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.

September 29, 2006

Papineau No-No

The Blow - "Babay (Eat a Critter, Feel Its Wrath)"

This silly, happy duo have sat with me for a few weeks now. At first, I didn't pay attention to them, but now I'm rapt. Radio pop done at home, better than most of the radio pop it sounds like. It's like surfing, if surfing could be done at a really slow pace. It's like skateboarding through sunsetting streets. [Buy track from K]

The Blow - "True Affection"

A quality that pervades the album, in a beautifully unself-conscious way, is a feeling of adolescence. References to books you read in high school, discoveries you have as a teenager, but genuine, not mocking. Something about it being made by K Records makes it all the more. Watch the video on their MySpace of them making the album; there's Calvin Johnson, unexpressively helping all the way along. Proof of love. [Buy track from K]

other songs worth buying:
"Parentheses" - when you're holding me, we make a pair of parentheses
"The Long List of Girls" - this is a top 40 hit, despite whether it is or not.

Posted by Dan at 11:44 AM | Comments (4)

September 28, 2006


Beirut - "Elephant Gun". Zach Condon and his team of uke-, horn-, fiddle- and drum-players have been snapped by the catfish called 4AD Records and their fish-hook debut, Gulag Orkestar, is due to be reissued in the UK on 6 November. Since we wrote about Beirut a few months ago (and since he blogged here!), lots and lots of people have bought the record from Ba Da Bing, so why should you care? Well - because of a place called Lon Gisland. I can only assume it's a small Eastern European republic, some Balkan borough. And why is it relevant? Because Beirut have issued an EP of the same name. "Elephant Gun" is 3 new songs (one instrumental), and a new version of "Scenic World" with clattering percussion and sighing accordion. At least on my copy, they're packaged on the same disk.

"Elephant Gun" is totally terrific, and at a time where Beirut hype is already cliche, when backlash is heatin' up the manifestos, it's a reminder of just why Zach was exciting us in the first place. This isn't so much gypsy music so much as music to make us sedentary indie rock kids feel like tumbleweeds; to make us feel like we're shaking dust off our jackets, and into our shoes; to make us feel like yeah we're on our way somewhere, you and i; just take my hand.

The song takes the usual form: ukelele and Condon's wobbling, sugar-and-butter voice; then accordion, straight up-and-down; then the smash of a cymbal and thumb of a bass-drum; then the whole lot of them, squeezed into the pen. Horns and violin, and just as we might tire, Condon is singing with himself, slopes on top of slopes, the sunrises folding over each-other like so many watercolours. "Let the seasons begin / take the big gun down!" We hear no gunshots - just the lumber of our big, slow hearts.

[buy the original Gulag Orkestar]

Frida Hyvonen - "Djuna!". Jose Gonzalez's fame is due mostly to his cover of The Knife's "Heartbeats", and his reputation for softness only further underlined by the other covers he performs - notably Kylie's "Hand on my Heart". But listen to Jose's record (or his work with Junip) and there's a real darkness, a dread, that works its way through that pretty acoustic guitar. It's this aspect of Gonzalez that makes him a match for the fellow Swede Frida Hyvonen, whom he's taken on tour. "Djuna!" is a lovely song, with piano pumping and a melody that winds its way round the garden gate. But it's also the lightest song on Until Death Comes, an album that's more black lacquer than cotton balls. (Oh but don't get me wrong: it's great!) An icier Joni Mitchell, a fierier Victoria Bergsman. And yet here, well, she just makes me want to see violets on my midnight walk home. (...previously)



As you can see, you can now listen to the mp3s on the site in-browser by clicking the little 'play' icons. May I suggest you do so while you read our nonsense prose?

Posted by Sean at 3:00 AM | Comments (19)

September 27, 2006

The Inaccessible Cardinal

Nat Baldwin - "Within Walls"

Among other things, music is a physical object extended in space and time. A song's coordinates can be roughly plotted on a Cartesian graph with rhythm (time) on the x axis and pitch (space) on the y. In fact, we do just that all the time and call the result "staff". As far as I know, Nat Baldwin doesn't use staff paper (at least he didn't when I saw him play last week), but his facility in the manipulation of both the spacial and temporal aspects of music suggests that he either uses a musical staff (wrought of what? ebony?) that imparts to him god-like powers of emotional evocation, or a competent musical staff of advisors, wonks and mandarins.

Space: Most bands pack everything into the middle. Guitars, keyboards, voices: all take up the centre of the sound space. Baldwin fills the low-end with his bowed bass and the bass drum-and-tom-heavy percussion. He fills the high-end with his soaring, monastic vocals. The middle is left open - a calm, empty space. In this space we experience "Within Walls" as a conundrum: do we revel in the sublime above, or do we respond to the earthen pressures below? Do we think or do we dance, because...

Time: The drummer gives us a lesson in the implications of 4/4 time, treating us to an exponential unfolding of rhythms, of frames, of approaches. Look! A rock beat works. Here's something dirtier! Triplets have a wonderful effect! Why are you dancing around like that? Like a wild living room beast? Is it because of my bass drum on the one, three, and three-and?

When space and time come together in the form of something like a chorus at 2:36, Baldwin sings some words about the space we fill and the time we have to fill it. Write home about this: it's something to write home about. [Info]


Richard Buckner - "The Tether and the Tie"

"The Tether and the Tie" is a taut thriller. The repetitiveness of the crisp acoustic guitar pattern, the modest vocals, the panning Rhodes and distorted guitar accents - all give the impression that something big is going to happen at any moment, something to relieve the quiet tension. Nothing does. It's not the summer anymore. This is an autumn jam, and perhaps the young season's finest. [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 2:19 PM | Comments (3)

September 26, 2006

Made of Fives

Rock Plaza Central - "I Am An Excellent Steel Horse"

I see a lone horse, standing in front a barn, picking his guitar and starting this song. As each instrument is introduced, their player walks slowly out of the barn and lines up beside the horse. Once everyone is there, the literally start dragging the barn across the field, into the sunny part, where the hayloft can get warm, and the mice and spiders can finally see each other. When they get there, the cymbals are already cheersing. I suppose work is the only good reason to celebrate. [order off the MySpace]

Drakkar Sauna - "Decoy Schmecoy"

listen to this song quietly. While someone else sleeps. It feels like receiving personal mail while on a plane. Amongst all of us, even though we all look the same, this is just mine. [Buy]


small note: as of the writing of this entry, we have just received our 6,000th comment on this blog. quoted here: "I've been so long trying to describe this heat. Thank you, Sean!", I think it's quite apt.

Posted by Dan at 12:24 AM | Comments (5)

September 25, 2006


Kind readers, I invite you to choose the Monday morning that suits you best. Let me know which you pick.

The Wombats - "Moving to New York". New single by a British band of boys with guitars, but oh how it strikes me. This is a post-Bloc Party kingdom, where they've learned the value of doublespeed drums and a highkicking highflashing smoothsinging vocal line. The whole thing is so breathless and roughly beautiful, with noisy handclaps hidden in the corners; but mostly what you hear are that voice, those guitars, those drums, and some "ooh-ooh-ooh"; over well before it has worn out its welcome.

I wonder if somewhere out there there's a man who said "All right, lads, what if you play this twice as fast?" Maybe the man was just the drummer. But either way - golly, I want to buy that dude a coffee.

[info / Single out October 23]

Larkin Grimm - "The Jasy Tree". What's so often missing from contemporary folk recordings is a feeling of heat. Of something sharper than lulling warmth: something that will cut through the blood and muscle and sinew of you to leave that silver in your heart. That silver and that gold. There are different ways to heat a song, tactics sneaky and subtle. One of these is in the recording. Take the right kind of guitar, the right kind of voice, the right kind of microphone - and let it all be so lofi and close and buzzing that the sound seems to bounce around in the speakers, embers loosed, sparks flying. Providence's Larkin Grimm sings a soft song, a song with the spirit of Vashti Bunyan or Vetiver, but the sound of it makes it feel more sun than sunny. Stuff not just to tide you over; stuff to send out tides.

(Have you ever found a small flowering plant, near the beach? Just up from the ocean sand, something tufted and prickly and beautiful? Perhaps two small purple flowers? Three round yellow ones? Or a single, strange white blossom, ringed in rings of ringing orange? Yeah? Near the streaked pebbles and watercoloured mussel shells? Well I've not checked with Larkin Grimm, not checked Wikipedia nor even googled it, but still I will bet you more than a few quid(s) that this rough flower is a jasy tree.)

[New record out soon: release party in Providence on Wednesday. As for this song, it's taken from a limited edition Sloow Tapes cassette you can buy here or here.]

Posted by Sean at 4:00 AM | Comments (7)

September 22, 2006

black flowers and valentines / try to take your heart

Okay - "Sing-Along". The man who calls himself Okay both is and isn't. Marvelously musical, with a voice like tin cans, but a rare illness makes it difficult for Marty Anderson to travel let alone tour. Is this why a song called "Sing-Along" is without any singing-along? Or is it a matter of choice? Is it ironic? Is he asking who would sing along with a chorus like this?

"I don't believe anything
that you say!"
Layers of synths and a gardener's plod, a melodic shuffle that reminds me of late 90s alt-rock -- The Eels, early Beck, Apples in Stereo. And that masked voice, a pebble rasp, a sage's promised pop song.

[Get the combo of Okay's High Road and Low Road from Absolutely Kosher for a mere $20.]

Yo La Tengo - "Black Flowers". If you forget everything you know about Yo La Tengo and their albums, you're left just with the songs. Some are intimate, some are swirling, some stammer and others skree. But while Yo La Tengo does have a couple of signature sounds one of the most remarkable things about them is the breadth of their talent. Their annual covers fundraisers are the second-best evidence of this chameleonic side, but the proofest proof is simply the tunes. The effortless new pop of "Cherry Chapstick", the white-boy soul of "Mr Tough", or this, a song called "Black Flowers", which is (like "Mr Tough") off their inconsistent new record I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass. (For my money, the murmursoft And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out is the best of their albums.)

"Black Flowers" is one of my favourite songs of 2006 - this beautiful twist of melody and instrumentation, delivery and the undelivered. Ira's got a tawny melody, light as sparrow, but he puts it in a room with sounds of deep blues, reds, blacks. Piano, french horn, violin, and these brilliant clipped synth-strings, like sprouts. The song's sumptuous, a ballad worthy of the radio - it has all the gentle prettiness that attracts people to Sufjan Stevens, the cresting feeling that draws listeners, even, to Snow Patrol or Coldplay (listen to the Chris Martin-like "Oh-oh" at 3:09). This is in no way an insult. Yo La Tengo throw onto their album a single song like this, this one straight ode to loveliness and melancholy, with drums and Georgia oohs at just the right time; they throw it in like an afterthought. "Oh, by the way, we've also mastered this form." It's plain and unconflicted songcraft: it rubs my heart til it glows. No fucking around: just glassy, sweet song; dark petals blooming.




Carl has composed a beautiful post on the Mountain Goats, over at Zoilus.

Winners of the NYC Grizzly Bear contest are Ryan S and Nico R. (I'll be in touch.) Thanks for all the terrific entries. The most popular answer for what Grizzly Bear would eat in a forest seems to have been... smores.

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

September 21, 2006

Heavy Heavy

Flying - "Minors"

I feel like I've been living with this guy's voice for years now. I hear his voice in too-soft music at quiet parties, playing from roommates' rooms as I walk to the kitchen, in the earphones of friends who I ask to hear what they're listening to when they walk up to me in the street. But in a much different setting here. Now I'm excited. And he's joined by this completely psycho girl with a devil-grin and a jolting, flinging way of moving. She's pounding and throwing glitch all over the place, and then puts her fingers to her lips and plays the piano with her hair. She takes over the song, in the end, but it was her job. He's like the straight man, meant to be beat, but there's a right way and wrong way to be outshined, and he knows how to do it.

This album, Just-One-Second-Ago Broken Eggshell (yeesh) has a few great tracks on it. [Buy]

Tom Waits - "Bottom of the World"

See what I mean about Tom Waits? The moon is the colour of a coffee stain, he's eating Tilapia fischcakes and fried black swan, while dining with Scarface Ron. It's almost, in fact it is, quite hilarious how much Tom Waits is himself. And I wouldn't want it any other way. Although it's troubling that this is a perfect song to drink alone to. Looking from the bookshelf to the ceiling and back again, feeling the corduroy of the chair arms under your fingertips, trying to force tears out of your eye sockets, like so many fingers down your goddamn throat. [read the great little piece he wrote on Orphans]

Posted by Dan at 2:09 AM | Comments (5)

September 20, 2006

Said the Guests: Marcello Carlin

Marcello Carlin may not be a name you know. It depends what sort of circles you move in. I'll be honest: for your heart's sake, I hope you move toward Marcello's circles if you aren't there already.

Few people have had a deeper impact on Said the Gramophone than Marcello Carlin. He is a music critic. But I'm not sure that I've ever seen any of his print reviews. No - I first saw his work several years ago, on a blog. He has had several, over the years. He opens and closes them as new chapters in his life open and close.* And this is suggestive of the reason why Marcello has been such an inspiration to me. Not because of his encyclopedic musical knowledge, at once erudite and street-canny. Not because of the connections he draws, Girls Aloud to Plato, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony to John Cale, Broken Social Scene to The Stones. Not even because of the way with a few lines of his Speakerboxxx/Love Below review he changed the way I listen to hip-hop.

No, because of the way writing about music is a way for him to express his spirit. Or perhaps the other way round - that expressing his spirit is a way to write about the music that moves him.

Or in other words, he helped me decide that music criticism (at least here) can be at once utterly about the music, and - yearningly - for everything else.

For a Stylus mag feature a few years ago, Marcello Carlin wrote:

The important point about music writing is that any critical stance taken towards or against music has biologically and aesthetically to stem from the inner life of the writer. How good that writing becomes, or is, is reliant upon the flexibility of that inner life.
Please make Marcello very welcome here. He's in love.

And Marcello?

Thank you.


* It is a great tragedy that some of Marcello's previous blogging (mostly here) seems to have disappeared; I hope that if this was an intentional choice, he chooses one day to make them available again; regardless, his current online home is very much in bloom. It is a rich pursuit indeed to plumb the archives of that site).

Peter Bjorn and John ft. Victoria Bergsman - "Young Folks" [buy]

Heard in Brighton last weekend during a brief but heavy shower, the record is appropriately rainy and skeletal and seems to have sprung virtually intact from the early winter of 1981; Peter's male lead vocal has the same, slightly irked vulnerability of Andy McCluskey. For most part the dual lead vocals (Victoria Bergsman taking the shaky female role) are accompanied only by Bjorn's bass, which more or less carries the tune, and busy percussion from John, with tangents of whistling, footsteps and distant unattributable rattles - electronic squelches, a 'thundersheet' being manipulated - which suggest the original ghost boxes of Fun Boy Three and A Certain Ratio. She and he are doing less than anything in a less than crowded disco; weary, almost ready to resign from the world, but he gingerly approaches her with a timid warning: 'If you had my story word for word... would you go along with someone like me?' She yawns her response, though not maliciously: �It doesn�t matter what you did�we could stick around and see this night through.� Underneath Bergsman�s reply an organ slowly sidles into the track to provide a blanket of security, and it stays there with everything else slowly increasing in volume and intensity - but still that crucial space, measuring it all up, as though Cupid were tailor rather than archer - as they join in the chorus, where they don't care about anybody else; young folks, old folks, not even 'our own folks'; in their new world no one needs to exist save them - 'All we care about is talking/Talking only me and you.'

The symbiosis ripens as the disco and its inhabitants dissolve around them ('Hours seem to disappear'). They pledge, up to a point, to remain together, even if only for this night; there is what sounds like a bold Link Wray stroke which is actually an artful combination of Spanish guitar and tubular bells. There is so much space in the track, as though they are the only two people left in this world, their world; the angles and perspectives between the whistling and percussion, and the wider dimensions of the song's implications, reveal it as an encouragingly blissful halfway house between Pulsallama's 'The Devil Lives In My Husband's Body' and the Go-Betweens' 'Streets Of Our Town' as remixed by Yo La Tengo at their quietest.

Lighthouse - "One Fine Morning". [buy]

Their Best Of compilation, Sunny Days Again, was given to me as a more than welcome present by my fiancée. Legends in their native Canada, but not much heard of outside the American continent, Lighthouse were clearly a marvel of a group; active between 1968-76, they alone seem to have arrived at a workable equation between jazz, rock and Third Stream music which the likes of Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears attempted to capture. In both latter cases they fell at the expected MoR hurdle; the fall was profitable but artistically near-fatal. But with phalanxes of horns and strings - a young Howard Shore appearing in the sax section - they never succumbed to bombast or pomp; 1973�s big hit single 'Pretty Lady' is a wonderful and sprightly affair which sounds as though Super Furry Animals recorded it two months ago, and as emotionally intelligent AoR pop stands shoulder to shoulder with 'I Saw The Light.'

But 1970's 'One Fine Morning' has become something of an anthem for us; there are the busy drums and bass, the blasting horns, but the thrust is purposeful and seductive, and when Ralph Cole's epileptic funk guitar riffing strides into the picture it is difficult not to think instantly of Haircut One Hundred (a group who also found their own, albeit much belated, equation in this arena). Then Bob McBride's confident but vulnerable lead vocal holds the centre, so much more open and generous than the constipated teeth of David Clayton-Thomas. He wakes up, wipes the sleep from his eyes, goes outside and feels the sunshine, and KNOWS immediately that they will FLY; the euphoria of that 'FLY' extends over two syllables, one short, one long and a sudden octave higher. Viola and 'cello provide a continuo of warmth under the second verse with its miraculous everyday imagery - 'I�ll see your face inside a cloud/See your smile inside a window/Hear your voice inside a crowd� ' before the chorus takes off; one long, unending cry of 'FLY' over an utterly sublime series of chord changes. Lines such as 'candies made of stardust' are the only momentary reminders of when the song was recorded, but the promise, the fulfilled pledge to FLY is carried over the gliding extended main chorus, with cushions of rebounding embraces outlining the globe which their love will inhabit: 'We'll fly to the EAST! We�ll fly to the WEST!' It's ecstatic and sets up Paul Hoffert's piano solo beautifully. 'Every planet will become our home!' McBride exclaims as composer Skip Prokop turns up the pressure on his drums, sounding like two drummers, two souls united as an indissoluble ONE, and Cole's scorching lead guitar runs lays the carpet for the stairway to heaven which the horns gladly ascend, note by note, until it peaks in a CLIMAX and we come a great big glorious YES to make the Milky Way milkier.

One fine morning, girl, I'll wake up
Wipe the sleep from my eyes
Go outside and feel the sunshine
Then I know I'll realize
That as long as you love me, girl, we'll fly

And on that mornin' when I wake up
I'll see your face inside a cloud
See your smile inside a window
Hear your voice inside a crowd
Calling, "Come with me baby and we'll fly"

Yeah, we'll fly-y-y, yeah, we'll fly
We'll fly-y-y, yeah, we'll fly

And on that mornin' when I wake up
We'll go outside and live our dreams
I'll buy you candies made of stardust
And little dolls dressed up in moonbeams
And everywhere we go we'll laugh and sing
I'll kiss you morning, noon and night
And all the universe will smile on us
'Cause they know that our love is finally right

Yeah, we'll fly-y-y, yeah, we'll fly
We'll fly-y-y, yeah, we'll fly

Yeah, we'll fly to the east, we'll fly to the west
There'll be no place we can't call our own
Yeah, we'll fly to the north, we'll fly to the south
Every planet will become our home

------ piano -------

Yeah, we'll fly-y-y, yeah, we'll fly
Yeah, we'll fly to the east, we'll fly to the west
There'll be no place we can't call our own
We'll fly to the north, we'll fly to the south
Every planet will become our home

[Marcello Carlin has written about music for Uncut, Time Out, The Wire and many others. He maintains the blog The Church of Me.]

(Previous guest-blogs, in and out of the Said the Guests series: artist Johnnie Cluney, Beirut, 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 (8)

September 19, 2006

A Background In Finance

Otis Redding - "Chained and Bound"

It's true, I know, that men are born free but are everywhere in chains. It's a small consolation that a few of the many kinds of chains that bind us are paradoxically liberating. For instance, for some, including Otis, the chains of fidelity don't so much narrow the parameters of the possible as they do shift them to encompass something deeper. Yeah, Otis has been bound by the chains of his love, but the last thing he wants is his freedom, or the oppressive chains of untetheredness that he knows come with it.

It's kind of like how men are born naked, but are everywhere in clothes. Or how men are born stupid but are everywhere much smarter than when they were born. Or how men are born ten inches tall, but are everywhere at least six times taller than that. Or how I was born yellow (jaundice), but am everywhere beige. You know?

"Chained and Bound," is not a perfect song; it is merely very good. Otis Redding was freed of the chains of this world shortly after he recorded "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay," a song that promised so much. What he left behind are a great many vocal performances that far exceed the quality of his songs. This is one of those. When he first sings the words "chained and bound," someone - is it the drummer? an idle hornblower? Otis himself? - lets out a small "woah." It's a statement of wonderment, of genuine astonishment that something so insignificant as this lyric, as flawed as this little ballad, as limited as this human voice, as imminent as these waves of sound (all chains), can set so much in us free. [Buy]


Alfreda Brockington - "Chained and Bound"

Because women are born free too, and are also everywhere in chains. Because they too are born naked, but are clothed. Because women babies are just as stupid as the others, and grow to be just as smart. Because female hatchlings are also extremely small people who grow to be "taller than the tallest pine, sweeter than a grape on a vine." [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 1:19 AM | Comments (9)

September 18, 2006

washing with coconut soap

Shinobu - "T- T- T- Trepanning". If you had drilled a hole in your head, you'd stutter too. Shinobu are all over the place, guitars goin' wildly while the singer yells a song more slurred than sung. But the secret, inevitably, is in the hooks: one at the beginning of each line, in a whine that's totally pop. When the backing vocals come in ("Ahhhhhhhhhhh!"), I've just about resolved to go shoving through this rock'n'roll until I make it to the other side. This is an awesome minute and a half for fans of McLusky and men with megaphones.

[buy Worstward, Ho! for a mere $8]

Okkervil River - "O, Dana". The band called Okkervil River are presently (or were until recently) on tour in Australia and NZ. While travelling, they brought with them an EP, released on Oz's Inertia Records. It's a handful of new songs and a live recording of "Westfall". One of the songs that's received the most blog love is "The President's Dead", which is a sympathetic first-person eulogy on the death of a [presumably Republican] president. I interviewed songwriter Will Sheff much earlier this year (for a piece that is hopefully going to be published soon), and one of the things we talked about was Neil Young's recent Living With War record. It got Will mad. "Well, from a political standpoint," he said, "kudos to him. But from an artistic standpoint, that’s just so... It’s just so dumb. It made me want to write a song that gives people sympathy for Bush. I just don’t like things that massage your beliefs and say 'What you believed all along is in fact the truth.'" And so he did.

Anyway, I'm not posting "The President's Dead" because I don't think it's nearly as compelling a track as another song on the EP, called "O, Dana". This one doesn't have a political back-story: it just has a chorus. "O, Dana - o Dana come on!" It's the stuff that old jukeboxes are made of; honky-tonk piano, trumpet ba-ba-ba, everyone yelling that couplet. Like "The Latest Toughs" (from last year's Black Sheep Boy), each go-round of the chorus renders the rest of the track irrelevant; let me just hear that hook fading out all night, right til the sunrise.

Update: And of course a helpful anonymous commenter reminds me to check the liner notes: the song is originally by Big Star. Face: a little red.

[buy, replete with splendid William Schaff artwork]


Contest time! Said the Gramophone has two pairs of tickets to give away to Grizzly Bear's September 26th show at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC. I last wrote about the band (and their album Yellow House) last week. If you'd like to go, email with a message guessing what Grizzly Bear (the band not the animal) would most like to eat, if it were lost in a forest. Either I or Ed Droste will pick our two favourite answers - and you'll be good to go. Deadline: Midnight EST on Wednesday, September 20th.


Eric Marathonpacks writes some sociological thoughts on musicblogs. Please ignore my lightweight and scattered comment in response.


Spoilt Victorian Child, an early and exceptional mp3blog, seems to have wrapped things up. I'd be sad if they had not done such tremendous work, over the years. All the best in what's to come, Simon.

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

September 15, 2006

Be Positive

Patrick Watson - "Bright Shiny Lights"

Patrick Watson is someone surrounded by, immersed in, aesthetic. Ships in bottles lost at sea, old-timey, otherworldly figures, old toy train cars that fall off the sidewalk into the pink sky. See the video for "Drifters" on the MySpace to see what I mean. Someone else who approaches music this way is Tom Waits. However, with Waits, his aesthetic of drunken boardwalk gamblers and trench-coat crooks who meet in dark wet woods with giants who are burying an only son, is completely necessary, and not as a crutch is for walking, but more like putting a face to a name, for enjoying his music (my opinion). But with Watson, not that I don't like the work of Ms. Brigitte Henry, in fact I quite like it, but I feel this song benefits hugely from a context-less, an image-free environment. One that the green drapes of this blog can provide. So, I've brought it into the lab for you guys today so you can see what a swaying, crooning, gem this Patrick Watson is. And you can apply your own aesthetic. For me, I see this being played on Saturday Night Live, with Watson in his taxi-driver hat, nuzzling into the mic, and his back-up singers all doodie'd up in sequins, and the old drummer slamming that snare with the nervous energy that comes with playing that show. (I never claimed my aesthetic would be better, only that it would be my own.)
This is the last track on the downright lovely Close to Paradise. [out Sept. 26th]

Posted by Dan at 5:05 PM | Comments (5)

September 14, 2006

Needn't Be So Difficult

Detective Kalita - "Mary 16"

I assume that you like Sherlock Holmes, and that, like Holmes, you value a simple, elegant argument above almost anything else. Now, Holmes doesn't need directions to Simplicity and Elegance, but for those of you who haven't been there yet, the quickest route is via Brevity (Ave.). Brevity is a particularly important virtue in the detective game (not Clue, but yes, also in Clue), as well as in the other game favoured by Philip Marlowe (my favoured detective), chess. Marlowe always managed to be knee deep in a chess problem which acted as a perfect metaphor for the case he was investigating. The key, inevitably, was to find a solution in the fewest possible moves, to get the villain before the villain got him: a principle understood at a deep level by Humphrey Bogart, the actor who played Marlowe most memorably, and who was an expert-level chess player. Bogart was one of the few actors who might have actually been able to solve Marlowe's ludicrously difficult chess problems. The problems tended to involve mate in at least seven moves (very long) and almost always required a knight's oblique, deceptively innocuous, attack.

"Mary 16" achieves its sweetness in a roundabout way - through a decidedly sour approach - and takes only 1:19 to do it. A most efficient, detectively communication. [Info]


Barton Carroll - "Cat on a Bench"

Imagine a cat on a bench. The cat is a yellow Tabbie, the bench is a lightly varnished pine. You're drinking tea.

Now take that same cat and that same bench, but this time, imagine the bench on the cat. You're drinking black coffee.

OK, this time the cat's on top, but the Bench is made of flesh and is a member of Johnny Bench's family. You're laughing, milk is pouring from your nose.

This time, imagine a catbench: half cat, half bench. You love it, you pet it, and you feed it, yet you sit upon it, because that's kind of what it's made for. You just gave up drinking liquids entirely (an overreaction to your erstwhile alcoholism). You're listening to "Cat on a Bench". This, you think, is the life. The catbench meows. [Info]


My band, The Cay, will be playing on Saturday (the 16th) at Casa, and Wednesday (the 20th) at Le Divan Orange. You're all invited.

Posted by Jordan at 5:48 PM | Comments (8)

September 13, 2006


Arab Strap - "New Birds" [from Philophobia]
Arab Strap - "New Birds" (live) [from Mad for Sadness]
Arab Strap - "The First Big Weekend" [from The Week Never Starts Round Here]

Earlier this week, Arab Strap announced that they were not going to be recording more music together. "we simply feel," they write, "we've run our course". They were one of the most singular bands of the 1990s and one of the finest Scotland ever produced. They were - and are, as they will be touring in support of a compilation due late in October, - small, crude, beautiful, honest, free, lonely, wild, fucked, shining. Aidan Moffatt murmuring scuffed late-night stories into a microphone; Malcolm Middleton, head bowed, asking his guitar to sound nice. A very strange mix, Malcolm's golden playing and Moffatt's brown-sauce confessions. But a singular one, yes. A fine one. One of those precise musics that catches a person at just the right time and then leaves a mark. You don't forget the moments when Arab Strap was playing exactly what you felt.

My favourite Arab Strap song is "New Birds". Usually my favourite version is the one from the studio, released on the LP called Philophobia. It's about a reunion: a man and a woman meeting after a long time apart. And it captures the perfect glint of a perfect kind of melancholy; the precise gleam of a why-am-i-sad. Moffatt's narrative can at first seem off-the-cuff but no, it's not. Listen to each act, the balance of contemplation and deed. Which moments linger in his tale? The meeting; the walk; that moment face-to-face; the having-parted. "You can see her breath in the air between your faces as you stand in the leaves and she just asks you straight out if you want to come and stay in her flat / But you make sure you get separate taxis." None of the in-between. That's always the part you can't remember. It's the having-done that roars in your chest as you lie in your bed or sit in the dark. As you stare at yourself in the mirror. As the electric guitars rise, yellow.

The live version of "New Birds" is sometimes my favourite. The tom and bass drum hit harder. The crescendo at the end is Mogwai-heavy, full of something much closer to regret. An anger that needs to be played out in full.

And "The First Big Weekend"? It was, and remained, their biggest hit. What kind of hit is this?! Ah, Scotland. It rambles. It drifts. And it moves - forward, forward, forward, on and on, just like that first big weekend, you know the one, you know the one, months ago, and you - just like Aidan - walked through the park and took a shortcut through the playground. All the colours are here: the colour of a man talking just as he gulps down some beer (0:46); the colour of the first violet blush of the night (0:56); the colour of a man pretending he doesn't care (2:07); the colour of a man regretting having been too mean (3:13); the colour of summer's wafting love (4:00). All the colours. It's what scientists call a rain-bow.

Thank you, lads.

[buy things]

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

September 12, 2006

Shower Steam Stratagem

Polyphonic (the Verbose) - "Moving On"

It's September, I should be doing homework and getting carpet burns on my elbows. This has, in the flute, in the steps, that steady, happy walk that gets the day's work done and feels strong. It loses that at the end. [Buy]

Arizona - "Splintering"

This song is close to great*.

*I mean I don't believe the breaks1.

1not that I could do any better°.

°i'm just trying to be honest.

harder than it looks.


Posted by Dan at 10:26 AM | Comments (2)

September 11, 2006

Grizzly Bear's Marla

Grizzly Bear - "Marla"
Marla - "Of Course You Can't Go Without That" (exclusive)

I wrote before about Grizzly Bear's Yellow House. I said they had taught their garden to sing. That's a strange thing to say: how can a garden sing? It would have to be inhabited. With crickets and moths, maybe. Or nightingales. Or gardeners.

Or with ghosts.

I've carried Yellow House with me through many days and nights, on the streets and in my home. (When my mood was soaring or when I was drifting, woozy. Both of these things.) It is a music at once diaphonous and bodily, like a hand you can occasionally take and occasionally not. Like the way you can feel sunshine, sometimes, as you walk through a dusty band of it. There's an insideness to the music, - close, murmured, tender, - brought outside. Or an outsideness - wild, fertile, ripe, - brought in. Things walking where they should and shouldn't.

The Grizzly Bear song "Marla" is perhaps the most haunted of any on Yellow House. A piano sounds, an attic whispers, and voices gather like spirits in a cup. The strings, arranged by Final Fantasy, dip and rise like an old phonograph (gramophone?) record.

And here we come to a woman called Marla.


The song "Marla" is named for the great-great-aunt of Ed Droste, Grizzly Bear's founder (and a StG guestblogger last year). In the 1930s she moved from Boston to New York to be a singer. She failed, and by the end of the forties, she had drunk herself to death.

"Marla" takes its melody and words by one of the few things the real Marla left behind: this song, all full of sepia flowers. There are no attic sounds, no voices gathering in a cup. In the original recording we hear just the lace of Marla's voice, the ringing rise of the piano line - quickening, breathless. But already there's something unsettling in the cadences; something that wants and lingers. Not the sound of a ghost, yet perhaps - just a little - the premonition of one. Something already stirring in the drapes.

Ed explained to me, by IM:

"she's looking for things
before [my great grandfather] goes on a trip
to teach at a university
i believe that's what the song is about
she's running around the house
fetching his things
funny to think he'd travel with his file/drill and clam shells
I believe by drill she meant a hand drill that he'd use to crack the shells into various shapes
then he'd file the edges
so they were soft
before he'd fit them together
the color of the clam shells go from white to blue/purple
and various shades between"

From white to blue/purple
and various shades between.

Do you ever wonder the colour of memory?

[Yellow House is now available to buy (US/UK) and it is certainly one of the finest albums of the year.]

Posted by Sean at 3:00 AM | Comments (19)

September 8, 2006

like bugs when they break through a cocoon

Herman Dune - "I Wish That I Could See You Soon" (mp3 removed at label request). Herman Dune's new album is made with major label lucre: horn section, expensive studio, backup singers. But it's also made with familiar stuff: tambourine jangle, sneaker squeak, rhymes like high-fives. "I Wish That I Could See You Soon" hides nothing. It's about wishing that I could see you soon. It's about seeing a photograph and hearing trumpets; it's about talking to yourself; it's about wanting, wanting, wanting; about there being no way to say and nothing you can do. Part of me wants to rerecord it at half-speed, just murmur and lazy-strummed mandolin, singing all the sadness that the song submerges. Herman Dune don't wallow even for a second: they consider the worst-case, they sing it, but then they move on to the more important stuff. To wishing. And wishing is fast enough to dance to.

According to the dictionary:
wish n.
1. To have or feel a desire: wish for the moon.

[Giant is out in October. In the meantime maybe read Herman Dune's MySpace diary post about a visit to Montreal, and dressing up with Julie Doiron at a Flaming Lips show. (Or hear one more mp3.)]

Julie Doiron - "Me and My Friend". This is a sad song. It'll trick you: just a cute girl with a guitar, you'll think. She's singing about swans huddling together. About times when you were dancing and singing. And then: oh wait. Oh shit. That was then. And now you don't see each other no more.

The first snowflake of the year falls in September. It's unlike any other snowflake that will ever fall. It winds its way down to the tip of your freckled ear.

[I found this song on Julie Doiron's MySpace page, but I don't think it's been released anywhere. But you should buy her albums, especially Goodnight Nobody and Desormais, the latter being one of my favourite albums.]

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

September 7, 2006

Said the Guests: Johnnie Cluney

Said the Gramophone is a big fan of Daytrotter, that strange young project of words, art and sound, where artists are invited into an Illinois studio as they travel through one of America's more barren stretches. These sessions are presented for free download, accompanied (usually) by Sean Moeller's precise, curling writing; and paintings by a man called Johnnie Cluney. When I visit Daytrotter it's not the music that first arrests me (not even in the case of Bonnie Prince Billy's recent & marvelous session): it's Johnnie's art. The works are full of life and movement and clumsiness, ripe with accident and a Polaroid's fertile glance. But, yes, painted and drawn. The work of hands.

It was very obvious to me that I should ask Johnnie to choose a couple of favourite songs for us, and draw them. So I asked him. Sean Moeller helped me transmit the message, since Johnnie rarely checks his email. And Sean picked up the paintings and scanned them for me, since Johnnie doesn't really know how. So we really all owe Sean some thanks. But first and foremost (and I hope Sean won't be offended), let's raise a glass of strawberry wine to the man with ink on his fingers, the fine Mr Johnny Cluney. Please make him welcome; and enjoy his works.

- Sean (Michaels)

Paul McCartney - "Lovely Linda"
Johnnie Cluney - "The Lovely Linda"" (click for full size) (buy McCartney)

The Beatles - "Flying"
Johnnie Cluney - "Flying" (click for full size) (buy Magical Mystery Tour)

[johnnie cluney is a 24 year old musician/artist from davenport, ia. johnnie has been drawing pictures for most of his life. he enjoys all mediums. you can see more of his drawings at or you can listen to his music at]

(Previous guest-blogs, in and out of the Said the Guests series: Beirut, 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 (3)

September 6, 2006

Permission and Obligation

It's been said that what we cannot speak of, we must pass over in silence. Putting aside the interpretation of the maxim that makes it logically true (and treating the must as a must and not as an ought), I think I can disprove it with the following. That is, like Dan Beirne, I can't handle Joanna Newsom's Ys, and yet it's been handling me to such an extent that I have no choice but to address it, despite my inadequacy for the task. I mean, the album is actually forcing me to not pass it over in silence, though, in truth, I cannot speak of it. How could that be, you ask? How could a man who speaks with so much intelligence and authority, at such great length about such a diversity of music from all over the world, finally be at a loss for his usual mots justes? First of all, thank you.

Ys is actually unlike anything you have ever heard. And that includes The Milk-Eyed Mender. Ys displays a compositional ambition the presence, or even promise of which I did not detect in MEM. Each song consists of many, sometimes nonrepeating, parts, each of which is overflowing with musical ideas: a thousand approaches to a single melody, digressions that turn out to be explanations, about-faces that reveal themselves as logical continuations.

Newsom plays harp and sings differently on Ys than she did on her debut. Whereas before, she was content to leave harp errors alone, she now plays perfectly, always in time, always with confident, subtle control of dynamics. And whereas the vocals on MME were highly divisive, too cute and affected for some (though not for me), she has improved by leaps and bounds since then, effectively making a mockery of anyone who has ever argued that she is not a vocal virtuoso. Her flights through pitches are mind-boggling, her grasp of the manipulative capacity of timing is heart-breaking, her range of timbres is immoral: here phlegmatic, there phlegmatic (different sense), now phlegmatic (still different). Also piercing, cutting, delicate, and brash.

The combined effect of these improvements is to make a sound less superficially human than her previous efforts, but more profoundly human than any I have heard from new music in sixteen hundred years.

Joanna Newsom - "Sawdust and Diamonds" (removed by artist request)

The only song on the album that is just Newsom and her harp. There are two other songs on Ys ("Emily" and "Only Skin") that are as good as this one (there are only five songs on the album), but I didn't want to give everything away.

47 seconds into the song, Newsom goes into a quick-plucked harp part that recalls the sublime density of John Fahey or Charles Ives piano songs: the illusion of slowness is created, despite the rapidity of the playing, through a glacial melodic progression. Every four bars, amidst the flurry of notes, Newsom alternates up and down a Major 2nd, and in so doing, makes a convincing case that the Major 2nd is the best interval ever.

Of course, Ys has its antecedents: English folk, Appalachian music, Bjork, and many more. But more than any other music Ys reminds me of an album it sounds nothing like: Astral Weeks. Both albums are sophomore releases, both are revelations about their respective author's strengths, and both are sprawling, perfect realizations of unique, strange, and enigmatic visions.


Mary Townsley - "Young But Growing"

Nothing comes from nothing. Nothing ever could.


Posted by Jordan at 7:36 PM | Comments (12)

September 4, 2006

Some Could Even Be In Strollers (There's A Comedy In This All)

Please Step Out of the Vehicle - "I Could Move"

I'm 15, it's Friday, and I'm staying at my mom's this weekend (way better TV). [info]

Frog Eyes - "Bushels" (Daytrotter Session)

I already posted "Caravan Breakers" from this same session, and you've probably heard this already, but why should I pretend with you?

Why should I pretend I haven't been listening to this every day for the last month? Sometimes more than once. Their Daytrotter session might be the best "whole thing" they've ever done, if you ask me (as of this date). I think Carey Mercer sings his songs fingerprintally, so it will probably never sound like this again (as of this date).

Never again will you feel like you're in so much trouble you just want to throw up your hands through your mouth.

Never to be caught in the gutter by leaves, to be drained of your energy through chores, and other duties that lead nowhere.

To look up at the dark sky as if there were something written on it, as if it would be in english.

To scream out like James Brown, asking the most sensual, the most personal and perfect, question.

[as usual]


Also: new Joanna Newsom. It seems so good. I can't even handle it. Maybe one of the other two will have something for you later in the week.

Posted by Dan at 10:40 PM | Comments (4)

Dance With Your Fists

Yo La Tengo - "Sometimes I Don't Get You"

This is the first leaf to fall. The start to a season. But the kind of start where you're waving goodbye to the person you left as you enter the room.

I think Charlie Brown is going to rummage sales, looking for something he thought he gave to someone a long time ago. Something no one would want, so if they did have it, they'd surely be trying to get rid of it. He has 10 bucks in his big black shoes, and he notices that one, two, three buses have gone by since he's been walking on this street.

[the pre-order benefits package]


So, I ended up at Osheaga this weekend (thanks Steph and Meg!), and though I missed a bunch (Sonic Youth, I'm sorry! I was too tired!) I did want to share the highlights for me:

Herman Düne - with Julie Doiron on bass, this show was such a lovely kiss on the cheek. David's "plain-as-should-be" lyrics felt like the most honest thing anyone at the festival had to say, and the closed-eye smiling of the whole set was just the most excited I've ever been while completely relaxed.

Born Ruffians - poor kids got out-drawn by CYHSY (there were 40 people tops), but they still put on a good show. Not as breathless as on the ep, but they have tons of potential. Be warned.

Wolf Parade - never gets old. I've never seen a bad show.

Final Fantasy - ditto.

Posted by Dan at 1:45 AM | Comments (0)

September 1, 2006

I Will Like This In A Year

Born Ruffians - "This Sentence Will Ruin/Save Your Life"

Guys, I'm gonna sing this one while I'm on the exercise bike. I'm gonna bounce on top of the music like a balloon on spikes. I hate the summer, don't you guys? Don't you find you sweat so much you're always slipping on it? I'm gonna go outside and bark louder than that dog. I'm gonna challenge Isaac Brock and Frank Black to a game of jai-alai. You guys are cool here?

Born Ruffians - "Merry Little Fancy Things"

Guys my guts are spilling out, are you seeing this? Is this supposed to happen? I can see what I ate. Oh, still in the package! I feel like sleeping. Well, either that or screaming in your face. You decide. Oh, good, I wasn't tired anyway. Fuck, now I'm tired.


Born Ruffians, you have my full attention tomorrow.

Posted by Dan at 10:34 PM | Comments (4)