"SPEAKERS" as in "ear-to-felt"
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.


Today is my birthday. Do I take a day off? No, my friends, I do not. So please don't breeze on by. I have something for you.

What do I know about The Speakers? Little, so little. They have six recordings; I have heard but one. They perform live; I've never seen them. Brian Miller and Peter Musselman have played with the wonderful Jolie Holland, and she contributes sometimes to their songs; I don't know how much.

The things I know best are the easy things, but they're also the things that matter. Yeats is Greats, released toward the end of last year, is the best album I've yet discovered in 2006. I know, it's only the 5th, but the magnificent Destroyer's Rubies makes more sweeping statements difficult. So let me put it another way - in the last couple months, months when I first heard recent/upcoming albums by Jens Lekman, Islands, Belle & Sebastian, Cat Power, Konono No. 1, The National, Uncle John & Whitelock, Lil Wayne, Two Gallants, The Strokes, The Physics of Meaning, Kayo Dot, (and many many more), Destroyer's Rubies and The Speakers' Yeats Is Greats are certainly the best LPs to grace my ears.

You've not heard of it, probably. The mp3blog aggregators come up empty. Maybe that's because people already talked about them, months ago, when I was snoozin'. Or because the album opens and closes, Clap-Your-Hands-style, with a stupendously stupid spoken word goof (there's also another one in the middle). Or because most of the lyrics were written by William Butler Yeats.

But the point remains. These songs are beautiful, fragile comforts. They're not joycore, no. They're just things to lean up against on these long midwinter days. Or in the nights. Trifles, I guess, in the same way that streetlamps are trifles. Or cherry trees. Or stars.

Voices fall across each-other, whispers blossoming into smiling song, folk that's crisscrossed just enough with foreign sound, shadows of accordion or clarinet, horns and drone. Hear a bit of Iron & Wine, but better. Maybe Sufjan circa Seven Swans. Grizzly Bear without the fear, Elliott Smith with a gang of kindly friends. Like Mt. Eerie, maybe, or The Robot Ate Me. But different.

Oh fuck it - just listen.

The Speakers - "The Mountain Tomb". "Bring fiddle and clarionet" - they do. "Pour wine and dance" - okay. The song's tender as new grief, as easily opened up. We know the tomb's down there, across the bay; we took the rowboat, remember? But now we'll leave it, we'll come into this room. We'll eat, we'll smile. We'll play. We'll remember life - remember life? We'll draw the blinds and not see the sun set. We'll take shelter: horns and guitar and xylophone, your friend the singer. "Our Father Rosicross is in his tomb." Yes. All right. But for now let's persist. Let's not speak of death; let's sing of it. (Yeats' words.)

The Speakers - "Lost in a Crowd". The trick's in the way a man's persistence turns cold things warm, sharp things soft. He persists - gently, gently, - and the strings turn in the light. No more whispers of Shostakovich; no scrapes, no glares, no theremin shiver. Just glow, gleam, glimmer. And even if the closing lyrics are feel-good, trite (they're not Yeats), that's ok. Coming away from confusion, there's a role for optimism. Stepping out of the rain, sunshine's fine. Leaving the comfort of strangers, I'll take an embrace.

Go buy Yeats is Greats, the album with that absurd name, for only $14. Do, do, do!


William Schaff, perhaps my favourite living artist, finally has cheap prints for sale. Lots of politics, lots of horrors, but I bought the one of St George.

edward o's top 100 singles of 2005 is an amazing, amazing, work.

You Ain't No Picasso has new (ok) songs by Page France.

As others have pointed out, the 2005 Bloggies are now accepting nominations. The awards mean nothing, but it probably makes the nominees feel a little happiness. So do go and nominate some of your favourites. My favourites are on the sidebar. Like Fluxblog, I very much endorse Tom Ewing for the Lifetime Achievement prize.

If for some reason you feel like voting for us, the category that would mean something is the "Best Writing" category. My favourite blog writing, this year, has been by Abby, Carl, Eppy, Paul, Ash, John, Nick, Matthew, Kevin, Tuwa, Marcello, Kelly, Matt. And Dan and Jordan. And everyone else to the right (matt, jay, neale, et al). Except the podcasts and art-blogs. Because they're not about writing, see.


And yes, it's my birthday. This year I want only fond wishes (and maybe some art). (My address? Oh why am I doing this? Well, it's 2F2, 15 West Newington Place, Edinburgh EH9 1QU. Now stop making me feel foolish!)

Posted by Sean at January 5, 2006 3:00 AM

Happy birthday!

Posted by dustin at January 5, 2006 4:50 AM

Happy Birthday, enjoy 2006!

Posted by Mike Smith at January 5, 2006 6:35 AM

Happy birthday, Sean! Hope you have a wonderful day-

Posted by Kevin at January 5, 2006 6:48 AM

Have a nice one, thanks for the recommendation will give it a listen.
By the way, the (newly re-issued) Department of Eagles is a great, splendid, living album! Thanks for the pointer.

Posted by Matthew in London at January 5, 2006 7:09 AM

Hey Bud,

Happy Birthday to You! Hope that you have a cracker day, one that is chock full of sumptious treats.

We will have to meet up some time.

Take care, Sean,


Posted by Ross at January 5, 2006 8:14 AM

Happy Birthday. And never say 'joycore' again.

Posted by Ash Karreau at January 5, 2006 8:27 AM

In spite of the language, we still luv ya !!
Happy Birthday, grandson !!
Bubbie & Zaidie

Posted by Zaidie Ben at January 5, 2006 9:14 AM

I assume my grandfather meant the use of swearwords and not the use of the word "joycore", but either way, I thank him for being so phlegmatic about it.

And thanks to all for the well-wishes! I will eat cake on your behalf!

Posted by Sean at January 5, 2006 9:20 AM

happy birthday you magnificent bastard!

Posted by george at January 5, 2006 9:51 AM

Happy birthday dude. thanks for all the wisdom.

Posted by dunc at January 5, 2006 10:51 AM

hap bir day my man...

you'll have a little birthday song coming to you later today...... (yousendit?)

Posted by bmr at January 5, 2006 11:28 AM

Happy Birthday again Sean...Hope you have a "marvey" day....and I don't think Zaidie knows what "joycore" is - but then again neither do I!!!! xo

Posted by Debbie at January 5, 2006 12:36 PM

Happy Birthday, Son!! I hope it's being a great day and that you have a lovely year.

I think your Zaidie actually meant (still) that he doesn't understand what you write because of the words you use (language). I don't actually believe him entirely. It is, however, one of the GREAT mysteries...

Love, Mum

Posted by Anonymous at January 5, 2006 2:05 PM

Yea! Happy Birthday!
That's so cool that your Mom posted. Heh
Have a good one

Posted by Christian at January 5, 2006 3:00 PM

Happy happies. This stuff reminds me of Jules Shear in some ways.

Posted by Hillary at January 5, 2006 3:17 PM

Many happy returns of the day! You bring so many of us such joy with your words and hand-picked musical delights. Best wishes.

Posted by allison at January 5, 2006 3:20 PM

Your grandparents read your blog! Awesome!
Happy b-day, Sean.

Posted by JKelly at January 5, 2006 3:44 PM

Happy Birthday! I think you are smart.

Posted by Veronica at January 5, 2006 4:33 PM

oh my gosh, happy birthday...it's actually mine, too. and i can't tell you how jealous i am that you get to live in edinburgh full-time--spent 3 months there and dream about it every day. anyway, thanks to you and the rest of STG for your creative, heartfelt take on the music-blog format. truly one of my favorites.

Posted by claire at January 5, 2006 4:55 PM

Happy birthday, Sean, hope you had a great day and everything is very well with you.

Posted by Robin at January 5, 2006 6:29 PM

Happy birthday. Your family is awesome.

There's no comparison between us in writing: you're major league, I'm Little League. You three and Girish are I think the best writers I read online. Best of luck and Happy New Year--

Posted by Tuwa at January 5, 2006 6:30 PM

Thanks for Rubies. (great present) I will never play the Destroyers Drinking Game but maybe you can do it for all of us.
Happy Birthday

Posted by annette at January 5, 2006 6:42 PM

my podcast is too about the writing. even if the design is by popsheep.

Posted by merek at January 5, 2006 7:34 PM

Happy Birthday! And thanks for making this the only blog that matters.

Posted by jere at January 6, 2006 12:10 AM

Happy birthday man! Hope all is well across the pond.

Posted by Martin at January 6, 2006 12:13 AM

I am happy that you were born. :O)

Posted by maryam at January 6, 2006 12:27 AM

how shameful that the other Robin post wasn't me...
in any case, happy birthday (again). More bday wishes to come via bell.
love you

Posted by Robu at January 6, 2006 10:56 AM

Happy Birthday! You deserve it.

Posted by Red Ruin at January 6, 2006 6:25 PM


Posted by pyrimyd at January 6, 2006 9:12 PM

it might just be me, but i have found that the single greatest thing about most music blogs (but said the gramophone in particular) rests not just in the discovery of new music, but in the discovery of new music divorced from image. no packaging, no marketing, no artifice of any kind in place to sell the product. no din, no clatter, no additional statement (artistic or otherwise) or preconceived notion about the artist in place before listening, save the blogger's own comments. simply put, individual tracks must stand on their own merit, particularly if the listener is not at all familiar with the music that lies in wait. that being said, i must say that i find these two songs absolutely stunning. hushed and beautiful melodies for a hushed and beautiful cold saturday morning. and i never would have heard them any other way. thanks sean. and happy birthday.

Posted by john boy at January 7, 2006 10:22 AM

Happy Birthday Sean ! Have an extraordinary year, please.

Posted by Garrincha at January 9, 2006 9:29 AM

A few days late, but better than never: happy birthday, Sean! Please accept votes for Best Writing, Best British/Irish Blog, Best Group Blog and Best Blog in lieu of an actual present. :)

Posted by matthew at January 9, 2006 7:56 PM

Found your blog via The Speakers website (they have your article linked). Nice review- Yeats is Greats has been consistently floating my boat for 6 months now and shows no signs of stopping. Everyone else- he does speak the truth.

Give my regards to Edinburgh- I used to live on Union Street (around the corner from The Playhouse) and work in Morningside. Happy times, fond memories.

Oh, and happy birthday.


(I'm putting you in my bookmarks.)

Posted by Robert at January 22, 2006 10:28 AM

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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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"And I shall watch the ferry-boats / and they'll get high on a bluer ocean / against tomorrow's sky / and I will never grow so old again."
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.

Jeff Miller is a Montreal-based writer and zinemaker. He is the author of Ghost Pine: All Stories True and a bunch of other stories. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Say hello on Twitter or email.

Mitz Takahashi is originally from Osaka, Japan who now lives and works as a furniture designer/maker in Montreal. English is not his first language so please forgive his glamour grammar mistakes. He is trying. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Reach him by email here.

Site design and header typography by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet. The header graphic is randomized: this one is by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet.
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.

Jordan Himelfarb wrote for Said the Gramophone from November 2004 to March 2012. He lives in Toronto. He is an opinion editor at the Toronto Star. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
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