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.

November 30, 2006

A Knee In The Face

The Knife - "Kino"

A tall figure moves across the skyline, wrapped in a dark cloak. Reaching center stage, the figures throws off the cape and reveals itself as a great building, newly arrived from the months of hidden work the city had done. A new place to live and work and keep our stuff, the building starts to dance, to celebrate its birthday. Some people fall out the windows, but no serious damage is done. The buildings are the new gears of the city's whole world. They raise the sun and place the moon, they work while you, weak, sleep away another night. Heed only this warning: they are powerful monsters that can make people very happy, but for Beauty's sake, stay on their good side, do not cross them, whatever you do. [Buy]

Nitzer Ebb - "Isn't it Funny How Your Body Works"

Without much heed or expression, the buildings began to build buildings of their own, so they could live in them, work in them, relax with their families, and keep their stuff. This exponential use of resources essentially turned the world inside out; the surface of the earth became a hollow shell, inside which the buildings stored their waste and spare energy cells. Not only did the buildings begin traveling without care for humans, but the world they had built stole all necessary elements of regular human life: water, food, and sunlight. Elaborate steam-collecting machines had to be made, and only garbage and preserved food left over from when "Age Other" had been in effect could be eaten. One woman, though it is doubted by many, is said to have heard a building speak English to another building once, and it said, "I never gave it much thought before, and then one called me a 'fucking stupid building', and that was it for me." See what you have done? Didn't I warn you? [Buy]

Posted by Dan at 4:51 AM | Comments (5)

November 29, 2006

The Axiom of Choice

My dear misguided readers, never before have we been in more desperate need of a serious chat. I've started a fire here, opened a bottle of Shiraz. Come sit by me. Do you like dark chocolate? I hope seventy percent cocoa isn't too bitter for you. Because if it is, you're not going to like my one-hundred percent bitter attitude. Where did we go wrong? From what great heights and to what terrible depths have we fallen? I still think you're sexy. Very sexy. Almost too much so to bear, really. And I know there was a time - don't you dare deny it - when you felt the same way about me. I'd suspected for the last little while that you might be losing interest (I even briefly entertained the absurd notion that you had started reading Sean's or Dan's posts). But nothing could have prepared me for the blow you dealt me in the comments section of Sean's November 24th post.

Sean wrote something about fishing or love or something false about Joanna Newsom or whatever - I didn't read it (at least I'm still faithful to myself) - but the first comment had nothing to do with the post's content, instead focusing on its effect. The commenter, one L, wrote something so obscene that I hesitate to quote it here: "Note to boys reading STG: Memorize this stuff - surefire way to get into a girl's pants. mmmmm I'm all tingly." This pornographic imperative disturbed me, and I can tell you from having subsequently "memorize[d] this stuff," that it's not true. Mere moments later, Danica, another commenter, added that she had had a "makeout dream" about our very own Dan Beirne. Well, I thought, now it is my turn. I waited, refreshing my screen every thirty seconds, sure that the comments box would fill up with lurid anecdotes about Himelfarb-related sexual fantasies, as well as phone numbers and salacious propositions. (I know I still become aroused every time I reread one of my posts.) But it never happened. You hurt me deeply and I sobbed until morning. I decided that maybe Danica had actually dreamt about me and simply misidentified me as Dan, but this made me feel only slightly better.

So now I have to win you back, my babies. Let's consider this post the beginning of a slow seduction. And what better way to begin than with a man whose sex appeal not even the most frigid among you will deny: the late, great Wilson Pickett.

Wilson Pickett - "Hello Sunshine"

Since I can't bring each and every one of you breakfast in bed like I'd like to do, I'm doing the next best thing to help you start your day off right. Are the short days and the increasingly cold weather starting to get you down? How about the fact that you're fundamentally alone? Well, "Hello Sunshine" is like a dangerously large dose of Xanax. I heard it for the first time last week and I've been in a psychotically good mood ever since. How Pickett's honey-thick vocal, the boisterous Southern horn stabs, and that fucking sinister piano lock into such an awfully deep groove, I will never know, but I do know that I just laughed my way through Babel, which I guess is supposed to be a bleak movie - such is the mood-altering capacity of "Hello Sunshine."



Hey guys. You're looking really good. Such sensual features. And so smart too. You're like the young Hannah Arendt of readerships.


Forest City Lovers - "Song For Morrie"

I worry sometimes that you think I'm too goofy to be sexy. But it's not like that. In fact, of the three bad StG dudes, I probably like the least goofy music (I'm also the tallest, have the best defined abs, etc., etc.). Case in point: this small, tender song about the death of a loved one. I'm not afraid to talk to you about how much it all makes me feel: the wonderfully restrained lead guitar part, the miniature keyboard solo, the gravity of the bass drum and the lightness of the vocal playing tug of war with...

You see?


Posted by Jordan at 4:28 AM | Comments (18)

November 28, 2006


One of the best mix CDs I've ever made was for a mix-swap held by The Diskettes'/Popsheep's Dave Barclay, interlacing gangsta-edged hip-hop (50 Cent, Dre, etc) with sad, soft songwritery stuff (Julie Doiron, Little Wings, etc). It was a little mischievous, admittedly, but really I did it because the juxaposition worked so well. Murmurs and ache interrupted by synths, gunshots, tough mutters.

Anyway, I gave my mix to some mystery-person, and never heard any feedback. I suspect they 'lost' it. I, meanwhile, received an angry-woman sampler, ripe with Bikini Kill, PJ Harvey and Ani DiFranco. Which I lost.

from 'Raven' by Tra Selhtrow

Clipse - "Ride Around Shining". There's a great reason that people are talkin' about the soon-to-be-released Clipse album, Hell Hath No Fury: it's really, really good. Hot as coal, hard as a hammer, charmingly devilish. On a blogger messageboard, Matthew wrote a good summary of what makes Pusha-T and Malice tick-tock: "they've skipped right by the 'anti-hero' default of most rap and straight to this mustache-twirling villainy, and that's why their characters are so seductive." This track's not the catchiest on the record but I can't get enough of the Neptunes' beautiful & menacing main riff. It's a deliciously slow harp arpeggio; a sound that's held resounding, resounding, while the boys glare and glower. And pose. [buy]

Leaves From Off The Tree - "Barbry Ellen". Leaves From Off The Tree is an album by, and project of, Meg Baird and Helena Espvall (Espers), and Sharron Kraus. Nine traditional folksongs, beautifully and simply rendered. "Barbry Ellen" is entirely unaccompanied, just three women's voices in plaint. It's a strange lament: what wrong did the narrator commit? Mere "hard-hearted[ness]"? Not recognising a love that was before her? Or was she cruel? The song does not say. All we have is the melody, full of want, and these three singers - solemn, sad, compassionate as dawns. [buy]



A little while ago I jumped the gun and wrote about the outstanding new Of Montreal album, due early in 2007. You can now stream the whole thing. Pre-order it and get a limited edition bonus EP for $3.

Perhaps you remember Felix Lajko, the hungarian/yugoslavian/gypsy violinist who fiddles sparks? The guy who I praised to the skies here and here? Well, he's been added to the bill on the Dirty Three-curated All Tomorrows Parties festival in England in April (alongside the likes of Silver Mt Zion, Smog, Josh Pearson, Low and Nick Cave). Are you thinking what I'm thinking? (Oh, and YouTube has videos!)

I didn't think that Herman Dune's "I Wish That I Could See You Soon" could conceivably get any better, and then... I saw the video. It's one of the greatest films I've seen this year. (I wish I had friends like Y, O and U.) Herman Dune also recently appeared in the Blogotheque's Concerts à emporter series, and there's an amazing bonus video of David and Neman (?) serenading Chryde's little baby boy.


Finally, contest time.

The end of the year is coming up and I am again choosing my favourite songs of the year. Inevitably however there are things I've missed. So, here's the challenge:

Email the greatest-song-of-2006-that-I-haven't-heard.

There are currently 48 songs in my end of year long-list; if the song you send is not already in that long-list, and makes the cut for the short-list, you will win a CD from my pile-of-prize-CDs (Arcade Fire, Antony and the Johnsons, something like that).

How do you know what I haven't heard? You don't. But if it's been posted on this blog, is from a talked-about indie/mainstream release, or has been really popular on other blogs, chances are I've heard it. Then again, my awareness of chart singles this year has been abominable - so a lot of big-name hip-hop and pop stands a fair chance of being new to me.

Other rules? Entries should be sent to with the subject line: END OF YEAR CONTEST. Please do not point to or name a song: attach the mp3. Deadline is 11:59 pm on Monday, December 4. Please no more than two entries per person, and please no more than one song by a given artist. And please, send only the best! This isn't about great albums: it's about splendid, beautiful, fun and devastating stand-alone tracks.

Best of luck!

(img by tra selhtrow)

Posted by Sean at 4:00 AM | Comments (11)

November 27, 2006

I'm Feeling Particularly Impregnable

AIDS Wolf - "Spit Takes Like Metal"

Like any genre, noise requires a certain mood to be enjoyed. I saw Half Nelson yesterday, and I'm pretty inclined to start smoking crack and hating myself, but since I don't have the energy or the fearlessness to do that, I'll listen to AIDS Wolf. I can't write about what I enjoy in this music, because what I love about it has nothing to do with any communicable pleasure. It's the kind of pleasure you get from hurting yourself; not only is it kind of embarrassing and difficult to try and explain, you end up sounding pretty juvenile. Example: imagine all the unspoken misunderstandings, the half-jokes stopped after they've hurt feelings, the obscure glances, the incessant tiny disappointments and misplaced intentions, the small rejections, put-downs, and smirks, the turns of smugness, and any use of your power against someone else. Imagine those all added up and melted down, until they pour out of the bottom of a cooler in a steady stream and into the grass. That is this song, cathartic and red.
see what I mean?


Posted by Dan at 3:41 AM | Comments (10)

November 24, 2006


Swan Lake - "The Freedom". I love the Swan Lake album. It is dense, monstrous, beautiful. There's so much to it. Whereas with Joanna Newsom's Ys that muchness just means there's a lot to sit through (!), here it's that the songs have so much happening at the same time. Beast moans! Calls and faint answers; harmony and counterpoint; meanings and obfuscations. At a cafe, Dan Beirne mentioned off-hand that "Are You Swimming In Her Pools?" is "about Montreal" and he basically blew my mind. (He's right.) It's "The Freedom" that's my favourite, though. Thank goodness it's one of the two that Jagjaguwar is giving away for free. It's led by Dan Bejar, paddling with his acoustic guitar; but Carey Mercer's there with his electrified electric, Spencer Krug with his anenome synths. It doesn't feel like a Destroyer song - it feels wilder, and easier to like. But it does have the runs that mark so many of my favourite Bejar songs ("Testament to Youth in Verse", "European Oils", see below).

[buy / Michael Barclay has an exquisite set of Swan Lake interviews]

Destroyer - "Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Sea of Tears)". The song fish-hooked me.

I'm walking, listening, and then suddenly each image is a chime; each sentiment familiar. We want this from music - to hear something so close that you feel it slip down your throat and catch in your chest. We talk of "hooks" in songs. Of being "grabbed" by a "catchy" song. We remember such moments: strolling and hearing a track that expresses all that rustles in your bones. The song at the concert, that time, when you felt like you were tearing in half. The song as you walked down the aisle. Something on the tape-deck as your headlights are white beaming. The last dance. Everything just yes.

"Farrar, Straus and Giroux" was destined for a mix CD I never made. For many weeks I kept the song aside. And when I took it out it had changed. Become a long line of familiar truths - of coincidences (eerie, splendid) reeled out slow. From smiles to stones to my "temporary age of 24"... Each time one of these things rings & stings, I feel the fish-hook tug.

"If there is such a thing as ill-timed August rain?" Bejar sings, and the way he asks it would almost break your heart were he not caring enough to shrug and pivot, to say "all right" and then play the piano runs generous and inevitable, Destroyer-typical, that will remind me always of the "Aria".

Yesterday my friend Darek, whose first language is not english, asked me the difference between the words coincidence and synchronicity. I said that synchronicity was Jung. That it was a "system of coincidences". This system might spell the name of God, or humanity, or truth. Or love. Or nothing at all.

But I regret speaking of systems. Let "synchronicity" be instead the collective noun for coincidences. A flight of swallows, an anthology of flowers, a synchronicity of coincidences. A synchronicity. Who's with me? (Who's even still reading this?)

It's such a shiny word, synchronicity. Shiny as a new Farrar, Straus & Giroux paperback. Shiny as Destroyer's electric guitar.

Shiny, friends, as fish-hook.


Posted by Sean at 4:00 AM | Comments (23)

November 23, 2006

Arf Arf

Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell - "(Let Me Wrap You in My) Warm and Tender Love"

The best way to hear this song, in my – ‘humble’ is not the word… correct opinion, is as the end of an epic negotiation. It began simply enough: in a bar, with a whiskey on the rocks in hand, a man approached a woman. He asked if he might be able to wrap her in some wrapping paper he had left over from the previous Christmas. She refused. It might have been over then had she not made a bold counter-offer: why not, she proposed, allow her to wrap him head-to-toe in tensor bandages, as if every muscle in his body were sore. He liked this, and thought it over quite seriously, but declined in the end. Perhaps it would be better, he suggested, for him to wrap her in rice and seaweed, as if making sushi, and then dip her in soy sauce and wasabi. She initially accepted this offer, but then received a call from her lawyer who advised her to pass. She offered to knock on his front door while he freestyled on the other side of it, but they both knew this wouldn’t work – she without hands, he without rhythm and the ability to rhyme. The negotiation went on like this all night. The bar closed, but the man and the woman and the bar band remained. When the sun came up, the band – eager to get home to their families - started in on a tune. Raunchy blues organ, lightly distorted tremolo guitar, brushes on a snare – a dusty, alt country ballad. The man and the woman, now both unbecomingly drunk on whiskey, simultaneously recognized the song as Percy Sledge’s soul classic, “(Let Me Wrap You in My) Warm and Tender Love.” They knew just what to do.



Blind Willie McTell - "Statesboro Blues"

Blind Willie McTell is goin’ to the country. This blues isn’t a lament; it’s a promise. Don’t believe him? Just listen to how he makes the notoriously phlegmatic Major blues progression move like Baryshnikov. No, I assure you that he’s goin’.

The City of Statesboro, GA: Well, we sure will miss Blind Willie.
Groucho Marx: McTell me about it!
Audience: (Laughter, applause)



Posted by Jordan at 12:25 PM | Comments (3)

November 22, 2006


Sleeping States - "Rivers". The guitar strings are drawn back and away. We do this with oars, too. The river Sleeping States summon is so gentle, so Saturday, that the whole world can go fuzzy. A handful of grass in the bottom of your boat - squint and it's Pavement, it's Grizzly Bear. Mistake your memories for voices, your appetites for electric guitar, bass, and drums. Sleeping States is led by a man named Markland Starkie, who lives in London. He's got the same bruised croon as Beirut's Zach Condon. And this song makes me think the Thames is much, much, much, much, much, much more lovely than I ever knew.

[MySpace/ buy a CD here, or by paypalling £4 to / tape EP available here]


It's Ed of Grizzly Bear who first told me about the above song, and he's since written it up in a post at the band's blog. As many of you will have heard, Grizzly Beard were victims of a horrible robbery while on tour in Brussels. Stolen: cash, instruments, equipment, personal effects... close to everything. It's a massive, massive blow to them - as much psychologically as economically. The tour's now been cancelled and the band is praying that insurance will cover the losses. (It probably won't.)

I asked Ed the best way to help the band right now. And, shyly, he said something simple: buy their record. Yellow House is, as you should know by now, one of 2006's best albums. If you've enjoyed any of the songs we've posted, any samples you've heard, or if you're simply curious - buy it. You won't be disappointed.

(Emailing the band to wish them well probably wouldn't do any harm either.)


At Jagjaguwar there are two songs from Julie Doiron's upcoming new album, Woke Myself Up - one as mp3 and one as video. "No More" is shiny-sad, sounding more like her stuff with the Wooden Stars than the last album (where Herman Dune was backing band). And "Me and My Friend", for which there is a silly-tender video, well... we already wrote about it. And I think I'll let my words there- I think I'll let them be.


Rishi Hargovan has written a good piece for The McGill Daily on the subject of musicblogs. It's thoughtful and deliciously ambivalent. I feature (too?) prominently, but it's my and Jordan's alma mater after all. (Special StG bonus: hunt the Daily's archives and find my blistering rant against indie-kid elitism! read my undergraduate fiction! & read the first news article ever written on the arcade fire!)

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

November 21, 2006

Welts Like Blooming Clouds

Blue Pine - "The Milkmaid Queen"

I leave messages on people's answering machines for a living. But this. This. I feel unfit to do my job. The brevity and power of a "call me, we're fucked", but the delivery and teeth of a "you're not good enough for me". I hope your voicemail sounds always and never like this. [Buy]

Blind Roosevelt Graves and Brother - "I'll Be Rested (When the Roll is Called)"

I'm getting ready for the Rapture. I'm boarding up my neighbours windows, I'm keying stretch Hummers and Vespas. I'm digging a trough in the middle of my lawn, and piling the dirt at the front like a great pompadour. I'm making sandwich after sandwich, and freezing them alongside my collection of stolen cellphones and prescription sunglasses. I'm screaming and slapping the girls who leave school first, I'm struttin' my new longboard and wielding it like a saber against mailcarriers carrying packages from Amazon and anything heavier than it should be. I'm right, I absolutely know that I am. [Buy]

Posted by Dan at 3:47 AM | Comments (3)

November 20, 2006

This is a Text Message

Blackball False, Truth! - "Girl Penguin, Come Back, Goddamnit!"

If a roadtrip were a hypodermic needle, the car the plunger, then getting out of at the end would be near impossible. This slow building of pressure, over hours, though at top speeds, is what this song feels like. The same is true for much of this great album. How else can I analogize this feeling? Like, imagine all the lightbulbs in your house were actually balloons, and the more you left them on, the more they inflated. At first it's cute and fun, then it starts to impede your work a little bit, and soon you're overwhelmed, you can't even move, they're hot, they kinda burn.

Blackball False, Truth! - "Motion Sickness Conquers Heartache"

the colour comments: formerly Malmo, BF,T! seems to be one guy, so i guess touring is out until a band can be assembled. This is a very interesting veil under which to experience this music. It feels anything but solitary, and totally full-formed, not layered at all. An unexpectedly commendable achievement. Now get a band.


Posted by Dan at 3:10 AM | Comments (7)

November 17, 2006

An Interminable Exercise

Jon-Rae and the River - "Roll"

Upon first listening:

0:00 - 0:25 - Bob Seger, dubiousness.

0:26 - 0:30 - Motor sounds, continued dubiousness.

0:31 - 1:25 - The Band's a good band. Did you guys ever notice that Rick Danko looked exactly like a jellyfish when he played bass? Can this music really hold my interest for the next four minutes?

1:26 - 1:27 - Someone tell the man in the back of the studio that, though we understand that this music excites him, it's impolite to yell while the recording's in progress.

1:28 - 1:52 - Hello, frenetic duelling guitar/keys solos. What a pleasant surprise. Oh, you can only stay for fifteen seconds? That's too bad. Do come back any time.

1:53 - 1:54 - Drum fill.

1:55 - 2:54 - Nothing against Levon Helm, but I never really understood the concept of profundity until I heard Rick Danko take that verse in "The Weight" ("Crazy Chester..."). Dubiousness has melted away, enthusiasm grown up in its place. How much of my dubiousness had to do with the fact that I was reading In Dubious Battle up until this verse, we'll never know. My enthusiasm, on the other hand, was almost certainly caught from Jon-Rae and the River - all of whom should be quarantined, so infectious is their own enthusiasm.

2:55 - 3:35 - Jon-Rae's lyrics betray an unhealthy fixation on rolling. But to where?

3:36 - end - To a party at Tina Turner's house. Bob Seger's there, The Band, a Stax horn section, a hippie with a bongo - everyone's dancing their brains out.


Posted by Jordan at 4:03 PM | Comments (4)

November 16, 2006

no bagels no credibility

The Morning Benders - "I Was Wrong"

This song is like peanut butter and banana sandwiches are for me, like microwaved instant coffee is for my roommate, like saying "I'll be gosh'd" is/was for your dad, probably. It's something you resort to, but don't mind at all. It fills the absence of the new with something that, for us, will pretty much always work. I can't write this in a way that it sounds like a compliment, but it is. [Buy]

Thrush Hermit - "Oh My Soul"

This is where this paradise was founded. Dusty (whose band, Relief Maps, is at Divan Orange on Friday) gave me this song when i was 18, and I felt like I'd been living a life devoid of a whole lot up to that point. These kids were 18, making this, a whole bunch of years before I even heard it. It would be like discovering the Unicorns right now. It made a nice mattress, a cushy floor, onto which everything i like will eventually fall, and get added to the mush. [Buy]

Posted by Dan at 10:53 AM | Comments (11)

November 15, 2006

Younger Than Yesterday

Heroes and Villains - "Gene Clark"

What have Heroes and Villains done?! Something, befitting their name, as heroic as it is villainous. They have released a song into the late Montreal fall that captures the greyness of that time and place. In their Montreal, as in mine, the curtains are always drawn since the sun is always set. The planes overhead are there to remind us of Gene Clark, who was afraid of flying and worried himself to a premature death; the bicycles are for Nico, who crashed hers, the cars for Camus, James Dean, Jackson Pollock, the ships sail for Hart Crane. Everything in the dark, a sad, pretty symbol.



Kaki King - "Second Brain"

When a solo guitar virtuoso decides to sing, one should generally decide not to listen. John Fahey and Leo Kottke have both used their vocal chords to garrote perfectly good guitar compositions. Kaki King's double-tracked voice is like how Joel Taylor and I recently described Dabney Coleman's hands: "Two plumes of indescribably rarefied gossamer mist." Which is to say, thin. But unlike Fahey and Kottke, King doesn't allow her guitar to become mere accompaniment to her vocals. Quite the opposite - her voice acts as just another texture, another sound that she can weave into the few empty spaces within her intricate guitar patterns. King knows to barely use what she doesn't have and use in abundance what she has in spades.


Posted by Jordan at 4:53 PM | Comments (5)

November 14, 2006

The Breeze of Your Gait

After Zac's post last week, I've been listening to that Girl Group Sounds collection he mentioned. Hoo, boy, it's fantastic:

Julie Driscoll - "I Know You Love Me Not"

Swirling with the sweep of a James Bond movie song, and founded on Bonnie Tyler-level commitment and verve, Julie Driscoll, I don't know who you are but I will never forget. The worst kind of scorn is the same mistake made twice. Betrayed forgiveness tops the list for reasons to sing an "i'm gettin' ova you" song. This should be covered, immediately, in the following way: vocals by Chrissy A, backed by Tapes n' Tapes, and they should linger in that all-too-short last part, because there's more in there, I know it.

The Fabulettes - "Try the Worryin' Way"

The most sensational song in the set, The Fabulettes seem to have been the Right Said Fred of their generation. And I don't have to explain that further. I don't have to explain squat to you when you walk in at this hour.

also, what is this trend of fading out at the best part? So disappointingly efficient.


Posted by Dan at 3:28 AM | Comments (10)

November 13, 2006


And when folk music breaks - when the lakesurface of song is interrupted by whirrs and skips and lonely echoes, - there's something there that's just between real and ghost.

(The lingering parts of life (i.e. the slippery parts) all seem to live in that inbetween place. Memory & longing & eros & home.)

Two songs as demonstrations, both exquisite:

Samamidon - "Falsehearted Chicken"

Samamidon is the collaboration of Sam Amidon, banjo-wrangler and sing-songer, and Doveman aka Thomas Bartlett, wurlitzer-drum-guitarer. Their record - due in February on Plug Research - is pretty fucking special. It's called But This Chicken Proved False Hearted. And of course this song is called "Falsehearted Chicken". Let's dismiss the obvious question of poultry: let's focus on the falseheartedness. Or perhaps the question of heartedness. A hundred and fifty years ago, Appalachian musicians discovered a particular quality of the banjo when accompanied by certain voices. Namely, it can capture nearly the entirety of the human experience. Within the past fifty years, composers have discovered a particular quality of ambient sounds and knockknockknocking. Namely, it can capture everything else. Here Amidon and Bartlett put the two together: it becomes a song of presence and absence, want and wish. Of promise, ok?, and you can hear how much the promise means.

It's beautiful.

(You can't buy it yet but you can listen to several more mp3s here.)

Bonnie "Prince" Billy - "Cold & Wet"

Bonnie "Prince" Billy is Will Oldham. At first I thought this was a song about sex, but then I realised it wasn't. I don't know what it is. It's about something: something I know, something I'm real familiar with. (But what? I don't know!) Something to do with the way I got rained on all this week in Montreal, and the way I got inside and my skin was hot and there were sparkles in everybody's eyes. It's a song that breaks so, so, so, so so so good.


Posted by Sean at 10:00 AM | Comments (8)

November 10, 2006

Said the Guests: The Weakerthans

John K Samson is a musician, poet, publisher, and one of the finest songwriters in Canada. His band, The Weakerthans, make some of the most fierce and caring rock music I've ever had the fortune to hear: charges of guitar, batteries of drums, lines of longing that shine, shine, shine.

In Edinburgh I've of course talked with people about Canadian music but the band that most seems to fire peoples' eyes is The Weakerthans. The punks and poets both, and of course the millions of us who fall in between.

Listen to mp3s of some of their songs here and here, and buy CDs through those links as well. (I guarantee you will not be disappointed.)

This piece was intended to be published several weeks from now, but of course last week came the news of the death of William Styron, and although it was written before his passing it seemed necessary (for reasons that will become clear) to put this online as soon as possible.

I was more than excited - I was blushing - when John agreed to write something for Said the Gramophone. The result far exceeds what I might even have hoped. Please tell him so - and take care.     --Sean

Open Your Clouded Gaze

Two women in Winnipeg killed themselves on the same weekend last month. What pushed this terrible coincidence into the local newspapers was the fact that one of the women was the founder of a support group for family members affected by suicide, and the other had dedicated her working life to helping teenaged girls with eating disorders. Predictably, there was little to be said — no explanations or insights. I don’t have any either. All I could think about was the fact that the few people I have known who have killed themselves have done so at this time of year. In the fall. That isn’t an insight, just a sad piece of trivia.

The novelist William Styron wrote a great short book about his own depression called Darkness Visible — A Memoir of Madness, outlining his preparations for suicide, eventual hospitalization, and recovery. Speaking of the strange lack of an appropriate vernacular for communicating depression he says, "To most who have experienced it, the horror of depression is so overwhelming as to be quite beyond expression, hence the frustrated sense of inadequacy found in the work of even the greatest artists."

Many of those great artists have been musicians. There was no single event that led Styron away from suicide towards recovery, but he does mention one moment that brought him back from the brink of killing himself. He tells of being alone late at night after trying to compose his suicide note, and forcing himself to watch a movie.

"...the characters moved down the hallway of a music conservatory, beyond the walls of which, from unseen musicians, came a contralto voice, a sudden soaring passage from the Brahms Alto Rhapsody. This sound, which like all music — indeed like all pleasure — I had been numbly unresponsive to for months, pierced my heart like a dagger, and in a flood of swift recollection I thought of all the joys the house had known: the children who had rushed through its rooms, the festivals, the love and work, the honestly earned slumber, the voices and the nimble commotion, the perennial tribe of cats and dogs and birds — all this I realized was more than I could ever abandon ... And just as powerfully I realized I could not commit this desecration on myself. I drew upon some last gleam of sanity to perceive the terrifying dimensions of the moral predicament I had fallen into. I woke up my wife and soon telephone calls were made. The next day I was admitted to the hospital."
A few bars of music somehow dove through depression, "the gray drizzle of horror," as Styron calls it, and led him away from danger. I decided the Alto Rhapsody would be my soundtrack for this suicide season.

Johannes Brahms - "Alto Rhapsody (Op. 53)", by the Berliner Philharmoniker con. Claudio Abbado, with Marjana Lipovsek. [buy]

The piece starts in a minor key, moody, apprehensive, and trying to my ears, which are fairly unaccustomed to classical music. Then, around seven and a half minutes in, it starts stepping over to the major, and the remaining five and a half minutes are astoundingly beautiful. I can find little in language to accurately explain or describe it. Brahms, it seems, felt the same way. According to Barry Creasy, Chairman, Collegium Musicum of London, Brahms wrote the Alto Rhapsody in 1869 as a wedding present for Julie Schumann, who was marrying an Italian count instead of marrying Brahms. When he played it for Julie’s mother Clara (Robert Schumann’s wife, who Brahms had also been in love with, long story), she wrote in her diary,

"Johannes brought me a wonderful piece... he called it his bridal song... This piece seems to me neither more nor less than the expression of his own heart’s anguish. If only he would for once speak as tenderly!”
The lyrics are in German, a poem by Goethe called Winter Journey through the Harz Mountains, and I began to wonder if it could possibly compare to the music itself. I was astonished and contrite when I found this translation:
But who is that apart?
In the underbrush his path loses itself.
Behind him
The shrubs clap together,
The grass stands up again,
The wasteland engulfs him.
Ah, who heals the pains
Of him, for whom balsam became poison?
Who drank hatred of Man
Out of the fullness of love?
First despised, now a despiser,
He furtively consumes
His own merit
In unsatisfying egotism.

If there is in Thy Psalter,
Father of love, one note
To his ear audible,
Then refresh his heart!
Open his clouded gaze
To the thousand springs
Next to the thirsting one
In the desert!

Goethe, tenderly, clearly, spells out depression and pleads for its defeat. And the music Brahms set these words to - when he wrote it to ease his own pain, then more than 100 years later through the speakers of William Styron’s television, and perhaps now as you listen on a computer somewhere - actually embodies the poem. It becomes the "one note to his ear audible," to "refresh his heart." Goethe to Brahms to Styron to You. Each link a little closer to expressing the inexpressible.

Elliott Smith - "I Didn't Understand" [buy]

The Handsome Family - "Lake Geneva" [buy]

[John K Samson is the lead singer of The Weakerthans and a founding member of Arbeiter Ring Publishing. The next Weakerthans album, tentatively titled Civil Twilight, will be recorded sometime in 2007. Unless it isn't.]

(Previous guest-blogs: Parenthetical Girls, artist Daria Tessler, Clem Snide, Marcello Carlin, 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 10:10 AM | Comments (12)

November 8, 2006

Said the Guests: Zac Pennington

[Zac Pennington is the genius behind (or amongst) the geniuses of Parenthetical Girls. They made an album so beautiful in detail and breadth that it's the reason I want to make a top ten list this year. They're currently rumbling across eastern North America, and they're here in Montreal on Friday. Friendship Cove, 7pm, 6$. You don't have plans, so I'll see you there. - Dan]

I wish it were a more chaste emotional relationship that I share with pop music—a mutual, unweighted dedication unsullied by commerce, criticism, or the chasmic disparity that rests between my life-long veneration and its pure, colossal indifference. And although there is certainly an amount of pleasure and happiness in it, the fact of the matter is that there is an inherent impurity at the dense, unkempt roots of the whole affair that’s enough to blight it altogether: that of a seemingly inexhaustible jealousy married to nearly every inkling of satisfaction that pop music’s light casts upon me.

Or more simply: with virtually every new exhilaration brought upon me by pop music comes a little tinge of resentment at the vast cavities in my personal musical capacity—whether it be that I feel mentally/dexterously incapable of achieving the heights suggested by those I admire, or merely that I didn’t get there first.

I never played in a band in High School. The band with whom I am currently crossing the country (I-94, approaching Eau Claire, Wisconsin) is for all intents and purposes my first proper band, now in its umpteeth awkward incarnation. Before this band, music was tangible to me only by the obsessive collection and cataloging of arbitrary facts and artifacts—its construction an exhausting mystery. The tools necessary for music making—even punk rock—seemed to me to be mostly the product of a laborious exercise in rote that I never had the patience for. [Though it’s certainly not a point of pride, I’ve still somehow secretly managed never to learn to play a proper power chord]. The source of as much teenage frustration as pleasure, pop music was ever-elusive–and oh, how desperately I envied those somehow able to harness the ephemeral majesty of “Doll Parts” or “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” during lunch breaks.

And though I convinced myself that a more reciprocal relationship with music was all that would be necessary to quell the hopeless jealousy that I had come to expect from most every listening experience, the truth is, making music myself has only made matters worse.

Sparks - “Popularity”

Though probably not even in the top twenty-five of the Maels’ countless perfect pop moments, this “Popularity”’s very plainness illustrates more than any other the casual genius of Sparks—the band that has most been at the business end of my increasingly green complexion for the better part of the last few months. The brilliantly inconsequential lyrics aside, the song’s bouncing verse may just be the most perfect melody ever written—had Sparks themselves not written roughly three dozen melodies that better it. It’s so good in fact, that they don’t even fuck around with a chorus—they just tease you with the first five notes until the verse comes around again.

The Moles – “Minor Royal March”

I covet virtually everything Richard Davies touches, but among all of his quiet triumphs, nothing comes close to the whole of Instinct, his largely solo follow up to the appropriately celebrated Untune the Sky. The past few years have seen the expanded reissue of the releases that bookend what for my money is his hands-down masterpiece, but somehow Instinct remains neglected. “Minor Royal March,” the album’s opener, is here chosen somewhat arbitrarily for its undeniable horn refrain, but it should be noted that Instinct—a hiccup of a record at ______—is best viewed on the whole. There is presently no record that I would rather have written myself, and as such, Instinct is something of a cruel joke to experience.

Dawn — “I’m Afraid They’re All Talking About Me”

Though the analogy only goes so far, I occasionally consider my now-ancient affection for Girl Group pop the closest thing I ever came to a substitute for Hardcore—a faceless teenage obsession whose minor variations are mostly only discernible to the fanatical, and whose reach colors, however faintly, the way I hear the vast majority of the music I listen to. Also like most ex-hardcore kids, it takes a real gem to arouse any kind of excitement out of me when faced with a previously unheard single from the era. The expertly compiled One Kiss Can Lead To Another box set unearthed a handful of them, but none quite so gutting as Dawn’s “I’m Afraid They’re All Talking About Me.” Where once I would’ve been hot on the trail of every other Dawn single (and probably the producer’s as well), I’m now comfortable just leaving the particulars a mystery—as shrill, demanding, and haunting as that mystery might be. “Afraid…” milks the classic Girl Group fake-out—the pregnant restraint of the verses, the brief gasp, and the absurd chorus explosion. But the point here, clearly, is the refrain—the best song title Morrissey never wrote, “I’m Afraid They’re All Talking About Me” is all I’ve ever wanted in a chorus. And I can’t believe they beat me to it two decades before I was born.


[Buy Sparks] [Buy The Moles] [Buy Dawn]

Posted by Dan at 2:42 AM | Comments (2)

November 7, 2006


Carillon Ringing - "Fisher"

An hourglass, while functioning, is the simultaneous dismantling and building of, to some, a little mountain. A mountain, turned upside down, drips into a new one. This is what's happening here, on today's show. The top song drips into the bottom song, the first always dying, the second always growing, both lovely and beige and made of the same stuff. To put it another way, the first song is a dawn, crisp and unexpected, and the second is its identical reverse, a dusk slow and cloudy and careful.

Both are little marvels; listen to them in order.

The Strokes - "Under Control"

[Carillon Ringing's site, Buy Room on Fire]

Posted by Dan at 2:11 AM | Comments (4)

November 6, 2006


Tartit - "Assinaina". The Tuareg of the Sahara desert play a music that is someone rapping with hard knuckles on your chest. I imagine myself laying on sand and staring at so much sky that I pass out. The Tuareg come: rap rap rap, Assinaina assinaina assinaina. And I come to. I imagine myself drinking water so cool that my belly glows, and I pass out. The Tuareg come: rap rap rap, Assinaina assinaina assinaina. I come to. I imagine myself in a city called Montreal, so familiar in its morning whites and browns, and I think that somehow if I put ear-to-tree I'll hear a music coming up through the roots from a much hotter place - something to help me come to.

This is a band of five women and four men, drums and handclaps that go in circles, voices chiming and cresting. To me it recalls the intricate jubilance of Toumani Diabate. Crammed tells me Tuareg men are veiled, women are not. And I tell you: this music, a song called "Assinaina", is absolutely unveiled.


Mirah - "Apples in the Trees (Pash remix)". One of the rare highlights in a new album of Mirah remixes, Pash's version strips the song to just two lines - then sets these spinning like plates on sticks. Bells ring and ding, bluebells rattle, apple blossoms fall to earth like brass ball bearings. Mirah doesn't sound like the boxing clever folkie that she is: she sounds like someone already forgotten. You know when you think of a song, or a lyric, that someone sang long ago at a concert? And you don't even remember what the band looked like, let alone who they were? All you have left from that performance is the curl of Mostly-Forgotten? Well this is that, in a broken music-box.

[buy Joyride (or, better yet, buy Mirah's very best records)]

Posted by Sean at 9:35 AM | Comments (3)

November 3, 2006


Safe Home - "Me and the Bees". Soft pop from Germany The Netherlands, in just the right shade of morning. It's from a beautiful album called The Wide Wide World and All We Know; 16 light, acoustic songs with glimmers of laptop sounds, touches of flute. Not since the Kings of Convenience's debut (or maybe The Notwist's Neon Golden) has something like this worked so well - Tunng and Adem have their moments, but their albums don't hold a candle to Safe Home's new one (nor, for that matter, did the last Kings of Convenience record). This is a cover of the song by The Softies, and it's as milky as the way my sister used to drink her tea. But sweeter. Yes, sweeter. And much more warmly still.

[I highly recommend that you buy The Wide Wide World and All We Know]

The Burdens - "Lonely Town". I have a friend called Karin. And another Karin reads this blog as well. (Hi!) And in this band, a band called The Burdens, a girl called Karin plays drums. It is extremely unlikely that these three Karins are the same person. They have different last names, probably different haircuts. But I have to admit that when I listen to this song I imagine my friend Karin K behind the drums. Not because The Burdens sound like how I imagine Karin sounds, playing music. But because a Karin is a Karin, and the drums sound so, so, so trustworthy here. Richard Scullin sings and plays his guitar and he doesn't have to look back for even a second. He can sing about being lost, about being unsure, about "hey now / hey now / let it go". But he needn't ever question the friend behind him with her bangs in her eyes, who shakes her head as she hits the snare and smiles little glints of white on those rare moments she strikes a cymbal.

There's something very right in "Lonely Town" - like a melody that's fitted to your pocket. without any country, or any alt. It's just the things you can't adequately write in words: want, home, wanderlust, the comfort of singing a sadness to friends.

[buy Living It Up]


Amy at Shake Your Fist wrote a really exceptional piece on Frida Hyvonen - and then was asked to take the mp3s down. Ridiculous. But do check it out. I wrote about Frida a few weeks ago.

I'm really enjoying the Meg Baird track that Kyle posted, paired with a silly cartoon and Chris Garneau's (still wonderful) "Not Nice".

Tonight at the Tranzac in Toronto, Fig Records is putting on a show with Simon Finn (of Current 93 etc), The Saffron Sect, Castlemusic and Gramo-fave Wyrd Visions. All these artists are to appear on an upcoming album of reinterpretations of trad folk songs. I suspect both of these things will be ace. I, however, will still be in Scotland.

Marathonpacks is inviting various people to detail "bizarre" concert experiences. I wrote (clumsily as ever) about the upsetting and sublime release gig for the Arcade Fire's first EP, but I really like Cindy's story of vomit and Rilo Kiley.

I Heart Music's poll of the "Hottest Canadian Acts of 2006" is online. Final Fantasy tops the list, as all knew he would. I saw Owen again in Glasgow last week and there's no doubt in my mind that he deserves to be there. The rest of my ballot was: Swan Lake, Destroyer, Basia Bulat, The Winks, Sunparlour Players, Arcade Fire, The New Pornographers, Sunset Rubdown and Broken Social Scene. Some of my comments weren't published and if you like you can read them here, below the drop. I must admit that being so far away from Canada there are a lot of artists on that list whom I've never heard.

My I Heart Music 2006 ballot (with comments where appropriate):

1. Swan Lake
The most anticipated Canadian 'super-group' record of the year is more than the sum of its parts (so is Frankenstein's monster, a pocket-watch, or beast moans captured in a mason jar). Dan Bejar and Carey Mercer's music is reined in, songs made into something coherently pop; the screws on Spencer Krug's songwriting, meanwhile, are loosened - and all sorts of windy ghosts get in. It's a record of stray sounds and automaton laughs, beautiful and weird and wintry-warm. And it's the best LP that Krug (who's become one of the countries best lyricists) has ever made. And not yet released!

2. Destroyer

3. Basia Bulat
I've not seen her live but she's one of the most ravishing discoveries of the year: hot folk-pop songs that clatter with all the clatter clatter clatter of a fine set of drums. And a voice like the moon, that time.

4. Final Fantasy

5. The Winks
Their new album received funding from the Canada Council, not from FACTOR: this means it's a 'specialised music', not the sort of thing for mass consumption. Funny, because these are pop songs: vocals that slide like cello-strings, cello-strings that slide like voices; stormy and weird and glad-glistening spooked.

6. Sunparlour Players
Their live show is by all accounts mesmerising, and the live version of "Talk It To Death" is one of the greatest songs of the year. If only their studio album matched the threadbare ache of the best of this.

7. Arcade Fire
I don't think this band released anything in 2006. But among my most joyous musical moments of the entire year was in the pub at All Tomorrows Parties in Camber Sands, England, some 3:30 in the morning, when amid all our sweat-and-starry dancing the DJ threw on "Rebellion" and I felt all my memories shake, just shake, splendid through my

8. The New Pornographers
I've never been a cheerleader for the New Pornographers but this spring I saw them live for the first time and I was - and this is the right word - gobsmacked. Such a glad, pummeling pop sound, drums everywhere, plus Dan Bejar and minus Neko but none the worse for wear. Remarkable; mountains better than on record.

9. Sunset Rubdown
A thorough disappointment - after their ramshackle debut and an EP with spots of utter brilliance, the first 'full band' album of Sunset Rubdown is terribly inconsistent, very Sufjan-like in its reliance on mere aesthetic. And yet, and yet, and yet - the best songs bloom glorious, acheing and sharp and realer than a knifecut, sunrise, tonguekiss.

10. Broken Social Scene
They toured like crazy this year, and by all accounts are coming apart as a result. And I like this: this playing something till it breaks. (Eventually it's all going to break.)

Posted by Sean at 4:59 AM | Comments (8)

November 2, 2006

I'm A Young Paul McCartney

Kristoffer Ragnstam - "Beauty"

This song, like its brother below, has two separate halves. The first is sliced from the stalk of the Hidden Cameras-style run-on-the-spot upward spiral that goes and goes and crests and crests. It's like a baby grand with a ragtop. The second half is the daytime motel room, scotch from an old cooler that's long lost its cool, lifestyle, or fake lifestyle, of a Van Morrison song. I'm suddenly in a dirty old suit, ragged from partying, and giving the finger to some kids waiting for the school bus.


Snowjackets - "The Holy Flower (The Baroque Seasons remix)"

I got this song like an hour ago in my inbox. I know, eh? As I was saying before, but this time, three halves: first half, like reading Boy's diary. Being led briskly down a richly decorated hall, chandeliers pass steadily overhead. The second half, the percussion and tensity of a Broken Social Scene song. Out of the hallway and onto the horses. The third half, swirls and wisps with the chorus and throb of The Flaming Lips. The horses suddenly lift off into space. Their legs not fake-running, though, just hanging loose, swelling slightly from the lack of pressure.


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

November 1, 2006

This Hallowed Ground

The For Carnation - "Emp. Man's Blues"

One might say that my editor Max Maki’s greatest weakness of character is her tendency to find any excuse to bring up the fact that she is indeed my editor. It’s not uncommon for her to stop a stranger on the street, ask him what he does for a living, and without waiting for an answer, interject that she is an occasional contributing editor of an occasional contributing author of an occasionally read mp3 blog. The sad reality is that her work here barely pays the bills. In fact, in recent months, she’s been forced to supplement her income doing demeaning work as a journalist for CBC Radio 1. One result of such mercenary labour was aired yesterday evening and consisted of interviews of Quebec City residents regarding what most scares them. Yesterday, you see, was Halloween!!!!

The first interviewee said that he was most afraid of ghosts. His thin voice quivered as he gravely recounted being haunted by a neighbour-lady who had died in her home and remained there decomposing for several days afterwards. She had been a friend of the family. “She was a very nice woman,” he said, pale in voice as his apparition presumably had been in chimerical body. Max Maki, ever a model of sensitivity, cut immediately to the Ghostbusters theme.

The next interviewee said that he was most afraid that he wouldn’t be able to do everything he wanted to do before he died.

Objectively speaking, this song is several times more frightening than either of the above, or anything else, for that matter. The first few times I heard it, I jumped out of the nearest window. Though I compound fractured all of my bones each time, I would say that the feeling of relief at having escaped the sinister grip of the song overwhelmed any acute pain I may have felt. In writing this, I'm facing my most primal fears, and let me tell you, it doesn’t feel good at all. After all, only irrational fears should be faced; rational ones should be heeded.

It would be irrational not to fear the sheer slowness of “Emp. Man’s Blues.” Actually, never mind the slowness - you should be worrying about the strings that hiss like wind through gnarled tree branches, or the distant keyboard, like the sudden, jarring sound of chimes breaking a nighttime silence.

Don’t listen, I urge you.



The Soirée - "Across the Sea"

You needn’t be afraid of ghosts or of the finitude of life, though. Both The For Carnation and The Soirée understand that time is dense: between any two moments there is always an intermediary moment. To travel from one moment to the next requires the impossible – that we navigate through an infinite set of intervening moments. Life, it would seem, must be infinite, and ghosts therefore must not exist. So, take it slow. We’re not getting anywhere, anyway.


Posted by Jordan at 6:05 AM | Comments (4)