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.

December 29, 2006

You Would Know If I Were Finished

Silver Jews - "Night Society"

"Across from him the Dane and his companions had ordered luncheon. Abe did likewise but scarcely touched it. Afterwards, he just sat, happy to live in the past. The drink made past happy things contemporary with the present, as if they were still going on, contemporary even with the future as if they were about to happen again."

A passage from F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night. I've never read it. I assume the Dane must be Hamlet, and Abe must be Abraham Lincoln, because with those characters, the passage becomes quite pointed. But if my life and my whole damn aesthetic has any marching song it's "down with context", so let's just let the words fade in and out like passing by a fist-fight while riding in a cab. In a way, that's what this year has been like. A lot of heavy rumbling, some loud thunder, and a great big night that just turns the volume up and down on the sun. [the vinyl is cheaper]

Ramblin' Jack Elliot - "Woody's Last Ride"

Shhh... if you're quiet enough, the whole year will just fall fast asleep and we can get out without any more hassle, without any more favours. [Buy]

Posted by Dan at 12:21 AM | Comments (2)

December 28, 2006

Eat By Proxy

Her Majesty's Orchestra - "Ms. Christmas Tree, I Dig You"

I was swayed by the title too. Don't be. This song is strong enough on its own, it rises above "Christmas novelty" into a swaggering, staggering thug of a carol that is only vaguely recognizable as festive. It's Christmas in a tight Union Jack tee. It's like a Friedberger holiday party, where Eleanor, sauced, has lost her voice from reading ingredients lists on all the items in the charity bin. Everybody: salt rennet! tartrazine! sodium phosphates! calcium chloride!
[whole album available (I also recommend "You're Gettin' Nothin'")]

Sleeping People - "Untitled"

each person steps forward from the facing line, and says their line.

Mother: "I warmed him milk when he couldn't sleep"
Barber: "I cut his hair every 3 months, tapered from the bottom"
Bully: "I taught him the value of healthy suspicion"
Neighbourhood kitty: "I gave him bad luck, and kisses"
Mayor: "I shook his hand on a cold day in March"
Best Friend ages 8-14: "He made me la--"


Posted by Dan at 1:44 AM | Comments (1)

December 27, 2006


Percy Sledge - "Come Softly To Me"

There's nothing quite like being thrust from sleep into an unexpected situation. Each time we wake up we are acclimatized to this world anew. Mostly this is an indiscernible process - a quick, confused moment, passed before we're fully conscious. But sometimes, when we wake to a surprise, our bodies and minds fight each other to get their bearings: our hearts race and our brains drag. For instance, imagine my surprise this morning when I looked out of my office window to find below me a fruit grove replete with lemon, persimmon, and pomegranate trees. The old grove exuded a dignity surpassed only by the the gnarled pines standing straight and high above it with neatly coiffed heads of green hair. Between these, on this perfectly clear day, I could see St. Peter's Basilica. Ah, Roma, I thought, quale buona sorpresa.

I'd be equally surprised to find out that "Come Softly To Me" was not recorded in a similarly surprised morning state. Perhaps Percy awoke to find recording engineers setting up a studio in his bedroom - a situation that would shock the most easygoing among us. Perhaps he searched the room for something familiar to ground him, though nothing - not even his white linen bedsheets, his white silk pajamas, nor his white on white paintings - could do the trick. Until, that is, his eyes came to rest on his lover sleeping next to him in bed. By this time, the band had already been playing for almost eight bars, but only now did Percy begin to understand what was going on. A white mic descended in front of his face and he began to whisper a love song, not to his lover - no, he whispered so he would not wake her - but about her, to everyone else; so that we all might know his hope that his lover would always be there when he awoke from now on - a fixed point of reference in a frightening, constantly shifting life. And when his soliloquy came to an end, the horn and string sections began to play right beside Percy's lover's ear, yet so softly that she did not awaken; not then, nor ever. She was dead. No, I kid (?). [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 7:26 AM | Comments (6)

December 26, 2006

Uncle John and Whitelock RIP

Just over a year ago, I "introduced" Uncle John & Whitelock, and this previous Saturday I stood in Glasgow and watched them play their final show.

They're not a famous band. Within Scotland they are infamous - murmured & shouted about within musical circles, frustration and revelation embodied by 5 young men in black. They started playing around the same time I arrived in Edinburgh, and stopped, now, just a few weeks before I leave. They were my favourite of the country's young bands - deep, vast, incomprehensible, vicious. It was a sound I had never heard before, something Old Testament and forsaken.

Their final gig was at King Tut's, a small room where we were packed tight. They played most of the songs from their (severely flawed) LP, There Is Nothing Else, an album that at 20 tracks discloses too much, and with a clean, almost anemic recording, discloses too little. And yet when played loud your body will catch a flicker of the things that shook the walls whenever they took the stage, the way their "horror r&b" and "dead soul" gave a clear face, fiery eyes, to the ambiguous here-and-there lostness of life in the 21st c. Uncle John & Whitelock's principal principle was: You will die. And they wrapped it in country waltz, blues chords, surf guitar. As James Lovatt cooed, bony grin on his face, before launching into "Baghdadi" for the second-last time: "Merry Christmas. May you all drown happily in your beds."

It was appropriate that a band ruminating often on resurrection was strongest in its final encore. Lovatt threw himself into the crowd and our fingertips, they held him up.

Uncle John & Whitelock - "Aleister Crowley". A song of warning, with low sharp notes and flat beaten drums. Lovatt intones Crowley's name like he's about to summon the black magician, to summon him here to tremble. There are guitars in the front, heaving and shrieking, and in the back of the mix things are simply breaking. Dreams, hopes, necks. Roofs collapsing in the heat.

Uncle John & Whitelock - "Dead Cheerful". A much lighter track; a suicide lovesong in 3/4 time. It's the stuff of Bonnie & Clyde, country soul and the allure of the soft smoky inevitable. The love-affair's born on the internet. "You sent me a jpeg of that beau-tiful face / A two-page diatribe on how you hated and despised the human race." As we drift in a carbon monoxide haze, something beautiful and sleepy, the band bid adieu on all of our be-halves. They need to end it before the sum comes up. "Give up the dog / give up that cat! / say bye-bye fare-thee-well to allll of that."

Mistah Kurtz - he dead.

Uncle John & Whitelock, RIP.


(A note on race: Uncle John & Whitelock always had a baffling relationship with race, something my friends and I were never able to decode. There are many references to "white" and "black men", and one song, "2-Fiddy'", is sung entirely in a kind of patois - with lyrics about "drug" and "rape fantas[ies]". The band, needless to say, are a bunch of white English- and Scotsmen. It's delicate territory, and the band's occult and martial imagery doesn't help. Me, I think it's some naive artists trying to voice the injustices they see wrought on black americans, but it remains the most troubling aspect of their work, and something I hope one day to better understand.)

Photo by me, at the Hey You! festival I covered for Pitchfork in August.

Posted by Sean at 10:43 AM | Comments (3)

December 25, 2006


Merry Christmas to all those who are so celebrating. & Happy Christmas if you live in the UK, because that's what they say instead.

I don't have any festive music for you today; just music for slow-moving afternoons, which is the way my Christmas usually passes. I hope somewhere out there there are some humbugs, jews and travellers in a similar boat: slide around the floors with me, socks on.

Shearwater - "If You Stay Sober". A lovely lop-sided song from Shearwater's first album, from the band's first winter. From when the narrator's me-and-you was an easy thing, able to wash away the memory of dark times: "two days in '95" when he "wanted to die". With swing of drums and guitar, Jonathan Meiburg singing like he's swaying from a star, then a fiddle to underline the heaven come to earth - the way joy does sometimes just appear. [buy]

Christine Fellows - "Paper Anniversary". Tomorrow will be a post about death so today let's let it be about love. (Easier said than done. But seriously, wait, let's stay in the parentheses; it's easier here. And on "Paper Anniversary", Christine makes true love sound simple as punch, no harder than piano keys struck-and-echoing, a wheezy out-of-key organ, a statement of the things that Simply Are: "There's no better time than the second time, of anything, with you." It's a song that jolts with sentiment strongly felt, that jumps with the gladness of a moment shared. It's a yay.



Amy at Shake Your Fist's best songs of 2006 has lots of very great things.

RIP James Brown. [photo (c) diane arbus]

Posted by Sean at 9:22 AM | Comments (6)

December 22, 2006

Half Distances

Welcome - "Marry Me Men"

You know how the army makes high-quality tools and clothes for soldiers? Like, most people don't require the quality of most things to be very high because they don't necessarily want to sign on for that one aesthetic. So a diverse marketplace appears, naturally. But still, when you feel an army wallet, or an army belt, you know you're holding something built with the purpose of extended use. This song feels built for extended use, I bet the cd feels like a bathroom tile to hold in your hand. With that same white sheen, too. [Buy from Amazon UK]

The Whiskers - "Roses"

In a line, these words step single file, hoods hanging over their faces, out of your computer speakers, and they form a slow circle around you. Things that wear hoods are often kinda scary, you can't see what they're gonna do. But often, you'll find it's usually the silly and geeky who wear the scariest hoods, and only pretend to be a threat. Sometimes in their velvet monk's robe they're carrying a special edition Ghostbusters DVD.

This song is like making a salad with one thing in it. It might be like looking for your keys for 35 minutes. But it's certainly like putting a digital sepia filter on all your personal photos.

And all these things can be alternately pronounced, as can my Christian name, "I like it". [more]

Posted by Dan at 3:28 AM | Comments (4)

December 21, 2006


Sandro Perri - "Sky Histoire". Perri usually records as Polmo Polpo, making an electronic music from small organic sounds. On Sandro Perri Plays Polmo Polpo, Perri revisits some of these songs - reinterpreting them in more traditional form, often with vocals, and always in beautiful, sumptuous tones. "Sky Histoire" takes the seaside want of Perri's voice and drapes it in trombone, euphonium, bells, tom, fingers-on-guitarstring. It's a tremendously handsome piece, yearning and somehow glad, evoking the ends of Grizzly Bear songs or the middle of Mulatu Astatqe's Ethiopiques.

[buy from Constellation]

Virgil Shepard Walters - "Ghetto Blastin'". I hope by now you are familiar with the virtues of Dan Beirne, one of the two men who writes this blog with me. And so I hope you'll realise what a compliment it is when I say that if Dan Beirne had a theme-song, it would share the same lyrics as "Ghetto Blastin'". Yes. I'm not sure that the music would be the same: Dan's got less twang than this, more spiky electric guitar. But the words, oh the vocals - they're sharp as looks, bright as spurs, yellow as pinnies. "I'm the best but even if I wasn't I hit the street with my cousin, we'd fuckin' tear it up." It's a song of hip-hop swagger that's dressed in denim jacket, green cords; that takes shaker, guitar, violins, a voice that curls water-damaged at the edges. It's all in that voice, Mr Walters himself, singing the Dan Beirne themesong.

Someone once pointed out the way my heart is always creaking. That my heart always takes this verb: to creak. But Dan? "Ghetto Blastin'"? No creakin'. Their hearts do things mine are not so much in the habit of doing. They "clatter", they "gallop". The song apologises if your heart don't do that. Oh, to have a galloping heart! It's very rare for me, something felt on mountains, in fog, and at first touches. But not Virgil Shepard Walters, not Dan Beirne. They've got feelings that take loud, forceful sounds - these fiddles f'rinstance, fiddles that move in and up and in and up until they're too much to compete with, til Walters is yelling over them and is forced to fade out. "I'm sorry / that you're dyin' / Lord I'm sorry! / I'm still living / and I'm crushing you with my twenty-two inch rims!"

What's my theme-song? I am going to arbitrarily declare it Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's "New Partner" (original vsn), because this is my blog-post and I can do, hope, crave whatever I want.

(Thank you, thank you Michael.)

[MySpace (buy the album for $5!)]


Marathonpacks' end-of-year mixes are smooth as silk.

Marcello Carlin's been writing about his favourite albums/songs of 2006. Of any article on Joanna Newsom's Ys that I've read so far, he best articulates my own ambivalent feelings - even if I liked it more than he did. (And he contrasts it against [perhaps my favourite album in the world] Astral Weeks!). But what I enjoy most of all is that his favourite album was Broken Social Scene's Broken Social Scene (released in the UK in 2006). That record was one of my very favourites of last year, but at the time I felt like one of its only cheerleaders. (This year's equivalent, ladies and gents: Swan Lake.)

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

December 19, 2006

Cold Old News

The Kills - "No Wow"

This is like someone coming to your door, but not knocking. You can just see those two shadows that their feet cast against the line of light at the bottom. Just standing there, fist poised and clenched, hovering. You can stay that way for hours.

The Kills - "At the Back of the Shell"

I will liken this music to a long, slow, skewering. It's a push, steady, through tendons and thin cartilage, parting sinews as if trying to get through a dancefloor. Eventually it pokes out the other side, to no prize, there's no winning. Only pushing.


Posted by Dan at 11:38 PM | Comments (9)

December 18, 2006


Whispertown 2000 - "Through a Hole". Some songs rely on the alchemy of voice & voice, or voice & guitar. Just the right emphasis, just the right drawl, just the right throat with just the right strings. "Through a Hole" is like this, but bolstered with other things that make a song good: boot-stamps, sing-along, glockenspiel, mild twang, lyrics fired like watergun sprays - quantity over quality, tossing rings to see what catches. It's really good!

[buy it at their MySpace]

Greg Peterson ft. Fiona Kelly - "How I Got To Memphis". I don't think Peterson ever actually got to Memphis - he lives in New York, far as I can tell. And if he did I don't think he started out in the Arctic. But that's how I hear this song, with its long, slow opening of snow-white noise, then the sunbaked arrival of guitar, voice, horsehairy fiddle. It's a song of slow progress, tortoise over hare, a spirit very different from the Tom T Hall original (or the Solomon Burke cover). A song not of going but of having-gone. A lovesong I'd love one day to hear about me.

(thanks Ben)

[many Greg Peterson recordings for sale here, all at $5, and mp3s too. This track appears on It's Hard to Die With The Piney Wood Blues]


Moka's Best of 2006 is a special list, and very different from most others that have appeared. Some very ghostly, potent post-rock and folktronica, much of which I haven't heard. The White Birch track she's posted is truly marvelous - sadly it's on Rune Grammofon, the (great) Norwegian label that charges a fucking fortune for its records. There is now a list as long as my arm of Grammofon records I want and have not mustered up the strength to order. I hope that you have hardier pocket-books! (I went to Norway hoping that their CDs would be more affordable there. Lest you follow the same tragic path: they are not.)

The always-worthy Nothing But Green Lights has released its Top British Acts of 2006, polling a small list of UK musicbloggers (myself included). Last year Girls Aloud won. This year the Top 10 is full of unsigned/small-time acts, which is really pretty cool. (I agree that it's not been a strong year for big-name British acts.) For those who are curious, my ballot's after the jump.

(drawing by Maxwell Loren Holyoke-Hirsch)

1. The Pendulums
This scampering Glasgow gang have gone tragically unrecognised, plowing a crooked furrow between freak-folk, childrens' music and Scottish sing-along. In songs about gnomes, witches and brand new Commodore 64s, The Pendulums make a sound that's at once kindly, daft and breathless. Their debut, Moon Mountain, was self-released this year and it's the absolute opposite of the hipster-folk that crowds most New York lofts.

2. Belle and Sebastian
Strange that this band makes my list this year, but I saw them perform twice - once at the ABC in Glasgow, at the beginning of their tour, and once at the end in an art-space at The Tramway. The first show was lacklustre, sort of soul-less, but the second was the best I've ever seen them. Utterly inhabiting their razzle-dazzle new sound, playing bright pop songs for all they're worth.

3. Las Campesinios!
Who are these people?! And how can I get them to write the new British national anthem?! Like some breathless mash-up of Ballboy, The Delgados and the Go Team!, "You! Me! Dancing!" is enough to make these Cardiff kids one of my brightest hopes for 2007.

4. Uncle John and Whitelock
UJ & W RIP. After storming Mono's "Get Off My Pavement" festival, second only to Herman Dune on a bill that included Arab Strap, The 1990s and a Delgados solo-project, it's been announced that these death-blues merchants are calling it quits. They were one of the most exciting bands in Scotland - despite a lackluste LP - and I look forward to one more blow to the head as they play their final gig at the end of December.

5. Lily Allen
"LDN" was enough to make me sew a little Lily Allen patch to my heart. There's something so lovely, sassy and British to the lilt of her voice; a chip-stain, crisp-crackle, horn-honking and willow-tree pop.

6. Chris Corsano
The gob-smacking American drummer has become a resident of Edinburgh. Free-jazz percussion that left my mind doing full orbits on itself.

7. Tap Tap
Finally a genuine UK take on the yelp rock that's saturated North America of late. And double bonus: it's great. Lanzafame is an album of spirit and bleat, discobeat drums as guitars ring and wrangle.

8. Loki
A rapper that glints with glassy Glasgow glaze: sharp, clever, and full of a Scottish greysky pathos. Fucking ace.

9. Sleeping States
A late arrival to this list, 'breaking' on the internet only at the close of November. He's already in the middle of a label bidding war and it's easy to see why: sleepy urban folk with just the right dose of beats and harmony. Belongs in a bag with Jens Lekman, Grizzly Bear, and Beirut's Zach Condon. A voice to stop sunsets.

10. Camera Obscura

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

December 15, 2006



Let's Go Sailing - "Icicles". Straight from Los Angeles comes a song with jingle-bells and icicle-talk, a warming tone that's equal parts Winter, Spring and Summer (but definitely not Fall). Shana Levy sings sweet over jangling guitars, and me I imagine her in red shoes and red gloves, posing beside snowmen while icicles fall from red tile roofs.


Alasdair Roberts - "River Rhine". There are madrigals, rounds, quatrains, sonnets, all sorts of names for songs and poems. And I want to add another name to this list: "a kindness". I'm not sure I can put into words what a "kindness" is, but for examples please look at the work that Alasdair Roberts has been recording for years. The Glaswegian sings traditional folk songs in a coaxing, asking, gentle voice - and he plays his guitar in colours gold and copper. This song is taken from his upcoming album The Amber Gatherers, which is very good, and one of the most special things therein is the use of drums. Brushes, claps, hits, hushes - a splash-and-slap undertone to the softness of the other sounds. "River Rhine" is no exception: the only thing better than the drums is the rest. It's one of the sweetest love-songs i can remember, hewn in rhymes and finger-picked guitar. When Alasdair says "...she sees The Clyde in mine," another guitar coming to life, my heart rolls over in my chest to stare wistfully up at clouds.

It's not even 2007 yet and I'm already my compiling my Best of Year list. "River Rhine" is near the top.

[The Amber Gatherers is released on Drag City later this winter. There's another mp3 bottom-left on the Drag City page.]



Marathonpacks' Best Albums of 2006 writeup is very, very thorough and very, very good.

The new Arcade Fire album has a title, a website and a phone number. Torture Garden has more.

And finally-

Callum Robbins, the baby son of Janet Morgan and J. Robbins (Jawbox, Burning Airlines, etc), was recently diagnosed with Type 1 SMA, a genetic motor neuron disease. "The disease affects the brain's ability to communicate with the voluntary muscles that are used for activities such as crawling, walking, head and neck control, breathing, and swallowing. Type 1 SMA is usually fatal; most Type 1 babies will die before their second birthday." This is very sad but by pursuing alternative treatments, Janet and J. hope that their little boy will have a long and happy life. (We hope so too.) DeSoto Records is working with the family to raise funds, as these expenditures could likely bankrupt them. Please consider donating.

(photo by lala ladcani)

Posted by Sean at 8:18 AM | Comments (3)

December 13, 2006

Dark Blues

Rufus Thomas - "Little Sally Walker"

Little Sally Walker was the subject of a song sung at camps and as accompaniment to epic jump rope sessions. Sally was an innocent - a little girl who sat in a saucer, turning from side to side, wiping her crying eyes. That is, until Rufus Thomas got to her and thoroughly sullied her good name.

Rufus's Southern dance-soul take on the theme is altogether more adult than the rhymes that preceded his song. His intentions for Little Sally are entirely unwholesome, and he makes no bones about this, making them plain with an ensnaring snare, base bass, horny horns, and a most lascivious larynx. [Buy]


Pigmeat Terry - "Moaning the Blues"

My parents were going to name me Pigmeat until they learned of the towering blues great of the same name. They thought, How is this boneless pudge-sphere of a baby boy going to fill the shoes of the bluesman who could moan like a clarinet and sing like a plunger-muted trumpet? Deciding that I appeared to lack any blues talent whatsoever, but that I excelled in the dramatic arts, they instead named me after Jordana Brewster, then only one year old. [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 6:50 PM | Comments (3)

December Ain't No Hammock

Broadcast - "Unchanging Window / Chord Simple"



The Dexateens - "Fingertips"

This song is slippery, suspicious, hazardous. The timing slips in and out of the beat just enough to wake you up, to make you reach for the guitar. So you lurch forward and your breath comes out like a harmonica, and then you gasp that c-chord gasp as you watch that last drum, that flat bangy bastard, beat all the other instruments to death. [Buy from Amazon UK]

Posted by Dan at 1:24 AM | Comments (7)

December 12, 2006

2006's Best Music: Songs

Yesterday Dan and Jordan wrote about their favourite music of 2006. Today, as I did last year, I offer you my favourite songs of 2006. The list goes to #55 and there are mp3s for the top 35. I decided no artist would appear more than once. I regret the lack of pop and hip-hop but I didn't hear very much and not many people sent it to me.

If you like a song, please support the artist - there are links for you to buy each record.

My favourite albums of the year were, in descending order: Destroyer - Destroyer's Rubies, The Knife - Silent Shout, Swan Lake - Beast Moans, Grizzly Bear - Yellow House, Jason Molina - Let Me Go Let Me Go Let Me Go, Espers - Espers II, Beirut - Gulag Orkestar, Final Fantasy - He Poos Clouds, Damien Jurado - Now That I'm Your Shadow, Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury, Fionn Regan - The End of History, White Flight - s/t.

I suggest you buy them all, and let them rattle you.


  1. Beirut - "Postcards from Italy" [buy]
    Beirut became a little famous this year, and more than anything it's because two songs available free on his website - this one and "Mount Wroclai (Idle Days)". "Postcards from Italy" is a song so generous with its pleasures, so easy to love: beautiful, breathless, wistful. A pop music rendered in shades of brown, black and gold (beer-brown, night-black, coin-gold), Condon's woozy, heartflushed voice set amid ukelele, piano, gyspy trumpet, and roll-thumping drums. And just when you think "Ok, got it," about two minutes in - there's a whole other song that crests above you, sweet as full longing. "And I would love to see that day / That day is mine / When she will marry me outside / With the willow trees / And play the songs that made / that made me so." (Beirut previously on StG: 1 2 guestpost)
  2. Lavender Diamond - "You Broke My Heart" [buy]
    "You Broke My Heart" was first released in 2005 and will be reissued on Matador & Rough Trade in 2007. But it is one of my songs of 2006. Nothing else in these eleven and a half months has so captured the way heartbreak can be answered with resolve, two songs sung in one voice. It's a victory march, with tears streaming. It's a parade down the Champs-Elysees with people cheering from their windows, tickertapes fanning & falling, clouds white as the pages of new books. Becky Stark sings the same line over and over, high as high, transforming heartbreak into triumph. And the drums and bells and piano say the same thing: Yes, yes, yes, oh yes, yes, to it all I'll say yes.
  3. Munk & James Murphy - "Kick Out the Chairs (Who Made Who replay)"
    This didn't come out in 2006 either. I guess my list is a bit of a sham. But whenever it did come out, people did not speak of it. And so now here were are with the NUMBA THREE of TWO THOUSAND SIX, and thank god it's finally a song that is fun. LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy shouts himself hoarse singing a nonsense about "kick[ing] out the chizzairs, muthaf***ers!". Who Made Who turns the tiresome original into a thing of loud funky brilliance, a pleasure that's ripe as new peaches-persimmons-pineapples. As limes. You can hear the smile on Nancy Wang's lips as she sings along. You can hear the joy in the cowbell. There's nothing spooky-nasty-dark: it's all free glad glorious awesome life. (Previously on Stg)
  4. Yo La Tengo - "Black Flowers" [buy]
    As I said in September, James McNew'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). ... It's plain and unconflicted songcraft: it rubs my heart til it glows. No fucking around: just glassy, sweet song; dark petals blooming.
  5. Grizzly Bear - "Knife" [buy]
    The prettiest song about backstabbing that you'll ever hear. The content of the message becomes detached from its delivery: "Do you think it's all right?" they sing in a chorus of chemical doo-wop, "Do you think it's all right? Can't you feel the knife?" Simultaneously intimate and public, bitter and celebratory, like a hate-letter written in curlicued clouds across the whole Brooklyn sky. (Grizzly Bear previously on StG: 1 2 3 guestpost)
  6. Ola Podrida - "Pour Me Another (demo)" [MySpace]
    Ola Podrida's debut album will be released in 2007 on Plug Research. This is a demo version of "Pour Me Another". It's a love song as true as any you'll hear this year. You can hear him trying to get this down, fingers on piano-keys. Trying to tell someone exactly what he feels about her. It's clumsy, careful. It's graceful, brave. All I can hope is that you have someone to give it to. (Ola Podrida previously on StG: 1 2)
  7. The Knife - "We Share Our Mother's Health (Trentemoller remix)" [buy]
    The original of this Knife song is very, very good, but divorced from the rest of the album I prefer Trentemoller's version, that wintry electro distended into cold ice. It comes at you from all directions, heaves of melody coming shattering up from under your feet. (The Knife previously on StG: 1 2)
  8. Chris Garneau - "Not Nice" [pre-order]
    Previously on StG: This is the inverse of Antony (& the Johnsons). It's as if Garneau's been gathering songs like this, stillness and piano and cello, and he's been collecting all the gaps in these other peoples' tracks. And then with care, yes with pain, he makes his own song - a song made just of the gaps. Of the pauses that make something flicker instead of shine.
  9. Ghostface Killa ft. Cappadonna, Shawn Wigs & Trife - "Jellyfish" [buy]
    It's a tribute to the perfect woman, body and mind: "I'm not cheatin' on her or beatin' on her / I spend the weekend on her." The organ sample's feels like nothing but a golden age - some downtown utopia with a Helen on your arm.
  10. Herman Dune - "I Wish That I Could See You Soon" [buy]
    The song with the best music video of the year. Prevously on Said the Gramophone: 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 re-record 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.
  11. Destroyer - "Rubies" [buy ($8.99)]
    A sprawling, baffling song, all knees and elbows and spurts of juicy-red guitar. Previously: With Destroyer, every line is an aside; no line is an aside; we listen from all sides, and he knows it ... a drumkit that keeps throwing itself across the studio floor ... Bejar's wistful and moony; he's a dandy; he's exact ("typical / rural / shit"), and abrupt ("I won't repeat them here"). He's a Bowie-like frontman and later just a man with ... a plaintive reaching theme.
  12. Justin Timberlake ft. T. I. - "My Love" [buy]
    Bar none the best song about Cameron Diaz that I've ever heard. Timbaland's made a love-song with hydra-headed personality: the club-banging synth blitz, the blushing falsetto, the easygoing beatbox, the goofy gremlin laugh that fastens everything to earth. And Justin & T.I. fill it with something that's at once sincere and exquisitely Prince-catchy.
  13. Sunparlour Players - "Talk It To Death (live)" [buy]
    Two Toronto Mennonites play a song on glockenspiel, guitar, bass drum and throat. As Dan pointed out, Andrew Penner sounds a great deal like the Arcade Fire's Win Butler used to - it's a voice with a woodgrain of ache, desires sent wheeling up in a series of whoops.
  14. Peter Bjorn & John with Victoria Bergsman - "Young Folks" [buy]
    A model duet, times three: 1) the perfect matching of clear drums and loping bassline; 2) Bjorn's tentative voice and The Concretes' Victoria Bergsman out-wearying even Camera Obscura's Traceyanne Campbell; 3) bongos (my most hated amateur instrument) and whistling (my most beloved amateur instrument). (Previously on StG)
  15. Sunset Rubdown - "Us Ones in Between" [buy]
    I woke up to this song when Dan Beirne, of this blog, made a music video, of sorts, for it. (The video is archived here.) Before then I had enjoyed it but it was like being in a dark room and not knowing that in the corner behind you was a flame. It's sad and beautiful, shrill and soothing, a song perfectly about precipice. And if you listen to the words (which I eventually did), you'll find that Spencer Krug has quietly become one of the best lyricists in all of indie rock.
  16. Christine Fellows - "Vertebrae" [buy]
    She has me at "tigerlilies". Listen and you'll hear what I mean. Fellows lives in Winnipeg. She has toured with The Mountain Goats and The Weakerthans. She plays her organ and sings in her strange, flowering voice - a bit Joanna Newsom, aye, and a bit Regina Spektor. But more solitary, more (yes) kind. And it's a song that is so sad, so moving and sad, speaking with small sweet grace to those hollowed weeks after a loved one's death.

    Kevin sent this to me and in so doing is the first winner of our Best of 2006 contest.

  17. Swan Lake - "The Freedom" [buy]
    Swan Lake's Beast Moans is free - not like beer, like jazz. Every few bars, someone opens a cage and lets something loose. I don't think they even know what they're letting go. And the magic here is that amid all these weird-wood sounds, these industrial groans, are hooks and melody and catchphrases easy-on-the-ears. A pop song yoked to the cyclops, with Dan Bejar singing its tale. (Previously on StG.)
  18. Gnarls Barkley - "Crazy" [buy]
    Only one je ne sais quoi away from being a stone-cold classic - like Marvin Gaye or Al Green classic, seriously. The bassline is tailor-made for college acapella groups, and Ceelo's vocals seem so slim-nimble that they'd be tailor-made for a tailor-made suit. Something in pinstripes, with seams about to split.
  19. Casey Dienel - "The La La Song" [buy]
    Previously on StG: Casey sings her song and then figures out how to sing it better. She plays the piano, singing, singing, words about peaches and clementines and regret. She sings all these words - and then she realises that the tangled-up things she's trying to say - well that bundle of moments isn't gonna come across in rhyming verses. There's a better way: just some "la's", high and reaching, and then a final one, low and sure.
  20. Bob Dylan - "Spirit on the Water" [buy]
    Previously on StG: All kinds of lavender as his band plays the most beautiful melody of any Dylan song I can remember: peace and quiet, chance and possibility, bliss and ease, all of it right there in the blush of steel strings.
  21. Cat Power - "The Greatest" [buy ($8.00)]
    A dusty (springfield) kinda number, Chan Marshall stretched slow and wanting over a perfect field of drums - hit like so, brush like thus, chime and toe-stepping step. Summer hot, country fair, and ended (thank goodness) before it gets too sweet. (Previously on StG)
  22. The Pendulums - "Brand New Song" [buy]
    Psychfolk from Glasgow that captures the whimsy of 70s bands like Gong and The Incredible String Band - daft, zinging, and a splendidly great song. Trombone, violin and Commodore 64s oh my! (Previously on StG)
  23. Regina Spektor - "Fidelity" [buy]
    All of Spektor's work relies on her delivery - a thing more often magic in person than on record. But "Fidelity" flourishes in these glossy surroundings, the stuttering strings hanging back just enough for Regina to dare dash forward.
  24. Sleeping States - "Rivers" [buy]
    Previously on StG: 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, ... electric guitar, bass, and drums.
  25. Hookers Green No. 1 - "Bloody Great Big Fucking Party" [info]
    Previously on StG: Electric guitars swagger and droop, a synth-line wiggles, voices woo-woo from the back. ... It's a crowd of rowdy Scots whose chants will rouse the housewives, whose coo will call the fishes, whose hot-cold sass will fry your egg, flip it into a roll, set it warm in your hands.
  26. Espers - "Dead Queen" [buy]
    Electric guitar that smells of ozone, blended voices that smell of foreign, Northern winds. Espers' folk-music is eerie, lovely, rife. (Previously on StG)
  27. Antarctica Takes It! - "I'm No Lover" [buy/MySpace]
    Previously on StG: Listen to the exclamation of this song! The band earns the '!'. Listen to the cannonade of percussion, the charge of clap-clap, the hoarsening voices and the go-insane of the piano... the closing horn fanfare like a cavalry of rainbows that the general's added "just because we can! On, men! On on on!" They're from Santa Cruz (!?).
  28. Rah Rah - "Winter Sun" [MySpace]
    Saskatchewan's got something going on. First Matthew Feyld and now Rah Rah, from Regina, with a song that heats my bones. Despite the heat of their voices (boy-girl, with the latter recalling Cat Power and Newsom-squawk both,) "Winter Sun" is as blizzarded as the title suggests. The lyrics are double-edged: whether whispers meant for bed or fog, for the lost or the found.

    JW suggested this song and in so doing was the second (and final) winner of our Best of 2006 contest.

  29. Lily Allen - "LDN" [buy]
    Cynical and fancy-free; yes, both. Ingredients: sun, lilt, dash of cane sugar.
  30. Joanna Newsom - "Emily" [buy]
    It's not a compact song, nor one that offers itself up at first glance. It's hard to twist your life through it: the laces are tied. But for me it's a string of moments: splendours that show themselves like cloud emerging hush from behind the sun. (Previously on StG: 1 2)
  31. Fionn Regan - "Put a Penny in the Slot" [buy]
    An Irishman with an acoustic guitar - but he's no sad-sack. He plays as he plays, trying phrases, trying moods, setting it in the same circling strains of guitar. And in the bridge at 2:05, everything goes goooolden. (Previously on StG)
  32. Bishop Allen - "Flight 180" [buy]
    Bishop Allen have released ten EPs in 2006 so far, with many good songs therein contained. And this is my favourite. It's more Arcade Fire than indie-pop, something dark and full of promises. Justin Rice sounds ragged and a little scared. The violins sound strained. And when the drums come, they clear it all away.
  33. Horse Feathers - "Finch on Saturday" [MySpace]
    I want a fiddle for my best friend. (Previously on StG)
  34. Dorian Hatchet - "Fast Runner" [MySpace]
    A girl with a folded voice sings of killing her brother, over and over, while piano scampers, leaps, runs. As much fun as slipping on a patch of ice and for a moment flying. (Previously on StG)
  35. Rappers' Delight Club - "Hum" [MySpace]
    Previously on StG: In short, this is four minutes of the looped Elmo themesong, but with kids laying it down. They rap like monsters, like beasts, like cheese-shop clerks. Like kids, really - and beyond the ceaseless sparkle of the song, there's the plain flact of their flow.

For the curious, my favourite songs #35-55 are after the jump.

36. Flaming Lips - "Yeah Yeah Yeah Song"
37. Belle & Sebastian - "Funny Little Frog"
38. Cathy Davey - "Sing for your Supper"
39. Christina Aguilera - "Ain't No Other Man"
40. Two Gallants - "Waves of Grain"
41. Clipse - "Ride Around Shining"
42. Islands - "Rough Gem"
43. Greg Peterson ft. Fiona Kelly - "How I Got To Memphis"
44. Frida Hyvonen - "The Modern"
45. Jason Molina - "Let Me Go Let Me Go Let Me Go"
46. Bonnie "Prince" Billy - "Cold & Wet"
47. Los Campesinos! - "You! Me! Dancing!" [mp3]
48. The Weepies - "Gotta Have You"
49. Junior Boys - "Like a Child"
50. Brightblack Morning Light - "Everybody Daylight"
51. Angela Desveaux - "Wandering Eyes"
52. Parenthetical Girls - "The Weight She Fell Under"
53. Viking Moses - "I Will Always Love You"
54. Psapp - "New Rubbers"
55. Fiery Furnaces - "Teach Me Sweetheart"

BONUS: Download the Top 35 in an easy pair of zip files: part 1 / part 2
UPDATE: ^ These zip files appear to be missing the songs by Cat Power and Beirut. I'll fix this ASAP.

Posted by Sean at 4:00 AM | Comments (39)

December 11, 2006

2006's Best Music: Albums, etc.

Part 1 of our discussion of the best of the year, wherein Dan and Jordan discuss their favourite albums, and Jordan also lists his favourite songs. Sean's favourite songs of 2006 to follow tomorrow.

Jordan | Dan



The world's population can be divided into two distinct groups: List People and The Others.

There was a movie made about The Others starring Nicole Kidman as (spoiler alert) one of them, and the philosopher and cultural critic Edward Said wrote a great deal about Others. Anyway, I am one of them. Lists bring me no pleasure. I remember as a little kid asking my dad who the greatest baseball player of all time was, and him treating this as a deeply misguided question, explaining to me that there were a great many great baseball players and what made each one great was a set of qualities so abstract that it couldn't be meaningfully judged against another's. This made sense to me (though I knew for a fact that Jesse Barfield was the greatest player of all time). So it is too with music, of course. What does it mean to say that Coltrane is better than Fahey, Charles Ives better than Marvin Gaye? Their respective greatnesses are, in mathematical terms, incommensurable. Which is not to say that no kind of judgment of relative merit in music is possible (otherwise we'd be out of a job) - we can surely distinguish between the great and the very good (Coltrane is better than Modest Mouse, right?), the merely good and the not so good - just that at a certain point, when dealing with music of comparable value (leaving aside what exactly "value" means here), such judgments start to break down.

So why a list at all? Well,

  1. I made some perfunctory Utilitarian calculations which demonstrated that the pleasure that List People derive from reading a list likely far outweighs the discomfort that an Other, such as myself, experiences compiling one.
  2. With a site such as StG, where we write only about music we really like, I imagine our constant praise can sometimes appear vacuous. Of course, though we may not always do a great job of showing it, we do not like everything we post equally. So this list is an attempt to give you some perspective on the hundreds of positive reviews we've written this year. Finally and most importantly,
  3. Sean made me.


1. Joanna Newsom - Ys

And in no particular order:

Destroyer - Destroyer's Rubies
Swan Lake - Beast Moans
Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
The Red River – Some Songs About a Flood
Nat Baldwin - Enter the Winter
Richard Buckner - Meadow
Horse Feathers – Words are Dead
Final Fantasy - He Poos Clouds


In no particular order:

  • Joanna Newsom – "Only Skin" (also "Emily" and "Sawdust and Diamonds")

    "Only Skin" is a song ostensibly about a bonectomy. As my grandmother used to say, "What could be bad?!"

    These are three of the most surprising, ingenious, and powerful songs my little ears have ever had the pleasure of receiving. [Previously]

  • Swan Lake - "The Partisan But He's Got to Know"

    All of Carey Mercer's songs remind me of "The Monster Mash," and there's nothing any of you can say to change that. The mechanism that causes this association is a subtle thing but has something to do with the union of the upbeat and the scary, the quick and the moribund. When I interviewed Swan Lake for Ukula, I asked Carey Mercer "Other than Bobby 'Boris' Picket, are there artists whose work you view as related to your own?" He responded, "I don't know who Boris Picket is, I hope he's not 'Monster Mash...'" I assume he's reacting against the frivolous nature of Picket's masterpiece. Perhaps he views "Monster Mash" as a novelty. And so it is, but so too is "The Partisan" a novelty. The former like alphabet soup, the latter like Fischer's against the King's Gambit - deep and sublime. [Previously]

  • Neko Case - "That Teenage Feeling" [Previously]
    The Red River – "The Mighty Tide" [Previously]
    Nat Baldwin – "Within Walls" [Previously]
    Horse Feathers – "Finch on Saturday" [Previously]
    Early Day Miners – "Sans Revival" [Previously]
    Beirut - "Postcards From Italy" [Sean previously on Beirut]
    Cat Power – "The Greatest" [Previously]


    BY DAN:

    For my list, I feel sheepish about trying to present this to you. I feel like every one needs to be justified, as if in a sentence or two, I could represent to you the reason these artists are vibrant, present, alive. All I can say is that they are to me and I just want to share with you. So, in reverse order, here goes 2006:

    12. Beirut - Gulag Orkestar
    Brown paper songs that can tear and let loose a flood, a pink wind.

    11. The Low Lows - Fire on the Bright Sky
    Like flagless flagpoles that rattle their rings in the night breeze, and as you drive into an unknown town, the credits are always inching up behind you. (listen to "No Such Thing as Sara Jane")

    10. Swan Lake - Beast Moans
    Checking your pockets, what's been jingling there all day, three coins, each ornate and priceless, one gold, one made of wrought-iron, one of good ol' solid steel.

    9. Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
    Broken pianos, voices standing on their heads, and dance beats like heavy winter coats. A song from every genre, not a single one of which is a musical genre. (listen to "Oh Sweet Woods")

    8. Horse Feathers - Words are Dead
    Eat this album like a sad yellow breakfast. Unrelenting and surprisingly eternal for an album so deathly, so final. (listen to "Blood on the Snow")

    7. Parenthetical Girls - Safe as Houses
    Percussing and throbbing with treble and warble and writhing with angry-eyed love. (listen to "The Four Platitudes")

    6. Casiotone for the Painfully Alone - Etiquette
    Like a Mike Leigh film, a book of Hemingway short stories, and a sleep on a stranger's couch, all at once. Pure winter. (listen to "New Year's Kiss")

    5. Final Fantasy - He Poos Clouds
    If there were any woods left, any real woods, this would be a walk in that woods. (listen to "This Lamb Sells Condos")

    4. Sunset Rubdown - Shut Up, I'm Dreaming
    This is where it gets difficult. It really is harder to write about the things you like most. If this album could be charted like a map (which it ought to be) you'd have to use a pair of dice to navigate it, and you'd need to take a lot of weapons. (listen to the Daytrotter version of "They Took a Vote and Said No")

    3. Destroyer - Destroyer's Rubies
    Ever eat an omelette and think, halfway through, "why do I like omelettes?" but then when you're finished, you just feel great? Yeah, me too.

    2. The Strokes - First Impressions of Earth
    Look at a row of books on a shelf. Think about how many words are between here and here. Art is so much fucking work. (listen to "Razorblade")

    1. Joanna Newsom - Ys
    Without trying to be over-emphatic or sensational, one of the best albums I have ever heard in my life. Head and shoulders the best album of the year, and possibly the best album, as I understand an album to be defined, made by anyone ever.

    Posted by Sean at 6:58 AM | Comments (20)

    December 8, 2006

    Gorgeous Liar Downer

    Volcano Suns - "Balancing Act"

    Literally as its title says. Things it is other than a balancing act: a chapped sneer, a bottle of goddamn beer, a leather fucking jacket. Pretty much every word associated with this song, since there are none, is right on: volcano suns, balancing act, from the album The Bright Orange Years. Full marks for intention and clarity of vision. Just don't hit on my girlfriend. [out of print, but buy others]

    Anton Karas & Kay Armen - "I'm in the Middle of a Riddle"

    That zither is unmistakable, and Kay Armen is its charming little wine glass rim. You're seated at dinner, pop culture never happened, and stone walls climb like ivy up until the red roofs, where they spread and the stars fall in like light rain. It's non-diegetic, and this has already happened, but it was the nicest dinner you ever had. Soy escargot in a butter garlic sauce, with a milkshake, and another 20 in your back pocket. [buy the Brick soundtrack]


    Also, read Ian's great post on the death of Daddy's Hands' Dave Wenger over at Popsheep.

    Also, commenter e-rock made a video for that AIDS Wolf song I posted, and I had no idea. He's a talented fella.

    Posted by Dan at 1:11 AM | Comments (0)

    December 7, 2006


    Los Campesinos! - "You! Me! Dancing!". Cardiff's Los Campesinos! have an exclamation mark in their name, like the Go Team!, are signed to Wichita, like the Go Team!, and blaze fucking technicolour, like the Go Team!. But while the punctuation, the label and the razzle-dazzle are familiar, they don't particularly sound anything like the Go Team!: instead it's the glockenspiel indiepop of The Delgados, The Winks and Ballboy. Boys sing with girls, nonsense is bellowed, calm gives way to dancebeat rock'n'roll. It starts all coy, playin' with atmospherics and anticipation, but come 1:38 you'll know what the song is about - a cycle of guitar, drums and glock that'll wear you ragged. They're a group that makes me wish I was in a band; it's a song that makes me wish I was a piece of vinyl.


    Kim Doo Soo - "Wild Flower". This is from a compilation called International Sad Hits, Vol. 1: Altaic Language Group. It's a record compiled by Damon & Naomi, with contributions by four Asian singer-songwriters who are veterans in their scenes - compared in the press notes to the likes of Tim Buckley, Bob Dylan and Nick Drake. This is by far my favourite cut on the record, something soft and a little broken by Korea's Kim Doo Soo. It opens with a clip from Badly Drawn Boy's "Stone on the Water" (thanks aleska!), violin trembling under disjointed organ phrases. When Kim Doo Soo's voice appears it is balanced delicate on the line between melancholy and maudlin. As the song rises around him - harmonica, plucked fiddle, - and returns to the opening melody, the maudlin aspect's totally gone. It's just plainly sad.

    [buy / read Damon's StG guestpost from April 2005]


    Shake Your Fist shares Robin Allender's version of The Snowman's "Walking in the Air". Allender used to record as The Inconsolable. The Snowman was one of my most cherished childhood films: a spinning musicbox version still sits by the bed in my old room at my parents'. Allender's rendition is not quite slow enough, but as Amy says it is a "sugar-dusted murmur" - quiet as my whisper at the first sight of snow.

    For something very strange, see IRN BRU's version of The Snowman (and "Walking In The Air"), featuring a fly-over of the Forth Bridge, Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street Gardens, George Square, and other suitably Scottish landmarks. IRN BRU is of course a Scottish soft drink, made of girders.

    Scots should join me at Damien Jurado in Glasgow tonight. (Turns out this was last night - dammit!)

    (Best of Year contest winner(s) will be announced next week when StG presents its favourite music of 2006.)

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

    December 6, 2006

    Said the Guests: Matthew Feyld

    Matthew Feyld lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Saskatchewan is more often a place of wheat than of wonders - but you can never predict what will appear from under that big sky.

    He's an artist I discovered utterly by chance, stumbling across his Flickr page, but immediately he had snared me. I was caught up in the struggles of his characters and their enormous heads. There are swords, bears, beaks, masks, egg hats, shoes that see. There's whimsy and play, but also so much wide open space: room for loneliness, lostness and the strange.

    Feyld looses a new drawing or painting almost every day, and I remain mesmerized by his parade of imagery. Inviting him to draw for us, - illustrations of a couple of favourite songs, - was the most obvious thing in the world. And I was so delighted that he agreed.

    Please, please, please, leave a comment and tell him what you think.

    These images look much better full-size. Click on 'em!

    The Mountain Goats- "Magpie"

    Matthew Feyld - "Magpie"" (click for full size) (buy The Sunset Tree)

    Casiotone for the Painfully Alone - "casiotone for the painfully alone in a green cotton sweater"
    Matthew Feyld - "casiotone for the painfully alone in a green cotton sweater" (click for full size) (buy THE FIRST TWO ALBUMS)

    [Matthew Feyld, Saskatoon based artist, is a lad who grew up with a birth defect that made his head swell unbeliveably. this happened at the worst times possible... during show and tell... at the science fair... on his first date... it happened from stress. he found that keeping calm helped his head stay normal and drawing, painting, scribbling was his cure. his work is almost voodoo to keep his swollen head from reappearing. it recreats his greatest fears. beady eyed monsters with giant ballon heads fighting off the world in tights. See more of his work at flickr; all works are for sale by contacting Matthew.]

    (Previous guest-blogs: The Weakerthans, 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 3:00 AM | Comments (18)

    December 5, 2006

    A Series of Choices is All

    Arthur Alexander - "Anna (Go to Him)"

    It has been said that I have a tendency to exaggerate about the weirdness of some music. This past summer, I made a post about Gorky's Zygotic Mynci in which I complained about how scared I was by one of their songs and how completely deranged the band seemed. Everyone who spoke to me regarding the post claimed that the song had sounded entirely natural to them and that it was I who came across as frightening and worrisome. Not entirely impervious to self-doubt, I listened to the song several times subsequently and still heard something sinister hidden in the Welsh cowboy music - the organ whispered conspiracies, there were daggers in the tumbleweed. I was forced to conclude that Gorky's had indeed gone insane, and that, in fact, all of my friends and acquaintances had come similarly undone. Thus began my Great Hermitage, still currently underway.

    Tell me there's nothing abnormal about this song and I'll tell you there's nothing abnormal about you. But I'll be lying. For your position will not only be false, but incoherent, and I will not dignify it with a counter-argument.

    Though, I could. And if I did, it would go a little something like this: Yeah, "Anna" sounds like a mid-tempo Sam Cooke soul-pop ballad with a more confined vocal line. Natural enough, I suppose. But allow me to direct your attention to Arthur Alexander ("Double A") himself, whose Sam Cooke is augmented by just a touch of Vincent Price. Or to Alexander's drums ("Double A's Batterie"), of which the high-hat sounds like a whisk slapping against a sheet of foil. Most of all, one should consider that the piano line sounds as if it's emanating from an ancient player piano with a dying motor - a sound more appropriate for a horror movie than a love song. Say what you will; I'll stick to the truth: this song is fu-ucked.



    Inlets - "Pictures of Trees"

    Some guesses as to what might be causing this sound called "Pictures of Trees:"

    1. The Wooden Stars and Cerberus Shoal share an Elizabethan priest hole for a practice space.
    2. Post-castration Abelard has access to a tape deck and an arsenal of strings and woodwinds and Heloise's musical preferences include but are not limited to indie folk, Steve Reich, and choral music.
    3. Sufjan Stevens is becoming uncertain, more questioning, begins to explore something more deeply fragile in his music.
    4. Inlets the geographical entities or Inlets the band or both.


    Posted by Jordan at 5:35 AM | Comments (3)

    December 4, 2006


    Vince Guaraldi - "Christmas Time Is Here (alternate vocal take)". Loo loo loo loo-loo. Loo loo loo, loo-loo. Loo loo loo, loo loo loo-loo, loo loo loo-loo loo loo. Loo loo-loo loo looooo. Loo loo-loo loo loooo. Loo loo-loo loo-loo loo-loo loo-loo loo-loo loo loo. Loo loo loo, loo-loo. Loo loo loo, loo-loo. Loo loo-loo loo loo loo loo loo loo loo-loo loo loooo.

    The funny thing, of course, is that when Vince and his trio are playing, this is a language that I understand utterly.

    Deer in headlights


    Da Bears - "Cage of Ribs". Da Bears take one riff, one hook, and use it to tremendous effect: first it's guitars-bass-drums, then it's backwards-singing, later it's piano and finally rattle-tat horns. It's not quite Broken Social Scene but it's something simple and juicy and a great deal of fun; it's an ice-breaker; it's a get-up-and-sing. Sometimes the alarm clock goes off and you leap clear out of bed, swizzle-twisting in the air, like a corkscrew of streamer that lands in socked feet on the floor. Sometimes you do it with headphones on, just walking down the street, listening to some San Diego indie rock band.



    You have until 11:59 pm tonight to enter my Best Song of 2006 contest. Some great entries so far.

    And as I said before, if you're a reader in Krakow, Iceland, Istanbul or Paris, please consider getting in touch - I'm coming to visit in January/February. (I'll be answering soon the ones who have already written!)

    (deer photograph by Christine Zilka)

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

    December 1, 2006


    The theme at Said the Gramophone this week, through no efforts of my or Dan's own, appears to have been sex appeal. I had expected it to be coincidences, bling, the frustrations of noise music, or the cities built by buildings - but nay, no. Instead it's the way words slide on tongues, the clumsy and the quick; the way our pistachio-green background might just make you blush.

    Or so I would like to imagine.

    Let's imagine a photo booth.

    Ola Podrida - "Photo Booth". I wrote about Ola Podrida months ago, with demos in my hands (fish-hooks were on the brain, even then). But now the album is finished, due out on Plug Research in 2007, and it's become pretty clear: this is a record I want to keep with me. David Wingo's songs at first seem modest and merely warm - lullabyes, irons & wines. But what I've found is that the songs are hot. Behind all that lull is organ churn, guitar resound, sharp want and skin-on-skin. "Down each-others' pants / in the photo-booth." The folksy calm lets the songs feel easy, lets them feel familiar; and yet deep in there, beneath the easy and familiar songs, is something more than status quo. There's a fierceness that feeds these soft-voiced things, something far too sensuous for bedtime. If this were a 2006 album, it would be one of my albums of the year.

    Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands has the finished "Instead," perhaps the album's best song - the demo of which was posted on StG way-back-when.

    [more info]


    Chet Baker - "I Get Along Without You Very Well". The xylophone that opens this song is the sound of everything, everything spilled. But don't worry. Chet starts singing. Everything's fine now.

    Photo by the girl with the flickr username Lying With The Wolf


    Skatterbrain has a new song by Phantom Buffalo!

    My Best of 2006 Contest is still on: enter and win an excellent CD.

    Finally, do we have any readers in Krakow, Iceland or Istanbul? (Or for that matter, other than the ones I know, in Paris?) Please consider getting in touch - I'm coming to visit.

    (photo by this girl)

    Posted by Sean at 4:00 AM | Comments (8)