Friday twangday
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.


Western music with a dark tone. Uncle Tupelo. Named after a janitor from Wyoming who spent his life savings on coke and prostitutes.

Richmond Fontaine - "Allison Johnson". I couldn't decide whether to post this or "The Janitor," also from Post To Wire, but ultimately decided "Allison Johnson" was a better match with Oh Susanna. This song staggers from bass-thump to bass-thump, a moribund waltz on a deserted street. Though Will Vlautin keeps singing of some domestic peace (hear the piano buried deep in the back), the song seems to trend inevitably downwards; it's like we're staring into a grave, moving toward an inevitable collapse. "Don't fade on me!" he sings. "Don't fade." But there seems little hope that Allison will return: those strokes of cello and electric guitar are too heavy, far too heavy. Uncle Tupelo, paralyzed with nostalgia; Clem Snide after too much heavy drinking. Thanks so much, David. [buy]

Oh Susanna - "All Eyes On Baby". From Oh Susanna's first EP (a short, rich thing from 1997). Suzie's finally getting some wider attention, with actual music videos and things like that, but I'm still very partial to this early, bare-bones work; I like the full, nimble vocals, the halting finger-picked acoustic guitar. Like Neko Case - who wasn't born in British Columbia, but who we pretend was, - Oh Susanna has a clear, powerful river of a voice, but it's pulled in, sent lilting over this rocky hillside. The bitterness is never too thick, simply sad; there's some Gillian Welch here, too. [buy]

Hard 'n Phirm - "Rodeohead". And just because I feel like it's going to be a silly weekend, here's a country/bluegrass/hillbilly medley of Radiohead songs, found here. They run the gamut from Pablo Honey to Hail to the Thief (I think), dashing madly from a banjo-led "Everything in Its Right Place" to a whistle-toothed bit of "Karma Police" and on and on. Even if the kitsch factor depresses you, be at least a little uplifted by the madcap energy and ambition of the thing. [via stx]


Sidewalker is a band that writes, records and releases a new song online every Monday. They show talent - golden notes, squiggly electronic bits, a warm and slippery voice. Radioheady, sure, but in the experimental-angst-pop kind of way, not the whiney artrockers sense. I like the long thrum of "Tiny Digits Missing Bones," as well as the liquid atmospherics of "Boxcar, Boxcar, Hopper, Flatcar."

An mp3blog that somehow dodged my attention, curated by Freaky Trigger's Tom Ewing, among others: A Million Love Songs.

Rob Grayson - "The Beatles, A to Z". Following the tragic assassination of John Lennon ... my station ... aired a memorial tribute. It aired on the weekend after the tragedy, and included a ten minute period of silence, followed by this piece. ... It is a montage of all The Beatles songs, edited from A to Z. The version here has been updated to include material from the Anthology series. It's certainly a collage (and not, say, a mash-up), but for we Beatles fans, any excuse to listen to these songs is a good one.


Albums I am listening to a lot right now:

Sia - Color the Small One - it's new to me, and lovely.

The Killers - Hot Fuss - see.

The Streets - A Grand Don't Come For Free - i like the sparer production, but not the handful of dud-after-five-listens story tracks. All the sweeter stuff, though ("Blinded by the Lights," "Could Well Be In," "Dry Your Eyes," second half of "Empty Cans" etc) - wow wow wow!

Avril Lavigne - Under My Skin - so much better than Let Go because she doesn't let go of that electric guitar. Swooning pop punk. "My Happy Ending" = ace.

Magnetic Fields - i - good.

Bishop Allen - Charm School - I will write about this soon because it is absolutely fantastic.

Posted by Sean at May 28, 2004 12:09 AM

I totally, utterly agree on The Streets. There is one song (number 3 maybe?) that I have yet to get all the way through. There are just some really bad songs on there. But some of the good, are really really good. And on the eight millionth listen, I finally came to love "Fit But You Know It".

Posted by caley at May 28, 2004 1:51 AM

I'm afraid I might come across sounding like a jerk for asking this question, but... what's with the fascination with Avril, Sean? I only ask because you seem to have such generally wonderful taste in music, and because this equally wonderful blog has turned me on to some incredible songs I might otherwise have never heard. Whiny, artificial songs by a scruffy kid gifted with a truly terrible singing voice? What's the draw?

Posted by Paul at May 28, 2004 5:31 AM

when i heard "could well be in" it was like an explosion in my brain. "PEOPLE BESIDES ME WOULD LIKE MUSIC LIKE THIS? MAYBE I SHOULD TRY TO BE A MUSICIAN AFTER ALL." i then calmed down slightly, but thoroughly enjoyed the whole cd. excellent stuff.

and on the avril tip, damn if "don't tell me" while lyrically ludicrous, isn't an incredibly catchy song. i don't care who's behind it or what image they're putting out there. they know how to write a pop song. (plus, as a bonus the hilarity of watching the video and seeing mtv silence-out her sexual talk in an ANTI-sex video is unmatched).

Posted by justiny why at May 28, 2004 6:59 AM

Rodeohead = Ace.

Posted by Marx at May 28, 2004 8:05 AM

The tracks on the Streets album that I initially regarded as blocking songs--there to further the story but not fully fleshed out songs (think recitatives) are actually growing on me. Where before I sorta sat through "Wouldn't Have it..." and "Such a Tw*t" and waited for the end, now I'm finding them stuck in my head.

Posted by la1itree at May 28, 2004 9:25 AM


that Oh Susanna song is awesome

I must admit I am curious about Paul's question too - I have never even listened to Avril... mostly because I am an incorrigible snob, but if YOU post a song I promise to give it a spin, in fact - I have to say that this mp3 blog phenom has already helped me a lot with my snobbery problem.

Posted by bw at May 28, 2004 10:35 AM

Ooh, write more about Sia. I've been meaning to get my hands on her latest since the last Zero7, but keep not managing. Tell all.

Posted by Andrew at May 28, 2004 11:13 AM

i can't see how the new avril album could be any good without any matrix singles. the songs on this new one were written by the guy from our lady peace and his wife. maybe it's an album for canadians, by canadians.

Posted by Anonymous at May 28, 2004 12:13 PM

i was about to say-- I think the sean/avril connection is purely canadien. I think she's a little fucking idiot myself.

The streets is excellent. Blinded by the Lights is the standout for me.

I dig the country stuff today. I coincidentally posted some today too. Good work.

Posted by music robot mark at May 28, 2004 12:45 PM

I know what you're saying about The Streets' plotty songs getting stuck in one's head, la1itree (also, "recitative" is exactly right). But for me the 'stuck in my head' thing isn't enough to buoy the song unless I'm enjoying it being stuck in my head, or if I get a thrill from those hooks within the song. Which I don't. And which is frustrating, because when Mike Skinner works, he works very very well.

I'm really surprised at all the Avril Lavigne incredulity. But maybe that's because "Sk8er Boi," along with "Crazy in Love," was among the first 'breakthrough' crop of pop songs that I allowed myself to enjoy. It's with those two singles that I realized I loved them, acknowledged that I loved them, and allowed myself to love them unguiltily. I mean - you get the same pleasure from most 'guilty' pleasures as you do from 'innocent' ones.

I like the new Avril record for the same reason that I like Pinkerton, or TAtU, or Clarity, or Lit, or, heck, the Dismemberment Plan's "You Are Invited." It's those big, ringing guitars and the hooks so delicious you could chew on them. I'm not really one for lyrics, so the inanity (or lack thereof) is pretty irrelevant. Nor do I much care that Avril Lavigne seems like a bratty little shit in 'real life' (just as R. Kelly's peccadillos don't impinge upon "Ignition (remix)"). But if you're looking for catchy choruses that are completely filled out, that are sweet without being sugar, zinging with energy (and yet not so spastic-painful as Modest Mouse or Radiohead), Under My Skin is fantastic. It's direct and vibrant - it's definitely not simple (although that wouldn't be a criticism, anyway), and while it's not as 'intellectual' as a Stephen Malkmus record, that's not a criticism either. ("Sugar Sugar" trounces any Rush tume, if you ask me.) If you give the songs half a chance, (for real,) I don't think you'll be able to dispute that there's a vivacious catchy punch to them, something fun and liberating. (That said, stay far away from anything 'live' or 'acoustic'. These are not Avril's strong points.)

Posted by Sean at May 28, 2004 2:13 PM

Sorry, sean, I've got to agree with paul way up there. I've had this argument with musician friends who see the beauty in britney spears songs and the like. I don't deny these factories can still belch forth a quality pop song that can jam itself into your head for days on end, but is that still mean it has merit? Butterfinger jingles are designed with the same intent.

Avril strikes me as pure product, an 'edgier' face for teen 'n tween consumers who aren't buying boy bands anymore. I'm going to be a snob here too, but i can't get past the commerce to appreciate the machine's results. It's taking time away from musicians who actually have a stake in the songs they're singing. I'll take spastic-painful (but honest) over marketing contrivances any day.

That said, thanks for all the other quality songs. You've got a fine ear.

Posted by chris at May 28, 2004 3:11 PM

I really, really wanted to hate Avril. After seeing her on TV sneering, declaring herself the 'anti-britney" and trashing Hillary Duff (Duff just seems so nice....soooo nice), I wrote Avril off as 'irritating'. Then one day, on a whim, I was listening to mp3s and saw 'Complicated' and listened to it, and it's...surprise surprise...really good. Two other admirers (is that word?!?) of that song are Ben Gibbard and Travis Morrison.

I don't think you can write music off b/c it is 'commercial' or 'mass-produced'. It's like saying that Pizza Hut pizza would be your favourite food, but you can't truly enjoy it b/c some kind of obscure pizza made by hippies, that while not as tasty, is homegrown and is ignored because of the mass marketing of Pizza Hut.

Remember the only honest music is Marching Band Music listened to thru a Victrola.

Posted by caley at May 28, 2004 3:30 PM

Chris, do you feel the same way about Elvis Presley? The Archies/Monkees? Every Motown artist?

Is Billie Holliday being "honest" every time she sings? Is Yo Yo Ma? Is Stephen Malkmus? Was Hail to the Thief not a 'product'? I understand your complaints, but I think your mind/body split and social conscience might be getting in the way of your ear...

Posted by Sean at May 28, 2004 4:10 PM

(And I mean that in a kind way - as someone discussing something complicated, - not as some sort of patronizing SOB. Sorry!)

Caley - it's funny because I really don't like "Complicated."

Posted by Sean at May 28, 2004 4:11 PM

I was having this exact debate two days ago(sparked, coincidentally, by R.Kelly). Can you remove the artist from their work?

I know with literature it's easy-- we all own the English language and it takes on a life of its own once out of the author's hands. But with music, and especially with videos, the personality is so hard to remove. I want to be better than that-- I want to listen to music for music's sake, but sometimes I just can't. With someone like Avril I just get the feeling that it's too perfect-- that they were following a formula to a T and it's scientifically engineered to "Rock"-- Avril is by no mean's alone here. And Avril herself isn't really to blame.

I don't know. Different strokes for different folks, and I applaud you for not making your pleasures guilty ones.

Posted by music robot mark at May 28, 2004 4:22 PM

Oh, and I totally forgot--- Hard & Phirm are Chris Hardwick & Mike Phirman. They're both comedians out here in LA (I think they perform at the M bar fairly often). Mike Phirman you may not know, but Hardwick hosted MTV's "Singled Out" with Jenny McCarthy back in the 90s.

Posted by music robot mark at May 28, 2004 4:26 PM

No offense taken, Sean, and well put. And, well, at least I'm consistent--This may start a whole other heresy thread, but I really don't have much use for Elvis either. Fire at will.

As for the '60s analogies, you got me: The Monkees and Motown indeed had some fine moments. But fairly or otherwise, I hold modern hitmaking machinations with more distaste. Maybe it's the increased power of record companies and commercial radio, or the technology that allows just about everyone to sound 'good' that has made 'pop' seem somehow even more cynical nowadays, at least to me.

Anyway, before I start chasing my tail, my ears are definitely clogged like you mentioned. And I'm okay with it--Avril's got plenty of folks digging her. I think Mark put it pretty well too, good on ya for being able to still enjoy.

Posted by chris at May 28, 2004 6:08 PM

i think sean is right on about avril. and it's funny, cause the song that got me to let go of my latent distaste for manufactured pop was also an avril song, though for me (like someone else up there) it was "complicated". you just have to sort of realize that the gift of being able to write a strong melody and a catchy hook doesn't just fall into the hands of art students. it doesn't discrimite against assholes, sellouts, crimnals, brats...

and as for comparing the catchiness of an avril song and the catchiness of a butterfinger jingle, i think that's what sean was addressing with the lesser tracks on the streets album. songs can set up in your head and either annoy you (like the streets songs), or they can invigorate you and put a stupid grin on your face (like avril's songs). that said, alot of avril's songs are really weak. she herself is no great talent.

Posted by george at May 28, 2004 6:43 PM

oh yeah: along with ben gibbard and travis morrison, will oldham has jumped on the McPop bandwagon. i saw him a few days ago and he did a cover of "ignition" (not the remix). it wasn't some sad-bastard cover either: it was completely in the spirit of r kelly's version, right down to oldham two-handing the mic and getting all up in his girl guitarist's grill.

Posted by george at May 28, 2004 6:47 PM


Posted by Sean at May 28, 2004 6:54 PM

oh and george is otm about everything.

Posted by Sean at May 28, 2004 6:54 PM

In the spirit of pop music I'm not supposed to like, everyone should take a gander at Listen Closer.

The Maria Mena track is ridiculously catchy, and has lyrics like "i hope you can forgive for that time when i put my hand between your legs and said it was small / cause it's really not at all". I love it.

Posted by Anonymous at May 28, 2004 7:50 PM

being guilty for liking something is SO 1998. that being said, i taught myself not to care whether the person was talented, whether the studio paid for the song to be on the radio, whether the singer is a brat, whether its specifically engineered to appeal to me.

some people swear by drugs that were made in a lab. i swear by the fact that "complicated" would never make my top one million songs, and i'd tell anyone 'the mountain goats' are better, but i sure do still like listening to it. there's plenty of room in the world for both.

Posted by justin why at May 28, 2004 8:02 PM

"there's plenty of room in the world for both"

cheers to that!

Posted by george at May 28, 2004 10:10 PM

What we're looking at here are a bunch of different criteria for judging music, which people use subconsciously or consciously, but not everyone shares. The bit of us that judges music is subconscious, because our response to music by nature must be emotional.

One of the things I admire about Said The Gramophone (apart from Sean's writing ability) is that he is good at inhabiting a bunch of these different criteria - he can see the good in Avril and write about her as gracefully as in Radiohead.

The justifications for liking both, say, Radiohead and Avril are essentially just dressed-up excuses; I personally prefer Radiohead but I think that's because I have a predilection for interesting chord progressions, and Radiohead are good at them, regardless of any political/ethical/artistic considerations involved.


Posted by tim at May 29, 2004 1:27 AM

and while it's not as 'intellectual' as a Stephen Malkmus record....


Posted by bw at May 29, 2004 1:41 AM

guitarist from Bishop Allen used to be editor in chief at maybe you've seen his stinky meat project?

Posted by L at May 29, 2004 5:04 AM

Nice to see someone else listening to Stephin Merritt's new work.

Posted by chris at May 29, 2004 7:00 AM

Richmond Fontaine were stonking in Leicester last night and I'm now the proud possessor of four of their albums, including a limited edition live highlights thingy. They did 'Alison Johnson' well (ended up moving to the front row to avoid talkers, which worked out fine) and a superb 'Polaroid' at my request. No, 'The Janitor' tho' ... it's not on 'Post To Wire' btw - I got it from a free cd with the latest 'Comes With A Smile' magazine.

Posted by Dymbel at June 1, 2004 7:05 AM

I've been trawling the net looking for Richomd Fontaine - The janitor. This page came up in a search. Does anyone know how I could get my hands on the track. All copies of the Comes With a Smile CD have gone. John Peel has a lot to answer for!

Thanks in advance.


Posted by Allenzo at September 23, 2004 3:50 PM

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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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Said the Gramophone launched in March 2003, and added songs in November of that year. It was one of the world's first mp3blogs.

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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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Back to the World
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