This hasn’t been the most closely guarded of secrets, but it’s probably time to make it official: we’ll be releasing the Modern Studies album in September. And it’s fucking awesome.
We have the first single from the album coming out on Monday. It will be premiering on the excellent Gold Flake Paint, so I won’t ruin the surprise by posting it here, but to paraphrase Frank N. Furter, it’s nice to build a little sense of antici … pation.
I’ve known most of these guys for ages actually, and people who know the label may well recognise a couple of familiar faces up there in that picture, namely Rob St. John and Pete Harvey (The Leg). Well Joe on the left runs the Glad Café in Glasgow and is in a number of bands you might well know too, and Emily was actually one of the very first local acts I ever saw in Edinburgh when I first started writing the blog.
I went down to Out of the Bedroom, one of our most enduring open mic nights, with a friend who was running it at the time, and I saw Emily play solo and loved it. Her performance was one of the key things in making me realise that although the bigger bands never seemed to come through Edinburgh, there was plenty of talent in the underground scene if you took the time to look. Funnily enough Rob was actually another of the people who I first heard of around the same time and also had a big influence in drawing me into the local scene. But yep, I’ve known Emily for ages but this is my first chance to actually work with her, which is awesome.
The band themselves describe their music as Arts und Krafts Werk, which adds to Song, by Toad Records’ proud tradition of making up the silliest genres in the entire music industry. More sensibly, they also use the term chamber pop, which I suppose might make more sense to you. It’s lush, gorgeous acoustic pop music, short and sweet and unusually for us, an album which feels like it absolutely packed with singles. The release date is September the 12th, and you can pre-order from our Bandcamp page. And keep an eye out for that single on Monday. It’s a belter.
I was raised in Austria, and Franz Klammer is a folk hero out there, and one of the most legendary Austrian ski-racers of all time, so the name of this Edinburgh band is actually rather dear to my heart although admittedly I don’t entirely understand the ‘Hans’ pun.
Pointless digressions aside, there’s a lot of really interesting music knocking around Edinburgh at the moment, but it is really rather under the radar, and this band are one of the best of that rather scattered bunch. They have a couple of things up on Bandcamp, and it veers between sweepingly cinematic, really infectious indie rock songs and more ambient, experimental soundscapes.
When they decide to right a straight up tune they really do a fine job of it, which is slightly surprising given how the more dreamy, thrumming beats dominate the EPs they’ve released so far. It’s great though, you get all these swirling atmospherics, and then suddenly a proper riff breaks out, almost out of nowhere.
It’s all pay-what-you-like too, so have a wee explore.
Our release of David Thomas Broughton’s epic masterpiece Crippling Lack moves to Volume 2 this month, which comes out on French label NoizeMaker Records. We’ve sold our entire allocation now, so European fans should order from the NoizeMaker Bandcamp page, whereas North Americans should head to Paper Garden Records, who are Brooklyn-based.
Crippling Lack Vol.2 introduces itself with a new single, the flighty and gorgeous River, which features gorgeous work by Sam Amidon* on fiddle:
After this gorgeous tune Volume 2, the heart of the album in many ways, is subsequently dominated by two sprawling epics which are both around a quarter of an hour long. Concrete Statement and I Close My Eyes are full of gorgeous moments, but they decompose almost entirely over their course, leaving only the barest skeleton of their structure left.
These threads will be gathered up and rewoven later, but you’re in the heart of the storm with this record and the tension at the heart of I Close My Eyes between the two most hypnotically-repeated lyrics seems to embody the dichotomy at the core of the whole album. As “I close my eyes and it all goes wrong” slowly cedes ground to “I know I have potential” you can almost hear the emotional trajectory of the album finally arresting its downward spiral and locating the shred of succour and self-belief it needs to drag itself back from the abyss.
David gave an interview with The List recently: “The record is about discomfort and trying to reconcile conflicting elements of the human condition to eventually come to terms with the awkwardness of life.”
Well this is the bit where stuff gets uncomfortable. Don’t worry though, Volume 3 is on the way and it will start to make sense of all of this. Promise.
And in the meantime, here’s a video for Dots, which is on Volume 1:
*Just as an aside, I remember one of our first ever Toad Sessions was recorded with Sam Amidon back in 2009 and one of the things we talked about was his tour with David and how much he loved his music. I was a recent convert as well, and it was a nice wee chat, but I have to confess I never dreamed for a second at that point that we would end up all collaborating on an album release in seven years’ time. Sigh, nostalgia, how time flies, you never know where life will take you, etc etc etc…
I’ve been making mixtapes a lot recently. We have a tape player in the kitchen – basically just an act of nostalgia, because my parents always had one in the kitchen too – and I’ve really embraced the trend of small bands and labels doing a lot of tape releases these days. Hell, we do it ourselves too. It’s just nice. It’s nice to have ‘a thing’ to represent your release, even if it is small scale and even if it is only a run of 100.
This has meant, inevitably, that I’ve been digging out old mixtapes and making some new ones. I have to confess that I cheat, these days, however. I make a playlist on Spotify and just plug the computer into the input for the tape machine and do it that way. I know, I know, judge me all you like, that’s just my compromise with the 21st Century, and I’m not proud but I have decided to accept it.
I’ve been making a lot of new mixes of course, as you would, but given its ‘all the music that ever existed in the universe ever’ model, Spotify is actually really good for tracking down the fragments of half-remembered mixtapes from your past and attempting to cobble them back together.
When we lived in Singapore my parents’ vinyl collection warped and went mouldy in the heat and humidity. It was unrecoverable, tragically, but they managed to make some great mixtapes out of the remains before it was all chucked out. Early Americana Vol.1 is something of a legendary standout from that period. My Dad is Canadian so he was raised in a rather different musical environment to my Mum and certainly to myself. This tape was ninety minutes of Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Neil Young, Bob Seger (no sniggering, I love some of his tunes), Jackson Browne, The Band, The Holy Modal Rounders, The Eagles (oh fuck off, The Last Resort is a cracking song), and it was fucking ace.
There was also a far less heralded Early Americana Vol.2 of course, but it just didn’t quite click in that way that first one did – in the elusive way in which great mixtapes do – but that doesn’t mean there weren’t some great songs on there, so I sat down on Spotify to try and compile a rough sort of Best Of from the two tapes.
Some of the individual tracks themselves have continued to play a huge role in all our lives, so they didn’t really need much lobbying to end up on the final mix. Walking Song by Kate and Anna McGarrigle still brings an actual, literal tear to my eye every time I hear it, and All the Tired Horses by Dylan became something of an alternative nursery rhyme in our house, if I am remembering things accurately, which at this sort of distance I might not be.
It’s not all ‘the classics’ of course – in fact that’s pretty much the entire point of a good mixtape. In going back through these songs I happened across some forgotten gems. With some, like Bob Seger and James Taylor I found myself remembering how much I actually like some of their stuff, despite the unavoidable whiff of soft rock about them and the absolute gold medal levels of unfashionableness.
Slightly different was Kris Kristofferson. I’ve always fondly remembered Me and Bobby McGee from that tape. For a child I think the lyrics have something immediately appealing about them, and lines like “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” always stuck in my head. I had entirely forgotten that there was another Kris Kristofferson song on one of the tapes though, and it turns out that its relevance to my current line of work is absolutely uncanny. It’s called To Beat the Devil, and I’ve embedded it at the top of the page.
I know every generation thinks they are the first to face the weight of all the world’s problems, and there are no shortage of articles by old duffers lecturing modern musicians about the fact that trying to live off being a full-time musician has always been a losing proposition, but it’s sort of heartening to hear someone from an entirely different era and genre singing about the exact same nagging internal debates about futility, reward, and the sisyphean nature of full-time music.
There’s not much actual ‘song’ in the song, either. It’s more a rambling monologue, but there are two little glimpses, and it feels just like a combination of me at my most cynical, most resigned, and yet also most determined. With lines like “back when failure had me locked out on the wrong side of the door” he even acknowledges that this is sung from the point of view of a relatively successful musician. And he’s still fucking broke. I heard it again after all these years and all I could think was ‘holy fuck, this is like an anthem for my whole fucking label’!
This is what the passenger seat of my car looks like these days.
The launch nights for Kitchen Sync, Jonnie Common’s new instrumental album of found sounds from his kitchen released on a set of fridge magnets – no seriously, have a look here, they’re nearly sold out! – were bafflingly fantastic.
I say bafflingly because they were primarily composed of Jonnie giving what was essentially a Powerpoint presentation about how he actually made the album, complete with basic explanations of things like side-chain compression and the pitch-shifting of sampled wave forms. Having explained the process and source of the sounds for each song, he then played along with it, although inevitably a lot had to be pre-recorded samples.
And somehow, it was absolutely fascinating. I salute you, Mr. Common, I have no idea how you pulled this whole ridiculous idea off, but it’s absolutely bloody brilliant.
The Restless Natives Festival is happening in Glasgow in the first week or so of May, and there is an absolute shitload of excellent Toad stuff happening. About which I have no doubt you are thrilled. Just thrilled.
We have a showcase, the David Thomas Broughton documentary is playing, and Adam Stafford is doing a live movie soundtrack. Awesome, no?
The Ambiguity of David Thomas Broughton is a documentary about the man himself, and made by Oh Kestrel film. I’ll be conducting a live Skype Q&A with David on the night, as he’s based in South Korea these days and that’s as close as we could get him.
Adam Stafford on the other hand will be performing a live soundtrack to A Page of Madness, which is not something I can say I know much about, but sounds weird and interesting. He’s a film-maker himself of course, so I guess this kind of thing should suit him.
And finally, we have a three-band Song, by Toad bill of Le Thug, Numbers Are Futile and DTHPDL at Collective Studios on 10th May (details and tickets here).
The festival is a celebration of all things DIY in the arts, from visual art and film, to music, comedy and debate. It sounds ambitious as fuck to me, and I’m really pleased they’ve seen fit to invite us to participate. Hopefully see you there, Glasgow!
Because we don’t have enough new releases bubbling away at the moment I thought it might be time to introduce you to our next awesomest thing!
You may have seen this skittering about the internet yesterday, but given the reckless pace of the average Twitter feed and Facebook’s steadfast refusal to allow people who explicitly sign up for news about your thing to actually receive news about your thing, I figured I should actually post a formal announcement on the blog. Just, y’know, to be safe.
DTHPDL (Deathpodal, if that helps with pronunciation) are a new-not-new Edinburgh band, who released an EP back in about 2009 or something like that, and then promptly vanished until early last year, at which point they reappeared sounding entirely different. So not technically brand new, but effectively they might as well be.
Their new EP The Future is out on Song, by Toad Records in a couple of weeks, and the launch night will be at the Leith Depot on Saturday 22nd April, supported by the excellent Lush Purr and Miracle Strip, and with Jesus H. Foxx (fuck me – remember them!) DJs.
Our Split 12″ series is, erm, sporadic, to say the very least. It’s been a couple of years since the last one, but there will be three released within the next twelve months, to take the tally up to six by early 2017.
This one is, a little like the Insider one we did last, going to be unique in the sense that it was actually recorded in the living room of our new house in Leith where, Mrs. Toad has decreed, no recording shall ever take place ever again. That’s what The Happiness Hotel is for.
And speaking of The Happiness Hotel (it’s our warehouse, and if you don’t get the reference you are dead to me), that is where we shall be holding the launch night for Song, by Toad Split 12″ Vol.4, on Thursday 5th May. The record features Viking Moses, Supermoon, digitalanalogue and Virgin of the Birds, but seeing as two of those bands are based in the States and hoping for them to be in Scotland at the same time seemed a little optimistic, we thought we would have to make do with three bands from the Split, get each of them to learn a song by the regrettably absent Virgin of the Birds, and include Viking Moses’ tour pal Sam Goodwill just for shits and giggles and because he’s good.
One of the absolute greatest things about being as close to the actual making of music as I now am is being able to actually witness new and awesome things as they come into existence, and to savour that ‘holy fucking shit, what is this, it’s awesome‘ moment when you realise that it is going to be excellent.
I am still amazed by what a mess music can actually sound like when you are in the room, listening to the actual act of recording. I remember some of the flat-out rock bands we recorded in our old living room, and it just sounded like someone throwing a load of old pots and pans down the stairs with some poor fucker trying desperately to scream over the top of the resulting cacophony. It sounded awful. And it turned out fantastically.
As you know I am currently in the middle of recording Song, by Toad Split 12″ Vol.6 (Vol.4 is out in July and Vol.5 in November) and we have three bands’ songs more or less down now. This project has embodied both ends of the ‘what the fuck is going on’ spectrum, from the Willard Grant Conspiracy, whose performance in the room itself was so obviously beautifully that my sole responsibility as a mixing engineer is not to fuck it up, through to the Tissø Lake songs, which were mostly individually tracked, so I didn’t really have much idea what I was hearing until we started to assemble everything together. It still surprises me when proper, grown-up music emerges from all those scraps, but it shouldn’t anymore.
Micah P. Hinson, on the other hand, has been a slightly different case. I am not sure he really enjoyed the recording process himself, primarily because he is from Texas and was playing in an unheated warehouse in Edinburgh in November, so he was absolutely fucking freezing. I am genuinely sorry for this – I blame the perennial postponement of our stove installation – but you honestly wouldn’t know it from the recordings. The sound as Micah generally does: unhurried, rich and sincere.
One of the nicest bits though, and the bit which prompted the opening sentence to this post, is a cover that Micah played. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but it’s a Phil Ochs song and listening to it the other day as I tweaked the initial mixes, it struck me, hearing Ochs’ lyrics sung by Micah, how much lyrical common ground there is between the two. Phil Ochs is obviously more overtly political of course, but in other senses they have such a similar feel – the burst of humour (bitterly acerbic or otherwise), the flair for lighthearted musical styles to back poignant lyrics, that constant sense of self-doubt and nagging fear of futility, and of course the ability to write absolutely crushingly sad, beautiful songs as well as almost anyone I’ve heard.
There’s an intensity to the two of them too, sitting there beneath the surface of the music, and you never quite know what to do with it, which I think it probably what makes it brilliant.
Micah is fond of a cover, of course, and recorded a whole double album of them a few years ago, but this was just one of those moments where I thought ‘oh yeah, that’s perfect, and I never realised at all’.
Hello folks, we are coming back down to London once more, to peddle our wares at the Independent Label Market which is taking place on Saturday 2nd April at Old Spitalfields Market.
We’ve some awesome new stuff for you as well. Apart from the somewhat sullying sight of me getting steadily drunker over the course of the day, and access to our entire back catalogue from almost eight years of releases, you will also have your first chance to pick up the new Adam Stafford album Taser Revelations (“a tour de force brimming with confidence and invention from an artist at the top of his game” – Is This Music?) as well as the new David Thomas Broughton triple vinyl Crippling Lack (“The fact this album exists at all is testament to the inherent brilliance at the heart of humankind.” – Collective Zine) and Jonnie Common’s new experimental instrumental album Kitchen Sync, which is released on a set of four unique fridge magnets*.