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.


Asthmatic Kitty's recent decision to issue a b-sides compilation for Royal City was one of my favourite pieces of news this year. This Guelph, Ontario band (I don't get to say that very often) are one of Canada's all-time great indie groups, but due to the modesty, restraint and burnished gold of their folk-rock sound, they never received their due. (Let's put it this way - celebrating Arcade Fire just pre-Funeral, it's Royal City I compared them to.) I'm so glad to have a label like Asthmatic Kitty - American! critically acclaimed! Sufjan! - singing their praises, trying to teach a few more people about what we all took for granted.

Royal City folded after 2004's Little Heart's Ease, and their original label, Three Gut, packed it in the following year. That was the last time I wrote substantively about Royal City (I've just put those songs back online), and we had Guelph's own Tim Kingsbury, now of Arcade Fire, write an epitaph too. (By the way, I've changed my mind about Royal City's Alone at the Microphone, which I sneered at here. It's a great record.)

Okay okay, but even more hoorayingly, Asthmatic Kitty's Royal City comp is gorgeous. The most beautiful CD object I've seen in ages, weird & different, made with thick board and metallic ink, and utterly worth purchasing whether you're an old fan or new. Obviously, the music is great - you can stream the whole thing at MBV. But we're also celebrating the album's release in even greater style, with a Said the Gramophone give-away. (MBV and Chromewaves are doing them too.)

Up for grabs is one set of Royal City art-prints, part of a hand-numbered series of 30. These giclee prints are 6 1/2" x 6 1/2", archival ink on 310gsm German Etching stock. They are beautiful. Ryan Catbird made them with the help of Three Gut founders Lisa Moran and Tyler Clarke Burke, and used Tyler's original artwork from all three formal Royal City releases, 2000’s At Rush Hour The Cars, 2001’s Alone At The Microphone, and 2004’s Little Heart's Ease. Most of these sets went to the band and label, but one will go to our readers.

Royal City art prints

To win our set of prints, listen to the songs below and tell us (in the comments) what we should have put beside [at least] one of them, instead of that boring release info. The contest closes 11:59 pm on Sunday, June 28. Thanks to Ryan for organising all this.

Royal City - "I Called But You Were Sleeping" (b-side, reissued on 1999-2004)
Royal City - "Cabbage Rolls" (from Little Heart's Ease)

[Buy Royal City, 1999-2004.]

(ps: happy st-jean baptiste!)

Posted by Sean at June 24, 2009 8:00 AM

Royal City - "Cabbage Rolls" (the song on repeat exactly one week after she's moved out, when, out of the blue, she calls just to say 'hi,' and you catch yourself wondering if you've always answered phones with 'hey hey')

Posted by brian at June 24, 2009 11:43 AM

Why you gotta go breakin' my heart?

Posted by Katie at June 24, 2009 11:59 AM

Royal City - "I Called But You Were Sleeping" (the song that comes to mind while thinking about all the times you would lay in bed next to her, who is fast asleep, but you would stay awake wondering if good times like these would ever end, and you can't help but smile as a small tear sheds from your eye)

Posted by craig at June 24, 2009 12:17 PM

Royal City - "I Called But You Were Sleeping":
You were always far away from me, even when we were holding hands. I called you this morning to try to find you near me, maybe to capture you, in a golden and shining cage, but you were wise my dear, for you slept. Of what do you dream my pretty one? I hope you dream of me, but I know that really you are thinking about faraway glittering spires and elephants in mirrored costume, and you could fly over it all, for it was yours. I will wait for you, here in this city, I will be here when you return to the ground.

Royal City - "Cabbage Rolls"
Horses, cabbages and birds, a little bit of twang. My wooden house. Just me there know, and the wide prairie holds me close at night instead of you, sweetheart, but I hear the grasses blowing and hear you thinking of me.

Posted by Keseral at June 24, 2009 2:19 PM

Royal City - "I Called But You Were Sleeping"
In the fall they use to bike there at night to look over the city. Steam could be seen rising as their bodies cooled down. The cold air would refresh as it entered their lungs and cooled the sweat on their skin. They would look out at the city below them and enjoy being; the cold slowly seeping in. When it went from refreshing to chilling, they would realize the moment couldn't last forever and they would head back. What they didn't notice, was the cold seeping into their hearts.

Posted by michael at June 24, 2009 2:59 PM

The steam on the window from the untouched coffee has evaporated to near nothing as i sit on the windowsill like any normal rainy day. Nothing torrential in this rain. Its not like the rain that suprises you, forces itself upon you, aiming for your bones. A wild rain that is a crazy as it is short, and just as lustfull. The rain that people talk about the next day, but not the day after. The one night stand rain.
No this rain is the light rain that is here for the long haul. No matter how you prepare for it and prevent it from getting to your flesh, it manages to soak into your heart.
I checked my machine after I woke up.
The steam from my beating heart makes it to see out the window.

Posted by Andy McGee at June 24, 2009 3:18 PM

Royal City - "I Called But You Were Sleeping" and "Cabbage Rolls"

But if I hadn’t said that, what might have been next? There might have been garlic tastings. There might have been ponds. There might have been block-print herons wading in the shallows. There could have been a long, narrow lane lined with black-and-white poplars. There would have been sledding on hills not high enough to be hills. Maybe there would have been a weathervane or a mailbox with a flag or something involving a barn. Maybe there would have been enough for me to realize what was was because of what I hadn’t said.

Posted by Austin at June 24, 2009 3:19 PM

Royal City-"I Called But You Were Sleeping" (This is a song pregnant with regret, and could possibly be a stakler's theme song. I'm not sure. What I am sure of is an acoustic guitar song is almost always better with a xylophone accompaniment, Royal City understands this too.)

Posted by Andrew at June 24, 2009 5:32 PM

Royal City- "I Called But You Were Sleeping":

He counted the number of times it rang while he waited for her to answer. 1, 2, 3, 4 (what if she doesn’t answer….?), 5, 6. (she’s not going to answer…..)

He is begging to be remembered.
But she is too busy dreaming to notice.
It isn’t a fair song at all.
Because, at nighttime, I bet he thinks of her before he falls asleep.
As he lies in bed and watches the headlights of passing cars make shadows on the walls.

This man knows all distance is long distance.
It doesn’t matter whether it is 5 feet or 10,000 miles.
He knows distance is more than the amount of space between A and B.
It is the air between two people.
The silence on the other end of the line.
The quiet shift from first times to second thoughts.

This man is far, far away from his baby.

Posted by j. at June 24, 2009 7:03 PM

Royal City- "I Called But You Were Sleeping"

To one feels when they see someone that they love going so far away, but they see that it's irrelevant at how small the physical distance is, the emotional distance is overwhelming.

Posted by oyn at June 24, 2009 10:07 PM

Royal City - "Cabbage Rolls"
Love is...
...those cabbage rolls as I swam in your ocean blue eyes at Cooper's Automotive. And when you professed to me your love of transfats, I knew that I could finally toss that bottle of ketamine and just be myself.

Posted by Derek at June 25, 2009 3:16 AM

Royal City-"I Called But You Were Sleeping" (Please remember this song)

Posted by frank at June 25, 2009 9:06 AM

Royal City "I Called But You Were Sleeping"
Music that makes you feel like a small godly ghost is massaging the insides of your ribcage.

Posted by Urileye at June 25, 2009 9:52 AM

Love those drawings.

Posted by fds at June 25, 2009 11:26 AM

"Cabbage leaves are stuffed with filling and then baked, simmered or steamed in a covered pot. Generally eaten warm, often accompanied with a sauce, which varies by cuisine. In Finland and Sweden, stuffed cabbage roll is often served with bittersweet lingonberry jam." And, yes, here the raw material of relationships is filled with the meat of love, and served with a bittersweet offering…

Posted by J at June 25, 2009 12:49 PM

Royal City - "I Called But You Were Sleeping" (not for contests)

Posted by Morgan at June 25, 2009 1:31 PM

Cabbage Rolls: (Awkward embrace. 14 and in love, they walk down the street in the heat, his hand on her hip. She hesitates, adjusts it, not afraid but inexperienced. He, shy but trying, abides. This must get easier.)

Posted by Micah at June 25, 2009 2:59 PM

I Called But You Were Sleeping - The last song a yawning bear sings to the bear he loves as she drifts into hibernation.

Cabbage Rolls - Your fourth, really, really cold beer.

Posted by Billy at June 25, 2009 7:33 PM

Royal City - "I Called But You Were Sleeping" (or pretending to)

Royal City - "Cabbage Rolls" - (mustard sauce)

Posted by Shannon at June 26, 2009 1:24 PM

Royal City - "I Called But You Were Sleeping" (one of the coolest 'phone' songs you'll hear)

Royal City - "Cabbage Rolls" (maximize the song potential by eating while listening to it)

Posted by Jess at June 26, 2009 3:25 PM

Royal City -- "I Called But You Were Sleeping" (If you were to add up all the words that stormed the throat that flitted out like startled birds and all the things I said absent of anchor plus all the things spoken standing backward and all the things cried out while my hands and feet were on fire or breathed when the minutehand was wrong, plus all the things I said before I recalled whose door I was standing under and all the things that left my lips as the twisted wrecks of the lovely machines they were before leaving I’m afraid they would outweigh our hearts, so don’t.)

Posted by shkins at June 26, 2009 5:07 PM

Royal City -- "I Called But You Were Sleeping" (The milky floated fog. The pea soup of dreamscape narrative. The most I can make of memory is a push in any direction, but every solid surface dissolves to a puff of smoke: exhausted, exhausting. You are there, too; and again I avoid you. My palm refuses to meet yours, my lips turn from your hair. If you dissolve, that lost continent may come sinking back. When you dissolve, I fear I might remain.)

Posted by Paul Rekk at June 27, 2009 3:43 AM

Royal City - "I Called But You Were Sleeping" (so he picked up his guitar and sang this song)

Posted by Patrick at June 27, 2009 11:19 AM

"I called" How many others cried? Seriously.

Posted by Mark at June 28, 2009 4:12 PM

Thanks for the many lovely responses. The winner is Billy, though Brian came very close.

Posted by Sean at July 2, 2009 2:06 PM

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about said the gramophone
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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Said the Gramophone launched in March 2003, and added songs in November of that year. It was one of the world's first mp3blogs.

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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.

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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.

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