Song, by Toad


Black Polygons – À Travers

atrav Having spent three years in France while she was (kind of) growing up, Mrs. Toad will tell you that French radio can be a little odd. There are laudable rules in place which mandate a significant percentage of the music to be Francophone, as a means to combat the overwhelming plague of English language culture currently smothering the world.

I respect this stance, but it did seem rather oddly to result in a near-monopoly on French radio of Johnny Halliday and the fucking Eagles. I am not sure how the rule led to the result, but for some reason they seem inextricably linked in my mind.

My relationship with French music has also always been somewhat unfairly tainted by the ubiquity of Johnny Halliday on the airwaves, and I never really got into genres that they are really good at like hip hop, although some of their twee pop is pretty awesome.

This is nothing like that stuff, however, but I do like it and it is French and I always appreciate music that pulls me away from lazy habits, even if you don’t take your own lazy thinking that seriously.

Black Polygons’ Bandcamp tags sum the music up pretty neatly, so I suppose there’s no massive need for me to elaborate: ambient, experimental, lo-fi minimalist noise. And that’s pretty much what it is. Some pretty twinkles appear to lighten the mood, but there is really satisfying enjoyment of tone and buzz on this album. A lot of the guitar playing just teases a growl of distortion along for minutes on end, letting it rise and fall in a way which just about lets it meld with the more melodic elements, but in general just enjoying the rumble for its own sake.

There are quite lovely, sweeping cinematic elements here, particularly in some of the keyboard parts, although I’d love to see the movie that dared to use anything as dirty as this stuff for its soundtrack. It would probably be set in the pale winter sunlight in Iceland somewhere, with a handsome bearded man looking moody in a thick knitted jumper.

Anyway, it’s always a shame when albums as enjoyable as this don’t have a physical release anywhere to be found, but you can download this from their Bandcamp for a few bucks and it is more than worth that. The internet free-for-all can mean music like this gets lost a little, I fear, and this really doesn’t deserve it at all.


Sean Armstrong and Keel Her

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 12.49.28 I’ve told you before, on numerous occasions, that I think Sean Armstrong is a talented wee fucker. Quite apart from his own stuff, his songwriting is a large part of both The Yawns and Spinning Coin, two fantastic bands themselves.

I first played Keel Her on a podcast over three years ago, and going back to Bandcamp I have to confess I had managed to lose track of quite how much stuff has made its way onto their page in the last couple of years.

Anyhow, the two have now collaborated on this tune, and I have no idea what the plans are for it or if there is more of this stuff, but I fucking hope so because this is bloody brilliant. Sean’s vocals are as elusive and distant as ever, but the duet anchors it all beautifully, and brings a lovely touch of warmth to the song.

It’s lo-fi, I suppose, but I suppose it sounds right like that – to me anyway. A simple drum machine, some guitar, a toy synth… it’s simple, but so effective. And that descending chorus bit is pure magic. Damaged pop, I suppose you could call it if you wanted a stupid invented genre, but it’s fucking ace.


Toadcast #320 – The Lithpcast


The Lithpcast is named after the rather impressive lisp I have developed since my dentist yanked my front-left incisor out of my mouth the other day and replaced it with empty space and stitches. There will be a new tooth bunged in there at some point, for the time being I have a rather uncomfortable denture which I don’t wear, a bad lisp, and a general sense of trepidation about how I am actually supposed to fucking eat.

The tunes this week are somewhat defined by the fact that various things have nudged me out of the way of new music, so there is a lot of Song, by Toad Records stuff, but for some reason also a lot of profoundly obscure other songs too.

I feature three really good compilations put together by other folk, a wee plug for a pal’s label, and there’s even time for some surprise Chumbawamba. Who could possibly resist.

Toadcast #320 – The Lithpcast by Song, By Toad on Mixcloud

Direct download: Toadcast #320 – The Lithpcast

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01. Blood of the Bull – Hold Your Head Up High and Go Fuck Yourself (00.22)
02. Wendell Borton – Saucy (06.39)
03. Joyce Delaney – Don’t Be an Asshole (09.41)
04. Dead Fader – Nightmare Sequence (13.36)
05. Chumbawamba – New York Mining Disaster 1941 (23.07)
06. Garden of Elks – I Hid Inside (26.44)
07. Super Inuit and Jessica Schouela – Blue-Greens (32.36)
08. Call to Mind – Breathe (36.37)
09. Youngstrr Joey – Listen to Antique Pony Too Much (42.20)
10. Don’t Die – What is Luvv (Haddaway cover) (48.23)
11. Davina Shell – All the Things She Said (t.A.T.u cover) (52.00)
12. Virgin of the Birds – Spooky, Stony, Barely Over Thirty (unmastered) (59.22)


Youngstrr Joey – Grilled Wiig


So erm, well yes. This is happening.

A tape release coming in early November, with nine songs recorded between nine at night and five in the morning. It’s not going to be a pop smash, this one, but it’s weird and I like it and that’s what our tape releases are for.


Willard Grant Conspiracy Mix Terror


(All photos by Nic Rue)

Alright, the word ‘terror’ might be somewhere in between a mild and a total exaggeration, but erm well, ‘moderate anxiety’ doesn’t seem to quite cut it as a headline in these ‘what happened next just broke my heart’ days.

I am not exactly what you would describe as an expert recording engineer. In fact, apart from the fact that I have actually recorded and mixed several things which have been released on a real record label (admittedly, just this one, but hey-ho), I am not really a recording engineer at all. When you’re recording bands who barely have more than a few demos that doesn’t seem to matter as much. That’s not meant to sound disrespectful, but they don’t know what they’re doing, I don’t know what I’m doing, and we all accept this and try and make music as good as we can as best we can. A fair deal.

Of course, in the last few years as I’ve become more experienced and more confident I’ve recorded some rather more established bands, and in almost every case mixed those recordings as well, which is a different kettle of fish altogether. You are expected to be a professional, at least to an extent. Initially it was just Toad Sessions, but recently it’s been for record releases with relatively well-established musicians that I know and admire. David Thomas Broughton was probably the first real example of that, on the third Split 12″. Jonnie Common and Sparrow & the Workshop were there or thereabouts too, albeit mitigated by the fact that we were already friends, which makes everything less scary.


Even more recently – i.e. last week – I invited the Willard Grant Conspiracy into our warehouse in Leith to record for our fifth Split 12″ (the fourth isn’t out yet, I know, but it is recorded and mixed so keep an eye out). Nothing is absolutely cast in stone just yet, but it looks like they will be joined on the record by Micah P. Hinson, the Kitchen Cynics and Tissø Lake, which is fantastic. Kitchen Cynics and Tissø Lake might be slightly more recent discoveries, but I’ve loved both Micah and the Willard Grant Conspiracy’s music for years, and I suppose that could be a terrifying thing for someone as inexperienced and inexpert as I am when it comes to audio engineering.

Fortunately, though, for some reason that sort of thing doesn’t really worry me. I don’t get flustered by meeting people whose stuff I really admire, which is something I am pretty grateful for, particularly given the industry I work in. There is definitely a worry about the basic mismatch in expertise with the Willard Grant Conspiracy particularly given that David, who played viola on these songs, actually recorded and mixed their (brilliant) last album himself, but well, why worry about that. It’ll be a learning experience, and they are really nice guys and I am pretty certain that they’ll be happy to extend me the patience to arrive at decent mixes in my own time.

In fact, sometimes it’s actually easier to mix for people who seriously know what they are doing. I remember doing Jonnie Common’s stuff for the last Split 12″ and thinking what a fastidious little fucker he is with his own recordings, and how painstakingly well-crafted his music is, and it made me very nervous. And in fact he did come back with all sorts of mixing notes. The difference, of course, was that precisely because he does know exactly what he’s doing, those notes were clear, precise, and once I had gone through them all they gave him exactly the mixes he wanted. So a lot of notes, fair enough, but only one iteration on the mixes was needed, which was brilliant.

So no, what gives me the anxiety is not actually any of this kind of stuff. I am relaxed about this sort of thing and the Willard Grant Conspiracy are decent guys, so no real stress there.


The worry is actually much more practical than that: it sounds so very good already, I get the feeling that 95% of the things I ‘might’ do whilst mixing it can only make it worse instead of better. The setup was Robert on vocals and acoustic guitar, with Jonah and Dave on cello and viola respectively. They play with a lot of empty space, and music that sparse gives me the jitters because it just feels more sensitive than a three piece rock band.

When all that’s happening in a song is a deep, sonorous bow of the cello then that sound has to be absolutely right or it will be really painfully obvious. And when the sound of everything is all basically spot on already it takes a very subtle and discreet touch to really make it ‘sing’ (sorry), and the risk of clumsily announcing your own amateurishness, particularly by overdoing it, is rather nerve-wracking.

When I first started to mix stuff I remember talking to my little brother about it, who is a professional sound engineer, albeit in a rather different field. I said that I had no idea what I was doing and would have no idea if I had done it right, and his response was pretty awesome. Basically he said that I listened to loads of music and therefore if I liked the results and thought they sounded good then they were right, end of conversation. You love this stuff, and if it sounds right to you, then that’s as right as it has to sound.

Obviously I go back and forth with the bands on any mixes I do, and will accept any and all feedback, but that bit of encouragement still sticks with me. Don’t worry, it’s music. If it sounds about right then by definition it is right.

So as long as I remember not to try and do too much and to let the actual playing and the sound of the room speak for themselves, I am hoping should be more or less okay. But it’s still really intimidating sitting there with these gorgeous, minimalist recordings, worried that every last tiny little thing you do to them will stand out like a sore thumb.

But, as I told myself when I started to learn to drive, there are plenty of way dumber people out there than me who can do this stuff, so fuck it, if they can do it so can I!



XFM’s ‘Radio X’ Rebrand Makes Me Fucking Ashamed

menz God if I ever I felt like bellowing NOT ALL MEN into the skies, without a hint of irony, it is now. It’s like listening to Hamface Cameron giving a speech and thinking to yourself ‘I really hope the next time I meet someone who is unemployed or even slightly foreign they realise I fucking despise this clown’.

There are, admittedly, very very few disadvantages to being a middle class, cis-gendered, heterosexual white male, but here is one I can suggest. If you are not a middle class, white, etc etc etc, then who ‘speaks for your people’?

Most of the time when I see someone being held up as a shining example of modern feminism, or as a towering cultural force in the black community, or an important voice in the battle for transgender rights they seem to be pretty awesome. Intelligent, courageous, articulate… you know, the kind of things which should get someone held up as an example or an inspiration.

The kind of twat who tends to stick their head above the parapet and speak for ‘my people’ seems to be almost uniformly awful.

What am I talking about? Well apparently XFM is rebranding as Radio X, “the first truly male-focused, fully national music and entertainment brand for 25-44 year olds”. Yes, seriously, that is an actual quote from parent company Global.

“Great Britain needs great banter and I can’t wait to be back on air five days a week” – Johnny Vaughan

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  Nothing could really make that sound any worse, could it? I mean, for fuck’s sake, if you were to distill what makes middle class Britain utterly fucking hateful I think you would end up with something somewhere in between the two sentences above. All printed across a big picture of Johnny Vaughan, probably. Or Chris Moyles, who they’ve also recruited.

But actually, it gets worse:

“The new national station promises to be home of “the world’s freshest rock and guitar-based music playing the biggest songs from these genres”. Regulars on the playlist will include Florence & The Machine, Mumford & Sons, Blur, Arctic Monkeys, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, The Maccabees, Radiohead, Nirvana, The Smiths, Royal Blood, Kasabian, Catfish & The Bottlemen and Kings of Leon.”

It’s Thom Yorke and Kurt Cobain I feel most sorry for. Well, and John Kennedy.

But truly, short of making me listen to the skittering of an army of hungry spiders as they tracked me down and devoured me one tiny nibble at a time, I can’t think of anything which would be more guaranteed to make my ears fucking bleed than listening to this station. Perhaps one of Yvette Cooper’s campaign speeches. Or maybe anything George Osbourne has ever said.

I think I’d even rather listen to my wife whisper over and over again in my ear for all eternity that she was leaving me for Ashley Cole by whom she was five months pregnant.

This is basically the Jeremy Clarkson of radio stations, isn’t it. It’s as if they asked what we all hated about him so much, distilled it down to Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and Kings of Leon, and decided to broadcast it twenty-four hours a day like the paralysing venom of those wasps who devour you from the inside out. David Cameron keeps fucking talking and because of the effect that Johnny Vaughan introducing Florence and the Machine has had on my central nervous system I can neither change the channel, cut off my own ears or even summon the energy to bite down on my emergency Ian Duncan Smith cyanide capsule and just end it fucking all.

And almost as bad as this stuff actually existing in the first place, is who they seem to think wants it. Wait a moment, I am middle class. I am white. I like mostly guitar music. I am heterosexual. In fact I am sooo very heterosexual that I like football and fast cars and can’t fucking dance. Hang on, are they targeting this banal, smug garbage at me? If I was any sort of minority whatsoever I would be right on the phone to… well, someone anyway, but who ‘speaks for my people’? This lot, apparently.


When even the well-educated, white, middle class, cis-gendered, heterosexual etc etc etc… men are toe-curlingly embarrassed at people thinking they need more shit dedicated just to them, and that this is the kind of dismal, vacuous shit that we want, then maybe we have gone far enough down this particular cultural cul-de-sac and maybe, just maybe, it’s time to consider one or two other options.

Y’know, just p’raps.

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Juffage at Henry’s Cellar Bar on Friday 11th September

juffage Juffage is a band – well a solo artist, really – that I discovered through that most ancient form of social media: actually talking to people in a pub. I went down to Beacons Festival a few years ago when a pal turned out to have a spare ticket at the last minute, and when we were down there they recommended I come along and see Juffage play. I knew nothing of the music but fuck it, why not, as one tends to say at music festivals.

And he was fucking ace. Ace enough that I bought the vinyl there and then and didn’t hesitate when Jeff got in touch about organising a show in Edinburgh.

His music is fantastic, so you really should come along. I’ve described it as noise pop, and that’s sort of there or thereabouts. It’s quite anthemic, actually, for stuff which is rather down-tempo, and the odder noises do build up into a pretty impressive wall of noise – music to lose yourself in, I suppose you could say.

Plastic Animals will also be playing on the bill, and their debut album is pretty much ready for release as well. One last crinkle to iron out and then we’re there, and it sounds fucking awesome.


Toadcast #319 – The Jailcast

mp3tag So Mrs. Toad and I are back from Rust2Romania (just) and before I throw myself into the second half of the Pale Imitation Festival I thought I might take the time to reflect on the rather epic adventure we just experienced.

We have some of the tunes, both excellent and just plain silly (and sometimes both), which we played as we charged about through some of the more unexpected parts of Europe. Driving from Edinburgh to Romania, for example, probably shouldn’t include a chapter titled ‘via Greece’, but somehow it did.

Getting slung in a Romanian jail also ‘shouldn’t’ have happened either, but it was awfy close, and finally Mrs. Toad and I ended up with a wee trip down memory lane by going to a Heuriger in Vienna on the way home. It was all over the place, this particular trip, but especially fantastic because of it.

Toadcast #319 – The Jailcast by Song, By Toad on Mixcloud

Direct download: Toadcast #319 – The Jailcast

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01. Simon & Garfunkel – Baby Driver (00.25)
02. The Clash – I Fought the Law (07.51)
03. Motorhead – The Ace of Spades (11.42)
04. Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (14.36)
05. The Lovely Eggs – Fuck It (25.19)
06. Chuck Berry – Jaguar & Thunderbird (30.11)
07. The Muppets – Movin’ Right Along (32.11)
08. Kings of Leon – Charmer (38.39)
09. The Strokes – Vision of Division (41.39)
10. Kenny Rogers & the First Edition – Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition is In) (47.35)
11. R.E.M. – Be Mine (53.07)


Pale Imitation Festival Half Time Oranges

Pale Imitation 2015 digiflyer

Hello folks. Well we are back from Romania, not entirely in jail although it was close, and not entirely burned to a crisp either, although Mrs. Toad was rather in danger of entirely melting on one or two occasions. Go here for the full story – you just have to scroll down a bit.

Anyhow, we return to the second half of the Pale Imitation Festival and there are some absolutely brilliant gigs still to come in our very own celebration of local Scottish music in the heart of the (over-priced, imported rubbish of the) Fringe.

Tomorrow we have eagleowl, on Saturday we have Adam Stafford (whose new album is fucking amazing, by the way) and then next week it’s the Supermoon show at Summerhall and the Night School Records show with Happy Meals and then the closing party. So many good bands. So much beer to drink.

And my mum’s here, so erm, so many disappointed stares to withstand.

All tickets here.

Remaining shows:

Thursday 20th – eagleowl, Now Wakes the Sea, Faith Eliott

Saturday 22nd – Adam Stafford, Wolf, Tryptamines

Thursday 27th (at Summerhall) – Supermoon & Rob St. John

Saturday 29th – Happy Meals, Apostille, Clip Art


This Week’s Pale Imitation Festival Goings On

Whilst I am currently off getting locked up in Romania for speeding offences (in a 1992 Volvo estate – is it even possible to speed in one of these? – apparently so) The Pale Imitation Festival thunders wonderfully onwards.

If you want to see the Rust2Romania updates check out my Tumblr, but this page is about music, and that means two absolutely fucking brilliant gigs at Henry’s Cellar Bar this week, to which you should all very much go.

Firstly, on Thursday 13th we have an indie rock night (do the kids still call it that, they probably don’t, do they) with two of Aberdeen’s finest – Min Diesel and Wendell Borton – joining awesome Glaswegian newcomers Spinning Coin.

And then on Saturday 15th we have the fantastic Save As Collective, with Jonnie Common, River of Slime, Glamour Muscle and MC Almond Milk bringing a collection of music which treads on pretty much all toes from pop to hip hop to electronica to experimental to just plain mental.

They will be fucking great shows, only a fiver in, and all at Henry’s Cellar Bar, starting at 7:30pm. Be there or be sq.. no, sorry, I won’t go there, that’s awful. Please come. Will that do the trick? Advance tickets can be found here.