artist spotlight: fujiya & miyagi

lest you get the wrong impression, allow me to state once and for all that while i have been recently excited about certain folk and folk-like artists, this is not my preferred genre of music. until recently i was of the camp that if there's no synthesizer involved, the music isn't worth my time. while i have been proven very wrong, i still loves me some synth.

hence today's featured artist, fujiya & miyagi. these guys know their way around a synth, and for that i love them. it's worth noting, too, that the name for this blog comes from their song "photocopier."

f & m formed in Brighton, UK in 2000. drawn together by a mutual love of "early nineties electronica" and wrestling, steve lewis (fujiya) and david best (miyagi) ventured forward into the realm of musical obscurity. it wasn't until 2005, with the addition of matt hainsby (&) that the band really started to take off. with their 2006 release, transparent things, they catapulted themselves into the public eye and into my heart.

transparent things is smooth and enjoyable, with songs that are well-constructed, catchy, and often quite funny. the record opens with "ankle injuries," which is enough to make anyone a fan. the rest of the album doesn't disappoint. even with stand-out tracks, such as "collarbone" and "in one ear and out the other," there is no filler. it's honestly a good, solid album from start to finish.

free music

the video for "ankle injuries" too, is nothing short of cool. it's exciting to see a video that is truly original, while being so distinctively british (it's reminiscent, i think, of the video for "move your feet" by junior senior).

in october, i saw these guys live at (the soon to be torn down) richards on richards. i was concerned that they wouldn't live up to the idea i had of them, as i had seen live videos of them on youtube and was less than impressed. their performance was, however, enchanting and delightful. though the turnout was small, the energy in the croud was palpable, and the energy on stage was contagious. they delivered a brilliant performance, delivered me the set list, and went on their merry way.

there are better bands in the world. there are more talented musicians. still, it is refreshing to see a group who puts such care into the construction of their music, and the effort shows in the end result. i truly look forward to hearing more from these guys in the future.

over and out.


album review: smokey rolls down thunder canyon by devendra banhart

it may seem to you, gentle readers, that devendra banhart is all i talk about. you're pretty much correct, but there is reason beyond his attractiveness.

you see, devendra banhart is truly a unique voice in modern music. unlike so many of his contemporaries, he doesn't seem to be trying to be anyone else. he is simply himself (himself being a hippie child on acid, more or less). in this goal, he succeeds admirably, particularly in smokey rolls down thunder canyon which is, for lack of a better word, pretty fucking great (ok, that's three words. whatever).

there are those who have criticized this album for being too all over the place (you know who you are, pitchfork). these are the same people who criticized cripple crow for being too long. i understand that, as an actual music journalist, one may be trying to get through an album in order to review it. but i also know, as a lover of music, that 22 songs is not so much too long as getting your damn money's worth. raise your hand if you're tired of paying $16.99 for 12 songs. that's what i thought.

anyway, back to smokey. all over the place? maybe. but then, that's devendra. if you've ever seen/heard/read him interviewed, you'd realize that hippie children on acid don't really have the attention span to stay on one subject for too long. this could be seen as a character flaw, but in devendra banhart's case, it's actually quite refreshing. he's branched out from his much-loathed "freak folk" niche to create a truly international album. from what i can tell, there are at least three languages used in his songs. not to mention a gospel choir (or part of one, anyway).

to talk about the songs individually would only detract from the work of art this album is (particularly the special edition, featuring a book of drawings, photographs, and lyrics). despite the variety, there is a certain flow to the album. the connection is there, for those willing to listen well enough to hear it. this is not an album of background music.

for your listening pleasure, here is smokey rolls down thunder canyon in its entirety. deezer, i cannot thank you enough.

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enjoy, my friends. you won't be disappointed.



a northern chorus

last thursday night, my roommate and i decided we needed to go out for a drink. we decided upon the railway club pretty quickly, as it is pretty much our favourite bar and they often have live music. we made the right decision.

what we found when we arrived at the railway club was a northern chorus, a little band from hamilton, ontario. these guys (stu livingstone, pete hall, alex mcmaster, owen davies, craig halliday, and graham walsh) have been together since 1999 and it shows. they're not your run-of-the-mill underplayed canadian band. their songwriting is sophisticated and their music is, for lack of a better word, beautiful (due in part to alex mcmaster's sweet cello skills).

pitchfork hasn't had two words to say about these guys since 2005, which is a shame really because from what i can tell they've really come into their own. their march, 2007 release, the millions too many, has a kind of subtle brilliance to it that their earlier releases lack (you're welcome to take a listen on their official website). not to mention, their stage presence is spot on. they know how to shut up a room. bronwyn and i weren't even there to see them and intended to spend most of our time on the patio. needless to say, our desire for cigarettes was neglected in favour of a desire for something better. that's right, i said it, a northern chorus is better than cigarettes.

check out the video, guys. it's pretty cute.


in case you were wondering...

free music

these are the songs i am listening to right now:
1. grounds for divorce - wolf parade (the first song i heard by them, courtesy of will robinson. needless to say, i was impressed)
2. did you see the words - animal collective (perpetually my favourite animal collective song, though there are others i sometimes enjoy more)
3. hope there's someone - antony and the johnsons (reccomended to me by devendra banhart)
4. sadie - joanna newsom (when i first heard her voice, i was irrationally angry. halfway through that first song, though, i was converted. she's pretty great)
5. three colours - sunset rubdown (clearly i just have a crush on the whole swan lake family)
6. heart it races - architecture in helsinki (this song gives me hope for the world. more specifically, it gives me hope for australia)
7. mr. november - the national (i kind of hate the national, actually, but this song is so damn catchy)
8. suffer for fashion - of montreal (perpetually my favourite band, though there are others i sometimes enjoy more)
9. the funeral - band of horses (i have been addicted to this song since the first time i heard it. i like to belt it while washing dishes)
10. we tigers - animal collective (first animal collective song i heard, also courtesy of will robinson. needless to say, i am only cool because of will)
11. guitarmy - the blood brothers (on that same mix will made me, this song followed we tigers, and it shall follow it forevermore)
12. peach, plum, pear - joanna newsom (oh god this song is so good)
13. twilight - antony and the johnsons (ditto)
14. i feel just like a child - devendra banhart (i really do think it's only a matter of time before devendra banhart and i run away together. and by that i mean in reality, i probably would not be able to stand him. to keep the fantasy alive, it's best if we never meet)
15. idle songs - frog eyes (first frog eyes song i heard, though these guys i found without will robinson's help. this is actually their best song, i think. the rest of their music is woefully unimpressive. they put on a mean live show though. actual quote from carey mercer when i saw them in june: "this next song is off our new album. it's called.... fuck.")
16. plasticities - andrew bird (i'm pretty sure it's impossible to listen to andrew bird and not have at least a small crush on him)
17. ankle injuries - fujiya & miyagi (i'm pretty sure these guys live to please me. case and point: when i saw them live, one of them (who can keep them straight?) handed me the fucking set list. yeah, it's still on my fridge)
18. jacksonville - sufjan stevens (best song ever? possibly)
19. long haired child - devendra banhart (devendra, i want to have your long-haired babies)
20. clap your hands! - clap your hands say yeah (this song freaks my roommate out)
21. how it ends - devotchka (and that's how it ends)

due to their unavailability on deezer, the following songs are missing:
- the men are called horsemen there - sunset rubdown (this is pretty much my favourite song right now)
- rapture rapes the muses - of montreal (this is pretty much my favourite song ever. i'm pretty sure i'm not alone in feeling this way either. you should have seen the reaction from the croud when they played it at their concert last february. of montreal, please come back to vancouver. i love you so)
- we're gonna make it - devotchka (pretty much the entire soundtrack to little miss sunshine is super great)
- parentheses - the blow (this is the cutest song ever. the cutest one that doesn't suck, anyway)
- truck - the octopus project (this band is too obscure even for deezer. jocelyn, you've truly outdone yourself)
- i'm glad i hitched my apple wagon to your star - the boy least likely to (hey, it's catchy)
- kimberly austin - porno for pyros (i have liked this song for about a decade. that's pretty impressive for three chords. three chords that i can almost play quickly enough to make this song happen! go me!)
- set fire to the face on fire - the blood brothers (i think they broke up just to spite me. no, yeah, they did)
- we got broken eyes - sunset rubdown (canadians are hot)
- help us stay alive - explosions in the sky (i've developed an unfortunate liking for instrumental music. it's getting me into trouble)
- modern love - david bowie (stupid david bowie enforcing stupid copywrite laws on stupid deezer. doesn't he have enough stupid money??)
- venus in furs - devotchka (first song i heard by devotchka, courtesy of (guess who?!) will robinson. pretty much the greatest cover ever to happen. pretty much)

so that's the scoop, dudes. play. listen. enjoy.


a new update

sometimes i wonder if music hasn't died.

of course that's overly dramatic and probably not the case, but if you think about it we're kind of in a rut. i mean certainly there is phenomenal music out there (devendra banhart, animal collective, joanna newsom...) but none of it seems to have the spark that the older music did.

take yes, for example. the first time i heard "close to the edge" it did nothing short of MOVE me. perhaps it's cliche but that's how i felt. and LED ZEPPELIN for chrissake. gods of rock. the greatest rock band of all time. even if there are bands with more talent, with better songs, whatever... they were the GREATEST. they haven't made music in years (apart from the recent reunion tour) but people still talk about them as though they're relevant. do you know why? it's because they were great. it's because every single fucking song that they put out into the world was a singular work of art, to say nothing of the albums. i can think of four albums right now that i would call their best. THAT, my friends, is saying something.

granted, i feel similarly about devendra banhart's "smokey rolls down thunder canyon," which came out in september. but that is a rarity. albums these days (to say nothing of songs) just seem to lack the intensity and the art that went in to the music of the sixties and seventies. they're either too all over the place (the one fault of smokey) or too themey (of montreal's "the sunlandic twins", everything by beck...). or worse, they're chock-full of filler ("tears of the valedictorian" by frog eyes, "feels" by animal collective...). three good songs does not an album make!

it seems, my friends, that albums as an art form may well be lost. there's no journey anymore (like the journey one takes while listening to sgt. pepper). a couple of illegal downloads (we're all guilty. not legally though, just figuratively) and suddenly nobody gives a shit about the record as a goddamn concept. raise your hand if FILLER SONGS are a good part of the reason you STARTED downloading in the first place? that's what i thought.

a true fan of music will buy a record, regardless of its availability online, not because they want the songs, but because they want the record as a whole. if anything, we've become more discerning about what we'll pay for, and i'm not sure we should be punished by being peddled a bunch of mediocre albums by mediocre bands. you want to make money, record companies? make some damn records! give us something worth listening to and i guarantee we'll buy it (or your money back).

and another thing, i'm sure i'm not the only person left who misses the 15 minute song (no, i'm not talking about let's not shit ourselves (to love and to be loved) by bright eyes, because while that song IS proof that conor oberst is the only man who understands me, it is proof of little else). i'm talking about the recording of dazed and confused from led zeppelin's incredible three disc live album "how the west was won." i'm talking about and you and i by yes, which is one of the greatest songs ever written. these songs are works of art. they're not pretentious, they're not overwhelming. they just are. beautifully and inexplicably. and they absolutely touch at the core of every single person who really listens to them.

that, my friends, is music.


free music


a bit of a mini-post

i just wanted to share this delightful treat with you. it is final fantasy covering peach, plum, pear by joanna newsom. pretty much awesome. pretty much.

bigger update coming shortly!



album review: cripple crow by devendra banhart

first of all, thanks to luke, i now know about deezer.com, which is like project playlist only better and more legal. so check out the ENTIRE album i'm going to tell you about:

free music

second of all, i apologize for the fact that this album was actually released in 2005 and is therefore not new or exciting. it's not like i'm pitchfork, dudes. i just bought this album and it was FUCKING GREAT so i decided to share it with you.

so yes, here's the dizz-eal, some friends and i were talking over coffee and samosas (weird? maybe) yesterday discussing the nature of art. we decided that there's a certain amount of effortlessness that needs to be involved in order to make art great. the effortlessness can be actual or imagined by the audience, but it really ought to be there. nobody likes it when you try too hard.

i believe devendra banhart embodies this concept. songwriting and performance seem to come so naturally to him that it's almost impossible to imagine him doing anything else (though he does). cripple crow flows from beginning to end. it's one of those albums you could listen to again and again without getting bored. it's also one of those albums you could talk over without feeling guilty. and with 22 tracks, it's one of those albums where you definitely got your money's worth (i bought it new at a local record store for $12.95).

the album opens with "now that i know." this song immediately transports you into devendra banhart's child-like universe where things are simultaneously innocent and confusing. it's a good world. by the time the album gets to "long haired child," you're hooked. eighteen more tracks, including "chinese children," and "i feel just like a child," (which, in my opinion, are two of his best), and you're still sad when the album ends.

in short, this album rocks. devendra banhart rocks. if it weren't for him, i'd still hate folk music like any other self-respecting crazy dance-rock fan.

in other news, the museum of modern art in san francisco is currently holding a show featuring devendra banhart's music paired with paul klee's art.

may i say that the person who thought this up is just brilliant. banhart's music sounds almost like fucked-up children's songs and paul klee's art looks almost like fucked-up children's book illustrations. needless to say, i am going to this show.

that's all for today, folks! hope you found it informative!



RIP blood brothers

as you may or may not know, the blood brothers announced on thursday that they are going their separate ways after ten years of making music together. that sucks.

goodbye, blood brothers. i loved you so.

artist spotlight: andrew bird

i thought i'd kick off this music blog by talking a bit about my fellow chicagoan, andrew bird.

it's really delightful, actually, to see someone who has such an intellectual understanding of music use his powers for good and not evil. unlike brian eno, who wasted his talent on heaps and heaps of ambient bullshit for years, andrew bird doesn't compose music just for his own enjoyment. his music is both beautiful and accessible, quite a feat for a classically trained musician with a BA in violin performance.

i've picked out a few of his songs for your enjoyment. this was particularly hard, because i've yet to meet an andrew bird song i didn't love. all of the music on the playlist is from his most recent three albums, for no other reason than their availability on project playlist.

also for your enjoyment, andrew bird's video for his song "imitosis":

that's all for now!