4 comments April 28, 2008

Cat Power

Cross Bones Style was the first song I ever heard from Cat Power (aka Charlyn "Chan" Marshall).

I came across it on Matador Records' 10th Anniversary Anthology, Everything is Nice.

This best-of disc was f**king amazing in and of itself -- you couldn’t throw a stone (or swing a cat) without hitting one awesome act after another.

Yet, even nestled as it was amongst songs from Pavement, Bardo Pond, Sleater-Kinney, Mogwai (to name but a few), "Cross Bones Style" -- with its odd staccato drum beat and elegiac, keening quality -- stood out by a mile.

Nearly a full decade later it still feels truly fresh and original to me. Outside of time, somehow.

Listen to that voice.

It sounds as though it's been cured in whiskey and wine and tobacco. In sorrow and heartache and too much knowledge of too many things in too short a time.

All these years, I never knew what Chan Marshall looked like. I’m not sure how that’s possible in this age of the interwebs, but it’s true. Judging from her voice, I’d always imagined her to be older: a kind of grandmother of rock, à la Patti Smith. (To clarify, it's not that I thought she sounded old, per se. But more that her voice had a kind of lived in quality. It seemed to speak of experience and a hard-earned wisdom.)

Imagine my shock, then, when I saw her video recently for "Cross Bones Style":

How do you reconcile that face with that voice?

It's paradoxical and confusing and I guess somehow perfect for an artist who has always managed to surprise, bewilder and charm us.

Her voice is as ageless as her art.

(And I added "Nude as the News". Just because.)

[Cat Power - MySpace]

0 comments April 22, 2008

Charlotte Gainsbourg

I chanced across the following video recently thanks to (of all people) that mad old bird Camille Paglia.

It's a duet between Charlotte Gainsbourg and Étienne Daho, live, on French TV.

It looks like it's been lifted directly from 1972, is cheesy as hell, and I think it's magic-pants. Their performances are so relaxed and unaffected -- light-years away from the absurd bread and circus acts deemed "music entertainment" by our southern neighbours.

I love the word-play in this song, with the constant repetition of the suffix "if", and the way Gainsbourg and Daho's voices perfectly compliment one another.

And Gainsbourg, in this video, is ... dare I say it: Hot.

There I said it.

She is utterly understated and unpretentious and authentic, yet she is smokin', and somehow a thousand times more sensual than, say, this.


To paraphrase a good friend: "Unlike North America, Europeans can still make pop that isn't complete shit."


This post inspired by the effervescent and incorrigible Dorothy Snarker and her Tank Top Tuesday. Merci Ms. Snarker.


Cars and Trains

Cars & trains is the electronic music project of Oregon-based Tom Filepp.

Think, if you will, Andrew Bird (via his live Fingerlings recordings) mashed with Four Tet.

I'm a great one for reductive comparisons, but suffice it to say, Cars & Trains is a glorious, intricate mess of contradictions.

The sound is at once folky and organic, but with a heavy glitch-beat aesthetic. It manages to feel both nostalgic and pastoral, while somehow encapsulating the loneliness, agitation and alienation of urban environments.

That may seem ambitious (and perhaps even improbable) but Filepp pulls it off.

His is a highly distinctive, original voice. Expect great things.

Here's "That reoccurring dream where I'm always..."

[Cars & Trains - MySpace] [Become a fan on Facebook]

You can download a number of free Cars & Trains tracks from the Circle into Square website.

1 comments April 14, 2008

Bobby Mcferrin

What's the first thing that comes to mind if someone says the name Bobby McFerrin to you?

If you're anything like me, you probably find yourself thinking, "Oh, that guy."

The one who gifted the world with THE MOST ANNOYING SONG OF ALL TIME.

You know the song I mean. The one that must not be named.

A few years' back, when I was living in Thailand, I was out and about at the giant Tower Records downtown (remember Tower Records?), and on pure impulse I bought a world music disc -- one of those best-of jobbies. You know, as you do.

And the last song on the disc was a track called "Circlesongs Six".

Rhythmic, soaring, utterly hypnotic -- I fell madly in love with it.

Guess who it was?


Bobby McFerrin.

The album, Circlesongs, from which the song takes its title and joins a cycle of eight, is a recording of spontaneous vocal improvisations sung by twelve singers and McFerrin.

Three basses, three tenors, three altos and three sopranos create the vocal textures around which McFerrin weaves his solos. He eschews words, in favour of repetitious syllables of sound. No instruments. Voice and vocal percussion only.

I've long since lost the CD.

Hadn't thought about that song in years. Something triggered my memory of it recently, (though I can't think what it was now. There's irony for you.)

Anyway, I had to hear it again, so I pur-chased it.

Here's "Circlesongs Six":

0 comments April 12, 2008


Sometimes you randomly stumble across an artist who makes you sit up and pay attention, tout de suite-like.

You find them, sans hype, sans information, and they blow your mind so thoroughly you immediately want to run out and tell everyone you know.

L'indice is just such a discovery for me.

All I know about this bloke is that his name is Vincent Blain, he's based in Montreal and has worked in the past with artists like Navet Confit, Lynda Lemay and Alexandre Champigny.

He's also up as a semi-finalist for this year's edition of Francovertes (for which I wish him all the merde).

I don't know how to describe his music. Sonorous electronica? Extraordinarily accomplished?

Well, anyway -- listen, you can decide -- here's "Petite épopée" and "Deux sang" from Démo:

[L'indice - MySpace]


Pascale Picard

Please let me clarify: Pascale Picard is not annoying.

Far from it.

I would, in fact, be more likely to use adjectives like: "Charming". "Talented". "Hot" could be another one. (Well, what? I'm just saying.)

"Annoying" is, of course, the title of one of Picard's songs from her debut album Me, Myself and Us.

Picard is one of the rising stars of the Quebec music scene (her album went platinum mere months after its release), and although her sound verges on being a little too mainstream for my personal taste, I believe she has enormous talent and appeal. I hope and she and her band manage to crack the wider North American (and European) markets.

Her biggest single is probably the lovely "Gate 22", and watching the video, I couldn't shake the feeling that she looks like a cross between Anika Moa and the Quin Sisters. (Her music is much closer in style to Anika Moa, than Tegan and Sara, though.)

Anika MoaTegan and Sara

The tune "Annoying" has a harder, rockier edge than the majority of the tracks on Me, Myself and Us. The cascading guitars and out-and-out vitriol make it, by far, my favourite track on the album.

[Pascale Picard - MySpace] [The Pascale Picard Band website]

2 comments April 9, 2008

Liam Finn

In this video of Liam Finn performing live at Spaceland in LA, he starts out sounding exactly like his dad.

No joke. If I didn't know it was Liam, I'd think I was listening to Neil.

But then he kicks in with the reverb and the feedback, and the bass becomes like this undulating hyrda-headed monster, and we have this nail-biting (deliciously) coruscating fuzz guitar, and next thing he's pounding on the drums like a mad man.

I can't believe this crazy-arse noise is being made by just one bloke.

It's, like, the most exciting thing I've seen in ages.

And I'm not biased just because I'm a kiwi. (Honest.)

This guy is seriously kind of phenomenal.

I guess he'll always have the legacy of his dad hanging over him. But he seems to be well and truly his own man.

And an extrememly talented one at that. Watch:

And while we're on the subject of phenomenal talent, here's another:

Kaki King

I've been listening to Kaki King's latest album a lot recently.

I knew she was a consummate musician, but I didn't realize just quite how frakking amazing she was.

And I didn't know she became famous [fame. noun. 1. public estimation. 2. popular acclaim] because Dave Grohl saw this video of her playing live right here in montreal.

And then here she is playing "Gay Sons of Lesbian Mothers" (which has to be one of the best song titles of all time), again, constructing the song as she goes along:


This entire post was inspired by one of Montreal's finest: Midnight Poutine. A new discovery. Where've you been all my life?

0 comments April 7, 2008

Damien Robitaille

The songs of Franco-Ontarian Damien Robitaille are intelligent, exuberant, disarming little pop gems.

And once lodged in your head, they will haunt you relentlessly.

You'll wake up in the morning only to realize your brain has been singing "Je tombe" all night long. And you'll continue to sing it all through the following day. And night. And day.

Well, you get the picture.

And despite the fact that my french is pretty horrible, even I can hear that he has a way with words. His lyrics are fresh, clever and often very funny.

My favourite tune from his latest album (L'homme qui me ressemble), is "Mètre de mon être".

In the song he literally measures out the parameters of his existence. He starts with his head, (which measures 25 cm²), and expands out from there -- to his bedroom, city, planet -- until he ends with his imagination, which measures infinity (or une éternité).

The circular lyrics looping through the verse and chorus are so simple, and perfect, and gorgeous.

I love this guy.

Here's "Mètre de mon être" and "Je tombe":

[Damien Robitaille - MySpace]

0 comments April 6, 2008


Formed in Belgium in 1999, Ghinzu are a bit like Muse, but without the overblown theatrics.

Not that they're not prone to a little drama. Their best songs are slow burners, beginning with dark, melodic piano lines woven into tense, driving rhythms that culminate in propulsive, muscular (very satisfying) crescendos of noise.

There is something vaguely reminiscent of Noir Désir in their sound, as well, although their English is not quite so heavily (or hilariously) accented.

Here's the eponymous track off their album Blow:

[Ghinzu - MySpace]