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 26, 2009

2. Cloud Things

Religious Girls - "White Mage"

They were standing completely still. Kind of posing, completely rock solid still. It was hard to tell they were real people, because they were standing next to fake museum ancient people, like those mannequin-type wax people, churning butter or hunting or something. But obviously they were real people. They were wearing now-time clothes, and they weren't in the exhibit, they were outside it. It just caught me off guard. They were seething. He was breathing really slowly but really hard, and she was breathing like she was under water, she would hold it in and then tilt her head up to take a breath. She had curly hair that went out in a triangle from the top of her head, and a baggy t-shirt, and shorts, and he had jeans and a golf shirt and his hair looked like it was made to hold sunglasses. You could see there was a relationship between them. Not like the wax people who looked like unused puppets, no these people had a connection between them that was bright and visible, like when people hold a flag between them at a soccer game. You could see their connection, it was all fingerprinted and greasy, and it had the sense that it was really well used. It was stretched tight between them and it was dripping. Dripping like carrying a bag of melty ice. Finally she turned around and faced him, her hands kind of on her hips but holding her big bag.


And, to me, this is the way I remember it, it was like some sort of cue. The big fake birds that were circling, fake vultures flying high above fake dog skeleton, started really flying, started really screeching. The big fake half elephant covered in fur, started moaning, the fake leaves in the painted trees started rustling. And the fake people started lurching and bounding.

And these real people didn't notice! They didn't blink an eye when it happened. She just stared right at him and he just stared right back, even though all this other noise and other stuff was happening.

"Okay." he said, and it all, everything at once, stopped.

[via the unquestionable No Pain In Pop]

Posted by Dan at 11:40 AM | Comments (1)

May 25, 2009


Von Roy

Withered Hand - "Oldsmobile Car".

You were checking your email at your parents house. You had come over for dinner because your mum asked you, and you realised it had been a long time, and without Jonathan there you thought maybe the house would feel empty. It didn't, though. You ate your mum's chicken and they poured you wine and your dad had for some reason baked a cake, since when does he bake cakes?, but he had, something with peaches, and you ate it and it was pretty good.

Now your parents were in the living-room, in easy chairs, watching Law & Order. It was 8:41pm. You were at the black IKEA computer desk checking your email; the only light in the room was the big buzzing CRT monitor.

You clicked refresh and there was an email from L.

I need to talk to you. I'll be at the park at 9:30.

At 8:51 you padded into the living-room and asked if you could borrow their car. "Night owl," said your father.

The garage was darker than you remembered it. You pressed the button that lifted the garage door and you looked at the Oldsmobile glinting in the street-light. You got in and turned your keys in the ignition and the radio began to mumble. You sat blinking at the bottom of your parents' driveway in the rear-view mirror. You thought of L, in the park.

You got out of the car, you left it running, you scampered up the stairs to your old bedroom, to the cardboard box in the corner of the closet, under packets of unopened athletes' socks and suit jackets that didn't fit you any more. The box held cassettes. You closed your eyes and you thought of L and you grabbed a mixtape without looking. You scampered back down the stairs. "Everything okay?" called your dad, and you yelled "Yep!" just as you closed the back door with a thump.

You got back into the Oldsmobile and you clattered the cassette into the tapedeck and on the mixtape's case you saw in your handwriting the words OLDIES AND NEWIES 1996.

Looking over your right shoulder, with your hand on the back of the passenger-side head-rest, you backed out of the garage.

And you drove. The lines on the street seemed freshly painted. The conifers seemed further away from the road. The Denny's had become a Dairy Queen. The car felt good and strong & it felt like it was under your foot, like the gas pedal was the engine of the car, like you could feel its heartbeat through your right sole; and the tape played "Lola", and "It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)", and something that reminded you of King Creosote, but of course it wasn't King Creosote because the tape was from 1996. And you drove toward the park where L would be waiting for you, words on her lips, and you wondered if there were more yeses or more no's on her lips, and you wondered where she was right now, walking or bicycling or still at home.

And you looked at the empty passenger seat beside you and hurtling down the highway you wanted more than anything to have L here beside you, no matter what she was going to say, no matter if it were yeses or no's; just to have her here with streetlights flashing in your faces and this cassette playing. You would take a corner and she would look at the case and she would say, "You still write your e's the same way."

["Oldsmobile Car" is from Withered Hand's new EP, You're Not Alone, recorded by King Creosote. Withered Hand is my favourite new Scottish artist and I loved his debut EP, last year's Religious Songs. Dan launches the new EP in Edinburgh on June 9 - together with Benni Hemm Hemm, Ish Marquez, Emily Scott and Sebastian Fors. Scots, mark your calendars & non-Scots, send in an order.]


Beloved Montreal record-shop Phonopolis writes about the pleasures of Bach.


If you speak French, read Garrincha's precise and elegiac words on Iron & Wine's "The Trapeze Singer", so that you will never hear it any other way again.


My dear, dear, dear friend P is participating in the Ride to Conquer Cancer and is earnestly seeking donations. It would be really wonderful if you donated any amount.

(photo source)

Posted by Sean at 7:03 PM | Comments (3)

May 22, 2009

Reading Rainbow


Reading Rainbow - "Totem Pole"
Reading Rainbow - "In the City"

Grown on a field, raised by grass and old leaves, taught by ants and rain. Subsisting on loose dirt, worms, and fine-tasting roots. Given gifts of wind-blown seeds, sung to at night by creaky trees and warm stars. Held tight by snow drifts, held in empty arms. Thoughts without language, a smell that sweet stings, breath like discs of grey light.

[MySpace] a full length is coming...

[image source]

Posted by Dan at 1:37 PM | Comments (4)

May 21, 2009


Photo by Sam Spenser

Luke Temple's music as Here We Go Magic is part Paul Simon and part El Guincho, which of course means he sounds a lot like the Beta Band ca. Three EPs. Do you remember Three EPs? The album that John Cusack's character in the High Fidelity movie resolved to sell multiple copies of just by playing "Dry the Rain"? Yes?

Well let me play you two songs and suggest that you buy Here We Go Magic, by Here We Go Magic.

Here We Go Magic - "Only Pieces".
Here We Go Magic - "Fangala".

Certain things, most cities have. Telephone poles, sidewalk cracks, garbage bins, birds, electrical lines, traffic lights that change colour. Some things, only one city has. Mount Royal, the Eiffel Tower, Red Square, Recoleta cemetary. And some things again, we do not know. How special is this intricately wrought fence? How distinctive is this clockface? How far has this bluebird travelled? Can I find elsewhere a manhole that leads to a tunnel that leads to a great & underground hall?

Listening to "Only Pieces" and "Fangala", I feel a similar wonder. How verdant is this song? How new is this rhythm? How catchy is this line? Because it feels so extraordinary. These things have the colours you might expect to find in a thousand different places - but I have not. I find them only here. It may be Beta Band and Paul Simon and El Guincho and Panda Bear; but that's like saying it's fence and clock and bluebird. I know it is these things but - listen! Listen! It is more.

[buy buy buy / website / opening for Grizzly Bear on several upcoming dates]

(photo source)

Posted by Sean at 12:32 PM | Comments (8)

May 19, 2009

Polling Hucksters

Carole King - "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman"

I imagine a hundred thousand different situations. I imagine he died in a car crash, I go into gory detail. I imagine the shards ripping at his face, tugging on his mustache as he passes through the windshield. I think about him cheating on me. Picking up some girl, some whore, underage and strung-out, asking for cigarette money in the night street light. I think about them in an alley. And then to punish myself for thinking so negatively about him, I imagine him shot to death, after trying to retrieve an old woman's purse from a mugger, I see the images like panels in a comic. I open my eyes and the lights are still on. I try to remember what shirt he was wearing when he left. I can see four or five different ones, each as vivid as the other. I could get up and check which ones are here and eliminate, but that would be crazy. When I have to identify his body at the coroner's office it'll just be a shirt and it won't matter. Instead, I clean the house, cleaning things that are already clean. At this hour, I look four or five times at the coffee table, trying to decide if I can say 'clean' in my mind or if I need to keep looking at it. I finally turn the lights off and lie down. It's not long before the fist in my chest loosens and I fall asleep. And when I wake up it tightens right up and I get up. I hear the shower running. And there it is. A half-finished glass of red wine, fingerprinted in the 7am kitchen sun.

The shower is warm and giving and restful and smiling. I think there are still pears in the fridge for an omelette. [Buy]

Sunset Rubdown - "Coming To at Dawn"

"Opine," he thought, "opine". The flat grey wind gusted up the edges of his coat, "opine is not an imperative verb". The trees were leafless, not for long, "special treatment". A story about a child who adopts a piece of fruit as a kind of pet, a face in black marker, eyebrows over-thickened in attempt to have a change of mood. "Now it looks angry all the time," he, smiling, squinting, thought. [Buy]

Posted by Dan at 2:19 AM | Comments (3)

May 18, 2009


Sewer horse

Dirty Projectors - "No Intention". One of my favourite songs of the year so far, "No Intention" showcases the Dirty Projectors as summer pop band, as streamers in a park, as spangled yacht-sails in the harbour. But as airy as it feels, (like Spoon on a beach, or the instrumental middle-eight of Vampire Weekend's "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa",) "No Intention" is virtuosic, utterly intricate. The arrangement of voices, of fingers on guitar-strings, of rhythmic twitch and back-step. There's the complexity of a bluebird hopping from branch to branch, snapping sunshine out of the sky. An illuminated colouring-book in grass greens and June golds. [buy on CD/LP/cassette]

Archivist - "Sunday Morning". This is no kind of Sunday morning I've ever known. I don't mean the heartbreak, the cotton-mouthed glumness - but the particular sort of strings and bass, the shine of tambourine and sneer of horns. Sunday morning is eggs and toast and sunlight on sheets - not dumpster clang, pavement stones, warm beer. But Archivist, friend of Pony Up, Cotton Mouth and the Dears, seeming admirer of Radiohead and the National, has known different weekends than I - Sunday mornings that are moonlit, grey, with mice in the dresser drawers. [buy/MySpace / playing again in Montreal soon]


This weekend was a wonderful, twang-and-flash show by Bonnie "Prince" Billy, but also a double CD launch for Clues' self-titled debut and Elfin Saddle's Ringing for the Begin Again.

Elfin Saddle's new CD is so distinctive and very fine - and I've written about it before. Folk music dark as moss, tinged with Japan and Appalachia. Theirs was the better performance of the night - a band playing for one of the largest crowds of their career, one of the best gigs of their career; mesmerising us, scaring us.

Clues are the band formed by Alden Penner (the Unicorns) and Brendan Reed (Les Angles Morts, Arcade Fire at their earliest and best). They too, we've written about before. Said the Gramophone organised Clues' first-ever concert, at Pop Montreal 2007, where they played again with Elfin Saddle (as well as Horse Feathers and Casey Dienel/White Hinterland).

Clues is a frontrunner among my favourite albums released this year, an album that reveals itself more with every listen. Every time I turn it on, I discover the treasure of a different song. It's adventurous, immediately gratifying, but also much more complicated than it at first seems - songs that switchback, that change, that are reincarnated.

But this Clues concert was a disappointment. It wasn't as flawed as the one last summer, for the anniversary of the Cheap Thrills record store - but nor was it as good as that first catastrophic concert, at the McGill chapel.

The heart of Clues is expressed in one of their song titles: "Let's Get Strong". Their music is limber, dazzling, fraternal, utterly strong. All of Alden's songwriting gift - the lift and glimmer of melody, the cat's-cradle, - all of Brendan's north wind spirit. But it all relies on a kind of violence, a fighting spirit, a punk & knuckleduster glare. It's still kind, still wide-eyed and generous, but that kindness is cooked in a crucible; Clues would collapse inhabited skyscrapers to take you by the hand, would push over a bus to make you smile.

In their current incarnation, much of that vigour, that pure muscle strength, is lost. Its fury is diffused through too many musicians, its precision made sloppy by too many hands. Because the songs make so many about-faces, with false climaxes and sudden twists, I can't help but feel that more is less. Yes, sometimes two drums hitting at the same time makes it twice as hard a hit. But sometimes, two drums mean the hit is just half as hard. Sometimes ten people yelling is less than two people yelling. There were four members in The Who and three members in The Unicorns. I wish this band were small as a fist, strong enough to stick in a fire for a week.

Brendan's "You Have My Eyes Now" was the highlight of the set - so simply played, so utterly precise. The charisma of this band's leaders is all it needs - no smoke machines, no ragged edges, no chaff.


I am going to Paris tomorrow but Montrealers should go and enjoy The National, this time playing not (alas) at le National, but at Metropolis. The sound will be great; go early and sit on the balcony with a double of Jameson.

Posted by Sean at 2:57 PM | Comments (5)

May 15, 2009

Minging Mug

Machesa Traditional Group - "Rarichama"

I make the food, my family eats the food. I work the day through, the night pays me back with sleep. I read all my books, my mind runs up and down the hill and around the town in circles. I kiss my girl, my friends get jealous. I help all the old folks, they tell me stories. I give away my money, and happiness comes in like morning. I bend down to pick up a heavy sack, my back shouts a number, a countdown. I laugh with my children, I see that when you're young you breathe Heaven. I eat rice, I shit rice. I tell the truth, and lies glow red like red hot metal. I feel the rough surface of my hands, I think about the rough surface of the ground. My hands have it easy. I think about great sickness that comes across like clouds, I think about beer and dancing and dust. I feel the drip from a leaky roof, I put my lemon grass underneath. I walk as if on a clothes line down the middle of the road. It's orange, the sky, and light white cream. Nothing is in my way.
(thanks to the consistently great Moss Bailey. Maybe they can provide a Buy link, as I can not)

Elizabeth Cotten - "I'm Going Away"

My favour-asking muscles are sore. The bridges between me and all my acquaintances used to look like big steel bridges, now they look like spittle trails. The steam-rolled half-promises and over-baked wishes are lined up like stale muffins, all crumbs and crust. I've stuffed my mattress with weak smiles and missed appointments. But I've got energy enough for one more: can you leave the door unlocked when you leave? I'm going to be sleeping in the wet spring air through the window and I don't want to have to get up to let the grocery boy in. Let him come, sneak into the kitchen, and take a finger full of peanut butter before he leaves. Thank you, dear. Thank you in advance. [Buy]


Elsewhere: there is a lovely little web series made by a friend of mine, called Jordan & Bear. It has such a strong tone, like Elizabeth Cotten in a bear costume, it's exactly right where it should be, and it's great.

Thank you: for making us #6 in the Best of Montreal. Up a spot from last year :)

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

May 14, 2009


Zydeco breakfast, photo by Sean Michaels (c)

[This post is the second in a series about my recent visit to southwestern Louisiana and New Orleans.]

Jeffery Broussard and the Creole Cowboys - "Motordude Special".

It didn't matter that we were uh, going out on Friday night. They told us that we should be ready at 6:30am on Saturday. I am usually of the belief that human beings should sleep until it is later than 6:30am, particularly when they have uh, gone out the night before. But in this case they were persuasive. Zydeco Breakfast is not to be missed, they said.

Perhaps you have not heard of Zydeco Breakfast. Certainly I had not heard of it. It sounds like the name of a clumsy Detroit punk band. In fact, Zydeco Breakfast is, well, a breakfast with zydeco music. It begins at 7:30 am.

I wake to Lafayette's morning sun and I am instantly, unforgivably warm. The blue sky seems to buzz. I meet my hosts in the lobby and they all have this funny, thinly cheery expression. It is difficult to smile at 6:40am. It is difficult to speak with the rising inflection that PR work requires. Someone makes a joke and then no one laughs, it is too early for laughing. We nod.

I ride bleary-eyed in the minivan. Louisiana's drooping trees are the bright green of a warm salad.

Our destination is the Café des Amis, in the village of Breaux Bridge. Breaux Bridge is quiet, uncrowded, and most of it is sensibly asleep. And yet... and yet... outside the Café des Amis I see the first sign that wonders may truly lie ahead. There is a line-up. Every citizen of Breaux Bridge who is awake on this Saturday morning is lining up outside for the Zydeco Breakfast, the whatever-it-is inside the Café des Amis, a parade that stretches down the block and is more local than tourist. In the summertime, we're told, people bring coolers full of beer. (No need to wait to get inside for the breakfast to begin.)

The Café des Amis is owned by Dickie Breaux. It is a big long room with whitewashed brick, high ceilings, cool air, and the best shade of sun. There is a long bar, many tables and folk art on the walls. The first thing you do when you arrive for Zydeco Breakfast is you sit down and you order a drink. (This will be the first of several drinks. It is 7:45am.) I have a bloody mary, and it is very good, there is even a green bean in it. Next I order food: crawfish étouffée with poached eggs, and cheese grits, and a café au lait so sweet that it tastes like melted-down Werther's Originals. It is the Zydeco Breakfast and I am going to do it right.

Already I am pretty happy about this whole thing. Sure, it's 7:57am but this place is nice and there is chatter in the air and I have just discovered that crawfish étouffée is delicious.

And then the band begins to play.

Many different bands play at Café des Amis but on this given morning it is Jeffery Broussard and the Creole Cowboys. I cannot see them at the front of the room but I know they are playing because there is MUSIC, all-caps, and it is present in a thousand different ways. Across the restaurant, every single foot begins to tap. Every single light in every single bulb, even the light streaming through the windows, gets a new & redoubled spark. The room has glints and movement in every corner - so many more taps and so many more sparkles that it's downright distracting, downright thrilling, and you feel the thrill along the insides of your arms, the roof of your mouth, the soles of your feet. You see it in the bright shining flick in every single pair of eyes.

All at once, the eaters kick back their chairs and grab their partners and the big dance-floor is no longer an empty space for wheeling out crawfish étouffée, no now it is a place where couples are twirling and grinning and dipping, and the accordion's full of hollondaise sauce, and the singer's got a mouthful of early morning boozing. The washboard is the sound of my wheezing morning heart revving ticktock up to speed.

There are young couples dancing, remembering honeymoons. There's an elderly couple dancing, taking the rhythm at half-speed. There a wiry dude with a handkerchief round his wrist and one more in his back pocket, to pat his sweaty face, because he dances double-fast, like a maniac, and maybe he's the greatest dancer of all time, maybe he is, dashing and slipping and picking a new pretty partner for every zydeco hit. Dickie Breaux watches from his chair and I understand how this idea could travel, this 8:33am marvel, how when Dickie and his wife divorced she opened her very own Zydeco Breakfast, in Donaldsonville, because of course she had to. Of course she couldn't go one week without this party in her living-room.

And I dance too, at least for a while, the dancing junket journalist. The compulsion to dance is not in the bass drum, high-hat, bassline or washboard - it's not even from the peer pressure. The reason to dance is the ten thousand glints; the rattle of (gold) eggs and (silver) booze in our bellies; the rollicking zing of the air around the room.

[more on Jeffery Broussard / buy]

Posted by Sean at 3:17 PM | Comments (7)

May 13, 2009

Jeff The Brotherhood

JEFF The Brotherhood - "Particle Beam Dream"

I bought a hurlabyte of space. external with 20F connections and WizzSpin transfer rates. I want to make my relationships with strangers LOSSLESS. I want to be able to go over every look, every turned away shoulder, every hurried step, every half-smile and over-tired grimace, every slight encouragement or hands-off attitude, at the end of the day, and really study it. I want to keep them all, in full resolution, no compression, for posterity. I think the electricity of my life deserves that much, to be remembered in high quality. Then when I finally meet the stranger of my dreams, I'll have a record, in perfect condition, that I've been storing up, that I can shoot straight at them, right out of my life into their chest, and see if they stand up to it. Particle beam dream. We can't get any higher.

JEFF The Brotherhood - "I Don't Need Your Tas-T"

Magic comes in waves, like nausea or dizziness. Driving or walking home or trying to fall asleep, or late on the phone when it's sticky against your face, your concentration goes blurry, the drone gets quiet so you turn up your ears to hear it louder, and suddenly the thundering smash slides in and magic takes over. Your eyes glow blue and some feeling like rage or excitement or hunger takes over and awareness slumps crippled below the horizon. You're blowing shit up, zapping shit, lasers come out your fingers and running just feels like floating, you can get hit by a car or fall down stairs and none of it hurts. I shudder to lessen the romantic notion, but it's like being drunk. But it actually is how you think it is and not how it actually is. Which is unmatchable.

[I posted "Tas-T" back in 2006, but decided upon re-reading that I did not do this song justice then, and am re-introducing it]

[Buy JEFF stuff from Infinity Cat]

Posted by Dan at 12:28 AM | Comments (5)

May 11, 2009


Crazy Cousinz - "Inflation". As many of you will know, they call this "funky". This is not an adjective; it is a noun. It is the name of the genre; the same way you might say "jungle", "kuduro" or "wonky". Wikipedia says, it mixes traditional UKG beats, bass loops and synths with latin percussion. But what I like best about funky, - what I like almost as much as I just simply like this song, "Inflation", with its open-mouth spectral ah!s and paradise xylophone, - is that funky is not funky. That is, it is not funk-like. It is not James Brown, the Meters, or even Red Hot Chili Peppers. Its basslines do not swing and flick in the same way.

And how can you name an un-funky genre funky?! It's like naming a tree a bird, like naming a cake a month, like naming a baby girl an unbleached flour. I love it, I love it. It's as arbitrary as language, as dance-steps, as the place the emphasis falls in a beat. Taking a thing and making it yours. [myspace]

Posted by Sean at 4:17 PM | Comments (3)

May 9, 2009

Have Wars

Teeth Mountain - "Ghost Science"

Inoperable electric bicycles. Playing card designs on credit cards, paying the club with the Jack of Clubs. Bent wire hangers, so many they look like grey grass, wet. A new attempt at farming, shoveling with an old tired shovel. Hitting power lines, unsafely buried inches beneath the thin layer of ground. Unclear what this is made of, at least unclear from here. [MySpace]

MC Face - "MC Face Goin Solo" *EXPLICIT*

I bought an original "pressing" of the MC Face disc from a little table outside a Tom Green taping in Ottawa when I was in high school. The songs themselves are pretty throw-away, but the "interludes", where Face and Tom (both) would talk to characters from the show: Glen, Derek, Phil. And these are great, mostly Face making claims about the people that they deny. But today is not about them either, it's about an even more removed part of the album, the 8-minute gut-melting breakdown that Face has at the end of the album. Throughout the album, Face is insulting Tom for being a pussy or making bad beats, and eventually Tom says "okay fine", and leaves Face on his own. So Face records one more track, a cappella, and it's, in many different ways, completely amazing. First of all, it's a microcosm of Tom Green's whole career; making it up as he goes along, at times brilliant full of talent, at other times brilliant despite himself, ending in insanity, embarrassment, and pride. Secondly, it's a wholly cathartic, spoken-word self-flagellating, near-abusive listening experience. And thirdly, in reference to the narrative, it's the total embodiment of a certain "type" of creative experience. Like that feeling, if you're familiar with it, of trying to do what you thought you were good at and you realize that you're stretched so thin that you just want to collapse, and your mind goes to this MC Face muthafuckin' place, babble and spit and garble and choke. Gorgeous rotting mind ripped open, torn apart, spread on the wall, tried-to-be-eaten and dry-heaving on camera. My fuckin CD sucks. [out of print?]

image source

Posted by Dan at 12:32 AM | Comments (3)

May 7, 2009


Portland Cello Project ft. Thao - "Beat (Health, Life and Fire)".
Portland Cello Project ft. Justin Power - "Hungry Liars".

What I did was I put five new CD submissions in my five-CD changer and I hit "shuffle". And about ten minutes later I was grinning ear to ear. There were at least two albums in there that sounded great! This is a much higher proportion than average. Then I checked the artists - one of the great bands is... CD 4. The other great band is... also CD 4. And CD 4 is... the Portland Cello Project's Thao and Justin Power Sessions. The two great bands are the same band, and they are not even a band. They are Thao (from the Get Down) and Justin, hanging out with a batch of Oregon cellists (including at least one from Horse Feathers).

Now - I understand why the Portland Cello Project is a good idea. After all, if you are a cellist and an indie rocker it must be fun to hang out with other cellist/indie-rockers and play goose-stepping chamber music. But as one of the few (?) people who heard the first Portland Cello Project album, and also this album, more than half of which includes vocals from Thao or Justin, I have to say: please make a band that is not called the Portland Cello Project and which is not the Portland Cello Project but that is you guys playing cello while Justin and Thao sing. In fact, please make a band that is like most of this album - because whereas the instrumentals are nice enough, the songs with vocals are wonderful, wildflower pop and cockleshell folk, like Nina Nastasia with a twist of the Shins, but not snoozy.

Take a listen! Do. Do not be put off by the name "Portland Cello Project", or by the name "Beat (Health, Life and Fire)" either. As soon as Thao Nguyen begins to sing, I promise you will go: "Hey!" You will do as I did and sit up where you are sitting, and put down your book, and wonder who is this who is singing so limber and loose, but also constrained, like a girl wrapped in tangle and extruding herself, knot by knot, singing "oooh". (It is Thao.)

"Hungry Liars" is different (it is a ballad), yet it is also great. The timbre of Justin's voice recalls Sufjan Stevens but this is not homage; these are two men with similar gentle voices. Justin is much more single-minded in his melodicism; he sings the pretty song like a man walking along train-tracks, undistracted by passing clouds, undeterred by nettles. He will walk until he has arrived where he is going and he is not afraid to walk all night.

[in June, buy The Thao and Justin Power Sessions, which includes three more songs with Thao and three more songs with Justin / Portland Cello Project myspac / Thao myspace / Justin Power myspace]


This week sees the beta launch of The Mark - a tenacious, illuminating and essential (Canadian) news website. One of its editors is Jordan Himelfarb (of this blog), and another is Claire (who makes a terrific cranberry loaf), and I can't recommend it highly enough.

Posted by Sean at 2:48 PM | Comments (6)

May 5, 2009

Sipt Up

The Breeders - "Pinnacle Hollow"

I watched Daft Punk's Electroma recently. Which is the Gerry of robots. I'm listening to "Pinnacle Hollow" now, which is like the Gerry of guitars. In the sense that they wander, they walk, they peer, they don't speak, they are, they are, they are, everything and nothing. In the sense that you can do the same simple thing enough times until it becomes beautiful, and you realise that it was beautiful the whole time. In the sense that I love it, that I can keep it and name it whatever I like, that it's art as a gift. Like, the desert in pictures:

Up and down the road, up and down the road. [Download]

The Jacksons - "Goin' Places"

This song makes me believe in God. Is that weird? Not like, Heaven or anything like that, but in the way that I feel like I need to thank someone for something, for this. There's no way Michael Jackson can be responsible for this. No chain of consequences resulting from any human action could produce this. It needs to be God. You know? Process of elimination. [Buy]

Posted by Dan at 11:31 AM | Comments (6)

May 4, 2009


Percy Sledge live in Baton Rouge

Last week I visited Louisiana, invited by the lieutenant governor's office and the state's tourist board. I rode a golden mini-van from Lafayette to Baton Rouge to New Orleans. It is a remarkable part of the world, rich and singular, with enough music, food and conversation in which to spend a lifetime. But I spent five nights. I am going to try to document the visit in a piece for McSweeney's, but there are some things which are right for here as well.

Percy Sledge - "When A Man Loves A Woman".

Nowadays Percy Sledge appears in Baton Rouge car dealership commercials.

This is what I hear as we coast into town. Looking onto Louisiana's hot green fields, I struggle to imagine this. The Percy Sledge in my mind, the one who sings "When A Man Loves A Woman", is too distracted by love to ever do something so commercial. The Percy Sledge in my mind has never been able to keep a steady job. He is always staring out the window, or across the street, or over the butcher counter at a pretty girl. He stumbles on the sidewalk, neglects his chores, forgets to call his mum - all because of a passing woman's perfume, her smile, her lovely knees.

But I am told that Percy Sledge appears in Baton Rouge car dealership commercials, and when he takes the stage at the Baton Rouge Blues Festival, I believe it. The festival is modest and sincere - a dinky stage downtown, wedged beside fountains, with free entry and room for picnic blankets. My tour group is introduced to the festival organiser, to the publisher of the Advocate, to the mayor. We are handed Bud Lights. Then I duck through the photographers' pit and down in front of the fence, joining the crowd of couples and families and publishers and mayors and pretty girls, and Percy Sledge comes onto the stage in a royal blue suit, sunglasses, and Hawaiian shirt.

Percy Sledge, I realise, has always been a salesman. A salesman of LOVE. He is grinning wider than I have ever grinned in my life. He is grinning so wide that his grin cannot possibly be fake. "Ladies and gentlemens..." he says, and I imagine Percy Sledge in his living-room, feet up on a leather ottoman, watching a younger version of himself on VH1 and grinning so wide that he knocks over a porcelain bust.

Percy Sledge does not have the same calibre of voice that he once did. He sings thinly, sharps and flats, and it is his expert 9-piece backing band that makes the songs sound right. (Listening to this song now, later, I can hear the older Percy's voice hidden inside the younger Percy's voice; can hear the thinness and flats in the 1966 recording. And I realise it's what makes the song sound so urgent, human and endearing.) But Percy has brought something else to the stage - the self-confidence of a man who was once at the top of the world, and who has decided to never leave. Like all the best soul singers, Percy Sledge's greatest talent is the vitality of his mind's eye. The gap-toothed singer glows.

"Thank you for coming out to see ol' Perce," he says. He grins as wide as a number one record.


Posted by Sean at 3:46 PM | Comments (7)

May 1, 2009

Lord Get Bored


Railcars - "Life of St. Edmond (ponds)" + "CASTLES"

In a bright and exciting future parallel, certain desolate images frighten the eye at first glimpse. USB cables with clothes hung on them to dry in the great wireless wind. Data blows like sand and rain, piled up in corners and dripping out of clogged eaves into troughs made by the heavy, constant dripping. You wipe your car clean every morning, the purple pixels sticking under your fingernails and caking in your hair and under your eyelids. JPEGs hurl like loose panes of glass, great spinning pictures at resolutions unimagined in present day. Images so clear they've surpassed sight, and can only be perceived, and by that right enjoyed by theoretical calculation. A bit frightening, yes, but still Earth, you understand. Still rapt conception of new ideas and white-knuckle, turnbuckle love. Still those who seek Truth and those who graze the valleys of others' experience. Still friends, still law, still breath. You'll see. The foundation is there. It's exploding, but it's there

[This is new stuff, but get the amazing Free EP here]

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Posted by Dan at 2:36 PM | Comments (2)