Grizzly Bear and Girls Aloud
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.


Grizzly Bear - "Don't Ask". I expect a band called grizzly bear to have two brown-furred feet planted firm on the ground. I expect an album called Horn of Plenty to smell of moss and wheat and pinecomes. But no, no, no. This is an underwater record. It's seeds in a stream, pebbles in a pond, anemones on the bank, a mind swimming in a big ole' bear's head.

The first song's called "Deep Sea Diver", so that's a hint. There's no sign of fur. Instead, overlapping seaweed voices, the emerge-jar-and-shatter of drum samples, an acoustic guitar like a waving length of old twine.

Why do we go swimming? Because it's fun. Okay. See below. But we also go swimming in order to think. This is stupid. When I'm swimming, I'm always too busy swimming to think. It sounds great beforehand - there's something beguiling about concepts of "water" and "clarity"; there was that thing I heard at a dinner party about the "liquid embrace" of the womb; and, yeah, unbound by gravity I'll really be able to be.

It's nonsense though, right? There's the exhileration of moving face-first through water, breaking through bubbles and into cool eddies and then up up splash into sunlight, but the only thinking happens when you're floating on your back looking at a rock-and-tree or a girl or the waves rippling against the shore.

I find swimming confusing. It's a sensory overload, sight and sound and taste but most of all, too much touch. Touch, all over. I can't keep track. Maybe if I paused I'd be able to keep track, I'd be able to consider these sensations, the clarity and the womb and the freedom from gravity, and I'd be able to really think. But if I pause, see, I drown.

So we swim for fun (see below). And if I want to swim to think, there's Horn of Plenty.

There are similar sounds (Liars, Mark Hollis, Cocorosie, Animal Collective, The Microphones), but these sounds aren't as tender; they live in shells. It's an album full of memory, and feeling. It's full of scraps of wisdom, suggestions, secrets. It's got water and jellyfish and bottomless pits. It's got deep sea diver voices, rattles and brushes, pieces of songs. You need to keep your wits about you, if you want to hear it all. You need to submerge yourself but still keep breathing. And if you do, well, there's a lot to learn.

"Don't Ask" is the easy song. It's the one you can cling to. The tricky thing is that it comes so early on the record. (You can always skip back to it if you need it.) As it repeats in circles, guitar and Kings of Convenience voice, that weirdly out-of-place organ, you might get bored but then you remember that it's there to help you pause and rest and think and so you listen to the words, you wonder about it, you think about Woody Allen's Manhattan, which you watched last night, and you feel - well, you feel pretty good.

This album's being rereleased in the fall, bundled with a CD of remixes. Solex! Final Fantasy! Tim Finney! Booty-shaking from the Soft Pink Truth! Oh yes. They're also in studio, working on a new album (with a band!). And i think it's going to be a marvel.

[buy horn of plenty for only $11.06]


Girls Aloud - "The Show". If you're done with your stupid "swimming for thinking", come, friends, and join me in the POOL OF AWESOMENESS. Yes, this is the place. The water's azureblue and heated, there's steam, and you can zip around in doubletriplespeed. There's colourful swimsuits! There's tropical birds! And ohlook, there's Girls Aloud!

Girls Aloud don't seem to exist in North America, so I'm only just now discovering What Will The Neighbours Say. If you love a good pop song but mourn the dearth of consistent pop albums, well, guess what? You guessed it. Yay!

This song wears regular shoes but struts like they're stilettos, knee-highs, cowboy-boots. There are bits of Avril Lavigne, Anita Ward, The Killers, Savage Garden, Eiffel 65, Rachel Stevens, that obnoxious post-techno dance music that still charts in Europe, and everything's put together so it's great. I mean, even if the synths get your back up, pay attention there's a summer-jangle guitar in there, hiding at the rear.

The song's got a gazillion different sections, and each one's more fun than a Shins record (cheap shot!). I love how it's sung, I love the "chic-a-cherry-cola" play of consonants, I love how each melody tops the one that precedes it, an ourobouros of pop. It's a song so fine I don't want to see the video, cause that would just be distracting. Instead - front-crawl and backstroke and jack-knife dive; swim and dip and arc and leap; yay and wee and zip and pow.

(they have a new "hot" single, too, but i don't like it as much as this. no sir.)



Over at ORTF, some surprisingly well-imagined trip-hop from an artist called Mig. Like early Morcheeba, but with a wider palette.

16mm is the newly discovered blog of an acerbic old friend and marvelous film critic. He was quoted on the box of the Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter DVD, he's got a film at this year's Fantasia-Fest, and I have myself a new bookmark.

"Why the hell would you want to spend all night in a sweaty dungeon listening to some guy in $700 sunglasses play two crappy records at the same time while you get felt up by twenty five ugly people at once? Of course, this is coming from a guy whose idea of a good time is curling up on the couch with a tub of Pringles and a snuff film, but at least I won’t go retarded from the snuff film."
*sniff* it's been too long. [via neale]

Posted by Sean at July 26, 2005 4:00 AM

Welcome to the Girls Aloud world... we Brits have long cherished them for actually being Brit-Pop in a way that BritPop never was i.e. slutty, self-obsessed absence played with loud squiggles and (We've got a Fuzzbox) guitars... they can't even be bothered to dance properly which is kinda cute/cool and, more importantly, for Sad Dad's everywhere (I include myself, naturally) their absence and lack of mystery etc makes them seem almost reachable in a way that Kylie, Madge, Kelly Clarkson etc never will be...

I guess the USA equivalent would be Drew Barrymore - sorta Hollywood / sorta White Trash...

I guess in the UK they're sort of transcended 'pop' and are now spoken about with the hushed reverance normally given to Joanna Newsom or Bob Dylan or someone... certainly their music is regarded as way more honest (and rock n roll) than anything Oasis etc ever managed...

If they die early, GA'll be legends... maybe a multiple JG Ballard style pile-up on the M25...

One last thing: if this comes over as Irony then that's a common symptom of liking Girls Aloud.

It always starts that way...

Posted by Loki at July 26, 2005 10:05 AM

I'm glad to see that you're digging the Grizzly Bear album. That was a nice write-up you did for 'Don't Ask', but I have to say that nothing on Horn of Plenty eclipses the sort of worn, tired beauty of the songs 'La Duchess Anne' and 'Service Bell'. Those two are so pretty it's just ridiculous. Can't wait to hear those remixes-

Posted by Kevin at July 26, 2005 10:19 AM

i agree with kevin. and what you wrote. Don't ask is so pretty, but it's also the easiest, other songs that dont' immediately grab me, end up being the ones I go back to the most. i love this album a lot and am glad to see you've took note of it too...funny to have it coupled with girls aloud. yin and yang

Posted by eric at July 26, 2005 10:24 AM

Loki - thank you for that wonderful welcome into the Land of Girls Aloud. We can stand side-by-side!

kevin and eric - Horn Of Plenty is a deceptively difficult album... With all its whispers and flushes of acoustica, it seems like a lightweight. But yeah, you start digging and you see there's a lot there that's hard to get at; places it takes some time to pry open, to let the light in. My most favourite albums in the world are records that take a position like this, but then blend it with a cup of perfectly accessible pop - songs that are partially hid and yet plump with sing-along choruses. (Examples: Kid A, Astral Weeks, Agaetis Byrjun.)

I've heard a demo of one of the new Grizzly Bear songs and it's awesome. Really, really, really great. They've been listening to Dungen and they're recording with a bigger band and man, they might have a great surprise for people in the winter.

Posted by Sean at July 26, 2005 10:40 AM

Grizzly Bear is the deal.

Posted by RDI at July 26, 2005 12:08 PM

Grizzly Bear submitted to Pop Montreal!

Posted by Jay Watts III at July 26, 2005 2:40 PM

you also should see gb live. better than the album, mostly because it seems more fully realized, plus I'm a sucker for four part harmonies

Posted by eric at July 26, 2005 3:18 PM

We posted some stuff about Grizzly Bear on - check out their excellent "Owner of a Lonely Heart" if you can find it online still. Good to see you posting about them, and I would second the comment about the Grizzly Bear live experience. It is just that, an EXPERIENCE. Amazing.

Posted by Hamish Robertson at July 26, 2005 4:28 PM

yes. the record is like hanging out on the river with some brews and the live/band/show is like DROWNING. stellar, quite simply.

Posted by Francis at July 26, 2005 5:00 PM

Plus Grizzly singer Ed is a bit of alright, don't you think?

Posted by chris at July 26, 2005 7:39 PM

Grizzly Bear is among my top five albums for this year. I heard them in New York recently and based on some of the material that's not on the album, their new record is going to be even stronger than Horn of Plenty.

Posted by Jan at July 26, 2005 8:42 PM

Girls aloud?
what is with the fascination with them.

Posted by The Drunkard at July 26, 2005 9:00 PM

More respect for Grizzly Bear. Love it.

Posted by Greg at July 27, 2005 12:34 AM

Keep on listening to 'Long Hot Summer" by Girls Aloud…it will grow on you and you will not have any choice in the matter!

They are everybody's favorite chippy glam girl group no one will admit to liking, but everybody does…from the Times of London to John Travolta to Tommie Lee to Prince Harry.

They have had 9 consecutive top five hits in the UK and their two albums go platinum in a week. They just finished a 16 stop sold-out tour in UK and Ireland, and their third album is due this fall…and is being recorded in LA.

Vist their official to see their videos and hear their songs at…

Oh, yes: they are also, er, both gorgeous and ripped.

Posted by rrobertsjnr at July 30, 2005 11:17 PM

this sounds like a PR person for girls aloud. i'm not buying it...

Posted by eric at July 31, 2005 4:00 AM

I'm just a big fan, eric.

Their stuff isn't even released here and probably never will be.

Give the pathetic, sterile Pop scene on this side of the pond, one has to go elsewhere to find anything decent.

GA are just fun and new while being vast underdogs who are also injecting new life and new blood into the tired old Pop market.

Perhaps you might give them a chance.

I hope the guys here at will post other examples of their stuff…like, perhaps, 'No Good Advice' or 'Wake Me Up.'

Posted by rrobertsjnr at July 31, 2005 11:53 AM

Girls aloud are the best

Posted by Beth at January 7, 2006 3:39 AM

I have noticed that Girls Aloud is getting shut down in the U.S.A. I am from Oklahoma. and you don't hear of them. Wish that would change soon. I am so sick of hearing rap in everything. Or worse Paris Hilton. We don't get the Just fun to be fun Pop songs anymore it is so sad we need it.

Posted by Brenda at June 20, 2007 8:22 PM

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