by starlight alone
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.


Hello, Friday! It's us, Said the Gramophone!

Today, two ladies who have put out new albums in the past year. Both cuts, however, are from earlier records. Kooky.

(These are wonderful songs.)

Sarah Harmer - "Lodestar". Sarah Harmer's very finest track. Behind "Pyramid Song," it was my favourite song from 2001. For Canadians, Harmer's now a familiar face at festivals and in national newspaper Arts sections. Like the Leslie Feist of 2001, or something. But while she's proven her songwriting skills, I'm not sure she's ever reascended to "Lodestar"'s moon-bathed heights. The song's brilliance is in the way it starts slow, smooth, an oar through lakewater. But a trumpet cuts over the water, sharp through the night. A cello begins to advance, the stars sliding out of focus. Dazzle. Before long everything's turned sparkling, bright, a night "scooped out," full of laugh and dance and, as Harmer sings, "fireglow". These are two songs, almost, but the whole is so much finer than the parts. This is dusk, midnight and dawn; it's loneliness, freedom and jubilation. It's some of the country's very, very best. (From Sarah Harmer's debut, You Were Here.) [buy]

Nina Nastasia - "Ocean". Nastasia' debut, Dogs has just been reissued and, wouldn't you know it, I still haven't found a copy. I'm left, then, with the dark richness of 2003's Run to Ruin, and 2001's Blackened Air - both on Touch & Go. Nastasia does amazing things in her songs. Her words are stories, macabre and haunting and brave. The melodies, meanwhile, are tossed like black rags into the air. They turn and twist, pulled by creaking strings and the entropic drumming of Jim White (Dirty Three). Listening to Nina Nastasia's songs, I always imagine the wood of the cello like the hull of a ship. "Ocean" blows in slowly, a snatch of accordion that comes in on the wind. Later, as drums thump and hammer the roof, as a violin tears the door off, Nastasia stands resolute - angry, defeated, unwilling to bend. There is a moment of respite, literally a calm before the storm, but then she's wiped away by tide and gale, dashed on the rocks. The blood mingles with slate-grey surf. Post folk. [buy]

tonight, if all goes according to plan: The Microphones and Matt Haimovitz.

Posted by Sean at June 11, 2004 2:05 AM

Agreed on the Harmer front, I've come to love Basement Apt. a lot, but she'll never top Lodestar, IMO.

Posted by caley at June 11, 2004 2:45 AM

Love me some Sarah Harmer. You Were Here was just a great album through and through. 'Lodestar' of course is beautiful; you described it better than I ever could. 'Don't Get Your Back Up' is another highlight for me.

Posted by Robbie at June 11, 2004 4:15 AM

I was at both stores yesterday, and I can tell you there's copies of "Dogs" at Birdman and Organised Sound, $19.99 for the CD, $17.99 for the vinyl.

Posted by Bryan at June 11, 2004 6:53 AM

Sarah Harmer's voice is part nonchalant and part comprehensive. Beautiful song, thx :)

Posted by Ronan at June 11, 2004 8:21 AM

Guess I'm preaching to the choir! No surprise there.

Thanks for the tip, Bryan. I think I'll check Record Runner - they do good sale stuff.

Posted by Sean at June 11, 2004 12:35 PM

Harmer's voice is wonderful Sean. thank you for the knowledge.

Posted by scandal face at June 11, 2004 3:23 PM

Yes! That is my favourite thing she's ever done, absolutely.
If you're ever inclined to put up any other old Sarah Harmer, I'm quite fond of her cover of "Trouble In the Fields" on Songs for Clem. It's quite a beautiful song. Now taht I think of it, I've never heard the original by Nanci Griffith. Must look it up.

Posted by JKelly at June 11, 2004 5:57 PM

Nina Nastasia is one of the few true geniuses in music right now. The last time i saw her (with Jim white on drums) was mindblowing. I'm going to see her again on tuesday - i'll let you know how it goes if you like. Run to Ruin was the best album of last year without a doubt.

Posted by jed at June 11, 2004 7:58 PM

I saw Nina in Ottawa last summer, and indeed with mr white on drums. It was pretty darn cool, and yet she didn't look anything like I expected. The music played much more subtle, live - more avant garde in its wisps of strings and scattered drums.

Kelly - I'm going to get "Songs for Clem" out right now and listen to that tune again. I have to say, I found that record pretty darn disappointing.

Posted by Sean at June 14, 2004 1:40 PM

if anyone cares - Nina was truly amazing, hun tur tuur were incredible, i can't say much except that this was one of the very best gigs ever.

Posted by jed at June 15, 2004 7:18 PM

Have you heard "Dogs" yet? It's incredible! There's a cut called "No One Knew Her" that may be her best work yet. It seems to be a concept album about how dogs are like people and vice versa (i.e. they can be loyal or turn their backs on you, they like the sunshine, they end up dead on the roadside).

Posted by Chris Jay at June 16, 2004 5:32 PM

Still haven't heard it, although my sister says she pulled it off the net. Should visit the record shop, for sure. You've got my drooling like a schnauser, Chris.

And Jed - jealousy! Who are HUn Tur Tuur?

Posted by Sean at June 17, 2004 1:51 AM

Sara Harmer is perfection.

Posted by SARA THOMAS at October 22, 2004 4:46 PM

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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.

Jeff Miller is a Montreal-based writer and zinemaker. He is the author of Ghost Pine: All Stories True and a bunch of other stories. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Say hello on Twitter or email.

Mitz Takahashi is originally from Osaka, Japan who now lives and works as a furniture designer/maker in Montreal. English is not his first language so please forgive his glamour grammar mistakes. He is trying. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Reach him by email here.

Site design and header typography by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet. The header graphic is randomized: this one is by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet.
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.

Jordan Himelfarb wrote for Said the Gramophone from November 2004 to March 2012. He lives in Toronto. He is an opinion editor at the Toronto Star. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
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Back to the World
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Weird Canada
Destination: Out
Endless Banquet
A Grammar (Nitsuh Abebe)
Ill Doctrine
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Words and Music
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Silent Shout
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Awesome Tapes from Africa
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radiolab [podcast]
CKUT Music
plethoric pundrigrions
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Passion of the Weiss
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Horses Think
White Hotel
Then Play Long (Marcello Carlin)
Uno Moralez
Coming Up For Air (Matt Forsythe)
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