Song, by Toad

Archive for the Song by Toad Records 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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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.

moon

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Heavy Drag

Remember Lil Daggers? We did an album, an EP and a split 7″ with them, and they are one of the very few non-Scottish bands we’ve ever released. They were based in Miami, made nasty, nasty swampy psychedelic rock songs (actually, if they were releasing nowadays the Modern British Hipster would fucking love them) and amazingly enough, Mrs. Toad loved them. She doesn’t love much that we release, although she definitely leans more towards nasty sounding guitar music, but it’s rare and rather nice when she pipes up and says ‘this is good’.

Anyhow, given then never managed to get over here and tour – understandable, Florida is a long fucking way away – our release never did much more for them than garner a couple of really nice reviews and give me awesome stuff to play if I was ever asked to DJ. Seriously, try playing Ghost Herd in the middle of a party of any sort, the looks on people’s faces are hilarious (it’s awesome, have a listen).

Anyhow, from the ashes of Lil Daggers springs a new band, one called Heavy Drag. There’s not too much out there at the moment, beyond one song on their Bandcamp page and and digital single to buy on iTunes (the video above is from that), but it all sounds really good so far.

It’s not as rambunctious as Lil Daggers – a bit slower and more shifty – more like the stalker you think you see at the end of your street than the dick picking a fight with you in a bar. It still has the garagey and psychey elements, but it definitely all feels different this time. The combination of the jangly guitar and descending bassline in Tissue is a great example – rhythm and foundation, but still skittery and loose.

This is excellent news. I am glad they haven’t gone away.

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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

ToadGig2015 01 digiflyer

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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Song, by Toad’s New Year’s House Gig

nye2014

Umm, that’s about it, really. Party. Pop music. Gin. And Bart Owl and Neil Moon will be providing non-specific musical entertainments. Don’t ask – I have no idea.

Also, it’s a fiver to get in, so we can pay the band. Because we’re nice like that. Also, it’s BYOB, although we will provide munchies and things, as we usually do. Oh, and it’ll be in the warehouse, so be aware it might be a bit chilly. We’ll try and warm it up, and with loads of people there it shouldn’t be a problem, but dressing warmly might be advisable.





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Happy Christmas: Song, by Toad’s MAGIC BEANZ!

Welcome to Song, by Toad’s MAGIC BEANZ! This is a wee sampler of six new band’s we’ll be working with this year – a complete rejuvenation of the label, in many ways. We’ll be releasing stuff by our more established collaborators of course, but 2015 will be dominated by the new people.

Free mp3 download (right-click, save as)

In February we have Le Thug‘s six-song vinyl EP Place Is – electronic-infused shoegaze with gorgeous, dreamy vocals.

Then in April the debut album by Garden of Elks, called A Distorted Sigh, which is all short, sharp, punchy as fuck indie rock songs. Picking the singles from this was a bit of a challenge as they’re pretty much all singles.

Ian Turnbull from Broken Records has his own album coming out too: Be Embraced, You Millions! – a beautiful collection of instrumental drone and detail, out as limited run vinyl under the name of digitalanalogue in March.

Then in May we have Greco-Portuguese newcomers Numbers Are Futile, whose hypnotic, percussive album of thrumming electronica is called Sunlight on Black Horizon.

We’re still waiting on a final mix, so we don’t have a release date, but either early Summer or mid-Autumn will see Edinburgh’s sludgey, shoegazey indie rockers Plastic Animals release their debut album Pictures From the Blackout.

And finally, in February we’ll be recording some more stuff with Passion Pusher, whose Couch King EP we released in November 2014 on cassette.

So 2015 will be all about the new kids at Song, by Toad, but don’t worry, Adam Stafford has a new record on the way, we have a Split 10″ with Rob St. John and Woodpigeon and Meursault have disintegrated and been re-born again as Supermoon, and Jonnie Common has all sorts of ideas too, so we won’t be unrecognisable, just with a youthful spring in our collective step.

Enjoy, and have a fantastic New Year yourselves.

Cheers,
Matthew

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David Thomas Broughton – Wintertime Songs 2014

dtb There aren’t many people I would trust to make a Christmas song, or indeed even a recording of an existing one. Generally it just seems wrong, but this three-song Bandcamp release by David Thomas Broughton is absolutely fucking great.

Generally I find over cynical Christmas songs to be just plain unsuitable, but I mostly like morose music, so bands I love suddenly sounding saccharine and sentimental doesn’t really chime with me either. I find most existing Christmas songs absolutely fucking awful, so basically my idea of Christmas music tends to simply just be music which suits darkness, cold, and sitting indoors with some wine or a G&T.

So why do I love this? I don’t know. I suppose The Holy and the Ivy in particular is a nice tune, which obviously helps. And also David seems to have done enough to make it his own without ever trying to be overly clever or outrageous. It’s just a weird version of a lovely tune I suppose, and David has always excelled at finding that balance between absolutely gorgeous and just plain fucking odd, so although I can’t for the life of me imagine being able to get this past my parents, it’s still just about my favourite ever Christmas song.

And the proceeds all go to charity as well, should you choose to pay to download the three tracks. Which you should.

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Toadcast #311 – Virgin of the Birds Toad Session

Virgin of the Birds Toad Session from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

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

Virgin of the Birds first started to become part of the Toad family when he played our first ever New Year’s House Gig back in, erm… I dunno, was it 2009 maybe? Jon’s free EPs were pretty much all firm favourites around here, and despite the understatement of his music it was stuff I just kept going back to again and again.

I liked them so much that when we released our 5 Year Box Set Jon and I put together a compilation of the very best bits to release on record, and then, despite having not had a formal Virgin of the Birds release for years he suddenly came up with a new album around the same time. The timing was ideal, and so we ended up releasing that in May as well, coincidentally around the time Jon came over to the UK to play some shows.

Mrs. Toad and I had just moved house, and so this ended up being the first session recorded in our new place – with a whole new set of neighbours to annoy. Neil and Reuben from Supermoon helped out by playing on a couple of the tracks, the awesome Nic Rue took the pictures for us again, and Dylan, Ian and Steve all came round to say hello and occasionally get roped into helping me and Nic with the filming. So yes, this is what Toad Sessions are going to look like from now on. No more turquoise walls!

Full Interview Podcast:

Toadcast #311 – Virgin of the Birds Toad Session by Song, By Toad on Mixcloud

Session Tracks:

Session Videos:

 

 

 

Podcast Tracklisting:

01. Virgin of the Birds – Queen of Sweden (Toad Session) (00.22)
02. The Delgados – Been Accused of Stealing (live) (12.26)
03. Pavement – Frontwards (18.49)
04. Virgin of the Birds – Let Me Be Your Bride (Toad Session) (31.05)
05. The Savings and Loan – Catholic Boys in the Rain (44.10)
06. The Lovely Sparrows – Bury the Cynics (48:30)
07. Virgin of the Birds – The Serpent Plume (Toad Session) (58.19)
08. Meursault – Crank Resolutions (1.09.02)
09. Liz Phair – May Queen (1.13.55)
10. Virgin of the Birds – Ilona, You Should Still Be My Vampire Attendant (Toad Session) (1.25.57)

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Song, by Toad Records’ Year in Review

8 ambitious futility

Phew, fucking hell, nearly there! Another year comes careering to an end, with little in the sense of control, planning or even semi-coherence to sellotape it all together.

One thing, though, it’s been a fucking great year. Not a single other label out there has come close to matching the kind of stuff we’ve put out in 2014 as far as I am concerned. And alright, that statement might sound delusional or just plain arrogant to you, but music is all about personal taste and I am supposed to think that, am I not? There’s no point starting a label if you aren’t going to release your own favourite music, and if you thought that was already being done then you wouldn’t have the motivation to start in the first place, would you.

There’s a Soundcloud playlist at the bottom of the page if you want to check for yourselves.

People say that time flies, and it does, I suppose, but January 2014 seems like a very long way away indeed. There were normal records to be planned of course, but before we could get into that we had to record and release what turned out to be Meursault’s last album: The Organ Grinder’s Monkey.

That was my first real brush with crowd-funding, and I think it went really well. Getting people to vote on the songs worked nicely, and we ended up with a record which had broken even before it was even released. It made me wonder rather seriously about why we can’t manage this the rest of the time, but I suppose the project itself had a few uniquely suitable aspects which can’t really be reproduced.

It was financially successful of course, but oddly enough we couldn’t get anyone to fucking review the thing, despite Meursault being one of our most widely-covered bands for every one of their other releases. Maybe it was because it was mostly covers, maybe because it was crowd-funded, or maybe because it was released (and hence old news) almost before we even knew ourselves what kind of album it was going to be, but honestly it made the music press look particularly stupid in my eyes.

It’s one thing when magazines decide to only review this or that kind of release, but the internet was supposed to free us from that kind of pointless nonsense, and yet all the big online magazines seem to be drifting into mimicking the established press, and I really don’t think that is either a good thing, or in any way necessary, really.

Anyhow, as badly as we’ve fared with the press this year you do find yourself developing a rather acute appreciated of the people who have actually supported you.  As well as some of the online and print publications who have continued to be so supportive, we’ve had amazing results with the radio this year too.

Farewell, Bastard Mountain was the first sign that things might not be so predictable in terms of what appealed to radio shows. 6Music put five minute instrumental drone track Drone Armatrading on heavy rotation, and Palisade (a gorgeous track, but downbeat as fuck and loooong) did really well too.

These radio results finally cemented in my head the idea what we really have to stop second-guessing what radio will actually want and just send them our favourite stuff. Received wisdom is that you’re supposed to only really send them three-minute pop songs with hummable riffs and an obvious chorus, but this year has pretty much shown that to be utter bollocks so from now on that approach is going out the window. We’ll put out the songs we think best represent why we love an album, and balls if they’re the sensible choice or not.

Considering our struggles with press recently, I have to confess I was a little nervous about releasing the Virgin of the Birds album Winter Seeds in May. Given Jon lives in Seattle, which makes it impossible to try and build grassroots support never mind persuade the jittery hipsters of the internet to write about the album, I thought it could be really heavy going but actually the response was fantastic. We got some great reviews, and Charlie Ashcroft and Dani Charlton at Amazing Radio got right behind the record too, so the whole thing felt like it went really well.

Here at Song, by Toad Records we have something of a knack for releasing albums by bands who subsequently either cease to exist or just go so quiet that they might as well have ceased to exist, which is a surefire way to complete financial ruin. We have such a nose for that kind of project that it even works with festivals too. Our third Split 12″ was released in June, at a time designed to coincide with the Insider Festival, where the record itself was actually recorded the previous year. Except there was no Insider Festival this year.

Still, despite it ending up looking slightly orphaned, it is still a gorgeous record with some wonderfully odd moments, and actually served as a perfect precursor to to the David Thomas Broughton and Jonnie Common albums we released later in the year. That wasn’t particularly the plan when we set out our release schedule, but it did work out rather nicely in the end.

There was a brief interruption to the planned schedule with the second Pale Imitation Festival in August. It went fantastically again, although I have to question my wisdom in starting the damn thing. The idea was to fight back at the fact that the Edinburgh Festival more or less forces us to cease operations during August because we have no chance of being heard over the din, but the Pale Imitation Festival is such hard work that it actually ends up being more disruptive than just having to take a month off so, er… yes, I am a fool. What of it?

And far from having August off, actually during all the Pale Imitation stuff I ended having to work in all the press for Sliding the Same Way, the collaborative album by David Thomas Broughton and the Juice Vocal Ensemble. A bit like Bastard Mountain, this is another semi-improvised record which is primarily in the ‘alt-folk’ bracket I suppose but which is so tinged with oddness that the genre becomes irrelevant, it’s the personality of the album which dominates.

Jonnie Common’s Trapped in Amber is similar, in that sense. Nominally it is experimental electronic pop, I suppose, but his personality is so stamped all over the album that it is this which becomes its defining characteristic.

It’s part of the frustration of being a small label with pretty limited resources I suppose, but with both of these last two records I felt that I didn’t really do a good enough job with the PR.  I contacted all the right people of course, and I did it in plenty of time, but given the coverage both artists have had in the past and the quality of the records in question I feel like I should have got them way more coverage than I did.

In both cases the reception was great, and the radio play more than compensated for a lack of written press – and radio listeners actually buy records too, whereas I have never seen any link between sales and written reviews – but I can’t help but feel this is something I seriously need to look at next year because I don’t think the label is really cutting the mustard in that sense at the moment. Of course it doesn’t help when all the supposedly alternative publications are wasting both their and our time covering mainstream pop acts, but we still need to improve, I think.

And so finally, here we are, more or less at the end of the year, with just time for one last release: the Couch King EP by the erratic, prolific, unpredictable and occasionally inspired Passion Pusher. He may be all over the place at times, but there is some great stuff in amongst the madness and I really hope he can harness it in the future, because I love some of the stuff he does.

Couch King was also our first tape release, which I am hoping will be significant. Mrs. Toad and I moved in May, to a house with a small warehouse on the grounds, and in the New Year we are going to turn it into an informal recording studio. That will hopefully allow us to do more Split 12″s and Toad Sessions, and to encourage more projects like Farewell, Bastard Mountain and The Organ Grinder’s Monkey – loose, creative projects which are nevertheless quite intense, but hugely exciting and rewarding to be involved with.

I’m already working on a number of really exciting releases for next year, and you’ll all be getting a Christmas present on the 25th which will introduce you to some of our new projects, but for now I think I am going to take it a bit easy and relax for a few days.  I’ll do my end of year album list, and put my feet up with Mrs. Toad, who quite bafflingly continues to encourage all this.

It’s been an incredible year, and I am both really proud of what our existing comrades have achieved, and proud of the people who liked what we were doing enough to want to join us. Song, by Toad Records represents an amazing group of really interesting, creative people and I think next year I want to do more to emphasise that, just amongst ourselves as much as anything else. I might not be all that great at actually running the label all the time, but in being a part of it you are associating yourself with some properly amazing people.

And when we move back into our now-refurbished living room later this week I might just put on our records from this year one after another, drink too much gin, and reflect that yes, the world really is wrong about music.