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.

January 31, 2007

Les Amis des Bébés

Noah Saterstrom - "Buttermilk Hill"

Here's Noah Saterstrom atop Buttermilk Hill, crying at its summit like so many have before him. But Saterstrom brings a special understanding to his otherwise standard predicament, i.e. that his buttermilk tears falling down his buttermilk face turn a buttermilk mill that adds to the base of Buttermilk Hill. Naturally, this process (fueled by sadness) propels him ever further skyward, isolates him more profoundly on the world's y axis. What else does Saterstrom bring? It. Also, he brings the nontraditional to the traditional (a gift), and the labyrinth to its centre (a favour); he brings the absurd a kind of coherence (a thank you). He brings the shoo to the shoo and the shoo-la-roo; he brings the shoo-la-rack-shack to the shoo-la-babba-goo. He brings us an old troubadour's chiming guitar and a just-awoken voice, the daily murmuring of a lament for his missing love and a prayer for the soldier's return. [Buy]


Howard Tate - "Chain Gang"

Bravery can be defined as the willingness to faithfully cover a song originally recorded by Sam Cooke. Under that definition (the most standard), I, unlike Howard Tate, am a coward. Tate is rewarded for his bravery, not only because he is a brilliant singer, but also because he has surrounded himself with a band consisting of several very bad dudes. The guitarist, for instance, has tone as warm as a perfect bath and as delicate as the bath bubbles that only a philistine would do without. The drummer, who plays a funk beat with brushes, is so gentle and tender that I imagine him playing with one hand and warming milk on the stove for his babies with the other. Or maybe he's a quadruped who drums with one paw, warms milk with another, writes cheques to the United Way with a third, and cuddles the elderly with his fourth. Listening to him now, he may even be an insect, or perhaps, an arachnid. In any case, after we hear from the chain gang for the second time, as the plodding rhythm is about to give way to the more fluid verse, Howard Tate starts to really blow. At the same time, our dreams are realized as the porcelain walls of the guitar-tub break, and the bubble bath becomes a babbling brook, a solo with which we are totally and finally swept away. [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 11:40 AM | Comments (3)

January 30, 2007

Life in Cadillac Heights

The Micragirls - "Rockin' Date"

The Micragirls, here, have distilled everything from their music save the core necessary elements: simple (as guitar class), familiar (as brand names) structures, played like they've been told they're "too quiet", and covered in delicious screams. I think on this track, they went so insane that they were locked out of the studio, but just did their screaming from behind the door. [Buy]

The Besnard Lakes - "Cedric's War"

Don't give up on this song. Just pretend you're listening to The Mamas & The Papas, on a phonograph that plays while you eat dinner with your family, you're 14. Do whatever you would actually do in that setting. Spread your food into a pattern, examine the clear edges of the milk as it bonds to the glass, rub the inside of the chair leg with the top of your foot. Then at 2:34, you'll be rewarded, let out to do whatever you want with your August evening, your first summer of real "freedom", and you'll bike down to the yellow open-air canteen and listen to Beach Boys through a loudspeaker, sipping ginger ale and trying to fit in. [pre-order]

Posted by Dan at 1:52 AM | Comments (3)

January 29, 2007

Written In Grass

Aereogramme - "Nightmares". Full disclosure: I once had drinks with Aereogramme. I was reviewing Broken Social Scene's gig in Glasgow, the one where the lights blew out at the climax of "It's All Going to Break". I had spoken to Kevin Drew, awkwardly, because I am an after-show bumbler. With me was Charles, a photographer. Charles is from New York, likes hip-hop and Sunset Rubdown, and is somehow, strangely, the world's biggest Aereogramme fan.

Charles struck up a conversation with the concert's promoter, who was waiting to give a bottle of booze to BSS. Charles asked him if he was going out partying with "us and Broken Social Scene". The promoter said no, it was his friend's birthday, so he was going to a pub. Somehow Charles discovered that he was friends with the members of Aereogramme, who would also be there. Charles freaked out, the promoter invited us, and then Charles pleaded with me using the incomparable puppydog pathos of a Brooklyn charmer. And so we went to a pub in the Glasgow west end (i think), thereby blowing off Broken Social Scene, awkwardly, because I am an after-show bumbler.

Long, name-dropping story short: I once had drinks with Aereogramme. Nice guys. The lead singer was recovering from a "fungal infection" that had ruined his throat. The recovery was successful.

There's no reason I can see why Aereogramme are not massively huge. Overblown melodic romance - the stuff of Coldplay and Snow Patrol, strings and crescendos, Meatloaf-y longing, - mixed with a wee bit of metal, just enough to make boyfriends interested too.

"Nightmares" is as dark as the title would suggest, grim pizzicato violins till the drums start to thunder and Craig B intones: "Only... love... can... save me now." (It begs for a Jay-Z remix. "Haha, I'm here! To save you! Now listen here as I show you the way; when Hova comes he comes to stay!") The track forsakes an emotional arc, preferring to be a statement of where-the-singer's-at (a bad place) and what-he-really-wants (love). Now before we scoff, consider how true this banality is for many of us. Where are we at? Places that are occasionally bad. What do we really want? Love. Aereogramme deliver "Nightmares" with all the drama the situation calls for: they throw themselves into this bad dream, play it like it matters. And it doesn't feel anything less than honest.


Coming Soon - "I'm Just a Child". Full disclosure: Some members of this band are not old enough to legally buy drinks. Coming Soon is the new project of Bear Creek et al, French teenagers who have played with Herman Dune, Kimya Dawson and the like. Here the band's more age-diverse and they've got a worse attitude. They swear, slouch, probably give the finger to after-show bumblers like me. And yet for all this: "Do you see that I'm just a child / I just want to play / and go on my way. / Do you see that I'm not wild / I'm a sweetie guy even if I don't smile." After listening to Aereogramme's dramas, it's appealingly relaxed; sung over a plain rock beat, with a high guitar solo like that first time you wrestled, flush, with a girl.

[MySpace / buy]


One of the most interesting projects I've recently read about is Ballads of the Book, a compilation of Scottish bands (Sons &Amp; Daughters, Aereogramme, Vashti Bunyan, Alasdair Roberts, members of Arab Strap, Idlewild, Delgados, Incredible String Band, etc) performing songs with lyrics by Scottish authors (Ian Rankin, Ali Smith, Louise Welsh, A L Kennedy, etc). There's a sort of launch-gig in Edinburgh on January 30 and tickets are only £12.50.

Posted by Sean at 11:08 AM | Comments (2)

January 26, 2007


Sleeping States - "Don't Make Me Over". I'm in Paris at this moment, stumbling past brasseries and gold foiled horsemen. I have my agenda: my chocolate to-dos and pastry obligations, friends to meet and greet, kindnesses to find, secrets to uncover. I have a map of the arrondissements, euros in my pocket. My shoes are tied. I listen to the snarl of cars and the snicker of vespas. I walk and walk and to be honest I am trying to be made over. The opposite of Markland Starkie's strange, sweet, wheezing love-song. "Don't make me over / now that I can't make it without you," he sings, but me I want to be touched, changed. I want a shadow to pass over my face and leave a mark. I want evidence of love to be writ in the rings under my eyes. Like I'm a bandit, they'll say: "That's a marked man." Nothing like Sleeping States, who asks his lover to accept him for "who I am". In all his gentleness an organ appears, a harmonium or something older, sounding beautiful & tired, mysterious and punch-drunk, the sound that I hear in my ears but no one can see on my skin.


Do Make Say Thing - "In Mind". Do Make Say Think's new album is an utter joy. I've been complaining about how tired instrumental post-rock is, everything a rehash of Godspeed or Mono or Tortoise or Mogwai, but to my pleasure it's like Do Make Say Think have utterly ignored this, not even considered it, built on their first two four (very good) albums and unselfconsciously released something that dazzles. There are some vocals on "In Mind", fuzzed beyond recognition, and so in some ways it recalls Broken Social Scene (with whom DMST share some members) and Akron/Family (who also appear on this record). But there's something more direct in Do Make's strategy, the forward press of guitars, whirrs, drums, bells, mandolin (?), tambourines, horns - like a barn coming into sunlight. You, You're a History in Rust is a wonderful, wonderful work.

[do buy]


Having finally met Chryde earlier this week, I do simply want to say (and say again) that you should go and explore he & his friends' exemplary work at La Blogotheque and the video Take-Away Shows (now in English!).

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

January 25, 2007

Mr. Pashino and Me

Andrew Bird - "Fiery Crash"

I have a fear of flying, that's a true thing about myself. I share this with some people I admire (Lars Von Trier, Aretha Franklin, Immanuel Kant (had planes existed, I guarantee it)) and, I'm sure, some people I don't. I won't guess as to whether Andrew Bird has that same fear, but his lazy vocals lifted to a call, and his urgent opening guitar and angular rhythm make me believe the song has that fear. That kind of shrugging, I'll do what I have to, it's only a 3-hour flight, kind of acceptance of reality that is at once the only mature thing, and the most passive-aggressive surrender. This song, with all its regularity and nerves pressed down like holding a patch of bedhead, and unbelievable superstition is what it feels like for me to get on a plane. [Buy old stuff]

Agent Simple - "Friday"

In taking a couple of ethics courses at school, I came across a certain trend called "simplified living" or something like that, that some of the students had described as their choice of lifestyle. Basically it seems to consist of the removal of all kinds of intense media from one's life. They don't listen to the radio, they don't own a television, or any books (libraries only), one pair of shoes, not more than one kind of dish and utensil, very few clothes, this kind of thing. Some of you readers may be more familiar and can fill in my gaps. But it's just occurring to me now that Agent Simple is some hulking, warped version of that same ideal. However, he seems to love intense media, and is exhausted by the constant barrage of having to talk to people. It would be tragic, if he weren't so damn contented about the whole thing, and he didn't write such chewy, glistening pop songs from his couch of isolation. [Buy]

Posted by Dan at 1:13 PM | Comments (5)

January 23, 2007

Not Twice but Once

The Jewels - "Opportunity"

Nothing since Einstein invented electricity has been better for the world than Rick Danko's verse in "The Weight." It's not that Danko sings the song better than Levon Helm, but that he feels the music so deeply and so viscerally that he is compelled to cut Levon off in order to rudely interject his anecdote about "crazy Chester." Similarly, The Jewels trade lead vocals at intervals determined, it seems, by each, in turn, being overcome by an urge to siiiiiing. The soul is catching; more catching, even, than influenza or Thurman Munson.

In "Opportunity," The Jewels extol the virtues of Robin Williams's personal philosophy: carpe diem. They urge us to be prepared to act the moment that opportunity strikes, since it's not likely to strike twice. The Jewels - i.e. a diamond, an emerald, Jewel, and a big fat sapphire - lead by example: when given the opportunity to work with material as good as "Opportunity," they do not squander their good luck. Instead they apply the profound minimalism of a Smokey Robinson arrangement to a melody that needs no instrumental help.

Better and more hand-clappy than all of Jewel's subsequent solo work. [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 6:38 PM | Comments (10)

You're Such A Treat

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - "Emily Jean Stock"

It's raining rocks on a still lake surface, and the usually white and warm dawn is cloudy through the shutters; the soft light on your tired tired face. You show the restraint of a cityscape with one tall building, your movements are deliberate, your limbs like signposts. You sing in the shower like a sick crow, gorgeous, and the whole forest outside takes the bus to work. [pre-order and download now]

Fiery Furnaces - "Slavin' Away"

Here begins my defense of Rehearsing My Choir, and we may as well start with the best song, because, who knows, I might die before I finish this. "Slavin' Away" comes late in the album, after youth and marriage are lost, and, the main dishes of life devoured or discarded, you begin to look at the table, and tap your fork and wonder what else there is to do. The consistency of change, and yet the constant recurring of themes in differing forms, is the best part of the album, and the most necessary distraction in this song. To actually document a life, it doesn't make a story. It's the shape of the pieces of wrapping paper you cut away from the actual present. It's sad, and left, and lone, and kind, but sometimes it has those refrains of unbelievable beauty (I could see her lookin' in the mirror at me...) that wash and cure and salve and shine, that make you think that life is poetry, but they are absolutely not the same thing.


[art by irana]

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

January 22, 2007


The Microphones - "Don't Smoke". I admit I mostly like this song because I like the idea of Phil Elverum throwing up the devil's horns in support of a public health statement. Also: lookit that, he's back to calling himself The Microphones. Mt Eerie, we hardly knew ya. So, yes: a racket about not-smoking. "Improve yourseEeeEellFf!" as guitars scream, drums smash, the earth roaring out because it likes you, dude, and doesn't want to see you perish of lung cancer. The bombast is turned up so high that you know that it's half-joke; the sound of throwing yourself against a concrete wall, over and over, happily. BECAUSE THAT'S BASICALLY WHAT SMOKING IS. BUTT OUT, TOBACCONISTAS.

[buy the 7". side two is: "Get Off the Internet". seriously.]

Y'All Is Fantasy Island - "A Sight In Sailsbury Falls". Continuing the long tradition of sad Scottish bands, Y'All Is Fantasy Island reject their name's frivolity and seem always drenched in rain. It's the same old story: a girl "did me wrong / so I drowned myself in verse and song". Shaker and guitar, a voice that's past caring, a sound that smells of wet soil. "Lay with me," he sings. If he wants us to join him in the grave I'll refuse. If he wants us to join him in his sorrow, in his house painted red... that, I'll consider. At least for tonight.


Posted by Sean at 12:30 AM | Comments (7)

January 19, 2007

The Golden Mean

My Brightest Diamond - "We Were Sparkling"

Goth - but not like PVC and black lipstick, nor like the barbarian sackers of Rome. Goth like Aristotle's and Goldielocks's favourites: the temporal middle-dwellers - E. A. Poe, Goya, and the bad dudes who built the gargoyles and stained glass of Notre Dame.

Soft - but not like an old teddy bear, nor like an enormous cotton ball. Soft like an overripe apple, or brown, slushy snow underfoot.

Slow-unfolding like a The For Carnation song.

Again, like a The For Carnation song: An already eerie atmosphere, defined by the round tone of a plucked guitar, becomes frightening through the subtle use of well-placed chimes and metallophones.

Like, pretty sweet. [Buy]


Timber - "Criminals"

What "Criminals" lacks in melodic movement, it makes up for in slight and fine increases in harmonic density. Timber knows how to build pretty sounds one on top of the other to make something just a little bit more than pretty. Neither hot nor cold, "Criminals" is the temperature of bodies - a middle ground pleasing to the Greek philosopher and fairy tale character alike. [Info]

Posted by Jordan at 5:20 PM | Comments (4)

January 18, 2007

Said the Guests: Keith Greiman

Keith Warren Greiman is an artist and illustrator from Philadelphia. I've never been to Pennsylvania but when I imagine the place I picture old grey buildings, plain beards, basketball, puritans. I definitely do not picture the stuff of Greiman's work, all pop-culture cave-drawings and technicolour caricature. It's a viciously live look and it's fascinating to see it in the service of three very different songs, illustrating each. As reggae plays, leopards kill each other and ride bicycles; Shuggie Otis drifts easy toward his psyche-de-tra-la-la-lic home; and the Make-Up look blissful in their chemical reverie.

Thanks so much to Keith for sharing his work. Please leave a comment telling him what you think! -- Sean

Alton Ellis & The Flames - "Cry Tough"
Keith Greiman - "Cry Tough" (click for full size) (buy Cry Tough)

The Make-Up - "Blue is Beautiful"
Keith Greiman - "Blue is Beautiful" (click for full size) (buy I Want Some)

Shuggie Otis - "Happy House"
Keith Greiman - "Happy House" (click for full size) (buy Inspiration Information)

[Keith Greiman's website is here. He has a screenprint available for $20 at Little Paper Planes.]

(Previous guest-blogs: artist Matthew Feyld, 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 5:00 AM | Comments (6)

January 16, 2007


Belle & Sebastian - "Women's Realm". A train is bearing me south, to London. It's the day I leave Scotland, "leave" in a real sense, for the second time in my life. I like these times, times when your life jostles free and everything's as easy as some jangled Charlie Brown piano chords. Still, the least Scotland could have done is to send me off in style. But the heavens are indomitably clear, the sky frustratingly blue. It's not dreich in any way or form: it's beautiful and green and I'm almost in England.

Since the weather refuses to cooperate, I turn to Belle & Sebastian. Not for a rainy-day music but for something closer to sunshower. An ambivalent meterology that's better suited to the bittersweet taste in my life. And Scottish. It's a song in the rising major key of If. The question: "Are you coming or are you not?" Hands clap, snare snaps, and Stuart Murdoch duets with Isobel Campbell. Are they together? They don't sing together. All we know is that they're both wondering: If, if, if. And the sun strafes my screen so I can't see what I type. It could be anything. If, if, if. A train is bearing me south.

One day I'll be allowed to DJ somewhere and I'll put this song on and I'll jump the fence to be there on the floor, there with all of you, even Jordan & Julian, Darek and Hamza there too, Milo and Mel and certainly Ania, and I wonder if amid our softshoe sneak they'll be able to make out the pattern of our moves, the words our soles press into the dust.

If they do, I hope they send me the answers. On a postcard.



Dan Rossen (of Grizzly Bear) - "Graceland". The music of my childhood car-trips: Bach, Scarlatti, Mozart, Capercaille, The Roches, Dick Gaughan, that one Loreena McKennitt tape - and yes Simon & Garfunkel. But no Simon solo. No Grizzly Bear either. So it makes sense to me that this rendition of "Graceland" feels a little like eavesdropping on someone else's memory. There are angelic voices and the sounds of buried guitars. There's a man so happy to be longing.



This weekend I made these cookies, these cookies and these cookies. All are recommended.

Sunday night in Glasgow I saw Joanna Newsom perform with a small orchestra. They did all of Ys, very elegantly, and then with her two buds she played "Bridges & Balloons", "Sadie", "Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie", "Peach, Plum, Pear", one Scottish original and one new one - replete with "Yip!"s. She wore white and her harp looked like something from a Marion Zimmer Bradley book-jacket. Her voice was lovely, practised, less burred than any of the three times I've seen her previous. And the concert was on the whole very pretty. But unfortunately for me, I'm realising "pretty" is never what I search for in Joanna Newsom's work. I seek sudden beauty. I seek the breaking more than the tasteful. And I wait for her to catch hailstones from the air.

Posted by Sean at 2:09 PM | Comments (14)

From the Great North Eastern Railway

Today's post will be delayed because internet on the train is too slow for me to upload songs. I'll have something for you as soon as I can.

Posted by Sean at 9:59 AM | Comments (3)

January 15, 2007

Dirk is a King, a Jerk

Today's pair of songs are alike in 3 ways: they feel hand-made out of clumps of grass, they're as silly-serious as a renaissance fair or a high-school opera, and they both come from bands recommended to me by San Diego's own David Barclay.

Bird Names - "Nature"

Taken directly from his post about them on Popsheep (since he seems to have the only digital files in existence) this is a skittery, wild-eyed, jungle-nursery song that goes off first in every direction, running in circles, doing loop-the-loops, and rolling its eyes at heaven, and then, as the bassline steps in, things fall right into line and sway right up into the trees. They sing, lips above their heads, the chorus, and then the bass, like some meek but obeyed choir director/babysitter, lets them go again until it's time to make sense. [site]

Whysp - "Travels of Youth"

It's weird, this is a song your grandmother totally would play, but you could never play it for her, she'd think you were making fun of her. This skipping and wind-blown jaunty tune is about "lessons learned" from the travels of youth. But if you listen to the whole thing, it seems the only lesson is "everything will go right the first time". Which is, in part, right. Since things can only go one way, that way may as well be right instead of wrong. But in this mini-putt-castle version of olde tymes, life's all mead and laughter, which is hilarious to imagine, but the farthest thing from imparting wisdom. I'd rather take life lessons from Marmaduke, at least his actions have consequences. [MySpace]

Posted by Dan at 4:57 AM | Comments (4)

January 12, 2007

Hide Your Own

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone - "Graceland"

Sean posted a cover yesterday, and now I'm posting one today. Where Viking Moses was trying to do it better than the other artists (and in ways, succeeded) here Casiotone sings more in tribute to the original artist than in competition. This song holds a lot of nostalgia for me, so I might be a little biased here, but stick with me: I feel like this song is apt for a new chapter, in your life, or in your field of vision. I have strong memories, strong like your uncle's handshake, of riding in the back seat of a car, this song coming up on the tape for the 30th time, and the tops of trees whipping silently past cutting and scraping the sky. And now it's come up again, and my hands are bigger, I don't often ride in cars, and dinner is far less important. But Casiotone's climbing and squeezing major chords are like that white blue sky, those scraping trees, and it feels like lessons kept and grown. My nostalgia buttons are big and easy like a senior's telephone, but I feel it's real underneath, 'cause Casiotone knows what I'm talking about. [buy]

Sam Skarstad - "Sharks"

The opening track of Sam Skarstad of Snakes Say Hisss' Serkus. It starts by walking across shaky bridges, weak and saggy, then squishes its foot through a plank and falls, caught by the big bowl of great warm water below. The construction paper sharks, swollen to felt at this point, just move under your clothes, grazing and tickling, playing your shoulders like one-stringed guitars. [buy old stuff]

Posted by Dan at 9:41 AM | Comments (10)

January 11, 2007


Viking Moses - "I Will Always Love You". Viking Moses knows he cannot sing this as light as Dolly Parton or as vigourous as Whitney Houston. So what's he got? He has the conspiracy of vinyl crackle, vague piano, an old electric guitar jack. He has his own cracking voice. I can imagine Moses sitting on the bus, rocked and swayed, listening to Dolly on his headphones & deciding that he must, must record this. Some feelings can only be expressed in a few particular phrases; some things need to be said over and over, while they still hurt. (Thanks, Tony.)

[buy the 7"]

Pavement - "At & T". 1. Right now my favourite musical moment in the universe is what happens in this song at 1:10 (listen), when Stephen Malkmus loses control of his crescendo, his grin, and his tongue. "Whenever," he sings, "whenever," he sings, then: "bababarababiba-whenever I feel fi-ine." When he finishes the line it's like the skier landing the jump; when he sings it, all slacker glossolalia, it's like he's throwing paint at a colouring-book with every splot landing between the lines. The goof that becomes a brag; the mistake that improves upon the original. "Bababarababiba" is about finding a new vocabulary for something you feel real strong. (All my favourite art does this.)

2. Pavement pairs:

prophecies/stuff that just sounds really good
i walk the plank for you/slip shag watching back

3. This song can't really be about anything. "Listen to the tender"? "I'm blue and green"? "My heart is made of gravy"? It's an an explosion in a fireworks factory; a guy on the dancefloor; a rock song with extraneous seams; a glorious wildflower field, one black bud after another. It's playing in splendor. It's nimbus games. It's bullshit.

4. This song is about secrets, about how they don't matter. Open everything up wiiiiiiide, just let the whole world in. Risk the deepest things even when-n-n-n you're feeling "fine". Open up your stocking ... open up your hands: in this rose rogue's town we can split everything 50/50. We can share all that's hidden. Go ahead and let the light in. The world is random falls.

5. The next best part of the song is at 2:55, when we come back from some treacled interior world and hear such a scream! A scream of looseness, of freedom, of the un-in-hib-it-ed. The end of distorted ghosts, yo. (It's a scream that the Salty Pirates cover, faithfully, at 3:34 into "My Academic Beard". Their version is squeezed tight, sexually desperate, and totally inhibited.)

6. I know someone who, in honour of this song, buys a spritzer whenever he's in Manhattan. I wish I had thought of that. Alternative suggestions are welcomed - put 'em in the comments.

(Part iii in my slow century of falling in love with Pavement.) [buy]

Destination:Out has composed a wonderful post touching on Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton and the jazz trio Air, with the requisite nod to Michael Ondaatje. The wheeze and whirr of Air's "Buddy Bolden Blues" is reason alone to wake up this Thursday.

Posted by Sean at 4:43 AM | Comments (11)

January 10, 2007

Repulsion and Attraction

Yellow Jacket Avenger - "Little Thief"

1. Among the bands that list Yellow Jacket Avenger as an influence on their MySpace pages are Kepler, the Wooden Stars, and Clark the Band.

2. Yellow Jacket Avenger lists Joan Armatrading as an influence on his MySpace page, and in the chorus of "Little Thief," this influence is unmistakable.

3. Sometimes YJA's music is fierce, mathy post-punk; sometimes it's easy instrumental. Sometimes his music is entirely organic; sometimes it's exclusively electronic. At its core, however, there is always a pure, delicate, pop sensibility.

4. Several years ago I was driving to Halifax, where The Cay was to play with Yellow Jacket Avenger later that night. The car was entirely enveloped in fog and we couldn't see anything beyond our windshield, save for an occasional high beam. What came over me, as we listened to John Coltrane, and moved at high speeds with zero visibility, was a combination of fear and awe at the otherworldly beauty of the grey nothing beyond.

It wasn't until Yellow Jacket Avenger played his first notes that I was jarred out of my zombie trance. The precision of the music, along with the vulnerability buried shallow underneath, were familiar reminders of the Ottawa sound - co-invented by YJA - that was so definitive in my aesthetic education. [Info]


Roy Harper - "North Country"

Hear hear: Roy Harper's wonderfully off-kilter take on the traditional English folk song that also served as the basis for "Scarborough Fair." I imagine that Harper's version has the exact opposite effect on children as does the S and G version. The way over-the-top string section has the occasional elemental force of Van Dyke's arrangements for Ys, and the inexplicable final minute can be explained as simply the perfect ending to another Roy Harper masterpiece. [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 3:33 PM | Comments (4)

January 9, 2007

Meditation: Useless, Unprofitable

CSS - "Let's Make Love and Listen to Death From Above"

I find getting dressed to be pretty erotic. I think it's something to do with the idea of "suiting up", like somehow our clothes are our only weapons, and every morning we choose the shirt with the most ammo, or the right arc of fire. It's extremely sexy to me to think that someone put on what they're wearing to make me attracted to them. Just their face, as they pick it off the floor wrinkled, and press it against their chest, a tiny smirk, "this'll get 'em." [Buy]

Pink Mountaintops - "The Forest of Sex"

This, however, is a much more accurate representation of how I view sexuality as a whole. Sex is a promise, and not an act. It's a little prayer whispered and squeaked, about bodies and how they fit. So much of it is just a commercial for itself, and when distilled, manifested, finally realised, it's over, because it's wholly anticipation. I don't want it, I just want to want it. So, therefore, this song is sex, and I never knew it could be so soft. [Buy]

Posted by Dan at 3:29 AM | Comments (5)

January 8, 2007


Woodpigeon - "Home As A Romanticized Concept Where Everyone Loves You Always And Forever". Mark Hamilton used to live in Scotland but is now back in Canada. So he's like the future version of me - I, who leave Edinburgh in 8 days, and who will return to the the land of frost & tulips in May. It's therefore fitting that we have here a song about home, home (ahem) as a romanticized concept where everyone loves you always and forever. And indeed that's what I hear in these four minutes: warmth and love, familiar spaces, forgotten harmonies, that place where you're adored and safe. Perhaps too safe, but for one song we'll let it slide. Woodpigeon hail from Calgary, a place I've never been, and they're a sprawling band. Sandro Perri sometimes plays with them. I've never played with them. But the song makes me wish for my own sprawl of singers, guitar-players, bell-players, brushed-drummers, lovers. My own wooden trunk to crawl into and which, as I lie with pine needles and lavender, finally at home, is set out to sea.

[MySpace / buy]

Jetplanes of Abraham - "Take the Cash". Jetplanes of Abraham feel strangely out-of-date. Maybe it's the guitar-tone, maybe it's the way the male voices mix, maybe it's the clever-biblical band-name, but something here recalls a particular strain of late-90s indie-emo - Jimmy Eat World's Clarity or fellow Ottawans Kepler. Some things are from this 21st C, post-Arcade Fire world: violin, high-hat, tom drum, multi-part yelling. But mostly this is a song without gimmicks - it's just boys with guitars, a girl with violin, all with optimism, and a song that runs faster than they can. And the second half is breathless, brilliant, idea after idea; friends bounding happily into opportunity.



People might be tired of such things but Shane-at-Torturegarden's Best Songs of 2006 is amazing. The art alone is reason to visit. Yes, oh yes.

Posted by Sean at 3:30 AM | Comments (8)

January 5, 2007

Spilled Candy Breath

BARR - "Half of Two Times Two (Newer Version)"

It would be nice if I agreed with anything he were saying, and it would be cool if I were as hopeful as this melody, but that's why he's playing the song, right? Instead the melody is like drinking rich chocolate liquid, or walking on light-up sidewalks, or flying. And instead I hear the lyrics like a foreign language, their cadence instead like running my finger and thumb along a paper covered in staples, all stapled in a row, as if 100 were stronger than 1. And my ears are pretending to fall down the stairs, but it's just the speed and direction; no danger. But I do agree, with the very last bite: "there is soooo much." [Buy]


Abernethy - "Everyone Who Knows You"

Abernethy sings like someone dealing a deck of cards. Everyone gets the same, and each in turn. This song is steeped in wine, it's floating and dripping at once, and in the purely purple sky, the drums don't rumble, they sparkle, by. [site] (thank you, James.)

art by someone (check the comments)

Posted by Dan at 4:29 AM | Comments (5)

January 4, 2007

Up And At 'Em

François Virot - "My Head is Blank". With a squeal, strum and thump that reminds me most-and-only of the Animal Collective, Virot shows that Lyon, France has as many cornfields as Brooklyn, and as many girls with cornflower eyes. Here's the sound of a basement temper tantrum, pop shaken crazed from a cheap acoustic guitar. In three minutes and eleven seconds he goes from madness to serenity, giving up on lunacy in favour of sweet contentment. "And-oh-uh-ooh-oo-ooooooh...", like all you need to stop from going mad is to notice the bluejays, bluebells, clouds.

(Mille mercis á Chryde.)


The Giggles - "Alarm Clock, I Hate You". I was told yesterday that "Illinois is Indiana's Wales". Which makes Indiana the England of Illinois. And it makes The Giggles - who hail from Bloomington, IN - the Franz Ferdinand of Illinois. Or the britpop of the Shetland Islands or... I'm really not sure. I'm woozy. I was woken this morning by a part-kraken alarm clock and so it's with delight that this tune comes tumbling into my hands - a track that wants so much to be played fast that it hired a better drummer just for this reason. Someone to hit the high-hat so often that the floor pot-holes, someone to organise a hundred metronomes all around the studio. The Giggles do not reinvent the wheel but there's something really nice here: some fellows who love their favourite albums with all their hearts, who found a melody along the side of the road and try to give it all the credit it's due.

[website / MySpace]


So ballot-boxes are now open for the 2007 Weblog Awards long-list. Last year we were pretty astonished to make the final shortlist for Best Writing Of A Weblog. We have you to thank. This year the Best Music Blog category is back, but to be honest we don't stand a chance: there are bigger fish out there, many of whom have Sufjan Stevens glamour-shots. We encourage you very much to nominate our friends listed on the right, especially blogs like Marathonpacks, Shake Your Fist, Zoilus and Moistworks, which have had remarkable years, have never been nominated, and didn't make the PLUG nominations either. If you would like to vote for Said the Gramophone (and oh, we'd be flattered), please consider again voting for us in the Best Writing category. That is, if you like us.

I forgot to mention it at the time but at the end of November, Said the Gramophone celebrated it's third birthday since we started the mp3blog format. Leaps and bounds. Thanks to everyone who's helped us get this far.

Posted by Sean at 9:09 AM | Comments (7)

January 3, 2007

Stars Like Car Keys

Tomboyfriend - "End of Poverty" (5:39)

"You're a smash. A Pony. A Head case."
This song is scrawny, and stubborn, and dirty. It's underdressed, shows up late, and is a loud drunk. It waves and yells to friends from across the street, and borrows DVDs and button-up sweaters for years at a time. It eats terribly, chewing on a pizza slice with a golden grin. It's one charming motherfucker. But a motherfucker none the less. [site]

Bad Veins - "The Lie" (3:54)

If I had an older brother, and he were named Henry, and he went away to school when I was just finishing 10th grade...if he were there for me after I got stood up at S'creams, the local ice cream shop, for my first date, if he made me understand that you could still wear a turtleneck, if you wore it the right way, and if he had a big Boyz II Men faze when we were young, which lead to my big Boyz II Men phase...if he were too tall for his own good, if he could be found, late at night, leaning, creased at the waist, against the kitchen counter having a snack of toast and juice, this would be his favourite song. [site]

Posted by Dan at 12:22 AM | Comments (4)

January 2, 2007

A Genealogy

The fact that two nights ago was New Year’s Eve means the impossible: that this is now 1913. Alexander Himelfarb lives in Poland. An erstwhile professor of mathematics in Warsaw, he was discredited when he denied the validity of Georg Cantor’s diagonal argument for the different sizes of infinite sets, based on his assertion that “though Cantor might sound good, questions of the infinite should be left to the Rabbi.” Whether he meant that infinity as a concept should be left to religious thinkers, or to him alone (for he often referred to himself as the Rabbi), has no bearing on the inappropriateness of the comment, given that it came from an atheist mathematician. Himelfarb is richer than the chocolate mousse he’s eating right now. His wealth was acquired not through math – in that field he was a middling professional - but through the shmatte trade, in which he excels. It’s the garment industry that has allowed him to pursue his two greatest amateur passions: sweet toothism and zoology. He’s traveled the whole East of Europe hocking his wares, sampling desserts, and collecting local specimens for his menagerie. He has a white husky, an orange tabby, six fine examples of koi fish, a parakeet, and a monkey named Kurt Gödel (of whose namesake Himelfarb has not yet heard).


Otis Clay - "Trying to Live My Life Without You"

Exactly one year has passed since January 2nd 1913, but seemingly a lifetime’s worth of tragedy transpired during that time. For instance, Alexander Himelfarb’s Traveling Menagerie has dwindled down to exactly one animal. The reason for this atrophy is simple enough: the monkey Kurt Gödel is a murderer. He poisoned the husky, garroted the tabby, filleted three of the koi, smoked two others (one like a brick of gouda, the other like a cigarette), and tricked the last into a deadly hunger strike. It’s been almost six months since Kurt Gödel killed the last remaining animal other than himself – he shot the parakeet in the head – and yet Himelfarb is only now beginning to suspect the true nature of the crimes. He wouldn’t believe that Kurt Gödel could harm a living thing, so tender had Gödel been in all his dealings with him; yet lately something sinister had crept into his aspect.

Kurt Gödel had always been jealous, but in the last several months his envy had taken on a higher level of intensity; he’d been weeping loudly and flinging his own waste willy-nilly every time Himelfarb brought a woman home. Himelfarb wondered if his affections for the other animals had indirectly brought about their demise. He has decided to confront Kurt Gödel about this.

AH: Kurt, could one accurately describe your animal jealousy as insane? And, moreover, did you kill every other animal in my menagerie?

Not satisfied with Gödel’s responses – the monkey Kurt Gödel does not speak or understand any language – Himelfarb decides that despite the good times they have shared and the profound love that he still feels for “KG”, their only chance to lead normal lives is to go their separate ways. Kurt Gödel reluctantly agrees to a trial separation.

In February of 1913, Alexander Himelfarb became a perfect sphere, and though he could appreciate the wondrousness of this physical manifestation of a mathematical ideal, he also saw it as a sign that he should lose weight, and accordingly he sacrificed one of his greatest pleasures: the consumption of sweets. Now he is watching Kurt Gödel walk out the front door of his marble-tiled mansion and he is thinking that losing desserts is nothing compared to losing your best friend. He is singing.

Listen, you can hear him.

“Trying to live my life without you, baby, is the hardest thing I’ll ever do.”


Jay Wiggins - "Sad Girl"

It’s a year later, Europe is at war and Himelfarb is dying of an unrelated disease. Bombs have rendered his mansion dilapidated and moribund. He sits amidst the rubble that once comprised something so grand and decides that he prefers his house and his life now that they are both liberated from the strictures of formality. He thinks of the monkey Kurt Gödel with love. Though there had been a fine beginning, what a sublime ending.

[Buy 1914, 1915]

Posted by Jordan at 5:11 AM | Comments (4)

January 1, 2007

Introducing Basia Bulat

It is my pleasure to today wish you a Happy 2007, a year of dazzle, razzle and tender kindnesses, and to do so by at last - at last! - sharing one of my favourite discoveries of 2006. Her name is Basia Bulat.

Basia is a singer-songwriter from London, Ontario, dwelling in Toronto, who recorded Oh My Darling with my friend Howard Bilerman at the Hotel2Tango in Montreal. A studio for Silver Mt Zions and Arcade Fires, home suddenly to her charging pop-folk. Rough Trade has snapped up her album for release outside North America, but she is still (bafflingly) in search of a label in Canada/USA.

A couple of months ago I voted on the most exciting Canadian acts of 2006, and Basia was #3 on my ballot, just behind Swan Lake and Destroyer. I wrote: "songs that clatter with all the clatter clatter clatter of a fine set of drums. And a voice like the moon, that time." And this is true. The moon, that time. (You know the time.) It's a voice that opens wide, wide, wide, something with tinges of Joni Mitchell, Leslie Feist or even Amália Rodrigues, and yet so unhidden in comparison - a voice that is above all exciting to listen to, with so much volleying through it. Like sticking your head into the thick of fireworks, of northern lights, feelings flashing full in your face.

And it's a pretty music, catchy and hot; and it's been sustaining me for months. And I guarantee that one of the songs below will be in my Best Songs of 2007.

Basia Bulat - "Snakes and Ladders". One of my favourite things about this album is the way the drums are played on songs like this. They hurtle at double-speed, ratatat-tat, chasing the singer breathless. So many female songwriters take-it-always-easy, languishing in slow piano chords and then the occasional strident bit. Here it's like the band (Basia, drums, strings) are throwing themselves down a hill, feet scarcely keeping up with their feelings, this close to tumbling head-over-heels into something. And indeed so it is: "It's the way we come undone / what a perfect accident / oh we danced around them all / like we didn't even notice / oh / at the way we'd come undone."

Basia Bulat - "The Pilgriming Vine". One of the last songs recorded in these sessions, and I like to imagine the musicians sitting there despondent, nothing quite catching, Christmas lights twinkling, when in through the door troops a marching band - bass-drum, cymbal, flute, string section, a guy with a piano balanced on his open palm. And suddenly they know exactly where the song's headed, where it ought to be headed, the path that leads from the girl and her acoustic guitar, hopes in hand, to the moment at 2:55 when with her voice doubled-up we hear every trembling angle of what she's (we're all) waiting for: "Tell me I'm always your Only," she sings. Down by the maypole. If you go.

(My suggestion to you, dear readers, on this January 1st: do go.)

[Basia Bulat's MySpace (replete with Strokes cover) is here, her homepage is here. Her album is due in March in the UK but she still seeks a label elsewhere. She plays The Drake Hotel in Toronto this Thursday, the day before my birthday.]


The final version of Herman Dune's "I Wish That I Could See You Soon" music video is now online. All sorts of things are invisible! I think I liked it better with goofy green men, though.

Posted by Sean at 11:00 AM | Comments (15)