Said the Guests: LITTLE SCREAM
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.


Little Scream photo by Susan Moss

Little Scream is Laurel Sprengelmeyer. She lives in Montreal. She played her first gigs in the summer of 2008; within two years, Dan was calling her the city's best live act. Last fall, we posted her gorgeous song "Heron and the Fox". It was one of my favourite songs of 2010. Describing her performances, I wrote: She would sing a thin, silver phrase, and the light in the room seemed to change. When she raged, with ring & thunder, you could smell the petrichor of somewhere else ... Sometimes instead of sounding pretty, Laurel sounds patient.

Little Scream's debut album, The Golden Record, has now finally been released by Secretly Canadian; but it's still a secret-seeming record, one of those LPs, like Cat Power's Moon Pix, Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska, Bon Iver's For Emma, that seems too small and private, too intimate, to be out in the whole wild world, distributed to a thousand record-shops. There are quiet songs, like "Heron and the Fox", and noisy songs, like "Cannons": all are luminous in different ways, with slow phosphorescence or dancing sparks. These days, my favourite is "People Is Place": gorgeous, with a sharpened edge, so slow that I can scarcely catch it move. It's music for ghosts that we will not allow to be ghosts; for phantoms which still breathe.

I asked Laurel to do as we do, to write about some songs she loves. This is what she sent us. Please leave a word or two in the comments, if you can. (And thank you, Laurel.)

The Velvet Underground - "Pale Blue Eyes".
Mary Margaret O'Hara - "To Cry About".
Mary Margaret O'Hara - "Dear Darling".

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a religious context severe enough to support the development of a world of teenage fantasy characterized by intensely romantic sexual repression. By most accounts, my experiences seemed more akin to the 1950s, if not Elizabethan England. You could not date until you were of marital age. And even then, it would have to be with a chaperone. I knew of one couple in that context who didn't have their first kiss until their wedding day. The best you could hope for in terms of contact with the opposite sex was the chance to slow dance at one of the closely monitored religious social engagements.

We young people desperately looked forward to these events, strategically countering our modest, ill fitting outfits with the over application of make-up in order to look attractive to our future marital prospects. Music at these events was also monitored, with all mix tapes needing to be pre-screened by an elder for approval. The Neville Brothers, Eric Clapton, and Bette Midler were all likely to be on heavy rotation. But somehow, perhaps literally by the grace of God, "Pale Blue Eyes" by the Velvet Underground made its way into approved party listening. I was nearly 15 years old. Apparently the slow lilt and the innocent chorus of the song had allowed the screener to not pay closer attention to the words... "It was good what we did yesterday, and I'd do it once again. The fact that you are married, only proves you're my best friend... but it's truly, truly a sin...". It was dancing to this song that I had the misfortune of falling in love for the first time.

He was a bit older, 17 at the time. Not clean cut like the other boys. He too had come from a broken home, and I felt I could relate to him. He had been the one who made the mix tape with the Velvet Underground on it. And I felt delirious when he asked me to dance when that song came on. As we held each other at a respectable distance, under the watchful eye of the elders, I melted into the sweet chorus "...linger on, your pale blue eyes...". And how prophetic the next words would one day prove to be "...I thought of you as my mountaintop, I thought of you as my peak. I thought of you as everything, I've had but couldn't keep... I've had but couldn't keep".

Linger on, your pale blue eyes.

Around that time, my father (who was not part of the religion) was dating a punk harp player who lived in Aurora, IL -- the "city of lights" and capital of Wayne's World. She made me a mix tape that would become the soundtrack to my teenage years. It had all the greats of youth cultures past; Roxy Music, David Bowie, the Sugarcubes... and 2 songs by a woman named Mary Margaret O'Hara: "To Cry About" and "Dear Darling". It was before the internet was the way people found music. And I spent the next few years in record stores on a fruitless search for more of her songs, to no avail. She became to me a mythical and unattainable voice from a distant land. It would only be years later that I would get to hear more of that voice, when after telling two Basque friends of my fruitless search for the woman behind the 2 haunting songs I played for them on a particularly wine filled evening, they sought out and successfully procured for me the reissue of Miss America in cd form. I have been grateful to them ever since.

Why would you go...and leave me to cry? A thing of such beauty, must never die...

[buy Little Scream's exquisite album, The Golden Record / watch Rachel Granofsky's stop-motion music video for "Red Hunting Jacket". / Little Scream is on a US tour with the Antlers through June.]

(Previous guest-blogs: Frog Eyes, White Hinterland, Bear in Heaven, artist Michael Krueger, artist Amber Albrecht, The Whiskers, Silver Jews, artist Ariel Kitch, artist Aaron Sewards, artist Corinne Chaufour, "Jean Baudrillard", artist Danny Zabbal, artist Irina Troitskaya, artist Eleanor Meredith, artist Keith Greiman, artist Matthew Feyld, The Weakerthans, Parenthetical Girls, artist Daria Tessler, Clem Snide, Marcello Carlin, artist Johnnie Cluney, Beirut, Jonathan Lethem, Arcade Fire, Al Kratina, Eugene Mirman, artist Dave Bailey, Agent Simple, artist Keith Andrew Shore, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, artist Kit Malo with Alden Penner (The Unicorns) 1 2, artist Rachell Sumpter, artist Katy Horan 1 2, David Barclay (The Diskettes), artist Drew Heffron, Carl Wilson, artist Tim Moore, Page France, Devin Davis, Okkervil River, Grizzly Bear, Hello Saferide, Damon & Naomi, Brian Michael Roff, producer Howard Bilerman. There are many more to come.)

Posted by Sean at June 2, 2011 12:40 AM

Laurel! Loved the Pale Blue Eyes story, great music, theirs & yours! thanks for the post! Cheers,

Posted by Luke at June 2, 2011 12:27 PM

these are the kinds of posts I love - the ones that just almost feel like hearing the song for the first time, that get at the infatuation. no joke, no prank, this post made me swoon a little bit.

Posted by Tyler at June 2, 2011 3:33 PM

so happy to see this wonderful songwriter continue to be recognized. if you guys are interested we did an intimate acoustic session with her on the streets of San Francisco back in March:


Posted by Will at June 2, 2011 3:39 PM

and she's currently on tour with the antlers?! very nice match. thanks for the post, laurel!

Posted by James at June 2, 2011 6:45 PM

I LOVE that YOU LOVE Mary Margaret O'Hara, she is one of my favourite elusive artists. Her sister, Catherine O'Hara is a comedian with Second City, a Canadian comedy show :) and is also totally awesome ...

Posted by anita at June 10, 2011 3:16 PM

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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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