Song, by Toad

Archive for September, 2011

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Palms

 I assume someone in Glasgow can enlighten me as to exactly who this band might be, but I am really struggling to find any information about them at all.

So far, all I’ve managed to find has been a Manchester promoter describing them as ‘ex-DIVORCE’ and Golden Grrrls, with whom they have been touring, calling them ‘new-ish’.  They’ve played Milk (a relatively new Glasgow night) as well, so I am guessing the answer is out there, even if it resides on the streets of Glasgow instead of the internet.

Anyway, I have heard some rough recordings in my time but this, the single, solitary song on Palms’ SoundCloud page, is rougher than most.  The cymbals in particular get just a little bit painful to listen to when they reach their crescendos, so I am guessing that rather than just a deliberately lo-fi recording , this really is actually just a rough sketch of a song.  Not that it actually needs to be much more polished, but a little tidying up might be helpful.

Either way, there’s not much I can say about this with so little information, apart from pointing out that the one song they do have out in the open is really very good indeed. It’s a cross between the lo-fi garage of 2011, mixed with just a little of the early Britpop female-fronted indie bands and actually, of all things, just a little gothic Americana.  That latter impression might come more from the lyrics themselves, as well as the verse structure, which does remind me of dark, foreboding frontier US country rock, or it might come from the fact that the lead female vocal reminds me more than a little of the awesome Jill O’Sullivan from Sparrow & the Workshop.

In any case, if anyone from Glasgow is reading this and can fill me in a little, this lot sound really promising and I am very much looking forward to finding out more.

Wolf by Palms

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Also Live This Week, Because I am an Idiot…

 My ability to retain information appears to be shot to shit at the moment, and for no real reason that I can think of, apart from the fact that I am trying to stuff more in there than usual, and consequently more seems to be leaking out the sides.

Anyhow, the way I now retain information is to write everything down, but this has a flipside.  Because it is retained in written form, it now appears it is even less likely to stay in my head than it was before, making me into some sort of proto-cyborg, who can’t exist without his damn iCalendar and inbox.

Anyhow, what is all this about?  Well, despite clearly writing it in my diary, I managed to omit the following gig from yesterday’s listings:

Thursday 22nd Sept.: Stanley Brinks, Freschard & Garfunkel and Simon at the Wee Red Bar.

Stanley Brinks is a former member of Herman Dune, and probably well known to a lot of readers of this site, but I have to confess it’s Clemence Freschard who most interests me about this lineup.  There’s something about the guitar tone she uses, and the plain, slightly disingenuous delivery of the vocal that I really like the sound of.  You can hear three of her albums at the Bandcamp link above, and I’ve embedded one below, just in case you’re ultra-lazy, as well as a video of a Stanley Brinks/Freschard, for a taste of what you’ll be in for on Thursday.

So apologies to Kieran, who’s putting the gig on, and to the bands, but umm… well, please ignore my idiocy and go along to this if you can.

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Live in Edinburgh This Week – 19th September 2011

 Apart from the gig stuff happening this week, I will be on this panel in Glasgow tomorrow. It is about the use of social media in music, and although I am not entirely certain quite how qualified I am to give actual advice, I do notice for example that our social media-based stuff for the record label tend to yield a lot more interest than our mailing list, so I guess there are a few things to talk about.

And then on Saturday we’ll be recording a Toad Session with the truly awesome PAWS.  Quite how we’re going to get away with the enormous racket they make I have no real idea, but umm… well, we’ll see, won’t we.  Fortunately Philip sings quite loud, so hopefully we won’t just end up with drums in everything.

However, for those of you who care not for Toad Sessions, nor indeed for social media seminars, here are some more traditional musical diversions for you over the next seven days.

Monday 19th September 2011: Slow Club & The Last Battle at Cabaret Voltaire.

If you can’t enjoy yourself at a Slow Club gig it must simply be because you are incapable of fun and therefore not a very worthwhile person. Their tunes are infallibly catchy, the band themselves seem to have a brilliant time playing and they are also obviously incredibly nice people, and that makes their gigs even better! And for a band who perform with simply dual vocals, guitar and a very, very stripped back drum kit they don’t half make a racket when they want to.

Slow Club – Let’s Fall Back in Love

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Wednesday 21st September 2011: North Atlantic Oscillation, Miaoux Miaoux & Discopolis play Limbo at the Voodoo Rooms.

Another solid Scottish lineup from Limbo, who are approaching their fourth birthday as promoters, somewhat incredibly.

Saturday 24th September 2011: The Tidal Wave of Indifference presents Star Wheel Press, French Wives, The Douglas Firs and Lost Telegrams at the Wee Red Bar.

Stu from Tidal Wave of Indifference has slipped his head into the gig promotion noose, and I intend to be along to kick away the stool this Saturday. It’s an ambitious, four-band lineup with strong acoustic pop sensibilities running through it, but quite big sounds nevertheless.  Should be good, and I will be there!  Somewhat pished after recording the PAWS session, I would imagine, but there nevertheless.

The Douglas Firs – The Quickening

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Toadcast #192 – The Winecast

 Winecast because after soberly recording these on a Saturday afternoon for the last couple of years, I’m recording this after a bottle of wine on a Sunday evening for a change.  So don’t expect coherence, but it honestly isn’t all that bad.

Mrs. Toad and I were down looking at the Port O’ Leith  Motor Boat Club today, wondering if we might buy the place, move in and try and turn it into the kind of recording space and performance space we already try and use our house as.  It’s a great building, but I am not entirely certain how popular a place in Newhaven might prove to be to Edinburgh people reluctant to go more than a block or two for their musicfunz.

Anyhewww, here we have another ten songs of unbelievable brilliance, for which you will no doubt be enormously grateful and umm *cough cough* well, you’re more than welcome.

Direct download: Toadcast #192 – The Winecast

01. Prize Pets – It Takes Time (00.09)
02. Ian Humberstone – House on the Hill (07.34)
03. Waiters – Tomorrowland (15.05)
04. Former Bullies – Golden Chains (20.21.)
05. Talvihorros – Beta (26.39)
06. Palms – Wolf (37.23)
07. Burning Yellows – Chopsticks (42.32)
08. Debutant – Yeah! Currahee! (51.00)
09. The Japanese War Effort – Dreaming of a New Labour (54.49)
10. King Creosote & John Hopkins – Bats in the Attic (Unravelled) (62.52)

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Friday? Fuck Friday.

 You know when you get in one of those moods?  Well I’m in one.  And not for any good reason at all, either, just in a mood.

You know one of those situations where absolutely everything irritates you?  People have been unduly enthusiastic about fucking crap music on the internet this week, and it infuriates me because they are obviously and clearly wrong.  My back hurts again; fuck you, world.  There’s laundry to do; is there no end to the injustice? There’s a new Florence and the fucking Machine album out soon and people are actually acting like they fucking care!  What the fuck is going on in this country?

On another note, I played football yesterday and I was fucking shit.  That pissed me off.  And even though I went to bed at eleven last night I still couldn’t get up this morning.  And I’ve started to tackle the label accounts for the year, which is a load of old cock and balls.

Fuck off, world.

With which underwhelming complaining, we finally come to the Friday fucking Fives for this week.  Can you really be fucking arsed, even if you’re delurking for the first time, and all the unutterable excitement that brings?  Ah well, it’s better than actual work, I suppose.

1. What’s irritated you today?
2. Who has fucking annoyed you this week?
3. What do you think will salve your irritation (no, not that kind of irritation) but never does?
4. Which piece of entertainment or art do you wish you could commentate on live, just to express your disgust.
5. For fuck’s sake, give me a happy fucking thought before I start in on the gin before lunchtime.

Rilo Kiley – Science vs. Romance

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Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Every Night I Die at Miyagi’s

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Marianne Faithfull – Sister Morphine

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Pink Mountaintops – Plastic Man, You’re the Devil

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Kevin Tihista – Situation Vacant

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Voluntary Blinkers

I found this rather interesting talk recently, about a concept Eli Pariser, the speaker in question, calls ‘the filter bubble’.

In the talk above, given for TED, the home of more or less anything interesting on the internet, Pariser is talking about how personalisation filters on Facebook and Google are effectively spoon-feeding us news, entertainment and information which they and we already know we want to see.

This is fine if, not to Rumsfeld things too much, you think that what you know you want is all you will always want.  It’s for this reason that I never really got much satisfaction from using Pandora or Last.fm as radio stations.  Basically, they just played stuff I pretty much already knew I liked and wanted to hear and, honestly, I found that pretty boring.

I actually prefer someone playing me shit I don’t like from time to time, so I tend to far prefer blogs, radio shows, podcasts and things like that, where I know that I will be challenged at least from time to time.  Even so, with all the variety out there, and the depth available, it is still pretty easy to end up in a cultural cul-de-sac these days, surrounded by only a few different shades of the same colour, and thinking that represent variety.

Pariser talks very well (and there is more in this interview) about the power and the damage which this kind of filtering can cause, particularly if wielded by the likes of Facebook and Google, which are pretty much our windows onto the entire internet these days.

But people were doing this to themselves long ago.  I began to really notice it when I started reading political blogs a few years ago.  There were so many out there, it got to the stage where people were linking back and forth from one blog to the next to support their arguments, and it quickly became clear that a lot of people were getting all their political information and, often worse, their political analysis from inside a sort of walled garden of mutual reinforcement.

Now, I am horrendously guilty of this myself, so I am not accusing anyone exactly,  but I don’t think there’s any doubt that simply exposing your opinions, whether cultural or political, to people who will pat you on the back and agree with you makes them weak, flabby and kind of meaningless.

So stuff like Facebook weeding out things it knows we probably aren’t interested in, or Google tailoring my news results to standard lefty, middle-class fare really bothers me.  For someone as opinionated as I am, you might think I get annoyed when I am disagreed with, but really the opposite is true.

I actually like people disagreeing with me, assuming they have an actual argument to make, so just being spoonfed shit I already agree with ends up feeling a bit like being in some sort of anaesthetic dream conceived by Big Brother to keep us happy and docile. It’s amazing that we are actually having to go so far out of our way just to be disagreed with these days.

Plus, it reminds me a little too much of this comic, taken from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

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High Pop – Bong Rips

 High Pop’s PR company, who generally send me lots of good stuff, got in touch about this band by sending me a link to a Bandcamp page which wouldn’t play anything because the album in question isn’t out yet.

Fortunately, they had an older EP up there too, and fortunately that played just fine, and fortunately it was really bloody good, so no harm done.

The album in question is called Hippie Speed Ball and can be pre-ordered on cassette from Sex Cave Records, and I was given a song which I can share, although as yet I still know absolutely nothing about the album itself.

High Pop – Drip From the Sea (from Hippie Speed Ball)

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On the earlier EP Bong Rips (free download here), however, there are four short, sharp pop songs with all the usual modern day stylistic touches of buried vocals and fuzzy guitars.  They are still writing pretty sunny, summery pop songs though, to the extent that one blog has described them as “the Beach Boys on crack”, which I suppose makes sense.

There are a few more garage rock influences in there than that description implies, of course, and by the time the EP degenerates into woozy, sloppy closer Sludge Monster I think ‘the Beach Boys on shitloads of crack’ (which of course they were) perhaps makes more sense.

Still, irrespective of the precise calibration of the crack coefficient used in the ‘XXX on crack’ standard review comparisonator, these guys show a flair for boisterous, catchy-as-hell pop songs, so who cares how much crack the Beach Boys took.  They are releasing their album on cassette too, which pretty much gives you indie zeitgeist bingo, so now all I need is a shitty old American car with the windows down and a fine Summer’s day on which to play it and the bliss will be complete.

High Pop – Sunny Side (from Bong Rips)

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Talvihorros – Descent into Delta

 Slow, purely instrumental music is rarely ever my thing, but for some reason I am finding this recording really quite captivating, although I think I am going to struggle to articulate exactly why.

Briefly, for those of us who like quick categorisations, or even just to know whether or not to bother reading the rest of this review (twats), then I guess you’d put this in experimental, drone, post-rock kind of territory, to pinch the tags Ben Chatwin (for Talvihorros is basically just him) used on his own Bandcamp page.

For me a lot of experimental instrumental music just drifts into background noise far too quickly.  Partly I think this is because I have a woefully under-educated ear for this kind of thing, and partly I think it is also a real danger of the genre.  A bit like lo-fi garage rock bands substituting distortion for actual tunes, I think this kind of stuff has a similar danger of neglecting the basics of writing aurally engaging music in favour of simply ticking off the aesthetic touchstones of the genre itself.

Add that to the difficulties faced by someone like me, who has no real knowledge of this kind of music in the first place, and you can imagine how I have at times struggled to connect with bands making noises which I like, but which I have not quite managed to parlay into enjoyment of entire albums.

What makes this different, I am not sure.  The combination of ambient soundscapes, and rougher, scrapier, far less palatable drones works well for me.  Chatwin uses these really well to shift the emphasis from either lull to irritation, and this slow but palpable manipulation of emotions is probably why I like this as much as I do.

It’s the kind of album I could imagine Mrs. Toad dismissing as easy listening when I first put it on the record player, only to find an altogether less docile beast emerging within Beta, the second song.  The more aggressive sounds of drone and distortion are ones I am really enjoying in my pop music at the moment, so it makes sense that translating them to a slightly different style would still very much appeal to me.

Anyhow, this is an album which takes an undercurrent of unease and just twists it round and round inside your head for about forty minutes, giving you respite in places, but never letting you quite escape its clutches.  You never know if it’s going to save you or drown you, so you end up in this weird position where you’re not sure if the music is your friend or your enemy, and I think this fundamental combination of tease and threat is why I am finding it so compelling.

[Under normal circumstances I would share an mp3 at this point, but there aren't all that many on the album in the first place, and to give a whole song away seems a bit much, so you are going to have to make do with a Bandcamp embed on this occasion.  It is the whole album though, so you really can't complain.]

Bandcamp | Buy from Hibernate Records

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Former Bullies and Some Videos

I was futzing about on the internet recently, as you do, and I happened across a YouTube channel run by a band from Manchester called Former Bullies. According to Suffering Jukebox – a label, now on hiatus I think, run by one of the guys from Mazes – the band have been around for nearly seven years and, for whatever reasons, have yet to really crack any kind of serious audience.

The people I have spoken to in Manchester tend to treat the recent outbreak of lo-fi garage rock in that city as something of a cathartic experience.  Venues were beset by pay-to-play promoters, who have now all but been expunged from the city’s musical landscape, and the style of the city was very much dominated by excessive reverence of the past, be it the Hacienda and Factory Records scene, or the brainless lad-rock of Oasis.

When The Courteeners threatened briefly to break into the mainstream a couple of years ago, that was by all accounts something of a catalyst amongst those in the city who didn’t want to just re-hash old glories they weren’t that keen on in the first place.  ‘Oh fuck, not this shit, again‘ was more or less how it seems to have gone.

If the conversations I have had with a few different bands recently are to be believed, the reaction against this has, as much as anything, brought about the recent explosion in really good Manchester bands and promoters.  There is presumably a bit more to it than that, but there you go.

Anyway, as with most sudden explosions of a particular scene, there are a few people who suddenly get a lot of attention very quickly, some merited, some less so.  But there are also people who work away in the background for a long time and who, when the rest of the world finally catches on, seem to get a bit less credit than those who shout louder than they do.

Depending on what you make of their music, Former Bullies appear to quite possibly be one of these bands.  On the aforementioned YouTube channel, the page which brought me to all of this in the first place, they have videos made for all sorts of bands (all written in capital letters too, so you know they must be pretty cool) and, from the looks of it, for no better reason than that the guy likes making videos.

However, that breadth of interest means that the channel itself is a pretty good place to have a browse and find new bands, because there are quite a few represented there, including the likes of Sic Alps, who I’ve been hearing a fair bit about recently, but have been around for a few years apparently, and the awesomely messy, lo-fi, shoegazey Waiters.

I’ve included a couple of videos below, one by Waiters and one by Sex Hands, but there are plenty more on YouTube.

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Bodywash – Merdered EP

 I am not sure where I picked up an interest in Chicago haze-poppers Body Wash, but a good bet would be Basement Fever, who featured them quite recently.

When writing about them Jake described them as yet another lo-fi band to be featured on Basement Fever, and I suppose the same could very easily be said of this site as well.  However, I don’t personally think I would put them in the lo-fi category myself – at least not first and foremost.

Primarily, this music has a dreamy pop feel to me, and there may be gauzy, lo-fi elements to the production, but the hypnotic thrum of the music is what strikes me the most. It’s the kind of music I am forever describing as sounding quite electronic without having all that many electronic elements.  A lot of this is actually guitar pop smothered in effects, I think, but that thrum gives it the feel of electronic music nevertheless.

Merdered is actually available as a pay-what-you-want download from the band’s Bandcamp page, and is well worth a handful of sheckles, in my view. There’s a slightly incongruous cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Everywhere at the end, but for the most part this EP chugs and warbles its way along really nicely.

Those two verbs don’t sound all that complimentary, but they’re the best way I can think to describe how the percussion and the guitars respectively are being used.  Specifically, the rhythms give a sense of direction and purpose to an EP which could easily be prone to drifting, smothered in a miasma of blurred vocals and general buzz.  The hollow slaps of drum* cut through this blur particularly well on songs like Indian Blood, whereas in other places the piercing of the fog is left to repetitive guitar melodies.

Considering there are a couple of instrumental songs on this, and that the vocals are buried and fuzzy, and also that the riffs tend to by cyclical and monotonous (again, not intended as a criticism), music like this could easily become a bit cloudy, and possibly a bit boring, but the strong focus on pop hooks in every song keeps it sharp, and I am really looking forward to seeing where Body Wash go from here, because this is a really good EP.

Body Wash – Cool Bike

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Body Wash – Record Run

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*Assuming they’re actual drums of course, which they quite possibly are not.

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