ash + magic: Page France and Damian Marley
by Sean
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.


Page France - "Jesus". If someone were to ask me what kind of music I like, it would probably make a lot of sense to just say "THIS". I suspect that songwriter Michael Nau has precisely the same dreams as me. It's the only explanation for how his songs jolt straight to my brain's gladcentres. Last night he will have dreamed of a strange house with blue walls, where he lived with his parents, only they're not his parents. Who are they? Are they the parents from Buffalo 66? Maybe. And then the night before that he dreamt of math equations. And before that he dreamed of the brilliance of rising vocal lines and sudden thumps, glockenspiel and the harmonies that make one's spine Spring-tingle.

Page France are new to me. I owe Matthew and Cody some thanks. And Fall Records, too, because the CD is now in hand and it's such a joy. Such a joy. It's indie folky pop like a million cloudchanges condensed into minutes. It's great. "Chariot" is the marvellous opening song, and you can still download it at Fluxblog. It's great. (Did I mention that?) You can download the also-rad "Junkyard" here. And you can stream the whole rest of the album here.

"Jesus" is a song full of promise and zing. It's that greengrassy place where Ben Gibbard dances with Neutral Milk Hotel, both of them in flower-garland crowns. There are rings of melody and harmony - voice, acoustic guitar, electric, tambourine, - and one by one these rings are laid on top of each other. One by one until there's a stack of golden rings, which you can put on like a big bracelet. (You can then go propose to your love, or fly to the Fortress of Solitude, or make water spring from dry wells, whatever you want.)

It's also, admittedly, a song about Jesus. But it's a song about Jesus in the same way that "Mrs Robinson" is about Missus R. It's a song about the cool stuff Jesus might do, the ways he might surprise us. It's about the party he brings with him. When he appears he's like something dredged out of an Okkervil River or Royal City peat. In other words, he's a magic Jesus. "And Jesus will come through the ground so dirty / with worms in his hair and a hand so sturdy."

Lau is a remarkable lyricist. His rhymes are so good- Okay, imagine you have a twig, a good brown twig the breadth of your thumb. And you snap it in half. And you throw the two pieces of twig to either side of a forest. And then a lonely person comes along and picks up one of the pieces of twig. He thinks life's meaningless and lame. He wanders. At the other side of the wood he idly picks up the other piece of twig. And look! Lo! They fit together! Just. Like. That. And for a long moment he's in awe of the way the world can just make things come together in the rightest way.

Michael Lau's rhymes are like that.

"And the bears and bees and banana trees will play kazoos and tambourines. And Jesus will dance as we drink his wine / with soldiers and thieves and a sword in his side."

[buy for a mere $10 | more info]


Damian 'Jr. Gong' Marley ft. Nas - "Road to Zion". Although "Welcome to Jamrock" may be scaling the worldwide charts, something tells me that the bulk of this site's readership hasn't been paying attention. So please do start. Welcome to Jamrock is almost certainly the best reggae album I've ever heard. This isn't saying much -- I'm woefully unschooled in reggae, familiar only with some Trojan box-sets and, well, Bob. Furthermore, there's not all that much reggae on this record: lots of hip-hop and r&b that leans in that direction, rocksteady and dancehall and yes Jamaican accents, but if you're looking exclusively for 2nd and 4th beat unhs, large chunks of Welcome to Jamrock will disappoint.

This is irrelevant, though. Fact is, Bob Marley's youngest son has made a CD of very consistent quality, of shining beats and perfumed melody, of bumpin' and wisdom. He's taken a card from - and made a better record than - Kanye West, bringing social conscience to the dance-floor. He lets himself get incensed (by politics and by women). He doesn't lecture: he sings.

"Road to Zion" is dry and sweet, terribly sad but not at all apathetic. Marley raps like it's the easiest thing in the world, sings like this is a song he's been singing for years. His voice is more ashen croak than croon, like an old soul singer sitting at the edge of his bed. Nas raps with equal earnestness - "Prostitutes stomp in high-heel boots / and badges scream at young black children / 'Stop or I will shoot.'" - and equal frustration. There's a resignation to the song - there's got to be! listen to that harp sample, the humming mother to the side, - but Marley and Nas aren't resigned to the awfulness of the world; instead they're resigned to the long long long fight.

It's reputedly been a very hard summer in Jamaica. Best wishes to the people there.

[buy (it's worth it)]



A generous dose of remixes from the upcoming Grizzly Bear album, at TTIKTDA.

Posted by Sean at September 22, 2005 3:03 AM

I'll admit that I skipped over Page France when I read about them over at Fluxblog. Your post, however, made me reconsider, and I'm glad I did because they're amazing! Thank you!

Posted by Kate at September 22, 2005 9:36 AM

Your image of the twig is beautiful - made my day, thanks!

Posted by 2fs at September 22, 2005 10:14 AM

both songs i've heard from these guys are good, but i have a feeling this is one of those albums that would burn bright and then fade out really quick for me.

Posted by george at September 22, 2005 2:39 PM

I am the only one who thinks of Sage Francis whenever he sees the name Page France? I have this concept that this band (artist? group? what?) is a white slam-poet/rapper for purely phonetic reasons~

Posted by Yoshi at September 22, 2005 6:17 PM

page france > black francis > frank black: that's the immediate association i make. i agree with kate; i'm glad i gave them a second chance too.

Posted by kyle at September 22, 2005 10:04 PM

that page francis song is so neutral milktastic!


Posted by mount fucken vesuvius at September 23, 2005 4:55 PM

I downloaded all three Page France songs and I'm really digging them. I'm definitely going to buy the album when it comes out. Hey... how did you get a copy already? The Damian Marley was good too. Reminds me of Bunny Wailer. You guys are on fire with the mp3s lately. Love the site.

Posted by Adonis at September 23, 2005 6:17 PM

Thanks for the Damian Marley--that'll go straight to the top of the Bateman Top 12-12 chart, for sure...

Posted by Scott Bateman at September 24, 2005 11:18 AM

wow... really digging the extended metaphor there. thanks for the page france song!

Posted by diana at September 25, 2005 2:56 AM

great songs! do you have anything by Ponies in the Surf? your site has such great music, i think youd like them.

Posted by mo at September 25, 2005 6:48 PM

Marley raps as if he's fighting for the poor that he's amongst, but as you and I know he most likely wasn't roughing it too bad living off all of his father's royalties.

Posted by Doctor Jones at September 27, 2005 3:04 PM

Sean, wow, you weren't kidding about that Page France track. Staggeringly pretty. Lau's voice reminds me of Ray Raposa's (from Castanets) voice, but slightly less careworn. Amazing- thanks.

Posted by Kevin at September 27, 2005 3:04 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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