Song, by Toad

Archive for June, 2013

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Toadcast #272 – Charles Latham Toad Session

Video – Vimeo – YouTube
Photos – Flickr
Session tracks zip download (right click – save as)
Interview podcast – mp3 – iTunes – Mixcloud (playlist at bottom of page)

Charles Latham has been something of a legend in Edinburgh ever since his song Hard On became something of a staple in the Withered Hand live set, and also occasionally appeared when other bands, like our own Meursault for instance, played live as well. The Withered Hand version proved so popular that it actually made its way back across the pond, when Toad Session alumnus Samantha Crain covered it a year or two ago.

Funnily enough, though, he’s never actually been to Edinburgh, at least until November last year, when he came over here on tour, played a gig in the city and popped by to record a Toad Session. And the Withered Hand version had made such an impact that Charles himself didn’t even want to play it!

Nevertheless, we have four excellent songs for you, a genuinely interesting interview, and a night which started with beer and ended with macaroni cheese and vinyl. A win for all concerned, I think you’ll agree.

Toadcast #272 – Charles Latham Toad Session by Song, By Toad on Mixcloud

Charles Latham – Squares (Toad Session)

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Charles Latham – My Perfect Church (Toad Session)

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Charles Latham – The Living Wage (Toad Session)

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Charles Latham – My Parents’ House (Toad Session)

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01. Charles Latham – Squares (Toad Session) (00.22)
02. Withered Hand – Hard On (12.37)
03. Violent Femmes – Waiting For the Bus (15.51)
04. Charles Latham – My Perfect Church (Toad Session) (24.17)
05. Neko Case – Thrice All American (31.46)
06. Jonathan Richman – My Affected Accent (35.15)
07. Charles Latham – The Living Wage (Toad Session) (45.14)
08. George Harrison – I Live For You (52.57)
09. Eef Barzelay – Well (56.33)
10. Charles Latham – My Parents’ House (Toad Session) (1.08.00)

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The Insider Festival

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Right, I promised this a little earlier, and here it is, a wee write-up of the Insider Festival which I attended last weekend, along with recording crew to make the third Song, by Toad Split 12″. The festival itself takes place on the Inshriach Estate near Aviemore, with Inshriach House (above) its focus. As we were recording, we were in the large drawing room at the house itself, and threw our sleeping bags on the floor at night, surrounded by mics and cameras.

The room itself was surprisingly similar to our room here at Toad Hall actually. A little smaller and lower of ceiling perhaps, but three large Georgian windows along one side, a floor covered in carpets and lamps absolutely everywhere. So for all this was Song, by Toad heading into the wilderness, the surroundings actually ended up being surprisingly familiar. The one exception being one of Jonnie Common’s songs where we went into the central hall of the house and recorded him playing the piano, with a mic hung over the bannister from the top floor for good measure.

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In terms of festivals, this is pretty much my ideal: a small attendance, a relatively modest lineup, set somewhere in beautiful landscape and with little enough infrastructure and few enough people that you actually feel you are in that landscape, not in a miniature city which has sprung up for a week, and tends to rend the immediate environment an irrelevance. The Backwoods Stage here was a prime example: a tiny secondary stage set in a natural dell up in the woods and decorated with red paper lanterns. It was really lovely, but the woods around it were 90% of the reason why, not the stage itself. I don’t have a picture, sadly, other than the rather fuzzy one below.

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The other aspect I loved about the festival was what I suppose would be called its middle class credentials. I am not entirely sure why wanting to drink nice beer and eat decent food is supposed to be middle class exactly, but that’s the accusation which tends to be made when you celebrate these things. Williams lager at £3.50 a pint, and the rather stronger and rather delicious Grozet at £4.50 was a good start. As were the stalls offering pulled pork sandwiches, pizza made to order, and fantastic venison or halloumi burgers.

But the real pièce de résistance was the posh restaurant in the marquee by the house, called The Painting School. Thirty odd quid for five absolutely phenomenally good courses, and all at a music festival, where you’re not really supposed to have washed for three days. It was almost comically ambitious, but in actual fact worked extremely, extremely well.

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And yes, seriously, the picture below is of the coffee I was served at the end of my meal at a music festival, as the rain drizzled onto the tent above and I gave not a single shit.

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So yes, a really, really lovely weekend away. The recording was a little hectic, due to the bands having to juggle our demands with those of their sets and their soundchecks, but we got everything done in time and I think it’s going to be an excellent record.

It rained of course, mostly on the final day, which was pretty soggy. But this is the Scottish countryside we’re talking about. To paraphrase Billy Connolly: of course it rained, where do you think you are, fucking Benidorm? But actually the thick forests and bare mountains rather suited the rain, so given it was really only one day I don’t think it really mattered at all. The Scottish landscape is meant to look rainy, after all.

And the festival itself was just what I want: small, manageable, and tailored towards a small group of people who give a shit about things, not a thronging mass demanding fifteen pints of warm Tennent’s each and punching the air to fucking Kasabian. I just don’t derive any enjoyment from that kind of thing, even if there are good things to be found at the larger festivals, the ocean of shit which surrounds them makes it impossible to really enjoy the few islands of good stuff.  So the more small, carefully put-together festivals like the Insider we have, the happier I’ll be.

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Tangles

artworks-000042075675-ndcmt2-t500x500 I assume that by now you’ve either learned the ‘get your band tips from other bands’ lesson or you’re utterly sick of hearing me repeat it. Nevertheless, here we go again. Since starting the booking for the Pale Imitation Festival I have already featured Rachel Lancaster and The Rosy Crucifixion on the blog, and the next in that list is now Tangles, as suggested to me by Plastic Animals.

Initially I thought, ‘ooh yes, moody, gloomy guitar music, maybe even with a touch of shoegaze’, but that turned out to be premature. Yes, at its tightest and most driven this qualifies as that kind of stuff, but for the most part we’re talking about music so ethereal and tentative it seems to drift around in a cloud of loose particles which diverge and coalesce like a flock of birds. Sometimes it seems like divergent, scattered elements bearing barely any relation to one another, and at others it all suddenly swirls back together into something elusive and lovely.

The mumbled female vocals on Paramusic are brilliant. Almost as if they’re being echoed from the bottom of a well, there were times when I thought I might have been listening to something playing in another tab which I’d accidentally left open on my computer. Moon River might be one of the best covers I’ve heard in ages. It’s barely recognisable, barely coherent, and at times barely music, but still I find it completely fascinating. When those moments of clarity do finally assert themselves, it’s a splendid feeling.

I’m still hot wholly sure what I make of this, I have to be honest. There are moments when it’s basically just fucking brilliant, but times when it seems to lose the thread so completely that I wonder if it gets entirely lost. I lose my foothold in the music at times, for sure, but that doesn’t seem to happen that often. There’s a lot to love here, but a lot I still have to adjust to, I think.

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Now Wakes the Sea – God’s Light, Withdrawn

a4073252930_2 Now Wakes the Sea are a band I have taken to referring to as ‘The Best Band in Scotland No-one From Scotland Has Heard Of’. Snappy, I know. I think Jim from Aye Tunes is a big fan, as is Ally, who puts on the Pendulum Man gigs here in Edinburgh, but that’s about all I can think of off the top of my head.

It’s not a massive surprise, I suppose. The music is swathed in crackle and hiss, it moves at a glacial pace, it’s miserable as fuck and unless you’re specifically drawn to that kind of thing, like I am, then I can see how pretty much none of this stuff would really compel you to listen beyond the first few minutes. You would be wrong, though. Very, very wrong.

Yes, this is downbeat and fairly dour, but despite being made with the bare minimum of equipment and sung with sufficiently little force that it verges on a barely tuneful mumble half the time, this stuff has that ‘gloriously morose’ sense of itself which is becoming such a significant category in my music library.

And actually, the music is pretty subtle and nuanced, for all the minimalism and lo-fi style. O Lover, for example, has a relatively full arrangement, and by these standards a fairly insistent tempo, and this kind of change of pace keeps the record interesting, even in its relatively consistent sense of malaise. Tunes like O Lover and Peak, which follows it, can actually suggest a bit of Casiotone For the Painfully Alone when they add the electronic beat to the slow vocal delivery and simple synth sounds, but that’s not quite the right picture to have of this stuff.

There’s more of a fumbling bleakness to a lot of this, but for some reason it doesn’t feel depressing. It’s music which doesn’t sound like it is seeking to be consoled, or for you to absorb or even share the sense of dislocation which it shows, it’s just one of those cases where something is what it is, and you can either embrace that and love the music or move on and find something else.

I’ll repeat myself though. This lot are the best Scottish band that absolutely no-one in Scotland has ever heard of. Buy the album on tape here.

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Adam Stafford Album Launches

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Are you in Edinburgh or Glasgow next week? Good, because you should go to these. If not, just scroll to the bottom of the page for a new free single from his forthcoming album and don’t worry too much about this bit – apologies for bothering you.

Adam’s new album Imaginary Walls Collapse is out on Song, by Toad Records in mid-July, and he is having a couple of rather awesome album launch shows next week so we can all get together and celebrate. On the 4th and 5th of July he will be in Edinburgh and Glasgow respectively, supported by Robbie Lesiuk and Siobhan Wilson, friends who collaborated on the album, and in Edinburgh by the awesome and now world-famous RM Hubbert.

To nudge you into going along I thought now would be a good time to share a new single from the album, the utterly gorgeous Ghostly Arms. We’ve ended up releasing two of the prettiest tunes on the record as singles actually, and I promise you that wasn’t to deliberately mislead you into thinking that the album is less weird and nasty than it is, it just happened that way. The record itself is, in fact, a more experimental and strange a lot of the time, but it also has these absolutely gorgeous moments as well, in the middle of the weirdness, and the combination works really, really well.

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Rachel Lancaster

lancaster The best new music tips tend to come, not from sites like this one, but from bands. Not that I wish to discourage you from reading this, erm, constantly inspiring and finely crafted site, but if you really want to find the best new bands I recommend following your current favourites on Twitter or Facebook.

Bands play with obscure support groups, find themselves on odd bills, chatter to other people in bands about other bands, and know a million people with weird side projects, so if anything good is happening in the world of music, you can be confident someone in a band told someone else in a band about it first. And if you’re lucky they will mention it to you, on the internet.

I was talking to Bart from eagleowl about the Pale Imitation Festival we’re putting on in August, and he suggested inviting Rachel Lancaster to be on the bill for the closing party, which eagleowl are headlining. She played with them in Newcastle when they were on their album launch tour and apparently she was fantastic. I am not surprised – listening to her handful of tunes on Soundcloud, I am really excited to see her play.

She has a blog site as well, but there’s not really that much of her stuff out there on the internet, and I get the impression she is kind of her own side project, devoting more time to playing in the bands she’s in: Silver Fox, Chippewa Falls and Gravenhurst. I don’t know as much about those three bands as I might, but I have to say I think she should devote more time to her own material, because it’s bloody ace.

I can see how it would appeal to eagleowl – excruciatingly slow, Lancaster builds her songs from layers and loops of single notes allowed to reverberate and rumble into silence. The guitar sound is absolutely fucking gorgeous; a sort of growly tidal wave, which is part thunderstorm and partly the constant, distant rumble of industrial machinery.

She can sing too, although she rarely chooses to, but when she does it too is slathered in effects so that you can’t really hear any lyrics. It does cut through the oppressive atmosphere created by the guitars though, which is  a good thing, as this kind of music could easily become somewhat hard going without it. It’s not going to be for everyone, I suppose. Her stuff kind of stares you down, and if you find that kind of thing a bit intense then you may not really end up liking this, but I think it’s ace and I am really looking forward to seeing her play in August.

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Live in Edinburgh This Week – 24th June 2013

embra Phew, what a very fine festival that was, and what a punishing recording schedule. It was all pretty well-organised and the room was amazing, but in music something always finds a way to go wrong, and this weekend was no exception. Still, nothing fatal though, and the recording for the 3rd Song, by Toad Split 12″ has all been done successfully, and I think we will have an amazing record.

I’ll write more about the Insider Festival and the recording process a little later though, but for now this is our traditional Monday listings post, where I pick the live music in Edinburgh which interests me, and write it down on the internet in the hopes that it will interest you too. It’s also something of a lamentable and unintentional tradition that I leave something out of course, so please have a word in the comments thread if I have missed anything.

Also, if you want to avoid Wounded Knee (which you shouldn’t), you’re basically going to have to stay in until the end of the week I’m afraid. He and his notorious bawbag will be appearing no less than three times in the next three days, which makes him even more ubiquitous than cat photos on the internet.

He is playing tonight at the Peter Potter Gallery, in Haddington in East Lothian, where he will be joined by enigmatic folkie C Joynes. It may be traditional stuff, but Joynes embraces a really eerie aesthetic, and sounds to these rather ignorant ears like a really interesting musician. Then tomorrow, the pair are playing at Summerhall in Edinburgh, and will be joined by Stephanie Hladowski and Neil Davidson for another awesome Braw Gigs show.

On Wednesday Mr. Knee then takes himself out to the Dalkeith Arts Centre for some fun with local epic, dark, post-folkers eagleowl. Post-folk is a silly term isn’t it. Ah well, I can’t think what else to call them. A band, maybe. But that’s not exactly informative, as descriptions go.

Anyhow, if you want to anything at all other than go and see Wounded Knee a lot, which I would imagine is relatively few of you, then you might wish to pop along to Henry’s Cellar Bar on Saturday night where some very interesting new Edinburgh talent will be showcasing together: instrumental post-rock from Wozniak, dreamy, experimental soundscapes from  Swallows Fly Low and big, shoegazey rock tunes from Mad Nurse. If anyone wants to see three excellent Edinburgh bands you’ve definitely never read about on these pages, then I recommend you get down there, because these three sound very promising indeed.

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The Rosy Crucifixion

rosys The best way to find new music, as I have said before, is not to listen to idiots like me, it is to find other bands you like and to listen to them.

I am currently booking a month full of Scottish music to take place at Henry’s Cellar Bar in August, while the eyes of every American tourist in Edinburgh will be on the gurning pusses of Home Counties pricks trying to amuse their friends who they shared a flat with at drama school. The utterly incredible Retreat Festival isn’t happening this year, and Tennents have given up on T on the Fringe and The Edge Festival, so I think that Edinburgh really does need at least some representation during the Festival.

Anyhow, I followed Palms to this compilation album, bought it, and discovered Muscles of Joy and The Rosy Crucifixion by doing so. And what fucking awesome bands they are. The Rosy Crucifixion describe themselves in their Soundcloud tags as “morbid hillbilly garage” and that might just be one of my favourite genre delineations of all time. They have songs called Sunshine Fuck Off, and for all I have never heard anyone even talk about them, their reputation in Glasgow appears to be what people refer to as ‘burgeoning’.

Their songs are fucking ace, too. Sleazy, wonky, out of tune and out of time, they drip with swagger, confidence and confrontation. The music is old-fashioned, jangly and hummable as hell. Lo-fi can become lo-fi for its own sake, but this lot sound pretty well-recorded to me. The growl comes from the amps and the playing – it is deliberate and courted. The band have a split release with The Wharves coming out on the excellent Soft Power Records soon, and I am really looking forward to hearing it.

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RM Hubbert Really Fucking Deserves the SAY Award

hubby Okay, I should probably start this post by repeating all my usual tedious caveats: this is purely subjective, I think RM Hubbert deserves his recently-announced SAY Award win because I love the album, but I don’t think any one band on that list can really ‘deserve’ to win the award more than another. Got it? Good. We shall proceed.

Obviously, as the label of a rival band also nominated for this award I have to be outraged that RM Hubbert has won. And I am. It was obviously a fix/same old Glasgow cliques/indie snobbery/some other excuse. But for all I am gutted for Meursault, I am still delighted for Hubby.

Firstly, if you want to know what I thought the Scottish album of the year for 2012 was, Song, by Toad Records bands aside, you need look no further than my 2012 end of year list, where 13 Lost and Found finished behind only the sadly neglected Cokefloat by PAWS and the unelectable, secretly phenomenal and more-under-the-radar-than-a-fucking submarine Fluoxetine Morning by Now Wakes the Sea. So to find me agreeing with the panel about this particular decision should hardly be a surprise. You know I think this is an awesome record.

But there are a couple of other reasons too. Firstly, Hubby is an awesomely nice guy, so I really am just genuinely happy for him. Again, this is totally subjective and you may not care about this stuff, but a nice man has just received public recognition for a fantastic piece of work. That happens depressingly rarely in the music industry, and it makes me happy.

Secondly, there is the issue of the prestige. As I said on my recent podcast about the SAY Award, RM Hubbert does not exactly make passively acceptable pop music. He isn’t going to sell thousands and thousands, and this kind of publicity will be a godsend if he wants to spend the rest of his life making music. Not that I am claiming to know his sales figures of course, but without wishing to stir up an already-dead non-controversy, he’s clearly no Calvin Harris. But without widespread radio play and the fawning of the popular press, this will be a massive boost to public awareness of his music, and that is invaluable to someone who doesn’t write songs which you could call anthemic.

And finally, the money. To Emeli Sandé and Calvin Harris it seems, from their total lack of interest in their longlist nominations, that £20,000 is not that important. For RM Hubbert, and indeed every other band on the shortlist, it really is important. Hubby is not a demanding man to record, he could get three albums out of that money, possibly more. Or he could quit his job and spend a year trying to push himself as an artist as hard as he can for twelve months, and finally be free of the hand-to-mouth requirements which dog most independent musicians. An award like this basically means there will be plenty more RM Hubbert albums still to come, and I think this is awesome news.

So basically, all I am trying to say (pun not intended, but not unwelcome either) is that this result makes me happy.  Sure, I thought it would be Django Django, but they’re doing plenty well enough on their own terms already. And sure it should have been Meursault, but maybe people thought Hubby’s tattoos were better than Neil’s. And yeah, it could have been anyone, but the album of the year award has gone to someone who not just wrote great songs, but who constructed a fantastic album from them, and who will genuinely benefit from this award.

Well done old chap, you deserve it.

And if anyone reading wishes to buy the album in question, do so here.

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Beer vs. Records – The Results are (sort of) In!

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Records win the battle (YAY!) but Beer might end up winning the war (BOO)!

I have to confess, I thought beer would walk this one. Alright, you, me and our friends are mostly vinyl-fiends dedicated to new music, but it’s easy to forget that most normal people really aren’t and I thought it would be a humiliating defeat for vinyl.

The fact that it wasn’t feels like something of a triumph. After the dust settled from Record Store Day 2013 I only had about twenty odd copies of the album left. Barney had at least thirty or forty of the four packs, and people had apparently been constantly asking to buy the vinyl when they went into off licenses to buy the beer – VICTORY FOR RECORDS!

BUT WAIT! Bollocks! In the months since Record Store Day it’s become everso slowly apparent that sales of the vinyl slowed down quicker than the beer. Once out of the press, people seemed more likely to just take a chance on the beer, leaving me looking nervously at my 12 remaining records worrying if I might be pipped at the post.

So yes, on Record Store Day we narrowly managed to avoid ignominious defeat by our hoppy usurper, but it was a very, very close run thing. You can still get the few remaining 4-packs in Rough Trade East, Monorail music in Glasgow, The Good Spirit Company in Glasgow, and a few branches of Vino in Edinburgh, but that’s about it. And as for the record, order from your local record shop – that was kinda the point of the whole thing in the first place!

So yes, a huge thanks to Barney’s Beer for being such a good laugh to work with, and a big thank you to the bands too, for being good sports and letting us do something silly with their music. I have to confess, the whole project has gone far, far better than I anticipated. The record sold much faster than the last Split 12″, although we’re down to our last few copies of that as well, and just off to Aviemore tomorrow to record our next one with David Thomas Broughton, Sparrow and the Workshop, Jonnie Common and Siobhan Wilson.  It’s going to be awesome!

And here are some songs from the release, just for fun:

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