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.

May 31, 2007

THE DEPARTMENT OF LAMPLIGHTERS

Feist - "I Feel It All". A song that springs a city into being, neighbourhood by neighbourhood; with each verse a borough, with each chorus a skyline, with each bridge a bridge. And when the xylophone rings, note by note, new parks burst from sidewalk cracks. She builds it and then they come: she sings a city and at once inhabits it. "I feel it all! I feel it all!" Fills the streets with lives, the skies with breath, sends water spraying through the fountains' rusted copper pipes. Towers soar, skies are scraped. The joy of a maybe, of all those million maybes, of a world too big for fate to contain it. For the wild card that's already "in sight"/"inside", the way even a string of heartbreaks makes a necklace, makes a life, makes a subway map.

I wasn't just ambivalent toward Feist's Let It Die -- I became antagonistic towards it. Boring music, brunch music, an album of lite & snoozy songs that, with the exception of (the remarkable) "Mushaboom", lacked even the whimsy of Norah Jones. So I ignored all the press about The Reminder, read not a single article, and was utterly blindsided when the new record turned out fantastic. Bird-like, sexy, personal, and with only about three dud tracks ("Limit To Your Love", "Intuition", "How My Heart Behaves"). Highly recommended.

[buy]

---

Apteka - "The Sheet". If The Clientele were a punk band: people prone to fistfights with their brothers, with flicking light-switches til they break. If snowstorms shed sparks or cicadas caught fire. If you longed so much for something that you could never sleep again. Or if all your friends started playing electric guitars at once.

[MySpace]

---
Elsewhere:

There's a surprisingly lovely & effective ongoing series at Music Is Art, where they invite various contributors to write about how particular songs have moved them at particular moments.

I make an appearance on this week's episode of Blog Fresh Radio, a podcast of songs introduced by musicbloggers. I talk briefly about Basia Bulat and her extraordinary song "I Was A Daughter".

Posted by Sean at 12:21 PM | Comments (9)

May 30, 2007

An Uncountably Long List

Shannon Wright - "Everybody's Got Their Own Part to Play"

As a metataxonomist I'm constantly asked which of the many fields of taxonomic endeavour draws the most profound geniuses to consider its problems. "Metataxonomy, of course!" I respond without exception. Many minutes later, after the laughter has died down and things turn serious, I explain that the deepest thinkers in our field tend to be those who are charged with the enumeration of all things blue. I know one man, for instance - an immortal by the name of Immanuel Kant (no relation) - who has been listing blue things since the late medieval period. How insane is that? I mean, his list includes, yes, cobalt, but also "my personal friend and contemporary, St. Thomas Aquinas." This is the guy who saw that 'blue' is an anagram for 'lube', a word with blue connotations.

Kant has written on the mundane ("the sky is blue, the sea is blue, and the earth is blue, too"), and of the mundane ("it is blue"). He's pointed out the existence of blue language and blue films and a certain four-chord progression that can be spread over twelve bars to a particularly blue effect. To this last point, Kant has dedicated much of his life's attention. From his book The Critique of Pure Reason (no relation): "The music called the blues is carried close to my heart (blue) for reasons besides the obvious. The blues are like an inoculation for the blues: they make us sick with a little sadness to prevent the otherwise inevitable deluge." A flood is blue and so is the blood of James Blood Ulmer, a royal in the world of the blues.

What makes the exhaustive listing of all blue things a seemingly intractable task is that though bleu is always blau, it can sometimes seem otherwise. I told Kant that I thought Shannon Wright seemed misplaced on his list. She appeared to me more white with anger than blue. I told him I was green with envy, humbled by Wright's ability to arrange her music with such subtle expressiveness (a distorted guitar, way in the back, mirrors her vocals; a tom drum smacks against each eardrum). In response, Kant added my name to his list.

Trust Immanuel Kant to distinguish between the real and the chimerical: "In the emotional spectrum, white and green are secondary," he explained. "Blue is always primary."

Posted by Jordan at 5:39 PM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2007

GET OUTTA DODGE

Throw Me The Statue - "Young Sensualists". Few things are so suited to bittersweetness as pop songs. Scott Reitherman's bedroom pop - catchy melodies, uke and synth, part Guided By Voices & part Magnetic Fields, - wields a wistfulness that's sometimes breathtaking. "Young Sensualists" is pensive, honest, filled with the blossom-scent of nostalgia; the story of two pals, a mutual crush, and the way a friendship can simply end. It's not a warning, a confession or an elegy - it's a recollection, a witnessing, a message in a bottle (for the sea to read).

On this track Reitherman sounds oddly like The Dismemberment Plan's Travis Morrison (ca. "You Are Invited", especially) - a speak-singing that's ruminative and playful, like when you're sitting on an unfamiliar couch, staring at the wall, remembering; and your left hand dangles off the side, dangles without your thinking about it, and it strokes and pets and moves across the fur of your dear friend's kittens.

I Guess I'm Floating has posted Moonbeams' other amazing-standout track, the "hit", the one I almost wrote about, and it's a song called "Lolita".

[buy Moonbeams (it's pretty exceptional)]

---

Georges Brassens - "Le Gorille". A song of up-and-down acoustic guitar and a good-natured, kids'-song refrain: "Gare au gorille!" (Watch out for the gorilla!) It also happens to be the tale of an escaped & sex-starved gorilla, his impressive anatomy, and the dilemma he faces when all the pretty young women flee - leaving just a grandmother and a (male) judge to choose between. (Full lyrics in French, and in English translation.) Brassens rhymes with the gusto of a randy limericist, and enunciates with all the panache of Joanna Newsom - albeit in the language of love.

[buy]

Posted by Sean at 1:15 PM | Comments (13)

May 28, 2007

The Bogus Claims of a Desperate Dusk

Lightning Dust - "Listened On"

You can reach into the middle of this song, to its core, and hold on to it for the support you need. No matter what goes on around it, that voice, it walks like a pre-teen in high heels, wobbly ankles, it's so true and sad, and it doesn't kid around. If you've ever cut down a Christmas tree, you know what I'm talking about. You can reach right in, past the needles and branches, the ne'er-do-much strumming and the merely periphery organ, and hold on to that voice to keep your balance, to grab hold when the bottom falls out, to carry it home with you. She sings like she'd never look you in the eye. [release in July]

Mirah & Spectratone International - "Community"

A bassy and treblesome science project of a song. It's about human interaction, but largely about attraction via pheromones. "It's an expressive art, instinctually smart." And as the odd timing and two-stepping voice floats along the air, I think about the relationship between instinct and art. Is there something ingrained in this song, something inherent and innate (if this song were born of Mirah's mouth-womb and Spectratone's sound box) that makes me love it? Does her voice sound like she is especially fertile? Do the guitars sound like a warning siren to my predators, indicating kinship? Is my evolutionary need for productivity drawn to the end refrain of "We get things done"? I assume all these answers are yes, and that my love of any art is not because of any ability to appreciate craft, but rather a drooling, glaring attraction to growth, survival, and progress. [Buy old stuff]

Posted by Dan at 2:33 AM | Comments (2)

May 25, 2007

Classist Classicist

Sgt. Dunbar & The Hobo Banned - "The Weight"

This song kind of looks around the bus or the crowded elevator and gets sad about all the sad faces. And I want to speak to this song, the kind of way you talk to yourself in the mirror without moving your lips: it's not your job to shoulder the grief, guilt, and pain of other people, especially strangers. Yes, it's heavy, but that's not something to cry about. Cars are heavy too. And all the food you eat in a year is heavy, and so is all the carpet you've ever walked on, rolled up. You need to get out of the mindset that every trampled flower is worth a tear and a hug, because you're going to waste all the time you could be spending planting a new garden, or sleeping. [Sgt. Dunbar site] [The Hobo Banned site]

--

Sean Moeller asked me how Frog Eyes was the other night, and I've prepared a video response for you, Sean. to orient you, the reader, it's the ending of 2007's best song yet: "Bushels". [buy]

Posted by Dan at 2:08 AM | Comments (3)

May 24, 2007

NOT A WORD ABOUT TULIPS

The Tragically Hip - "Ahead by a Century". It's strange being back in Ottawa. This is the city I (mostly) grew up in: the one where I learned to multiply, to swim, to fall maybe a little bit in love. Visiting now, after years in other places, I see different things than I once did. I see the wide spaces between the buildings, the pockets of community, the specialness of the waters that run through it - and the gentleness of its passions. As kids vroom down Carling celebrating a Senators victory, they're answered with quiet hurrays, single waves. Even the Byward Market, on these nights, is far, far from the pubs of Britain (No Team Colours, No Singing of Songs).

The Tragically Hip are of course one of the most famous bands in Canada, and this is among their most famous songs. You'll almost certainly hear it if you listen to the radio all day. Or if you sit by a lake, leaves rustling, and listen to the music that comes wafting over.

They're Canada's REM, or maybe even their Pulp. A band that's been around too long to be consistently great (or even very good), but that at its peaks evokes and invokes the anglo central Canadian experience with just as much potency as The Group of Seven, In the Skin of a Lion, Blue, Robertson Davies, and The Littlest Hobo.

"Ahead by a Century" is memory painted in acoustic guitar and a clock's percussion, in maples and in pines. It's all the biggest things (revenge, doubt, longing, regret) and the smallest (hornets, rain, and - yes - dreams). You can listen to it with a stony heart - unmoved, angry, hot as clay. Or you can do the other thing: dip your toe into the water, smell the woodsmoke, remember.

[buy]

Paul Duncan - "Memory Curves". If "Ahead by a Century" is about clear-eyed remembering, lucid dreaming, "Memory Curves" is about the other. It's about the submerged, the hidden, the things that rise unwilled. It's not among but Above The Trees.

There's an expression: "It all came flooding back". The beginning of this song is about the "It". And the rest, guitars & trumpet & noise & creaks, is the "flooding back". It's a thousand dams breaking, gently, one by one. One landscape overwhelmed and the other left barren, dry, just vast coral reefs.

[buy Above the Trees]

---

If you haven't heard, there's a new Okkervil River song at Pitchfork. I'm not quite convinced.

Keith Shore, guestblogger and designer of the Gramophone-header-graphic-with-the-gorilla, has a new website and a new exhibition with Jesse LeDoux at Giant Robot NY. A plethora of drawings & paintings & portraits of men with beards.

In a similar vein to Childish Gambino, The Hood Internet is a new (great) source of indie + chart hop mash-ups. Dude is cranking out some pretty awesome stuff, especially Spoon vs Ghostface and R. Kelly vs Broken Social Scene.

Can-crit demigod Michael Barclay's put online the full transcripts of his extensive, probing interviews with Arcade Fire early this year. They dig real deep into Neon Bible. Parts: 1 2 3.

---

Voluminous, sincere thanks to The Morning News' Editors for their warm words. We're surprised, touched, and made very glad. I've been reading TMN since 2001, and in these years it's become the gold standard for writing on the web. Congratulations as well to Gorilla vs Bear; Chris is very rightfully commended for his curatorial sense, and it's his fine ears and general magnanimity that keep us coming back. And to latterday indie saints Daytrotter, rightfully recognized for their musical recordings, their writing, and their visual art.

Posted by Sean at 9:37 AM | Comments (3)

May 23, 2007

Explorers and Post

The National - "Fake Empire"

When "Fake Empire" was given to The National - by a god or a Santa or a spirit with access to Plato's form world - it was given just as it is, (seeming) flaws and all. It's entirely possible that The National was displeased by the fact that there's something vaguely "Walking in Memphis"-ish about their new song or that the horn section at the end, beautiful as it is, sounds jacked from a late Lionel Richie synth line. Unfortch for the aesthetically particular among the band, there's no room for redaction when you're dealing with a draft from a higher power. God doesn't give you a song for you to fuck it up; he gives it to you for you to release, just as it is, on your indie rock album, where it will outshine a bunch of sadly imperfect, all too human compositions. [Buy]

***

Mike James Kirkland - "Baby I Need Your Loving"

Tell me that no one ever asked Mickey Mantle what he thought of Roger Maris breaking the single-season home run record in 1961 and I'll have a prolonged laugh at your expense. Why not propose that Thomas Hobbes was never asked about Robert Boyle, or that Admiral Byrd wasn't always hearing questions about Roald Amundsen? I've never heard anything so absurd in my life! If your list of life goals includes and is limited to writing a play that will be immediately received into the canon of absurdist theatre, then here's a piece of invaluable advice: take the line "Admiral Byrd wasn't always hearing questions about Roald Amundsen" and stick it in the middle of "Look Back In Anger." Voila! You can die now. Name one occasion on which Byrd wasn't hearing questions about Amundsen and I'll name one occasion on which I was lied to ( i.e. the very previous moment, when you were speaking).

When whoever it was that asked Marvin Gaye about The Four Tops' "Baby I Need Your Loving" did the most important deed of his or her life (i.e . asked Marvin Gaye about the Four Tops' "Baby I Need Your Loving"), I would be very surprised if Gaye's response wasn't a remarkably close aural approximation of Mike James Kirkland's cover of "Baby I Need Your Loving." A relaxed, slightly melancholic discussion of a song, which happens to take the form of a song itself; indeed, the exact harmonic form of its subject. With tone and intonation that owes everything to Gaye and a voice nearly as unstrained and sweet as the master's, Kirkland presents a song borrowed and clearly cared for, an enviable work of music appreciation that we can make love to. And hopefully, through different means, I have achieved the same.

[Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 5:58 PM | Comments (10)

May 22, 2007

Mahogany Ross

T.D. Reisert - "For How They Forget"

Set in Palm Beach (not the city in Florida, but the beach in the palm of your hand). Wet only with the moisture that gathered when your fist was clenched in silence. The ridges of your skin sink and crest, and the wind is rather incessant. The structure, the landscape, seems to be oddly constructed, glued together last-minute, but the longer you stay, if you stay right til the last minute, you'll feel it all glide into place. [Buy]

The Low Lows - "Lane Fire"

The same is true here. Like a drunk silent comedian, stumbling all around the room, almost falling into a hundred different things, almost losing his balance a hundred different times, the act is about holding the fall until the last possible second. And in the song, with its corduroy colour and smoke-rising pace, the beauty of that wait becomes central, like when a camera pans completely around a room, waiting for that first thing to re-appear. And here the camera pans past dirty dancefloor tiles with shuffling old cowboy boots lit in hazy blue light. Up to a man waiting for his wife to finish slow-dancing so he can take her home. Over to an old lady protecting her whisky glass like it was in danger of evaporating. On past a young man with his head down, inexplicably. And then back to the boots, and the tiles, and the light. [Site]

--

Frog Eyes tonight.

Posted by Dan at 3:26 AM | Comments (2)

May 21, 2007

A BAND CALLED YEASAYER

Yeasayer - "2080". On the back of one song, Yeasayer have become my biggest discovery of the year so far. We all often hear music we like - catchy melodies, clasped lyrics. (I share such stuff with you here.) But the rarer feeling is to be exhilarated by something. To feel in a song a promise: the suggestion of a bigger, wider, longer song that's as yet unsung. Stepping into an empty street and smelling the pepper fragrance of a fire.

"2080" is Fleetwood Mac, Akron/Family, Paul Simon, Arcade Fire, Cree chant, schoolyard song. It's dancing alone under a streetlight, in your room with the lights on, or in a club on those hot strange first hours of the new year. It's a night garden. It's a pop song. It's soft rock, New Wave, and art music. It's got heart-thump drums, distant xylophone, clarinet, guitars, voices in harmony. It's got piano and backwards-playing tape. It's got the kitchen sink -- and all these things under starlight.

I haven't heard Yeasayer's (upcoming) album. I haven't seen them live. All I know is that "2080" is a string of good ideas, a necklace of a hundred rubies. It's weird and great and not like the work of any other band I can think of. There is something in its beauty & boldness that makes me very, very excited; like I've stung my finger on a rose-thorn.

Yeasayer are from Brooklyn and their debut is due later this year on Monitor Records. At SXSW they provided tambourine, dance moves & backup vocals at a Hanson gig. Now they're opening for Frog Eyes. I should not have to tell you to pay attention to a band cherished by both the creators of "MMMbop" and "One in Six Children Will Flee in Boats". I should not have to tell you, friends, but still I'm going to: PAY ATTENTION.

[Yeasayer on MySpace]

Upcoming Yeasayer tour-dates (you guys know i do not often do this):

May 25, 2007 at Beachland Tavern in Cleveland, OH (w/ Frog Eyes)
May 26, 2007 at Bluebird in Bloomington, IN (w/ Frog Eyes)
May 27, 2007 at Schuba's in Chicago, IL (w/ Frog Eyes)
May 28, 2007 at 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis, MN (w/ Frog Eyes)
May 29, 2007 at Vaudeville Mews in Des Moines, IA
May 31, 2007 at DC 9 in Washington DC
June 1, 2007 at Johnny Brenda's in Philadelphia, PA (w/ Datarock)

(photo by *son*)

Posted by Sean at 4:31 AM | Comments (17)

May 18, 2007

BETTER THAN YOUR OWN KIN DID

Meg Baird - "Do What You Gotta Do". Meg Baird, who plays with Espers, has released a solo album called Dear Companion. There's a tenderness I like just in that title. One day I hope we will all write such a letter - one that can begin Dear companion, and end with Yours sincerely. Or perhaps, if we're feeling feisty, with Love. Baird's record is a little bit of two things: British trad-folk, sung longingly, and agile, clear-eyed songs that strongly recall Joni Mitchell. And nothing on Dear Companion is Blue-er than "Do What You Gotta Do". Once they became familiar, the opening chords gained a power that stop me silent. I listen in a kind of trance. I hang on. Baird harmonising with herself, sadly singing, and overhead just endless white sky, a cool steady thing that will never push free from over the high-rises.

"Come on back and see me when you can": it's sung so sweet that for a moment you can almost imagine it happening.

[out Monday!]


Bowerbirds - "Olive Hearts". A party song wrought in bass-drum, acoustic guitar and accordion. A song of hygge, that Danish word which means good times, close friends, hot fires, cold beer. A song that begins in stillness, loneliness, and with friendship & nostalgia & persistence & browns, blues, golds, brilliant viridian greens, moves thumping to the moment when glasses clink, when hearts pound big, when "our plastic swords stab our olive hearts". "Cheers to the wives of the drunks. Cheers to the husbands that tag along for good luck. Cheers to the months it took to get here."

[order the very fine debut LP by Bowerbirds, whose Danger at Sea was the best EP of last year]

---

Silence is Not (Always) a Good Medicine is an exhibition of drawings by Erik Jerezano and gramo-friend Kit Malo, open now at Montreal's Sharon Ramsay Gallery and continuing through May 26th. I visited yesterday and it was really great: brave creatures that hide, fold, dream, long, change. I'm leaving town this evening but if you're around tonight (may 18), check out the the big Opening from 5 pm on.

an early happy birthday, robin.

Posted by Sean at 12:05 PM | Comments (7)

May 17, 2007

Lived Badly

Willow Willow - "Colusa"

It's no secret that strings and glockenspiels sound nice together, nor that vibraphones and pretty female voices make for a pleasing combination. Lord knows, I'm not saying anything of any note whatsoever. (If you're still reading, you just wasted fifteen minutes of your life!). Combining those elements is like putting olives and feta into your pasta and tomato sauce: it's more or less cheating your way to the sublime. Willow Willow is guilty of the former crime and therefore should be put to death; except that there's something slightly out of the ordinary about the backdrop against which their winsome instruments are set, which pushes the song beyond the merely nice. Namely, note the manner in which the acoustic guitar is played: roundly and sprucely and ever so carefully - an element that acts in the context of the song just as taking a painful bite out of a cold, crisp apple does in the context of a lazy, unfocused day.

[Info]

Posted by Jordan at 2:25 PM | Comments (3)

May 16, 2007

Said the Guests: Corinne Chaufour

Corinne Chaufour is a French artist who joins us today at Said the Gramophone with illustrations of three strange, wonderful songs. Each of her chosen songs is misty, blurred, infused with a sense of mystery - and her drawings are cut of the same cloth. Three triptychs of mostly black on white: faces, trees, animals, shapes. Dreams, memories, visions, forebodings. The tiny thumbnails below give no sense of the works; please do click on them to see the larger versions.

On a rainy Wednesday we're very happy to be sharing Corinne's work with you. You can see more at her blog, and it'd be great if you left her a comment here with your thoughts.


Birdengine - "Heads off Dogs"

Corinne Chaufour - "Heads Off Dogs" (click for full size)
(buy Birdengine's I Fed Thee Rabbit Water)



Hamilton Yarns - "Paul Miller"
Corinne Chaufour - "Paul Miller" (click for full size)
(buy Hamilton Yarns' Farewell Sparklets & other albums, or download more mp3s)



Bats and Swallows - "Bloom"
Corinne Chaufour - "Bloom" (click for full size)
(more Bats & Swallows)



[Corinne Chaufour started drawing in early childhood - drawing was long "more important than talking". She studied at the Beaux-Arts in Paris. Today she posts a new drawing every day at her blog. She says: "What I really need in my work are apparitions and not ideas. ... Before a menace or an illusion, something often appears from insignificance.".]

(Previous guest-blogs: "Jean Baudrillard", 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 12:23 PM | Comments (4)

May 15, 2007

ALL OVER THE BOULEVARDS

Amy Winehouse - "Me & Mr Jones". It would be the greatest cultural achievement of 2007 if we went from country to country, language to language, finding new Amy Winehouses to sing these songs in each place's native tongue. If Back to Black's subtle and amazing production - dusty, gleaming, retro and yet v v hot, - was put in the service of a thousand smouldering singers. You see it's almost the perfect music for a Montreal summer: a music that sounds perpetually like it's wafting from a neighbour's open window. A music of swinging hips and sailing clouds, of wide bright sun over vases of flowers, clear beer bottles, bare forearms. Of that moment when she laughs and leans her head on your shoulder. The only thing wrong is that it's in English. On St-Laurent or St-Viateur that just won't do, no, no matter what language we're speaking. This music it's gotta be en français. So we need a delegation of Winehouses. Montreal could have a homegrown queen or even an import for Louisiana. And England's Amy Winehouse would be welcome, sure, but mostly to coo "moi. et. monsier jones." just before the française sings the french word for "fuckery".

Amy Winehouse - "Love is a Losing Game (Acoustic)". And while it's the production, the arrangement, the style that raises Back to Black from good to pretty damn great, Winehouse herself is outstanding. It's a pity that this is more obvious on the acoustic version of "Love..." than on the one with pride of place on the record. She's joined by the bare minimum of guitar, and fills the room with a sorrow that's tragic, resigned, utterly musical. The prettiest blues. (And the saddest gambling puns.)

[buy]

---

La Blogotheque has a marvelous description of Ola Podrida (in french), along with an Ola Podrida guestpost (in both english and french) where David Wingo talks about some favourite songs. Including Bedhead's "Rest of the Day", which is a fave song of mine too!

The Underpainting, an album I wrote about in February (the mp3's back online), is having its release party this Thursday in Somerville, MA. It's Brian Michael Roff's new project, and even has album art by Matthew Feyld. Highly recommended, and I also have it from a reliable source that Brian's an Amy Winehouse fan.

Posted by Sean at 12:58 PM | Comments (3)

May 14, 2007

Kessel & Farstad

MGMT - "We Care"

It is with a heavy heart and a tail between my legs that I return to post about MGMT. Last time, I wasn't very favourable, though I liked the song; I never post anything I don't have some affinity for, be it perverse or not. However, a certain MGMT champion, named Jeff, emailed me 15 months after that post, with a last-ditch letter trying to get me to listen to "the real MGMT", the one that the band could have been, had they followed earlier directions. And, rigidly biased as I was (the comments on the original post made me like the band even less) this song eventually broke me. Just tonight, right about the time you were falling asleep, I sloughed off a kind of tension in a similar way, I was lulled into the world of this song, and I liked it. There's a purple sky with stars in it, like outer space but purple. There's ships that fly on old green screens (like the opening credits to Bizarre) and most likable of all, the citizens don't seem like they're trying really hard to get laid. The chorus glides off a precipice like an underwater cliff, and off into that purple beyond. It's nice. [you can't buy this, but buy other stuff]

--

Simon Larson - "Justine"

It sounds like the band is following Justine down the street, or maybe this song just follows Justine around, getting mysteriously into the heads of the people she passes like a cloud of perfume. It gets all confused, and kind of trips on itself clumsily as it looks around for an ending by process of elimination, but its dressed-up charm is unfazed and it stoops and steps backward out the door, bowing the whole time.

I can't find any further information about him online.

Posted by Dan at 2:59 AM | Comments (1)

May 11, 2007

Judgement Night

Teenage Symphony - "Lucky"

"The bounce in the cuffs of your slacks as you promenade cartoonishly all over town is a telling sign of the well-being of the general public." This sentence came out like a child born with shoes on, ready to go, as I listened to this song. It doesn't do justice (it is based but on a detail) to the vast nature of the song; the details aren't paramount here, like how the clicks of the roller-coaster gear before it crests its iron hill aren't meant to be counted. But I listen to this song again and again, and I'm drawn in by new parts: after the jaunty beginning, elegant and jangly, I was wooed by the bright orange ba-ba-ba's, then the skipping piano line that crashes into cymbals like a pair of airplanes pillowfighting with the clouds (too much?). My mind wanders amidst the wandering, and I think about Radiohead's "Lucky". And how that is like "Lucky (Phew)" and this is like "Lucky (Here I Go!)". A brilliant sunrise of a song. [MySpace]

Munch Munch - "Wedding"

Similarly, "Wedding" is an examination, a holding-up as if to light, of a melody, of a song's many facets. Starting with bursts like solar flares and running into organ lines like moving sidewalks, the vocals are crowded together almost shoving each other into falsetto and falling back into upturned yelling. The seed of my endearment for this song lies in the slight fall that the melody has, and the way the cymbals scuttle underneath as the dancey beat kicks back in. The seed, however, has bloomed as you can see. [MySpace]

--

I know you heard it, and I know you loved it, because CKUT has asked me and Etan back for another week! Tonight from 1am - 4am, I'll be on the air. More gramophone songs! More fun chat! And this time we're taking callers for real, because lovely commenter effff will be tech-ing. (514.448.4013)

Posted by Dan at 12:04 AM | Comments (4)

May 10, 2007

IT WASN'T ALL FLOWERS AND SUNSHINE

Sorry for the intermittent posting this week - our schedule got a bit mixed up and the situation's been exacerbated by a feverish Jordan Himelfarb.

Gooblar - "Twentieth Century". After fifty years of American bands that sound English, Gooblar's a London band that play a very USA pop-rock. Someone will need to grow some cornfields along Oxford Street, sell hotdogs at Picadilly Circus, and then invite Gooblar to rock out on a roof. "Twentieth Century" is about missing the 20th C. It has handclaps, "oohs", a singalong chorus, & an unstoppable sense of fun. Every rhyme's right-on, every guitar-riff like that little push when you jump on your bike. And before you start slagging off the 20th c in the comments ("A song about the century of Hitler? The century of Kraft Foods?!"), Gooblar's got you covered: "It's a case of dumb nostalgia / I should worship something wiser / than the century I'm defending / genocides and ethnic cleansing."

David Gooblar's a gramo-friend but there's no nepotism in this song's appearance here. It's pure apple-and-chrome hooray.

[Three other songs from Don't You Want Me, Gooblar? are available at the Gooblar website (including a re-recorded "Uh-oh"). The EP release party is in Shoreditch on May 15th: go!]

Neil Young - "On The Beach". This song was one of the highlights of the All Tomorrows Parties festival I attended a few weeks ago. Neil Young wasn't there; he didn't play it. But "On the Beach" had pride of place on the mix CD that cycled through the sound-system at every stage. And I listened to it in the dark and felt really good. It made me want to slow-dance. This is a desire I can't remember having since junior high, when I had never slow-danced before. Then, I wondered what it was like. Now, I knew what it was like. And I wanted to be with someone with the lights low, stepping from foot to foot, the leather of our shoes making small, soft sounds. We would listen to the smoky, spiced music and feel another body hot & close. It's a song about fear & confusion, about loneliness & existential angst. It's a song about fingers on drumskin, about a guitar solo, about grey dust under your nails. But if you dance to it; no. Then it's a song about lasting with the help of another person's heartbeat. Lasting, persisting, lingering. Another heart that beats for yours - and a warm breath at your ear.

[buy]

---

Every two weeks, Yann Martel (Life of Pi) is sending Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper a novel and a letter, in support of arts funding.

(image cropped from a photo by inmyhead)

Posted by Sean at 12:13 PM | Comments (8)

May 7, 2007

SINCE JORDAN HAS A FEVER

Bill Cosby - "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band".
Charles Wright - "Express Yourself".

Let's see if you can follow this:

I aspire to dance like Bill Cosby.
Bill Cosby dances like he sings.
Bill Cosby aspires to sing like Charles Wright.
Charles Wright sings like so.

If you're able to follow this chain, you'll have learned that I aspire to dance like so. That is, like Charles Wright singing "Express Yourself". The secret to understanding how he sings this song - and to how I aspire to dance, - is in observing the way he drops the "uh". He doesn't so much drop it as set it down, plant it, make sure it's good-to-grow. He drops it like something dropped into Archimedes' bath, a moment before Eureka. He drops it like it's nothing special (& it isn't, it's just an uh, and a dance is just a dance), and like it's something special (& it is, it's a motherfucking uh, and a dance is never just a dance).

On dark afternoons it's possible to doubt the power that music can have. You imagine an inert dead body. You think of foreign wars. You watch the stars come out in silence. And at these times it's important to put on a song like "Express Yourself", one of the most potent human works ever created, a thing that says more in bass and horns and uh than I expect I'll manage to say in my whole unmusical life. Something more splendid than we, sinning and muddled, have any right to.

Bill Cosby's "Sgt Pepper" doesn't fill me with the same awe. But when he says "Boys", and is answered, well - it's really really funny.

(I've written about "Express Yourself" twice before, but I've still never ever been able to say it right. I'll keep trying.)

Posted by Sean at 9:08 PM | Comments (5)

Cousin, Don't You Know

2 years ago, apparently, a band called Phosphorescent released an album called Aw Come Aw Wry. I never heard peep about it, but I don't get around much. I swirl around the windy streets of my neighbourhood and the neighbouring neighbourhoods, but I really don't go much farther than that. Anyway, excuses aside, I missed this album when it was new, so I'll appreciate it now. (thank you, Michael S.)

Phosphorescent - "Not A Heel"

A hot stumbly waltz. Like a flower, a drunk daisy, ambles dazedly down the street, to home, alone. The neon buzzes and bounces off her upturned collar, too short to reach her chilly petal ears. A bad night for one daisy, from this perspective. A few quiet rejections, a lot of sips to fill a silence, or to look around the room, and a lot of "fresh" smiles, the way an actor delivers a line "fresh" every night. Because, as everyone knows, daisies can't speak English, or any human language, so life in the city is hard.

Phosphorescent - "Dead Heart"

The album is mired, sunken, drenched, in the chords of the "Aw Come Aw Wry" refrain, which starts this song. Something I haven't seen so clear and used so well since On Avery Island, and it's not the only similarity. Shades of many other artists are here, but I'm not interested in getting caught on that. Instead, I want you to be hypnotized, intoxicated by the drone beneath the falling, tapered melody. I want you to be pulled in and down, like the kind of pull an undertow must feel like, until all of a sudden it all lifts, or falls further, who cares, into a pink and foggy yell.

[buy Aw Come Aw Wry]

--

Happy Birthday, Sarah.

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

May 4, 2007

Your Replacement Is Here

Peel - "Moxy Blues"

This song spends 3:30 crumbling in your hands; boiling dry. But the core is so strong that it can sustain this overflowing style. I just don't want to find out that Peel is, like, all 35-year-olds or something. [Buy]

Ray's Vast Basement - "Not Just Mine"

There is a circle of expectation that comes with a song like this. Railroad tracks, lanterns, boxcars, dust-blown farms, lost ones, bends in the road, hitching rides, green apples, valleys, rivers, "the country", harvest time, horses, autumn, flats. These things fall inside the circle. As do whispery back-up singers, dry breeze guitars, non-specific weary man vocalists, and my feeling that there is a whole lot of nature that I miss. [site]

The Comedian Harmonists - "Ali Baba"

"...And in the ensuing years, of course, the world government, in an attempt to rid humanity of prejudice, did away with much early music. Among which was most of the repertoire of The Comedian Harmonists, whose delightful clucks and warbles were never to be heard again by anyone, vanishing into the waxy red mist from whence they materialized..." [Buy]

--

I'm going to be on the radio tonight (May 3rd-4th), I'll be hosting a show with my friend Etan from 1:00am - 4:00am EST on CKUT. I know, it's like right now. It's an all-request 3 hours, so gramophone readers get priority (514.448.4013).

Posted by Dan at 12:45 AM | Comments (3)

May 3, 2007

GUESS IT'S IN MY BLOOD

Bishop Allen - "Rain (2005 demo)". Bishop Allen's second album, Bishop Allen and The Broken String, will be released on July 24. The album will include new versions of songs from last year's twelve EPs, as well as some other things. "Rain" is one of the other things, a heretofore unreleased song, and at You Ain't No Picasso you can hear the version that will be released this summer.

But the demo of "Rain" is better, much better, and it's that which I share with you.

It's a pop song about desperate unhappiness. A joyous, kinetic, catchy, beautiful song about desperate unhappiness. "Now it's really pouring / it's crawling up the shore / and I walked and never heard / and umbrella does no good / and I guess it's in my blood / and I couldn't stop the flood." Justin Rice's voice is morning-muddled, cracking like it's the first time he's used it. I see a man on his fire-escape, glum, wiped, soaked to the skin. And then he stands and stamps so hard that the fire-escape collapses around him, with him, falling with the sound of cymbals. "Rain" isn't even a song about surmounting unhappiness: it's a song about sorrow's necessity, the need to taste tears so that you can later taste sweetness. "Oh!! Let the rain fall down! And wash this world away! Oh, let the sky be grey." Those Ohs, those lovely, brave, boisterous ohs. A sound that flies from the heart through a wide-open throat, the blues sung fast and jubilant into a glittering silver mike.

I climbed mountains to this song.

("Rain 2.0" thumps harder, but it's clean, too clean, the lyrics' fog already long-cleared. The electric guitar's up front, dopily cheerful. All desperation's evaporated, like vanished puddles on sunny streets. Singing about a melancholy long after that melancholy has passed.)

[MySpace / website]


Scout Niblett - "Just What I Needed". With perfect patience, Scout Niblett sings two sides of a relationship. The lying in bed and hating, hair bent under her head, talking to the ceiling & sneering. Her partner saying nothing. And then the both of them on either side of a doorway, smiles shining, "i don't want you coming here" transformed into "yeah! yeah! woo hoo hoo hoo hoo!" Strange how the fiercest feelings can appear at the wrongest times. Strange how you can ache when there's no reason to, none at all. Strange how loving can turn to loathing, and back, as you stand under the same incandescent bulb.

Post-script 4:35pm: Turns out my interpretation of the song is entirely misguided! Ivan emailed to tell me that it's a cover of a track by The Cars, and more than that the lyric I quote is actually "I don't mind you coming here". And he's right. So this isn't a song of ambiguity, of two sides: it's a song of love, the confusion of love, of playing a little hard to get when you're sick with how much you long for the person you're with. Thanks again Ivan.

[Scout tours Europe in May and early June. The Just Do It/Dinosaur Egg EP is released May 21, with a full-length to follow later this year.]

---

You Ain't No Picasso also has a new, unrestrainable Final Fantasy track.

Heaven and Here is a thoughtful, copious blog on the subject of The Wire, the third television series I can say I love.

The biggest highlights of last weekend's All Tomorrows Parties festival were Felix Lajko, Einst├╝rzende Neubauten, and Low. Low's European tour is ongoing, and I'd really so-strongly recommend attending.

---

Said the Gramophone notes:

1) The image above is cropped from a photo by Steph.
2) We still haven't identified the "mystery song" from Tuesday.
3) The unplayable mp3 from Jordan's Wednesday post has been fixed.
4) So long, Europe, and thanks for everything. xxox

Posted by Sean at 5:59 AM | Comments (13)

May 2, 2007

The Problem of Order

Edd Henry - "Your Replacement Is Here"

By any standard, Edd Henry is a cold-hearted bastard. "Your Replacement Is Here" is addressed to a woman Henry is dumping and describes in excruciating specificity another woman with whom he is in love. Yikes. Henry has only good things to say about his new girlfriend and he spares his jilted soon-to-be-ex no detail in enumerating her replacement's many attributes and her own plentiful shortcomings. Trust Henry to find the exactly inappropriate musical backdrop for his ill-conceived love song: a jubilant jamboree; a promise that if the to-be-replaced were to suddenly die, Henry would Mash Potato all over her grave. [Buy]

***

The Staple Singers - "This May Be The Last Time"

It seems highly improbable that a family with as much soul as the Staple Singers could simply sit down and eat a meal together. It's a sad fact, but one significantly incanted "paaassss the peeeaaas" and dinner would be ruined: Dad capsizing gravy boats with his earth-shaking tremolo guitar, Mom scuffing the varnished wood table's surface with her brushes, Bro-baby and Sister Big Voice emptying their mouths of food as they fill them up with harmony. Though famished, the Staples have no choice but to heed the Talking Heads' imperative and stay hungry. [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at 5:19 PM | Comments (4)

May 1, 2007

OR SHOULD I SAY "PATTER-PIT"

Unknown artist - "unknown title". Lyra emailed this to us, asking "Do you know who this is?" I don't. But within days the song had hooked itself in my ear, become a part of my ear's topography, like a little crystal sheep on a mantelpiece. Do you know who or what this is? Leave a comment and let us know. It's a Magnetic Fields baritone and a Jarvis Cocker monologue, an arrangement of hung-over violin and dying neon feedback. When you get back from a party and just sit on the edge of your bed with your big headphones on, the dark somehow streaming, hunched with your back to the window, muttering to yourself. Saying the things you didn't say, asking the questions you didn't ask. Imagining your friends' faces in portraits of smeared charcoal.

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - "Let's Start a Family (Blacks)". The pitter of rain against a window-screen, of eyelashes against cheek, of my kisses on your back. These sounds will help you to recover. Secrets go diffuse here. They fade. Doubts waver and are forgotten. Promises are made, easy as cups of tea, and sweet. In hushbreath morning voice we sing, just the easiest song: "do do-do do-do". We'll lay like flowers.

---

As I've said before, May's issue of The Believer includes an interview I conducted with Okkervil River's Will Sheff last year. They've seen fit to publish the whole piece online here. I'm really delighted with how it turned out. And he talks about everything from the Sex Pistols to knife-fights to "literate" pop music.

---

The Coudal Partners' Swap Meat is really cool.

Posted by Sean at 7:32 AM | Comments (24)