December 8, 2011

stay with me among the strangers

Any night when I get to listen to new songs from The National on headphones is a good, good night. These debuted today on Q Live (, because Canadian Public Radio rocks.

This first tune’s malleable bassline sounds like rain on a roof, all plunky and round and beautifully blue – especially when blended with the funereal piano. The nimble guitar work on the second one feels near-surgical in its deftness, with the choir echoing on the chorus making a perfect counterweight.

Rylan – The National
I Need My Girl – The National

[photo; mine from their jaw-dropping Denver show last year]

December 1, 2011

each heartstring of mine is broken in time

There is a powerful new voice signed to Arts & Crafts Records (who gave us Feist, Broken Social Scene, Stars, Dan Mangan, The Dears, Apostle of Hustle, and many other of my personal favorites) — and whoa is Cold Specks ever sounding like something to be reckoned with. She’s 23, she’s from outside Toronto, and listen to this:

I have listened to her version of “Old Stepstone” about a dozen times since first hearing about her yesterday, and still, every time, I’m gettin’ these chills. Her voice is rich and powerful molasses, like Mahalia or some divinely mournful gospel singer. It operates on my spinal column each time she starts in with a thousand tingles tapping into some collective grief. She cites the Lomax Field Recordings and James Carr as influences, along with Bill Callahan and Tom Waits; I hear it all.

Her version of “Old Stepstone” is being released as the b-side backing her debut single, “Holland”:

Cold Specks – Holland by Arts & Crafts

She’ll be touring in support of St. Vincent on some Canadian dates this winter, and her Holland single comes out on 7″ on December 13. I am fascinated to hear what comes next.

Related ephemera: “Old Stepstone” is a traditional American song and I can’t determine the original author, but I know Bonnie “Prince” Billy also played it on his Daytrotter back in 2006:

Goodbye Dear Old Stepstone – Bonnie “Prince” Billy

And here is a version of Tallest Man on Earth performing the same song, back in 2008:

No offense to the white guys, but whoa is her version ever in a different ballpark.

October 6, 2011

oh, the promising light / bending like a spine

I am getting on a plane to California this afternoon, and need to dive into work, but instead I really can’t stop watching this first:

Hey Rosetta! contributed a glorious favorite track on the Springtime mix I put together earlier this year, a cavalcade of voices and the stirrings of new life shooting up. This song and this video captures that same spirit. I want to sing on a cliff or in a darkened church with a few dozen people to this song.

Bandages – Hey Rosetta!

Hey Rosetta is from St. John’s, Newfoundland, the most easternly point in North America, and I guess that’s what folks do out there to support their hometown musicians. Bring the whole town right on out to sing. Their latest album from earlier this year is called Seeds, and they have a massive tour (Australia, Canada & most of the USA) this autumn.

[thanks Cindie]

August 18, 2010

indie queens are waiting


Dan Mangan is a Canadian from the fertile Pacific Northwestern coastal city of Vancouver, and makes marvelously crafted, beautifully arranged music. Recommended if you (like me) enjoy Josh Ritter, Luke Doucet, or on this song particularly, the male-female duets of The Swell Season or Damien Rice & Lisa Hannigan.

The first time I heard this song, I listened to it about 10 times on repeat. It is a nuanced waltz between his oaky, rough-hewn voice and her melancholy lilt. This entire album is gorgeous and smart, laced liberally with violins. I’m immersing myself in it lately.

The Indie Queens Are Waiting – Dan Mangan

Dan’s 2009 album Nice, Nice, Very Nice was just re-released last week on the superb Canadian label Arts & Crafts (Stars, Phoenix, Feist, and a whole bunch of other folks).

Listen here: highly recommended.

He is on tour everywhere in the coming months (oh wait, just not Denver). Last month he made it into the top ten Short List for Canada’s prestigious Polaris Prize (alongside folks like Broken Social Scene, Owen Pallett, and Tegan & Sara); he is an artist to watch.

[photo credit Jonathan Taggart]

December 9, 2009

love is a dirty word

jason collett

Jason Collett has a clattery sound to his music that I love, with a free-keeling howl in his voice that he plays fast and loose. He is mightily impressive live, friends with Feist from their mutual Broken Social Scene days, and has just announced an aptly-named new album Rat A Tat Tat coming out in March on the impeccable Arts & Crafts label from Canada.

The first listen from the new record is seriously addictive.

Love Is A Dirty Word – Jason Collett


…And if you’re lucky enough to live in Toronto, Jason is doing his annual Basement Revue Shows every Tuesday in December at the Dakota Tavern.

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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