Song, by Toad

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Toadcast #304 – The Nearlycast

Tour de France  2012 stage - 12 So, here we are on August 28th and I have neeeeearly made it through another Pale Imitation Festival. Nearly. We still have tonight’s awesome show with eagleowl, Ian Humberstone and Smackvan, and then the closing party on Saturday with PAWS, Halfrican and Et Tu Brute! and then I will sleep for a week, and lock the doors and the shutters to the house so I don’t have to speak to people until I am good and ready.

That sounds like a moan, and it is I suppose, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t love the festival we’ve put on. I’ve loved every gig so far, and I’m incredibly proud of how well it has all gone and how well it has all been received, it’s just that it’s kind of exhausting and rather gets in the way of all the other things I have to be doing at the moment. Anyone who does this kind of shit knows, I guess, it’s amazing but exhausting, and at the moment I am knackered.

Anyhow, I recently received a most excellent package from Norman Records of about five or so new albums, and a lot of them get a spin here. Oddly enough I had to go an buy the Wytches song on iTunes again because for all Heavenly sent me a download card with the album, there was no sign anywhere of where to actually redeem it, and I couldn’t find one on their site anywhere either. Weird. And of course the PR folk never sent me the album for review either so I’ve ended up buying an album I was asked to review, and then having to buy a song again just to play it on the damn podcast.

Still, they’re ten times more established and successful than we are, so I suppose in a way it’s sort of reassuring to see that they can still be just as hapless. Music would be pretty shit if it was all ruthlessly efficient people in charge.

Toadcast #304 – The Nearlycast by Song, By Toad on Mixcloud

Direct download: Toadcast #304 – The Nearlycast

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01. Temple Songs – Sunspot Dandyline (00.20)
02. Michael Cera – Gershy’s Kiss (07.56)
03. Chad VanGaalen – Frozen Paradise (10.44)
04. Jonnie Common – Shark (18.31)
05. Eaten By Television – To Emma (25.40)
06. The Wytches – Wire Frame Mattress (31.29)
07. Los Angeles Police Department – Enough is Enough (36.54)
08. Old Earth – Some Gates’ll Swing Wide, For Us (38.47)
09. Beck – Morning (47.39)
10. The Eskimo Chain – Riding (57.37)

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David Thomas Broughton and Juice Tour

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In support of their brilliant new album Sliding the Same Way (out at the end of September on Song, by Toad Records) David Thomas Broughton and Juice Vocal Ensemble will be hitting the road over the course of September, both to promote the release, and also to give you one of the only chances you’ll get to see the collaboration performed live. They’re also performing at the End of the Road Festival too, for those going along.

The album itself hasn’t been out for review all that long yet, but we’re starting to get some very happy responses indeed – This record is brilliant, but bloody heck it’s a bracing listen” – “simultaneously jarring and elegant” – “the only bone-fide genius currently making music in the world – and of course my favourite ever press quote for one of our releases: “will make you smile, cry, go”what?” and release bodily fluids in equal measure”.

Have a listen to the first single below, as well as a song from our 2014 Sampler, and pre-order your copy of the album here.

 

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Michael Cera – True That

michael I have to confess I am kind of amazed by this album. There is no reason to assume that a famous actor won’t have musical skills of course, but if you’re my age it does remind you rather worryingly of our generation’s attempts to bridge this particular gap. Russell Crowe’s Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts, for example. Or Keanu Reeves’ Dogstar. Or Juliette Lewis and the fucking Licks.

Well this generation has no such worries. Instead they have Ryan Gosling’s fantastic Dead Man’s Bones. Gosling, it must be said, has quite enough going for him as it is so I am not sure it is entirely fair for him to be awesome at music as well, but there’s no denying that he is.

Michael Cera is a little different, of course. Yep he’s a star, but hardly a super-smooth ladies’ man, and funnily enough this album ends up suiting that difference in perceived style pretty much perfectly. It’s eccentric, a little muddled and bumbling at times, but utterly charming and in the end an entirely captivating listen.

I’ve not looked much into whether or not True That is genuine, but the Guardian seem convinced, so I am prepared to both take them at their word and also to not really care if it happens to be the work of someone else after all. It’s still bloody excellent.

Mostly instrumental, and resolutely lo-fi, it sounds almost as if most of it could be improvised, meandering along as if it feels no particular pressure to go anywhere except where its fancy leads, and that might be the crux of the charm of this record. It seems to feel absolutely no pressure to be anything other than what it wants to be.

It seems weird to think of a world-famous movie star as being able to make something as approachable, unaffected and just plain friendly-sounding as this. I would at least have expected it to struggle with self-consciousness, but it doesn’t. I’ve listened to a fuck of a lot of this kind of music, remember, and I am very much used to bands trying to affect either modesty or indifference to mask either cast-iron ambition, crippling insecurity or snobby style-consciousness and I really don’t hear that here at all. It just is what it is.

Which is not to say this album is going to be the next big hipster thing, I don’t think. It’s too odd and self-contained for that, and there aren’t really pop songs, per se. There’s a cover of Blaze Foley’s Clay Pigeons I suppose, and Ruth is really nice, but lots of the album is composed of solo piano gently pottering along, or perhaps accompanied by minimal keyboards or a bit of acoustic guitar. Half the tunes are a minute or so long, some a bit jazzy, others slightly more folky, and while not so many of them have that wide-eyed sense of thrill, exactly, they are absolutely lovely and even the least structured have their place – there’s no filler here.

I don’t really know what he wants to do with this, either. Maybe nothing beyond this simple Bandcamp release. It certainly doesn’t need anything more than that but at the same time, whilst it doesn’t seem like the kind of release which would suit a massive PR campaign, it still seems a bit of a waste for it to just sit there on the internet with no fanfare whatsoever.

Weird, interesting, and surprisingly completely natural. Fine work, sir.

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Stuart Maconie and the Virtues of Having a Bit of Patience

stumac It’s a monumentally frustrating business, doing PR. There’s a famous line attributed to one of the pioneers of advertising John Wanamaker which says that “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, the problem is I don’t know which half.”

It’s a bit like that with PR. You just never know what’s worth the effort and the expense and what isn’t. I learned this when I was just about to give up on sending our promo material to one particular journalist as I hadn’t heard from him for three years and thought he might have moved house, only for him suddenly to invite me to do an interview with Word Magazine about one-man labels, out of the blue.

With Stuart Maconie it’s slightly different, but still another aspect of why it takes oceans of patience to do this job, as well as a lesson in remembering that you don’t really ever know what other people are thinking.

Radcliffe and Maconie – the daytime 6Music show which Stuart presents alongside Mark Radcliffe) has absolutely never played any of our songs. Not one. Not even ones which everyone played – and yes, stop sniggering, we have actually had a couple of those. Kind of.

I know our music isn’t always all that suitable for middle of the day play on national radio, but we’ve had breakfast plays, ‘drivetime’* plays and plenty of love from Lauren Laverne and Steve Lamacq who also present daytime shows, so it can’t just be the kind of music we release, someone presumably just doesn’t rate it all that highly.

I can be a bit tribal about this kind of thing, so my response to that tends to be a little along the lines of ‘oh right, well fuck absolutely everyone involved then and a fucking massive pox on all their houses.  And, come to think of it, their friends’ houses. And the houses of their favourite TV chefs.’ They don’t rate us, then fuck them, I don’t rate them either.

I think most people who release music have a bit of that in them – the ‘everyone who doesn’t like this is an idiot’ instinct. It’s a useful defence mechanism, I guess, because the other option is to wonder whether or not the music you’re releasing might actually be a bit shit, and no-one wants to think that. Or alternatively, I suppose, that you are simply being ignored, and the latter possibility is a pretty frustrating thing to face if it is your job to actually get publicity for someone else’s music.

Surprisingly, though, despite my total failure to get through to Radcliffe and Maconie, things are not quite as clear-cut as they might seem. Because Stuart Maconie has another show on 6Music, called Freakzone, and the other day be played a meandering seven and a half minute song by David Thomas Broughton, from our latest Split 12″ and described us as “one of my favourite record labels”.

In fact, on Freakzone Stuart Maconie played, I think, the very first thing I ever sent him. I am pretty sure it was Salt Pt.1 from Pissing on Bonfires/Kissing With Tongues. And although there is plenty he doesn’t play – he doesn’t have all that much time on air, remember – he was really into Trips and Falls, and every once in a while will play something unexpected, just when I start to think he might have lost interest.

So actually, perhaps he does rate us. And perhaps he does listen to most of the things we send him. In fact, it seems pretty obvious that he does.

And honestly, for a label, that is a great feeling and brings a weird sense of relief. I have no problem with people listening to our stuff and not liking it, this is music after all. But the idea of simply being ignored is a tough one to get your head around.

So why don’t we ever, ever get played on Radcliffe and Maconie, then? Truth is, I still have no idea. But you know, there could be loads of reasons. Often the playlist of a show is picked more by the production team than the presenters, and it could be the producers just don’t rate us. Or they want more high-profile bands than we tend to work with. Or whatever.

Truth is, it doesn’t really matter. For whatever reason, we haven’t ever quite yet fit what they’re trying to do with the show and you have to remind yourself that from their point of view it’s not about your music, it’s about their radio show.

But the fact is we are at least getting through to people on the show and, as evidenced by the Freakzone plays, we’re still being listened to and are actually held in some affection. And with our budget and our scale, that represents really significant levels of success actually. And if we don’t get a play for this or that, or some things are more suitable for some shows than others, you can’t complain about that.

So as frustrating as it is to see Kasabian getting any radio play on 6Music at all, alongside all these major labels, well-established indies and expensive plugging campaigns we are still getting a very fair crack of the whip indeed, and that’s incredible. So for all the Radcliffe and Maconie silence might imply Stuart and the team ain’t that into our stuff, the occasional plays on Freakzone remind me that actually maybe they are, and I should just have some patience and trust that the DJs and producers and writers are listening, and they will do their bit for us when they get the chance.

It’s not like one tiny label in Scotland is the only place flooding them with crap, after all. In fact it’s a bit of a miracle we get the success that we do. But these little surprises are a big help in reminding me to have just a little bit of patience from time to time! And to be thankful for the successes we do get.

Oh, and the seven-and-a-half-minute song he played? It was this one below, from our third Split 12″ release which came out earlier in the year.

*Yes, I know. Yuck.

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Rick Redbeard

red It seems ridiculous, but tomorrow’s Pale Imitation Festival gig is actually going to be the first time I have properly seen Rick Redbeard live.

Even more ridiculous when you think that I first became aware of his stuff on MySpace back in about 2006 or 2007.

And yet more so when you think that his debut album No Selfish Heart (buy here from Chemikal Underground) was in my top ten albums of the year last year.

I mean, for fuck’s sake, he only lives in Glasgow for crying out loud, not Singapore. But actually it’s not as bad as all that. I saw him play an open mic night years and years ago, and more recently a short set at a record fair as well.

But tomorrow night Rick Redbeard headlines our next Pale Imitation Festival gig, and I am immensely looking forward to it. Having happened across his early demos on MySpace years ago, I was a long time waiting for something formal to be released, but No Selfish Heart more than justified the wait.

Everyone whose music is dominated by vocals and acoustic guitar automatically gets tagged as folk or country or something like that, but I suppose Rick is basically just a singer-songwriter, however daft that term may be, with elements of all these things smooshed in there somewhere.

Most of those early MySpace demos made it onto his debut album, but I did actually notice one which did not: Dreams of the Trees. This has been rectified now, by Vancouver’s excellent Kingfisher Bluez label, who recently released it on 7″ vinyl. Like most of the reworkings, it’s fleshed out and cleaned up a little, but the core of the song is mostly unchanged, and it’s amazing.

As an extra treat there is a b-side which has been sitting on Rick’s Soundcloud page for quite a while now: a gorgeous, contemplative spoken-word track called Flow Like Unicorns. It’s beautiful. And I really hope he continues recording as Rick Redbeard despite the success of The Phantom Band (which he also fronts) because this stuff is just lovely.

I am really looking forward to tomorrow. Tickets are only a fiver, you should come down.

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Please Help Fund a New David Thomas Broughton Documentary

The Ambiguity of David Thomas Broughton (video pitch & teaser1) from Greg Butler on Vimeo.

If you are quick – i.e. take action today – there is a new documentary about David Thomas Broughton which is using Indiegogo to raise funds, and of course we would appreciate any contribution you can make. This isn’t one of those conditional plans, basically all money goes towards the making of the film, even if the stated goal isn’t reached so everything is valuable.

I am really looking forward to seeing this, however it turns out. Having watched David divide and delight audiences I am always interested in how people articulate what exactly it is they get from his performances. Personally, I love genuinely not knowing where he’s going next.

Even now that I know a lot of the songs in his set pretty well, as we’re getting ready to release a couple of his album in the fairly immediate future, I still never really know whether he’s going to sweep those lovely tunes up into some sort of tornado of layered loops and improvised noise, or whether he’ll just cut everything out and let the melody and his voice speak for themselves.

It always seems pretty improvised too, so I am not really sure even he knows where he is going, which for me just adds to the appeal.

David himself, however, is such a lovely, normal guy when you meet him. He’s even said to me that he’s not sure why people keep calling it strange, he just makes noises that he likes, but there’s a definite change to how he comes across the second he steps on stage.

He’s an interesting chap, and I am really looking forward to seeing this film.

And while we’re at it, I know you probably know about this already, but on the 22nd September we are releasing a collaborative album with David and the Juice Vocal Ensemble. You can pre-order it here, and the first single is below:

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Toadcast #303 – The Palercast

TAG So, a little over halfway through the Pale Imitation Festival, and here we are. There are still four gigs to go, with Rick Redbeard, LAW, eagleowl and PAWS headlining (tickets and full details here), and the gigs are only a fiver to get into, which in Edinburgh in August represents a monumental fucking bargain.

We also have a new single out on Song, by Toad Records, from David Thomas Broughton and Juice Vocal Ensemble‘s new collaborative album Sliding the Same Way which is now available for pre-order so I’ve popped that on the playlist as well, along with a Passion Pusher song from our first cassette release which is due in October or November or something like that.

Other than that, there are a couple of new Scottish singles, some live gig plugs and a couple of Song, by Toad recording alumni with some bits and pieces, so it’s all quite local music for local people this week. Phew. I am finding the Festival heavy going, I have to confess. Not that I’m not enjoying it, just that it does kind of wear you out, not least with all the drinking. Still, my Mum turns up on Sunday, so that should at least put the dampers on some of the worst carrying-on. Hopefully.

Toadcast #303 – The Palercast by Song, By Toad on Mixcloud

Direct download: Toadcast #303 – The Palercast

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01. Neon Waltz – Bare Wood Aisles (00.17)
02. Broken Records – So Long, So Late (06.37)
03. David Thomas Broughton & Juice Vocal Ensemble – In Service (12.41)
04. Numbers Are Futile – Justice is Light (and Blood) (18.37)
05. Sharron Kraus – When Father Hanged the Children (22.45)
06. Samantha Crain – Paint (30.50)
07. Sex Hands – Gay Marriage (36.07)
08. Ian Humberstone – House on the Hill (43.55)
09. PAWS – Poor Old Christopher Robin (Tape Demo) (46.11)
10. Passion Pusher – BLT (54.06)
11. eagleowl – Too Late in the Day (1.02.34)

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Kitchen Disco – Massive Pale Imitation Thanks

cake We are ploughing through the shows at a frightening rate, but the Pale Imitation Festival still has four fantastic lineups coming your way before the end of August, with headline slots from Rick Redbeard (this Thursday), LAW (Saturday), eagleowl and PAWS (next week – full lineup details here).

The Pale Imitation Festival is mostly about the bands, I suppose, but there’s a bit more to it than that. Partly, we are trying to celebrate the quality of the music scene in Scotland when so many tourists are in town, and partly we just like music and aren’t going to stop doing things just because it’s August.

And to that end, the tireless and fantastic work of Tallah and Malcolm from Kitchen Disco has been absolutely brilliant. As well as DJing before, inbetween and after the bands every single night of the festival, they’ve brought fantastic free cakes and terrible puns along each time as well. ‘Jonnie Common Shogun Choux Buns – what’s inside? IT’S A SECRET!’ for example.

Alright, you have to know Jonnie’s stuff pretty well to get that one, but the gin and lemon cake they made at my request for the same night is a little more obvious. And the cakes themselves have been completely delicious.

As much of a music nazi as I am, I am at least aware that my own music taste is really not best for DJing. Not that it’s all morose of course, but a lot of it is and I have no real capacity to judge what other people want to hear because, well honestly, I just don’t fucking care.

Kitchen Disco, on the other hand, seem to have played all sorts of stuff which I love – the stuff most appropriate for people actually enjoying themselves – as well as all sorts of excellent stuff which I don’t really know. The music has been fucking excellent, frankly, and for that, their good cheer, the cakes and their sheer stamina I owe them a massive thank you. Hooray!

Find Kitchen Disco on FacebookInstagramTwitter - Tumblr.

Also, they start every single night with this. Heroes!

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Plastic Animals

Plastic Animals – Floating from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

I know tonight at the Queen’s Hall is mostly being discussed in terms of being the last ever Meursault show, but of course opening for them are another Song, by Toad band: Plastic Animals.

I always thought of Plastic Animals as a band with real potential, but it was recording with them for the second Song, by Toad Split 12″ when I decided I really wanted to release their music more formally. I am not sure what it was about those tunes. They are shoegazey, but not that nasty. There’s a dreamy thrum to them too, which I love. I love the drum sound, and even the minimal layering that we did worked really well. It just sounded like proper music despite being recorded live in our living room.

Since then, they’ve been working on their debut full-length album, and there are only one or two bits and pieces left to get down before the mixing can start. I’ve not really heard much of it because I try not to over-saturate myself with our new albums before they are finished, mostly to avoid becoming too attached to rough mixes, but also to make sure I don’t use up all my sense of excitement before the finished product is actually in my hands.

It’s always a bit of a risk, inviting a band to record an album for you without having much idea what the material is like, but their show at the Pleasance Sessions last year was fucking great. Shoegazey, yes, but getting krauty as fucking in moments too, and a handful of new songs which gave me that ‘Oh fucking YESSS!’ feeling you get when you hear something new and fantastic.

And tonight, for what I think is the first time, they’ll be playing the Queen’s Hall. I am really, really excited to see it.

Plastic Animals – Pizarnik from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

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Sharptooth

sharptooth I didn’t know about Sharptooth, I have to confess, before this year’s Pale Imitation Festival. I asked PAWS who else they would like on the bill for their festival-closing slot, and they recommended Sharptooth and Halfrican. Sharptooth couldn’t make that particular date, but they did happen to be around for the show last Saturday with The Yawns and alansmithee, so we took the opportunity to get them on the bill somewhere else instead.

And you know what? They were fucking ace. Really early-nineties-sounding, they remind me in some ways of a slightly more hypnotic and less jagged North American War – a band whose demise I still lament. They share a sort of flat delivery, and the constant possibility that they’re going to thrash the shit out of everything any second now.

It’s not as languid as the other two bands with whom they shared a stage, perhaps not as aggressive as other guitar bands who like their distortion, so I would maybe say that there’s a sort of cold defiance to this stuff. It’s all shattered from time to time, like the deranged screech in the middle of Invidia, or the brief squalls of frenetic guitar which boil over occasionally, such as three quarters of the way through Bonnie Blaze, and that means that as brief as these moments are there’s always the threat of something exploding from somewhere to slap you round the head, which makes the generally deadpan delivery all the more menacing.

It was more obvious live than on the recordings, but I particularly enjoyed drumming on Saturday as well. They can be ominous too, but there’s a thumping roll to them which offsets the thrum of the guitar fantastically well.  So thanks for the recommendation, PAWS. This was ace. There are only three songs up on Soundcloud at the moment, and I am not entirely sure what the band’s plans are (I probably asked, but there was a lot of beer involved) but they sounded fantastic and I am really looking forward to seeing what else they get up to.