Author Archive for The Uncanny Canadian

Telephones – The Headlights

Don’t know too much about this band (Seitz???), but I like the happy retropoppy feel of what I’ve heard. I think the sound is probably closest to Los Campesinos, but I do alert the readers to the super awesome organ at the beginning of this song, and the almost sense that they are going to be doing an extended Boy with the Arab Strap outro. This is super fun music. I would probably want to dance to this, especially the parts that get more into Arcade Fire territory.

Jason Lytle – I Am Lost

The return of Jason Lytle was almost completely unheralded, but now that I’ve finally listened to his post-Grandaddy album, Yours Truly, The Commuter, I can say that it is a massive norepinephrine rush of nostalgia tinged with post-Pink Floyd sensibility and sprinkles of utter brilliance.

I picked this particular track for Pinko Punko, since it is super Jeddy-like and it evokes Lawn and So On from Under The Western Freeway. Short, sweet, and kind of melancholy. The beginning is so Dark Side of the Moon, I almost laughed out loud, but then it settled into a replica of old Grandaddy and I got really sad for Jed.

Fleet Foxes – Quiet Houses

A perhaps more obscure track from the Foxes deservedly-accoladed s/t debut. The first 2.5 minutes sound like vintage My Morning Jacket, but maybe more hypnotic. Then the piece shifts into a classic Brian Wilson Smiles-era instrumental. Wonderful composition throughout. Even though Pinko Punko says that he doesn’t like the instrumental stuff, I know he secretly loves this.

The Ghost Of You Lingers – Spoon

I post this song from the stellar Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga album for two reasons: First of all, I don’t think this song is getting the same radio play that Don’t Make Me A Target and You Got Yr Cherry Bomb are getting, whereas it is equally stunning. The intensity of the piano chords gives the music a creepy and pulsating feeling. The video captures that well.

Most importantly, this is a massive FU to every one of you haterz that has ripped on Supertramp now or ever. Well, just eat it. This is the demonic and supreme reincarnation of the Supertramp sound and it reigns on your feeble souls. There.

Ghosts – Ladytron

This song is part of the continuing series of songs that I have no right listening to, liking, or blogging. Ladytron write electro music that is not IDM at all. Usually it’s kind of creepy, like The Knives, and sometimes it is a little Goldfrappy, but it is not Uncanny-y. Usually.

I heard Ghosts on WOXY about two weeks ago, while completely immersed in some other activity, and barely registered the song. I remember thinking, how interesting and how unlike Ladytron. Then it was out of my mind. That was until waking up this morning with about half of the chorus in my head inexplicably. It took me about an hour of wracking my brain to come up with the rest of the chorus, and then Google took over.

After a couple of listens, I figured out why this song won’t leave my head. First there are the lyrics of the chorus: “There’s a ghost in me … who wants to say I’m sorry …. doesn’t mean I’m sorry”. How odd and intriguing. Lyrically, the chorus is hypnotic and just strange enough to get wrapped on auto-loop in my poor little brain. The music at the beginning is really good as well – others have pointed out that it sounds right out of Dr. Who. It works. Finally, this song is being released as a single along with three mixes, and you can find those using the internetz the usual way, and at least two are quite quite interesting.

Update: This song is permanently stuck in my head. I just sang it for fifteen minutes straight in the shower … and I don’t sing in the shower. Need help!!!!

Sébastien Schuller – Weeping Willow

There is an almost guaranteed way to get my attention with your music. Make it sound just like Grandaddy trying to sound just like Radiohead. It will always work. Promise. Weeping Willow from Sébastien Schuller is unabashedly just like this, and I can’t stop listening to it. I can’t tell you much about Schuller. He’s French. Interesting. Multi-instrumentalist. You know …. I think I’m still on my DeVotchKa high and need a fix to keep the high going. I really like Sébastien’s voice and the accent that is not masked. I can’t comment on his face, because of issues that arise from the video. The best part is the sireny thing going on that sounds a little like a theremin, but is probably not. All the electronicy flourish is really really good and of course the keyboards drive everything. Maybe a little too No Surprises, but is that a bad thing?

UPDATE: You can stream his entire first album, Happiness from his US label, Minty Fresh. All the songs are really good

Annuals – Dry Clothes

If you haven’t heard of Annuals, wait a few months, and look around again. They are going to be popular. Coming off their excellent debut, 2006’s Be He Me, Annuals are the kind of band that will buzz their way into popularity. Their sound is diverse indie pop with all the right influences (ahem, Brian Wilson). But unlike Animal Collective and Broken Social Scene, bands they sometimes resemble, the music always stays under control and doesn’t sprawl into smarminess.

Dry Clothes is a good example of some of the styles of music in any given track, and their ability to surprise. The first half of the song, apparently about the love between a man and a crocodile, sounds like a Beulah track as performed by Animal Collective. Then something dark and probably bloody happens with the transition to Dry Clothes. I’m only sorry that the video truncates the second half, because it is easily the creepiest and most interesting part of the song. But I think you get the idea. They rhythmic shock associated with ‘Clothes’ delights me every single time, and I’ve listened to this dozens of times now. To me, it also evokes aspects of Spoon Fitted Shirt.

Common Ft. Lily Allen – Drivin’ Me Wild

This song is for Pinko Punko, whose insatiable appetite for all things Lily Allen probably needs some sating. Overall, a good song, but not an amazing song. I just can’t get over the relentless high piano chords that accompany Lily Allen’s excellent backing. Common seems pretty harmless – at times almost funny, but at worse just a groaner (I mean she has some D’s on her, but they weren’t fake, though [with accompanying finger wagging]). I do have to say that Lily Allen is well-used in the video: prototypic gowns and even an astronaut getup. Sweet. At any rate, I dare anyone to listen all the way through this and not have those piano chords stuck in their head.

DeVotchKa – How it ends

Apologies to any of you that know this song well from Little Miss Sunshine, but I totally forgot about it until I heard the song on WOXY today. Without making the connection, I was captured by the soaring and emotional vocals, reminiscent of a good Radiohead song, and beautiful keyboard, strings, and accordion arrangements, reminiscent of a great Arcade Fire song. This is an absolutely stunning and breathtaking song. DeVotchKa’s music has influences from Europe, especially gypsy music, and in this particular song, it adds just the right amount of flavour – a veritable musical condiment methinks. Even better, somebody has made a fan video using clips from one of the greatest TV shows these days, Lost. In fact, just thinking about the Lost season finale from last year with this music got me super teary.

Crayon – Caribou

In preparation for listening to the new Caribou (formerly Manitoba) CD, I’ve been listening to this beaut from Up in Flames, a supremely awesome CD. The music just radiates cheerfulness and colour, largely owing to the non-stop bells and mallet percussion. Once that lifts you up, you get a full-blast of vocals that are begging to be sung by Brian and Carl Wilson. Not all their music is this poppy and accessible, but when it works, it works big time. Imagine Yo La Tengo circa Tom Courtenay as remixed by The Go! Team and produced by Beta Band. No, better. Anyway, the song had already won me over, but then I found the video. It’s super duper cutesy overload on saccharine.

Justice – Tthhee Ppaarrttyy (ft. Uffie)

I heard this track twice on WOXY and can’t stop listening to it. Initially, I thought it was some bizarre cover or remix of an existing song – I can’t quite explain why I thought it had the lyrics to that insipid Pink song, but it doesn’t. At any rate, I find this track super interesting for all sorts of reasons. The rhythm of the voice is entirely off and intentionally so. Syllables are stretched, repeated, and slaughtered in an almost random way. The whole meter of the song is uneven and that’s what I love. The instrumentation is dark and electronic and simmers without a hip-hop backing until the last part of the song, where it finally lets loose a danceable beat. They lyrics are funny and hedonistic, as if you couldn’t possibly take it seriously.

As most of you know, this is a genre I know NOTHING about. I don’t know the personalities, influences, or politics. What I do know is that people seem to hate Uffie (who collaborates with Justice on this track only) passionately. I’m not sure why, but I’m sure they have good reasons. It could be backlash against a young, cute, white “rapper”, whose other songs sound to me like utter disasters; but I’m not judging her music here, only her collaboration with Justice. The Indie media seems to like them enough, with many comparisons to Daft Punk. Anyway, there are some spectacularly funny rips on this track. This particular response made me laugh to no end. The article is titled The song that will hasten the worlds’ end. You have to read it after listening to the track.

AEIOU Sometimes Y – EBN-OZN

Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.

This is perhaps the last genre of music that anybody would guess me doing a SoftD in, but I heard it on my iPod, and I can’t get it out of my head. This short-lived New Age duo made something so quintessential ’80s and funny that it didn’t seem fair not to relish in its campiness. The story is kind of funny, especially featuring a Lola(!) and the synths are full-on, but the kicker is the chorus. It’s so rhythmically perfect. A. E. I. O. U. Some. Times. Y. I think the video cuts off part of the song, but you can email Pinko and he’ll give you the full version.

Lightning Blue Eyes – The Secret Machines

Remember The Secret Machines? We kinda do, although it has been a while since we anybody made much a fuss about them. I mean besides us. Anyway, their last CD, Ten Silver Drops, has been out for well over a year, and it never really got its fair accolades. This is probably the most addictive and recognisable track from the CD. It also sounds the most like the best songs on Now Here is Nowhere, but better than any single track on that CD. Featuring the impossibly growing driving beat and singalongable harmonizations, I can’t get this song out of my head. Not only do I not want it to end, but when it eventually does, I keep it going on the inside. The lyrics are kind of neat as well. There is some wordplay on blinding/lightning and songs about blue eyes are almost always destined to be classic. Every instrument is perfect. There is even a lovely canon embedded in the 2nd refrain. Something for everyone, really. If anyone hears of a 40 minute remix of this song, please let me know ASAP.

The video (since I am an embedding null)


Viva Voce – From The Devil Himself

Went to the Shins concert tonight, which was expectedly awesome. But there is very little interesting to write about seeing one of the best bands today at the top of their game. No, the actual massive surprise was from the opening band, Viva Voce, who kicked almost as much ass as The Shins did. OK, maybe half that ass, but that’s still an impressive ass and way more than the typical 3 Bulls half-ass. Viva Voce, who announced their name about six times during the show and added that they are from Portland, Oregon, are the classic husband/wife team. Kevin plays the drums, sings, and occasionally rocks out on the acoustic guitar, whereas Anita is a guitar goddess of the highest decree. She also has a great voice, and really should become Chuckles new rock crush, Eleanor Friedberger be damned. Their music ranges from almost ’60s-era folk rock to complete Yo La Tengo free-form freakouts, and they are witty and play with aplomb.

Most of the songs they performed, all of them excellent, were from their new album Get Yr Blood Sucked Out. The best song from the set was this track, nicely put to a cheeky video. Musically, it is not representative of the other tracks, but it’s really goddamned catchy. The song evokes a little Grateful Dead and some music that Pinko Punko totally knows and I just can’t get to the tip of my fingers. But it’s good in a familiar and awesome way. Anyway, check out the video and check out their other songs as their myspace page. We Do Not F*ck Around is another super good track, of which they opened and closed with different variations on the song.

In the event that this actually embeds properly ….

Heartbreaker – Grand Funk Railroad (+ Contest!!!!!!)

It’s really easy to forget that before Grand Funk became the lame ass band associated with The Loco-motion and even worse efforts in the 1980s, they were actually grand and funky. And bluesy. Heartbreaker was written in 1969, when music was loud and good and stands up today as a truly kick ass song. The live version below if from 1974, and shows the band at its performing best. Note the epic Marc Knopfler-esque guitar solos, the drummer screaming his ass off, and your heart slowly slowly breaking.

As for the contest. What 2006 hit song is foreshadowed by heartbreaker? 10 points if you get it from the first 23 seconds of the song. 5 points if you get it in the first 1:03 of the song. 1.125 points if you need to hear the “Bringing me down” part of the chorus to get it. Oh and 1 million 3B dollars to the first correct answer.

Presuming as usual that I can’t embed it properly, the video is here:


Dear Mr. Supercomputer-Sufjan Stevens

This is one of the sluttiest songs I have ever heard, and I can’t think of a higher compliment to give to any song.  By slutty, of course, I refer to its promiscuous use of styles and rhythms, stolen from other fantastic artists.  It is also potentially the only songs I know of that is primarily written in 7/8 time.  In this case, they syncopation is written in a 3-2-2 rhythm, so if you are counting the rhythm out loud (as I frequently do), you can follow the song by counting 1-2-3-1-2-1-2 for each bar.  Who the hell thinks of this?

First, listen to the track

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.  Then listen again.  Maybe one more time.  OK, now take a break, come back, and listen one last time.  Finally read on …

The track comes from the recent compilation of outakes from Illinois, titled The Avalanche.  In many ways, the outtakes, rather than being just throw-aways, represent a parallel and organized version of Illinois.  This is easily the best track on the CD, possibly better or equal to any other Sufjan Stevens song ever written.

What are the influences?  Here’s what I come up with.  The introduction, which is the only part of the song in 4/4 time (more likely 8/8 time) begins with a Philp Glass minimalistic theme.  You know the kind of builds slowly and moves fluidly in bladilaidabldialdlald kind of way until 10 minutes later and your brain has been beaten into submission?  Then the trumpets come in and play a very Stereolab rhythm, which incidentally was stolen almost verbatum from Imperial Teen (again, that’s a good thing).  The song abruptly changes into its highly syncopated 7/8 all Sufjan all the time song.  It’s sublime genius.  I get weepy listening to how good the song is.  A few abrupt tempo changes happen here and there with little mildly jazzy Sea and the Cake moments, but song always gets back on track.  The other amazing highlight in the middle is a moment where a robotic voice sings, “One two three four five six seven, all computers go to heaven” – a direct homage to The Beatles Abbey Road.  As can be expected from any Sufjan Stevens song, there are probably 15 different musical instruments in the arrangement, each more obscure and beautifully blended than the next.

Islands – Where There’s A Will There’s a Whalebone

Islands are one of those crazy Canadian collectives that emerged from the ashes of The Unicorns. Yes, those Unicorns of the endless hooks and the total disregard for a chorus. Islands manifests itself as even more inventive, diverse, and fun. The songs vary greatly, from the calypso influenced to drawn-out Arcade Fire-esque movements. Where There’s a Will is like no other track on Return To The Sea. It starts off sounding like a typical Unicorns track, but then something happens about halfway through, and it dissolves into a wild dance party. The best I could provide is a poor-quality recording of them performing live (in Toronto of course!!!!), but the rapping on the recorded version is so fast and smooth and fits beautifully with the increasingly elaborate accompaniment. It reminds me a little of Beta Band’s Won, but that’s only because of how surpising and effective the rapping actually is. I’m not sure that PP would really love Islands through and through, but I’m sure it’s way up Fulsome’s alley.

Where There’s A Will There’s A Whalebone

Juicebox – The Strokes

I never understood the backlash against the Strokes. Yes, they are popular and routinely hailed by useless emus as being the saviours of rock and roll. Whatever. Their music rocks and is extremely tight. It’s basically hook after hook and before you know what hits you, you’re grooving to the music.

Their newest CD, First Impressions of the Earth is solid through and through. There are perhaps some overly ambitious tracks, and it plays a little less like a greatest hits CD than Is This It, but it features some tremendous tunes.

Juicebox is probably the most distinctive single from the new CD. It plays half like an ode to Henry Mancini’s Peter Gunn theme and half like an ode to Rush. I think the Rush part is better. In fact, the chorus of the song, which is sweeping and Radioheadly dramatic, almost borders on prog. But fear not, the song is not proggy. It rocks with an effective repeating couplet structure.

The video is interesting. I think they thought that David Cross alone would make the introduction ridiculously funny, but it’s too cliched. Stroke performing Juicy Juice. How droll. Maybe that’s the point, though. Everything in the video is cliched, especially the hot girl-on-girl action and the, um, doggie action. Still, it’s a rock video at heart. If it weren’t for the Strokes backlash, I think more people would have listened to the new CD, and would better appreciate its high quality.

Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me – The Pipettes

First things first, the name of the band. It isn’t really possible that this English girl group might be talking about devices used to transfer liquids, is it? I mean, I love pipettes – especially the P20 ones. I’m guessing, though, that they thought it would be a cute little variation on pipes (the voice kind), but all feminized and cutesy. Doesn’t matter. Points for a good band name.

Just watch the video, which can be found here. In fairness, I found this track through our nemeses at doucheforkmedia, and their review of the track is pretty good. So read that instead of whatever inanity I come up with. But it’s all about the chorus. Holy sh*t, it’s good. It’s what would happen if the Go! Team worked on Unchained Melody. And better. The wall of sound™ is so good. Pinko should like this track, although I don’t know if the ’80s-obsessed kind will care for it. It’s new music for an older time.

[Alternatively, video is right here -ed.]:

What A Shame-Kingsbury Manx

Continuing my occasional and inconsistent series of SoftD based on the top CDs of 2005, I offer this week a single from the Kingsbury Manx, a perennial 3 Bulls favourite. What A Shame is just one particularly memorable and mellow track from The Fast Rise And Fall Of The South, a stellar and massively massively massively underrated album. I don’t know if it really qualifies generally as the best of 2005, but it is right up there.

The Kingsbury Manx are kind of hard to pigeonhole. They are soft-spoken, yet occasionally rock out. They play folky music, yet sophisticated and modern sounding. Generally, the songs are downtempo, the guitar work is nuanced and picked, the keyboards are frequently set on organ mode, the drumming is delicate, and the singing is lush and sweet. I can’t think of any bands that really sound enough like them to give a useful framework, but some of their songs evoke feelings like those stimulated by artists like The Clientele, Iron and Wine, Radar Brothers, Yo La Tengo, Skygreen Leopards, and Mojave 3.

What A Shame begins in a gentle 6/8 tempo with piano and drums. It’s slow dance music people. The kind of song that you generally gaze into your lover’s eyes and think about when and how long you are going to kiss them once the song is over. I think what draws me to the song more than the sweet lyrical and lulling melody are the lyrics. It sounds like it is a love song but, in typical Kingsbury Manx fashion, is filled with irony and surprise. Between versus is just a lovely trumpet solo. I love trumpet solos in pop songs; it’s always drawn me to groups like Beulah. As each verse continues, the intensity of the voice is just a little louder and slightly more hostile. The slow simmering of a break-up, I suppose. The other distinct feature of the lyrics is that it is read like a novel – an effect I like and one that should be copycatted immediately. Lyrics are below:

A bliss so underrated to me
‘oh what a shame’ said she
’cause this is what lives
are supposed to be’

A kiss so underrated to me
‘come closer’ said she
’cause this is what close
is supposed to be’

‘I feel so sedated’ said she
‘some illusion’ said me
’cause this is what lives
are supposed to be’

‘I feel so sedated’ said me
‘like I told you’ said she
‘it’s not what lives
are supposed to be’