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Snowblink –How Now (2016)

When I last saw Snowblink’s Dan Goldman he was staggering through early summer. He and Snowblink partner, Daniela Gesundheit, had recently moved (back) west to Los Angeles; this was a brief foray (back) east to former Canadian stompinggrounds. It was Montreal toward the end of May, when it’s hard to imagine choosing to live anywhere else. I was pushing a stroller. He was hands-in-pockets. The sun’s last rays were leafing through the canopy of trees. He said to me, “Why would you choose to live anywhere else?” But I knew the truth: that this evening was as much L.A. as anything else, under the tall trees and sunset.

And the same is true of How Now, Snowblink’s newest single and possibly the best thing they have ever released. It’s hot. It’s not yet quite dark. Gesundheit sings as gorgeously as ever – Snowblink were once a band playing poised, pretty chamber pop – but it’s not all cotton and jasmine. There’s something brinier, too. “Honey still hot from the tired bees,” Gesundheit sings, “sweet sap weeping from our favourite tree,” sweat-salty despite the sugars. In this it reminds me of another lusty fable, Feist’s My Moon My Man (2007), and Leslie Feist appears here, too, in a brief backup role.

How Now’s desire is even closer to the surface, rippling free across tangled appeals, bothered horns, Goldman’s low enticements. “You and me, let’s get together,” Gesundheit proposes. “Watch what you call for,” he responds. “All birds have a call.”

Belle and Sebastian — Olympic Village, 6AM (2016)

I don’t hate the Olympics for what they are but for what they invigorate. Patriotism tilts sectarian, nationalism’s an obstacle to empathy and the myth of American (or Canadian, or Tuvaluan, or …) exceptionalism impedes our ability to learn from each other. And don’t even get me started on host cities, corporate sponsors, or the International Olympic Committee. Yet strip all of that away and there’s the stuff of pure wonder: delegations from all across the globe, human beings testing and exceeding their limits. During certain broadcasts or in certain articles, or with the sound off, or squinting, one is reminded occasionally that co-operation is at the heart of all great competition. Or that each of these athletes is an individual person, like you or like me, on an adventure.

These are the Olympic Games that Belle and Sebastian are writing to, from Glasgow, on their recently released Olympic Village, 6AM. No tattoos or fanfares, no triumphant Chariots of Fire. Instead, lots of winsome melodica and a band of the jauntiest kind. There’s more to Rio than weeping on the podium, nosing over the finish line: imagine closing the laptop in your hotel room, jogging through the village at 6 a.m., meeting a fencer or a diver at the athletes’ cafeteria. Some will win some medals, some won’t. No matter what, have some breakfast – you deserve it.

Sean Michaels received the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize for his novel Us Conductors. He is the editor of the music blog Said the Gramophone.