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.

October 30, 2014


A bay in Iceland

EMBASSYLIGHTS - "Inside-Outside". It is too easy to overcollaborate. Working with someone else, with someones else, it doesn't take much to fill every gap, plug every hole, fit another new idea into every open space. So all credit to EMBASSYLIGHTS, which unites Icelandic musicians Benni Hemm Hemm and Prins Póló with Canadian songwriters Samantha Savage Smith, Laura Leif, Clinton St John and Woodpigeon's Mark Andrew Hamilton. This is an album with a lot of space; whole swathes, plains, pages of space. "Inside-Outside" is a song that starts sparse and then in fact becomes sparser, its serenade diffused into loose groove and mumble. It's that second part where I want to reside, like a comfortable granny under a shingle roof. I want to look out onto the bay, glassy water interrupted now and then by leaping fish, silver kicks, knowing that later I'll step outside, or inside, and have a different kind of fun. [buy / and check out the limited edition flexidisc book]

(image source)

Posted by Sean at 12:15 PM | Comments (0)

October 29, 2014

A Pressing Concern


Leonard Cohen - "Samson in New Orleans"

Edmund imagines himself dying. He is in a white-linen bed or some such thing where the points of his feet show at the bottom and there is a plant in the window. He is somehow able to address everyone in his life at once, he can speak in their head like God's voice, a voice that drowns out all other sounds. And he imagines himself saying the right thing. A lengthy address, poetic, that would bring them all to tears and they would see his jagged beauty for just that, beauty, and not a thing that saws at everything that tries to grasp it. It would include many things, he thought, but definitely a phrase like "I guess that's how it goes" placed perfectly and given the right weight. The voice would be so powerful that, in death, he would crescendo, his last breath would correspond to his last note. And he wouldn't die like the rest, panting, wrung slowly into cardboard, furtive, embarrassed, unfinished.

[Buy directly from Leonard Cohen]

Posted by Dan at 12:12 AM | Comments (1)

October 27, 2014


Bat face

Dva - "Zoppe". Are you a trumpet or are you a man? It is one thing if you ask this question of a person; it is another if you ask it of a trumpet. Would a trumpet say, "I am a trumpet! I am a trumpet! I am not a man I am a trumpet!"? Or would the trumpet try to pretend? Would the trumpet say, "I'm a person! I'm a woman! I am!"? Would the trumpet confirm or deny? Perhaps there are trumpets among us, pretending. Perhaps that pal with perfect mouth-trumpet is not a human pal at all: she is shiny brass, she is curved metal, she is a soundmaker lifted to lips.

Dva's "Zoppe" is an acapella fugue, a pliant cacophony, a summer's day flowing backwards into spring.

[buy / thanks Jonathan!]

(image source)

Posted by Sean at 11:07 AM | Comments (2)

October 23, 2014


Batman gives a leg up

Moss Lime - "Calabria 2014". Montreal's dry-spirited post-punks pay tribute to Enur's club smash. They drain the ephedrine out, steep the tea for too long. It's a little droopy, a little bitter; a song for cracked concrete instead of a white sand beach. You could still have a party, but you'd probably have to be lying down, or wearing a heavy coat; and this isn't music for seducing anyone, it just isn't. It's for something more familiar, cats weaving underfoot. [Moss Lime are from Montreal / buy July First from Fixture Records / upcoming gigs 10/29, 11/04, 11/05, 11/10]

(photo source)

Posted by Sean at 11:05 AM | Comments (0)

October 21, 2014


Weaves - "Shithole"

Lift my head from my body, loose already like a shard unglued, and rest it slanted in grass. Bring sun and wind like wet ingredients, lift it all into the air and let it go. Watch it float there, it doesn't fall. Sidewalks all like blankets, all doors curtains, roofs tents, all trees pendulums. Everything has an individual gravitational center, like a fingerprint. If your fingerprints had on them the names of people you almost were.


Posted by Dan at 11:28 AM | Comments (0)

October 20, 2014


Bruce Conner, Sound of Two Hand Angel

Jessie Ware - "You & I (Forever)". One of the common tricks to pop songwriting is to write verses with specific, sited details, and then, in the chorus, to go big and universal. With "You & I (Forever)", Ware deploys an inverse strategy: the chorus contains the song's only specific reference, a line about going to tea. It's a subtle move but something in it, what she says and how it lands - it gets me verklemmt. I am, like most living humans, a sucker for the happy-sad; and although I'm skeptical toward this song's hamfisted interpolation of The xx, I love the shearing lap of the production, the buried drone, and that plaintive loon-call of a sample. Mostly I love that line, about tea, what she says and how it lands. I'm listening to a pleasant, melancholy pop song and then she sings she Only wanted tea with you, and I find myself in particular memories, or imagined memories, a hapless heart in a certain place & time. [from Tough Love - buy]

Jessie Ware - "12". You can dial back a song: you can dial back a song to make it less of a song, a sketch not a drawing. "12" is full of line and colour, crosshatching, but it is sparer than most of what Ware's now up to. It is a place where the sun is slowly rising, slow as ever, half-formed shapes slowly lit up and warmed. ["12" is a Tough Love B-side.]

(image is Bruce Conner's "Sound of Two Hand Angel", from 1974)

Posted by Sean at 11:27 AM | Comments (0)

October 9, 2014


Caribou - "Silver". The silken reset was invented by a hacker in Yemen. The date isn't clear. One month the resets were as they had always been: crisp, jarring; the next month, some of them were silken. A silken reset on your favourite website, a silken reset on your nearest traffic light. Soon, joked the TV presenters, a silken reset on your life.. It was fall, and it was easy to imagine that this could soon be true. Everything crisply divided might soon be softly changing. One thing might become another thing without a tremor or a snap. We walked around our neighbourhoods slipping hands into pockets, hands into pockets, imagining that our futures could be reset, silkenly, with just as little force. [buy Caribou's sumptuous Our Love]

(image source)

Posted by Sean at 10:27 AM | Comments (0)

October 7, 2014

This Fragile Thing

Today there is great news: Sean's book Us Conductors made the Giller Prize shortlist. But I don't want to say anymore, besides that I am so unstoppably happy for him I can't keep from grinning, proud, amazed, but also: "of course!"


So today I will post a couple of things I've been working on because life is short and I hope you like them.

FIRST is a proof-of-concept video as part of CBC ComedyCoup, a television "accelerator" (read: contest) towards a single winner of a $500K half-hour prime-time pilot. Our show is called One Night Only. Your views and faves and follows and ratings and shares are all the gold coins we need to collect. If you like it, pass it on.

SECOND is a music video I helped out on. Yes! There is still music today! The marvelous new band Brave Shores teamed up with some of my closest friends Tony Ho to make a lovely little celebratory romp (not without its darkness of course) that I think you will also like.

Posted by Dan at 11:15 AM | Comments (0)

October 6, 2014


Anatomy Lesson, by Patrick Henne

James Irwin - "Face Value". When yr heart's so crowded; crowded with reflections and every reflection still separate, distinct. Minutes in an hour, faces in a crowd, motives like fish in deep currents. Whenever I am standing,, you think, standing at the bar, I am teetering. A tower on the verge of falling, all its rooms filled with scholars. A woman puts on a record, a shiny black piece of vinyl; you listen to it, teetering. Whole schools in yr heart, a hundred mirrors. The guide of a rhythm: a beat you can dance to, for a sec, making yr teetering seem graceful. A drumroll that tumbles like a falling moon. Guitars that ring like starlight. Synths all blurring, rain poured onto everything. And a voice, thank god for that voice, a guide through the empty night. Someone to murmur, like an arm around your chest, I am not becoming you / I am not becoming me. [website / soundcloud / previously / James Irwin is currently unsigned]

Luke James - "Love XYZ". A few minutes of arthouse R&B. akin to Miguel, Frank Ocean or Jessie Ware, but "Love XYZ" leans in instead of back - it's seduction as forward press, as push and push, skin on skin all asking. James craves his lover, goes to them, pleads. And yet he is undesperate. Ardour is around them like incense smoke. In the sonics of the song: distant schoolyard voices, hidden strings, dancing motorik. The hunger is layered overtop these subtleties - a chorus of calling; a voice that lands on its edge; rebounding beats that come & come & come again, undeterrable. You rarely hear a love-song that feels like a soft touch and also like a hard one. Here is one. [buy

(image is Patrick Henne's painting, "The Anatomy Lesson.")

Posted by Sean at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

October 2, 2014


100% Polyester

Sharon Van Etten - "Our Love". I have probably listened to this song 75 times. You can consider me an expert. So after you have listened once, twice, 70 times, what I am going to suggest is that you listen to the moment just after 2:24, when this pretty song sounds an awkward, human beat. The overblown tom drum, or whatever it is, feels less like a beat than like an utterance - a confession from the rhythm section, a plea, a belch, something messily & bodily, less considered than the rest of the song. Less finely wrought. In such a pretty track, the human part is crucial:the sigh of a bending guitar string; the fading strain of Van Etten's voice. The suggestion that "Our Love" isn't just the recollection of feeling but a feeling itself. That it isn't theatre: it's a moment in time, remembered.

(photo via Alexis O'Hara)

Posted by Sean at 11:20 AM | Comments (1)

October 1, 2014

The Dash

There's a song I left amidst the papers on your desk. I wiped the phone receiver clean, but could do nothing about the coffee ring. The window was open a crack, was that on purpose? I closed it. I hope it doesn't get too stuffy in there. That whole place seems to be tweed fabric stretched over metal. It's hard to remember when it rains, that it's not raining everywhere. That somewhere it's very nice. There's a film playing in my head when I close my eyes. It's of a rabbit being peeled like a banana. It's hard to remember when there's music playing that somewhere there is silence. I left a song amidst the papers, you'll find it if you look. It's long but you can read it if you like.

Posted by Dan at 2:45 PM | Comments (0)