Part 3: Music That's Been Blowing My Mind, At Least A Little Bit
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.


It's snowing in Edinburgh. Which is fairly unusual. The upside is that there's motion outside the window, a flurried kind of momentum. The downside is that I can't go to the end of the street and check my email, leeching wireless internet with my laptop.

I read on Carl's blog that the CBC is reworking its youth/alt. music programming. CBC Radio 3 will soon be deceased, at least in its online form. While I do have some faith that the CBC knows what it's doing, that the net result may be positive (could Canada even have a new radio channel, dedicated to this stuff?), I'm extremely distressed by the news that Brave New Waves is going to be taken off the air.

Since the 1980s, BNW has been one of the most amazing things about the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Here's a show that comes on for several hours, (almost) every weeknight, across the whole country. It's a show dedicated to good music, to "brave" music. And it never seemed to care what that music was. I heard The Streets on BNW. I heard the Unicorns ("before they were big"). I heard an interview with WIRE and a profile of Zoviet*France. I heard contemporary classical music, rock music, hiphop, jazz. I heard senseless noise and two-minute pop songs. I heard boring stuff and marvels, instant classics and the obscurest of the obscure.

All of it was presented with a particular sort of Canadian enthusiasm, a calm earnestness that made you give every single piece of music a chance. That made me put up with the white noise, the twang or the rapping, even back in the days when I couldn't stand that stuff.

BNW taught me more about music - about the variety, about searching to understand, about hunting for the gleam, - than any other institution. And it was an institution, for tens of thousands of Canadians. Millions? Maybe.

I'm not the only one who got into interesting music because of, or due in no small part to, Brave New Waves. There are farmboys from Saskatchewan who spent their whole days waiting for midnight, for those moments when they would win access to something beyond the endless fields. There are girls from Quebec City who had never imagined something like what they heard on 103.3. And I can only imagine the impact it had during the explosion of Canadian indie rock at the end of the 80s. I can only imagine because I was still a kid.

So - if you loved Brave New Waves, like me, even a little bit, I suggest you contact CBC and tell them how you feel. Because no matter what happens to the country's "youth" programming, I want to be able to go back to Ottawa and Montreal, to come home from a party at 1:30am, to turn on my radio and hear Patti (or whomever's) reassuring voice, then the nonsense squall of some new noise act. (And if that doesn't persuade you, even The Books love Brave New Waves, or at least Ms Schmidt.)

Anyway, on to the tunes!


Josephine Foster & the Suppose - All the Leaves are Gone
--listen to "The Most Loved One"

I discovered Josephine Foster through the cold and warm music of Born Heller, which we've seen on Gramophone before. She has a sharp, muscular voice, like the evil stepsister who trained in opera and sorta regretted that Cinderella stuff. Born Heller plays very still music, trembling but direct; I assumed that a Josephine Foster solo project would be more normal, more typical. Instead of skeletal arrangements with free-jazzing bass and strings, it would be plain songs with acoustic guitar. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus.

But, uh, I was wrong. Josephine Foster and the Suppose don't do pretty James Taylor covers. Instead, Foster sings with all her wildness, all her itch, and the band dives into messy, free-wheeling electric guitar noise. Where Born Heller is poised, the Suppose tear stitches and kick down fences. Like the Velvet Underground and Nico, I guess, only everyone's gone a little mad, trapped in a snowy cabin till 5 in the morning. Or maybe the Minus Story brings home a woman they met at the dive down the street, the one who kept talking about swans.

I don't know - those descriptions are silly and insufficient. Josephine Foster & the Suppose have recorded an album called All the Leaves are Gone, and it's been Blowing My Mind. It's a record about decay, but it's also about messy bursts of life, the biggest swoops of feeling. It's as frenzied as Frog Eyes, as inflamed, but also shows sudden dives into Cocorosie-like melody, into tender acoustic couplets.

"The Most Loved One" shows both of those sides, the off-kilter shrieks and the murmured promises. Some lines are crazy, the words of someone you can't look in the eye. "Sometimes I feel," she sings "like stealing your seed / and sailing away. / I [her voice heaves] don't need you / come closer dear, / come down on my knees." The next moment, there's a gossamer wooziness to the proceedings, a message whispered into your ear: "Don't be guilty son / oh no / it's hard to love the most loved one." When the song clicks, on those afternoon when it's got its claws in my brain in all the right places, I feel helpless before it, sent skipping down whatever trails it chooses, ever the singer's plaything.


Beck - Hell Yes EP

Man, I wish I could share some of this with you. But the blog's one brush-in with lawyers may well have been the result of a Beck post, so you'll have to forgive me if I play it safe.

By this point, lots of people have heard the leaked tracks from Beck's upcoming LP. It sounds ok. I'll resist passing judgment until I've heard the final mixes. But yeah, it sounds ok.

This EP, though, this Hell Yes record, is absolutely joyful, absolutely kick-ass, the sort of thing that convinces me of Beck Hansen's genius, his capacity to bounce back from one or two albums of missteps. (You can read my thoughts on Sea Change here).

Hell Yes is a 4-song remixy b-sidey kind of thing, with all of the tracks dreaming in 8-bit GameBoy sound. Sounds like the stuff of a Beastie Boys side-project circa 2000? I guess. But forget that this idea is ten years from fresh - there's such life in these tunes, such scamper and play. Listening to the midi flowers on "BAD CARTRIDGE (E-pro)," or the save-the-Princess aria that underlies "BIT RATE VARIATIONS IN B-FLAT (Girl)," I don't hear kitsch - I hear bright, bursting life. I feel like I could squelch and buzz my way to true love, score wedding marches on a touch-tone phone. There's none of the heaviness of the album versions, none of that serious and willful eclecticism: there's just the free flow of sound and words, hip-hop and Nintendo tunefulness, stylish sandbox goof-offs.

It's beautiful and unpretentious. It's hip and childish. It's happy, it's grinning, it's one of a kind. [buy]


Lambchop - "Is A Woman"

Another one of Jordan's picks, from a long time ago.

I don't know what to make of this song. I keep turning back to it, turning it to another angle, trying to find an answer in its subtle steps, its slow progress toward reggae.

Taken moment by moment, from the glistening piano notes, to the careful singing of the words, the "can -- you -- be -- sure," the crescendoing vocals and the quiet answer of the instruments, the way he sings "cloudy cloudy day," and then the way we slip into backbeat (and out again), - taken moment by moment, - it's as lovely as anything I can remember. I'm held in Lambchop's hands, I'm brought from one lamp to another, I'm treated with such care.

Maybe that's because it's being sung to a woman. To women. Or maybe it's becase it's not really being sung to a woman, but to the memory of one. To the dream of one. To debauched moments in someone else's imagination.

I don't know. I don't understand the song, its tone of voice. But I'm struck by it, I'm captivated by it, I'm maybe a little obssessed by it. I keep putting it on. I keep trying to figure it out. [buy]


Amerie - "One Thing"

My friend Anne made me a mix CD and this was on it. And - whoa. Holy cow. Etc. Amerie sings like it's 2005, but the production - all real drums, ding-a-ling cymbal, plunging bass, - is like a chunk of vintage organic funk. And as the beat grabbed me by the lapels, I just couldn't get over it. How does something as old fashioned as this, as unsynthesized and un-cut-up, how does this anachronism sound like the freshest sound I've heard this year? The Neptunes are playing with pong bats, Timbaland with indian strings, but this is the sound that feels like a bold new idea - this retro sample (is it a sample? who knows/cares). Never mind M.I.A. - I'm agog at a Beyonce with drum-kit.

Maybe I'm wrong to feel this way, maybe the feeling will pass. But for the moment "One Thing" is juicyfruit, somersaulting between my ears whenever I put it on. I bump when the guitar bumps, I ding dong ding when Amerie ding-dong-dings, I flex my feet in my socks and imagine tomorrow's pop music, tomorrow's Source cover, a resurrected James Brown. (Oh wait, he's not dead. Okay, just plain alive James Brown, storming the charts.)

"Is this one thing that caught me slipping?"


(When I was travelling I fell totally out of touch with the r&b scene, so I still don't know if Amerie broke the charts bigtime, whether she's still climbing, or whether she's yet to appear. All I know is that she's majorly on a major.)


Still to come this week: uh, did I mention Van Morrison?

Posted by Sean at March 2, 2005 8:45 AM

welcome back sean, and thank you in advance for all the great stuff you'll be telling us all about once again.

Posted by justin whye at March 2, 2005 10:02 AM

Welcome Back
A good news/bad news day--bad for the BNW news, good for the Josephine Foster & The Suppose cut--did you ever hear an old LP (+/- 1983? -- I don't think its on cd) by Kath Bloom, w/ Loren Mazzacone, gtr? If music has family trees, Bloom has got to be there holding up Foster...almost painful to absorb, but an extrordinary stretching of genre.

Posted by J at March 2, 2005 11:18 AM

Yes, yes. I believe "One Thing" is built from pieces of The Meters' "Here Come the Metermen." It's by Rich Harrison, up until now best known for Beyonce's "Crazy in Love"

Posted by Jay Smooth at March 2, 2005 1:12 PM

Great to see you back, and verbose. I love the Beck EP too, far better than the leaked album tracks, which were just blah.

Posted by John at March 2, 2005 1:23 PM

i love that beck ep too, but i haven't heard any of the album versions. i'm sad to hear that they're boring in comparison. supposedly the album will come with a disc of high-profile remixes (dntel, dizzee rascal, boards of canada) so maybe that'll be cool.

Posted by george at March 2, 2005 1:41 PM

It looks like Radio 3 is just taking over from BNW, going from a weekend-only thing to being on weekdays as well, but it sucks that the online portion is getting slashed. You'd think with all the surplus money the gvt has on it's hands, the CBC would get something...

Posted by mike at March 2, 2005 3:41 PM

i LOVE is a woman. have you seen the video for the song? it's directed by shynola....wonderful.

this site is great, thanks much!

Posted by daniel at March 2, 2005 3:46 PM

hi sean. i am glad you are back.

Posted by alex at March 2, 2005 4:33 PM

The Beck album cuts are only boring compared to the EP cuts if you enjoy Game Boy music more than actual instruments. Hear it for yourself, then judge it.

Posted by Paul at March 3, 2005 1:48 AM


Welcome back, indeed. I hope you managed to not get screwed by the cabbies in Prague.

The cancellation thing has me really bummed out. (I think it was one of the best sites on the web)

I wrote an open letter to CBC President Rabinovich yesterday ( and forwarded it to some folks I know at the corp. (I know for a fact they read ALL their mail)

If you, or any of your readers, are miffed (or like me, worried) you/they should do the same.

Look forward to more Seanophone.


Posted by fatcitizen at March 4, 2005 5:00 PM

glad to see you enjoyed the amerie. :)

most excellent to have you back. sorry i couldn't make it up north last week. maybe this summer...?

Posted by anne at March 5, 2005 2:32 PM

Cancelling BNW is a crime. Its the best radio show Ive ever heard...It got me into a ton of great canadian acts Id never hear anwywhere else.

Posted by T at March 5, 2005 5:28 PM

Please strike my previous statement form the record, the Meters track that Amerie used is "Oh Calcutta"

Posted by Jay Smooth at March 13, 2005 12:49 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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