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.

March 31, 2010


Clark The Band - "Tonight I Belong in This Cell"

The obvious didn't dawn on me until the third listen - this song is not sung from the perspective of a number well placed in an Excel spreadsheet. Then I thought of Frege, who asked how or whether we can know that the number 3 is not Julius Caesar, a question that had never resonated with me until that moment, for I always thought it must be easy to distinguish between the emperor and the number, one being a man, the other being ... what? But then I thought, What if I've been duped?! So I listened as if Caesar was singing and I liked that until I deemed it implausible. But then what else could belong in a cell? A nucleus?

There are at least two mutually inclusive reasons why a person might belong in a cell: he has done something wrong and deserves to be punished, or he has done something wrong and is likely to do something wrong again. And yet for a song that arises out of either the singer's guilt or fear of self or both, it is incongruously uplifting. When you belong in a cell, it seems, prison can be liberating.


Posted by Jordan at 11:48 AM | Comments (0)

March 30, 2010


Government Bureau, 1956 , George Tooker

Nicolas Jaar - "Time For Us". Nico has grown up. Do you remember Nico? Now he makes music likes this, for vast & eerie nightclubs, and he comes to Montreal to play festivals. But when I say he has "grown up", I do not mean to condescend. My point is not that time has passed, nor that Nicolas has finally shed his childish skin. No, "Time For Us" suggests that Nicolas Jaar has experienced long months, slow seasons, the kinds of days and nights that taught us the little we know about being adults. The nights you go home with silvers in your pocket, a shake in your skull, and cannot tell if you are happy or sad. What reason in the world do you have to be sad? The beat's still in your veins. And yet.



The Well Montreal, a new local promoter, is holding one of their first events, one week tomorrow. The "bring-your-own-blanket gig will feature intimate, acoustic sets by Sean Nicholas Savage, Braids' INDEINSOCI (whatever that means), the Crown Vandals, and the Pop Winds' Devon Welsh.

[Painting is Government Bureau, 1956 , George Tooker]

Posted by Sean at 1:02 AM | Comments (2)

March 26, 2010

Zip Tied to Hot Metal

Kleenex (LiLiPUT) - "Madness"
Kleenex (LiLiPUT) - "Nighttoad"

I just love everybody, and that's it.
Jessie Gutierrez

I want the world to know that I'm innocent and that I've found peace. Let's ride.
Carl Johnson

I'm an African warrior, born to breathe, and born to die
Carl Kelly

I would like to say that I have no animosity toward anyone. I made a mistake 18 years ago - I lost control of my mind but I didn't mean to hurt anyone. I have no hate toward humanity. I hope He will forgive me for what I done. I didn't mean to.
John Fearance

This execution is not justice. This execution is an act of revenge!
Richard J. Wilkerson

(Mumbled something about he wished his whole life would have been spent as Islamic.)
Walter Williams

I would like to say - I just hope Ms. Fielder is happy now. I would like to thank my lawyer, Nancy, for her help on my case and for being with me now.
Vernon Sattiewhite

I don't think so. That's all. Go ahead. Start things rolling. (Mouthed "Hi, Mom" to his mother.)
Jerry Bird

You all brought me here to be executed, not to make a speech.
That's it.
Charlie Livingston

A lot of people view what is happening here as evil, but I want you to know that I found love and compassion here. The people who work here, I thank them for the kindness they have shown me and I deeply appreciate all that has been done for me by the people who work here. That's all, Warden, I'm ready.
Michael Lee Lockhart


(thanks, Monica)

Posted by Dan at 2:44 PM | Comments (4)

March 25, 2010


Organ Screen, UA Theater, Detroit

Laura Marling - "Alpha Shallows". "I should have left when M did. I don't know why I didn't. That's not true. I stayed because it was easier. I knew the cupboards, the doorways. I could write there. The day they announced the change, I was finishing the third chapter. It had been the easiest chapter. On the news they said they were changing everything, changing the way things worked, changing it so we were not paid on sunny days. We would only be paid if it rained. It didn't seem so bad. It seemed different. We all wanted difference. So on clear days we'd be poor; on rainy days, we'd be rich. I didn't think it'd matter. I worked in my room. I squinted at the sun. I watched the streets fill with people, praying for storms. I wrote you letters. I wrote, I hope we all drown." [buy]

Clogs - "Last Song". "Last Song" does not sound like a last song. "Last Song" is too slow. (The lastest songs come fast.) Rather, this is a song that sounds like it's trying to postpone an ending. The National's Matt Berninger decelerates with every syllable he sings. Momentum dissipates with every phrase, every pause. Perhaps he can bring the song to a dead stop. Perhaps he can keep it from quite ending. [buy]


Elsewhere: A dawny, simple video for one of my favourite songs of last year, Cains & Abels' "My Life Is Easy".

[photo source]

Posted by Sean at 1:06 PM | Comments (3)

March 24, 2010

Deep In The Woods and Under The Covers


Double Dagger - "Pillow Talk"

Huey - black bear
June - black bear

[In a cozy log cabin, with a fire slowly dying in its place. Deep, knotted, gorgeous wood walls, with crude paintings in lovely frames. A human skin rug, a mounted hunter (with rifle) on the wall above the mantle. Candles are burning almost down to their holders. In a large plush bed, Huey and June are having sex.]

June: Huey, what are you thinking?

Huey: Hm?

June: Your mind is somewhere else.

Huey: No it isn't. I'm right here.

June: No, you're not, look at me.

Huey: (giggling) that's weird.

June: What is? Looking at me?

Huey: While we're..(giggling)

June: Huey, no it's not.

Huey: It feels like trying to put two opposite magnets together. I have to hold it there.

June: Well it shouldn't feel like that.

Huey: Well it does.

June: What are you thinking about?

[Huey playfully growls and tries to roll her over]

June: No, I'm serious, Huey. What are you thinking about?

Huey: (sigh) food. Where our next meal is coming from.

June: Why are you thinking about that now?

Huey: So that next time we do this I'll have more energy.

[a long silence as June lays her head on Huey's chest]

June: I don't think we understand each other.


(image source)

Posted by Dan at 2:36 PM | Comments (1)

March 22, 2010


image by Christoph Niemann

Robyn - "Fembot". I cannot deny Robyn. There is cherry in her voice, in the flick and fling of her phrases. I hate this "fembot" conceit - the robot metaphors, the mecha-pop rehash of Robyn's "Robot Boy" &c. But I simply cannot deny Robyn, the cherry in her voice, that flick and fling. Pop music doesn't always ask permission. [from one of Robyn's three (!) upcoming albums / website]

Richard McGraw - "Hurting Heart". A song that only starts making its case at 0:41, when McGraw shows there's more to him than his frown. (He opens by declaring that he could never write a hit: this is not the best way to win my confidence.) But the thing I discover, finally, is that he has written a small & perfect chorus, with words like a bead on a string, matching and good. He sings it so well, especially at its quiet moments: steely, grassy, leathery, shades of Win Butler and Mike Feuerstack and ok creakier old dudes too. The production, by Fulton Lights' Andrew Spencer Goldman, is light but revitalising, sending new sprouts through these old chords. This is a great little tune. [buy Burying the Dead - and a quick word on the "limited edition" packaging... It's one of the most elaborate indie album packages I've seen. Signed and numbered, artwork in metallic copper by Kevin Prouls, temporary tattoos, a little magnifying "lyric enlarger". So handsome. Elsewhere on the album, covers of Leonard Cohen and Billy Joel. Listen at MySpace.]

(image by Christoph Niemann)

Posted by Sean at 12:13 AM | Comments (3)

March 19, 2010

Over Time


ABBA - "Tiger"

Amy gets a text message, she thinks about a response. She dons a tooth necklace, she sips a glass of wine, and reheats rice. "Your ninja lover. beware the wreckoning," she types back. She smirks in the mirror and runs her hands along the sides of her breasts. If she could, she would swing on vines across the city, like some real Tarzan Spider-Man shit. In her periphery she sees movement, a figure, dark. She spins her head around. Nothing. Just the table, the candle, a magazine. She puts on fingerless gloves, runs her tongue across her teeth, and slips on her shoes. She rides her slim bike up the street, into the dark streets, bent forward and silent. [Buy]

The Whiskers - "Ornithopters"

Slipped between the copies of "New Makon's Delight" and "Only For Today" is a hand-drawn picture of a landscape with an alien floating above the ground and an alien floating below the ground as well. The aliens look the same, they look like different attempts at the same drawing, and the ground is spare, with a couple trees and a distant farmhouse. Little blades of grass dot the line of the earth. The alien looks like he's put-putting with a little jetpack and wearing a spandex-y outfit that bulbs out at the joints. He's short with big eyes and a friendly smile. He looks like he came from a cereal box. It could be a doodle, they could just be separate drawings lumped together, but they form quite a little picture. It feels true that the aliens in the sky are the same as the ones in the earth. It feels right that the earth we tread upon is just the transition point, the surface of a mirror, that both worlds above and below are just as threatening, just as friendly, just as unknown. It feels right that when I fly over the top of my handlebars and scrape my face off on the road that another version of me is doing the same exact thing, in sympathy for me. [Pre-Order] (thanks Thom!)

(image is a cropped version of Falero's Departure of the Witches)

Posted by Dan at 1:46 PM | Comments (4)

March 18, 2010


Pearl Earring, deluxe edition

Cains & Abels - "Run Run Run (demo)".

You found a payphone. The quarter was already in your hand. You pushed inside and the payphone's door swung back and hit you square between the shoulder-blades. The asphalt was lit up like a football pitch. You slipped your coin into the machine and dialed, and the receiver's cord lay braided at your chest. The ringing was the sound a gentle animal makes. You closed your eyes and listened. A click crackled down the line. A voice crackled down the line. It said: "Hello?"

Your eyes were still closed. "It's me," you said. You found you were smiling.

Cars came and went, as you spoke. Headlights passed over in long arcs. A man and his dog loped across the tarmac. The man seemed weary. You changed your telephone hand, closed your eyes, tried to hear every burred detail of the voice in the wire.

When the conversation had ended, you replaced the receiver. You took the sapphire from the coin return. You pushed back past the phone-booth's swinging doors and into the open air. It was warm. The stars would soon come out. You loped across the tarmac. The sapphire was still in your hand. You got to your Toyota and dropped into the front seat. You leaned your head back and remembered things. You wiped your eyes with your sleeve and reached over to the glove-box, punched it open, threw that sapphire in there with the others. There were many sapphires. [buy previous albums/cains & abels on a short tour now: chicago, bloomington, akron, pittsburgh, philadelphia, brooklyn]

(image source unknown)

Posted by Sean at 12:57 PM | Comments (6)

March 16, 2010

Immaculate Screed


Paulson Kalu Afrikhanah & His Stars 25 - "Ochea Special"

An excerpt from The Careful Bartender:

The careful bartender takes his time. He prepares with respect to the drink and not to the lineup. Take for instance, the preparation of a Bachelor's Last Stand. It is 1 finger coconut milk, a mouthful of finest brown rum, a third phase of a lime (match the moon for the night of serving), a flicking of water, and a cactus blossom. It should take three minutes to prepare, to allow all parts to sit and reach the proper temperature. The glass should sweat like a woman in love when served. Never stir this drink, place the parts together like laying down children to sleep. The careful bartender will reap his rewards, for the night will sing his praises in the water on the beach, in the feet in the sand, in the fire in the torches. [New! Buy from Soundway]

Grand Trine - "Nazi Gold"

"This place smells like spit."

[Buy from Divorce Records]

(image via

Posted by Dan at 2:52 PM | Comments (4)

March 15, 2010


Villagers find elephant

photos by David Chancellor

Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra - "I Built Myself A Metal Bird". At a certain point you say "Enough." Watch: A sky clouds. A river freezes. A bough breaks. A black cat dreams of the night it will be skinned. A mother hears her child scream. Enough! Dayeynu! But these events are not limited by their observer's will. Devastation will not relent. Death is inert. Beat 'em or join 'em.

Sibylle Baier - "Let Us Know". Or you can reside in other places, for a long time or a little. Take this chipped glass; take this worn sweater; take this lamp. A million miles away, there is starlight; a thousand miles deep, there are fish. Rest a while. Listen to the tiniest.

[buy Silver Mt Zion's Kollaps Tradixionales - I suggest the beautiful 2x10". / vast touring / music video for this song, apparently SMZ's "first-ever" video, directed by Peepers' Seth W. Owen. It's a beautiful video, showing the warm real human life that is at the heart of SMZ's music, like sap in trees. // See also, terribly, Jem Cohen's video of Vic Chesnutt. Go softly.]

[the first Sibylle Baier song in 35 years was made available in the spring of 2008. I am still waiting for more. / buy Colour Green]


This week in Montreal:

There's an extraordinary all-day (10am-midnight) concert event at Cagibi on Tuesday, as les Mardis Spaghetti stage an anniversary celebration of adventurous music. Full line-up here.

Nadia Moss, among my favourite Montreal artist, opens a new show at Galerie Push on Thursday. (more images)

Grab Mushpot's Future Magic mix CD via Said the Gramophone while you still can.

Posted by Sean at 12:46 AM | Comments (6)

March 12, 2010

Fetid Fetish

The Fall - "Y.F.O.C. / Slippy Floor"

A stranger approaches.

He walks with indignity, as if he were always in a bathrobe. But he is not in a bathrobe, he is in acid wash, tight acid wash denim, his body rolling slightly around all its edges. His smile seems to roll out of his face like an excess, like a an unsightly pimple. His hair is long and graying and coming out of a toque. His hands are stained with bike grease and his shoes are breaking open on one side.

The stranger continues to approach. He approaches a group of younger people, all at least ten years his junior, and none of whom he knows.

"Hey, anybody know if there are still tickets to the Gay Dusty Springfield show?"

A long pause. The smoke break quickly becomes a smoke race as they all hurry to finish their cigarettes.

"I don't know, I guess ask inside," says one, with a regal scarf and steel sunglasses.

"Cool, yeah," and the stranger has already settled in. "I saw them like 10 years ago, but I can't wait to see them again, they're so great. Anybody here going?"

A long pause. One goes inside, the winner of the smoke race. Another picks up a flyer from the windowsill, and stares at it, suddenly rapt.

The stranger clears his throat and smiles, that unwanted, goes-to-a-party-just-to-offer-massages kind of smile, and grabs for the flyer. "Check it out," he says.

Reluctantly, the smoker gives up the flyer. "Check it out," says the stranger, "Check this out. If you just--" and he throws the flyer like a frisbee at the young man. It hits his coat and falls to the ground. The stranger picks it up. "'Kay, wait.."

The stranger holds the flyer like he's trying to skip a stone across a calm lake, and throws it again against the young man's chest. Again it falls to the ground.

"Shit, I used to be able to..Hold on, check it out," he says while picking it up. Toss. Fall. Pick up. "Shit, no, I can do this. I learned this, it's hilarious, just check it," toss, "--damn it."

You can see his hands are getting cold and his nose is starting to run. "Just wait, I used to be able to do this."


[The Fall are STILL DOING IT, pre-order Your Future Our Clutter from Domino UK]

Posted by Dan at 2:53 AM | Comments (1)

March 11, 2010



Maison Neuve - "Demo (Piste 1)". Andrew found that when he cupped his hand and then hit his right ear, hard, he could see colours. He showed L. She gave him such a look. "I know I know but try," he said. She stared at him for a long moment. She had hair as golden as witchhazel. She cupped her hand and hit her left ear, hard.

"Huh," she said.

They sat side by side, socking themselves, in splendour.

[MySpace / more to buy - pick up the Limes' lovely album while you're there]

Family Trees - "Dream Dream". A song in leaf-greens, cherry reds, gauzy shades of baby-blue. An Archie comic bleaching in the sun.

[Family Trees is the solo project by Hologram's Ryan Trott / download his album at MySpace]


(photo source)

Posted by Sean at 11:14 AM | Comments (0)

March 9, 2010



Mushpot comp still available here (60mb)

Yawn - "Acid"

Kevin worked in an unpopular gallery space. All white walls with the sun careening through the windows like ten-foot slabs of hot butter. But mostly empty. The art, be it paintings of photorealist interpretations of photobooth portraits, or sculptures of giant vegetables made of copper, or installations of field recordings of john and yoko played backwards and filtered mathematically in a descending loop that produced what sounded like jungle sounds or mechanical rain, was underviewed at best. Kevin felt sorry for the artists and for the gallery owner, but they didn't have to sit through the days. They didn't have to experience the hours of endless walk-bys and peek-ins and giggling chatter. He would check his email to look busy or to try not to notice, but his periphery was loud and clear. No one wanted this stuff.

As Kevin was standing warming in the sun one afternoon eating his second pastry, he languidly turned his head towards the guest book. One entry. "Nice stuff! -Corinna" He picked up the pen and added "& Kyle xo". Suddenly Corinna had a boyfriend, and he wanted to be mentioned in the guest book signing. Kevin put down his pastry, crumbs falling on the pristine hardwood, and signed a new entry, "I like the use of colour to depict opposing forces. -Matthew Long," In short order, Kevin had filled five pages with fictitious sign-ins. Some he imagined were old ladies, some were busy artsy parents, some were art students, some critics (it takes a lot to move a critic to write "boss!" in a guest book). He soon decided to stop, too many sign-ins would give his plot away. He stopped trying to change his handwriting and stopped inventing whole life narratives like ribbons through his mind, and went back to his email.

As different shows moved through the gallery, he would continue his practice, every time the number of sign-ins growing in number. He would have his favourite characters come back, with little updates on their lives, becoming regular visitors to the gallery. Some would be transient, visiting from New York or Boston or the maritimes, but all shared one thing in common: they loved the art in this little unpopular gallery. They couldn't get enough of it, they inhaled it the way Kevin wished he could. They expressed what he thought appreciation ought to sound like, ought to feel like. They gave the art the life it deserved; simple and uncomplicated love.


(image source)

Posted by Dan at 1:37 PM | Comments (5)

March 8, 2010


A few weeks ago, our friends at Mushpot - a Brooklyn-based label and PR firm - asked if Said the Gramophone might be interested in premiering a compilation of new Mushpot music. We said: "Let's hear it!" They sent it over, we listened, and we liked it so much that we said yes.

Future Magic Vol 1 cover

The compilation includes unreleased songs by Gramophone favourites like Capybara, Emperor X and Jumbling Towers, as well as Arc in Round, WAMPIRE, Candy Claws, Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk, Magic Magic, Family Portrait, Please Quiet Ourselves and Yawn.

For this week only, you can download the entirety of Future Magic Volume 1 by clicking here (60mb). After that, it will still be available through the Mushpot website.

The download includes info, album art, and hi-fi mp3s.

But today and tomorrow, also, some tastes:

WAMPIRE - "Magic Light". The Brill Building's still going. It's eleven storeys tall, compartmentalized. The senior songwriters get offices: potted plants, doors that close, desk-drawers on oiled guides. The junior songwriters are relegated to cubicles. The cubicle-walls are blue, pilled. Their screensavers show distorting beach-balls. WAMPIRE was one such songwriter. He had been at the Brill Building just three months when the seas began to rise. He would lean against the break-room's door-jamb, sipping water from a paper cone, watching the man who wrote "Single Ladies" and the woman who wrote "Complicated" microwave their lunches. He would crumple his cone into a ball and swish it into the garbage bin. WAMPIRE would be the next Carole King, the next Bernie Taupin, the next Terius Nash. His ridiculous name, the name he was born with, would no longer be an obstacle. Everyone would snap their fingers to his number one hits. WAMPIRE began working long nights in his cubicle, lingering long after the others had gone home, writing middle eights as the sun came up. He stopped meeting friends, stopped reading the newspaper, stopped browsing the net. He didn't hear that the ice-caps had melted, that the glacier-water was flooding in. He didn't hear about the evacuation. He thawed muffins, stirred creamer into instant coffee. He wondered where everyone had gone. As the water passed the 9th-floor windows, WAMPIRE's feet were on his desk. "Magic Light" was playing out of his Pentium's tinny speakers. The sheet-music scrolled by on his screen. He said: "Got it." ["Magic Light" is exclusive to Future Magic vol. 1 (downloadable above). See also their MySpace.]

Posted by Sean at 1:06 AM | Comments (7)

March 5, 2010

Connection Lost


The Tallest Man on Earth - "Troubles Will be Gone"

A lady in old dark clothes that hung big and soft on her body, with little points of light, little mirrors in her scarf, was handing this note out in the metro, printed on card stock with a picture of a silhouette with a question mark over the face:

My saviour is not God, nor his son, nor any unsensible thing. My saviour is alive, my saviour is here, and I can feel Him. He lives among us, and He will reveal Himself in due time, before the end of our lives, and we will know Him by the way He makes us feel. He will not reveal himself on television, nor in the news, nor in blogsphere [sic] social network or online publication. He will not make a TED lecture. He will step into our lives the way you see a patch of light and suddenly it's warm. He will save us from the edge because He will be strong enough to hold us if we care to catch His hand. He will not wait for us to recognize Him, we will only have a moment. Be ready. Please be aware and be ready. For He is coming, and He will not wait for long. [MySpace]

Dave Grusin - "Opening Night: By Surgery"
Dave Grusin - "On the Strip"

"What do you think for this one, Buck?"
"I want it to go up and down, like ba-da-ba-da-ba-DAAA."
"I want it to feel like glass, somehow."
"Yeah, I can see that, glass. But like wobbly glass, like up-and-down glass."
"Like a drunk midget--dwarf--elf?...Like a drunk little guy who's trying to walk, and you see him and you think, 'Good luck, buddy.'"
"Yes! 'Good luck, buddy,' that kind of feeling. Like getting spun all 'round in the wind of a passing car."
"Like paper?"
"No, not like paper. Like a leaf."
"Like a drunk little leaf."
"Yeah, up and down."

[Buy] [Buy]

Posted by Dan at 2:22 PM | Comments (0)

March 4, 2010


Gigantic baby sculpture

Damien Jurado - "Arkansas". Barclay sat staring at his computer screen. He held a bottle of water. The window said: GarageBand. There was the little picture of an electric guitar. Barclay said this:

"Okay GarageBand. Okay. Here we go. Open... New file. Yes. Okay. Barclay, okay. This time, Barclay, this time. Record. A. Song. Let's go. [handclap] I'll make a song like... a song like... like 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'. Yes. No. No, that's too sappy. Like 'America'. But without a kettle drum. I'll make a song like 'Cecilia'. Yes, like 'Cecilia'. Just like 'Cecilia'. A beautiful song like 'Cecilia'. Barclay, you will make a beautiful song like Cecilia. Begin recording... now. [silence for 13s] [Sung] Oh oh oh, What goes on! [silence for 8s] Right. Right, well that's something. And now you're talking and getting recorded. Way to go, Barclay. Stop. I need a drummer. Barclay, you need a drummer. The thing is, I can't make 'Cecilia' because I don't feel like 'Cecilia'. I'm a bozo. I'm a nobody. I'm not sure of anything. How the hell do I make a song like 'Cecilia'?"

At this time, Jeanie called up from downstairs.

"How's it going?" she asked.

"Good," yelled Barclay.

"I love you!" Jeanie yelled.

Barclay took a sip of water. "Love you too!"

[Damien Jurado's new album, Saint Bartlett, will be released May 25.]

Eternal Summers - "Able To". Imagine a waterslide up-side down. You begin in the splash-pool, beating at flat water. Then you coast up and round, skidding, twist-bending, that slick scary backwards pour. Under your thighs, you feel the joinings of the waterslide's plastic. You feel the bumps. You see fir trees over the side of the tube. Your heart is bounding in your chest as you swing and skid, hauled backward by your shoulder-blades, the park growing smaller and smaller. And then, hop, you are at the beginning, and hop, you are on your feet, tipping on your heels; and hop you are walking backward down the boardwalk, to the ticket office, to the parking lot, to the beat-up Volkswagen. You're driving backwards with Katy and Lou. You're entering the city in reverse. You're going home, you're eating lunch, then breakfast. You're going to sleep, going to work, falling out of love, falling into love, graduating, studying, skipping classes before you've even started school. (This song, previously on StG.) [MySpace/buy new EP]


Almost no one left comments on yesterday's White Hinterland guest-post. :(

(photo source unknown - clearly of Ron Mueck's Baby)

Posted by Sean at 12:36 PM | Comments (7)

March 3, 2010

Said the Guests: White Hinterland

White Hinterland are now two. The group that began as Casey Dienel's reinvention has become a full-moon magnolia arising of something new. Dienel began making music in the most familiar songwriting mold - she played piano, sang stories. We were smitten with her then, inviting her to play Said the Gramophone's first (and, to date, only) concert series. In 2008, she released Phylactery Factory, her first album under the name White Hinterland. I wrote the press release. We wrote about her here. With the change in moniker, Casey's music changed too. The best way to describe it is to ask you to imagine yourself in a warm cottage at night, filled with friends; and then imagine the lights go out; and imagine the boats on the lake, invisible.

The music was even darker, more confusing, on the Luniculaire EP - a collection of French songs, including covers of Serge Gainsbourg and Francoise Hardy. It is a hot, free record, but I am not sure it fully works. These things take time.

On Kairos, released soon, available now - everything has coalesced. No, wait. The verb tense feels wrong. This takes the present tense: it is open, shearing, a coalescence. Casey spent the last year learning how to self-record, literally relearning how to sing. She is joined now by Shawn Creeden, a painter and musician who lends tape-loops and bonemarrow bass to White Hinterland; who has helped turn the group's texture to black and silver. Kairos is a gorgeous, minimal, awakening album. Listen to "Amsterdam" (written about here), listen to "Icarus". Buy the album.

Casey and Shawn have been so kind as to do what we do, for a day, and to write about some songs they love. Please make them welcome (and leave a few words behind!) -- Sean

White Hinterland

Hakurotwi Mude, Cosmas Magaya, Ephraim Mutemasango - "Nhema Musasa" [buy]

Recorded by ethnomusicologist Paul Berliner in 1972, this is a "standard" among the Shona people of Zimbabwe. Its title means "temporary shelter", and I am always amazed and moved when I listen to it. Structurally built over intertwining polyrhythmic patterns, repeating as long as they need to, and accompanied by simple gourd percussion, the music is ceremonial and makes me want to dance or go for a long walk in the sun. From the get-go there is a slightly woeful color to the tune, then when Hakurotwi Mude comes in with the vocals it takes on a wholly more sweeping, deeply sorrowful, and plaintive weight. Yet the song is still not without moments of redemption and celebration. I once heard a story about how American country musicians are wildly popular in Africa, and play to huge crowds of thousands of people in places like Nairobi, Kenya. The attraction is to both the universal stories of heartache but also to the long, lonesome yodeling style of singing, and it's easy to draw parallels between Hank Williams and songs like this one. -- Shawn

Guillaume de Mauchaut- "Messa de Notre Dame : Gloria" [buy

A singer without confidence is like a body without its spine: nothing stands up. I spent much of last winter immersed in 13th and 14th century choral music because there is nothing to hide behind in these works. A friend once loaned me her copy of the Bulgarian Girl's Choir singing on tape and I had to give it back to her because I couldn't drive and listen to it at the same time. It was too much. Too powerful. Voices are powerful things.

It's not only the voices themselves but the balletic manner they can move together that stirs me. When it works, it's like choreography. For this reason, I think my favorite piece of music from this time is Guillaume de Mauchaut's Messe De Notre Dame. I return to it every so often since I first encountered it in college (same as I do with Debussy's String Quartet in G major, or many pieces by Charles Ives). Every visit unveils something new.

The Gloria of the Mass begins as a call and response. A lone tenor intones before the choir makes an aggressive entrance that sounds not unlike the muezzin calls at an Islamic Mosque. The piece is punctuated by sporadic isorhythmic passages, some of which (as in the Amen) ricochet with hocket (when the top two voices sing independent melodies that lock together rhythmically - a solid modern example would be the staggering way Amber, Angel, & Haley sing at the end of Dirty Projectors' "Remade Horizon"). There are moments of heavenly improvisation, and yet there is a haunting, earthly quality to it that rattles me to the core. It is all flesh and bones, full of longing. -- Casey

Sam Buck Rosen - "Cooking With Gas" [buy]

To get the full effect of Sam Buck Rosen's gift for rhythm, you must listen to this song on headphones. His rich voice gutters out over the hot mix in a game of tag with the undulating beat, panning out in amber-hued ribbons against staggering handclaps, distorted guitar and gorgeous cooing. Have you ever had a full-grown man coo? Because it is something to behold. I can't listen to this without feeling I'm trapped inside a wind tunnel. A wind tunnel that I want to dance in. It's dense and thick, hot and sweaty. The song ends before he gives you a moment to compose yourself and grasp onto a ledge. His record just came out this January on St. Ives and it's a gem: hooky, sexy, and confident. The soundtrack to a raucous party you wish would never end. This song is just dying to be remixed. -- Casey

Ghostface Killah ft. Raekwon, Slick Rick, & Rza - "The Sun" [buy]

In '05/'06 while I was on Glacial Ghost Tour with my other band we had a little CD playing alarm clock radio containing a burned CD with 10 or so tracks of this song. Every night as we bedded down on some cat-piss stained floor we slept on we'd set up this alarm clock and every morning when it was time to get the tofu scramble and home fries started we'd wake up to this. Always an uplifting jam, I love this song front to back. GHOSTFACE IS RAPPING THE SUN'S PRAISES. How sick is that? Rae is on point as always and Slick Rick is flawless over this breezy RZA beat. -- Shawn

Nat Baldwin - "One Two Three" [buy]

"One Two Three" comes off of 2007's MVP, one of my favorite albums by Nat, really one of my favorite albums by anyone. His songs settle in slowly like creeping vines, hooking me in when I least expect it. A few days after I first heard this song, its melody returned to me a few days later as I was gardening and it hasn't really left me since. That was about two years ago now. Listen to how deftly it unfolds with touches of Chris Taylor's production, leading off with a simple contrabass tune played with a sawed-off bow, his voice perched hawk-like in its high register before twisting down into a darker, menacing tone. Harmonies and a waltzing beat flank him during the refrain, retreating into the ether just as your ears begin to adjust. Though they drop out of the mix, it is easy to imagine them poised in the wings, ready to strike at the first hint of a threat. It's a gentle warning from a prize-fighter, a sweet song lined by rows and rows of sharp teeth. -- Casey

Erykah Badu - "Hip Hop/The Healer" [buy]
Erykah Badu - "Telephone" [buy]

I'm just gonna come right out and say it: Erykah Badu is one of my favorite singers alive. She is a fearless and ambitious chameleon and her voice is her weapon. On New Amerykah: Part One (4th World War), she paints her world in spheres. On "Hip Hop/The Healer", she sings of rebirth over a patient beat that ripples out behind her like rings on the surface of a lake. She comes across as sexy, tender, cool, enraged, strong, and even a bit silly but "Telephone" strikes me as the most revealing. Here she says everything by saying very little at all. Written the day after J Dilla's funeral, it's a dusk-bitten elegy containing one simple wish for the one she loves to "fly away to heaven" and make a place for her there. When her voice collapses into a raw, low moan towards the very end, it seems like all might be lost. Yet it's her most emphatic hope that stays with me long after the song has ended, the joy crackling in the top of her voice as she sings: "Celebrate your life, OH! Say 'I love you!'" -- Casey

[White Hinterland are Casey Dienel and Shawn Creeden. They live in Portland, Oregon. Visit their website and buy their new album, Kairos. You also owe it to yourself to see them on tour, visiting North America, Britain and Europe this spring. They play Montreal's Casa Del Popolo on April 20. ]

(Previous guest-blogs: Bear in Heaven, artist Michael Krueger, artist Amber Albrecht, The Whiskers, Silver Jews, artist Ariel Kitch, artist Aaron Sewards, artist Corinne Chaufour, "Jean Baudrillard", artist Danny Zabbal, artist Irina Troitskaya, artist Eleanor Meredith, artist Keith Greiman, artist Matthew Feyld, The Weakerthans, Parenthetical Girls, artist Daria Tessler, Clem Snide, Marcello Carlin, artist Johnnie Cluney, Beirut, Jonathan Lethem, Arcade Fire, Al Kratina, Eugene Mirman, artist Dave Bailey, Agent Simple, artist Keith Andrew Shore, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, artist Kit Malo with Alden Penner (The Unicorns) 1 2, artist Rachell Sumpter, artist Katy Horan 1 2, David Barclay (The Diskettes), artist Drew Heffron, Carl Wilson, artist Tim Moore, Page France, Devin Davis, Okkervil River, Grizzly Bear, Hello Saferide, Damon & Naomi, Brian Michael Roff, producer Howard Bilerman. There are many more to come.)

Posted by Sean at 1:46 AM | Comments (10)

March 2, 2010

Happy Birthday to my Mother


Joanna Newsom - "Good Intentions Paving Company"

It was still too cold to take in the outdoor car cover, the aluminum housing covered in a clear tarp, so the two of them sat in the car, in the cool evening as it rained in March. With March you take your chances. Sometimes you find yourself sweltering in the sunshine in a winter coat and boots, other times a spring coat will feel like you're wearing a plastic bag when the wind kicks up and around a corner. But that night the night was warm, a few degrees above freezing, and it was raining. They sat in the car, with the seats tilted back, and smoked and listened to the rain clapping softly on the tarp. The orange streetlight cast a swath on the road and silhouetted the smoke as it rose to the roof of the car. They had been doing this sort of thing since they were sixteen, the kinetic magic of those first few times being enough to sustain these past ten years. They would talk more openly than with anyone in their lives, listen to the radio and add up the parking tickets and imagine how they could steal that much money to pay them off. They used to make love in these times, in the car, and they used to laugh about who was the boy and who was the girl. Now they cast loaded snickers, breathed smoke up to the ceiling with a smile, knowing everything and knowing nothing.
"Can you roll down the window?"
"I don't know, can I?" while rolling down the window.
They had reached that precarious point where there was a list of necessary answers to any given thing, and they had to play out these little scripts every time one would come up. That tipping point where you can either hold those moments close like warm hot chocolate or dump them out like dishwater. And as with anything balanced ever so delicately, be it the pencil at the edge of a desk, or a book left open with a page in the air, it takes merely a breath, even a sigh, to move it.
"I think I'll get married."
"To me?"
another snicker, "No, silly."
The smoke wound out the window and out from under the tarp, and fought against the rain as it wound right up to outer space.



This is the first week of the WFMU fund-raising Marathon. As you know, I heartily endorse The Best Show on WFMU, and I entreat you to support them if you listen as well. If you don't know about the show, a good introduction is the Best Show Gems Podcast on iTunes (the show is also podcast in full). A sample podcast is below, of a brilliant half-hour of teasing a 13-year-old.

The Best Show on WFMU - "Mac and Jimmy Crespo"

(photo source)

Posted by Dan at 10:56 AM | Comments (2)

March 1, 2010


WWI battlefield

Joanna Newsom - "Baby Birch".

A song of slow movements, of small gestures; moving one thing into place and then another. Arrange this, rearrange. Waiting for the constellation & configuration that will allow Joanna to say what she needs to say: to say, truly, It's been a long, long time / since I last saw you (4:33) and It's been a long, long time / how are you? (4:55). There is the challenge of singing these things, of draping them in melody, in a way that seems true. Later, toward the end of the seventh minute, all caution is ripped aside. The percussion breaks the lock. Joanna flicks open her knife and moves toward the drapes, toward the animal in the corner. There are tears in her eyes but it must be done. The song must be sung. I had thought it'd be harder to do but I caught her / and skinned her quick / held her there / kicking and mewling, upended and unspooling / unsung and blue."

Of course the roughest thing isn't the butchery. It's what the singer intones later, to the man she once dreamed with, as his shadow passes through the trees. Be at peace, baby, she sings, and begone.

[buy Joanna Newsom's exceptional new album / more from Have One On Me tomorrow]

(photo source)

Posted by Sean at 10:30 AM | Comments (3)