Song, by Toad

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Next Week’s BAD FUN: BeckyBecky, FROTH and Chrissy Barnacle

Our next round of BAD FUN shows kicks off next week, with the fantastic Becky Becky coming up from Brighton. I wrote about their debut album a while back – Good Morning Midnight. I know both Pete and Gemma from their respective previous projects (Woodpecker Wooliams and Art Pedro, since you ask) and I really like this stuff. It’s really dark electro synth pop, and this isn’t normally my kind of territory admittedly, but I really like this album.

The show is at Henry’s Cellar Bar on Thursday, with advance tickets available here as per usual. Henry’s is getting nicer by the day under new ownership at the moment, and they’ve even got Williams and Joker on tap now too, so I hope to see you there. I am most excited!

Also on the bill will be a couple of Glasgow newcomers – FROTH and Chrissy Barnacle. FROTH have been described as the best band in Glasgow at the moment by people I generally trust to be right about music, and I really enjoyed them the only time I’ve seen them play, which was at the Passion Pusher cassette launch late last year. The recordings on their Bandcamp page are pretty clean actually, but live they are loose and splenetic and ace, and I am delighted to bring your their first Edinburgh show.

I am not entirely sure if this is Chrissy Barnacle‘s first Edinburgh show too, but I sort of guess it might be. Her stuff is rather more delicate and gentle, with a lovely sense of uncertainty about it. I happened across her name on a bill with a couple of other people I like and she has a lovely four-song EP with strings on her Bandcamp page, and I am really interested to hear what she sounds like live.

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New Garden of Elks Single

Garden of Elks – SWAP from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

The Garden of Elks debut album A Distorted Sigh is coming out on Song, by Toad Records in April, and this is the first single.

The video, like the song, cavorts joyously along for a couple of minutes and then packs it in – no fussing, no unnecessary embellishment, no fucking about. That’s pretty much what the album is like too, and that is why I love it.

We’re currently booking gigs around the UK for them to celebrate the release, and they’re playing Edinburgh and Glasgow with Broken Records for the Scottish launches. Pre-order the album on cassette or vinyl from here.

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The Holy Modal Rounders – Skydivers

Even now, after all this time, I can forget that my parents used to listen to some absolutely mental shit in their day. It’s a thing most of us learn at some point, but still something I seem to manage to forget on a regular basis – probably because when I make compilations for them I have a think about some of the stuff I am into these days, stuff which is far weirder than I myself used to listen to, and decide on their behalf that it’s probably a bit much for the old fuckers.

My folks have just returned from a round-the-world trip on a container ship because, erm, apparently that’s what you do if you’re nearly seventy and finding retirement a bit boring, and we just had a bit of a chat about the trip and various other bits and bobs because we haven’t really spoken for weeks now. Apparently the mobile reception is shit in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Anyhow, they signed off with the somewhat throwaway comment that I should listen to Skydivers by the Holy Modal Rounders, because it’s brilliant.

Cool, I thought. I like the Holy Modal Rounders. Apparently during the height of the super-elaborate and boorishly pretentious wave of proggy rock-operas in the sixties Peter Stampfel and Steve Weber reacted by stripping music back to absolutely minimal basics again and going a bit crazy with it. I actually have Holy Modal Rounders 1 & 2 on vinyl. The lyrics are weird as fuck and the nasal vocals take a little getting used to, but it’s pretty straight-up and basic, albeit brilliant, psychedelic folk. And that’s about as much as I’m familiar with.

Skydivers, on the other hand, is little bit more in the, erm, batshit crazy camp. It’s from their third album Indian War Whoop, and it adds a lot of delirious organ to their signature sound, but more importantly, it throws every last mental idea spinning around their crazy heads into a blender and smears the result all over the resulting record like pizza base. I’ve heard my dad sing versions of these songs my whole life and never known that that they came from this record, or that what I was hearing was such a… well, such a palatable interpretation of such intense and weird music.

You can hear most of the album at this YouTube link. Have a listen. Skydivers is by far the most beautiful moment on the album (apart from the missing songs of course, which I haven’t heard yet), and some of the violin in particularly is just hauntingly lovely. But it’s still tense and wandering and has a definite sense of simmering menace lurking amongst its lovelier moments. And, y’know, it still contains lyrics like “…looking for all the world like an umbrella that has seen too much, and forgotten nothing.”

Even at nearly forty years of age myself, and even after the two mad old bastards have just returned from indulging their retirement by riding a container ship through the Panama Canal, I still seem to manage to forget that my folks are way weirder and way cooler than I tend to give them credit for.

I don’t think I can take all the blame though. I mean, my Mum bought a fucking Lighthouse Family album for fuck’s sake. She bought one on purpose. She may have bought several. But then they lulled me to sleep as a child by singing me this absolutely crazy stuff. No wonder kids grow up confused.

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Dune Witch Trials

dunewitchtrials There are some very, very good things happening in (mostly) Glasgow at the moment. Guitar music got lo-fi a few years ago, and now it’s not just lo-fi, it just doesn’t fucking care about anything and is prepared to tell you so aggressively and repeatedly.

Giving the impression that you’re bothering your arse even in the very slightest is anathema to this lot, it seems. Not that the music’s shite or that they can’t play or anything, but the whole aesthetic is just completely steeped in belligerent indifference.

Dune Witch Trials don’t have a lot of material, and although some of their tunes are outright hummable pop songs, they still have a fantastically throwaway feel to them – loose and rough, and energetic. The gents involved are actually part of Herbert Powell – apparently the best band in Glasgow at the moment, depending somewhat on who you ask, but these songs are structured a bit more in the classic pop tune vein, and I like them for that.

Drums, guitar, vocals – a riff, a quick solo, and over by the two-minute mark. Perfect.

As soon as I can I am going to start getting some of these guys through to Edinburgh to play. I’ve a lot of gigs already in the calendar, which I’ll have to work around, but in amongst this group of bands there are some real gems knocking around.

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Wendell Barton

Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 14.34.19 Alright, I know I usually complain about people going apeshit over bands with no more than a song or two on the internet, so this will necessarily be a brief post as I really know nothing about these guys at all.

I found out about them late last night by stalking Passion Pusher on Facebook. His stream is a pretty much constant source of incomprehensible rambling and awesome music, and around half past midnight he mentioned this lot.

They’re from Aberdeen, they have one single song on Soundcloud, and from the sounds of it they could be really good. Unlike a lot of the stuff Passion Pusher introduces me to this has a chorus, is recorded pretty well and the band themselves sound coherent and together. It may sit well with a lot of the sloppier stuff I’ve been introduced to this way, but there is a really forceful rock sound to this which sets it apart somewhat.

I’ve not seen them live, and I know only this one song so I have very little frame of reference for what kind of a band they really are, but this is ace.

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Youngstrr Joey

joey I sit at my desk sometimes and really wonder what anyone within earshot actually makes of the music I listen to.

Youngstrr Joey is probably at the extreme end of that, not for noise or aggression, just sheer sloppy, out-of-tune chaos. Back when lo-fi was the thing everyone described music as in press releases whether it was lo-fi or not (i.e. about three years ago now, I guess) there was a constant debate about whether things sounded so rough because it was a stylistic conceit, or whether it was simply just the best the band knew how to do.

There’s something similar going on here. I’ve heard some of the guys involved in this sneering at the use of the word slacker, and I have some sympathy, because genre terminology is vague at best and both pointless and thoughtless at worst. Still, the ‘fuck it I can’t even be bothered acting like I am trying to sing’ attitude falls pretty squarely into that territory. It’s not so much slacker, which often felt passive and lazy, it’s aggressively slacker. There is an awful lot of ‘fuck you’ steeped in the drawl of these vocals and the choppy snarling of the guitar.

Even with my own taste in this stuff being pretty well-developed, some of this is pretty heavy going. It’s not stuff I would just slap on the stereo because hey, why not, but there is definitely pop music in there, albeit buried deeper than pretty much anywhere else. In that sense, although this is less narcoleptic, Youngstrr Joey has a fair bit in common with Passion Pusher, in whose band Cal Donnelly also plays.

For example, listening to the most determinedly unlistenable of the tunes on Bandcamp – Furry/Blurry for example – there is an almost completely buried but properly fucking brilliant guitar part growling away below the surface. There is a lot of this stuff around in Glasgow at the moment, mostly emanating from within a particular group of pals who seem to have gravitated towards one another, presumably for musical reasons.

I don’t know if it qualifies as stuff which is destined to break through to popularity anytime soon. Probably not. But there is pop music underpinning most of this and presumably someone somewhere will take all the piss and vinegar out of it and get famous replicating this kind of stuff. And I will lose all interest when they do.

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Spinning Coin

Screenshot 2015-02-19 22.57.15 Usually when someone whinges at me for not writing about their music more often the response is polite on the surface but pretty much just ‘fuck off’ in my head.

When it comes to Sean Armstrong’s stuff, however, he has a point. I really like pretty much all of the things he’s been involved in, from The Yawns, to his solo stuff, and more recently Passion Pusher and Velma Helma, but actually haven’t written about all that much of it.

Part of the reason for this is that a lot of it is recorded on the equivalent of a mobile phone microphone and there is no getting around the fact that just doesn’t do the tunes justice. There’s lo-fi and there’s a camera phone too close to the PA at a gig, and even I draw the line there.

Part of my frustration is that when recorded properly, the songs sound as good as this. This is from a four-song cassette out soon on Winning Sperm Party, an awesome wee Glasgow label who have worked with a few bands you should know already, like Gummy Stumps and Monoganon. This too is guitar music, and it’s still pretty lo-fi, but there is plenty of rocking out here and it has a fantastic looseness and enthusiasm about it.

The tune below, the one chosen to publicise the release, is perhaps the most Yawnsy of the whole EP, but my personal favourites are the far more aggressive Hanging Gown and Late Late Late. They’re just… I dunno, purposeful maybe. Late Late Late is fucking gleeful.

MORE PLEASE!

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Toadcast #314 – The Motorwaycast

tag I am going to be spending an awful lot of time on motorways in the immediate future (this is after a Manchester round trip last week as well) so I figured calling this the Motorwaycast made some sense. So many white lines, so many headlights.

I actually don’t mind long drives. I find them sort of meditative in a way, although that effect sort of diminishes when you’ve driven the same stretch of motorway a bit too often. Then it’s just dull and frustrating, but in general long drives are kind of nice. I stick a pile of tapes on the seat next to me, get a coffee and just muse my way along the road for hours.

That car in the picture is not entirely like Shirley (our new 240 wagon) but not all that unlike, and because there will be a funeral involved in one of these trips I think Shirley is rather more suitable than Bette, covered in stickers and a ludicrous green racing stripe.  Shirley’s good, though, she’s handled a few good long round trips now so it looks like we have another long distance workhorse on our hands.

Toadcast #314 – The Motorwaycast by Song, By Toad on Mixcloud

Direct download: Toadcast #314 – The Motorwaycast

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01. Le Thug – Outer Hebridean (00.37)
02. Dearness – It’s OK, You’re Fine (07.40)
03. Nada Surf – Popular (10.27)
04. Becky Becky – I Remember, I Remember (15.53)
05. Spinning Coin – Late Late Late (22.00)
06. Lush Purr – I Admit It, I’m a Gardener (23.46)
07. Tisso Lake – Carnival (29.39)
08. Corespondents – Winner of My Disco Tent (41.46)
09. If it Ain’t Breakfast, Don’t Fix It – Expensive Thrill (45.30)
10. Sacred Paws – Vince (50.47)
11. Slows Down – The Way Down Leering (57.59)

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Dearness – Accidental Gold

dearness  Ah, lo-fi tape releases. Hooray for the internet. Funny that something so ephemeral should have ended up encouraging something so very string-and-brown-paper, but it seems to have. If anything, I think the lack of actual need for a physical product has reminded a small group of people why they actually want one.

There are reasons this is a relatively small DIY release, I think, and two of the main ones are ‘other bands’. Ryan Drever also plays in PAWS and in Garden of Elks, whose debut album we will be releasing here at Song, by Toad Records in a couple of months, and I guess that almost automatically means he has to limit the amount of energy he puts into his own stuff.

It’s good though, if somewhat unassuming. On first listen I thought no more than ‘oh, this is decent’, but repeated listens have significantly improved that somewhat lazy first impression. There are elements of meandering bedroom lo-fi here, with songs so unfocussed that they feel like the very most slack of the slacker end of the spectrum. Less that halfway into Accidental Gold you find Frank Devereaux, which is distant, muffled and minimal. Then you get into Stationary Waves and it feels like everything is kind of grinding to a premature halt.

That song is basically just a long, rambling monologue over the top of a background of incidental music that feels like the EP is drowning in its own fuzz and mumble. But then it suddenly springs into life, with what is basically just a big old riffy pop song, called It’s OK, You’re Fine.

Second-last seems like an odd place to put what is closest to your ‘big pop song’, but it throws everything which has gone before it into sharp relief. Closer Nobody Knows (What the Fuck They’re Talking About) is upbeat again, with what sounds like distorted fragments of TV or radio broadcasts interspersed with classic, direct, fuzzy indie rock. It’s nasty, but it has real drive and pace and is a great way to end everything.

As I said, this sudden burst of energy changes how everything before it feels, and what seemed like a weird, distracted meander suddenly turns out to be a really well-assembled collection of rough and ready songs – enough pop to be fairly instantly engaging and enough experimental nastiness to be really interesting. I don’t love Roads + Rails particularly – I am not sure the way it’s sung particularly suits Ryan’s voice – but that’s a pretty small gripe because for the most part this is really good. And there are only a couple left too, so get one quick if you want one.

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House Gig With Matthew Caws of Nada Surf

Matthewsolo2

Hello internet people of Edinburgh (sorry, yes, pretty much just Edinburgh this time), it’s time to announce our next absolutely awesome house gig – after starting life in our new house with Viking Moses and Alec from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Next up, on Friday 27th February (sold out now – see below), we have Matthew Caws from Nada Surf, a band I suppose I am going to be forced to refer to as ‘seminal’ or something like that. Maybe I’ll just settle for really fucking good instead.

The rules are simple. I’ll email you our address on the day of the gig (we’re down in Leith though, if that helps you plan), it’s BYOB but we will provide some food and drink that you’re welcome to help yourselves too, and after the show you’re welcome to stick around as long as you like and get pished and listen to records with us.

SOLD OUT NOW, SORRY.