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.


Okkervil River - "Unless It's Kicks". It's not just one of the greatest songs of the year - it's one of the wisest. Sheff sings with an urgency that is like an underlining of key phrases, like two hands tugging to make sure all the seams hold. And whereas wisdom's so often dull, here it's knotted up in the work of a band who love the Shangri-Las, and Sam Cooke, and the craft of a pop song. I'd not be sad if every Okkervil River song sounded like this: shaker, tambourine, a revelation at the moment you go leaping off the stage and onto the raised hands of the crowd. It's the gladness of art & kicks & true-feeling lies, the way a good song is a hand grabbing desperately for your arm. It's the hardest-hitting kind of hit. Glorious. [buy The Stage Names, with bonus disc and free downloads and stuff]

The Octagon - "The Narrow Road to Oku". It's a little disoriented, this sandy rock-song. It went wandering into the desert with a bottle of red wine, a Pavement album, and a few hours later is like: what the fuck? Whoever it was supposed to meet with didn't show up; whichever stars it was expecting to see didn't make an appearance. And now its shoes are tied in unfamiliar knots, its hair is filled with grains of unfamiliar minerals, and it's got a catchy song in its head - something it found in a dune, burnished and hopeful and even a little buddhist. Whereever the hell it came from, The Octagon's gonna carry it around for a while. (Tip o' the hat to former Montreal drummer, Will Glass.) [pre-order]

St Vincent - "Marry Me". This was better at Montreal's Sala Rossa, just Miss Saint Vincent and a baby grand, but we make do, we make do. Each of the opening lines is like a little glass of water, and we drink each one in turn. At its best this is a song of strange but unstumbling love - the sort of thing that makes me heartsick with envy for "John", the dude Vincent's batting her big eyes at. All the vocal effects, strings and muted horns are nice enough, but we're listening for the simple lilt of the chorus, the way the words balance on St Vincent's tongue, and that coy climax line: "Let's do what Mary and Joseph did / without the kid". [buy]

Fanfarlo - "Devil Town". I can't figure out if this lovely 1:55 ditty, piano & bass & horns & strings & glockenspiel & thunder-sheet & choir, is forlorn or resigned; if it's the first thing you sing at dawn or the last thing you sing at dusk, stumbling your way home. I'd like to sew it into a card and send it to all my wronged friends, the ones with stolen bikes or broken hearts. Fanfarlo have recorded such a pretty, pretty blues. (ps: shhh, it's a Bright Eyes Daniel Johnston cover.) [buy the "Fire Escape" single]


Happy Birthday, Dan Beirne. I'd say more but for the first time in a three years I was here, Sunday, to give you my well-wishes in person. I'm happy for that.


The full suite of videos from the Blogotheque's Soiree a Emporter is now online, in English, with amazing footage of David Herman Dune, Zach Condon, Kocani Orkestar, and many more. I even wrote a little blurb for them about a Sidi Ali clip.

Andrew Rose's story of seeing Leonard Cohen on the street seems to me either a) a true thing about Montreal; or b) a true thing about living in a world where artists dwell. Either way: good.

"After all that, how does live octopus tentacle taste? A little like fury fused with fear."

Posted by Sean at August 13, 2007 1:09 AM

It's okay Sean! Daniel Johnston wrote the original not Bright Eyes.

Posted by Matt at August 13, 2007 1:45 AM

Wikipedia says Lou Reed loves Okkervil. I do too.

Posted by issa at August 13, 2007 11:39 AM

The new Okkervil album is amaaaaaaaazing.

Posted by Caleb at August 13, 2007 12:08 PM

is it just me or is the okkervil river tune slowed down a bit? compare it to the album version, and it sounds like yours is on the sizzurp.

Posted by josh at August 13, 2007 6:42 PM

Yeah, I was happy to see them (Okkervil) come out in the open with their love for early rock and roll on this one (barring "Listening to Otis Redding At Home During Christmas," of course).

Posted by Mark at August 13, 2007 11:43 PM

Hard hitting indeed. Great song.

Posted by Jeff at August 14, 2007 1:35 PM

love that song. love it love it.

Posted by clare at August 14, 2007 4:07 PM

Why do I feel like the melodies in all of Okkervil River's songs just so distant from being catchy? While I think Sheff's lyrical content is really interesting, and they have some pretty cool music -- where's the soul? Where's the heart? Short-stories are great and all, but that's why I read books. While I appreciate that other people appreciate them, not my cup of tea I suppose. For those of you want some Rock and Roll with a little more umph!, try The Delta Spirit. That's a band that has something moving within them.

Posted by Tim at August 14, 2007 8:24 PM

i can hear what you're saying in some okkervil songs, Tim, but "unless it's kicks" is an example of immediate, lapel-grabbing melody and arrangement. i'm really surprised you don't feel that way. did you listen to it? there's nothing "short story"-like about this thing.

unless you're just a shill for the Delta Spirit, that is.

Posted by sean at August 14, 2007 9:11 PM

Nah, not just a "shill." And I listened to the song, but I've just heard a lot of other stuff from other bands that sounds JUST like this. Whatever though, It's dumb to criticise what someone else gets from a song. I'm glad that someone gets something from it, I guess.

Posted by tim at August 15, 2007 11:50 PM


Posted by Exclusions Apply at August 20, 2007 4:25 AM

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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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"And I shall watch the ferry-boats / and they'll get high on a bluer ocean / against tomorrow's sky / and I will never grow so old again."
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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