This is a musicblog. Every weekday we post a couple of mp3s and write about them. Songs are only kept online for a short time. This is a page from our archives and thus the mp3s linked to may not longer be available. Visit our front page for new songs and words.

November 30, 2007

Only 50 Shopping Years Left!

Soul Merchants - "Love"

To be dragged by your hair, leather clothes squeaking on the shiny tile floor, down a high school hallway between classes. Kids stare open-mouthed in horror through locker mirrors as this beast, cuff spiked and hair the same, has found her prize. A few measely nerds step in the way in feeble attempts to "stand up" for you, but they are cast away with mere snarls, thrown crumpling into locker doors. Even teachers are helpless to your state, their true non-authority revealed so quickly, like they had just been pants'd. A trail of dark fluid draws a line behind you, as you head, head-first, out to the football field. To be strung up, arms and legs tied taught in a star formation, between the field goal posts. Your body, now a sort of grotesque flag, signals the start of a ritual, one to be played-out beyond your control, one of overwhelming events, the least of which you have experienced up to now. All these things together, I believe, to Soul Merchants, are Love. [Buy]

Bon Iver - "Skinny Love"

A much different kind. A kind much softer, made of small sticks, of weak coffee. This is a love felt while looking at your watch. It has a bit of a teenage feeling too, but it seems also very weathered. Like, can we do this thing?

"Hassy, do you ever pray?"
"Mostly on buses."

- from Rabbit Redux, by John Updike

[MySpace] [Buy Updike at a local bookstore]

Posted by Dan at 2:30 AM | Comments (5)

November 29, 2007


Astana, Kazakhstan

Siddhartha - "Holiday (Madonna cover)". This is a very different holiday than the one Madonna took. She went to a glassy swimming pool and danced from floating mattress to floating mattress; she clicked in heels past flashing clubs; she blew air-kisses like electric hummingbirds; she ate whipped cream, and soap, and light. Siddhartha, meanwhile, ate sludge and mushrooms and then went running into the desert, drone coming up like plantlife through the sand, skies filling with a horde of winter locusts and the sound of Siddhartha's inevitable oblivion. Their hearts were beating hard, hard, hard; their bodies voguin' like things possessed.

[buy the Madonna tribute on Manimal Vinyl: Lavender Diamond, Ariel Pink, & more. All proceeds to charity.]

The Unreliable Narrator - "The Fucking Mountains". From the opening line of this song you are forgiven for thinking maybe it's a joke song, a novelty hit. But listen: I hate joke songs, and this isn't one. Oh, it's got smile and humour and fake theremin - and a sidling, red-nosed bassline, - but there's more going on than yuks. Let me quote: "This impenetrable darkness / this brooding gloom..." When the Unreliable Narrator sings about "the fucking mountains" or, later, "this fucking carpet", he's smiling, sure, but so too is he shaking his head in awe. (When it comes to the carpet, this awe is because of how much the rug reminds him of the sea.) Like when you came out of that mountain tunnel and saw the Alps and were like: "Fuuuuuuuuck!" The Unreliable Narrator's been trapped in a well for weeks and now someone's lowering postcards, snapshots, upholstery samples, and he feels the sights so hard that he can only ba-ba-ba.




Pensione Popolo! Montreal's best music venue (and a darn fine bar/resto) now has a cheap hotel!!!! Stay not far from my house for a measly $30-50 dollars/night. Includes free entry to Casa shows! Finally I have somewhere to recommend to visiting phonograph salesmen.

Saw Dave Eggers speak here in Montreal tonight. I think the most inspiring thing about it was the conviction in his optimism, the certainty of his glee. The way exciting things not just can, but do succeed. "Good from good," he said.

(Photo is of Astana, Kazakhstan. Photographer unknown to me.)

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

November 27, 2007


Figurines - "The Air We Breathe"

I had written off the new Figurines album as terrible. Over a year-and-a-half ago, I was swept up in Skeleton immediately, and I saw them live within a week. The live show didn't measure up to the album, and they didn't play the soft piano number (head and shoulders the best track) so I left disappointed but still focused on them as a "studio band", so this new album When The Deer Wore Blue was much anticipated by me. But it fell real flat. After one listen I just felt the same way I did at the live show: empty, pulled in a direction I didn't want to go, like they weren't playing the notes, the songs, they ought to be playing. So I wrote it off. And many weeks have passed since I deleted it from my computer, and I heard "The Air We Breathe", as if on the radio, as if it had fallen like a raindrop softly against my window, on the Paper Bag Records compilation. I thought it wasn't from the new album, I thought it was a new song, that's how much I loved the orange sunset beach boys falsetto foundation, and the hard like ribbon candy verses, snaps in the cold, but stretches when heated.

The Acorn - "The Flood Pt. 1"

Also from Paper Bag Records, here come The Acorn from sleepy Ottawa bringing way more elation, way more clear talent, than I've heard from them before. Here we're riding on brown feathers, we're whisked right away and into the blue. The peppered layers of light percussion imply travel, to me, while everything else implies home.


[Buy When the Deer Wore Blue]
[Buy Glory Hope Mountain]
[Paper Bag Records, a very nice label in Toronto]

Posted by Dan at 10:16 PM | Comments (8)

November 26, 2007


Photographer unknown

Sam Amidon - "Little Johnny Brown". The tide brings in different things. One day: cockleshells, sea-glass, driftwood. Another day it's seaweed and turtleshell. This morning you wake and climb the bluff and there are jellyfish, millions of them, gleaming in the sand like rubies. The tide brings seagulls, planing, and buzzards, loping. It brings stones. It brings strangers in ships, and wide white sails. It brings salt. It leaves the salt on the beach. When you lie on the beach it smells like tears. The tide does not bring her back.

Sam Amidon's album with Doveman's Thomas Bartlett, under the name Samamidon, is one of my favourite folk records of this year: strange, wild, weary. "Little Johnny Brown" is taken from the upcoming All Is Well, due in February on Bedroom Community. It was recorded in Iceland by Valgeir Sigurðsson, who produced Bonnie "Prince" Billy's The Letting Go, with brass, string and woodwind arrangements by Nico Muhly (Bjork, Philip Glass). I cannot wait to hear the rest of it. (These are Sam's favourite albums and films of 2007: R. Kelly and Verhoeven sit at number one.)

Silver Jews - "Frontier Index". Poets and comedians are in the same business. "I just want to say something true," David Berman sings, voice like a snakeskin. You can imagine him, late, drunk, standing with a microphone before a brick wall and knowing it's not going well. Getting belligerent. Poets do not necessarily make good comedians, nor comedians poets, but they are in the same business. Poems are like punchlines, or punchlines like poems. They rewire your brain, bring in cold and warm fronts. There are two jokes in "Frontier Index", and I won't spoil them for you. They are both about inevitability. Like Homer Simpson says: "It's funny because it's true." I did not laugh when I first heard them but I smiled and for a moment I forgot the cold.

[buy Natural Bridge]

(smiling bird photographer unknown.)

Posted by Sean at 1:02 AM | Comments (6)

November 23, 2007


Photo by Aurelia Frey -
by Aurélia Frey

French Quarter - "Stay". Stay in my bed. Keep y--rself warm. No h--- or ---st, ---ven no --- will take me from your solitude. Stay in my bed -nd grow an-ther branch. No tug -f war or devil head w-ll pull me from your touch. Oo-oo. Stay in my bed and sleep anothe- sea. No ocean pull or ---ly tide will take you fro- my side. Stay here. Don't stray aw-y. And if you do, know I'll w---- why. I don't want -- keep you; I just want you to st--. Oo-oo. Oo-oo. Oo---. O----. -----. .. .    .   .

[MySpace / this band is on tour in Arizona, California and Washington state / (thanks sara.)]

Marshall Crenshaw - "You're My Favorite Waste Of Time". "You're My Favourite Waste of Time" was, as I explained, my first favourite song, ever, in my whole life. It was not this version of "Waste of Time" mind you. It was a version by Owen Paul, now lost in the sands of time. I had never heard this, the original, until Amy sent it to me earlier this week. It's great, isn't it? It's almost definitely better than the Paul recording. But would it have caught my fancy, when I was four? At age four I probably didn't even know what "wasting time" meant, preferring the verb "to play". And certainly I was only just getting enamoured with the idea of love. So as Crenshaw's band smashes, jangles and tambourine-shakes, I imagine four-year-old Sean would have been intimidated, if not outright terrified, by Crenshaw's zeal. There's something too forceful in the bass-drum, something too daunting in a solo which requires the introduction of "Hit it!" Imagine loving someone so much that you sing this song to them in all it's smiling, full-voice cheer! Imagine being able to call them "mine" and knowing they'll hug you back, unfazed! Imagine someone else actually being your favourite waste of time! Better than Lego, better than cake, better than watching the Penguin Parade at the Edinburgh Zoo. Sounds crazy to me. (No it doesn't.)



Okkervil River's Daytrotter Session includes a solo Will Sheff recording of Jimmy Webb's "Do What You Gotta Do". It's compelling, but large parts of me are still disappointed it borrows from Nina Simone's meandering rendition instead of the straight-ahead (and heartbreaking) melodicism of Roberta Flack's, or more recently Meg Baird's cover.

Posted by Sean at 8:00 AM | Comments (7)

November 22, 2007


Timothy Dick - "Florence"

Like a lot of hymns, this song can be used to enhance the emotional impact of almost anything. Try listening to it while watching the news, or talking on the phone, or while snow lies quietly down on the sidewalk. Whatever you're doing, or watching, become suddenly expanded, it grows to the size of the room, and you can see all the empty space, all the little hairs you didn't know were there, and all the little scabs, the healing, the flesh. In terms of a "single" or a "hit", it isn't that, but this song isn't interested in that, it wants to walk around, anonymous and dark orange, looking for God. [MySpace]

(photo: Eden Veaudry)

Opium Flirt - "Saint European King Days"

I got an email with the subject line "new music from Estonia". As if the whole country had just finished catching up on old unreturned phone calls and raked the leaves and put on a sweater and had finally gotten around to making some more music. If this is in fact the case (I see no reason why it isn't) then I congratulate them. Still no words to say, they've written a warm wooly walk in the park, where green has become brown and grey, and the roads are getting harder, whiter. Opium Flirt have written a national treat, a crisp smile for the afternoon, for the world. [Buy for 185 EEK]

Posted by Dan at 4:54 PM | Comments (3)

November 21, 2007

One to Three for Five

Cortney Tidwell - "The Missing Link"

One must delve beneath the surface of Ms. C. Tidwell’s work if one wishes to acquit oneself well when discussing it. One might easily be fooled by her Yankee aristocrat’s cognomen or equally by her provenance, being as she is the brat in a long line of Nashville performers. Her music sounds nothing like Fitzgerald reads or like the traditional country of her familial predecessors must have sounded. She has a reputation amongst those in the dark as a country singer of considerable power, and amongst those in the penumbra as a gifted country-shoegazer. Here in the light, it’s clear she’s more Morrissey than 4AD in delivery, though vice versa in arrangement (wash, not jangle). The instruments are heavy, the bass rumbling and round, the snare thumping, insistent, relieved on every sixteenth beat by a hissing high-hat. The genre: pop-rock. The singer: neither aristocratic nor otherwise, neither country nor shoegaze, the carefully belting Ms. C. Tidwell.


Posted by Jordan at 8:32 PM | Comments (1)

November 20, 2007


Berlin photo by and (c) ninnx

There are few things sweeter than projects of love (and few things sourer than projects of spite). Friends Jan Junker and Sebastian Hoffmann have now released two compilations in a series called Berlin Songs, documenting indie, lofi and folk musicians that have passed through their mostly-home of Berlin. I've heard the second disc, just released, and Berlin Songs vol. 2 is a really charming collection; all sorts of messy, dusty, beautiful songs, modest and easy to love. Most are by unknown artists, but there are several names (Andre Herman-Dune, Wave Pictures, Jeffrey Lewis) that will be familiar to lofi- or gramophone-followers.

Ish Marquez - "The Ballad of Jan and Simone". It's like this song starts with a different song - a few licks of acoustic angst, and then... ahhh. Ish Marquez begins to sing and instantly it's like that first summer Friday; boy and girl, shaker shaking, Stanley Brinks' alcoholic electric guitar. Ish's voice is wide and generous, and there's something unpredictable in it; the loose, mild madness that colours Devendra Banhart's best singing, or even Sam Cooke's. Sometimes without meaning to, his heart tinges his vocals a deeper shade of cherry. Clemence Freschard (who appears all over this comp) is the opposite: careful, careful, singing husky and listening to every single syllable of her partner. Making sure she moves her lips only when he moves his. (Under the kitchen table she air guitar's the solo, and no one notices, not even her.)

Coming Soon & Friends - "This Star Is Mine". Said the Gramophone's favourite troupe of French teenagers (plus adults), Coming Soon are here joined by a second sax player and Mlle Freschard. But instead of the band's typical garage pop, "This Star Is Mine" is a ballad in dusky shades. "This star is mine," Howard Hughes intones, like the narrator at an old planetarium. Everyone's pressed deep into their red velvet chairs, staring at the sky. There are art deco swoops over the entrances. It's eleven in the morning but any second now, they'll see the night sky. Any second the mechanical sun will set.

They don't hold their breath. They just sing softly to each other. "In between seasons / in between seasons / in between seasons." They'll keep their tickets until the dusk they die.

[buy Berlin Songs vol. 2/Ish Marquez's MySpace/Coming Soon things]

[Berlin photo by ninnx]

Posted by Sean at 8:30 AM | Comments (1)

November 19, 2007

The Girl From Eponyma's Name Is Eponyma

Boys Noize - "My Moon My Man (Boys Noize Remix Feist)"

Although in some ways the combination of heavy dance beats and ethereal soft female vocals was a standard played out long ago, I can't stop listening to this. Perhaps it's that same realization we all come to that in the realm of exciting work, old standards and new grounds have almost equal merit, depending on their execution. Though I can't claim to understand him as much as I'd like to, because my self-esteem makes me think he'd say "you're WAY off", but it's similar to Dave Hickey's idea of "the quality of the work" as opposed to "the quality of the job". This is great work. Beats that feel like robo-jaws chomping down on the empty hot dancefloor space, and Feist swaying by with a wrist-swinging hair-flipping walk that makes wind as it goes on by. Dreamy, dancey, black. [Buy from Amazon UK]

Unknown Artist - "Song From Bin Lu"

The room goes quiet and her voice rises like a single candle, flickering. Her whole family is there, and some other people from the town, and this was unexpected. She hadn't mentioned wanting to sing a song, she had been quiet all day, preparing the meal with a downturned focus. But now she is singing, and has everyone's attention, but is herself shy of it. It's as if the song has taken over, that the song has the attention, and she too is watching it, eyes open and welling, as it comes out of her. The day's work, the whole year's, has been hard, not as green as other years, and this is some sort of mourning. Like the suffering of the whole town, of her parents' strife, elegized. She glances at her brothers, then down at the floor to avoid crying, then up at the roof as the last bits of sky fall through the grass, and by now it's clear to everyone watching why she is singing. She will leave this family, this town, and never come back. [Buy from Sublime Frequencies]

Posted by Dan at 3:01 AM | Comments (6)

November 16, 2007


Image by Betsy Walton

Colourbook - "Lung Fung". The joke's on me. I let Colourbook's debut sit for weeks in my office, neglected, decaying, forgetting to listen. And then I listened, and I found a band that's hot, wild, kind, ramshackle, and send-you-spinning. From Victoria, BC, and they have a 'u' in their name, thank goodness, and they're the kind of band that will build you a door, paint it a nice shade of green, install a burnished bronze doorknob, let themselves in, and then in a fit of mischief and flirt kick that very same door down. The joke's on me. Other jokes that are on me: russet apples, daylight savings, cinnamon, new dimes. There's an awesomeness that cares not a lick whether or not I recognize it, that glints in every kind of light. If you were to invite Colourbook over for dinner, after they'd built your door and knocked it down they'd be installing a glitterball on the ceiling, planting new plants on your mantel, spreading ivy all over the walls. They'd be getting your girlfriend drunk, and your boyfriend too, and playing the first Arcade Fire EP at enough of a volume for you to remember the spiced, white nights of 2003. They'd make a mess, and a party, and a forest whether you liked it or not; they'd leave winestains on your hands and still you'd invite them back. I don't know why the hell I haven't heard their name before because shit I may be late but this here is one of the hottest bands in Canada. Do what you can to buy their self-titled CD-R now, not so you can look cool in 2008 but so you have the pleasure to listen to a great & gnashing debut even in the months before they're famous.

[buy / MySpace]

Pants Yell! - "For Dee". A song in shades of lavender and blue, written by Ryan Doyle not Pants Yell's Andrew Churchman, and so sung with an unselfconscious reverence, the kind of open-hearted warmth that comes easier when you're playing a song you already love, & so know is good.

my arms won't be vacant
like the downtown is
I wonder how it must feel to record a song that moves you and you know in turn will move others. Me I scribble here, saying stuff I mean, hoping that bits & pieces of it will knick & scratch a reader, two readers, but it's nothing like this. This is like sewing a pair of trousers, knowing they'll get worn. Mining an opal and knowing it'll end up on someone's finger. Giving someone a kiss and knowing it'll be remembered, years later, the exact place it landed on the cheek.
a folly i felt all my life
The song is a come back to me and an I know you won't, and it's rimmed in nickel-plated sorrow, the kind that never gets any softer.
it seems nothing let me down
like you did.
[buy for a beautifully mere $11]


Marc Rowland, a dear friend to Dan and I, is offering a series of in-depth improv (comedy) workshops to Montrealers, Nov 24-Dec 15. If you're interested in, curious about, or a performer of improv I can't think of a more dedicated teacher in the city. The workshops are 3 hours, only $15, and will be the kind of concentrated learning experience that rolls over into uproarious fun. Highly, highly recommended.

Learn how to improvise in a safe, supportive setting. Challenge yourself and grow to improve both improv performance abilities and everyday interpersonal skills. Learn from an experienced improvisor and improv teacher. Participate in a four session foundation course at MAI (3680 rue Jeanne-Mance) on Saturdays from 6pm-9pm starting on November 24th and going until December 15th. The lessons will support a blend of performers and non-performers looking to learn or review the foundations of improv. The classes cost $15 each. See here for more information about improv. To take the class contact Marc Rowland.
[The painting above is, of course, by the amazing Betsy Walton. You can purchase the original here.]

Posted by Sean at 8:39 AM | Comments (3)

November 15, 2007

The Chorus, Of Course

The Band - "Jawbone"

1) You are a daily reader, but a newborn baby.
2) You are an irregular reader, in either sense, of Said the Gramophone.
3) You fondly remember the Summer of Rumours - the daily sing-alongs, the heavy thinking you did while listening to “Dreams,” the even heavier drinking while listening to “The Chain.” We spent our summer together, Dear Readers, all of us with our ears glued to the speakers, the needle of our record players digging right through to the bottom of our albums, until the grooves were holes and our erstwhile Rumourses rendered but broken vinyl. And so ended the Summer of Rumours, just in time for fall.

Welcome to the gateway into the Winter of the Band’s Self-Titled Sophomore Album, The Band, aka the Winter of The Band, aka the Winter of our Contentment! What a bunch of unassuming, musical workman geniuses do make up The Band! Here’s a piecemeal and plodding song, by no means their most perfect, yet it contains a chorus of such pure, moving brilliance as to exert a wrenching pressure in my chest every g-d time I hear it. And speaking of g-d … Every g-d song on the whole of The Band has a moment nearly as powerful, as surprising. To list the specifics would be like listing all of the Real Numbers, i.e. impossible, but trust me when I say that they appear on every song and between every two there is another, ad infinitum. Epistemologically problematic? On the contrary, my babies:

The chorus I present to you here holds a clue to the infinite goodness contained elsewhere on the album. The thing that The Band does better than anyone and do better here than anywhere else is The Wait, The Drag, The Fall-Behind. It’s just a moment really, just a second of holding back, of speeding up, of finding the tempo. Nothing more than a stutter at the beginning of each of the vocal riffs that makes up the chorus, yet each one is harder to wait through, more agonizing than the last. It’s easy to sit in judgement of a man who, like the singer of this song, drank himself to despair, to death, really, with Grand Marnier. That sickly orange liqueur; what an indignity! But what must it have been like to live in the world with such a skewed sense of time? Sit through one of those pauses and you will miss work, lose your job. Another and your girlfriend will leave you (she can’t wait forever). A third (and in each chorus there are three) and you will be quaffing a snifter of triple sec, asking yourself how this man lasted as long as he did. After all, we must keep warm somehow this winter. [Let's winter together.]


Buffaloswans - "Long Hundred Picture"

If you think Richard Manuel is the only member of the The Band who understands The Wait, just listen to “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” and tell me that Levon Helm doesn’t have a firm grasp on the manoeuvre. Of course, Helm also has the power of heart-breaking minimalism, of hitting the snare drum once less often than you think possible. Such is the way also of Buffaloswans’ drummer, who sounds his snare on every 2, without fail and nowhere else. It’s as if, in the mind of the drummer, there were no other beat in the bar.

Tonight Buffaloswans will release their self-titled debut album in their hometown of Vancouver. Based on the songs I’ve heard, it’s a record that should sit alongside the work of The Band in the annals of strong Canadian Americana, and its release comes just in time for the Late Fall of Buffalowans, currently underway. [Info]

Posted by Jordan at 11:37 PM | Comments (3)

November 14, 2007


Clear Tigers - "Boredom" My computer's been in the repair shop for almost three weeks now, and it's making me realise how vulnerable all parts of my life are. My bones could break as easily as my iBook did. My liquor cabinet could crash to the floor, my roommate could flee the city, my phonecalls could stop being returned. All my photographs could crack, tear and burn; all my drawings could smudge. I'd go to the bagel shop and every bagel would be burned. I'd go to the ice-cream shop and find that everything had melted. I'd say "Hey, Dan!" to my friend Dan and he'd reply with an icy stare, or he'd up and move to Toronto, or he'd be kissing the girl I'd like myself to be kissing.

Some would think on these things and feel a fear. They'd spend their lives risking nothing. But me, I have too much time on my hands to cower. I can't just hide under my covers with my computer, watching TV on YouTube and rereading the emails from better days. Like I said: my computer's in the shop. The only possible behaviour is to turn up "Boredom", to turn it so loud that it tears the fabric on my speakers, that the stereo's lasers burn right through the CD, and then once the grey Panasonic box is all aflame I can myself crash through my apartment - hurling dishes, cracking mirrors, plowing through walls. I can destroy every dear thing in my life, rip every single thing to shreds, tear the love-letters with my teeth. To the sound of good-natured piano and strummed gutiar, repeated "oh"s, I'll take my life apart. Basking in the dying, happy sound of the Clear Tigers, I'll ruin everything. I'll sing along even when all my words have been lost, I'll take leaves from outside and dump them on my floor, I'll laugh with blood on my face - and finally, finally, amid the wreckage and the last wondering piano notes of this song, I'll realise that I've still got something left. I've still got something left, even if everything goes away.




Comparing American presidential candidates to hip-hop stars. Ghostface in 2012!

Posted by Sean at 5:33 PM | Comments (4)

November 13, 2007

Given Title, Rank, And Counter

(photo from here)

Le Loup - "We Are Gods! We Are Wolves!"

Le Loup's The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly is a heavy undertaking. It's kind of a whooshing stormy banjo warm front, and this is the breaking clouds. It comes in the middle of an album that stretches down into hell and reaches up to heaven, it's a very spiritual breadth, and seems pretty sincere too. Where this song exactly plays into the "plan" of this album I can't say, but I can ride that blippy part like a bus through a town of intricate spires and dark beige skies. I'm kind of scared of the vocals, even though they mean no harm, they sound like they're speaking another language sometimes, they sound very powerful, despite their sweet smiling and soft exterior. Like if the clouds were whispering at you, just their size alone would scare you. [Buy] (thanks, Jim!)

Okay - "Truce"

The new album from Okay, who Sean told me about, is wholly great. Right from the first song it's inviting like a warm living room with a fire and an old sofa. A bunch of 2-minute songs go by, and you're just getting to know it, you're kind of charmed by the crumpled-paper vocals and lush yet simple arrangements. Eventually after 13 short-ish songs and you're fully on board, tapping your foot and nodding and really agreeing with stuff. And then, a 7-minute song comes on, this one, and you're like "uh, no way" to yourself, "if you're bringing out a 7-minute song at this point, it's gotta be some giant droney solo-ey mess." So you cross your legs and get ready to be sympathetic. After all, you've really enjoyed yourself so far, you kind of owe it to sit through and smile. And then it's amazing. You uncross your legs at 2:30, you put your hands flat on the seat like it's going to lift off the ground at 3:48, and it's not long after that that your memory goes blank. You wake up in a sweat, and dazed, you clap for forgiveness as the fire dies to a shimmering orange. [Buy old stuff]

Posted by Dan at 1:30 AM | Comments (4)

November 12, 2007

Since This Isn't

Pet Politics - "When I Get Old"

Pet Politics reminds me of Agent Simple. Them both being from Gothenburg has almost nothing to do with, though. Or maybe it has more to do with it than I understand. There's just no illusions about the nuts and bolts of life. There's no talk about "true love" or "perfection", it's just "what I like best" and "my friends and my wife". It's just major chords, that's all. It's just a tambourine, another layer of guitars, and a verse about the city. He likes to write songs about things that make him happy, about things there are to do, and about plans you can make with all this time and space. Perhaps it is geographical, maybe I'm meant to live in Gothenburg, where this will all resonate so strongly with me I'll just Tacoma Narrows all over the place.

[New 7"] [MySpace]


T. D. Reisert - "To Sleep the Sleep"

Even though I am most certainly a man, my love, I'm writing to you because I think I'm pregnant. I know we haven't spoken in a couple of months, and what we had together was negligible, to be kind. In all honesty, I've forgotten your last name. But I am undoubtedly altered, and I fear, expect, suspect, something is growing. I remember the smell of sweat in your hair, your cold cheeks. I feel your dents and bumps, the warped lines of your body, like a pile of cinnamon in my stomach. The mark you left is heavy, I carry it around with me wherever I go. It takes half of my energy, I can't stay out as late anymore, and I need help getting out of cars and up from the floor. It's a burden, I admit, it weighs me down, it's holding me back. But still, despite what younger people think, or some of my friends think, I'm proud of it, it makes me nervous and excited, I've already started to care for it. It makes me think about the future.

[my man T.D.]

Posted by Dan at 2:41 AM | Comments (8)

November 9, 2007

Force in the Umpteenth

Shapes & Sizes - "Alone/Alive"

I got on a bus to Toronto to look for a job, it was the 9pm. It was late, and I wasn't at all tired, so I got off at Cornwall 'cause I could see the pinball machine (Lethal Weapon 4) through the bus window, and I liked how empty the station was. The driver had to unlock it to let me in, I mean there was NO one. I liked that, it was way better than the stupid bus which was just full of weirdos anyway, watching downloaded tv and holding it in. I played pinball until 3 or so, talked to the operator on the payphone a bunch (Trudy, which probably wasn't her real name, we talked about being naked in a sleeping bag, and how it's cold and slippery and sweaty) then went walking on fencetops and looking in darkened windows. I ran down the cold street and shouted "lights out! lights out!" like a crazy old man. I wandered a whole bunch, I like looking at people's houses, it's like their face in a way, a sign of how they're living their life. I kept expecting to see someone, but I never did. I kept expecting the sun to come up, but it didn't.



a more straightforward approach lies at, where I wrote this piece's big sister.

Posted by Dan at 2:44 PM | Comments (5)

November 8, 2007

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Yeasayer - "Red Cave". Sometimes you can tell from the start. The winter's not even come yet, it's not here, and already we can tell. I saw a single snowflake, today, drift past the window on the seventeenth floor. But I know, all of us here already know: This is going to be an amazing season. It's going to be a season of thrust and parry, of joy and midnight, of frost and powder. It's going to be marvelous. Something about the smell in the air and the tenor of the clouds. Hearing Yeasayer for the first time, writing about them in May, I had the sense: they've not even arrived yet and I already know that they'll arrive. Not just that "2080" is an amazing song, likely my favourite of the year, but that this is a group that will amount to something. "PAY ATTENTION," I said. I saw them play live in Montreal and they hollered all at once and the drummer slapped his drumpads and I snapped my fingers like I was remembering something long forgotten. Even now, with All Hour Cymbals released, not quite the record I hoped it would be, I can still tell: this isn't a soundalike, a novelty, a flash in pan. The members of Yeasayer have never played in other bands and they won't ever have to. They are still learning but even now they see things in the air that most of us don't see; all they have to do is learn to seal these insights onto wax, onto tape, and to leave the lesser visions in the ether. Saying fewer things, but in just as many colours. "Red Cave" is five minutes of love, of friendship & family, of hearth and home. It's a procession to the safest place there is - to the sanctuary, the grotto, the den, where the chants hang like streamers and the drums beat like hearts. If you die in Graceland, you're reborn here, with new grass under your toes.


Posted by Sean at 8:27 AM | Comments (8)

November 7, 2007

Obviate the Obvious

D'Angelo - "Devil's Pie"

Yet another tract in the literature of soul regarding the struggle between earthly pleasures and heavenly responsibilities, between flesh and faith. Here's an ugly, greedy world, sings D'Angelo, and then, near the outset of what promises to be an anti-sin polemic, the singer, like Saint Augustine, becomes a question for himself. "Who am I to justify/All the evil in our eye/When I myself feel the high/From all that I despise?" Indeed, D'Angelo is not unlike a young Augustine, utterly seduced by "drugs and thugs, women, wine." I don't have a copy of Confessions on me, and therefore I can neither reject nor confirm my intuition that the song's key metaphor for our insatiable and varied transgressive appetites, "Fuck the slice, we want the pie," was taken from that early medieval autobiography. Of course, as with all the best works in the transcendence vs. immanence subgenre, the music does what the lyric cannot: resolve the central tension. That is to say that the song itself proves by example that what is earthbound and profoundly impious can also be sublime; that dirtiness is next to godliness.

Which is not to say that the inverse is necessarily true: Castanets - "Sway"

[Buy Castanets' In the Vines, D'Angelo's Voodoo]

Posted by Jordan at 5:00 PM | Comments (1)

November 6, 2007

Sublime Frequencies

I have just been pointed to the incredible Sublime Frequencies label. I've heard Group Inerane now, and I don't want to go home. I feel like we'll be hearing, if I may, game-changing things from this label.

Group Inerane - "Kamu Talyat"

I don't know what's out there, I don't know how old I'll get, and I can't stop thinking about what it'll be like tomorrow. I'd rather not speak, I can hear the soccer game down below in the town, but from this rooftop I'd rather keep it to myself. Not speaking is my way of telling you that I'm alright. I'm always looking at myself in mirrors when I see them, windows when I pass them, because I like to be reminded of what I look like. Sometimes I feel like a cat or a mushroom, or much shorter or awkward than I am. I move like a horse, I move steady and with grace, I'm a full cup of man and I'm happy to be reminded of my blessings. I take this song as one of my blessings, that I wrote for this town, for those four girls, for my family and for the ocean when I'm near it. I believe we'll be seeing a lot of each other; enough to learn what smiles lie waiting inside, and I think it will be nice. Let the sun set blue and let the wind blow the smoke towards the water.

Group Inerane - "Awal September"

At 6 she had divorced her parents and moved to the city. She grew up with the homeless and at 22 had solved that whole problem. (hint: a definitional adjustment)

[More about Group Inerane] [Sold Out Everywhere]

Posted by Dan at 1:57 AM | Comments (4)

November 5, 2007


Photo by merkley???
[photo by merkley???]

Kyla D - "Tooth". My friend Kyla released a tape last year but tapes being tapes and miles being miles, I've only now had the pleasure to hear it. It's one of those moments when it's very easy to be both music critic and friend; because, well, her songs are amazing. We used to listen to Mirah's You Think It's Like This But Really It's Like That, and Kyla would look dolefully at her own acoustic guitar, and now here she is making something that recalls all of the same worry, thirst, play and heartthump, but which is in some ways even better (and not just because Kyla used to bake me naan). I love how the production flourishes sprout and then abruptly disappear, like moths found fluttering in the kitchen or roomies who up 'n move out. The lyrics are an over-extended analogy, 1:45 of mixed metaphor, but the tangle of wit, honesty & distraction seems just-right for the relationship described: "we fumbled awkward / did a gentle dance ... and we were happy".

[buy (I ordered the Ray Rumours debut and the Sleeping States split tape as well!)]

CSS - "Knife (Grizzly Bear cover)". I'm surprisingly easy to confuse. If a lover were to backstab me, I'm not sure I'd understand. "What?" I'd say. I'd leave messages on their answering machine, asking the wrong questions - befuddled monologues ending with "Yeah... Ok so call me?" Here's another thing that confuses me: how this cover of a song called "Knife" sounds a lot like the band The Knife. But it isn't by The Knife. CSS are Brazilians, not Swedes, and the lead singer's called Lovefoxxx. It makes me wonder if there's a Grizzly Bear song called "CSS" which The Knife cover in the style of, uh, CSS. Okay okay but regardless of what the hell is going on, CSS's "Knife" is great, by far the best cover that's appeared in the past two years of "Knife"-covering and -remixing. It's got heart-attack zap, shimmer and shake, the faintest tremble of loss under the steely-sung chorus: "Do you think it's all right. Do you think it's all right." Like if the inflection let it be a question Ms Lovefoxxx might find her voice cracking. "Can you feel the knife;" she sings, again barely asking: a semicolon not a question mark. Because it's a rhetorical question. The betrayer thinks it's all right. And Lovefoxxx can feel the knife. Sharp. Even as she grits her teeth and slips like tongue-in-mouth all over the dance floor.

[Grizzly Bear's terrific, heaving new 11-track Friend EP is now available for purchase.]


The full text of Sheila Heti's Believer interview with Dave Hickey is online, and it's fucking great. I was not smart enough to have heard of Mr Hickey, but he's an art/cultural critic and english prof who more than anything comes across as the sort of person you call a Thinker. And his ideas are full of spontaneous insight and a very ripe, live sense of humour.

With the artists, I don't teach, I coach. I can't tell them how to make art. I tell them to make more art. I tell them to get up early and stay up late. I tell them not to quit. I tell them if somebody else is already making their work. My job is to be current with the discourse and not be an asshole.
[via Zoilus, obv]

Posted by Sean at 12:47 AM | Comments (9)

November 2, 2007


Photo of illuminated art sculpture by Nathan Coley

Rachel Ries - "Here We Lie In Wait". A little over a month ago, I think, we biked around Mile End looking for bonfires and then when we failed, some time near 3 a.m., some friends came back to my place. We played quiet songs and talked and opened a bottle of champagne and a little bit of whiskey, and some of us lay on the floor as the night stretched on, like cloth, like good strong cloth, and dawn was unthinkable even at 4 or 5 a.m. I was a little in love and my tiredness felt just like a silver lining on my heart, so that if you rapped it with your knuckles it would make a long, low ring. Rachel Ries has written a song about quitting drinking and finding God, but it's telling that I can put it in my own pocket, wear it as I wander through my own memories, use it as wax-paper to trace and retrace the shadowplay of that evening. The sun will shake us down, she sings, and she's right. It will, it did. If Rachel's voice were a tree branch, a ripe russet apple would hang at its end: a gift, there to take. Linger too long, and the song is over. Sooner or later, everyone goes home to their own beds.

[buy Without a Bird at her MySpace - the vinyl comes with a CD. / Rachel previously at StG.]

Aerosmith - "Cryin'". The first song I ever loved was Paul Owen Owen Paul's "My Favourite Waste of Time". I would toddle down the mewses of Stirling singing "Miiiiiiiii-ine" in a four-year old's Scottish brogue, not just ignorant of the rest of the lyrics but utterly ambivalent to them. But this is the stuff of family anecdote, of when-Sean-was-a-very-very-little-boy, and not a personal recollection. I don't think I've heard "My Favourite Waste of Time" in twenty years - if anyone has the mp3, I'd love to revisit my childhood crush.

Other than the Paul Owen Owen Paul hit, the first song I ever loved which was not introduced to me by my parents, and was not by The Beatles, Monty Python, or part of the Lion King soundtrack, was Aerosmith's "Cryin'". I was eleven or twelve. I didn't understand the words, I suspect, at least not the words "Do what you do down on me". But I loved the song so much, and just like I do now with the songs I love - I would stand in my room, feet on carpet, eyes closed and head back, listening loud & feeling all that feeling washing over me.

Can you predict 25 year-old Sean in the melody and meter of "Cryin'"? Can you see me sketched in any of the solos, in the key or the climax or the way Steve Tyler rhymes cryin', tryin' and dyin'? Can you hear me in the sax or the harmonica or the piano? What about in the yells?

When I sat down to write this tonight I was going to tell you that I have no idea why I ever liked this piece of shit. From the blood-curdling opening to the whine of the Hammond, from the cheeseball brass to the ham-handed guitar hooks, it seems like a procession of things I don't like. I was never a head-banger, never wore a leather jacket, didn't booze & fuck, and I've never played an air guitar in my life. I didn't even have (much of) a crush on Liv Tyler. But as I sit here with "Cryin'" on a loop, ringin' in All Saints Day with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, I begin to remember the thing that made me fall so fast and firm in love. "Cryin'" isn't just a sad song: it's the celebration of a sad song. It's an acceptance and recognition of the blues that crows so hard it falls all the way into caricature. When Steve Tyler sings the chorus, - "I was cryin' when I met you / now I'm tryin' to forget ya / your love is sweet misery," - there's an ecstasy to it, an openhearted longing, that recalls everyone from the Velvet Underground to Wolf Parade to Van Morrison to Shearwater. The cradle of a sad line sung as loud and as hoarse as it can be sung.



The results of I Heart Music's Hottest Canadian Bands of 2007 poll are in. Dan and I both voted. The results are... not particularly to my taste. My full ballot, and comments, are below the fold.

[Photo source here (photographer unknown). It's a sculpture by Nathan Coley.]

Hottest Canadian Bands of 2007:

1. The Luyas [recently on StG]
My favourite album of 2007 may well be The Luyas' self-released debut - a record called Faker Death by a girl, a drummer, and a guy who plays french horn. They're three musicians with long histories in Canadian music - in Torngat, Bell Orchestre, the SS Cardiacs, - but this is their best work, this right here, this knitting of influence and feeling with all the mistakes left in. I like to hope that when something's really, really good, it begins to attract peoples' eye; like a stormcloud, a cherry tree, or a really dope bicycle.

2. Clues [recently on StG]
They've played only two, maybe three concerts, and I was only there for one of them; and yet I was shaken and stirred by that one show, simmered and boiled. One of the country's greatest, songest songwriters (Alden Penner), Montreal's finest drummer (Brendan Reed), and Bethany Or, who binds the thing like catgut and silver thread. Clues play a frantic, hopeful pop music. They're heirs to an idea, but they've smashed all their heirlooms.

3. Feist [recently on StG]
I couldn't care less about Leslie Feist, hadn't bothered to read a single article about her since she followed "Mushaboom" with a suite of brunch-worthy snoozers. But then I listened to her 2007 album, which is called The Reminder and is messy and hot-hearted and sexy and so much more enflamed, inflamed, than her debut, and I discovered I was a moron.

4. Basia Bulat [recently on StG]
Let her write more songs of joy and doubt, of fierceness and confusion. These are her strongest works; the ones that feel vulnerable, perilous, brave and lost. At her weakest, Basia and her
band play it safe, make nice things for nice people; at their best there's a realer breathlessness in them, and some bruise.

5. Miracle Fortress
Graham Van Pelt's solo debut is gorgeous, gorgeous, and while the touring band's still playing catch-up I could dwell in the chorus of "Next Train", the two seconds where he sings "to you", for the whole of 2008.

6. Orillia Opry [recently on StG]
A duo making sweet songs that also, more importantly, make the hair stand up on your arms. The second album's terrific, and I have no idea what's holding up the extra-Canadian label-signing.

7. Christine Fellows [recently on StG]
John Darnielle is perhaps the loudest of her supporters, and this tells you something: that the words Christine Fellows writes are fine, and moving. But the melodies she writes are no less great, and the new record's got an orchestration that vaults and weaves, and her songs have a wisdom and guts that are pretty much unmatched... And a whole lot more people ought to start paying attention.

8. Julie Doiron [recently on StG]
This was a great year for Julie. A vigorous new album, a Polaris prize nomination, shows playing with rock bands and singing her heart out. So amazing to find that one of your favourite artists has not yet peaked.

9. Avril Lavigne [recently on StG]
Avril's three for three. She has yet to release a weak album, or a first single that did not make me want to run out and buy a radio of my own. I couldn't care less if "Girlfriend" is a rip-off; it's
fucking fantastic.

10. Silver Mt. Zion
Earlier this year, Vic Chesnutt released an album with SMZ as his backing band. Last month, they played in Montreal with Patti Smith. While we're still awaiting a new album from the Mile End massif, collaborations such as these are an outstanding platform for the band's skills; a chance to shade works with whole new colours, to teach dying songs how to live.

Barons & Lengthy
New Pornographers
Elfin Saddle
Handsome Furs
Arcade Fire
Patrick Watson

Posted by Sean at 12:41 AM | Comments (9)

November 1, 2007

Surrender as Both Idea and Backside Dignitary

Extra Golden - "Jakolando"

Two brothers are headed into town, the hot afternoon sun white on the gravel road. Onyango has the money, to get the bread and sugar, and Ganabe skips alongside. They walk the alleys of the market, saying hello to the few people they recognise. They are referred to as a unit by the people in town. "Jakolando," they say, "you'll get fat on this much sugar." "My father makes less than you, Bunte." "You are too sensitive, Jakolando, I'm only kidding." Onyango does not smile as he takes the bundle under his arm to leave. "I want to stay and talk with the women," says Ganabe, tugging at his brother's hand and pointing to the tavern where the music is coming from, softly. "We don't have time." The women make eyes at the little Ganabe. "Hi, Jakolando." Ganabe will be a man eventually, but Onyango will be a man first, and there's no telling what will happen between then and now. The boys head home as the sun sets coolly behind the bare trees. Ganabe makes them stop for water, and then again to urinate. [Buy]

Fiery Furnaces - "A Candymaker's Knife"

Part two in my continuing insistence that Rehearsing My Choir is fantastic. "A Candymaker's Knife" is really when the story of the album's main character gets underway. It's the third track on the album, and there's been a lot of hinting, setting up, thematic beginnings, but its most clear beginning is here. A young woman, taking a cooking class, is swept up in her hectic life. The song's opening spookiness foreshadows the main plot point: that on the night she is to meet her father-in-law for the first time, she gets drunk and embarrasses herself in front of her new family. A simple and tender plot, approached (no, attacked) from all sides at once by call-and-response double-character illustration by Eleanor and Olga, and the music waltzing, sometimes leading other times following, along. The lyrical and musical synchronicities hit like a full-page image in a comic, or a sentence in all caps, "I wore the scarf he sent to me..." becomes blue, floating, a standstill. And my favourite image "I reached for the arm of the armchair and missed..." gets me every time, because I immediately go back to the title, as she's falling, and I think, as I would, drunk, about the knife. [Buy]

Posted by Dan at 4:24 AM | Comments (3)