cake and ice cream
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.


The Mountain Goats - "Get Lonely". Ernie wakes up early. It's before four a.m. and it's December and in Montreal, and it's very cold. He wears a large down winter jacket, a collar that goes high around his ears. He can only find one mitten so he doesn't wear any. His shoes are sneakers. He put on his headphones - this was important, there in the room at four a.m. when he was considering things, feeling the cool weight of the darkness out the window. He put on his headphones and then tried to decide if he should wear a hat. He would be cold without it, but he would look like such a dork, the tuque pulled over the earcups. But it's four a.m. he tells himself. It's four a.m. No one will see. He puts on the hat.

When he's outside and walking he keeps almost tripping on the patches of frozen rain on the sidewalk. He watches the whorls of smoke or steam that come out of the chimneys. The sky is the same colour as the street but the clouds are lighter, whiter, like a frosting of snow. It's so cold everything feels like it's shaking.

Ernie's walking and he doesn't know where. He just knows how good it feels to be moving at four a.m., listening to music, feeling the chill. Like a man shaking free of something, maybe. Or a man investing in something. Five nights before it became clear that a girl that Ernie liked, a girl whose name is Pam, does not like him. This made him sad. It did not decimate him but it made him sad. It feels good to be walking in the cold at four a.m., with the clouds and the sky and the road and the ice. The cars that pass him are all coloured grey, and are like ghosts.

Ernie considers carefully what music to listen to as he walks. He cannot walk for too long - he will get too cold, but more importantly the day will arrive. The rush and the bustle. The morning's mark will be lifted. It won't mean the same thing that Ernie is out there, walking. So he chooses carefully and the song he chooses is by The Mountain Goats. It's called "Get Lonely". He feels a pang of guilt at listening to this, like just from its title it's too obvious and thus false. But when he turns it on and feels the acoustic guitar, the guitar that reminds him of when he zipped up his coat and quietly so quietly unlocked the front door, he knows it's okay.

He walks and he listens to the song for the first time - the first time really. And he finds it's a song about going out early. About feeling lonely and going out early - trying to blend in with a crowd, checking the dead-lock twice. It's such a sad song. John Darnielle's voice, so much softer than usual, almost numb. And the horns and strings in the corner of the sound, like premonitions. The song is much sadder than Ernie feels - and this feels right. Like only a sadder song can speak to the sadness Ernie feels.

He listens to the words and hears the instructions. "I will rise up early / and dress myself up nice / and I will leave the house." ... "And I will find a crowd / and blend in for a minute / and I will try to find / a little comfort in it. / And I will get lonely." There are no crowds at four a.m. And Ernie's not dressed up nice. But he likes this line: "And send your name up from my lips / like a signal flare." Ernie's walking and he sees icicles. He sees bushes covered in frost, gnarled and sharp. He decides he will act out what the song is about. Later, when it is "early" but not as early as this. He will do this - he will do "Get Lonely". He will seek out the reassurance of this ritual. He will prove his own loneliness by following in Darnielle's narrator's footsteps, standing in the shadows of buildings. It's very cold outside. He knows what he'll do today. He'll get lonely like this. Yes. Already Ernie feels better.

[Get Lonely was released this week. Buy it.]


Sam Cooke - "Nothing Can Change This Love [live]". Have you ever felt a love like this? Listen to the the awe and tremble. Did you know that people sometimes feel this kind of soul-song-love? They do. If I go a million miles away / I'd write a letter each and every day / 'cause honey nothing, nothing, nothing can ever change this love I have for you / ... / you're the apple of my eye / you're cherry pie / and oh you're cake and ice cream / you've got sugar and spice and everything nice / you're the girl of my, my, my, my, dreams. Sing it, Sam. Play it, saxophone. Cheer it, all you young lovers.

[Yes, buy the essential One Night Stand: Live at the Harlem Square Club]

Posted by Sean at August 25, 2006 3:00 AM

It seems to this loyal reader as though Jordy and Sean have entered into an unspoken (and indeed, perhaps unconscious) prose pissing contest in which each one attempts to out-write the other through increasingly long, decreasingly music-related outbursts.

Do not take this as a critism of the caliber of the writing. I am still here, loyal as ever. I simply urge you not to lose sight of that ephemeral soul of wit so present in the Gramophone back-catalogue, and so conspicuously absent in recent months...

Now and then, it is nice to read a haiku in lieu of an epic.

Posted by smilesburger at August 25, 2006 3:04 AM

Youch. Do you really think so!?

Posted by Sean at August 25, 2006 3:08 AM

i think it to be completely appropriate to pair Darnielle with prose rather than apply more critique to a man who has already been over-critiqued.

furthermore, the occasional (or frequent) long outburst is what sets StG apart in the soggy grounds of MP3 blogging.

Posted by bmr at August 25, 2006 8:15 AM

I really enjoyed your entry...especially the Get Lonely one. What i was hearing and what I was reading made perfect sense together.

Posted by Maryam at August 25, 2006 8:32 AM

you write fiction (that means stories)

and we drool over it.

Posted by ru at August 25, 2006 9:33 AM

Sean, great entries. One of my problems getting into Get Lonely so far is that it seems to me to be missing a sense of redemption and resistance to temper the sorrow, so it's good to read a scenario where that record makes a person feel better and alive.
You should try to find a link to vinyl copies of Live at the Harlem Square club. I'm not an audiophile at all, but that is one of those albums where the CD is very noticeably inferior to the LP, even the re-master. The vinyl is SO rich and alive and the CD is just loud and clangy and hissy. But also this is by far my favorite live recording of all time, so my opinion is probably a little bit skewed.

Posted by Scott at August 25, 2006 2:37 PM

I, for one, love the long stories just as much as the haikus. Whatever inspires these guys is what I want to read. If that takes the form of a sentence or (someday, some awesome day!) a novel, count me in.

Posted by Karin S. at August 25, 2006 5:19 PM

Due to the dissatisfaction of certain stg readers with Sean's finely crafted post, I now offer a selection of breezier, shorter choices:
'Yes baby yes!!!'
'Allez Allez!'

Posted by H at August 25, 2006 6:09 PM

'MMMmmmm blueberries'

Posted by H at August 25, 2006 6:12 PM

I can understand that even though a piece may be superbly written, if one is not in a mood or situation where they feel disposed to read long paragraphs it may be simpler to pass them by or postpone the reading indefinitely.

In a way it's like advertising unfortunately, you may have only a second or so to seize your reader or they are 10 clicks ahead of you.

If one's not in a reading mood, one won't pick up Thoreau, and the message will be lost on them.

Of course, this isn't your fault.

Posted by Dave at August 25, 2006 7:13 PM

How can anyone complain about writing like "and the horns and strings in the corner of the sound, like premonitions" ? Not this appreciative reader.

Posted by moominpappa at August 25, 2006 8:14 PM

Brillant prose...

Truly Pulitzer-worthy (have they added an mp3 category yet...?).

Great writing...great song. Linked!

Posted by Ludwig at August 25, 2006 9:01 PM

I don't think anyone is complaining about the writing now, really, how could you suggest it!

It's just that in this modern world of increasingly fast and frequent stimuli, there are many who will miss the value of a long, luxuriously composed essay for the immediately gratifying. I'm sure StG does not intend its readership to be exclusively the highly literarily appreciative elite, and therefore it surely delights the most readers with a varied approach.

I personally am just as likely to appreciate and remember the single brilliant or touching nature of a single sentence as that of a manuscript. In its long history StG has given us a bit of everything to be sure.

These comments are certainly not insults, but at best perhaps, simply insights.

It's often difficult to observe oneself from inside one's own head.

Posted by Dave at August 25, 2006 11:06 PM

Whatever, it's 2:30 and the morning and I definitely didn't feel like reading, yet I couldn't peel my eyes away from this post. This short story so brilliantly captures the melancholy and despondency of the newest Goats album, and it manages to do it in a way that, somehow, plants a seed of hope. I absolutely loved it, and I couldn't imagine a better set of words to accompany the latest Mountain Goats track.

PS: Get Lonely is quality stuff. I'm pumped for them doing a show in Michigan that I can actually go to. Last year they did a 21 or over thing, which tore my heart in two. I caught them at Pitchfork for the first time ever, and I've more or less considered my life from that point on as a continual countdown until I get to see The Mountain Goats live again.

Posted by brian mcawesome at August 26, 2006 2:37 AM

I just got that Cooke album the other day. Love it, cha cha cha cha.

And that Mountain Goats song - and Sean, your writing - really hit the spot. Can't really explain why, but I couldn't sleep earlier and now, after several listens, I feel all tranquil and whatnot. Thanks!

Posted by Tyler at August 26, 2006 3:54 AM

what I basically want to say is daaaaaaaamn.

(That being 'daaaaamn' in a good way, not hot pokers and sledgehammers with spikes on em and stuff.)

Posted by alfie at August 26, 2006 6:54 AM

Some songs (like 'Get Lonely') just seem to cry out for those longer, prose-heavy posts; they inspire a listener with too many good ideas and too many compelling images to be relegated to a one or two-sentence description. And I'm glad that the StG crew doesn't try to deny this sort of response (who even wants to read someone's repressed inspiration?).

Btw, Karin S's comments above reminded me that something along the lines of an mp3blog-ish novel was proposed in that movie "Before Sunset", when one of the main characters talks about writing a book that takes place all during the course of a three-minute pop song.

Posted by Kevin at August 26, 2006 12:07 PM

Your writing makes me wish I was illiterate.

Posted by Frank Grimes at August 26, 2006 12:57 PM

essays beget essays, i suppose. it seems i failed to mention in my original comment that i actually enjoyed sean's lengthy post (and i absolutely loved jordy's huey "piano" smith post) but i'm still left pining for the occasional 100-word punch in the gut.

as for the various references to thoreau, short attention spans, etc. - one needn't look further than a 2-minute gem like eleanor rigby to appreciate the eloquent wonders of the short and sweet.

Posted by smilesburger at August 26, 2006 2:35 PM

I thought your Get Lonely post was lovely and emotion-lorn prose. Thank you for this.

Posted by janet at August 27, 2006 12:20 AM

Thought I'd pop in a comment. Great post and great writing, as always! Thanks in part to the merits of this little furnace that has kept my creative flame alive, some friends and I launched our own mp3 blog a little while ago. Here's a link, should anyone feel inclined. I think it's working out great!

Posted by Sean at August 28, 2006 2:33 AM

Sorry about any confusion in my above comment. I'm also a 'Sean,' so I'll try to make the distinction more apparent!

Posted by SeanM at August 28, 2006 2:35 AM

The Sam Cooke song is amazing. Thank you.

Posted by Brian at August 28, 2006 7:24 PM

So I just heard "Get Lonely" (and the Mountain Goats as well) for the first time a little earlier, before coming to check here. When I heard it I was so startled, I had to run to the computer and write something about it (and have an early post for tomorrow!), right when the song hits at its peak.

And after I listen to a little more of the record, and repeat that song a few more times, I'm reminded of other sad songs. And for some reason, that reminds me of StG. And then I come here, and I see that it's already been done. And your story is nothing like the version I had in mind/wrote, but it's wonderful, and beautiful all at once.

Thank you yet again for another inspiring post. And guys--short story song reviews are what I live for.

Posted by Laura at August 28, 2006 10:08 PM

Ah, John Darnielle live. Yes, I never saw Sam Cooke in 1963, though I did manage Wilson Pickett and Don and Dewey (who totally rocked, all now RIP as well, alas) in the late '90s.

However, some day I will get to tell the kids that I saw John Darnielle perform an early show, maybe 1994. Crikey, it's all online -- January 1995, here:

Anyhow, one, there was nobody there. Something like a few dozen people, which even in the Chameleon (since renamed, a shotgun-shack of a long, narrow bar) feels empty. Two, as JD rightly notes that audiences like, he left a little blood on the stage throughout, especially for "Going To Georgia", still one of his best compositions. Three, after spilling his guts for us enough we few dozen called him back, he made us assembled hipoisie sing along -- loud! -- to "Cut Your Hair", which was about the funniest thing ever. Four, he took "The Sign" (which nobody had heard him cover before then, this being before the 7" B-side and wherever else it's appeared since), mounted that pop morsel to a sticky piece of display cardstock, and pummeled it bodily with his amassed willpower until it became that treatise to the redemptive power of the hit parade it has since become. Mostly, it was unexpectedly just plain great, one of the best performances I have seen, period.

I have seen "them" a bunch of times since, sometimes good, sometimes great, occasionally uninspired (which is about the worst you can say, but the disappointment can be fierce), but never as unexpected. Whew.

Having ranted, let me weigh in: the short story was good. Not perfect, but jeepers, this is a blog post. It absolutely encapsulates what the song is trying to communicate, what we do when we check out Postsecret every Sunday, how sometimes it is just as redemptive to inhabit that catch in your throat as it might have been to be number one in fourteen countries. You did good. Keep it up.

The Sam Cooke track is just great.

Posted by wcw at September 4, 2006 12:10 AM

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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.

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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.

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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