Tracknotes: “Horses” by Palace

horsesBefore he was Bonnie “Prince” Billy, he was Will Oldham, and before that he was Palace Music, and before that he was Palace Brothers, and before that he was Palace, and before that he was Palace Songs, and really, all of the Palace monikers got shuffled about without making any apparent sense.  Originally released in 1994 as a 7″ single on Drag City.

[Turns out “Horses” was written by Sally Timms & Jon Langford of The Mekons, first released on Sally’s LP Somebody’s Rockin My Dreamboat in 1988. Thanks to reader Tom H. for pointing this out. Mea culpa.]

Old (classic) version:

  • “I’d be riding horses if they let me…”, “Everybody needs an angel/But here’s that devil by my side…” Fantastic lyrics here. It’s a pretty simple little strummer, but the lo-fi recording makes all the difference.
  • This is basically Will Oldham + Slint. The four Spiderland players form his backing band here, and that’s David Pajo shredding the frets late in the song. Interestingly, it appears that this track pre-dates most of the other Palace material, and even Spiderland. The A-side label for the 7” single lists a 1988 copyright for Low Noise Music. Anyone know anything about the producer, Steve Good?
  • Not too sure how I feel about the updated “Nashville session” recording. The original is such a classic, was it really necessary? I’m a sucker for the mandolin and all, but some things should just be left alone.
  • Probably one of the all time great tracks in at least 2 genres: indie & alt-country. I have to say I’m surprised this one doesn’t see more covers.

New (decent) version:


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Tracknotes: “Lemon” by U2

Big Lemon Of U2’s albums, the record that has grown on me most over time is undoubtedly Zooropa. The record that nipped at the heels of the classic Achtung Baby!, Zooropa was heavily steeped in a European irony that made it, in terms of U2 albums, almost inaccessible to American audiences. After all, the debut single from this album was “Numb.” But there are some great tracks on Zooropa (“Stay (Faraway So Close!)”, “Somedays Are Better Than Others”, “The First Time”), and chief among those is the epic kraut-pop of “Lemon.”

  • This song has a great back story. At one point in the early 1990s, a relative sent Bono an old home movie of his mother wearing a lemon-yellow dress as the maid-of-honor at a wedding. Bono was extremely moved by the footage of his deceased mother as a young woman, and the song is about the power of images to stir our memories and our emotions.
  • The video is intended to mimic the first motion picture ever created, a “moving picture” of a rider and horse by a man named Eadweard Muybridge.
  • The lyrics are deeply stirring: “She is the dreamer/She’s imagination/Through the light projected/He can see himself up close.” In my opinion, with this track U2 nailed the paradox that they were trying to capture in the 90’s, that of the extreme humanizing and de-humanizing effects of technology.
  • The guitar sound is amazing. The Edge apparently stumbled upon a gated guitar effect that went perfectly with a drum and bass pattern that he’d put together in the middle of a tour. Still, I think the piano interlude makes the song. It adds the “sehnsucht” to the track that is the key to any great U2 song.
  • All in all, this is one of my favorite U2 tracks. The unique sound of the song, the watery guitar effects, the gorgeous melody, the backstory – it all combines to make classic U2, and one of the most innovative pop songs I’ve ever heard.

Tracknotes: “If You Only Knew” by Kathryn Calder

calder - mother Don’t hold it against me if I continue to gush about the debut LP from Kathryn Calder (New Pornographers, Immaculate Machine). In this case, I want to express my appreciation for one of the album’s standout tracks, the infectious, organic, back-porch pop of “If You Only Knew.”

  • Handclaps, sleigh bells, chorused vocals…this is fantastic instrumentation!
  • I love the timbre of Calder’s voice – there is a simple, girl-next-door sort of quality to it, nothing too flashy but as appealing as a sunny spring day.
  • I think we’ve got some horns in there too – which means I can stick the “baroque” tag on this, right? Nice touch.
  • Love the lyrics of the chorus, as well as the extension in the phrasing. Listen to the track and check it out…
  • All-in-all, I expect this one will be in the running for my Top Tracks of 2010.

Check it out:

Kathryn Calder – If You Only Knew

You can buy Calder’s LP Are You My Mother? at Amazon.

Tracknotes: “Movin” by Follow The Train

via Removador Records

A few thoughts inspired by Follow The Train‘s “Movin”, from their 2010 album Mercury

  • Epic pop song (NICE!). Sorta like “Hey Jude” crossed with “Corduroy” and “Champagne Supernova” but not really.
  • They just don’t make indie rock like this anymore – direct, anthemic, transcendent, spine-tingling indie rock.
  • Frontman Dennis Sheridan comes off like Greg Dulli, all the passion minus the strip-club creepiness.
  • Love that bridge – bassy, funky, spaced-out – a total freak-down.
  • Great symphonic strings too. Whodunnit?
  • There’s no easy way of describing this track without underdoing it. It’s just freakin great.
  • Probably one of the best of the year.  I’m sure I’ll give it the solid write-up at the end of the year.

You can download “Movin” by sacrificing your e-mail here:

Download “Movin” at the bottom of the page.