Toad Top Twenty 2009 – 1-5

1.Timber TimbreTimber Timbre
This record is ghostly and weird.  I hate to keep going back to the Bon Iver thing, but reading the Bon Iver press, including the superlatives, lead me to expect an album as good as this, only to be massively disappointed.

Then, months later, I took a chance on this record, which turned out to be the album which matched the breathless accolades – to my mind anyway.  The ghostliness, the creepy sense of the macabre, it just all works so incredibly well – almost like the tales of some lost animalistic religion from an isolated community out in the wilderness somewhere.

It is also perfectly judged in terms of when to stay quiet and bare, and when to drag the sound up from the grave to dance around the odd figures the song has conjured up out of the dark.  Brilliant.

Timber Timbre – Lay Down in the Tall Grass
[audio:http://songbytoad.com/tunes/TimberTimbre-LayDownintheTallGrass.mp3]

2.NavigatorBad Children
For an album this high on my list to have been released as a free download from a micro-label based in Bone Valley, Utah.  Even more surprising, then, that other people in and around Edinburgh had already heard of him.

This record is astoundingly good though, a ferocious mess of overloaded channels and twisted distortion, delivering pain and anger and the occasional, fleeting glimpse of something a little more tender.  And somehow, underneath all this tangled mess, there are pop songs.  Braden McKenna actually writes amazing tunes – he may batter the living shit out of them afterwards, but he really does write cracking pop songs first and foremost, and that combination is what makes this such a great album.

Navigator – Work is Done
[audio:http://songbytoad.com/tunes/Navigator-WorkisDone.mp3]

3. Withered HandGood News
It’s hard for me to judge this album, given I knew pretty much all of the songs beforehand either from his superb Religious Songs EP or from live performances.  Somehow that just didn’t seem to matter, because Dan’s delivery, the superb performances of his band and the brilliant job Pete and Neil did of recording this have managed to capture one of the unlikeliest heroes of Scottish underground music you could imagine.  In a really odd way, Dan just oozes a kind of reticent charisma, and the album is a lovable as it is devastating.

A brilliant piece of work by a fellow not one person in the music press would ever have tipped to write one of the great Scottish albums of the last five years, and yet that’s exactly how I would describe Good News.

Withered Hand – Cornflake
[audio:http://songbytoad.com/tunes/WitheredHand-Cornflake.mp3]

4. Samantha Crain & the Midnight ShiversSongs in the Night
Instead of being the alt-folk record her Confiscation EP seemed to be preparing us for, Songs in the Night came out as more of a folked up rock ‘n’ roll album.  Instead of ruining the delicacy, this gave Sam Crain a really strong platform for her stunning voice, and the resulting record has energy, guts and pathos absolutely all over it.

Samantha Crain & the Midnight Shivers – Long Division
[audio:http://songbytoad.com/tunes/SamanthaCrain-LongDivision.mp3]

5.Trembling BellsCarbeth
Carbeth, amazingly, has almost entirely retained its ‘What the fuck is this?’ impact ever since the first time Ruth from the Bowery passed me a CD-R of it way back in March.  It’s wild, preposterous and… well in all honesty it’s a completely mental psych-folk anachronism.  But it’s still utterly engrossing and giddily brilliant, and despite still being a bit baffled by it, I love this album.

Trembling Bells – I Took to You (Like Christ to Wood)
[audio:http://songbytoad.com/tunes/TremblingBells-ITooktoYou-LikeChristtoWood.mp3]
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