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

January 29, 2010

Last Looks


Gigi - "I'll Quit (feat. Owen Pallett)"

"I suppose in some ways I was asking to have my heart broken," said looking blank, at the pitcher of lemonade on the table, covered in plastic wrap with an elastic band to keep out the flies.

"Dr. Nevsky, please," said the young assistant, anxious in a fitted lab coat.

The two crouched in silence and dusted bones. Nevsky had stayed up late the night before arranging the bones in an order he thought indicated the shape and size of the new creature. Three long flat feet, two in the front and one way behind. The tail permanently between the legs, the head tilted ever to the ground, arms outstretched as if trying to fly or walk a tightrope. A large chest cavity, horns with joints, and a leftover bone, that Nevsky looked at for an hour or so. Eventually he laid in the larynx of the beast, and when questioned by the assistant, referred to it as "the screaming bone".

"Dr. Nevsky, nothing has ever existed in history that looks like this."

"I know," he said, checking his watch, sweating, his mind elsewhere, "it's quite a find, isn't it?"

"Dr. Nevsky," said the assistant, suddenly calm, and suddenly, finally, attractive, "I don't believe it is."

Nevsky sighed and poured a glass of lemonade. [Buy]

(image: Strolls Through Time and Space, by Michael Johansson)

Posted by Dan at 12:48 AM | Comments (5)

January 28, 2010


Naoko Ito's Ubiquitous

Sharon Van Etten - "Love More". New music from the woman who recorded my favourite song of 2009. It's a hotter song than she's sung in the past, as if she collected the flaked red logs from a fire, set them glowing around a microphone. The harmonium wheezes happily, a tambourine rings, Sharon sings harmonies with her own voice. She sings of memory, love, and sex, but the steam that fills the room isn't the stuff of parked cars, saunas, breath on cold glass: it's a hothouse, summertime and spring, green things sprouting. It has none of the loneliness of ones and twos. "Love More" is undesolate and peopled. It's fertile. [shared via a new musicians' organisation called Weathervane / buy Sharon's album]

Beach House - "Zebra". The best song on a record called Teen Dream, but it's definitely not teenaged. Victoria Legrand gives even looks. She sings her metaphors as if they're landmarks on a map: the fact of them is more important than the awe. "Zebra"'s great strength is its guitar-line, the chords that rise and dip in unexpected grace. Each change is premature, unimagined, perfect. I have not yet learned it by heart. [buy]

Kate Maki - "Bloodshot & Blistered". The snow falls slower when you've just noticed it. It seems to hang there, in successive suspended stills. Kate Maki borrows this feeling, whispers the secret into her drummer's ear. "Bloodshot & Blistered" shifts, falls, bends forward to touch your cheek; but you never see it move. The piano, drums, organ and voices are like paintings of piano, drums, organ and voices - they don't change until you turn your back. [buy / playing in Toronto tonight]

(photograph is of Ubiquitous, by Naoko Ito)

Posted by Sean at 10:35 AM | Comments (2)

January 27, 2010

Commend Again

Steely Dan - "Charlie Freak"

I get an email from an old friend, a philologist from Montreal, and he's attached a song for me to hear. It's from an album called Pretzel Logic, a favourite of my brother's, but I've never given it much thought. Steely Dan, those studio pedants with a perverted name; why should I listen?! I've got work to do! But the philologist, with whom I used to often play music, says that the song reminds him of early Genesis, which is the second most enticing thing he could say next to that it reminds him of late Genesis. So I listen, and I'll eat my hat if he's not right; it sounds like early Genesis - the ornate piano arpeggios, the mellotron swells, the cryptic, surreal lyrics, and the pretzel logic song structure, not to mention the bounteous fruit and unselfconsciousness - or was that a different Genesis? To be frank, it's been a long time since I listened to Foxtrot or Nursery Cryme, those favourites of my youth, not so long past now, but if you had told me then that on a rainy January morning in a downtown Toronto office building I would be reminded by my friend the philologist, via classic-period Steely Dan, of the nearly-forgotten joys of early Genesis, I would have questioned your thinking.

Toumani Diabate - "Bi Lambam"

Posted by Jordan at 9:06 AM | Comments (4)

January 26, 2010

Rokirk Picardski


Nina Hagen - "Born in Xixax"

I wake up at dawn in a threadbare hotel room, grey light streaming through dirty windows, the stale air like weak paper. The television is blaring the news in a language I don't understand. At the window, from the 81st floor, I can see most of the city. Like the surface of cancerous skin, huge brown patches mar the grey palette, and seem to sink into the world like neighbourhood black holes. I light a cigarette and blow the smoke against the glass, and there are fires in the streets. A snippet of something I understand comes from the television, "Captain Man Pole." I look over, and it's obviously the leader of this wasteland; a short, beady-eyed sex offender-looking dude. He's being shown holding a shovel and passing it to a man with few teeth. Cut back to the anchor speaking quickly and down at the desk, so I look back out the window. In the heavy first light of day, the signs are becoming legible. Almost all of them are written in strange characters, save one enormous sign that hangs over an apartment building. It's a temporary sign that is changed every day, reading "The name of today is ______". The workers are out changing it from yesterday's title "Embellish the Veil" to today's, "Rokirk Picardski". A few floors below, a man is throwing some clothes over his balcony. They fall to the street and some land in the puddles below.

[buy from]

Posted by Dan at 1:01 PM | Comments (2)

January 25, 2010


Tulip fields

Tindersticks - "Peanuts (with Mary Margaret O'Hara)". The waves were so small. They were so small you could hardly feel them. As if it were July and we were at the lake, freshwater at our toes; but it was February and we were at the coast. The Pacific rested against the beach like a sheet of mottled glass. The breeze slept through my shirt like a woman's breath. This thought made me raise my face, made me look at you, and you laughed. Something in the salty air made you laugh.

When it got dark we strolled through the sand to the boardwalk, trailing chutes. On your bare shoulder lay a fine, dry dust. I wiped it away with my thumb. You leaned your ear to my hand. The waves made a soft sound as we walked under the sodium lights. There were old men with ice-cream cones and little girls with toffee-apples. There were sections of shadow and sections of light, draped fronds of seaweed, tiny seashells balanced on garbage-bin rims. There were peanuts, roasted & salted & sugar-glazed & plain. The paper bags were perfect. We bought the sweet kind and they were still warm.

Our stride was the same. I ate a peanut and lowered my hand and the backs of our fingers brushed. I think I was probably in love. I ate another peanut and again the backs of our fingers brushed. There were boats on the horizon, invisible save for their lights. The sea, the sky and the whole night were invisible save for the boats' glimmering lights. We had three more nights together. We walked along the boardwalk, the whole length of that glimmering.


Pill Wonder - "Restless". Tape loop, VHS blur, nostalgia & childhood & adolescence and all those things; but also steel drums, shopping mall radio, that pop song you can't quite sing. The melody's lush & full - the chorus so entire that it's almost an anthem. But it falls away so fast, slips like ice in a hot hand. And all you remember is the bass drum.

[while i'm generally a fan of Fluffy Lumbers, Real Estate, and the higher-profile Underwater Peoples dudes, it's this track that is the clear highlight of their Winter Review - download/buy]


Boulder Pavement is a new & gorgeous web journal launched by the Banff Centre, where I spent time last summer. The design is gorgeous, but the content's the thing. Favourites from the first issue: Granzow's wood and glass ventriloquist dummies, Hartman's tentative conversations with icebergs, Davies's short poem, and Perrin's gentle, precise meditation on landscape and loss.

Posted by Sean at 12:51 AM | Comments (5)

January 22, 2010

Good Fight


Horse Feathers - "Orphan Girl"

I came out to scrape off my car after work and there was a parking ticket on the windshield. I was so annoyed because I knew I wasn't in a bad spot, I park there every day without trouble, so I threw it in the car and drove the 30 minutes home in the feathery snow. Before I went inside I grabbed the ticket and noticed there was writing on the back:

Hi, this isn't a parking ticket. Well, it is a parking ticket, it's just the only way I could think to talk to you. I'm a traffic cop and I've seen you on my route every day (you're a great parker!) and I've been really interested in you. I don't know what it is about you, I'm just interested. I guess I'm a bit lonely, but no moreso than anyone else, and I just thought what the heck I'd reach out and introduce myself. I don't want to tell you my name because that's like telling someone your password, I just couldn't bear you knowing my name if you just read this and threw it out. Gosh, I hope you don't just throw this out. But maybe you will, that's okay. Like I say, I'm just really interested in you and maybe if you want, you could just hang around your car the next time you get to work in the morning, and I'll introduce myself. But wear that pink toque (I've only seen you wear that once, it's funny!) and I'll know you want to talk to me, otherwise I'll just leave you alone. Oh, and since the city inventories all these tickets, I had to charge you the minimum 30$, but I'll pay you back, I swear. It's worth it for a chance to talk to you. I hope you have a good night. It's too bad about all the stuff that's happening in the world, huh? Okay, have a good night. [Download 7" for 2.10$]

Capybara - "The Wimp (Wimpybara The Cap by John Bersuch)

(I picture this in Herman-style drawings)

"Kenny, where's all my stuff?"
"I digitized it for you, grandma."
"What do you mean, you 'digitized' it?"
"I digitized it. You can digitize stuff now and I figured you wouldn't know how so I did it for you."
"Where are all my photos?"
"I put them on this digital picture frame, it scrolls through all the pictures so you can have them all in one place."
"Where's my TV?"
"Your TV is your computer now, grandma, c'mon."
"Where's all my furniture?"
"I got you an omni-chair, it takes whatever form you sit down on it."
"Kenny I don't like this. Where are all my dishes and cutlery?"
"I digitized 'em. You can look at 3-D renderings of all your old spoons and forks, FULL 3-D, grandma, totally manipulable."
"Well, not totally."
"And I digitized all your old clothes, now you can virtually try on all your outfits instantly without having to actually try them on."
"Yes, but Kenny, where are my actual clothes?"
"I sold 'em, grandma. My time isn't free." [via TheRecordMachine] [Capybara previously on StG]

(image source)

Posted by Dan at 1:28 AM | Comments (2)

January 21, 2010


Kate McGarrigle - "Proserpina (live at Carnegie Hall)".

This is a very sad song. There are a few reasons it's here.

First, because Kate McGarrigle is alive again, every time I listen. "Proserpina" was recorded in London less than two months ago; she is joined by family, surrounded by friends. Her son, Rufus Wainwright, called the Royal Albert Hall show "the greatest performance of her life". There she is, right there, singing as she's always sung, or perhaps even better, a voice of wildflower and thorn. She sings with her sister, Anna, and her children, and her niece; her new grandson, scarce weeks old, squirms in a hospital not far away. Even from there, I am certain, he can hear the harmonies.

I also share this song because it was a new one, written by Kate at the end of her life, toward the end of a long illness. Yet this is not a song of the expiring, of the slowing heart: it's a work of strong beauty, of brave melody and deft singing, with (dare I say it) a magnificent hook. "Proserpina" is not about falling away, but about coming home.

And she sings it triumphantly. She is already very, very sick and yet still she is Kate, wry and caring, unflinching. Earlier in the concert, she describes the story of Proserpina, of Persephone - a grim legend. Someone in the crowd calls out, (warmly but) sarcastically: "Merry Christmas!" For Kate there is no flutter of hesitation or embarrassment: there is only laughter. She and the whole great room laugh. As the McGarrigle sisters have always known, these things (sorrow, joy) go together.

Now, with streets swept of snow, with too much sadness in this city's new young year, I listen to both the sad songs and to the happier ones. We all strain to hear the harmonies.

[goodbye, Kate McGarrigle / buy / website / video of "Proserpina"]

(We're very glad to still have you here, Anna.)

Posted by Sean at 11:06 AM | Comments (12)

January 19, 2010

Spun Home


Love - "Everybody's Gotta Live"

Gary Cartman was the best substitute teacher in the business. They called him "The Cartmeleon". He could show up to any classroom, any time of day, any lesson plan, and perform a perfect substitution. Most students never even knew they had had a substitute, he was that good. Every school day of the week, sometimes 3 or 4 times a day, he'd be performing Mrs. Kater's B-Level English, M. Gontin's 305 French, Mr. Timms' advanced drama, Coach Haglet's health class (the dirtiest lesson of the year) he could take all comers. The Cartmeleon once substituted simultaneously for Mr. Lynch's final Biology 10 bell-ringer lab exam and Chaplain MacDonald's "Intensive Prayer Recital". He didn't come cheap, however, and it wasn't long before school boards could no longer afford his hefty day-rate. In an ethically questionable move, even for someone as morally integral as Gary Cartman, it is believed that he "substituted" for the school commissioner one day in January 2006, when Commissioner Turnbull's secretary received a stern post-it reading: "Pay Gary Cartman whatever it takes. We need him in the system." Whether it was indeed him or not we'll never know, as the press around the issue buried Cartman's reputation and he was essentially run out of town. But fascinatingly, no one has been able to locate The Cartmeleon ever since; he's basically disappeared. Friends and family say they haven't heard from him in over 3 years, though one sick elderly uncle of Cartman's, claims to receive anonymous envelopes with cash in them "every so often". And there is much legend among the students of local schools. If your teacher has a queer look upon his face, or parks his car in the wrong space, was once a tenor but today a bass, The Cartmeleon, The Cartmeleon, The Cartmeleon is in his place.

[Buy Love Lost]

(image - Mask IV by John Stezaker)(Stezaker previously)

Posted by Dan at 1:34 AM | Comments (5)

January 18, 2010


Thelonious Monk's Advice to Musicians

Cats on Fire - "Letters from a Voyage to Sweden". A song of afternoon adultery, quickly snatched; melancholy in a blue afternoon. // My guesses: Cats on Fire keep their guitar-picks in jean-pockets when they're not using them. Matthias Bjorkas wears an embroidered Morrissey patch. They keep their accordion in a box, only take it out for a few moments in a breathless bridge. They imagine playing a concert on a ferry. They are from Finland. This is gold-flecked, jangled, finger-flicked, and good. [buy/from Skatterbrain's Best Songs of 2009]

The Octagon - "Cross Tops".
The Octagon - "Easton".
I'm fully subscribing to the new record by the Octagon, an LP with sixteen crunchy numbers like these, brambled, messy and sincere. I can say words like 'nirvana' and 'constantines'; I can say names like 'Lou Barlow' and 'Eric's Trip'. But I doubt any of these words & names were uttered as Zachary Mexico, Will Glass and a bassist called the Bunny recorded this lacquered disc of furious heart. They were too busy clutching & pitching & caring, caring keenly, sloppily; and playing hooks. When Glass lived in Montreal he was this little treasure, hoarded. Now he's one third of an eight-sided band, a group that's chipped and twinkling, all of them furiously sharing the dusty stuff of their days. [buyWarm Love and Cool Dreams Forever/previously on StG]


At the Observer, Arcade Fire's Régine Chassagne has written stridently (and vividly) about Haiti, where her parents were born. It's worth reading - and then please donate.

(image excerpted from Thelonious Monk's Advice to Musicians)

Posted by Sean at 12:07 AM | Comments (0)

January 15, 2010

Take Part In Grief To Pass


Caves - "Points of Light"

In a storm shelter, a meal in candlelight. A clean plate with a bit of oil and a bit of bread. A few leaves from the garden and a few berries from the field. A cup of nuts, and a bit of water. In the distance, the sky is bursting orange and green in fire and guts, but here the candle doesn't flicker, the small bookshelf doesn't sway, the table legs steady and the chair sits solid. Head down, a dim reflection of the candle in the oil on the plate, a dim distant face in the reflection in the oil, contorted and ripped apart by the sopping of the bread. [MySpace]

Woodhands - "Coolchazine"

In a yet unmade documentary, we open to a teenage girl with pale skin applying thick dark eye makeup. Threadbare socks and bad leather, hair product and fingerless gloves. Loud noise rock to drown out the arguing, and to fan the fires of argument, a condom in her chest pocket. Painting her toenails black, pan around the room to reveal dozens of posters, applicable to her tastes, but all upside-down. Bangs covering her eyes like a hood, a voice from behind the camera, "Why are all your posters upside-down?" "Because I don't want to idolize anything, if you look at a face upside-down it looks more like an animal than a human, and I don't want to forget that everything I like is still not me, you know?" Only silence from behind the camera. [Pre-order Remorsecapade]

(image source)

Posted by Dan at 4:10 PM | Comments (4)

January 14, 2010


Down in ham storage

Clara Clara - "One On One". It's Said the Gramophone's beloved François Virot here, yowling over "One On One"'s bristling bassline. Clara Clara are all push & pull, warp & weft, tension with little resolve. There are small human touches (drumsticks, handclaps, the playground lyrics), but the organ and cymbals rise like symptoms - there's doom in the water, blackness in our ventricles. Even the coda, darkly fun, is the sound of stamping a garden into dust. [MySpace/coming soon!/more Clapping Music preview]

The Hidden Cameras - "In the NA". I don't know if "the NA" is a place-holder, a macguffin, or whether there's a secret acronym I've not decoded. It doesn't seem to matter. Joel Gibb sings it over and over: he raises curtains, and there the NA is; he casts a line, draws back, there's that bucking NA; he lifts it from top-hats, extracts it from gums, fires it like buckshot from a rusty Ontario rifle. The important bit is the song's silly gleam. The synths wiggle & wiggle, the men yell hey!, and they all play it straight - it's Monty Python over here, po-faced in the eels. [shop / from You Ain't No Picasso's Best songs of 2009]


The band Antarctica Takes It, who I have long celebrated, are raising money to release their second album. Go invest at Kickstarter. (Thanks, m.)

I mentioned the Torture Garden on Monday, but they've now also posted their top 50+ songs of 2009. I'm still wading through, but go listen.


Haiti has been devastated by this week's earthquake. If you're hesitating to donate, see photographs. Read. Please give.

RIP Jay Reatard.

(photo source unknown)

Posted by Sean at 11:30 AM | Comments (2)

January 12, 2010

West To Easy


Nana Grizol - "Cynicism" (removed at band's request)

"My daughter will lead us in grace," he said it nervously, the way you warn someone before they go into an occupied bathroom.

The room went silent and everyone joined hands, some reluctantly and some calm. Some looked down at the slope of the buttons on their shirt, others at the napkins. One woman cast her hair back like she was putting her face under the shower spray. Someone cleared their throat into their hand and gave it back to their neighbour. One person sighed in the momentary pause. Another looked at the person who sighed, who realised they were being watched and held their gaze into the candle, not sad just constant, as if this were a totally normal thing.
Little Jennie stood up in her pink fleece and flower-print jeans and fish hair clips. She wiped her hands on her butt and joined hands in the circle. She looked around at the table like they were stuffed toys, with the face she thought a mother would have.

"Dear God, may you never ever lose your faith. Thank you. Amen. Goodbye." [Released today]

The Fall - "Mountain Energy"

Life must be easy when you're a fucking idiot. Fucking idiots at the bank, fucking idiots on the street, fucking idiot doctors at the hospital. Fucking idiots can't tell me I can't get better, can't get help. Fucking idiots don't even know what I got in store. Next time I'm stuck behind some fucking slow-ass carriage-pushing idiot on the street, I'm gonna act like a big fucking car, I'm gonna do some pushing and I'm not gonna say sorry. Next time some stupid idiot is mean to me at the bank 'cause all I wanna do is keep people from taking my fucking money, I'm gonna do some taking and I don't mean a breath. Next time some fat-ass lard-ass fucking idiot doctor says it's over I'm gonna throw all 120 daily pills in their goddamn stupid face and I'm gonna take a shit on that wax paper. I need to eat. I need to eat now, rice or honey or bread or chocolate or pepsi and I'll feel better. I need to sleep too. Every single fucking idiot better stay outta my way until then.

Suddenly bumped, in the cold of the slushy sidewalk.

"Oops, sorry." [Buy]

(image source)

Posted by Dan at 1:29 AM | Comments (8)

January 11, 2010


Image by Julien Pacaud

Earl-Jean - "I'm Into Somethin' Good". Earl-Jean's voice, so much higher than Herman's Hermits', makes this (earlier) version of "I'm Into Somethin' Good" sound as if it were recorded at a mountaintop studio - somewhere everyone is oxygen-deprived. The singing's lightheaded, a little tipsy; the saxophone sounds as if it's being blown through a straw. But even if it's missing some of the Hermits' kineticism, or if it thrills a little less, it's got a sharp silver sparkle in all this thin air. Earl-Jean's singing a different phase of infatuation, an earlier instant of head-over-heels. You know the one: where your thinking's lightheaded, a little tipsy; and every breath feels as if it's being pulled through a straw. [buy]

Charlotte Gainsbourg - "Me and Jane Doe". Like all the best things on Charlotte Gainsbourg's IRM, this is a plain song, artfully recorded (with help from Beck). The drums (as always on IRM) are wonderful. The drums turn it from a pleasant soft-rock ditty to a pleasant soft-rock ditty with something else. It's matte and real and dusty and concreted. I can't put my finger on it. It's the difference between a film set and a city street, a look in her eye and a look in her eye. One is fake and one is real. [buy]


To my great amusement and enjoyment, the Torture Garden have posted their favourite 51 songs of the year 2008. With breathtaking and elegant original artwork. Shane also recently posted the Luyas' new Radiohead cover, which I considered sharing but, er, didn't. Go see.

(image above by Julien Pacaud)

Posted by Sean at 12:29 AM | Comments (4)

January 8, 2010

Notes With No Notes


Desmond Dekker - "Fu Manchu"

On July 19, 1957, two hooded men walked around the back of 15405 Valley Vista Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, Califoria. They found a little old lady named Frances Liberace Casadonte. After chasing her into the kitchen, they used their stocking-covered fists to beat her severely, saying," This will give him something to laugh about."

Across town, Wladziu Valentino Liberace was defending his honour. Confidential Magazine had run the headline "Why Liberace's Theme Song Should Be 'Mad About The Boy'." Liberace sued, and was awarded $25 million in damages.

Liberace was the highest paid entertainer in Las Vegas throughout the '50s and '60s. He was fond of being lowered onto his piano bench by wires, when he wasn't being driven up to it in a Rolls-Royce.

On November 23, 1963, Liberace collapsed backstage and was taken to the hospital. "Renal failure," the doctors said. "He won't last long."

Liberace cleaned his costumes with carbon tetrachloride. Night after night he sat sweating under hot lights while his outfit slowly poisoned him. Laid up in a hospital bed, Liberace began to give his belongings away. He bought extravagant gifts for his mother and faithful brother George. Then one night, he claims to have been visited by a nun dressed in white. The doctors called his recovery "a miracle."

Liberace was at one time romantically linked with the actress Mae West, who was 26 years his senior. He dated a Norwegian ice skater named Sonja Henie with questionable links to the Nazi party, as well as actress Christine Jorgensen, the first widely-known transsexual. He was never married, but was once engaged to Elizabeth Taylor's stand-in, Joanne Rio.

On November 1, 1986, Liberace died of complications due to AIDS. His longtime manager Seymour Heller had attributed his diminishing health and weight loss to a "watermelon diet."

[Buy Desmond Dekker]
[Amazon's Liberace Store]

Posted by Mayana at 3:54 PM | Comments (0)

January 7, 2010


Photo by Francisco Infante-Arana and Nonna Gorunova

Basia Bulat - "The Shore". For "The Shore", from Basia Bulat's upcoming second album, Basia brings only her autoharp. She carries it alone. & this song, too, feels like something to carry alone, cradled. You do not sing "The Shore" in chorus with your friends, arms on shoulders. You bring it with you when you pace in boots through the sand, pass through the poplars, walk the cracked sidewalk slabs of chez toi, snowdrifts rising. She sings of love, and storms, and of safe harbour; and you can hear the lighthouses skimming, somewhere out there, sending glances across the bay; and looking for you.

[for Heart Of My Own, recorded again with Howard Bilerman, Basia wrote new songs and still sung her heart out / it is released January 25 / pre-order / Listen to "Gold Rush" / see her on tour]

White Hinterand - "Amsterdam". White Hinterland's new album, Kairos, is indeed a rediscovery. She told me how she decided to learn to sing better. She showed me her gold rings and Shawn Creeden's dark beats. Now Casey Dienel stands here in all her new skin, holding the microphone like a black lotus. She left the jazz and folksong in New England. She threw her sheet-music into the Atlantic Ocean. Now she lulls her songs from loops of lifted voice, the floors of scuttled Pacific ships; she sings fewer words, more clearly. "Amsterdam" is veiled in rain, darted through with white birds, haunted with life. It's handwritten and unsent. It waits for its recipient.

[Kairos is the doe-eyed sister of The xx, Untrue, BiRd-BrAiNs, Drums and Guns, Rise Above / It is out March 9 on Dead Oceans / Listen to the album's other highlight, "Icarus", at Gorilla vs Bear / homepage]


Recently fixed something in the Said the Gramophone RSS feed - resubscribe if you haven't been getting updates!

(photo by Francisco Infante-Arana & Nonna Gorunova / source)

Posted by Sean at 11:24 AM | Comments (0)

January 5, 2010

Dead Birds, Dead Birds

[Mayana Slobodian is a writer from Montreal. Her writing is somehow like winter; quiet but with great power. We are honoured to have her as a guest contributor this week. - Dan]

Super Eagles - "Love's A Real Thing"

I saw him lean over the bar and I followed his eyes to the young girl. Her hip was leaned against the cash register as she tucked a stray strand of hair into a messy ponytail. The white of her neck met a black cotton t-shirt pulled tight across her shoulders, and he followed the line down to the white-meeting-white of her breasts.

"Ew," I thought, turning back to my drink. "What a creep."

With a quick snap he drank back the dregs of his glass. He tipped his head back and raised his eyebrows towards her. She stepped across the bar and leaned one ear towards him. He didn't say anything, and she leaned closer. He could smell the baby powder scent of her deodorant.

"Another." He murmured, feeling the tickle of her hair against his cheeks. She shook her head and leaned in again. The hockey game blasting at the other end of the bar was loud, but not that loud. He wondered if she might be pretending, like she heard him but she wanted to be closer. Maybe she'd seen him come in, seen as he wearily shrugged off his denim jacket and bent his sore neck to his shoulder. Now she was beside him, inviting him to imagine the white that continued down under her shirt, the pink of her nipples, the curve of her belly.

I watched him lift his hands off the lacquered bar and gently feel her hair with his fingertips. He let a finger slip to the thin cotton at the base of her throat.

Shoulders first, she leapt back and his hand fell to the bar. She pulled open a glass-windowed cooler, yanked a bottle out and with a snap opened it and dropped it in front of him. He looked at it for a moment, then fumbled for a folded bill in his front jeans pocket. She dropped the bill in the cash register and slammed it shut, pulling out the elastic in her hair with the same movement. Her back straight and her eyes on the big TV screen showing the game, she swept her hair up and retied her ponytail.

I saw him wrap his hand around the bottle and feel the dripping neck with his thumb. He brought his hands together on the bar and looked down at their gentle wrinkles.



Anni Rossi - "Machine"

Paul Hindemith was just a child when he left home to study music. He left behind him Hanau, a small town known for its goldsmiths and for being the birthplace of the Germany Gymnastic League. It would later be mostly destroyed by World War II bombs. It was 1914 when Hindemith joined the Frankfurt Opera Orchestra as a violinist. Three years later, at 21, he became the leader. Hindemith spent two years fighting for Prussia in the Great War, then he traded in his violin and became a violist.

The viola is often mistaken for the violin. It is like a violin, but bigger. The notes are further apart, the strings thicker and less responsive, and it requires a heavier bow. It is rarely used as a solo instrument, and attempts are continually made to adjust and improve its cumbersome dimensions. The sound is deeper and richer -- closer to the range of the human voice.

Four years younger than Hindemith, Vadim Borisovsky was too young to for the army. He spent the war years studying violin at the Moscow Conservatory. He was 18 when he first picked up a viola. By 27, he was the sole professor of viola studies at the conservatory. In 1927, Hindemith and Borisovsky formed the Violists' World Union. It was the first attempt to unite lovers of the viola, to band together and embrace the much-maligned younger sister to the violin. Borisovsky was the chairman. It was a failure.

Borisovsky then returned to Moscow, where he spent fifty years with the Beethoven State Quartet. Collaborating extensively with Dmitri Shostakovitch, he enjoyed relative freedom in the USSR, performing, recording, and touring extensively under the state's watchful eye. In Germany, Hindemith became increasingly drawn to avant-garde composers like Arnold Schoenberg. In 1934, Minister of Propoganda Joseph Goebbels referred to Hindemith as an "atonal noisemaker." Though he moved to Switzerland with his Jewish wife in 1938, and despite Goebbels' disapproval, Hindemith continued to conduct Nazi state concerts and hold a position on the Reich Music Chamber. He soon immigrated to the US and spent the rest of his life teaching music.

Hindemith died in Frankfurt, at 68. Three years later, The International Viola Society was founded. It publishes journals, holds conferences, and sponsors the Primrose International Viola Competition. The event, created to counter the stigma towards the viola as a solo instrument, takes place every other year at a different American university. For twenty years, it has been dominated by female violists.

Borisovsky died in Moscow, at age 72. Shostakovitch dedicated his thirteenth string quartet in B-flat minor to him. It features the viola.

[Buy Rockwell]

Posted by Mayana at 4:44 AM | Comments (0)

January 4, 2010


Lhasa - "Fool's Gold". The singer Lhasa de Sela died on New Year's Day, after a long illness. She was 37. I saw Lhasa perform only once, at a concert that was being shot by the filmmaker Vincent Moon. I did not know her music very well. We sat in a circle around she and the band. She moved among us like a moon, with grace and purpose. She was very serious and yet always smiling. She was wise, I think, even though I only heard her sing. She sang songs like this one, and songs much more sad, her voice always curling, always taking heart, always kind. "Fool's Gold" is about a loss, a betrayal, but even here she is without rancour. It is as if she left bitterness behind, years ago. Nothing can touch her: not words, not lies, not rain. She is free. [buy]

Posted by Sean at 10:18 AM | Comments (3)