A Pot of Jam and Some Fancy Vinegars
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Final Fantasy - “Honour the Dead or Else” (live)
Final Fantasy - “Good Mother” (live)

Since this is my final day house-sitting while the lord of the manor's away, I’d like to be a gracious guest and leave a basketful of gifts. I’ve cluttered the bathroom shelves and living-room floors with so many bags full of verbiage that my hosts will be tidying up till Labour Day. So here is a package of knicknacks I think they’ll appreciate, handcrafted by the artists who initially brought us together.

These two tracks by Owen Pallett are from a recording of his performance at the Music Gallery in Toronto a year ago, where he first presented the St. Kitts String Quartet and many of the songs that would become He Poos Clouds. “Honour the Dead or Else” did not appear on the album, nor has the promised single version ever materialized. It is another one of his poltergeist lieder, but featuring an even rowdier, more table-knocking, more vandal-giddy spectre than most, with its thumping percussive violin part and a shriekier vocal line than even the most modernistic excursions on the album. I am always moved by the line early on, “for him they put a barrier about the bridge/ in memorium.” It evokes the morbid elegance of the Luminous Veil, the cantilevered suicide-prevention screen added in 2003 to the Bloor Street Viaduct in Toronto. The viaduct is the location of a scene in Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion in which a nun is swept over the bridge, only to be plucked heroically from mid-air by the construction worker Nicholas Temelcoff. Is there any link between that episode and the final lines of protest here: “You need a body to get in the way! You need a body to get in the way!”? The term Luminous Veil, after all, seems more the stuff of Victorian theology than contemporary civic design, a Henry James skew of sensibility to stave off the ill will of the departed. I don’t believe the dead pass judgment (or anything else), and I doubt Owen does either. What matters, on that bridge, in this song, is that they come to stand as standards of measure in our own haunted hearts.

I haven’t edited these audio files (more accurately, I don’t know how). So next, along with some taper noise, you get to hear Owen’s adorably stumbling introduction, the roaring delight of the crowd, and the gorgeous performance of “Good Mother” that follows the awkwardness. It couldn't be better calculated to enrapture. Afterwards, he joked, “It’s hard to impersonate Jann Arden when you’ve been screaming about death for several songs.” What I believe he was trying to say in the flubbed intro is that this is one of his favourite songs. No shame about indie authenticity here. (Or maybe just enough to cause a stutter.)

[Buy Final Fantasy's He Poos Clouds. Really, do.]

Destroyer - “J. Tailor”
Destroyer - “I, as McCarthy”
Destroyer - “Rose Felched This”

These songs all come from We’ll Build Them a Golden Bridge, the very first Destroyer release, aside from one-off cassettes made to mail in hopefully to the CBC Brave New Waves “bag of tapes” feature. It hails from 1996, a startling decade ago, and Dan Bejar's leapt across many chasms since. But “J. Tailor” has some early Bejaresque meta-pop: the title joking about James Taylor, the opening line from an Orange Juice song (followed by the riposte, “quote-unquote/little showboat”), the “earthquake in the audience,” the cryptic but resonant resolution. (Dan's poetic sense asserted itself in closing lines before it learned the trick of permeating a song, as occurs with many gifted writers.)

I’m not the first to post “I, as McCarthy,” on the Internet. Popsheep was. But it seems fitting to revisit it today, as it’s music heavily under the influence of Syd Barrett, who of course died of uncertain causes this week at the age of 60. For ages I thought the line, “If I know you, and I think I do,” was actually swiped straight from a Barrett solo song, but I could never trace it. Better, then, to imagine the young artist tilling the soil alongside the puttering old gardener, absorbing waves of light that, though ebbing, still lapped along the edge of the meadow.

And finally a much more slapstick-anarchic early tune, “Rose Felched This.” I enjoy it for its note-imperfect image of a playlet in which the young rake displays his first ardent efforts at art, perhaps to the object of his casually concealed affection, and has them returned with the most puncturing comment. Which he knows is dead right. But mainly I like it for: “Static means punk! Tuning is junk!”

[Buy the Destroyer catalogue.]

Vancouver Nights - “All the Right Moves”

Ach, so much rough-edged audio! So here’s a more typically polished StG selection. Generally, Vancouver Nights songs were by the band leader, Sara Lapsley. Guitarist Dan Bejar sang only on the duet, “A Room of One’s Own.” But my theory (never tested) is that Dan held the pen on this one, too. It sounds markedly unlike the rest of the album, and the wordplay stands out like a full-colour set of fingerprints: “Birds fly and actors try/ Out for tragedies [that] are written on a whim/ Defined by the fact that no one’s listenin’.” To take just one quick instance. It's seemingly the most sweetly generous of breakup songs, breezily allowing the other party to “run free.” Unless you take the perspective as written upon a mirror, in which case it is, instead, a sort of philosophical blackmail, meant only to coerce the abandoned one into agreeing with the far-too-blithe remark that “it’s fun to watch them run free.” Maybe even into singing along.

[Get Vancouver Nights.]

And now I must be heading home. Thanks to those who read and commented, and again to Sean, Dan and Jordan: Please forward the bills for all those long-distance calls. Don’t worry, I’m good for it.

Posted by Carl Wilson at July 13, 2006 4:07 AM

Wow. Thank you for enriching my experience of Final Fantasy. Yay knick-knacks!

Posted by shane at July 13, 2006 12:39 PM

One can never have too much Destroyer. Hooray!

Posted by Jeff at July 13, 2006 1:05 PM

those final fantasy track are so incredible. Got goosebumps.

Posted by ajit at July 13, 2006 1:11 PM

carl! nice work. i don't know how you could have missed this, but it says right in the liner notes of that vancouver nights album that the song is indeed 100% bejar. that song's always been one of my favourite underdogs.
also while you're mentioning brave new waves, you should know that the final fantasy concert in question was recorded for that cbc show. it may or may not re-air in its entirety sometime this summer--who knows? wish i did. the show's schedule is a complete mystery.

Posted by barclay at July 13, 2006 3:28 PM

Thanks, Michael - I did know about the BNW broadcast of the concert (no doubt a better mix than this one). My excuse on Vancouver Nights is that I only have an electronic copy (which I paid for) and the "composer" credit on the All the Right Moves file just says Vancouver Nights. I shouldn't have assumed there wouldn't be more specific info on the album itself. I feel a bit like Inspector Clouseau.

Posted by carl at July 13, 2006 4:13 PM

I'm sure the boys won't mind if you crash at their place a bit longer...


Posted by Lass at July 13, 2006 10:18 PM

My girlfriend and I taped that Final Fantasy show. I appologize for the taper noise, but it was my first time using those mics and they are very very sensitive. Had I known, I would have been much quieter. I'm not proficient enough with audio editing to clean that up, and I want to make sure to leave the crowd noise and stage banter in, because I love it.

Also, Carl, you win for connecting my favourite musician and my favourite book (In the Skin of a Lion). I hadn't thought of that connection before, but I definitely will now when I listen to that song.

Posted by Phil at July 14, 2006 10:19 PM

wow, those final fantasy tracks are just stunning, thanks so much for spreading the love

Posted by Max at July 17, 2006 2:28 PM

Could you be a dear and re-upload those two Final Fantasy tracks? I'd really appreciate it.

Posted by Winston at August 18, 2006 4:36 PM

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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