Song, by Toad

Archive for the Unsigned category

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New Andrew R. Burns Stuff

arb Andrew R. Burns has been a wee bit quiet for the last year or so, but a new EP has just made its way onto his Bandcamp page, under his slightly amended new guise of Andrew R. Burns and the Tropicanas.

It’s something of a piece with his existing stuff, and as he builds his back catalogue it’s starting to flesh out into a really good collection of material. It’s very much from the introverted lounge lizard school of modern guitar pop which I know some people have taken a bit of a scunner to, but fortunately I am not one of those people.

This new four song EP – rather catchily titled One Man’s Garbage is Another Man Person’s Good Ungarbage – has a couple of cracking straight up pop tunes, and a rather cute instrumental, Emargo, which doesn’t go anywhere much but has a really nice, playful wee melody line – verging on chiptunes.

There’s a really nice dreaminess to these, mixed in with a little bit of swagger. It’s a fairly popular mix these days, but when the balance is right and the tunes are there I really like this kind of stuff.

 

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Yves Yacolt

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 09.25.26 There are band names, and then there are band names. Yves Yacolt, when they first got in touch with me, went by the name of Wank Hilliams. Presumably Auntie Flo suggested it over Sunday lunch one weekend.

Apparently radio play was a little tough to come by for Wank Hilliams for some unfathomable reason, so a super-slick firm of image consultants (or, perhaps, Auntie Flo again) have rebranded the band as the far more family friendly Yves Yacolt which is, by almost every single measure yet invented, a significantly better name.

The songs, however, haven’t changed much, which is excellent news because I thought they sounded really good.

It’s grumbly guitar music, and can be droney, but in general is more of a low-level growl than an all-out bellow. There’s a lot of acoustic guitar over the grumble as well, which works nicely, and makes it all feel nice and approachable, despite the occasionally disinterested approach to singing.

My description of the guitar and vocals sounds a bit like every other band I’ve covered here for the last five years I guess, and that’s not entirely wrong, this stuff won’t shock you when you hear it. There are interesting things going on though, and the percussion can be improvised really nicely, such as She Only Sleeps When She Prays, which is a really nice touch and takes the music somewhere more individual and interesting. There are six songs to have a listen to on their Soundcloud player and enough little detours and surprises like this to imply that the band might well have some rather interesting things in their locker.

The songs are short and sharp, and surprisingly catchy despite the roughness, and I am really glad the band are back in business after going quiet for a while. Right, where’s that Pale Imitation bill?

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Coin Locker Kid

coinlockerkid ‘Unapologetic art rap’ is not really the kind of music you would expect me to get into, really, is it. And having been raised in Austria I can certainly tell you that music from there is generally not the sort of thing I would expect to warm to either.

Oddly enough, though, I’ve found a surprising amount of stuff from Austria I’ve liked in the last few years. Not a lot, mostly little isolated gems here and there, but certainly way more than I was ever aware of when I lived there.

And as for the art rap? Well, seriously, just listen to this. If you want to make the very loftiest comparisons I suppose you could inflect early Jib Kidder with a bit of The Books and be sort of close-ish.

There are lovely moments, some discordant wailing, layers of samples going in every direction and plenty and plenty of ‘what the fuck is even going on here’ moments. It’s really all over the place, and in all honesty I am still digesting what I really think about it. There are times when it all gets a bit annoying, but he still has a pretty good nose for when to reign it back in and do something less confrontational.

There’s quite a lot of stuff on their Bandcamp page too, and I am only just starting to go through it now so I can’t tell you too much, apart from the fact that Sweet Caroline, yes that Sweet Caroline, is incorporated quite fantastically into the first track of Traumnovelle, which all in all seems so far like a slightly less weird cousin to Hailstorm & Maelstrom. It’s still pretty awesome though, and all this stuff is downloadable on a pay what you like basis too.

What an excellent surprise to open my emails to this morning.

And for just a little bit of added ‘what the actual fuck':

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Shards – Just Something to Get Started

I don’t really know anything at all about this band, apart from the fact that Stephen from Edinburgh band Collar Up (and an arch-nemesis of mine from the Edinburgh amateur football leagues) is involved in one way or another. I am not really sure how he is involved, but he sent me the song, so that’s about it.

It’s theatrical in a way, but slow and dreamy, almost as if it’s stiffly staring off into the middle distance. The vocal and the really, really restrained instrumentation work fantastically together. It reminds me really strongly of something I can’t quite call to mind, but as one-song introductions to new bands go this sounds extremely promising. I eagerly await more.

Keep an eye on their Soundcloud page here, for when more stuff materialises.

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Crystal Shipsss – I Will See No Moon No Sky

shipss Jacob Faurholt has sent me quite a bit of stuff over the years, and I’ve always quite liked it, but somehow never really written about it. This, on the other hand, has gone from my inbox to the pages of the blog in about a day, which is pretty rare around here.

It’s gorgeous, drifting between something akin to heavy psyche and dreamy post-rock, with some experimental droney soundscapes mixed in for good measure, and I am not sure which end of the spectrum I prefer.

Faurholt’s is an interesting voice, quite high and thin, and on the more ambient tracks it works well, adding a dreamy element to an already textured and hypnotic collage, but when the music itself is at its heaviest is when I think I like the vocal the best. I don’t think I’ve heard many bands combine that kind of light, fragile vocal delivery with such dark, dense psyche, and the juxtaposition is fantastic.

Drum is incredible for that. Nasty, doomy guitars and this vocal peeking out like occasional rays of sunshine poking through the darkest of thunderclouds. Their own description of the music as being “like a bird trapped in a chimney” seems rather apt.

It’s out on really limited run clear red vinyl which looks gorgeous and which you can buy here. I’d move fast – unless people are complete idiots these shouldn’t hang around for long.

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Chump

CHUMP / shut eye from chump on Vimeo.

HEY EVERYONE, GUESS WHAT I’M ABOUT TO WRITE ABOUT? Yep, that’s right, more lo-fi, DIY guitar music from Glasgow.  Seriously, I know it’s becoming quite funny by now, but there is so much good music coming out of that city at the moment that I have been in a state of pretty much permanent excitement for the last year or so.

Anyhow, apparently Chump did a whole pile of recording recently which has not seen the light of day yet. I’ve asked a friend, and apparently whilst there used to be a live band, more often than not Tara plays with just a guitar and a loop pedal and builds these woozy, downbeat, dreamy tunes solo.

The tune below is the only one on Bandcamp, and it’s just a demo. It’s not hooky, exactly, but the rise and fall of the vocal is absolutely gorgeous.

This basically makes me think two things. Firstly, that I can’t wait for the recently recorded songs to surface. And secondly, I wonder when the next BAD FUN night I can reasonably try and persuade Chump to play would be.

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Jealous Girlfriend

jealousgirlfriend Jealous Girlfriend is yet another of the many-splintered side projects belonging to someone from that wee group of Glasgow bands which include Spinning Coin, Froth (soon to be renamed Strop), Herbert Powell (recently deceased), Youngstrr Joey, Dune Witch Trails and Psychic Soviets. In this case, we’re talking Eilidh from Strop.

There are two EPs on the Jealous Girlfriend Bandcamp page, one which looks more or less solo and one done with a little assistance from Cal from Youngstrr Joey. They’re both sort of hesitant and grumbly, but Eilidh’s voice is lovely so there is a really appealing combination of nice and nasty.

The guitar tone provides the nasty, but it is a pretty awesome kind of nasty, buzzing and grumbling its way through the songs with very little fuss. This may be as lo-fi as fuck – just listen to the hiss which precedes every track – but it’s not played with harshness or aggression particularly, just a bit of shy awkwardness here and there, a bit of deliberate insouciance, and wry charm pretty much everywhere else.

I don’t have a lot of references for this kind of thing and I am sure there are better comparisons to make, but there are touches of the tweeness of Kimya Dawson in the cute Keep Your Head Above the Water, but that song is about as far as it goes in that direction. I am glad about that as cuteness doesn’t generally do it for me all that much, but I do like a little bit of self-deprecating silliness here and there.

It’s hard to tell what this kind of project is intended to be, sometimes. Is it intended to be a full-blown, ambitious musical project? Just a way for a musician to work out some ideas? A ‘have a go and see what comes of it’ thing? Who knows, and to a degree who cares, it’s a little rough around the edges but there’s some good stuff in here.

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Wild Al Hotchkiss and His Aquaphibians

wildal Well umm, this is ace. I know there’s a lot of talk about the music scene in Edinburgh being either great or terrible at the moment, but one thing is for sure: the sheer number of really promising bands knocking around in Glasgow, releasing on tiny-but-excellent labels is really quite something.

The first release on Howling Moon Records looks like it came out in about 2010, which means that I really should have found them a little sooner than I have. In all honesty, there are probably a few missed emails back in the pile somewhere, if I had paid enough attention, but as frustrating as it is, that is pretty much just the nature of the beast unfortunately.

So here I am in 2015, finally catching up, courtesy of this rather splendid piece of surfy psychedelia by Wild Al Hotchkiss and His Aquaphibians.

Mrs. Toad, with somewhat customary cruelty, took one listen and said ‘well it’s really just noodling isn’t it’ and I suppose you could say that, but dammit I fucking like noodling. And this is good noodling, anyway. There’s a really nice, slow beat to it, but it still feels really physical – and, oddly enough, slightly reminiscent of Django Django in a sense.

I know psyche is so very much the thing now, but it really does look very much like these guys were doing it before it became compulsory to write the word in every single PR email sent in 2014, and maybe if it is a bit more fashionable they’ll get a bit more much-deserved attention.

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Sean Armstrong

seanarmstrong Sean Armstrong is one of those people I tend to refer to as a ‘talented wee shite’. He’s erratic, I guess, and can be a little temperamental, but he’s still been involved in an awful lot of excellent stuff as well as his own self-releases, from The Yawns to Spinning Coin and Passion Pusher, and presumably a few others I am missing out.

He’s released a couple of things recently, a new album called Sevsevenson and very shortly afterwards this EP, called The Sweet Centre, and the latter in particular is gorgeous.

It’s a lot more contemplative and melancholy that a lot of his previous stuff, with wafty, high vocal slathered in reverb and delay to give it a dreamy quality, but when that is slowed down to fit with a really downtempo song it just sounds so very, very sad. With the Shivering Trees on The Sweet Centre is a classic example: just gorgeous, and horribly melancholy. And needless to say, I fucking love it for that.

The recording is lo-fi as fuck, but in this case I think that’s out of necessity rather than contrivance. Sean’s songs translate really well to more polished pop songs – see the aforementioned Spinning Coin and Yawns – but on these recordings you tend to get the framework rather than the embellishment.  Try the solo and band versions of Albany, for example:

There are weird moments all over the place: the SMASHSMASHSMASH in the middle of Juvenile on Sevsevenson for example. It can be a little baffling, but it’s just the nature of the beast. It’s all sort of sellotaped together, and you never know if you’re about to get a pop hit disguised as a scruffy throwaway or just a fragment of an idea which drifts off disconsolately into formlessness. The music seems to have the potential to veer into either at pretty much any point. Maybe that’s what makes it good.

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Kathryn Joseph

Kathryn-Joseph-lying-down Somewhere in Aberdeen there will be a gentleman slapping his hand to his forehead and shouting ‘Oh for fuck’s sake, Toad’ when this post goes public. I was told about Kathryn Sawyers (at the time) a wee while ago by a pal up there and once again I have been a little slow to get my shit together and listen.

Early this year, however, Kathryn (now) Joseph released her debut album. She did it rather on the quiet, I think, but it made a real impact with the people who heard it. It’s pretty simple really, based around just her lovely piano and trembly vocal. There is more there – a bit of keys, some percussion – but it’s all based around bringing the best out of the gorgeous interplay between vocal and piano.

So, having finally realised what Stevie up in Aberdeen was talking about, I’ve invited Kathryn to play an Edinburgh show – tomorrow (20th March) with Viking Moses at Henry’s Cellar Bar.

It’s going to be a lovely evening, I reckon. Viking Moses will be playing a low-key, more piano-based set, and BEAM’s stuff is absolutely gorgeous, as I pointed out to you a couple of days ago on this very blog. So yes, hope to see you there.