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.


Bike crash

The Cotton Jones Basket Ride - "Had Not a Body". Page France's Hello, Dear Wind is a beautiful, dear album, and Said the Gramophone was an early and vocal proponent of Michael Nau's violet & silver pop songs. You may however have noticed a lack of coverage here of this year's And the Family Telephone or the past twenty months' countless MySpace-leaked demos, side-projects, solo outings and whatnot. And that's because none of that work has held a candle, not a flickering flame, to Hello, Dear Wind. Nau's greatest strengths - the heartbreaking, skylarking melodies; the ring & bell; the enfolded rhymes; the ripe, sacred imagery, - were cast aside in favour of, I dunno, modest singer-songwriter pop songs. Narrative songs, clever songs... Nothing like the elegies & fanfares that populated the debut. I can't help but think that the dismissive remarks about the album's religious imagery - especially at Pitchfork - spooked Nau and steered him away from his muse. I've still not heard anything from him that speaks to the potential in "Feather" - not the best song on Hello..., but the one that suggested the scale of his promise.

But Nau's new project, the mouthful known as The Cotton Jones Basket Ride, might yet redeem things. "Had Not a Body" is far away, very far away, from the glockenspiel psalms of Hello, Dear Wind, but instead Nau shows a hot, salt-and-pepper affection for the work of Harry Nilsson or even VU-era Velvet Underground. It's kitchen-counter soul with a Sunday night guitar-line, voices hangin' with voices, the mice coming out from the mousehole to teach the cats all how to dance. It's something to rub on your arms and neck before you go out into the cold; something to keep you warm and smelling of home.

[Cotton Jones MySpace]
[buy Hello, Dear Wind]


Of Montreal - "Voltaic Crusher/Undrum to Muted Da". Of Montreal already released perhaps the greatest album of 2007 and then they followed it up with an EP that's even better. Icons, Abstract Thee comprises five songs. One of these ("Du Og Meg") is a beautiful star-kissed love-story; one ("Miss Blonde, Your Papa Is Failing") is a tribute & apology & promise to a daughter; one ("Derailments In A Place Of Our Own") is a sad, confused, bitter plea; one ("No Conclusion") is no conclusion; and "Voltaic Crusher/Undrum To Muted Da" is a fond, self-deprecating (and even self-hating) prayer for an ex-girlfriend to find happiness. But what's extraordinary about all these is their joy: their sheer pop pop. Even "Derailments...", with its dark melodic monotone, feels like it could be the middle eight from a Beatles song. They are confessional, unvarnished, sincere, and yet resplendent, sonically dazzling, miles away from the singer-songwriter lope/mope the autobiographical lyrics might otherwise predicate.

"Voltaic Crusher/Undrum to Muted Da" is my favourite. It's two minutes long and expresses a feeling that's mixed-up and familiar and something I'm not sure I've ever in my life heard sung. Oh and it's hooky & catchy & fun as a thousand fucking circuses. The song starts by lamenting the death of a relationship, the way the singer has screwed things up. "If there's a god / he will repair your heart. / If there's a god / send her an angel." And we think we're headed to that expected conclusion - the boyo who hopes his girlo can fall back in love with him. But no, nay, nuh-uh. Kevin Barnes asks that the angel, essentially, be a hottie. "Someone to love her volcanically!"

Next we hit the from-all-sides-high-five hookapalooza the line: "AND PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE GOD DON'T BE A BASTARD!" and Kevin's explaining how Kevin ought to be banished to memory, to oblivion, smiling and cheering as he explains this, telling his former lover to find happiness ASAP. In the hands of a guy with acoustic guitar and tape hiss, this would be a tiresome, cliched self-loathing. But Kevin's on the fuckin' moon, jamming with a joy and fierceness that seems altogether new to me; a new way of singing these feelings, a new model for heartbroken hunks of flesh. Something akin to dancing your worries away, to mourning the loss of a love by loving everything you can, to seeing through your tears the world's every beauty. Last night I biked happily down the night streets, waving to the falling leaves, hooting at the owls, singing wide-smiled that "You gave me your heart / I gave you my fist / please don't lose any sleep over me / baby / I hardly exist!" Of Montreal have got even the unheartbroken singing along to heartbreak.



Elsewhere: I love the Listening Party song at Shake Your Fist.

Jess Harvell writes an overdue, honest and thought-provoking article on the 2007 music hype-o-sphere. At Idolator, of all places.

And finally -- Ola Podrida's new music video is absolute lunatic genius. Like the Incredible Hulk crossed with a back-porch strummer.

[photo source unknown]

Posted by Sean at October 22, 2007 12:18 PM

so few have spoken of this elephant in the room surrounding page france.

thank you for your candor and honesty

Posted by liam at October 22, 2007 9:26 AM

Nau's spiritual musings are fascinating, aren't they? I, too, enjoyed Hello, Dear Wind rather than the majority of the other material. There was a striving imminence to it that I haven't heard in anything else. Cheers to the new material.

Posted by tim at October 22, 2007 10:46 AM

"It's kitchen-counter soul with a Sunday night guitar-line, voices hangin' with voices, the mice coming out from the mousehole to teach the cats all how to dance."

You've got a way with describing these songs so perfectly, so effortlessly. Wonderful post!

Posted by Dylan at October 22, 2007 5:47 PM

Also, I hope that wasn't you on the bike..

Posted by Dylan at October 22, 2007 6:11 PM

i just discovered "Voltaic Crusher" in my music today and have been listening non-stop, on repeat. i love the lyrics, they're terrific, and you're right: it's poppier and happier than i expect this song to be, poppier than i'm used to of Montreal being. but it's delightful anyway.

always good reading your posts. mayhaps i'll go for a bike ride myself now...


Posted by stephan!e lee at October 23, 2007 1:24 AM

i thought something was wrong with me for not liking the other page france albums, even their previous come, i'm a lion seems a bit manufactured as if to cater to a wider, more generic audience. maybe dear... was just nau's exasperated response to a fickle audience. and it worked. could it be that it was really a fluke?

Posted by israel at October 23, 2007 9:27 AM

it's just like anything else... either you like it or you don't. i wasn't a big fan of the page france records, but noticed potential. with that said, the new song here sounds as if nau has aged and figured out what he wants to do. good tune.

Posted by matthew at October 23, 2007 1:09 PM

I followed the link to the Pfork review and am very confused. You really think that review was "dismissive" of Nau's religious concerns?

Posted by DW. at October 24, 2007 1:51 PM

Rather that the review reduced and pigeonholed the record - and in so doing it dismissed it, imho, - by considering it as nothing more than a "Christian" album. Not a work of beauty, of grace, of fun songs - but in effect 'merely a christian album'. There was even a follow-up feature at Pfork kind of addressing this. Brian's review enraged me.

Posted by Sean at October 24, 2007 7:43 PM

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Posted by yomka at August 28, 2008 4:50 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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Back to the World
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