Song, by Toad

Archive for January, 2008

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Sir Salvatore – Continental Breakfast EP

Sir Salvatore

I’ve been vaguely aware of Sir Salvatore for about a year now, so the release of Continental Breakfast seems a perfect time to introduce them to those readers of Toad yet to come across this particular band.

The EP veers between gently thrumming melodic indie and a mildly more aggressive indie rock. For all there’s a bit of growl in the guitars here and there, the overall atmosphere of the record is much more that of a laid back evening in than anything else – not one to curl up to, just one to quietly nod along to as you go about your chores.

To say that I unreservedly love this record wouldn’t be quite accurate – some of it does lapse into the unexceptional, and when it does the flat vocal style can make it sound poor. But that same vocal is one of the highlights when they get it right, and there are a few excellent songs here. It’s not pushy music, but neither is it too gentle. The pace is always about right, and I think that might be the bass, which keeps the toes tapping throughout.

So it’s a little uneven, but I think this band have plenty of promise and I will be keeping an eye on them in future I think.

Sir Salvatore – Townies
Sir Salvatore – Ambalina

website | buy from emusic

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Soundtrack Posts – Going Up Starting Tomorrow

Movie

Just a quick reminder to let those of you intending to write something about movie soundtracks for the Great Toad Reader Exploitation Challenge that I am going to start posting those tomorrow.  I’m going to post them on a first come-first served basis, starting with Crash tomorrow, then Ian from Edinburgh group Broken Records and Nate from The Young Republic, both of whom have been nice enough to write something for this little feature.

So, anyone who still wants to participate, it’s simple: bung me an email with a piece about soundtracks – either a specific one or a trend in soundtrackery, whichever you prefer – along with a couple of relevant mp3s to accompany the post.  I will then post them as part of a series over the next couple of days.  You should probably write in the order of a few hundred words I suppose, and if your attachments on any one email exceed 10Mb let me know, as it won’t get through and we shall have to make other arrangements.

Original post with a bit more detail here.  And a big thanks to those who have already sent their stuff through.

Here are some bits from the soundtrack to the rather harrowing Dead Man Walking:

Tom Waits – The Fall of Troy
Eddie Vedder with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – The Face of Love
Johnny Cash – In Your Mind
Lyle Lovett – Promises

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The Cave Singers

Cave Singers

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a copy of The Cave Singers’ single Thinking of Heaven quite recently, and it’s taken me ages to realise just how good it is.  They are from Seattle and  appear to be pretty much a folk group, but one who approached the genre from a rock ‘n’ roll perspective, not a rinky dinky tin whistle perspective.  Fortunately.

Gothic folk is the standard term, I suppose, for folk music that focuses on the darker side of the canon: rolling, picked guitar undercurrents, dark viola, a slight air of foreboding to the music.  I sometimes get the impression that people also use the term simply to mean ‘folk music that isn’t shit’.  Either use applies here.

Lead vocalist Pete Quirk has an incredibly nasal voice, slightly reminiscent of The Builders & the Butchers.  The music is perhaps more of a type with The Willard Grant Conspiracy, although not quite as grand, and Oregonians Horsefeathers spring to mind as well.

They have a limited edition vinyl single available from Matador here, a single available on emusic and an album due to be officially released in the UK in early February.  A little exhasperatingly with these staggered releases, it came out in the States last year so it is actually already available, which seems to me to slightly defeat the purpose of ‘releasing’ an album, but I guess they need a proper launch over here at some point.

In any case, it’s bloody good, so go and avail yourself of some right away.  And they’re supporting Band of Horses on tour in the UK in February, so make sure you get to these shows early enough to see them.

The Cave Singers – Belmar
The Cave Singers – Seeds of Night
The Cave Singers – Helen

myspace | hype | buy from matador

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A Classic Education – Epic, Innit.

A Classic Education

Epic indie rock.  Epic indie rock that is very good.  And that, my friends, is about it.  I have two songs by A Classic Education which they have kindly sent me to pass on to you lovely people, but apart from some very basic facts I know nothing else about them whatsoever.  Here’s what I know:

1. They sound a little bit like Band of Horses at times, but without the Americana flavours.
2. They appear to be quite good pals with Jeremy Warmsley who wrote the superb song Dirty Blue Jeans last year.
3. They’re from Italy, although Johnathan Clancy is the name of the chap who wrote to me and that sounds suspiciously English.
4. I think they may be looking for a label actually, and seem to have a ready-made 7″ ready to go.  This sounds like a bit of an opportunity for someone as I reckon the songs they sent should go down well with an inde 7″-buying audience.
5. They’ll be playing Twee as Fuck in London on the 11th April.  Londoners: worth making an effort for I’d say.

What can I say?  The music’s quite dark and broody, and there’s an unironic, honestly-ambitious quality to the sound which I find myself enjoying.  People who cover their artistic insecurities with layers of protective irony are starting to get on my tits a bit and I don’t hear any of that here – a bit like The Twilight Sad in that sense, although the music is not at all alike.

Either way, I like what I hear from these fellas so have a listen and say hello if you can.

A Classic Education – Stay, Son
A Classic Education – Lover’s Barricade

website | myspace | hype

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Operahouse – Live, Cabaret Voltaire Edinburgh, Monday 28th January 2008

Operahouse

I really am digging Cabaret Voltaire’s series of Duty Free gigs (ie, free entry). I think they’re co-sponsored by The List, so fair play to both of them as it really makes me far more likely to take a bit of a chance on something that I might think twice about shelling out a fiver for.

I feel a bit guilty actually, as my friend Morgan has vowed to take me to all sorts of interesting gigs I’d never get to under my own steam and what do I take him to in return? Absolutely stereotypical NME-friendly indie-pop: the sort of stuff that you can hear every minute of every day on XFM, assuming you are so musically apathetic as to be able to bring yourself to tune into that embarrassment of a station to begin with.

That sounds like Operahouse were bad, of course, and that was absolutely not the case. Actually they were really rather good. There wasn’t much audience interaction nor that much rock ‘n’ roll posturing, which may explain why they have yet to build up much in the way of feverish hype. What they had, however, were plenty of good tunes, played with the confidence of a band who bely both their youth and relative inexperience. They aren’t exactly beginners, but they have a very solid, unflappable stage presence that makes them seem like veterans.

If you play music that hits a middle ground between the likes of the Libertines, early Razorlight and late Futureheads then there is so little to digest in terms of new style that the one and only thing that will make you stand out is the hummability of your tunes. New single Born a Boy, first single Man Who Lives Next Door and Machine Palace all deliver in spades on this count and, although these are clearly the best of the tracks, the rest of the set contained plenty of stuff to enjoy.

They may not set the world on fire, but I was quietly impressed and reckon that if they can steer closer to the quality of their best then they could just make a decent career out of this music lark. It’s nothing clever, just good solid indie-pop. The single Born a Boy is really infectious too. I’d love to post it here but that would just be mean, so go out and buy it and enjoy.

Operahouse – The Man Who Lives Next Door
Operahouse – Machine Palace (Demo)
Operahouse – Jarvis

website | myspace | buy single

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Sons & Daughters – This Gift

This Gift

It’s bluesy, punky, politically raging and Glaswegian – I should love this record, but I don’t.  In fact, I am not sure I even like it particularly.  I have loved some Sons & Daughters songs in the past, most notably from their debut EP, but I wasn’t keen on The Repulsion Box really, and despite the less choppy, brutal approach I don’t like this very much either.

I don’t think this is indicative of there being anything wrong with the music, and I am not trying to say that they are shite, but I seem to be forever on the verge of loving Sons & Daughters and just never quite end up doing so.  The elements are all perfect, there’s no reason I shouldn’t love it, it’s exactly my kind of music I just have never managed to click with it.  Abrupt, punchy blues with an angry garagey edge is generally right up my street, and this is how they began their career.  With This Gift they have mellowed a little and there is a little bit more pop smoothness to the music but it still isn’t floating my boat entirely.

The lyrics are even a blistering attack on modern cultural vapidity and even that doesn’t help.  I don’t know what they could do that would make me fall for this a little more, but I’ve been asking myself this since their very first release.  At some point I am just going to have to face up to the fact that I don’t actually like Sons & Daughters very much.  But I doubt I will ever understand why.

Sons & Daughters – Gilt Complex
Sons & Daughters – This Gift

website | hype | amazon

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The Toad Interviews iLiKETRAiNS

iLiKETRAiNS

When I spoke to iLiKETRAiNS it was in advance of the launch of their debut album Elegies to Lessons Learnt at the end of September last year. They built up their reputation in parts, with a couple of excellent singles, their 2006 EP Progress Reform and an entirely deserved reputation for phenomenal live shows. Elegies, however, is their first full album.

Guy Bannister, who plays guitar for the band, described it thus: “It’s almost like exam results. You spend all this time working on something, night and day putting your body and soul into it and then there’s this massive gap where you finish, you hand it off and it goes to manufacture, and then it’s just waiting for reviews to come in and reaction from people. And people might hate it and that’s it, your career’s over, or people might love it and it might open more doors.”

There weren’t actually all that many reviews for Progress Reform, but those there were were very positive, and generally the word built very slowly until, as the new album approached, it turned out that an awful lot of people were looking forward to it a great deal. So despite the barely noticed growth in their popularity they had clearly built quite a substantial and quite a devoted following.

Once again, acclaim for the album was quiet but by and large consistently positive. Scottish webzine Is This Music? named the album in their top ten for the year. It is, as you would expect from these lads, a slow-building affair that seeps in incrementally over a number of listens. In fact, a fan in Aberdeen recently came up to them after a show and told them that he’d booked two days off work for when it was released, just to sit and listen and absorb it all.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Elle S’Appelle – Live, The Southern, Edinburgh, Saturday 26th January 2008

Elle S’Appelle

Like the review of The Felt Tips, this is as much an introduction as a review.  Elle S’Appelle hail from Liverpool, which is a relief, in a sense.  For some reason, the Liverpool scene seems to me to be utterly moribund at the moment.  No matter how feted a band from those parts seems to be I can never develop much more than a sort of positive indifference.  The same sort of positive indifference that the world feels towards Coldplay, which leads to the fuckers being all over national radio.  The Coral threatened to break that mould, before turning into the new Gomez, and for all the excitement about The Wombats I just can’t seem to get all that worked up about them.  If there are better things happening in and around the Mersey I’d love to know about them, because surely it can’t be as bad as it seems.

It is entirely possible that Elle S’Appelle might rescue me from my rather embarrassing discord with the city however.  Their bright, energetic pop songs are an absolute joy, and superlative single Little Flame is a highly recommended little treat for a dismal January night.  Moshi Moshi (home to Toad favourites The Wave Pictures) released their single Little Flame last year, and it sold out pretty much immediately.  You can still get digital copies from the Moshi Moshi shop however, and I suggest you hop to it.

How does their bass/keys/drums sound translate to a live setting then?  Well it was bloody hard to tell, to be honest.  the Southern is a pub, not a venue and the sound was awful.  I doubt there was much anyone could have done about it – it’s a lovely bar, it’s just not designed to be a venue –  but it didn’t help the performance.  They certainly played well enough, and the energy in the music was in clear evidence in their live show, so I will most definitely be purchasing any upcoming releases.  Fortunately, having heard them on record I was able to interpret a little, and it sounds like their other material is pretty good, which is promising.

Their music is heavily dependent on the sprightly, choppy vocal interplay between Lucy and Andy (don’t know their surnames, so don’t ask) and you just couldn’t make out what they were singing.  They were nice people too and chatted back to a silent audience cheerfully enough between songs.  We weren’t ignoring you, guys, we just couldn’t understand what you were saying.  So I will wait for either a bigger gig or a new record to renew my acquaintance with Elle S’Appelle’s music.  But I will most certainly be there when they next make an appearance.

Elle S’Appelle – She Sells Sea Shells
Elle S’Appelle – Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

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The Bluteones – Bluetonic

Bluetonic

Had a good rummage recently?

Well Davy H, from the truly excellent Ghost of Electricity started rummaging about in his 90s CD singles last week, and wrote this. Following that we had Mick from Raiding the Vinyl Archive, with his contribution.  And this weekend everyone’s favourite superannuated Weegie – JC from The Vinyl Villain – has got stuck in as well.

So now I have had a rummage through my own box of 90s CD singles, and unearthed a gem.  The CD single is a much-maligned animal, the distant, buck-toothed cousin to its urbane vinyl counterpart.  But it had something of a heyday in the 90s, before the re-birth of the 7″ and after the cassette tape had been effectively seen off.  I didn’t have a record player anyway so I had a huge pile of these things, and of course the 90s was when I first started getting into music with real determination.

It’s not an original purchase I’m afraid, because most of those were stolen when someone broke into our Glasgow basement flat, but it is one of many I have since painstakingly re-acquired with the aid of eBay and Amazon Marketplace in the years since.  There were many choices I could have made.  Gene would be an obvious example, I had Pulp’s masterpiece Common People too, and the unbelievably good Where the Wild Roses Grow by Nick Cave, but I thought I’d go for The Bluetones.

The Bluteones, like Gene before them, were the quintessential singles band.  Their albums were disappointing, but there was a period in about 1995 when a couple of superb singles had us all convinced that they were going to be the next massive thing in Britpop – a scene which had already peaked, but which still very much dominated the musical landscape.  The Bluetones have proved to be oddly long-lived actually, and still release albums today to a hard-core of dedicated fans, so it’s unfair to imply that they couldn’t cut the mustard.  One thing is for sure though, they have never ever matched the heady hype of those first few singles, and Bluetonic was the first and the best of the lot.

Rough Outline, a collection of their singles and b-sides can be bought from Amazon unless you want to scour eBay where there are both some vinyl and CD versions knocking around.

The Bluteones – Bluetonic
The Bluteones – Colorado Beetle
The Bluteones – Glad to See Y’Back Again

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The Felt Tips – Live, Cabaret Voltaire Edinburgh, Friday 25th January 2008

The Felt Tips

It’s going to be something of a short review, this, and also serve as an intro to the band. Cabaret Voltaire are seriously making an effort to improve the quality of live music in Edinburgh, and their Duty Free gigs are absolutely excellent.

The Felt Tips actually released a single on Cloudberry Records last year and although that is sold out, the band have some of their own copies available via their MySpace page. Given the pop perfection of Boyfriend Devoted, the title track of the single, and the equal excellence of Treat Me Gently I can highly recommend it.

Purveying a sort of sugar-sweet indie pop of the light and dreamy variety, they may not blow anyone’s sock off, but they make immensely enjoyable music. They actually started the gig a couple of men short, when the drummer and bass guitarist got stuck on the train coming through from Glasgow, but the remaining members dealt with this with great equanimity and I really don’t think anyone minded. Things like this can improve a gig in a sense – instead of a shiny Top of the Pops performance you get to see more of their actual personalities, which I like.

In any case, the rest of the gig went off well. I didn’t fall for every song, but there was a lot about their music which I really liked. I reckon if they can match the heights of the two aforementioned tracks consistently then they will be well on the way.

The Felt Tips – Boyfriend Devoted