Chris Whitley - Farewell. Kelley Stoltz - Hello.
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.


Chris Whitley - "Dirt Floor". Chris Whitley died on Sunday.

I only really 'know' one of Whitley's albums, 2005's Soft Dangerous Shores. It is a strange album - a blues that's been melted down to cinders, burning on the pan, longing and poetry hissing and then smoking into the sky. Like Richard Buckner doing Yankee Hotel Foxtrot; slow soulful songs breaking apart, split by drone and jazz and draining electronics.

But Soft Dangerous Shores is also a ghostly album, and this ghostliness feels almost vulgar to me, right now. The imprint's too fresh in the bed to be listening to a song that sounds like the living Whitley wanting to disappear.

So I wasn't going to post anything, til I read this ILM thread, and BeeOK posted "Dirt Floor" and I heard it and I thought Yes.

This isn't a ghost's song. It's a song of the living - a song of reassurance and peace. And it's a kaddish, I guess. A laying to rest. Whitley's got one of those voices - like Buckley, like Morrison, - that can edge into the ecstatic. But no he doesn't; here he stays at your side, steady and human. His guitar sounds like going home.

You'll be missed, Chris Whitley.

[many more Chris Whitley mp3s / Chris' website / buy CDs]


Kelley Stoltz - "Prank Calls". Kelley Stoltz has a heck of a steam engine. It's powered by piano, fed by drum hits that fall like coals. The engineer has taught the passengers to sing: "no no no no!" And maybe the coolest part is that Stoltz has laid all the tracks himself, the railway tracks, and they go winding round the cool places to live - Mile End and Williamsburg and Glasgow's West End, - so Stoltz can visit parties and wave at The Strokes or Jim Guthrie or whoever. He can wave and then move on, choo-choo chugging, riding that aluminium pop-song in and out of sunsets. He can say goodbye and then come right back.

(Thanks, Mike.)

[more mp3s including Echo & the Bunnymen covers / Below the Branches is out in February on Sub Pop]



Prints are finally available from artist kathleen lolley, and o how lovely they are. anyone else seen any great art for sale, lately?

A high-res extended version of the gorgeous Sony Bravia bouncing-balls advert, with Jose Gonzalez as a sumptuous soundtrack, are now available free online. (Thank goodness they're free, since they're commercials.) Is it wrong that an ad is one of the most beautiful things I've seen this year? [via kop-e-kat]

I'm digging the vibe of this band from Ottawa called The Acorn. They're sorta like a lazier Royal City. I'm pretty confused as to how I've never heard of them. I wonder if I know any of the band. Anyway - their music is here (via the essential catbirdseat). Through The Acorn I also discovered the ballsy dancepunk hoo-ha of Quebexico, whose lead guy is called The Funisher. Both of these things rule. If either of these bands read this and would like to send me some music, please do get in touch.

Some of my reviews for The Skinny are finally online, with the italics stripped away :( : Bon Jovi, The Pipettes, Wolf Parade (I didn't have room for a proper critique), Rick Astley, Audio Bullys, The Constantines, and the first of the "Easy Gramophone" column, about songs you can download, free and legal. It's basically a combined StG/Anti-Hit List rip-off.

The Canadian blogosphere is aflutter over i (heart) music's 33 Hottest Bands in Canada, modeled on last week's poll that found Sufjan Stevens to be the biggest thing in America. Dan, Jordan and I all voted, stacking our ballots to support the presumably underrepresented (and Jordan's band). I'm pretty happy with the results. There were a few bands I didn't vote for, counting on the support of others (Jon-Rae and the River, Constantines, Stars, Broken Social Scene), and I was glad that they came through. I remain baffled by the popularity of Metric and Martha Wainwright. It's still frustrating that a format like this leaves so many great bands out in the cold (P:ano, The Weakerthans, Julie Doiron, The Diskettes, Avril, Greg Macpherson, I'm looking at all of you).

A UK list should be coming later this week.

For those of you who are interested, my ballot is below the fold (ie, click "more"), along with all of my corresponding comments.

My ballot:

1. The Cay
Jordan Himelfarb and Christine Maki have yet to make their magnum opus, but while the rest of Montreal tears itself apart with disco-stomp and winter-weather hollerin', there is something altogether magic in The Cay's knitted guitar-picking, in their modest kindly harmonies, in the sudden Byrne-like lurches of fierce and necessary feeling.

2. Final Fantasy
If any artist has -amazed- me this year, it is Owen Pallett. It feels like he came out of nowhere, although he didn't, that suddenly there was this artist of astonishing talent and original voice. It was like an alien landed on Mount Everest, equipped already with a deep knowledge of pop music, of composition, of Dungeons & Dragons. Owen's music reaches as deep and as recklessly as the country's more rockin' talents, and it's all performed with such ease and generosity that you'd think it was as easy as pushing your hair away from your eyes.

3. Sunset Rubdown
The Rubdown is like Wolf Parade's attic - it's where Spencer Krug keeps his weird organs, the ones that cough up genies, the place for crippled songs and old bits and pieces. I think it may also be where he hides his secrets.

4. Avril Lavigne
A brat who writes songs of condensed awesome, who performs them without the slightest hint of self-awareness, who throws herself into choruses, heartache and teen angst in a way that I can only do when
choruses, heartache and teen angst mean "the rain", and the rain is outside, and I have no umbrella.

5. Destroyer
Canada's witch-doctor, ship-captain and bard. I saw a guy at a gig in Glasgow who looked like Dan Bejar. He kept yelling at the singer to "put your fuckin' heart into it". The yells didn't go away when the singer sang lounder, or stronger, or more torturedly. They went away when the man went to the bar and ordered two drinks and then just stood there, one lager in either hand, shaking his head.

6. Frog Eyes

7. Wolf Parade
Wolf Parade are like an experiment in self-combustion. I keep waiting for Spencer's hair to catch alight, for Hadji's laptop to melt, for Arlen to explode and for Dan, yeah for Dan's heart to be on fire. Literally. Because figuratively it already happens, at the right moments: everything goes smoky and hot and the only thing you can be sure of is fire and song and that there are ghosts whirling drunken in the room.

8. P:ano
I imagine that their guitar- and piano-strings are made of yarn, that their songs are quilts and not songs, that they'll build a new West Coast Brill Building and write a million songs for a million years... I imagine this and then I think "fuck it, I wish they were ghost pirates", because that would be much more fun. P:ano are the perfect cross between Mt Eerie, They Might Be Giants, and Carole King.

9. Arcade Fire
I sit at my home in a room and I dream, dream, dream of a song called "Milk and Honey". It's by a band called Arcade Fire, and no recordings seem to exist. I've been listening to Arcade Fire for close to five years now and still there is no other group that grips me so firmly, that shakes me so hard, that so chimes me like a bell. There is no other group with a long lost song that keeps me up at night, that makes me sit at home in a room and dream. It's very sad, to know there's something beautiful you will never hear again.

10. Julie Doiron
It would be enough if she continued to murmur in her bedroom - but no, now she's hollering over her electric guitar, now she's singing doo-dah backup with Herman Dune, like she's sixteen and in love. If I could pick anyone to murmur into my ear, it would be Julie Doiron. And what would she say? Something kind.

Posted by Sean at November 23, 2005 3:00 AM

looking forward to your UK list.

that prank calls track is class. (but mile end a cool place to live? well... )

Posted by Anonymous at November 23, 2005 6:18 AM

Mark Pedini has great art for sale.

Posted by Michael Williams at November 23, 2005 8:37 AM

Thanks again to all three of you for contributing. I was really sad about where Julie Doiron finished up -- she was on a few lists, but in both cases at or near the very bottom, which meant that she couldn't get bumped up over the dozens of bands that only got mentioned once.

And your Arcade Fire comment blows me away every time I read it...

Posted by matthew at November 23, 2005 10:04 AM

Thanks for the kelly Stolz.
You may enjoy an interview he gave with a Seatle paper
Both for what it says about him, and the story about Brian Wilson...

Posted by J at November 23, 2005 10:18 AM

Nice posts today. Where *do* you find all these wonderful tracks?

That Jose Gonzalez song is just beautiful, but you know that because you commented on it when fluxblog posted it back in August '04.

Posted by Tuwa at November 23, 2005 11:07 AM

Kelly Stoltz is FANTASTIC, can't wait for his new album

Posted by solace at November 23, 2005 11:46 AM

the Acorn are jawdroppingly lovely, so much great instrumental stuff but the new EP is pretty wonderful also.

not sure about the royal city comparison? sound's too full and too twangless. maybe a more straight-up A Northern Chorus?

Posted by Tim J. at November 23, 2005 4:58 PM

that kelley stoltz walks like a high-heeled sub teacher down my hall.

Posted by dan at November 23, 2005 9:55 PM

happy turkey day!
Sara Padgett's photography is for sale...

write her an email and let her know what you want.

Posted by A Dogg at November 24, 2005 9:03 AM

You can find the real 'Milk and Honey' on Jackson C. Frank's 'Blues Run The Game' recorded in 1965. Which happens to be the most beautiful singer/songwriter album unfortunately gone forgotten and was the main influence for Nick Drake's music.

Posted by Bubbachups at November 26, 2005 2:37 PM

Thanks for introducing me to Chris Whitley. great track.

Posted by Anonymous at November 26, 2005 3:50 PM

what's with lists of greatest bands? there is no objective criteria to judge what band is better than another band. why do people have to make everything some kind of competition? music cannot be measured, and any consensus about what is better, may in fact be consensus about what is acceptable and non-challenging. Look at the billboard charts and tell me how many of those records you own?

competition does not make music better. tellilng one band that they are better than the next band does not encourage creativity. it encourages ego. it also encourages them to do the same thing over and over again, because if they are the best, anything next they do may be less than best.

ok i'm rambling. i ran out of coffee this morning. now you know what the real problem is.

by the way, you write the best blog on the net. you surpass all the trades and pop-rags. and the makeover. well, it is just pretty.


Posted by orangeblender at November 29, 2005 9:48 AM

I love Kelley Stoltz' 'Below the Branches'- definitely one of my faves of the year. I got to see him play Dublin this week and he was AMAZING live. There's so much energy to what he does that the record almost doesn't capture.
He's also extremely funny, and the between-song banter was hilarious.

Great site by the way!

Posted by Sinéad at October 1, 2006 5:52 AM

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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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