Song, by Toad

Archive for the Scottish Bands category

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Jonnie Common Updates

Jonnie Common’s Trapped in Amber was a bit of a quiet triumph, I think. Partly the response was incredible at the time, but it’s also been nice to watch it continue to creep up on people over the last few months despite the relative limits of our PR resources.

Both Jonnie and Bastard Mountain did really well in the BAMS awards – the Scottish ‘Bloggers And Music websiteS’ vote for the album of the year. The Twilight Sad won it, but Jonnie finished in the top ten and Bastard Mountain just outside, which is really nice. Jonnie has some live shows coming up as well, and we are just in the process of sorting out a London show too – hopefully in late March sometime.

28th Feb – STIRLING – Tolbooth headline show
7th March – EDINBURGH – Limbo headline show
8th March – GLASGOW – Broadcast, supporting R.Seiliog
17th March – MANCHESTER – Gulliver’s, supporting Kiran Leonard

Music Like Dirt also named Crumbs and Shark its joint favourite songs of 2014, which is absolutely great news. Neil even recounts the time I had a misty-eyed conversation with him in a pub in London about missing out on releasing Jonnie’s first album – a conversation I had entirely forgotten until that wee reminder – so I suppose he must have had a wee chuckle to himself when the press release for the new one came out.

We’ll be doing a new single with Jonnie soon, Binary 101, so keep an eye out for some new artwork, some extended and alternative mixes and various other bits and pieces. On the subject of artwork, actually, David Galletly, who did all the art for Trapped in Amber including a fantastic wee looped animation which was projected at the album launch shows, has put together a really nice post on this own site about the work he did. It’s great when a release has such coherent, distinctive artwork like this, and I’m really grateful to David for the work he did for us.

In other news, Nialler9 recently made Crumbs one of its best tracks of the week, and Niall himself played the song on his Irish radio show. Muruch also featured Le Thug recently, and you may wonder why I mention these two particular things, but Niall and Vic from Muruch are two of the very first music bloggers, both well established when I started Song, by Toad, and I was early enough as it is.

We know each other from the now-deceased elbo.ws blogger-only message board, but for all I always got on really well with them there, it’s been a long time since we’ve released anything which has prompted either of them (or indeed anyone else I know from that era) to post about our music. That’s fine of course – contrary to the constant accusations of cliqueyness, just being pals with someone doesn’t mean they will like or feature your music. We’d be on the Vic Galloway show every week if that was the case.

But it is nice to see that people you know still keep half an eye on what you’re doing, and that some fellow internet music loons are still beavering away after all this time. At a time when the hipsters writing for free for the bigger online mags seem to have lost interest in us altogether, it just makes me feel like there are still some nice, reliable things about the universe.

 

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Steve Adey and Grand Harmonium Records

I remember when I first started this blog… actually, hang on, when I first started this blog I lived down South and was just writing about bands I read about in Uncut and bought in HMV, so let’s quietly pretend that era never existed and that I was always an aspiring super-obscure music hipster.

Even when I first turned the site into an actual blog a couple of years later, in Edinburgh by this point, I still had little idea that there was quite so much music being made all around me in this city. Nor that so much of it was worth paying attention to. I suppose I just never realised that much like football or acting, the professional music world we see before us is just the tiny tip of a massive, massive iceberg, and that supporting and feeding that tiny visible chunk bobbing about above the waterline, is a vast mass of people working away, from those with aspirations to the top to those who just dabble because they love it and everything in between.

As it slowly began to dawn on me that music I love was actually being made all around me, and that I didn’t really need to look to the glossies or the megastores to find it, possibly the first local enterprise I came across was Steve Adey and his label, Grand Harmonium Records.

His music is slow and downbeat, probably fitting into that ‘gloriously morose’ category you know I have such a soft spot for. However, having first written about him so long ago that the post only just missed being lost in my Great Database Debacle of 2007, my attention subsequently veered into much louder territory, and I have to confess I’ve inadvertently taken my eye off his stuff for a while now.

These new recordings have sorted that out though – they’re gorgeous. They remind me an awful lot of the latest Ed Harcourt album actually – another gloriously morose piano playing singer-songwriter. Filmed in Buccleuch Church in the Southside of Edinburgh, the setup is completely minimal: Steve and a piano, and Helena MacGilp on drums and backing vocals. It’s gorgeous. It’s easy to imagine all sorts of things being added to these songs, but they just don’t need it. The minimalism allows you to concentrate on every drum, every piano note and every rise and fall of the vocals.

Five of what will apparently be ten songs have been published on his YouTube channel already, and I am very much looking forward to the rest appearing. And honestly, I think this collection of recordings really does deserve its own release despite the fact that the songs themselves are all from his last album.

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Supermoon

supe Well first of all, thank you so much to everyone who came down to Henry’s on Thursday. It was a packed show – not our first sell-out, but definitely the first time we’ve had to actually turn people away at the door, which is a bit of a shame, but still feels like something of a triumph nevertheless.

So for those of you who enjoyed the show, and I suppose also for those who missed it, there is now a Supermoon EP available digitally through Bandcamp.

It’s mostly fairly minimal recording, but it showcases the move from orchestral rock, as I suppose you could call the last Meursault album, through a slightly lost phase of being a three-piece Black Sabbath tribute band with which Meursault toured the States but has yet to be captured on record, to something weirder and with a bit more needle.

It’s a welcome direction, from my point of view. You know me, I always like music with a bit more tension and discomfort captured in there somewhere, and this stuff definitely has that. There will be a formal physical release at some point in the relatively near future, although I have no idea how much similarity it will bear to this stuff.

I think a good few of the songs will remain, if not necessarily all the recordings, and Neil’s recent comic drawings will feature heavily (find these on Instagram), but that’s about all I can tell you at this stage, largely because I don’t really know myself until I see the finished article, and Neil tends to play these cards fairly close to his chest.

Nevertheless, in the meantime there is this EP. It’s quiet, a bit odd, and embraces noise and crackle, and until we come up with something physical for you to actually purchase, is a pretty good intro into where the Supermoon project is heading.

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Numbers Are Futile Sign to Song, by Toad Records

Sunlight on Black Horizon

Well anyone who has heard our new sampler for this year, Song, by Toad’s Magic Beanz, or has listened to a recent podcast or has erm, met me down the pub, knew this already, but Edinburgh’s fantastic Numbers Are Futile are going to be releasing their debut album on Song, by Toad Records this year.

For a self-appointed ‘music writer’ I am never that sure how to describe the music that we release, but ‘thumping, percussive electronica’ is probably not too far from the mark. You never know, though, they might kill me for that.

The album is coming out in May on vinyl only, and will include hand-numbered posters currently being made by the band themselves. Then we’ve got to get the fuckers out touring, so if you know someone we should get in touch with near you then just let me know and I will see what I can do.

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Supermoon, Wolf & Ryan Van Winkle

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Meursault ceased to exist in late 2014, but then there was Supermoon. And no-one really knew what that was, apart from NOTMeursault, but since then we have start to see new bits and pieces cropping up which might give us a few hints. Firstly, there are the cartoons which have been appearing on Instagram. They are, erm, well not narratively expansive exactly, but they do give you something of a sense of something anyway, even if I am not entirely sure what it is.

There are also new Supermoon recordings cropping up on Soundcloud all the time at the moment, and we’re working towards a formal EP release in the fairly near future, so we though fuck it, why not have a proper gig and say hello to the world like normal bands do.

The show will take place at Henry’s Cellar Bar on Friday 23rd January, and you can get tickets here. Neil will be joined by the awesome Wolf, who you should hopefully remember from either Howlin’ Fling or Jonnie Common’s album launch last year, as well as locally-based poet and one of the key driving forces behind the Forest Café, Ryan Van Winkle.

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So This is Supermoon

Since the demise of Meursault I’ve had a lot of people ask me what Supermoon, Neil Pennycook’s new project, is going to be like. A sort of continuation of Meursault? Something entirely new?  Given how distinctive his voice is, can it ever really sound hugely different, especially as Meursault had so much range in the first place?  And the answer is that I honestly just don’t know.

Looking at a recent interview Neil did with Wow247 I don’t necessarily know if Neil himself has that much idea really, although I think it has been slowly crystallising in recent weeks.

If you want to find out then the best way will be to keep an eye on the Supermoon Soundcloud page, because Neil is embarking on his first official Supermoon project. Called A Month of Black Fridays, he’ll be posting a new song there every Friday this month – all really minimal home recordings – and then working these songs up with a couple of others into a what is going to be Supermoon’s first formal(ish) release.

That will be a relatively lo-fi and sketch-like album of songs, working towards something more polished and formal later in 2015. These were the plans last time Neil and I had a whisky, at least. Who knows, they could easily still change in future.

Keep an eye on that Soundcloud in the meantime though…

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Young Fathers on Edinburgh’s Creative Environment

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I wasn’t going to mention Young Fathers’ Mercury Prize win here, because given I haven’t talked about them all that much in the past it would have felt a little bit like hypocritical attention-seeking on the back of their success to suddenly start mentioning them now that they’re in the news.

But but but but… that was before I read this interview in the Guardian in which G gets stuck into Edinburgh council for not supporting the arts in the city at all:

“Edinburgh council are really fucking bad. They shut down anything if you try to make noise. I’ve been in studios where these guys come with meters and tell you to get out. It’s a city for tourists and rich, middle-class people, it’s not made for people to be creative.”

This needs to be said, and needs to be said again and again. The Edinburgh Festival does NOT make Edinburgh an artistic city. The self-image of this town utterly ignores the artistic communities working here, spaces and venues are absolutely never supported and there appears to be absolutely no effort whatsoever to encourage what is happening here between the months of September and July . There are good things happening here, but I have never seen any sign that anyone outwith the tiny communities of dogged supporters actually gives the tiniest fragment of a fuck about any of it.

Consequently, the people actually working in the arts here are amongst some of the people I admire the most: that kind of perseverance in the face of general indifference, if not outright hostility, takes seriously thick skin and serious determination. And as for the handfuls of loyal fans who are the only ones who give us the encouragement we desperately need, well bless you all, you brilliant bastards.

Young Fathers won this despite Edinburgh, not because of it. Well done lads.

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Malcolm Middleton & David Shrigley – Music and Words

wordsandmusic Well I know nothing about this whatsoever, beyond the very basics implied by the title of the record. The pre-order link doesn’t work at all, and I’ve not seen anything in the press about it, nor has anyone been in touch asking me to cover it.

[Edit: all working properly now!]

The obvious question, then, is what I can possibly achieve by simply posting up a single song with no context and no ability to really provide any.

Well, listen to it and you’ll see.

Basically it starts out sort of nice, becomes sort of weird, and by the end is, erm, well why would I ruin the surprise. Listen to it, you really do have to, there is no other way. There’s certainly no point me describing it to you, that’s for sure.

And once you’ve listened you’ll know why I have no compunction writing about this now, before they’ve really got their act together with pre-orders and before I really know anything about the album: this is going to come up again, it’s pretty certain.

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Rick Redbeard

red It seems ridiculous, but tomorrow’s Pale Imitation Festival gig is actually going to be the first time I have properly seen Rick Redbeard live.

Even more ridiculous when you think that I first became aware of his stuff on MySpace back in about 2006 or 2007.

And yet more so when you think that his debut album No Selfish Heart (buy here from Chemikal Underground) was in my top ten albums of the year last year.

I mean, for fuck’s sake, he only lives in Glasgow for crying out loud, not Singapore. But actually it’s not as bad as all that. I saw him play an open mic night years and years ago, and more recently a short set at a record fair as well.

But tomorrow night Rick Redbeard headlines our next Pale Imitation Festival gig, and I am immensely looking forward to it. Having happened across his early demos on MySpace years ago, I was a long time waiting for something formal to be released, but No Selfish Heart more than justified the wait.

Everyone whose music is dominated by vocals and acoustic guitar automatically gets tagged as folk or country or something like that, but I suppose Rick is basically just a singer-songwriter, however daft that term may be, with elements of all these things smooshed in there somewhere.

Most of those early MySpace demos made it onto his debut album, but I did actually notice one which did not: Dreams of the Trees. This has been rectified now, by Vancouver’s excellent Kingfisher Bluez label, who recently released it on 7″ vinyl. Like most of the reworkings, it’s fleshed out and cleaned up a little, but the core of the song is mostly unchanged, and it’s amazing.

As an extra treat there is a b-side which has been sitting on Rick’s Soundcloud page for quite a while now: a gorgeous, contemplative spoken-word track called Flow Like Unicorns. It’s beautiful. And I really hope he continues recording as Rick Redbeard despite the success of The Phantom Band (which he also fronts) because this stuff is just lovely.

I am really looking forward to tomorrow. Tickets are only a fiver, you should come down.

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Plastic Animals

Plastic Animals – Floating from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

I know tonight at the Queen’s Hall is mostly being discussed in terms of being the last ever Meursault show, but of course opening for them are another Song, by Toad band: Plastic Animals.

I always thought of Plastic Animals as a band with real potential, but it was recording with them for the second Song, by Toad Split 12″ when I decided I really wanted to release their music more formally. I am not sure what it was about those tunes. They are shoegazey, but not that nasty. There’s a dreamy thrum to them too, which I love. I love the drum sound, and even the minimal layering that we did worked really well. It just sounded like proper music despite being recorded live in our living room.

Since then, they’ve been working on their debut full-length album, and there are only one or two bits and pieces left to get down before the mixing can start. I’ve not really heard much of it because I try not to over-saturate myself with our new albums before they are finished, mostly to avoid becoming too attached to rough mixes, but also to make sure I don’t use up all my sense of excitement before the finished product is actually in my hands.

It’s always a bit of a risk, inviting a band to record an album for you without having much idea what the material is like, but their show at the Pleasance Sessions last year was fucking great. Shoegazey, yes, but getting krauty as fucking in moments too, and a handful of new songs which gave me that ‘Oh fucking YESSS!’ feeling you get when you hear something new and fantastic.

And tonight, for what I think is the first time, they’ll be playing the Queen’s Hall. I am really, really excited to see it.

Plastic Animals – Pizarnik from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.