Part 5: 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.


The Sugarcubes - "Fucking in Rhythm and Sorrow"

After Phil embarassed my Van Morrison chronology, yesterday, I'm not going to play musicobiographer today. Just the plain facts: This is from the Sugarcubes' record Life's Too Good. Ta-da!

Now that Bjork is up to her ears in Wallpaper pretension ("So trendy / so trendy"), and not to altogether negative results, this song remains a defiant, wonderful statement of everything lively, everything silly, everything joyous that Bjork's still got inside her, behind that veil. It's lovely to turn the dial back to 1988 and hear a song from Iceland that is dedicated entirely to fun, with gasps and coos and yells and weird Yellow Submarine synth-horn toots.

"There's a naked person in my flat [blaw-waaaa] / who's got a weird expresion on his face! [doooooo]"

Heels will be kicked up. Hips will be twisted. A tap-dancer will ring the door-bell. Pleasure bombards this song, jouissant streamers flying from it, confetti popping in your eyes. She shrieks, she yells, she mutters, she runs out of breath and then yells louder again. She's Robert Smith crossed with an eight-year-old girl, singing the bodily things that the eight-year old never knew. The song's a celebration of love, not of some imaginary idyll, but of reality's messy riot. "Sweet and sour!" she bellows and drones, tongue lolling in her mouth. "Tak tak tak tak tak tak - ee!" It's enough to make you want to fall head over kicked-up heels. [buy]


Devin Davis - "Giant Spiders"

I downloaded this song from Music for Robots. I've not heard Devin Davis' album, Lonely People of the World Unite, but boy do I want to. Because holy cow is "Giant Spiders" a good time, full of Hulk Smash drums, the hissing blur of an electric guitar, The Who's organ jitterbugging in the back. Davis sounds a lot like Pedro the Lion's Dave Bazan, but whereas the latter applies his moan to contemplative little stories, Devin Davis seems happier to yell a big pop-rock song. A big pop-rock song that knows a thing or two about retinas. "No, I won't sit still / till I'm upside-down in the back of your eyes." The track is arranged wonderfully, shot with bolts of different sounds, a thicket of drums and the soaring point of a rocket-blasting chorus. "We should be fine if we can survive THE GIANT SPIDERS!" he yells, sounding not unlike Brendan Reed (ex of the Arcade Fire), full of panicked sincerity and crazy love.

I'd like the Shins a lot more if they sounded like this. [buy]


Antony & the Johnsons - "Hope There's Someone"

I posted about Antony's "The Lake" last year. It was strange and splendid, haunted and aglow. "Hope There's Someone," though, might be even better. I've no idea if the LP will measure up. Advance reviews are over the moon, but there's room for I Am A Bird Now to be overserious, overwrought, and overrated. Carl's expressed some anxiety about where Antony's positioned himself as an artist, and there's a pretty good discussion there with Alex Ross.

But - the song. It's a tender one. And despite being a piano ballad, emotional, minor-chord, melismatic, Antony goes glib at just the right moments, echoes himself in doubletrack at just the right moments, and even - yes, - makes a mistake at just the right moment. I was listening to a Chet Baker version of "Little Girl Blue" today, thinking about the line between the poetry and the delivery, the way it's sad without being entirely "honest," in a rockist sense. Baker isn't experiencing these feelings as he sings them, at least not in toto, and definitely not for the first time. And I hear a similiar performed-ness in "Hope There's Someone," a level of remove that keeps this from being a Tori Amos or Bright Eyes song. "There's a ghost on the horizon," Antony sings, almost helplessly, but it's almost helplessly, and he shifts so swiftly to the narrative voice, in the studio with the piano.

This makes the song fake, but not any more fake than Ian McEwan's Atonement, Baker's "My Funny Valentine," or David Gordon Green's All the Real Girls (that is to say, not in a bad way). Despite the preparedness, the self-awareness, the songs is approached with care, with feeling, with truth. And with some degree of obligation. Sitting by those black and white keys, Antony's reading the words he wrote and trying to convey them to the listener, trying to make them sound as they felt when they were imagined.

The LP's not out yet, but you can download this song from the Secretly Canadian site.


The Diskettes - "Don't Let Me Down" (unmastered)

Dan already wrote about The Diskettes' fine new record, but it's time for some more.

Some people may wonder how Canada can produce such moonlight beach-time music as this, with its vinyl-string guitar, its harmonies and distant tide sounds. Don't bother wondering. It's because Canada has summers, and beaches, and lovers, too.

"Don't Let Me Down" is a trifle, but a magnificent one. Xylophone and surf, a bit of acoustic guitar, then the shimmer of jingle-bells and a scampering playtime beat. Sing along. Sing-along. "Please don't let me down." Actually, it's "Pleeeeease dooooon't leeeeeet me dooooown." The quick request just isn't enough. This is something that has to be made clear. Friends, are you listening? Sea, are you listening? World, are you listening? PLEASE DON'T LET ME DOWN. It's not an order, it's a request. PLEASE. DON'T LET ME DOWN. I don't know if there's a more powerful prayer you can make. (Is it a coincidence that "don't" sometimes sounds like "God"?) PLEASE DON'T LET ME DOWN.

And then it's done. Will the world let you down? Probably. But you've put your trust in it, you've declared your faith in kindness, you've sing-songed and crossed fingers and willed something with friends. So maybe it won't. The world.

[preorder from BlocksBlocksBlocks]


Max de Wardener - "Hundreds and Thousands"

When I met the marvellous Matthew-in-London, he gave me a copy of Matthew Herbert's great compilation, You Are Here. This is the track that opens the CD.

It's an electronic track built out of the interweave of an organ, that queer whalesong of tones. It's music for three hundred years after the wreck of a church. Max de Wardener uses pauses. He lets beats approach slowly. And then he only lets them skitter across the organ's jersey surface, flickering and flashing. When things break up there's a new force that comes sweeping across the horizon, and another, and another. The Quick settle, explore, love and lose, die out; then there are more of them, different ones. And again more. But always there's that Slow organ tone, that deeper voice, that spirit that can't be shaken off. Until the strange tragedy of the sudden ending, the moment where against all expectation - silence.

This song is remarkable, moving, melancholy, sad. It doesn't need words.



It's Friday today. Which means that my week on Gramophone is at a close. And I haven't even been able to touch on the brilliant mix of Brazilian music that Anne gave me. Goshdarn.

But I'll see you again when "Gramophone 3.0" begins in two or three weeks - until then, Jordan and Dan have things up their sleeves.

Also - I'm going to be selling merch for the Arcade Fire on this fortnight's mini European tour. So if you're going to be at one of the shows in London, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Stockholm or Oslo, please come and say hello. (Hopefully you'll come say hello when I'm not altogether mobbed.) I'll be the fellow in beard and glasses selling t-shirts.

take care!

Posted by Sean at March 4, 2005 7:18 AM

Sean -- the Antony & the Johnsons album came out last month. It's great, although I see what you mean by the fakeness aspect of it. Nevertheless, Antony isn't Joey Arias, to whom it's so easy to respond with lines such as "Ooh, women's standards ... sung by a man who sounds remarkably like the women who sang them! Now how much would you pay?"

All Antony's tropes of "fakeness" -- the sorta-but-not-quite-Nina-Simone, the minor chords that come out of nowhere for some mysterious purpose, the genderbending that seems almost too calculated for its own good -- makes him different from past fakes (Arias, but also Peaches or Nellie McKay) who only say no to the ordinary world and don't give the listener anything with which to replace it.

The way that Antony assembles these moves -- giving his music the power to shock where other artists wanting to do the same thing have only ended up having novelty value -- ends up achieving something that rips the listener out of his or her preconceived context, and into a utopian world in which there's always someone there to fulfill our deepest desires. How can you not fall in love with that?

Posted by esque at March 4, 2005 8:34 AM

so this is slightly unrelated- but can you post more music from "set yourself on fire?" I keep trying to find more from stars, but seem to be a bit incapable.

Posted by mo at March 4, 2005 11:24 AM


Welcome back! The whole Devin Davis album is worth owning. Lots of great stuff on there. Start with the opening track "Iron Woman." It's just an excellent pop album.

Posted by robot mark at March 4, 2005 11:41 AM

Well it was worth burning you that CD just to get that great review! It's what electronic music should be like... inventive, emotional but not agressive.

Huh? what is that? You're selling merch for the arcade fire?? They've hit it big now, it's great. I'll be a the astoria gig, will you still be there?

Posted by Matthew in the UK at March 4, 2005 3:34 PM

holy crap i love the diskettes. ive got every track i can find from them. thanks a lot sean/gramophone.

Posted by elliott at March 4, 2005 5:20 PM

Hey Matthew. Sadly, I don't think I'll be at the Astoria. Have a great time, though. (Thanks again for the CD, and for saying nice things!)

esque - Thanks for that thoughtful comment. I think you're right that Antony offers us something chilling and beautiful from just on the other side of a looking-glass. For me, though, any 'fakeness' isn't relatedto the genderqueer stuff, or the similarity to (black, female) Nina Simone. It has to do with the aspect of non-confessional confessional lyrics... Nellie McKay is a much closer fit, I guess, but it goes deeper than that - to (also great) people like Leonard Cohen or Tom Waits. It's very anti-jazz. The angst is -generated-.

Posted by Sean at March 5, 2005 7:52 AM

Last weekend there was a nice documentary on Dutch national tv which included Antony & The Johnsons but also Andrew Bird, Albert Ayler and a heart wrenching part about Daniel Johnston. Highly recommended. Honestly, don't miss the Daniel Johnston part.

Windows Media Player:


Antony & The Johnsons - 3:10
Andrew Bird - 17:55
Daniel Johnston - 31:55
Albert Ayler - 53:55

Posted by Bubbachups at March 5, 2005 8:53 AM

That's the final straw - I already knew "Motorcrash" was great, but now I need to own Life's Too Good. Mmmmmmm, so good.

Posted by bumblepuppy at March 6, 2005 10:11 PM

It's great to have you back, Sean.

Posted by rodii at March 6, 2005 10:36 PM

Thanks for pushing me to take one more spin through the Antony disc. I hadn't sat and listened to it properly - only at work and walking through the house - and this time it clicked. I think you're right to say that the melodrama comes from an honest place; for what it's worth, I can't stand Nellie McKay and am flabbergasted by the critical reaction to her.

And you sold a Devin Davis record to me, plus I will be seeking out more Max de Wardener - people, please feel free to e-mail me with suggestions.

Not much for the Diskettes, though.

Posted by borrowed tunes at March 7, 2005 11:21 PM

I would so trade anything and everything Bjork's ever done for Fucking in Rhythm and Sorrow. Or Deus, or Mama, or Cowboy, or just a single throat rattle in Birthday. Hell, throw out everything she did and just replace with Life's Too Good.

Posted by Yan at March 12, 2005 2:38 PM

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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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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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