Song, by Toad

Archive for June, 2014

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Off on Rust 2 Rome 2014

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Yep, it’s that time of year again, where Mrs. Toad and I clamber into our ludicrous Volvo 940 (above) and venture off with a load of other cars in a quest to drag a car we bought for £350 off eBay all the way from Edinburgh to Rome, via some of the most challenging roads Europe has to offer.

Bette is named after Bette Davis (so it’s pronounced Betty, not Bett) because she is a temperamental, unpredictable fucker, but we did Rust2Rome in her last year and she’s been to and from the South of France and up and down to London plenty of times since, so hopefully she’ll manage the trip again with minimal fuss.

As you can imagine, this means the blog will suffer a bit for the next couple of weeks, but I will be keeping my Tumblr site updated with photos and songs.

The car has a tape player, so I’ve spent the last couple of days making mixtapes for the drive. It’s mostly daytime driving, and some of it is pretty intense going too, so it’s mostly upbeat stuff, but nevertheless when you’ve got a limited supply of music you still find yourself listening to the same thing quite a lot, so I’ll be posting songs from the tapes as well as photos from the driving.

See you in a couple of weeks, for the Split 12″ launch shows.

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Split 12″ v3 Launch Gigs

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Our third Split 12″ is nearly here, and this one was recorded up at the Insider Festival last year. The festival takes place up in the Highlands, and Nic Rue took some fantastic photos of the recording process, which you can see here.

We’ve got a couple of launch nights booked – one for Glasgow and one for Edinburgh – to welcome the record into the world in the nicest possible way. The Glasgow night is at Nice ‘n’ Sleazy’s on Thursday 24th July, and the Edinburgh show is on the 25th, the day after, and will be the first house gig in our new place in Leith.

We’re planning to light the barbecue as well, so you can come down with some burgers if you want, and have something to eat with us before the show. It would be lovely to see you at either of these shows, so please do come down if you can – and you can pick up some lovely, clear yellow vinyl as well.

All the bands will be playing except for Sparrow and the Workshop, for baby-related reasons. So for all that’s a bit of a disappointment as far as these shows are concerned, it’s great news for Jill and Nick, and also saves me the hassle of trying to get four bands on stage in a relatively short space of time.

Tickets for the Glasgow show can be found here and to buy tickets for the Edinburgh house gig use the Paypal link below.

SOLD OUT NOW, SORRY

And partly to whet your appetite, and partly because it is just an absolutely sublime song, here is Dear God by Siobhan Wilson (who will henceforth be performing under the name Ella the Bird), our first single from the Split:

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The Pale Imitation Festival 2014 is Taking Shape

The-Wickerman-Nicolas-Cage I have to confess that when we first conceived the Pale Imitation Festival (like most of the stupid ideas we get involved with it was first suggested whilst sitting in the back garden with a lot of gin) I was prepared for it to be a bit of a damp squib.

I don’t mean that out of pessimism, though, more a sense of caution in the face of a pretty big undertaking.

The point of the Pale Imitation Festival is to offer a cheap, local antidote to all the over-priced, imported shite which dominates the Edinburgh Festival itself.

It went better than I ever imagined, I have to confess, and even the very worst show of the festival was only ‘very good’, and pretty much all the rest were bloody great.

Anyhow, this year we’ll be doing it all again – every Thursday and Saturday at Henry’s Cellar Bar during August we’ll be showcasing the very best of independent Scottish music. And there’s also a big shiny Queen’s Hall show thrown in as well, just to make things more interesting: Meursault and Plastic Animals on 13th August.

We’ve not booked the entirety of the lineup yet, but so far we have some truly awesome bands on there, such as SAY Award nominees Adam Stafford and Rick Redbeard, as well as future nominees LAW and PAWS. Here are some of the currently confirmed bands, but keep a look out for future announcements as the rest of the lineup gets finalised. And remember, our £25 season ticket will be available again too.

Confirmed so far: Adam Stafford – Le Thug – Meursault – Plastic Animals – Andrew R. Burns – LAW – Rick Redbeard – Ian Humberstone – PAWS – Halfrican

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Toadcast #300 – The Brazilcast

World Cup England and Italy Wow, our 300th podcast! But honestly, I celebrated the 200th and the 250th I think, so celebrating again, a mere fifty podcasts later, seems a bit hollow. So Yay Me! for sticking at it, and Yay You! for continuing to listen to this pish, but I guess I should really keep quiet now until number 500.

Also, OH WOW TEH WURLD CUPZ! Except for the fact that England are effectively out, by this stage, and so I suppose I should just appreciate the fact that now I get to pull for whoever plays the best football. So far I guess that might be Germany, Holland and Chile – at least they’re the only teams who have really convinced so far, in my opinion.

And finally, Woo Hoo, the first free-play podcast in ages. The last few have been strongly themed, so this is the first time in a while that I’ve been free to just sit down at the computer and pick whatever the fuck I want to play, which is fun. Enjoy!

Toadcast #300 – The Brazilcast by Song, By Toad on Mixcloud

Direct download: Toadcast #300 – The Brazilcast

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01. The Victorian English Gentleman’s Club – Ban the Gin (00.56)
02. Siobhan Wilson – Dear God (06.02)
03. David Thomas Broughton – Yorkshire Fog (14.39)
04. BRAAINZZ – Ode 2 Lil B (feat. Slide Show) (22.06)
05. Grace Joyner – Young Thing (23.33)
06. Jeff Finlin – Language of Love (30.57)
07. Broken Records – So Long, So Late (42.04)
08. PAWS – Erreur Humaine (45.40)
09. Wozniak – El Maresme (53.24)
10. Myriam Gendron – Threnody (1.02.13)

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England: Not Great at Football, but That’s Fine

fb So, after two narrow defeats to Italy and Uruguay, England are probably out of the World Cup. Not absolutely definitively out, but in all probability that’s it for this year. Ah well.

Honestly though, as an England fan, I don’t really mind going out like that. We played two very good sides, had a real go at them, caused Uruguay in particular a lot of problems, but ultimately went out because of defensive failings – just a couple of important lapses, really. I think the before the tournament most people would have looked at the inexperience of Baines, the limitations of Jagielka and the defensive unpredictability of Johnson and said that this was where we lacked real quality.

Hopefully John Stones or Phil Jones or someone can come on strong in the next couple of years and offer something better at the back but for now, whatever you think of that back four, they were pretty unquestionably the best we had – with possible questions to be asked about Ashley Cole. But I doubt any seriously world class strikeforce would look at them and worry about how they were going to score – in fact that applies to most teams at this World Cup, actually.

I think Rooney could have been withdrawn against Italy, and Sturridge should have come off yesterday so we could have seen more of Lallana and Barkley (or The Ox if he was fit), but then Rooney and Sturridge were by far the most consistent English Premier League goal-scorers this year, so it’s not cut and dried.

It would also have been nice to see Wilshere coming on for Gerrard late on to provide a little extra thrust and inventiveness in midfield, but again, these are small quibbles, because you never know when Gerrard might stick one in the top corner from a stupid distance so I can see why he stayed on the pitch.

We had a really difficult group, and had we been luckier with the draw it might have been a different story, as it also might if Diego Godin had rightfully received his marching orders in the first half last night, but hey ho, no team ever went out of the World Cup without a handful of ‘maybes’ following them home.

It sort of highlights our ingratitude during the Svennis years, looking at recent performances. Sure, we ‘could’ have got to the semi-finals in that era, and not entirely implausibly the final. But then again, so ‘could’ Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Holland and a few other teams. ‘Amongst the best eight teams in the world’ was a pretty fair reflection of England’s ability back then, just as going out in the group stages is more or less where we’re at now. Sure, there will be worse teams in the second round than us, but then do Australia really deserve to be going home after the two performances they’ve delivered so far?

Overall though, I don’t mind not being as good as other teams, but having a go and still losing is infinitely better than scraping through after constipated draws and generally playing like we were suffering from some sort of collective paralysis. Watching England over the last, erm, maybe six years or so, has been an exercise in eye-gouging hopelessness. It was kind of like being paralysed by spider venom – no matter how awful things got you just couldn’t tear yourself away until it was finally over and you were put out of your misery once and for all.

This time around we’ve had a go. There’s one game left and it would be nice to put in a good performance against a Costa Rican side who themselves looked really good in their first game. It would be nice to score a couple of decent goals too, and maybe play with a little attacking verve, if just to encourage what looks like a pretty promising batch of young players.

As an England fan, I’ve come to expect failure in recent years, and I can live with that. But going out with some sense of self-respect and our heads held relatively high for a change feels like progress in itself.

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The Ambiguity of David Thomas Broughton

The Ambiguity of David Thomas Broughton (teaser trailer1) from Greg Butler on Vimeo.

I suppose this would be a good idea to quietly mention the David Thomas Broughton and Juice Vocal Ensemble album we’re going to be releasing in September (there’s a track from it on our current sampler). And perhaps subtly hint at the trans-continental triple vinyl which is being brewed for 2015.

But for the meantime those are yet to be formally announced and are officially a secret, so in the meantime, let’s start with this:

This is a trailer to music documentary currently being made about the eccentrically surreal performer and heartbreaking musician and songwriter David Thomas Broughton.

The film is in the early stages of production and this trailer was created after conducting the first five interviews. Since the trailer was first put together 12 interviews have been shot and included contributions from Shearwaters Jonathan Meiburg, Sam Amidon and David Shrigley. Many other interviews have been lined up over forthcoming months including Beth Orton, Liz Green and James Yorkston among others.

A crowd funding campaign is about to get underway so please pledge some money if you are fan of David’s work at all (from 23rd June on Indiegogo) So far I’ve put purely my own money into this project and I need some help if I am to make something really special and make the film that that David’s talent deserves.

The film should be completely shot by September and edited by the end of the year. Let me know if you can help me in any way shape or form, any help would be much appreciated and maybe even rewarded in a small way.

info@theambiguityofdtb.com

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3rd Song, by Toad Split 12″, with David Thomas Broughton, Jonnie Common, Siobhan Wilson & Sparrow and the Workshop

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This is the first song from our third Split 12” – Dear God by Siobhan Wilson. Pre-order the album on clear yellow vinyl here.

The third in our Split 12” series seemed set to be rather different to the first couple.

I was talking to Gordon from the Insider Festival in the Bailie in Edinburgh and he talked about collaborating on a vinyl release. Recording a Split 12” up at Inshriach House, on whose grounds the festival is held, seemed like the obvious option, but it also raised some questions.

Our house is such a strong part of the identity of these Split 12”s that I wasn’t sure what moving elsewhere would do the visual identity of the record, but more importantly, we are used to recording there. We know how to make the room sound good, and it’s our house, so the bands tend to be relaxed and therefore they usually play well too.

Still, we found four bands on the bill we really wanted to record with, and arranged to record David and Siobhan on the Friday and then Jonnie and Sparrow on the Saturday, so we figured we’d just head up there, adjust to whatever we found and try and make it work.

What we didn’t expect to find, however, was somewhere so similar to our living room in Edinburgh that it was basically like a home from home: a Georgian living room, full of old carpets and furniture, a large fireplace, with three full-height windows on one side and a door in the middle of the opposite wall. It was basically identical to the room we record in back home.

Nevertheless the process wasn’t without its problems. The festival was buzzing around us as we worked, and the bands’ live schedules put a bit more pressure on getting things done within a certain timeframe, and we had more nerves and more false starts than we’ve had before, as well as more songs retroactively rescinded by the artists as they weren’t happy with the takes, so this has meant a rather tougher post-production process than any of the other Split 12”s.

The album we’ve ended up making, however, is one of which I am really proud, as well as a lovely record of the Insider Festival itself. I love small festivals, as opposed to the trampled wastelands of the bigger ones, and this is one I’d been trying to get to for a few years now, so never mind recording, I was happy just to be able to go.

The setting was spectacular, and Nic, Rory, Neil and I slept on the floor of the room in which we were recording, meaning we woke to beautiful Highland scenery and really good coffee every day. Everyone who was based in Inshriach House was so incredibly friendly and so positive about the idea of making a record that we felt at home pretty much immediately, and being up in the Highlands away from normal working chores made it a surprisingly peaceful way to work.

And the unique working environment is probably why this album has worked out so nicely. I think it’s an unusual, but fantastic addition to our Split 12″ collection.

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Ten Years of Song, by Toad – Why Do I Fucking Bother?

media-image-346120-article-ajust_930 First things first: the answer to the above question is that I have absolutely no fucking idea why I bother.

Secondly: I have absolutely no idea if I’ve been doing this for exactly ten years, but I know it’s roughly there or thereabouts. It may not have a date stamp, but the first review I ever wrote was of Modest Mouse’s Good News for People Who Love Bad News, and that was released in April 2004, so I guess ten years is a reasonable guess.

It’s not strictly ten years of Song, by Toad either, because when I first started writing about music on the internet I didn’t call it Song, by Toad and it wasn’t a blog, initially. I just fired up reviews on a static site which nobody read.

I only discovered blogs a couple of years later, and realised that I was actually writing one already, so I moved everything over to Blogger and suddenly there I was, writing a blog like so many others. And the rest, of course, is history – if you know about the site you probably know it all already, and if you don’t then you probably don’t care.

I suppose I have to mark a (vague) ten-year anniversary one way or another though, and I suppose I’ve lived through the full cycle of blogging as it emerged, peaked and now seems to be petering out somewhat.

I say that, but people who talk about the death of blogging annoy me now as much as journalists who, back when it first emerged, would say that blogging was killing journalism. Blogging is simply a form of writing, and any good writer should be able to write a compelling blog. Blogging itself has simply been incorporated into mainstream journalism, and there are also more and more ways for amateur enthusiasts to get involved these days, so it would be daft to say that blogging is in decline.

What is in decline, though, is the sense that blogs are the drivers of the broader music conversation*. Back in about 2007 or 2008 they – or we, I suppose – seemed to be where an increasing number of fans went to read about new music. But that audience seems to have wandered off recently and blogging has diffused into dozens of different variations, from online magazines like Drowned in Sound, which publishes plenty of bloggy pieces but is still basically a magazine in digital form, to Twitter, which is published fan participation at its most minimal.

If you think about it, back when they first began to rise to prominence, blogs were the embodiment of the promise of the internet. Interactivity, amateur involvement, instant reactions… all the things we still talk about now. But back then there was no social media, for example, so all the silly conversations we see on Facebook and Twitter now actually used to take place in forums and in the comments sections on blogs.  The informal nature of the writing was a welcome change to the rather stuffy world of real music journalism as well, but they learned their lesson pretty fast, and now professional journalists (being talented writers, generally) write some of the best blogs out there.

Most prominent bloggers with ambition either parlayed their status into jobs in the music industry itself or turned their blogs into online magazines, and the emergence of these has filled a large amount of the space between the amateur and the professional music press which bloggers had briefly threatened to overrun on their own.

 

Random chatter has now moved to social media as well, and as a consequence not only have blogs’ readerships declined, but that argumentative bickering in the comments section has moved elsewhere as well, and with it the obvious evidence of an engaged audience which made blogs so enticing to a music industry which, in 2009, had pretty much no idea where its audience had gone.

Nowadays, we know. Music fans are all over social media, they supply all their listening stats on Spotify, and with Soundcloud and YouTube embeds it is pretty easy to gauge exactly how much traction a newly released song has gained. Blogs somehow seem so old fashioned these days.

Partly, they have destroyed themselves, I must say. Posting and re-posting all the same old shit, regurgitating press releases, needless click-baiting, it all seems a bit passionless and craven.  Some people made a real name for themselves with their blogs and it seems a lot of people are entering into the field with that as the goal from the start, rather than just for the joy of writing.

Back then, people blogged for loads of reasons. Some of those reasons are better served by social media these days, and others by other forms of participating in the music industry. Not all that many people wrote blogs for the particular joy of writing, or even because they thought of themselves as writers. They weren’t, they were music fans, blogging was just a way of enjoying music.

But I think that’s why I am still going some ten years later, when most people have a two or three-year trajectory from starting off to petering out. As well as music, I actually love writing and I always have. Song, by Toad isn’t just about reviews or finding the most acest new music ever, I just enjoy sitting down at the keyboard and wondering what nonsense is going to emerge this time.

It’s a pretty standard artistic cop-out to say that I don’t really expect people to read this blog, but I don’t. I’d like people to read it of course, but it’s not something I expect. There are more informed and analytical writers out there, and god knows what most people make of my music taste.

I’ve no idea where I’m going from here, either. There’s no real sense that I want to stop, although I would imagine that it’s pretty obvious that the label is taking more and more of my time these days. But two things come together here at Song, by Toad – my love of music, which writing the blog has enabled me to explore to levels I never really imagined, and my enjoyment of the act of writing.

I rarely know what I am going to write about, and although I think about albums a lot before I write about them, I never really plan the actual thrust of a write-up or think about phraseology or anything like that, I just sit down and write. And it’s fun. And I guess that’s probably why I’m still going after ten years when so many people who started at the same time has quit.

*Awful expression, I know. Sorry.

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Toadcast #299 – Eef Barzelay Toad Session

Eef Barzelay Toad Session from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

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

I first found Clem Snide back in around 2000 or 2001 when they released Ghost of Fashion, and have followed both the band’s releases and Eef Barzelay’s solo work ever since. I certainly never though back then that he’d end up staying in our house and that I’d interview him and record his songs in the living room one day.

For someone really quite shy in person Eef because incredibly chatty as soon as we turned the mics on, and the interview itself is probably one of the longest and most interesting of any of the Toad Sessions we’ve published yet. Fiona, who both filmed and photographed the session also made the most amazing cookies (see the front panel of the video above), and we fed them pheasant, of all things, before the Edinburgh show. Not your usual tour food, I have to confess, and I felt just a little embarrassed, but it was tasty, and at least better than the usual service station sandwiches.

As per usual we have the interview podcast below, freely downloadable mp3s of the session tracks from the Soundcloud player, and four individual song videos as well, before the podcast track listing at the bottom of the page. As well as Fiona, I was also helped out with filming and recording by Neil from Meursault.

Full interview podcast:

Toadcast #299 – Clem Snide/Eef Barzelay Toad Session by Song, By Toad on Mixcloud

Session tracks:

Session track videos

Podcast playlist:

01. Eef Barzelay – In the Service of… (Toad Session) (00.22)
02. Heligoats – Fishsticks (14.15)
03. Mark Woods – Giving Up (18.30)
04. Eef Barzelay – Nick Drake Tape (Toad Session) (31.43)
05. Lambchop – Nashville Parent (39.42)
06. Bill Callahan – Javelin Unlanding (45.37)
07. Eef Barzelay – Grace (Toad Session) (1.02.19)
08. Louvin Brothers – Satan’s Jewelled Crown (1.11.05)
09. Washington Phillips – Mother’s Last Word to Her Son (1.14.07)
10. Lydia Mendoza – Sigue Adalante (1.17.01)
11. Eef Barzelay – All the Way (Toad Session) (1.26.02)

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Deathcats – All Hail Deathcats

deathcats In some ways I feel like a bit of a pillock writing a review of an album you can all stream for free simply by scrolling to the bottom of the page. I mean, it does seem a little redundant doesn’t it.

Still, fuck it, that’s the nature of media in the 21st Century I guess, and I write this blog because I enjoy writing it (yes, still, even after ten years) not because I particularly expect anyone to really read it or care about it. It’s just fun to do.

I love Deathcats, I have to confess. It’s funny when you find a band you like, sometimes you just jump in head-first dribbling about how they are TEH MOST AWESUMEST EVA!! but in this case, as sometimes happens, I thought ‘yeah, oh wait woah steady there, oh hang on no they really are ace’. If you, er, know what I mean.

You’d think that after ten years of writing about music I really would be a bit better at it by now, eh.

But my initial enthusiasm for the band was tempered a little as I tried to figure out exactly what they were all about. Initially I just heard the latest hipster guitar band out of Glasgow, basically. That’s no criticism, I happen to love hipster guitar bands as you well know, but it is still a fairly definite pigeonhole, and one which it turned out they didn’t entirely fit – just enough to be deceptive, though!

Initially I heard nasty, surfy garage rock all drenched in reverb. It was well done, with some absolutely ace tunes and an awesome live show, but the retro mixture informing a lot of these tunes has a slightly different makeup to a lot of the other hipster guitar music I am into, and that is British 90s indie influences. People think of British 90s indie as being mostly Britpop, and I suppose to a large extent it is, but it is most definitely not cool to be a Britpop revivalist.

But in amongst the surf and the typical US indie influences, these guys seem to have absorbed a healthy dose of British indie rock from that period as well. Ian, who helps me run the label, said to them after a gig a year or so ago that they sounded really quite like Ash at times, before hurriedly pointing out that in their early days Ash had done some really good stuff, and he wasn’t trying to criticise them.

I was maybe at my most uncertain about the band at that point, but then they released The Raddest EP a few months ago, and it was absolutely ace. A couple of their most ebullient pop songs and a surfy instrumental jam hinted just a little about where the band were going, and subtle variations of style aside, the EP contained plenty of strands which have come together so well in this album.

As well as Deathcats usual boisterous pop tunes, All Hail Deathcats is actually a really well-assembled album. There are two-minute belters like the awesome Danny Dyer – the kind of thing we know them for already – but then there are sludgey wig-out instrumentals, and the music drifts from surfy tunes to more British-leaning stuff like the album opener Solid. These variations mitigate the fact that the songs are all really short and pretty much all delivered at full throttle, preventing the album sounding a bit samey and making sure it doesn’t wear out your ears.

So it’s a really well-done album, this. And not just musically, but in every sense. Deathcats have never really been embraced by the Scottish musical establishment really, but instead of hopping up and down waiting to be noticed, they’ve just kept right on doing their own stuff and putting it out themselves. This is released on Fuzzkill Records who have also worked with Fruit Tones, Future Glue and CLEAVERS, but I think the label is just basically a pal of the band’s from uni.

So after ploughing their own furrow with a genuine sense of not giving the slightest shit about who else took notice, they’ve now gone all the way and released a really, really good album  as well. And finally, after GoNorth, I had Vic Galloway turning up at the Paws album launch in a Deathcats t-shirt telling me how awesome they were in Inverness, and asking if I had heard of them.  ‘Yes Vic,’ I said, ‘I’ve put them on in Edinburgh twice now. You should come to more of my shows.’

You should all come to more of our shows. They’re awesome. We put on bands like Deathcats.