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.

April 30, 2007

Pressed One's Best

Miracle Fortress - "Little Trees"

An unexpected honey sandwich from the brains (as opposed to brawn) behind Think About Life. The Miracle Fortress album is (literally) covered in bedsheets and kittens, which act perhaps as an asterisk to the style, but they need not. Graham Van Pelt's approach is straightforward, and simple, and unafraid. I like it. The songs may not all be to my taste, but neither are Think About Life's, I didn't expect anything different. But here. Here, the song seems to ask "hey, little buddy, can I get into bed and snuggle with you?" at the beginning, which is kind of annoying, but please let it in. If you let it lie there, next to you, the next thing you know, when you're turning over and out of a dream, it'll be this little electric treasure, this tapered and tapping surf tune. The vocals, timid on their own, come together and lift right up and over their own heads, something similar to the way a time-lapse sapling flips itself inside-out and, quivering, grows up.
[available at Secret City soon, or on iTunes now]


John Cale - "Paris 1919"
Final Fantasy - "Paris 1919 (with Cadence Weapon)"

I didn't get into this (StG) because I know a lot about music. I know less than probably most of you. So forgive me when I say I had to find out this evening that Paris 1919 was actually a John Cale cover, and not an unreleased FF song off his new album. But couldn't it be? When I heard the vast majesty of the original just hours ago, the regal seamless velvet wonder that it is, I was amazed at how easily Owen Pallett has been bringing this style into realms new and exciting, and yet so faithfully, spirit intact, for like two albums now. Of course he has his own thing, and he's great and all, but the sheer similarity of these artists has drastically increased my respect for both. It's like, and this is an incredibly esoteric simile, 'cause it's late, but I swear it's exactly what I mean, watching John Cassevetes' Faces after Andrew Bujalski's Mutual Appreciation. Yeesh. I told you music wasn't my thing.

[Buy John Cale] [buy Final Fantasy] [Buy John Cassavetes] [Buy Andrew Bujalski]

Posted by Dan at 2:02 AM | Comments (2)

April 27, 2007

Olivia and I Decided to Eat Mexicans

The White Stripes - "Icky Thump" (elsewhere)

The cadence rattles around like a last tylenol, the beat lurches forward like a constantly popping clutch, and the guitar chews through like a pair of sweaty jaws. There is an organ there too, the short smiling friend, who doesn't say much, but his weasel eyes are dangerous.


Born Ruffians - "Knife (Grizzly Bear cover)"

This is like the Dick Clark version. Where the original is haunted, oneric, this is completely sober, and wearing matching outfits. Which is not to say it is without soul, because that squeaky whine is just what my sunny day has prescribed, and of course it's real. And those delicious choral oh-woah-woah's are obviously the bedrock to this song's greatness, as evidenced by their complete distillation in the Blogotheque version, so their presence and depth is much appreciated. If you're bored at this point, note that a button-down rendition merits a button-down discussion; would anyone like some perrier with their unsalted crackers and tempra paint?
[buy Grizzly Bear's Yellow House from WARP]
[buy Born Ruffians' ep from Rough Trade]


Lloyd Price - "Tell Me Pretty Baby"

It is a high number of songs that have been written with the general mood of: "cheer up, sad girl, you're pretty". Which is a pretty insensitive attitude to hold, as if attractive people ought not to have problems since they have a leg up on the rest of us ugly folk. If I were a pretty girl (which I kind of am) I would be much more cheered up by the rumbly-drums, the hippy and two-stepping piano. I might not even mind the hilarious and seemingly unrehearsed "s'matta with you, woman?" at the end.

Posted by Dan at 3:19 AM | Comments (5)

April 26, 2007

Hiisi Finnish Lord of tree-kind

The Henry Clay People - "The Man in the Riverbed". Yesterday at the Haagen-Dazs Cafe I exclaimed to a friend of mine "You won't be a virgin for long!", because we were talking about Rocky Horror, and then after that I got up and accidentally walked into a glass wall. This is life, kids: lurches, boo-boos, faceplants, the stares of strangers. And The Henry Clay People explode with their knowledge of this, of life loose, staggering and ripe. Blacklist the Kid with the Red Moustache is vigourous and dazzling, a rock'n'roll record that leaps from roof to roof, scattering tiles. There's the stamp of Pavement and The Replacements, but also just of ye olde American rawk, the way certain riffs bring out the hair on your arms. And yet it's not meat-head, it's not headbanging: it's flash-smilin' and up-down-jumpin'. It's boys and girls together in the crowd, seizing each other, listening to the trundle of a bass-drum and a fizzing red rocket of electric guitar.

(Recorded by producers who made Frog Eyes and Godspeed records, mixed by a dude who worked with Wolf Parade, and made mostly at a studio that was home to Sleater-Kinney. Also: they are from L.A.)

[Order the (great) CD from insound or cdbaby. They have a whole bunch of shows lined up in L.A., often at a bowling club. See the MySpace for more.]

Ornament - "Weeds". If you spent three weeks in the snow, and came home, here you would be. For three weeks in blizzard: you slipped on the iceberg's smooth skin, the ice cracked under your feet, your eyelashes froze. You saw so much whiteness that colour felt like a distant memory, like the time when you were held. For three weeks you were cold. For three weeks your mittens were insufficient. For three weeks your mouth breathed steam. For twenty-one days your life was a winter. And when you come home you collapse into an easy-chair, everything warm and glowing, and the world that you see behind your lids is one of green and viridian, of soft emerald, of leaves that fold and fan and twist, of ivy twirled around your wrists, of green lips at your ear and in the spaces between your fingers. Of beloved, rising weeds.

Ornament makes a folktronica of strum and thump and bee-sting kiss.



There's a great new series at The Tofu Hut, talking to kids about songs.

The Limes (featured earlier this week) have a great post at La Blogotheque, talking about some favourite songs (en francais). The Nara Leão track is really arresting: a kind of doomed portuguese longing, punctuated by bursts of open-mouthed choral hope.

(image by mute81)

Posted by Sean at 7:32 AM | Comments (1)

April 25, 2007

Practice Makes Perfect

Wooden Stars - "Orphans"

Math can seem ugly, there's no doubt about it. As some of you will know from having done your Ph.D. in number theory and others from having frustratingly grappled with long division in grade school, an intractable problem can appear as an otherworldly and chaotic mess. Yet it is exactly that sort of problem that, when solved, is most beautiful - suddenly, inexplicably grasped by our mind as an organized whole. The same can be said of the Wooden Stars, whose music displays an almost ugly precision and technicality that is also, when heard more deeply, the source of its surpassing beauty. Listen to the individual parts (guitars thoroughly intertwined, vocal harmonies constantly fluctuating, as bizarre as they are persistent, etc.) and you will be impressed, though perhaps left cold; but back up, take a broader listen, and something else will emerge: a simple, sour loveliness, the only route to which involves a good deal of difficulty.


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

April 24, 2007

We Raised Each Other

My friend Nora recently went to a Final Fantasy show in Ottawa, and picked up the opener's cd for me. I'm very glad she did.

The Ballet - "In My Head"

Sean accidentally ordered a 7-scoop ice cream yesterday, and this feels related to that. Like cold running down your fingers on a hot day, and you can't keep up with all the drips, so you just let it cry, in bright droplets on the sidewalk. It's and orange-coloured song, with a corny-fine accordion, and little claps like minnows under water. It's about having the relationship you want, no matter what the relationship is actually like. Which makes me sigh and put off getting dressed.

The Ballet - "When You Go Dancing"

I've never met Amy Linton. But I think about her sometimes. I worry about her, wonder if she's okay. So hearing her here is really nice and comforting for me. It's like seeing your favourite stranger at a party; oh good, you're still alive. And what a great outfit, as always. I hear that banging guitar come in, striding and calm, and I just know she did that. The song as a whole actually doesn't move me that much, but that feeling of seeing someone after so long, even without knowing them, moved me to write about it. It made me want another Aislers Set album in a new way; for her sake instead of mine.


Posted by Dan at 2:26 PM | Comments (5)

April 23, 2007


The Limes - "Morning, Noon & Night". The Limes are an international affair: scraps of song sent in brown paper & string from France to America, and beyond, each player adding a touch, a flourish, a voice, a flowerpetal. And with "Morning, Noon & Night" there's something very right in this, or even in sharing it here with you. It feels like a song that's meant to be passed, that's meant to travel, that's meant to arrive at the lover's destination all stamped with visas and stuck-up with transit stickers. I like to imagine David Simonetta's voice, dreamily romantic, in an airplane over the ocean. I like to imagine the band in separate crates: the ethereal ooh-ers; the jovial organ-and-jingles; and dusky-throated Mina Tindle, like David's best friend, the one who carries his voice to the post-office in a little cloche hat (she, not the voice). Rarely has a song of longing moved with so much swing.

[more terrific stuff at their MySpace]

The Shaky Hands - "Summer's Life". It's my last day in Poland. In two months I've learned the singular of obwersanki, the best hot chocolate in Krakow, the strengths and weaknesses of every brand of pierogi. I have not learned how to speak Polish: yesterday I accidentally (and happily) ordered a 7-scoop ice-cream cone. But yes, I stand on another boundary: a beginning and an end, one of those places where your happiness depends on how you take it. Is it a glad thing or a sad thing, this end, this beginning? It's a glad thing, I've decided, and once you make a decision like this you must bolster it. Sunbathe, sing, eat accidental 7-scoop ice-creams. Listen to "Summer's Life" by The Shaky Hands, a track whose melancholy lyrics are stamped to diamond dust by bass-thump, hand-clap, the unlikely pairing of harmonica and trombone. Jordan probably has a Great Book of Chords somewhere, codifying the deployment of every guitar chord. The chords of "Summer's Life" are on a page titled Optimistic Chords. Or maybe C'mon! Chords. "C'mon", like, "C'mon, lifelong friend! We have places to get to!" That kind of "c'mon". "C'mon" like "Float On". I love that I can't figure out if the scrapey-voiced singer is singing he "loved it then" or he "loved ya then", or both. And I love that this glad & striding singer is aware that that there will be regrets, that there will always be regrets, and that he looks forward to those too. "And I loved it then / and I wonder what would have been / And may the hard times be gone! / And I'll learn what I've done wrong / and / it's you that I miss."


Need a lift from London to All Tomorrows Parties this weekend? A couple of us are renting a car and splitting the cost. If you're interested in joining us, email me ASAP. (You can also drop me a note if you fancy sharing a drink or something!)


Ola Podrida's outstanding debut album will be released by Plug Research this Tuesday. I've written more than once about David Wingo's folksong - and his "Pour Me Another" demo was my #6 song of last year, - so I strongly suggest you pick it up. If not yet convinced, listen to this mp3 mix of every song on the album.

Posted by Sean at 9:50 AM | Comments (9)

April 20, 2007


Viking Moses - "Sandstorms". A song for what Viking Moses had. A stamp he licks and places on an envelope. He must have worked for weeks, for whole weeks, writing, composing, shaping this song. And somehow he found it, just right he found it. One night he was finally finished and he could put it on the turntable and listen, headphones on ears, wood-shavings at his feet. A song to mark what he had. A stamp he licks and places on an envelope. A lesson in reverb. When the piano comes back, at the end, my heart breaks every time. A song that begins down, below a lover's navel. A song that ends very far from that place. A stamp he licks and places on an envelope. A song for what Viking Moses had.



Eleanor Meredith, she of the fairly recent guestpost, now has an online shop where you can buy prints of some of her lovely, whimsical artworks.

Posted by Sean at 8:00 AM | Comments (1)

April 19, 2007

Sleep vs. Rest: A One Song Week

Eurythmics - "Sex Crime (1984)"

This is just what happened when I stepped outside. This is just what I said when I opened my mouth. It's just what we did when were alone. It's just what I wrote when I saw the paper, the lines, the tip of the pencil. I hit the key, and couldn't stop. I turned the key and couldn't go back. I went blind before, while it was happening. I knew what I was doing, but even if I didn't, it would have happened. We just got up there and this is what came out. We just got close and this is what happened. I'm so proud. I'm so sorry. [Buy]

Posted by Dan at 2:28 AM | Comments (8)

April 18, 2007


Katie Dill - "The Body's Only Rental". It's the way of girls with ukeleles, I think; there's something inherent in them. Katie's voice is lake-pretty and her uke sends up long struts of shine. The reverb's like a sunlight that won't leave yr room, even after dark. I wake up with the song stuck in my head. Yesterday I sang it out loud in a chapel 100 metres underground. But the thing that catches me, more and more, is the words. By now I'm used to the song's general loveliness (I'd even be tempted to call it "mere" loveliness, absurdly, like true loveliness can ever be mere. [If you believe loveliness is mere, clearly you have never sat and watched Krakow's market square on that first, early, day of summer.]) -- but Dill's rhymes and repetition, the way they're at once easy (i.e. almost trite) and strange (i.e. unexpected), well "The Body's Only Rental" keeps bringing me to motionless silence during late nights or when the sun is high, or any time, really, even running along the Wisla River. "My life is full of gentle," she sings, and if she was singing "My life is full of gentleness" I'd pay no heed at all, but "gentle", yes, "gentle"; "gentle" as a noun; this is bent in a way that to me is pure poetry. And the way she later rhymes "water", "harder" and "water" again: I mean it, I really do, that this is to me a choice all full of rightness and beauty. And the song's greater message, this holistic, almost karmic stuff; well it's like the Salinger stories I was reading, weeks ago: Seymour's reassuring buddhist certainties. His gentle. Or the way Salinger can write "I think love is a touch and yet not a touch", and me I don't imagine the inside of a greeting card -- I feel my whole world give a little tremble.

Anyway, look, "The Body's Only Rental" is one of my favourite songs of the year so far, and maybe I say that a lot, but it's true, even if you can't really dance to it, and if I had a hand-tailored suit I'd keep it for a while in my inside pocket, where it would stay warm.

[Katie at MySpace]


Elsewhere... (all three of these are a little late-to-press, but I've not had the chance before now):

Tuwa's post on Cypress Hill is personal and wide-ranging and another one of these examples of how musicblogging, as a medium, can be something pretty special. Do read it.

A recent post at Shake Your Fist thankfully abandons the subject of a band called Seamonster and spends its last paragraphs on Neutral Milk Hotel. This wouldn't bear remarking except that Amy's writing on Jeff Magnum is beautifully right-on ("that wobbly steel-bowled voice") and her look at NMH-and-sex, while succinct, is as insightful as anything I've read on Aeroplane Over the Sea.

My Paste feature on Arcade Fire is now up on their website. It's an interview/studio visit thing, and I'm not altogether happy with it, but there's some good & true moments, too. Much, much better (and the best profile I've ever seen of the band), is Darcy Frey's piece for the NY Times magazine.

Rachell Sumpter's new show has opened at the Richard Heller Gallery, and the paintings are once again revelatory. There's something in her work that stirs me in all my dryest, worn out places: hope and wonder and mystery, searching and finding, magic and steamed breath and smoky hot human touch. If I had $2,000 to spend on a painting, there is no doubt in my mind how I would spend it. (See also Rachell's StG guestpost, ages back.)

Posted by Sean at 7:00 AM | Comments (6)

April 16, 2007

A Symphony of Runaways

Vio/Miré - "Wood Splitting"

It sounds like riding a sled running smoothly over snow, the buck and sway and rubber rub sounds of packing the snow into a track. But it's not a sled, instead what drags behind is some heavy bundle wrapped in a few snowsuits (for gliding), bound with wispy yellow rope. Inside, the petty things of living: an ashtray, a pad for phone messages, a printer ink cartridge, and about a thousand other things. It's heavy as hell, and it's being dragged, relentlessly and in different positions, by a figure, bundled tight from the cold and tired. Hand yanked back all the way, hand just over shoulder, two hands behind, rope around waist, each position wearing down a little bit every rotation. The destination isn't known, it's dark in the woods, with an orange glow that keeps every ten feet or so visible, but not much more than that. [MySpace]


[photo started by notto86]

Posted by Dan at 4:05 AM | Comments (3)

April 13, 2007

Blood in the Milk

Handsome Furs - "Sing! Captain"

A song about how everyone wants you to fail, until you succeed, and then they're glad you succeeded. About performance as a simultaneous taking-care of the audience (as from a sickness) and fighting them to the death. A win for the performer, as in this song, gets a shout of "sing! captain" from the crowd. A loss would be, well, too depressing to mention, I guess. [Buy]

Stevie Nicks - "Wild Heart (backstage bootleg)"

I'll wait until the last day of our lives to tell you how I truly feel about you. I'll save it all up, keep it all to myself, and maybe even never let you have any of it. Here Stevie Nicks gets right to what makes this song great, what it ought to be. The original is rambling and scattered, and while this is only a peer through a window, a drive past, it's indication enough that inside there's a leaping, galloping, wondrous song. [Buy]

Posted by Dan at 6:37 PM | Comments (4)

April 12, 2007

Said the Guests: Jean Baudrillard

Last week, Jean Baudrillard finally returned my email. Months ago I wrote to him, inviting him to contribute to our Said the Guests series, to take some moments and write about a couple favourite songs. It is not an exaggeration (though it is a metaphor) to say than in my first years at McGill University, Baudrillard's writings blew my mind. His work on culture, politics, language and technology had an enormous impact on critical theory in the latter half of the 20th c, and I wasn't the first kid to find himself mesmerised by these ideas.

Of course it's a busy life being an eminence grise of post-structuralism; I wasn't surprised that Mr Baudrillard did not at first return my unsolicited letter. (I still haven't heard back from McLuhan, Foucault, Deleuze or Guattari.) But imagine my delight last Sunday when my mail program went bing-bong and Jean Baudrillard's name appeared in the email byline. "I found myself with some temps libre :*)", he wrote. And so without further ado, in the man's own words...

These songs, each of which has a good tune and rhythm, are entirely unproblematic.

Non, c'est seulement une petite blague pour un petit blog.

Avril Lavigne - "Complicated"

In actual fact, the songs all call to mind the philosophical aphorism ex nihilio nihil fit (nothing comes from nothing). Of this phrase there can be a certain kind of understanding that amounts to not much more than a non-understanding, but constitutes, in fact, the only multi-dimensional interpretation of the maxim as it pertains to what we call the real. This is the non-understanding of Parmenides; a paradoxical cognizance, which appears untenable because it leads to "absurd" consequences, and is the opposite of the Understanding of Bertrand Russell, which obliterates the soundness of the proposition through obfuscatory clarity1. Now, I don't mean to bore you (or myself) with philosophical exercises - I raise this only as an attempt to explain how this song can exist and not exist at once. In truth, Avril Lavigne is nothing emergent from nothing, which is to say she is merely the simulacrum of a simulacrum, two orders shy of real2.

It is obvious enough that Lavigne's insouciant attitude, punk-inspired fashion choices, and nihilistic antics are meant to represent rebellion, yet are firmly entrenched in the vapid mainstream against which she proudly rebels. That she is a fraud is trivial, of course. What's more, when we listen to her song on a CD or mp3 player, or sitting in front of our computer, with headphones on, reading the writings of one Jean Baudrillard; we are not hearing her, or her rebellion, but a simulation of her simulation in which Lavigne, her song, and her pretend rebellion all cease to be manifest. At the same time precisely, however, all that ceases to be takes on a new kind of being, that of the hyperreality of what it fraudulently represents: rebellion. The listener/viewer is presented with the encoded simulations of "Complicated" (both auditory and visual) as "real" rebellion and, if credulous enough (as is often the case), understands it as such. Thus the song is adopted as the model of the phenomenon. Its rebellion is real; Lavigne is no fraud. From the Matrix emerges a new rebellion in place of the old.

(I find the last line of "Complicated" ("Honestly, promise me I'm never gonna find you fake it") - with its implication of prescribed "realness" - funny on SO MANY LEVELS.)

All of the above could be said of this, too.

Lead Belly - "(Good Night) Irene"

Throughout his life, John Lomax sought out the real music of America and found it as much as anywhere in the extensive songbook of Huddie Leadbetter. Leadbetter was as real as a sphere is equally tall in all directions: He was a lowlife; an unrepentant sinner and a murderer. He won more gunfights than he lost but was so often shot in the stomach that he earned the nickname "Lead Belly." He was a gentleman and a gentle man; he wouldn't hurt a fly. He was misunderstood and depressed and drank himself to death, though his tolerance for alcohol consumption was so impressive it earned him the nickname "Lead Belly." Lomax had him released from a prison in which he was never incarcerated for a murder he was guilty of but did not commit, so that he could compose songs (make them real), perform songs (make them real), and record songs (make them real); so that his own realness could persist and intensify in communications from well beyond the conclusion of the flimsiest, most ephemeral dimension of his existence.


  1. Russell wants to show us that we mean by ex nihilio nihil fit not that there is something that has the property of non-existence that comes to be from nothing, but that it is not the case that there exists some y such that if there does not exist an x, then that y can come from that x. Bullshit!

  2. She is three orders shy of real!

[Jean Baudrillard died on March 6, 2007.]

(Previous guest-blogs: artist Danny Zabbal, artist Irina Troitskaya, artist Eleanor Meredith, artist Keith Greiman, 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 8:27 AM | Comments (20)

April 11, 2007

The Thundering Grins of Je Suis France

Je Suis France - "Wizard of Points"

It seems the Wizard of Points exists in all senses, in one being, that commands this song with his hand, on a joystick, or held before him in that "you are under my telekinetic control" kind of stance. So:

i) The Wizard of Points - in a mathematical sense, a controller of the intersections of axes.
ii) The Wizard of Points - a many-spined, sharp-to-the-touch warlock of a deep blue colour, predator of nothing, but also prey to nothing in return.
iii) The Wizard of Points - the silent partner to an award-winning debate team. takes furious notes and whispers hisses of rebuttal while staring down the opponent.
iv) The Wizard of Points - a video-gamer with formidable patience, who can stay in the "infinite enemies" loops in Contra for hours at a time.
v) The Wizard of Points - as opposed to prose, an expert of summary, in bullet format.
vi) The Wizard of Points - "the most experienced man"

can you hear them all? Like the 6 faces of a cube, smooth and blaring, as one.


Je Suis France - "California Still Rules"

Oh yeah, and they're also a rock band. From the eerie waters of reverb and the gathering clouds of drums emerges a rock song like a pink camera flash. Poof, and it's over.

[Out May 29th, Site (with more music!)]

[art by dsnhaus]

Posted by Dan at 1:42 AM | Comments (6)

April 10, 2007


Department of Eagles - "No One Does It Like You". A new track by Department of Eagles, Grizzly Bear's terrific sibling band, something that is to my ears a song of infidelity - and yet so deliciously laid back, so warm and easy, so calm & affectionate that it's hard to find even a lick of frustration. Like Grizzly Bear's cover of "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)" (posted last week), "No One Does It..." was inspired by the ridiculously cheap Phil Spector Back to Mono box-set. But although "No One"'s got a modest Wall of Sound, all jingle, clap & whistle, the doo-wop chain-gang reminds me mostly of The Inkspots, facing melancholy with a smile.

[more of the Dept of Eagles]

Avril Lavigne - "Hot". I'm always a little wary of power chords. They're like firebombs, binoculars, high tens: they need to be used judiciously, only with the most appropriate of ends. Avril's usage is not just appropriate, it's wholly righteous. Here's a song about kick-ass love, about oh-yes love, like running for three hundred years in order to build up momentum for one enormous long-distance leap, straight into a beloved's arms. It's a jubilant, Evel Knievel kind of love, with a chorus that justifies whatever weaponry it can get. "You make me so hot / you make me want to drop / you're so ridiculous / I can barely stop / I can hardly breathe / you make me want to scream / you're so fabulous / you're so good to me!" And while obviously the lyrics are secondary, an adolescent articulation of something deep, majestic, chest-and-belly, I do admire one of these plain lines. "You're so ridiculous," she sings, with an affection that's almost desperate, and this is a statement that feels true & real and so familiar to how I feel, yeah me right here, when I sweat with love's hottest fevers.

Like "Umbrella" or "Crazy in Love", "Hot" is a declamatory (or maybe exclamatory) song. In rock and folk music, the trend among love-songs is usually to serenade, to win someone's love or else to whisper private truths about why they're so dear. "Hot" uses another model: it's a heart icon and an exclamation mark, an adoring shout, a public celebration of one particular love. (It's the valentine that trails a jetplane.)

The Best Damn Thing makes Avril Lavigne 3 for 3 - maybe the best stats in pop-punk? (And "Girlfriend"'s amazing.) [buy]



It's Avril Lavigne Day - Fluxblog's writing about "The Best Damn Thing", and while you're there grab the great Half-Cousin song, too.

Tuwa's unkind to Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. :(

Posted by Sean at 8:41 AM | Comments (15)

April 9, 2007

Fallen Into Desuetude

Syl Johnson - "I Hate I Walked Away"

"I Hate I Walked Away" is a self-flagellation of sorts, an abasement of every atom of Syl Johnson's being. The song regards a bed that Johnson made, but in which he does not wish to lie. He hurt a woman who loved him, broke her trust, and now he wants her back. SJ knows that he's not going to reingratiate himself with his ex-lover by buying her something expensive or by serenading her with one of his lascivious love songs. He's learned from experience that he cannot win her back in a duel or pay for her hand with a dowry. A smart man, a man of learning and notable scholarly skill, Johnson understands that a simple apology won't undo his romantic apostasy. Instead he prostrates himself, admits to his misdeeds and begs for forgiveness he knows he doesn't deserve. When he eventually sings the words "I'm sorry," he does so in a perverse, spasmodic falsetto that sounds more inwardly directed than not - a public self-punishment more than an apology. Finally, helpless and at the mercy of another, he opens himself up completely, revealing a moribund machinery: organs and strings, heads and skins, sticks and brass, chords and time. A wise gambit in that it's an honest one - a compelling closing statement that communicates his affection, regret and desire while recognizing the inevitable supremacy of his lover's discretion.


Posted by Jordan at 4:35 AM | Comments (3)

April 6, 2007


Rihanna ft. Jay-Z - "Umbrella". After the relative off-year of 2006, this, Amy Winehouse, and Amerie's "Gotta Work" show that pop in 2007 is back, back, back. (Maybe the new Avril single applies as well but - !?!!! - I haven't heard it yet.) With its crisp drum break "Umbrella" is post-"1 Thing"; with its alt-rock r&b it's post-"Since U Been Gone"; with its "umbrella / ella / ella / ay ay / ay" it's even post-MIA. More weirdly however, there's something almost post-rock about "Umbrella" -- it's ripe not just for indie-rock covers, but for takes by the po-faced likes of Explosions in the Sky or Mono. Despite Jay-Z's giddy intro, the song's not in the least bit light: it's serious, sincere, full of promises and forevers. "Crazy in Love" had a similar weight but here nobody's singing about infatuation, new love - Rihanna's singing about certain love, alwayses, literally the weathering of storms. The lyrics are heavy: "You're part of my entity / yeah, for infinity." Not a track for the first date, or the second; probably more suited for a diamond anniversary (Jay-Z: "No clouds in my stones." / Rihanna: "Took an oath, gonna stick it out til the end.") It's dark, droning, forceful (and yet totally summer-boombox awesome). Sean's promise: By the fourth time you hear it you will understand that it is amazing.

Or, said another way:

For two and a half weeks they had been fighting. Little things - he arrived late for breakfast; she forgot to check her email for the name of that band; he let the spaghetti sauce splatter all over the stove; a waiter was rude and she was rude back even though she "didn't have to sink to his level". It's what at one time would have been called "squabbling" but today, in this day & age or maybe just today, was called fighting. Elsa and Jamie had been fighting. It was Wednesday and they had last been together on Monday night, at a play, where she had given a standing ovation and he had not.

Elsa had not slept - as Tuesday became Wednesday she lay wide-eyed in her sheets, listening to the rain that stopped-started outside the window. Street lights flashed through the curtains and she just wanted to close her eyes and fall asleep. She couldn't. She buried her head under her pillow; she curled her feet to her chest; she stretched out and drummed her heels against the mattress. She wanted to sleep. She kept thinking about Jamie, trying not to think about Jamie; she kept thinking about Jamie and trying not to think about him.

In the morning she sat in her kitchen and felt grey, dusty, worn. She drank a glass of stale water and then refilled it from the tap. She sighed. And the glass broke in her hand. She leapt to her feet and brushed the shards from her palm into the garbage bin. She was thinking: I wonder what Jamie would say. She sopped up the water with paper towels and collected the pieces of glass from the table. "Fuck," she said, but only after she had finished tidying everything up.

She went to work and looked at her computer screen and typed and at 10:40 she went into the staff-room and filled a mug with water from the water-cooler.

"How're things?" said Mirabel.

"Good," said Elsa.

"You and Jamie should come over for dinner on Saturday."

"That would be nice." Elsa looked at the mug. It was earthenware, blue and gold. She imagined it shattering in her hand. And then it did.

"Jesus!" said Mirabel.


Elsa broke one more mug that morning, then a water-bottle at lunch, then a plastic cup in the afternoon. When she got home after work she broke two glasses - one short, one tall. And listen, she never meant to break any of them. They just came apart. She wasn't squeezing them til they shattered, she wasn't having an involuntary spasm. Glasses, bottles, mugs, everything was just coming to pieces when she touched it.

She called Jamie.

"Hi," she said.

"Hi," he said.

"How's it going?" she asked.

"Fine," he answered. "How are you?"

And she told him about the glasses, about how everything was breaking all the time, water always dripping from the ends of her fingers. And he said "Oh no! Elsa, are you okay? Are you okay?" and she said "I'm okay," and he said "Should we go see a doctor, or a specialist, or a scientist or something? Figure out what's going on?" And she heard the way he said "we".

"No," she said, "just come over, Jamie. I love you so much. Please just come over. All I want is for you to come over."

"We'll hold glasses together," he said. "Let 'em shatter."

"Let 'em shatter," she said. "Come over."


[Rihanna's homepage]

Posted by Sean at 9:34 AM | Comments (17)

April 4, 2007

Said the Guests: Danny Zabbal

Danny Zabbal lives on another planet. Well, he lives 15 minutes away from me, but everything about him is from another planet. He has an imagination that is both boundless and bounding, as in, across the great reaches of space, or through a deep forest, or a trap door. He joins us today, sits and laughs in his chair, and draws to the music.

The New Pornographers - "Stacked Crooked"

this is a full-page comic, and must be viewed in full to get it all. click it! dinobuddies_thumb.jpg


I Am Kloot - "Sold As Seen"

again, click for full size. spaceman_thumb.jpg


visit Danny's website for new treasures every single day.


(Previous guest-blogs: artist Irina Troitskaya, artist Eleanor Meredith, artist Keith Greiman, 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 Dan at 2:38 AM | Comments (5)

April 3, 2007

The Kissing Stage

Titus Andronicus - "Titus Andronicus"

In reality, this song was probably named after the band, but I prefer to imagine that the band was named in tribute to the shirtless, jangle-barking that you're hearing now. Titus Andronicus has made, literally, a hissy fit. Levels grind against the peak like a face into a ceiling fan, and once every trick has come to light, it starts double-time head-long at the rear wall, and the band is named posthumously, in honour. I wish I were named after the best thing I've ever done. I guess my name would be Finished High School. [MySpace]

Black Time - "White Heat Returned"

And indeed, we fall off the jagged carpet edge of the last song into this awkward and angular Gift, taking its odd form like water. It's like the Lou Reed version of what Sean was talking about with The Underpainting, but it likes screeching more than timing, feedback more than food. I know you'll listen a second time, I know I will a 14th, 15th... [Buy]

Posted by Dan at 5:26 AM | Comments (6)

April 2, 2007


Today I want to talk about three things that come to me by way of the sporadic but often excellent Grizzly Bear Blog. (This is the blog of the rock-band Grizzly Bear and not, unfortunately I admit, a blog about grizzly bears.)

The Crystals - "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)"
Grizzly Bear - "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)" [live on KEXP]

This is (i think) the first song that we have ever posted (i hope) which is in at least some ways a celebration of domestic abuse. The creators might claim it takes place in extenuating circumstances: the singer's been "untrue" and so when the partner takes a swing it's 'proof' he loves her. "If he didn't care for me / I could have never made him mad / but he hit me / and I was glad."

I'm not an apologist for the song - especially in the context of a girl-group like The Crystals, singing a song written for them by others (even if one of those others was Carole King!). But more interesting than this familiar critique is an exploration of the song's deeper tension, there in the distressed wall of sound that swings between Handel's Messiah and a prison march. If there's a question at the heart of this song then the answer is S&M - and not just in the cludgy, misogynistic "violence is sexy" way. Yes, the track's chorus & title are swathed in pretty, pretty instrumentation, the violence made beautiful in strings and coos. But there's also the taste of a correllary: not just roughness as love... love as roughness. Hear it in the final, triumphant line: "And when he kissed me / he made me hiss."

When Grizzly Bear take on the tune they play with precisely the same flavours. It's a more complicated reading - it's a band of men! and they're queer! - but still the voices weave in a near-hallelujah chorus, and still something sharp stalks in even the tenderest moments (hear that electric guitar, hear the brisk roll of snare).

Magic Arm - "Outdoor Games". If you could pack a fireside into a backpack, carry it with you on all your adventures, this might be how it would sound. Stop on the New Mexico highway; unpack your fireside. Pause in the English heath; unpack your fireside. Stomp through the Siberian snow; unpack your fireside. There's warmth and friendship and sweet liquors, here. There's acoustic guitar, synths, piano, hand-sounds, harmonica. There's spiced blending voices, the stuff of The Beta Band, Sleeping States, Akron/Family, Grizzly Bear, or even The Bees. There's a question over and over: "Do you have the will to end?". It's an odd question in a song as kind as this. Why make that dare? Why ask people to answer that? Unless it doesn't mean what it might. Unless it's not "Do you have the will to end [it]?" and instead, friends, "Do you have the will to [make it to the] end?"

Do you? I do.


Posted by Sean at 8:34 AM | Comments (12)