Song, by Toad

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Malcolm Middleton & David Shrigley – Music and Words

wordsandmusic Well I know nothing about this whatsoever, beyond the very basics implied by the title of the record. The pre-order link doesn’t work at all, and I’ve not seen anything in the press about it, nor has anyone been in touch asking me to cover it.

[Edit: looks like it might be just the vinyl link which isn't ready - apparently CD and digital are fine.]

The obvious question, then, is what I can possibly achieve by simply posting up a single song with no context and no ability to really provide any.

Well, listen to it and you’ll see.

Basically it starts out sort of nice, becomes sort of weird, and by the end is, erm, well why would I ruin the surprise. Listen to it, you really do have to, there is no other way. There’s certainly no point me describing it to you, that’s for sure.

And once you’ve listened you’ll know why I have no compunction writing about this now, before they’ve really got their act together with pre-orders and before I really know anything about the album: this is going to come up again, it’s pretty certain.

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Krista Michaela

krimi Krista Michaela is the stage name of a lass called Krista Anderson, who I found out about because she sings on the BRAAINZZ EP I wrote about the other day.

She has a fair bit of stuff over at her own Bandcamp page, and it’s really good. Spectral, fuzzy and wafting all over the place, with minimal instrumentation, but a gloriously strong sense of minimalism, these songs are put together with so little that each element takes on more importance. You notice everything. It’s gorgeous.

Her first stuff was published late last year from the looks of it, so it would appear these are relatively tentative home recordings, but they sound really good, and seem to be something of a piece with where lo-fi went after the raucous guitar bands started to cross over into the (very borderline) mainstream. Chillwave may have been a joke genre, but elements of that vaseline-lensed dreaminess seem to have spilled over into lo-fi and slacker areas and created a sort of sloppy, ultra-shambling style which is quite popular at the moment, and which I rather like.

This isn’t quite like that, in that the vocals are delivered with conviction, but there is definitely a sense of distance and other-worldliness which you hear in a lot of the stuff I’ve just described. I sometimes think music in this realm leans a bit too heavily on tone and atmosphere rather than melody, and I suppose that can apply here at times, but in general I really like the sound of this stuff, and she seems like a really promising musician.

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BRAAINZZ – Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper

braainzz I’ve written about BRAAINZZ before. They’re weird as fuck, but they happen to be a really rather good band once you get used to all the vocoders and time-warping and general love for making you wonder if you’re listening to music that was made on purpose or entirely by accident when someone had Logic open and spilled a can of fizzy juice all over their computer.

It’s hard to argue with an album where Mrs. God plays cello though, if we’re being honest.

One of the things I like most about them is that in amongst all this perverse, messy nonsense, moments of clarity occasionally appear, just to remind you that this lot do genuinely know what they are doing, and all the weird elements of the music are as considered as any more conventional sounding tunes you’ll hear.

There’s a cracking Walkmen cover on here, for example, and while it doesn’t sound all that much like The Walkmen themselves, it’s actually pretty straight-edged by the standards of this lot. Needless to say, though, they descend into incomprehensible mess pretty much immediately afterwards, just in case you were in danger of getting the wrong idea.

Amazingly, with all these noises which border on the just plain silly, they seem to have a real flair for melancholy music. And actually it works pretty well. Even with the vocoder and the squeaks and the beeps.

Shroom folk. Wyrd pop. That’s what they call themselves. And, as they say, it sounds like nonsense but makes total sense once you listen to the music. I have no idea how or why this lot are good, but they really are.

Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper is their third EP and can be downloaded for free here.

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Allison Crutchfield – Lean In To It

lean You’ve heard me talk an awful lot about Kingfisher Bluez in the past- they released Adam Stafford’s album in North America, and released a Rick Redbeard single quite recently as well.

In fact I reckon if I were living in Vancouver (which a large part of me would love to) then Tim and I might well find ourselves squabbling over the same bands a lot of the time. They have a mind-bogglingly prolific release rate as well, and every time I go to their Bandcamp page it seems there are a small handful of new releases I’ve never heard of before.

One of the latest to go up there is this – a pre-order for an absolutely fantastic-sounding 12″ by Allison Crutchfield which will be available sometime just before Christmas. In other words, soon.

It’s lo-fi pop music, basically, with keyboards and drum machines fleshing out the sound, but most songs relying on relatively simple melodies not unlike the style of Casiotone For the Painfully Alone.

There’s plenty of gravel and distortion in the backing, but for all Allison’s voice is relatively low in the mix, it’s still clear and strong, which means this doesn’t just sound like yet another deliberately self-sabotaging lo-fi pop artist hiding behind their own effects – there is plenty of fuzz, but it is used with care and to really, really good effect.

I love a duet, and standout tunes for me would be the duet with Sam Cook-Parrott on Lupe, a tune he co-wrote, as well as You and Supermoon – all lovely singing, with a really nice sense of strength, brought by the insistent pace of the artificial percussion. It just rattles along, even through the songs which themselves seem to waver a little more.

It may have a slight air of vulnerability to it, but that’s really just her voice, and even so it’s pretty minimal, but these are (generally short) sharp, self-contained pop songs and this is an excellent record.

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I Have Been Reading Books Again

books Yep, that headline is absolutely as tragic as it sounds. What? Books? Like the internet, but analogue? You’re such a fucking hipster, dude.

I know. We all read books and we all love books. Well, pretty much everyone reading this site, anyway, I would imagine. And I am the same. I fucking love books.  But for some reason I lost the habit about five years ago – maybe even more – and I have been struggling to get it back.

It sounds like an incredibly banal lament, but for someone who absolutely loves books and reading, I just stopped dead for some reason. Back in London I used to read all the time. I was commuting to work, and for all it wasn’t a long commute and I didn’t exactly plough through the pages on the train, I was still getting into books by doing so, and it meant I was way more likely to read at home as well.

Then when I moved up here I was rather taken aback by Mrs. Toad’s disconcertingly early bed-time. I’m a natural night owl, so her insistence on going to bed at 10pm just felt weird, but it did mean I continued to hoover up books just as much as ever before. And then, probably some time in 2008 or so, I just stopped. Read the rest of this entry »

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Toadcast #307 – The Joecast

tag Yep, not gin anymore, these days I drink coffee with my podcasts. Nostalgia really isn’t what it used to be, is it. I remember when I was wild, rude, inebriated, etc. etc…

Mind you, seeing as I am driving through to Glasgow once I finish this to engage in sensitive negotiations with a ‘hot new band’*, I think half a bottle of gin might not be the wisest preparation, even by my rather slapdash standards. So it’s a pot of coffee and some fine new music, and you know, I may even keep the nonsensical rambling to a minimum if I can manage it.

It’s going to be weird driving through to Glasgow actually, because I will be taking a friend’s car instead of Bette, because it has a working tape player while Bette’s is currently out of action. It’s still a Volvo estate, but just a normal one, and I have to confess it feels kind of weird that no-one does their ‘what the fuck is that?’ stare when I drive past. I’ve kind of grown used to that over the last year or two with the old girl.

Toadcast #307 – The Joecast by Song, By Toad on Mixcloud

Direct download: Toadcast #307 – The Joecast

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01. Becky Becky – I Remember, I Remember… (00.16)
02. Huerequeque – Homöopaatiline Epopöa (05.32)
03. Sex Hands – On a Break (15.47)
04. Jeff Flashinski – Disillusion (21.31)
05. eagleowl – Clean the Night (24.25)
06. Furs – An Eye on the Vicious (29.45)
07. Max Garcia Conover – Wildfires Outside Laramie, WY (33.45)
08. Waiters – What For Art Thou (43.52)
09. Sea Pinks – Dream Happening (47.12)
10. Maston – Gold Leaf (52.45)
11. Water World – Cream Soda (56.44)
12. Frankie Cosmos – Owen (1.00.23)

*Disclaimer: we are NEVER in negotiations with ‘hot’ new anything. As you well know.

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Waiters – What For Art Thou

waiters Ahh, Waiters. I was writing about Sex Hands earlier today, and that put me in mind of our first Split 12″, recorded back in the Winter of 2011 I think, and if I recall Waiters were the first band we actually recorded.

I’d had plenty of good results with the Toad Sessions by then of course, but I was still nervous, and the Waiters songs are the first and (and to date still the only) songs where I personally have made technical mistakes which threatened our ability to use the actual recordings themselves.

It turns out that by sheer good fortune we were able to work around my errors and for all they were one of the most low-profile bands on that Split 12″ (except maybe Dolfinz who seem to have quietly drifted off into non-existence) I am still so proud of the songs they did with us – that sense of sad, lazy melancholy still feels to me like some of the best stuff I’ve ever recorded.

I offered to help them record an album in the same way afterwards, but for apparently they wanted to work at a slightly slower and more deliberate pace. It’s a shame, but that kind of thing happens with bands, and you can’t push anyone into something they aren’t entirely comfortable with, particularly not at this level where none of us are getting rich out of any of this.

Anyhow, Jon moving to the States seemed to put the brakes on a Waiters album permanently, but I forgot that a while back they asked me about this recording. I loved the songs, but at the time I said that I thought it would be financially a bit crazy, because 12″s are expensive to press, and you can only really sell a four-song EP for so much.

CF Records in Belfast, however, seem to have disagreed, which is excellent news. They specialise in short-run and limited edition releases, and clearly have a lot more experience in this area than I do, and I am delighted this release has found a way in the end because the songs are fucking ace. If you look at the rest of their releases you’ll see what I mean – so much good stuff.

This stuff embodies so much of the stuff I love about Waiters. I love Joe’s voice – just a little bit flat, in a way, but with such a warmth to it. When he sings sad songs you really do believe him, and for someone who likes sad music as much as I do that’s quite a big deal. The rhythm section chugs along mechanically but a little uncertainly, almost as if it is struggling to hold the whole song together. I don’t think these lads rehearse all that much, so that ‘about to stumble to a standstill’ feel may be simply an aesthetic choice or it might simply be what was actually happening in the room when they recorded.

Grey Matters and Mirror Threat are just gorgeous songs, and classic examples of that thrumming rhythm, slightly plaintive vocal delivery and unobtrusively downbeat atmosphere which make Waiters songs so compelling, and which made me so excited about the first Split 12″ when I pulled them off the desk and started the mixing process. I sincerely hope that between Joe’s stuff with Water World and Sex Hands, Perry’s fantastic Comfortable on a Tightrope stuff and umm… well I’m actually not all that sure where Jon is living now, that they still find the time to keep this band going, because they are bloody ace.

Waiters – Vacillate Wildly from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

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Maston – Opal

maston Looking at the actual purchase link for this album it appears I am actually writing a review from the point of view of only having heard Side 1. Never mind. We don’t do serious analysis here anyway, just pointing at good things and shouting ‘oh look, this is good’ at the internet in the hopes that someone else might take an interest as well.

Looking at the web shop of Stroll On Records you’ll see why I am being a bit blasé about this – their releases are generally excellent anyway, so I am prepared to go out on a limb and say ‘I have heard enough – this is really good’. Have a listen to their Soundcloud page here.

Anyhow, Opal is dreamy, meandering and excellent. The songs can be whole pop songs or wee snippets, instrumentals or simple pop tunes, but it all flows together really well, feeling at times like the soundtrack to a baffling sci-fi film where they never quite resolve what is reality and what is only happening inside your head.

There’s a wistfulness to it as well, perhaps achieved by the sense of vaseline-on-the-lens, blurred romanticism, and at times that sort of stylish 60s film score feel. It’s not by any means an unusual mixture these days, but this is done really well, and is one of those records I just warmed to immediately.

The band’s other work is perhaps a little more upbeat and for all this is a little different, it still actually filters through, providing a nice purposeful sense of rhythm throughout most of this record and preventing it meandering off into blind alleys. It’s dreamy, it’s a little ramshackle, but it’s never just noodling.

Get one here.

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Sex Hands – Pleh

sexhands Listening to this has been a surprisingly nostalgic experience for me. The reason for this is that Gay Marriage, Chandler in a Box and The One Where the Stripper Cries were all recorded and mixed by myself for our first ever Song, by Toad Split 12″ some three years ago, and hearing their proper versions on a full album is rather an emotional experience, albeit in a quiet little way.

Invariably I find myself listening to the album versions of those songs and wondering if they are somehow closer to what the band wanted than what they got from us, or whether they preferred the performances or whether they simply rattled all the songs together in one session and these are just the current versions, rather than any kind of improvement. This is sort of creepy ex-boyfriend behaviour, I acknowledge that, but it’s almost impossible not to fall into the trap.

Without wishing to insult the band, it’s something of a weird thing to find what is basically a smart-arsed concept band by its very definition (all the songs are about episodes of Friends, in case the song titles above didn’t give it away) progressing from a few catchy singles into the relatively legitimate territory of releasing a debut album.

In a way, once you get the joke, you could argue that the band itself doesn’t need to exist much beyond that. ‘Friends? Yeah, right. Oh wait! Holy shit, they were fucking serious!’ and that’s about as far as you have to go.

Except this is a really, really good album. I am not allowed to use the word ‘garage’ to describe them, because apparently they have never been anywhere near a garage, but you know what that means as a sort of stylistic shorthand of course: rough-and-ready guitar pop songs, with plenty of growl, a bit of thrash from time to time and muffled vocals.

And, basically, the tunes are fucking great. From the instrumental guitar intro of Space Song, to the faintly surreal experience of listening to hugely hummable songs like On A Break whilst knowing exactly which intensely tedious dead horse the Friends writers were flogging at the time they wrote all the source material. Christ, that fucking thread just refused to fucking die. But it’s a cracking song.

And this brings me to something which might sound like over-rationalisation: the number of times people go into intense critiques of what depth and what subtlety they find in pop music, when this is almost by its very definition anti-intellectual. It’s shallow and basically frivolous, and let’s see what the writers at places like The Quietus or Pitchfork, where the serious music writing is done, actually make of this. I mean, it’s about Friends, for fuck’s sake, meaning that as soon as you have anything serious to say you are already being mocked by the nature of the record itself. It’s like music writing has been pre-satirised.

So really there’s nothing to be said about this. It’s a weird, silly record with awesome tunes and you should buy a copy because it is hugely enjoyable to listen to. It’s just pop music, I suppose.

Sex Hands – Chandler in a Box from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

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Jonnie Common – Trapped in Amber Album Launch Shows

Jonnie Common‘s glorious new album – yes, seriously, glorious – is being released into the world on Halloween of this year (pre-order your copy here) and to celebrate, we are arranging some launch shows. And they will be fantastic. Therefore you should come.

Aberdeen is (tragically) going to be the last Citizen Mule gig, so please give the silly oaf (Stevie, not Jonnie) a good send-off. The Edinburgh show is in the rather gorgeous Pilrig St. Paul’s, halfway down Leith Walk, and on the Saturday night in Glasgow the Save-As Collective have a special night planned, with a Miaoux Miaoux DJ set and everything.

The album is great, the shows are going to be great, I am just chuffed to bits all round with this whole business. And not a cynical comment in sight. What’s happened to me? It’s like I don’t even know myself anymore.

Thursday 13th November – Aberdeen
At Downstairs, with Christ and Colin Austin – tickets £5 on the door

Friday 14th November – Edinburgh
At Pilrig St. Paul’s with Wolf – tickets here.

Saturday 15th November – Glasgow
At the Glad Cafe with Wolf & Ross Sutherland – tickets here.

And just for fun, here is Jonnie’s new single.