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.


Shearwater - "Red Sea, Black Sea". With Shearwater's new album, Palo Santo, they feel for the first time like a real, real band: not an Okkervil River side-project, but something with its own fashion-sense, its own record collection, its own late-night habits. It helps that Jonathan Meiburg sings all the songs (there's no sign of Will Sheff's voice, dredging up black sheep memories), but it's more than that. Palo Santo sounds like a house with all the furniture taken out. They've taken as much time as they needed to take everything - the tables, the chairs, the curtains, - out onto the lawn. Everything out. And then Shearwater went in and looked around. They decided what they needed: an ash table. a vase with ferns. new gold doorknobs, screwed in. and white paint. Lots of white paint.

It's an album full of space. Even in its fiercer moments, there's no feeling of panic. Go ahead and open the cupboards: there are no glasses to throw. There aren't even any cupboards. If you're going to rage you'll have to do it in the wide white room, till your rage drifts slow in the air like dustmotes in the sunbeam. Shearwater, today, remind me most of Mark Hollis and late Talk Talk. They're not as phantom as that: they've not receded that far. But it's still a guitar with its strings cut; a man singing into its hollow body, summoning songs like ghosts.

Of course "Red Sea, Black Sea" doesn't sound anything like that. No, this is an eerie kind of rock song, shuddering synths and a disco-beat. It's Final Fantasy with a megaphone; the Arcade Fire stripped bare; a guy yelling in a room, stamping his feet, watching the band play a winter beach madrigal on the green grass outside.

(My thanks to Jonathan Meiburg for inviting StG to do this.)

[buy more Shearwater stuff here. Palo Santo is out on Misra on (probably) May 9. You can listen to the album's other uptempo song here.


Gomez - "Charley Patton Songs". When I wrote about Gomez before, I didn't say how important Gomez were to my discovery of pop music, of indie music, or any of that. But they were. The things that most shaped my listening habits, heading off into the end of my teens, were:

1) Waking up before school one morning, standing in sock feet in the den, turning on MuchMusic and seeing the last third of the video for Sloan's "Everything You've Done Wrong".

2) Going to a party at Catherine's house where she put on this weird-looking red-and-black album by Belle & Sebastian.

3) Catching a ride home from a workshop one night with Avi. He was driving his older brother's car and put in one of his older brother's tapes. He said it was good. The cover looked unlike anything I had ever known - this wasn't a Beatles cover, an Aerosmith cover, the cover of a Mahler symphony. And then when he played it it didn't sound like anything I had known, either. Muddy, boozy, yearning, and full of ache. I bought it within the week.

But as I say in the post mentioned above, despite an early reverence for Gomez's Bring it On and Liquid Skin, since then they have done nothing but embarrass me. In Your Gun was bad but Split the Difference was a bloomin' travesty. The band had gone so very far from those smoky and compelling, "Tom Waits in a hot-tub" roots. Like The Bees, they were easing into this vapid jam-band existence - meandering songs about meandering feelings, the atmosphere light and easily brushed aside. I totally gave up on them.

So I'm really surprised at how much I'm enjoying this new record, How We Operate. It's not a return to that old stuff - if anything it's a progress into an even more lightweight, nimrod place. (On "Girl-Shaped Love Drug" they sing, over and over, that "The girl-shaped love-drug messes with my head".) But it's good pop. Gomez were always great at melodies - I'd happily hang my coat on the hook of "Rhythm & Blues Alibi", "Hangover" or "Whippin' Picadilly", - and now those melodic instincts are back, stripped of complicating factors, with songs as easy to enjoy as Coldplay's "In Your Place" or Maroon 5's "This Love".

Though this is no longer the band that made me fall in love with music, it's an easy listening album that glitters and spins, that gives me a little frisson when its hooks chime at once. "Charley Patton Songs" has absolutely nothing in common with the blues of Charley Patton - and yet who cares. Who cares when in the fourth minute it pulls out the chorus, pulls out the cello, window dripping with rain. And then that weird downward-falling bell-ringing break, the thing that runs all through the song - and the most "avant garde" (ha!) thing on the whole record.



A few more days left on the Matthew Barney/Bjork Drawing Restraint 9 Contest. The competition remains wide open - do enter.


Tiny Showcase has started selling t-shirts. Pre-order Jesse LeDoux's debut T and get a free signed print.

Molars reflects on the recent Alden Penner/Adam gig in Philly. And he has lovely mp3s of the gig, too.

I was gonna link to Popsheep's wonderful "Hold On"/"On Hold" Tom Waits/Edith Frost/Neko Case post, but it's not working at the moment. Maybe it will be when you visit.

And Marcello Carlin looks at Broken Social Scene, writing in a new, scary, swooping way.

Posted by Sean at March 24, 2006 3:00 AM

Hey Sean, totally agree about Gomez, "Shot Shot" was a really bad joke, ripoff of KidA as well. Hope this one stands up to your description...
Talking of the 'Head, I've got tickets for their show in Edinburgh this summer, with Beck opening. What a treat! You going as well?

Posted by Matthew in London at March 24, 2006 4:48 AM

What the- Tickets don't go on sale until tomorrow! ... But yes, I'm trying to decide whether it's worth £32+ to me. I've seen Radiohead twice and the second time left me feeling down. ("It's not the band I hate, it's the fans.") But Beck too, and who knows what other Scottish acts might get snuck in...

Posted by Sean at March 24, 2006 4:57 AM

Gomez was the band that got me into everything as well, so I completely hear where you're coming from. I liked In Our Gun, not as much as BIO or LS, and I agree that STD was a travesty. The new album while nothing like what I usually enjoy out of them, is still quite enjoyable. Every song as grown on me, in some simple sort of way. Glad to see you talked about them, hopefully they will get some support like they are looking for and can then go back to their roots a bit more...

Posted by jason at March 24, 2006 11:59 AM

shearwater and gomez! this post wins!

Posted by viet at March 25, 2006 12:23 AM

I didn't see any stipulations regarding photo-manipulations like tone-mapping. Does this mean they are allowed in the contest as long as one took the photo oneself?

Posted by Red Ruin at March 25, 2006 2:10 AM

thanks to this post i am now obsessed with shearwater. i was already an okkervil fan, so this is just a pleasant surprise! thanks!

Posted by laura at March 26, 2006 1:33 PM

"... they feel for the first time like a real, real band: not an Okkervil River side-project, but something with its own fashion-sense..."

God, I love that line. I wish I'd thought of it.

Posted by Richard at March 26, 2006 2:35 PM

definitely sympathise with your gomez thoughts, also. though i think i wanted to like 'in our gun' so much that i was a little soft on it.. there are some passable songs on it i suppose. this new track is preferable to most of STD (such an unfortunate acronym) - thanks for posting it :)

Posted by jez at March 26, 2006 4:11 PM

hey, i've been a long time fan of this website. i agree with what you said about gomez. i've always considered their shows to be the best ones that i go to. the more pop they put into their music, the more popularity it brings, and with the growing interests, that intimate experience their devout fans have had with them will start to dilute out into bigger venues, pushing us farther away from them. anyways, i'm really interested in what the future holds for this band.

Thanks for all the postings,

Posted by Yoni at March 30, 2006 2:41 PM

Long time reader, first time commenter. I love StG and the fine music and words y'all put together ... and Shearwater. So, this song you posted was the first Shearwater song I ever heard, about three or four months ago, and it was called "Turn Your Transmitters Off" and it haunted my dreams for weeks.

I have to say, I'm totally puzzled by this new version of the song! Is there really a weird synth beat that just overrides everything and never stops?! Why are the vocals sunk so low? I can't hear the guitar, like, at all! What's with the tambourine? Is this really the version they're putting on the album?

Just had to vent. I guess the lesson here is: don't listen to tracks before albums are released. *sigh*

Posted by Sara at April 3, 2006 10:05 AM

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about said the gramophone
This is a daily sampler of really good songs. All tracks are posted out of love. Please go out and buy the records.

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about the authors
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.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

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Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

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