not knowing when to quit. Embarrassed to say you were applying to grad school. Somebody started coming in early and got promoted to manager. Big Dipper, Big Star, Big Daddy. The Fastbacks. The first CD came along, some rock critic dropped it off with a bunch of other comps he was selling and we regarded it like the apes in 2001. Letting some high school punks sell a zine on the magazine rack, they looked at you like you were an adult. One day your life would start. In the meantime we all worked in a used record store.

[Jonathan Lethem's next novel will be published in March 2007.]

(Previous guest-blogs, in and out of the Said the Guests series: Will Butler (Arcade Fire), 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 (9)

June 6, 2006

Tired of Healthy

I don't know if it's the mood I'm in, or the actual state of the world, but just every song I listen to today doesn't inspire me at all. So, I decided to embrace instead the other stuff I've been doing: consuming new comedy. There is so much great comedy happening right now, it's like some kind of wave that will seriously be historically important soon enough. prepare to be bored by my writing (serious about comedy, ugh) and wowed by the content.

Scharpling & Wurster - "Timmy von Trimble"

The Best Show on WFMU (tonight at 8!) has long since found its niche and now is able to fully realise its world, there's a huge wealth of this stuff, and they're still finding new elements to it. If I could commit the time, I would chart the mythology of these interviews, because they overlap and reference themselves and now the show is a universe in and of itself. And where most of the hilarity (for me, at least) comes from is this attention to detail. It's the constant play of Wurster making a general statement with a subtle error in it, and Scharpling picking up on it, asking about, and finding another layer. Marvelous. [Buy Hippy Justice] [subscribe to the Best Show podcast]

The Distractions - "Banana"

So simple, clear, elegant. This could be in a sketch comedy textbook, which I'm sure, heavens, is being written, because it plays by the rules and yet excels. The Distractions are constantly doing this; taking something so standard and just writing it so perfectly, that it becomes so far from standard, and so much closer to great. The most important prop is the dvd case. [more]

Adam and Dave - "Toronto Vacation"

A totally different, yet equally engaging aesthetic. It's like different comedy tastebuds. Eventually, these two will make a feature, and it will be powerful, excessive, hard to watch but impossible to stop. [more]

Posted by Dan at 4:43 AM | Comments (2)

June 5, 2006

she left her shirtsleeves

Hookers Green No. 1 - "Bloody Great Big Fucking Party". With "Bloody Great Big Fucking Party", Hookers Green No. 1 come closer to capturing the spirit of The Unicorns, so dear and departed, than anything I've heard since Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone. Aberdeen, Scotland is a very long way from Montreal, Canada - but there is no mistaking the rattle of glee and melancholy, like front teeth in a coffee tin. Electric guitars swagger and droop, a synth-line wiggles, voices woo-woo from the back. And then, well, there are horns, drums, ratatat and tickticktick. There's a coda that arrives like a parade rounding a corner - giant balloons, floats, a marching band; whistles, percussion, a roaring team of pals. It's a crowd of rowdy Scots whose chants will rouse the housewives, whose coo will call the fishes, whose hot-cold sass will fry your egg, flip it into a roll, set it warm in your hands. And it's one of the best singles of the year so far.

(the music video is shambolic and suitably joyous)

[Hookers Green No. 1 are unsigned. (MySpace)]

Ola Podrida - "Instead". Sometimes the horizon's like a hook, a flash of silver that catches your heart just as the day is fading into its night.

Old Podrida is the project of David Wingo, the Texan musician who has scored or contributed music to all three of David Gordon Green's feature films. This includes 2003's All the Real Girls, one of my favourite movies. When Dan screened it for me at his apartment a few years ago, the room was red, my heart was tender, and next to the flutter of that moving picture the rest of my world felt like a melting waxworks.

Ola Podrida's music is murmur and lift, the bird you can step close close closer to, that then turns and flies away. (If you are quiet you may feel the wind from its wingflap on your face.) "Instead" is as beautiful as a sad song can be. It guards the listener with as much care as the Red House Painters do and it grows to meet the shape of your silhouette: be there one of you, or two. It's a calm that implies a coat full of turmoil; a sunset that implies the broken-and-mended day. It's the way, the way, the way a lover can look so beautiful even as s/he leaves. They won't turn to see your face.



My writing elsewhere: I have feature review in this month's Plan B of the Silver Jews' remarkable gig in Edinburgh last month. And in The Skinny you can read an interview with Camera Obscura.

Londoners, take note: Plan B is looking for editorial staff.


Bishop Allen's May EP is now available. The first track, "Butterfly", is a free download. It is light as, um, well, you know - and it will make you sway. Dig the girl singing, but dig even more the roasted sound of the saxophone.

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

June 2, 2006

four six teen

Roadside Graves - "Reverend Blue Jeans"

A song about cynicism. Roadside Graves are cynics about their characters. Their characters are cynics about marriage. I was a cynic about Roadside Graves before I couldn't turn off this song. Couldn't do it. And now I'm a believer. A believer in tambourines, in a certain chord progression, in vocals delivered like letters pushed through the slot in bunches. [site]

Pants Yell! - "Kids Are The Same"

I've had this album for like two months now, and I consistently put it on when I'm trying to find the most non-threatening thing for company to listen to, that I can still enjoy completely. At first, I thought this was a condescending opinion to hold of poor Pants Yell!, but now I see this is quite a valuable asset. Just sit back. [Buy Recent Drama, play it for your parents]

Posted by Dan at 4:17 AM | Comments (7)

June 1, 2006


Shelly Blake - "Home Movies". Open your mouth too wide and cherries fall out. No? Is it just me? Me and Shelly Blake. More cherries fall out of his mouth than mine - and more cherry-pits. He sings sloppy and achey, Daniel Johnston in a wagon with the dude from OMC's "How Bizarre". Eventually he introduces the electric guitar and this is a moment that you know, this is a moment that is familiar. It's when you're at the Scrabble tournament and you've just spelled the word "singersongwriter" and there's a squawking sound, a brief electric buzz. You look up and there's a stork in the corner, long-legged, bearing an electric guitar. He stops playing, he looks at you, he blinks his eyes. "Yeah, what?" he seems to be saying, in stork. And when you look back down the word "singersongwriter" has been changed, either by cheating or by some obscure rule. And your tiles now say: "Elope, elope, elope, elope!"

Am I trying too hard?


David-Ivar Herman Dune (w. Lisa Li-Lund) - "Burn Burn". My bus was a few hours late to All Tomorrows Parties, a couple weeks ago, so me and all my new friends missed Herman Dune. I did get to see them loitering at the Broken Social Scene show, though. And then I think at Destroyer. I hope so. And then I went down to the merch table and I was easily persuaded to buy "Demented Abduction" - Nova Scotia Runs For Gold, the David-Ivar Herman Dune solo album plus Lisa Li-Lund. This song is from there. It was recorded on tour in Nova Scotia, mixed to mono on a Panasonic tape recorder.

In this song, the narrator does these things: pets a dog, makes coffee, puts a record on, sings, makes a call to NYC, pours drinks, is sick, misses her, gets a gun, practises shooting, goes for a drive, shows her what he can do, drives into the sidewalk, drives into the bridge, drives into the wall, drives into the river, dies, finds god, gets a criminal record, pisses off the police, meets the enemy, gets immolated.

In this song, David-Ivar Herman Dune and Lisa Li-Lund do these things: sing like a hairy morning, sing like chorus girls, play ukelele, make a chorus of sloppy folk-pop a thing of effortless pissed-off grace.


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