Song, by Toad

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Howlin’ Fling

Click to go see all my (pretty mediocre) pics from the weekend.

I am not writing a review of this fine festival. It is good. The music is ace. You should go if you can.

It’s in Scotland, just off the West Coast. So it will probably rain. In the words of Billy Connolly. “Of course it rained. It’s Scotland. Where did you think you were, fucking Benidorm?” When the sun comes out, though, and even when it doesn’t, it’s fucking beautiful. Really, seriously fucking beautiful.

I have sunburn on my back. Not bad sunburn, but you know, Scotland, rain etc..

The drive through Glencoe and down the coast to Arisaig makes you feel like you are heading to another world. The Sheerwater is class. Remember to take some beers for the trip. Driving a band full of people who’ve never seen it before was fun too. Watching people see that stuff for the first time is a nice little reminder of how special it really is.

Sam Amidon playing reels out the back of the café as we got there was awesome. So was Sam playing music on stage. So was Sam playing music with Beth Orton. So was Beth Orton playing music on her own. In fact those two were just bloody brilliant in general.

Samuel. Stream. Rocks. KABOOM!

Lisa, Tamsin, Caroline and Susie brought stinky, stinky cheese and gin and tonic, complete with genius tactics to make sure IT WAS ALWAYS COLD! Words cannot express my admiration.

Johnny Lynch playing the hits to his fans after the year (or so) that’s he’s had, while everyone went mental. That was brilliant. Well done old chap.

No matter what anyone tells you, swimming in the sea off Eigg is fucking cold. Really bollock-shrivellingly fucking cold. And no, you do not get used to it.

I still don’t understand how pretty much all the water in the world can fall from the sky on Saturday night and yet still there was none of it left for showers the following day. But Jens Lekman breaking out the tropical pop (and looking like he was having all the fun in the entire world all at once) during a tropical downpour was pretty brilliant. As was Jonnie Common’s eight-legged groove machine. POP!

Double breakfast every day. One bacon-and-egg roll (all runny and hot – mmmm!) and a coffee. Then forty-five minutes later, same again. No hangover in the world can compete with that kind of tactic.

I like how festivals like this have stalwarts, who are at every damn one, and then people like Boxed In who were fantastic, and who I’ve never heard of before and might not have heard of otherwise.

I did dancing. Presumably extremely bad dancing, but it was dancing nevertheless. And the thing: I only had to be ever so gently coerced. The last time I went mental and danced like a pillock was at the front of British Sea Power at the first Away Game. And the time before that was at FOUND in Legends at Homegame. I am starting to spot a theme developing here. I am told there are videos, but I really don’t want to see them. Let’s just leave it as a happy, slightly murky memory shall we. Oh no wait, this is the fucking internet isn’t it. Balls.

There was a moment when Meursault played the first chords of Ellis Be Damned and I was absolutely alone in my whooping. And then it dawned on me that I was the only person in the whole tent who knew how fucking awesome the next four minutes were going to be. That was nice. Especially as people kept turning to me during the song with an ‘oh that’s why you were whooping’ look on their faces.

I think it’s something to do with the lack of superstars, but perhaps mostly the proportion of musicians to punters, but having the two sets of people entirely mixed together instead of being in their own little enclaves makes everything better.

Only two stages running at staggered time means you see everything. No sneaking off into your own little bubble of pre-approved music.

Whisky.

Oh, and fuck, I still have a record label to run don’t I. Don’t you fucking dare judge. YOU try kick-starting your brain after a weekend like that.

Samamidon – Fiddle Mayhem (Toad Session) from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

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Toadcast #301 – The Bettecast

tag As you should well know by now, this is not the Bett-cast, it is the Bettycast, as our ridiculous car is named after Bette Davis, who spelled it Bett but pronounced it Betty. So there.

Once again this is a bit of a Rust2Rome retrospective, with ruminations on brake fade in the Alps, grown men sporting mohicans, driving far too fast and complaining about things not being entirely predictable when on holiday in a car which cost lest than £500. There may also be a little teeny-tiny bit of ranting about stupid people, but y’know, there usually is on these things isn’t there.

Also, I think some of my Rust2Rome pals might end up listening to this, which is going to be weird, because they’ll get to realise what depressing taste in music I have. Generally when you tell someone you work in music they think ‘oh, that’s interesting’ and you can pretend to be cool for a bit. Then they hear the kind of music you’re into and the illusion is shattered. Ah well, they had to find out sooner or later.

Toadcast #301 – The Bettecast by Song, By Toad on Mixcloud

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01. The Wedding Present – Drive (00.24)
02. The Electric Prunes – I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night) (06.24)
03. Parts & Labor – Fractured Skies (16.16)
04. My Teenage Stride – The Genie of New Jersey (20.20)
05. R.E.M. – Be Mine (26.43)
06. Jonnie Common – Summer is For Going Places (35.52)
07. David Thomas Broughton – Ain’t Got No Sole (40.47)
08. Steven Malkmus & the Jicks – Baby C’mon (50.23)
09. Eels – Woman Driving, Man Sleeping (54.49)
10. Band of Horses – The Funeral (1.03.25)

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Pale Imitation Festival 2014

Pale Imitation 2014 digiflyer

Well brace yourselves, here we go: the full lineup for the Pale Imitation Festival 2014 has been finalised and can now be announced, tickets can be bought, and giddy excitement can commence. It’s a cheap and cheerful festival of Scottish music, held at Henry’s Cellar Bar over the course of August.

Conceived initially as a way to keep the fun, family-friendly DIY spirit of the awesome Retreat Festival alive, I think for me it’s sort of evolved into something different. I like the Edinburgh Festival, I really do. Or at least I try. There’s lots of awesome stuff happening, but there is also a massive, stifling avalanche of over-priced, imported rubbish which smothers everything in the city and dominates the press and makes it almost impossible to do anything at all in music except sit back for six weeks and wait for it to be over. And being a bloody-minded little shit, I don’t accept that.

Music used to be really well served during the Edinburgh Festival, but now it seems that small local enterprises doggedly trying to support Scottish music are pretty much the only ones giving it any kind of foothold at all. The Queen’s Hall and The Electric Circus have some great stuff on in August, and then there is us: a reasonably-priced, month-long celebration of local music, held in one of Edinburgh’s stalwart underground venues. A fiver per gig, and a season ticket available for only £25, as well as a separate, showcase gig at the Queen’s Hall which will be the last ever Meursault show.

The full lineup is below, and tickets can be bought here, except for the Meursault/Plastic Animals Queen’s Hall show which can be bought directly from the Queen’s Hall. Season tickets are here, and they entitle you to attend all the Henry’s gigs (the QH one is separate) – meaning you could get nine gigs for the price of five, which is pretty amazing. Do try and get there by 8pm though, so we know whether to hold you a place or not at the busy shows.

Sat 2nd Aug - Adam Stafford, Le Thug & Duchess
SAY Award-shortlisted Adam Stafford is currently working on a new album, and his experimental, looped guitar pop songs will be complemented by the hazey washes of Le Thug and newcomers Duchess.

Thu 7th Aug - The Leg, Now Wakes the Sea +1 TBC
Screaming pop mentalists The Leg headline the second night, with support from the phenomenal, if a little wonky, Now Wakes the Sea, plus another band to be confirmed.

Sat 9th Aug - The Yawns, Sharptooth & alansmithee
The Yawns play a lazy brand of sloppy guitar pop, and made one of the sleeper albums of the year a wee while back. They are joined by the slightly more aggressive Sharptooth and Livingstone newcomers alansmithee.

Wed 13th Aug - Meursault & Plastic Animals – Queen’s Hall
The centre-piece of the Pale Imitation Festival this year is the last ever Meursault show, at the Queen’s Hall. That’s right, your last ever chance to see the current band play live, and they will be joined by pals and label-mates Plastic Animals.

Thu 14th Aug - Deathcats, Garden of Elks & Passion Pusher
Surfy, guitar loons Deathcats released their debut album this year, and it is every bit as hugely enjoyable and sloppily noisy as you would have expected. Abrasive shouters Garden of Elks and Edinburgh’s most hapless guitar pop star in the making comprise the rest of the bill.

Sat 16th Aug - Jonnie Common, Jesus H. Foxx & Andrew R. Burns
Jonnie Common is a maverick genius, who makes experimental music sound like the most accessible of pop songs, and he’ll be joined by the recently resuscitated Phoenix H. Foxx, and Chillwave revivalist Andrew R. Burns. Jonnie really needs to start using his middle initial, to fit on this bill properly.

Thu 21th Aug - Rick Redbeard, Siobhan Wilson (Ella the Bird) & Kitchen Cynics
If Rick Redbeard would stop buggering about being famous with the Phantom Band, I think he could be one of Scotland’s most loved singer-songwriters. He’d be one of mine, certainly, and after only recently discovering his stuff, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear myself saying the same of The Kitchen Cynics. Siobhan Wilson has just started to perform under the name Ella the Bird, but her gorgeous voice and songwriting remain very much the same.

Sat 23rd Aug - LAW, Numbers are Futile & Wozniak
LAW has been one of the breakthrough sensations of recent years. Based in Edinburgh, and collaborating with members of Young Fathers, her music is dark but danceable, and actually reminds me of an Edinburgh pop singer of a few years back – anyone remember Helicopter Girl? No? Just me, then. On the bill with LAW are the hypnotic, rhythm popsters Numbers are Futile and messy shoegazers Wozniak.

There will be a big old after-party after this show, with Lost Map DJs and, erm, well hopefully I won’t be allowed anywhere near the decks at all.

Thu 28th Aug - eagleowl, Ian Humberstone & Smackvan
Eagleowl are Edinburgh’s most glacial post-anti-drumcore, kraut-folk band, and will be joined by the gorgeously intimate croon of Ian Humberstone and warm miserablism of Smackvan.

Sat 30th Aug - PAWS, Halfrican & Et tu Brute!!!
Our favourite pop-punk band PAWS proved they had rather more strings to their bow than just awesomely hummable guitar tunes with their fantastic second album, released at the beginning of the year.  They are pals of ours, they almost signed to our label, and they’re the most prolific accumulators of parking tickets on the Toad Van, so they seemed like a perfect choice for the closing party of this year’s Pale Imitation Festival. Joined by short-shorts-wearing Halfrican and the intense battering of Et tu Brute!!!, it’s going to a lively last show. And then I will get some fucking sleep.

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Death to Meursault

Meursault Cloud For the eagle-eyed amongst you – or, basically, just those of you with Facebook – you may have noticed the recent announcement that August’s Pale Imitation show at the Queen’s Hall will be the last ever Meursault show.

It’s weird, this. There’s a large sense in which it’s none of my business, of course, but Meursault were the first band we seriously released, way back in late 2008, so it’s quite an important event from the the point of view of both myself and the label. It’s very fair to say that, initially at least, our reputation hinged on being Meursault’s record label. We’ve diversified since then, of course, but having them on the books from the off meant that people took us way more seriously than they would have otherwise.

Neil will continue to make music, of course, and a lot of his current collaborators will continue to work with him, so from a fan’s point of view I really don’t think too much will change.

You might ask, if that’s the case, why bother killing off Meursault, and I have to confess that I can’t quite answer that. People all know that Meursault is based around the songwriting, delivery and generally also the arrangements and production of Neil Pennycook, so Meursault can be whatever he wants it to be, surely. Song, by Toad is my voice on the internet, whatever I chose that to be, so when the Friday Fives and Monday listings became a serious chore to write every week I just killed them off, because labouring through those posts every week was threatening to sap my enjoyment of writing.

Having said that, creative identities can end up developing their own sense of confinement. In some ways the commercial damage done by having to relaunch a new band into the world will probably be quite liberating. Maybe we can finally, finally hear the end of terms like folk-fucking-tronica, and perhaps the general music industry perception that each project by a band needs to be bigger and more ambitious than the last will also be sidestepped.  So as much as I don’t think I would have made this particular decision myself, I can certainly understand it.

Then again, no one Meursault album has ever sounded all that much like any other anyway, so will the next project be wildly different from what has come before? I don’t know, but as I said, I doubt there will be much difference from a fan’s perspective. The new project, whatever it ends up being, will probably sound as unlike Meursault as any of the Meursault albums sounded like their predecessors, but the industry and the wider, less actively interested public will probably see things a little differently, and I think that will probably be enough.

Myself, well, there’s that ‘end of an era’ nostalgia, but I don’t really mind all that much, to be honest.  I just want to hear whatever music happens next, irrespective of what it’s called. I guess we’ll see. So with a bit of luck I’ll see you at the Queen’s Hall, and we can bid goodbye to the band who have given us a shitload of truly phenomenal music over the years. The King is dead, long li… no, hang on, that’s too clichéd even for me.

I guess I’ll just end with a song I heard on my first ever visit to the band’s MySpace page. A visit where I thought ‘holy fuck, what the hell is going on here’, and the rest, as they say, is hist… no, sorry, fuck that, no more clichés, I promise.

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Our Third Split 12″ Vinyl Is Here!

2014-07-15 16.24.27

Yep, that fine, yellow beauty up there is the third in our series of Split 12″s on Song, by Toad Records. You can buy one here, and I recommend you do, because it’s fucking awesome.

Of course, I would say that, wouldn’t I. But it’s not just me, we’ve had radio play for this from Tom Ravenscroft, Gideon Coe, Lauren Laverne, Steve Lamacq and Tom Robinson, as well as a ton of support on Amazing Radio as well. It’s been brilliant, particularly given our traditionally patchy results with self-promoting to national radio. Anyhow, the launch nights are fast approaching, so I thought I should give you another wee nudge. Firstly we have Glasgow at Nice ‘n’ Sleazy’s on the 24th July (tickets here), followed by our first Song, by Toad House Gig in the new place down in Leith on the 25th (tickets here). We’ll be getting the barbie on for this one before the gig (if it’s not raining) so bring something to throw on there if it’s nice.

And also, out of sheer, naive generosity, here is some more streaming fun for you – a cover of James Yorkston’s Chalkhill Blue by Sparrow and the Workshop. Side 2, track 1!

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Off on Rust 2 Rome 2014

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Yep, it’s that time of year again, where Mrs. Toad and I clamber into our ludicrous Volvo 940 (above) and venture off with a load of other cars in a quest to drag a car we bought for £350 off eBay all the way from Edinburgh to Rome, via some of the most challenging roads Europe has to offer.

Bette is named after Bette Davis (so it’s pronounced Betty, not Bett) because she is a temperamental, unpredictable fucker, but we did Rust2Rome in her last year and she’s been to and from the South of France and up and down to London plenty of times since, so hopefully she’ll manage the trip again with minimal fuss.

As you can imagine, this means the blog will suffer a bit for the next couple of weeks, but I will be keeping my Tumblr site updated with photos and songs.

The car has a tape player, so I’ve spent the last couple of days making mixtapes for the drive. It’s mostly daytime driving, and some of it is pretty intense going too, so it’s mostly upbeat stuff, but nevertheless when you’ve got a limited supply of music you still find yourself listening to the same thing quite a lot, so I’ll be posting songs from the tapes as well as photos from the driving.

See you in a couple of weeks, for the Split 12″ launch shows.

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Split 12″ v3 Launch Gigs

SbTR-A-026 Outer Sleeve v2

Our third Split 12″ is nearly here, and this one was recorded up at the Insider Festival last year. The festival takes place up in the Highlands, and Nic Rue took some fantastic photos of the recording process, which you can see here.

We’ve got a couple of launch nights booked – one for Glasgow and one for Edinburgh – to welcome the record into the world in the nicest possible way. The Glasgow night is at Nice ‘n’ Sleazy’s on Thursday 24th July, and the Edinburgh show is on the 25th, the day after, and will be the first house gig in our new place in Leith.

We’re planning to light the barbecue as well, so you can come down with some burgers if you want, and have something to eat with us before the show. It would be lovely to see you at either of these shows, so please do come down if you can – and you can pick up some lovely, clear yellow vinyl as well.

All the bands will be playing except for Sparrow and the Workshop, for baby-related reasons. So for all that’s a bit of a disappointment as far as these shows are concerned, it’s great news for Jill and Nick, and also saves me the hassle of trying to get four bands on stage in a relatively short space of time.

Tickets for the Glasgow show can be found here and to buy tickets for the Edinburgh house gig use the Paypal link below.




And partly to whet your appetite, and partly because it is just an absolutely sublime song, here is Dear God by Siobhan Wilson (who will henceforth be performing under the name Ella the Bird), our first single from the Split:

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The Pale Imitation Festival 2014 is Taking Shape

The-Wickerman-Nicolas-Cage I have to confess that when we first conceived the Pale Imitation Festival (like most of the stupid ideas we get involved with it was first suggested whilst sitting in the back garden with a lot of gin) I was prepared for it to be a bit of a damp squib.

I don’t mean that out of pessimism, though, more a sense of caution in the face of a pretty big undertaking.

The point of the Pale Imitation Festival is to offer a cheap, local antidote to all the over-priced, imported shite which dominates the Edinburgh Festival itself.

It went better than I ever imagined, I have to confess, and even the very worst show of the festival was only ‘very good’, and pretty much all the rest were bloody great.

Anyhow, this year we’ll be doing it all again – every Thursday and Saturday at Henry’s Cellar Bar during August we’ll be showcasing the very best of independent Scottish music. And there’s also a big shiny Queen’s Hall show thrown in as well, just to make things more interesting: Meursault and Plastic Animals on 13th August.

We’ve not booked the entirety of the lineup yet, but so far we have some truly awesome bands on there, such as SAY Award nominees Adam Stafford and Rick Redbeard, as well as future nominees LAW and PAWS. Here are some of the currently confirmed bands, but keep a look out for future announcements as the rest of the lineup gets finalised. And remember, our £25 season ticket will be available again too.

Confirmed so far: Adam Stafford – Le Thug – Meursault – Plastic Animals – Andrew R. Burns – LAW – Rick Redbeard – Ian Humberstone – PAWS – Halfrican

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Toadcast #300 – The Brazilcast

World Cup England and Italy Wow, our 300th podcast! But honestly, I celebrated the 200th and the 250th I think, so celebrating again, a mere fifty podcasts later, seems a bit hollow. So Yay Me! for sticking at it, and Yay You! for continuing to listen to this pish, but I guess I should really keep quiet now until number 500.

Also, OH WOW TEH WURLD CUPZ! Except for the fact that England are effectively out, by this stage, and so I suppose I should just appreciate the fact that now I get to pull for whoever plays the best football. So far I guess that might be Germany, Holland and Chile – at least they’re the only teams who have really convinced so far, in my opinion.

And finally, Woo Hoo, the first free-play podcast in ages. The last few have been strongly themed, so this is the first time in a while that I’ve been free to just sit down at the computer and pick whatever the fuck I want to play, which is fun. Enjoy!

Toadcast #300 – The Brazilcast by Song, By Toad on Mixcloud

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01. The Victorian English Gentleman’s Club – Ban the Gin (00.56)
02. Siobhan Wilson – Dear God (06.02)
03. David Thomas Broughton – Yorkshire Fog (14.39)
04. BRAAINZZ – Ode 2 Lil B (feat. Slide Show) (22.06)
05. Grace Joyner – Young Thing (23.33)
06. Jeff Finlin – Language of Love (30.57)
07. Broken Records – So Long, So Late (42.04)
08. PAWS – Erreur Humaine (45.40)
09. Wozniak – El Maresme (53.24)
10. Myriam Gendron – Threnody (1.02.13)

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England: Not Great at Football, but That’s Fine

fb So, after two narrow defeats to Italy and Uruguay, England are probably out of the World Cup. Not absolutely definitively out, but in all probability that’s it for this year. Ah well.

Honestly though, as an England fan, I don’t really mind going out like that. We played two very good sides, had a real go at them, caused Uruguay in particular a lot of problems, but ultimately went out because of defensive failings – just a couple of important lapses, really. I think the before the tournament most people would have looked at the inexperience of Baines, the limitations of Jagielka and the defensive unpredictability of Johnson and said that this was where we lacked real quality.

Hopefully John Stones or Phil Jones or someone can come on strong in the next couple of years and offer something better at the back but for now, whatever you think of that back four, they were pretty unquestionably the best we had – with possible questions to be asked about Ashley Cole. But I doubt any seriously world class strikeforce would look at them and worry about how they were going to score – in fact that applies to most teams at this World Cup, actually.

I think Rooney could have been withdrawn against Italy, and Sturridge should have come off yesterday so we could have seen more of Lallana and Barkley (or The Ox if he was fit), but then Rooney and Sturridge were by far the most consistent English Premier League goal-scorers this year, so it’s not cut and dried.

It would also have been nice to see Wilshere coming on for Gerrard late on to provide a little extra thrust and inventiveness in midfield, but again, these are small quibbles, because you never know when Gerrard might stick one in the top corner from a stupid distance so I can see why he stayed on the pitch.

We had a really difficult group, and had we been luckier with the draw it might have been a different story, as it also might if Diego Godin had rightfully received his marching orders in the first half last night, but hey ho, no team ever went out of the World Cup without a handful of ‘maybes’ following them home.

It sort of highlights our ingratitude during the Svennis years, looking at recent performances. Sure, we ‘could’ have got to the semi-finals in that era, and not entirely implausibly the final. But then again, so ‘could’ Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Holland and a few other teams. ‘Amongst the best eight teams in the world’ was a pretty fair reflection of England’s ability back then, just as going out in the group stages is more or less where we’re at now. Sure, there will be worse teams in the second round than us, but then do Australia really deserve to be going home after the two performances they’ve delivered so far?

Overall though, I don’t mind not being as good as other teams, but having a go and still losing is infinitely better than scraping through after constipated draws and generally playing like we were suffering from some sort of collective paralysis. Watching England over the last, erm, maybe six years or so, has been an exercise in eye-gouging hopelessness. It was kind of like being paralysed by spider venom – no matter how awful things got you just couldn’t tear yourself away until it was finally over and you were put out of your misery once and for all.

This time around we’ve had a go. There’s one game left and it would be nice to put in a good performance against a Costa Rican side who themselves looked really good in their first game. It would be nice to score a couple of decent goals too, and maybe play with a little attacking verve, if just to encourage what looks like a pretty promising batch of young players.

As an England fan, I’ve come to expect failure in recent years, and I can live with that. But going out with some sense of self-respect and our heads held relatively high for a change feels like progress in itself.