Song, by Toad

Archive for the Unsigned category

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BRAAINZZ – Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper

braainzz I’ve written about BRAAINZZ before. They’re weird as fuck, but they happen to be a really rather good band once you get used to all the vocoders and time-warping and general love for making you wonder if you’re listening to music that was made on purpose or entirely by accident when someone had Logic open and spilled a can of fizzy juice all over their computer.

It’s hard to argue with an album where Mrs. God plays cello though, if we’re being honest.

One of the things I like most about them is that in amongst all this perverse, messy nonsense, moments of clarity occasionally appear, just to remind you that this lot do genuinely know what they are doing, and all the weird elements of the music are as considered as any more conventional sounding tunes you’ll hear.

There’s a cracking Walkmen cover on here, for example, and while it doesn’t sound all that much like The Walkmen themselves, it’s actually pretty straight-edged by the standards of this lot. Needless to say, though, they descend into incomprehensible mess pretty much immediately afterwards, just in case you were in danger of getting the wrong idea.

Amazingly, with all these noises which border on the just plain silly, they seem to have a real flair for melancholy music. And actually it works pretty well. Even with the vocoder and the squeaks and the beeps.

Shroom folk. Wyrd pop. That’s what they call themselves. And, as they say, it sounds like nonsense but makes total sense once you listen to the music. I have no idea how or why this lot are good, but they really are.

Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper is their third EP and can be downloaded for free here.

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Waiters – What For Art Thou

waiters Ahh, Waiters. I was writing about Sex Hands earlier today, and that put me in mind of our first Split 12″, recorded back in the Winter of 2011 I think, and if I recall Waiters were the first band we actually recorded.

I’d had plenty of good results with the Toad Sessions by then of course, but I was still nervous, and the Waiters songs are the first and (and to date still the only) songs where I personally have made technical mistakes which threatened our ability to use the actual recordings themselves.

It turns out that by sheer good fortune we were able to work around my errors and for all they were one of the most low-profile bands on that Split 12″ (except maybe Dolfinz who seem to have quietly drifted off into non-existence) I am still so proud of the songs they did with us – that sense of sad, lazy melancholy still feels to me like some of the best stuff I’ve ever recorded.

I offered to help them record an album in the same way afterwards, but for apparently they wanted to work at a slightly slower and more deliberate pace. It’s a shame, but that kind of thing happens with bands, and you can’t push anyone into something they aren’t entirely comfortable with, particularly not at this level where none of us are getting rich out of any of this.

Anyhow, Jon moving to the States seemed to put the brakes on a Waiters album permanently, but I forgot that a while back they asked me about this recording. I loved the songs, but at the time I said that I thought it would be financially a bit crazy, because 12″s are expensive to press, and you can only really sell a four-song EP for so much.

CF Records in Belfast, however, seem to have disagreed, which is excellent news. They specialise in short-run and limited edition releases, and clearly have a lot more experience in this area than I do, and I am delighted this release has found a way in the end because the songs are fucking ace. If you look at the rest of their releases you’ll see what I mean – so much good stuff.

This stuff embodies so much of the stuff I love about Waiters. I love Joe’s voice – just a little bit flat, in a way, but with such a warmth to it. When he sings sad songs you really do believe him, and for someone who likes sad music as much as I do that’s quite a big deal. The rhythm section chugs along mechanically but a little uncertainly, almost as if it is struggling to hold the whole song together. I don’t think these lads rehearse all that much, so that ‘about to stumble to a standstill’ feel may be simply an aesthetic choice or it might simply be what was actually happening in the room when they recorded.

Grey Matters and Mirror Threat are just gorgeous songs, and classic examples of that thrumming rhythm, slightly plaintive vocal delivery and unobtrusively downbeat atmosphere which make Waiters songs so compelling, and which made me so excited about the first Split 12″ when I pulled them off the desk and started the mixing process. I sincerely hope that between Joe’s stuff with Water World and Sex Hands, Perry’s fantastic Comfortable on a Tightrope stuff and umm… well I’m actually not all that sure where Jon is living now, that they still find the time to keep this band going, because they are bloody ace.

Waiters – Vacillate Wildly from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

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Eaten By Television – Psychotic Wish Fulfilment

ebt This is cracking. The email I was sent tipped a hat to Roy Orbison and Bryan Ferry, but there’s plenty of wonky lo-fi arty style to this as well. And cracking tunes.

The weird juxtaposition of louche croonery and sketchy, dreaminess isn’t exactly new, I suppose. Mac DeMarco was the first band I heard to crack something like the mainstream with some vaguely similar concoction, but I wouldn’t really compare this stuff. Just that it has a similar sense of something ultra-stylish accidentally turning up on a deserted suburban subway station in the middle of the night.

It’s arch, for sure. Songs like Katy Perry Dream Trip and That Creepy Face is Only For You hint more than a little at a kind of knowingly-raised eyebrow, but that kind of deliberate smart-arsery is entirely forgivable if the band aren’t trying to mask incompetence or basic laziness behind a mask of cool unconcern, which these guys do not seem to be doing.

The riffs can be Orbisony, and the vocal delivery has the aforementioned Orbison/Ferry stuff in there, and that’s most evident on opener To Emma, but the rest of this is a swirling miasma of guitars, groggy atmospherics and clacking drum machines. It may not do pop hooks or obviously melody lines all that much, but if you have a couple of listens it starts to stick with you pretty immediately.

The whole EP can be heard (and purchased) on their Bandcamp page, along with older material I have yet to really delve into, so I suggest you pop over there and have a poke around.

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Water World – WWII

ww2 I’ve  been a while waiting to review this album, and I think part of that is a lack of access to the medium which allowed me to get so thoroughly into the band’s previous, brilliant album Water Bird.

The tape player in my car is broken, so unlike the last album, which seemed to spend an age going round and round and round on the way to work, this one is forever getting played while I’m sitting at my desk working. And I tend to lost concentration.

You could call that a criticism of the album, I suppose, and suggest that a great record would cut through whatever you were doing, but it really isn’t the case. Working is great for casual listening, but not for actually figuring out it something is good or not.

Having said that, over weeks of listening to this regularly when I got the chance, an album which didn’t really grab me at first has slowly filtered in and I am now really enjoying this.

As with the last one, I am genuinely unsure quite what makes this stand out from all the lo-fi guitar pop out there, but it does, once it’s sunk in properly. And I suppose it goes back to the old friends of riffs and melody. This is just pop music, and despite a rather scruffy exterior, it’s really good.

Cream Soda, the instrumental Sneaky Pete, Enough… there are loads of songs on here I just find myself humming along to, and with a pop record that’s about as much as you can ask for. Another great release by Life Dunk International – get it on CD, tape or download here.

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808s and Greatest Hits – Featuring A. Fantastic Reprise

808s The internet pisses me off sometimes. Well not the internet, I suppose, but the constant reminder that the world is WRONG about more or less everything. It was wrong about nationhood on Thursday, and today is WRONG about music. Again.

How the fuck else would this awesome album simply be sitting up on the internet for free, whilst the idiots of the world go mental for the new Alt-J crap, or fucking Royal Blood, or pretty much anything labelled ‘psychedelic’ by PR folk desperate to cash in on the latest internet musical buzz word. But then, I suppose this fundamental disagreement with everyone is why I started the blog in the first place.

I am not going to mention psychedelic here because FUCKMEOMGLIKESOPSYCHEDUDE!!!1!  I suppose I might call it epic, lo-fi experimental pop, if I were looking for a nice easy tag to hang round its neck in the shop window.

It’s not hesitant, like most lo-fi experimental pop I tend to happen across. It’s dreamy, I suppose, but more of a bad dream than anything else – or at least a really rather uneasy one. The vocals are muffled and reverby, and the guitars buried below washes of drone, punctuated by the odd plonk from the piano.

808s and Greatest Hits is in fact just the work of one person who goes by the somewhat enigmatic name of Vielle Flame, and the album was recorded in his bedroom in Melbourne over the course of the last four years. Admittedly, it isn’t packed full of massively immediate pop tunes, but it certainly has something of that slop rock wooziness that fans of a deconstructed Mac DeMarco might be into.

I know I’m not supposed to call it that, but whatever the general term is that everyone else uses for slop rock, it’s a style I’ve heard a lot of over the last few years and I am very much liking it. Listen to the whole album on Bandcamp where you can download it for whatever you want to pay.

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Memory in Plant – An Epic Triumph

a0614636022_2 I have to confess that when I see terms like ‘multi-genre’ in a press release I tend to tune out, not because the idea of genre-spanning music turns me off, more because it is hugely over-used in press releases and tends to refer to a horrendous blend of tedious RnB, pop, a bit of World Music, and often someone singing really amazingly just to show that despite their ostentatiously wild and eclectic tastes, they really do just appreciate all good music. It’s awful, mostly.

Memory In Plant are from Israel, however, so it would be ludicrous of me to apply my annoyance at UK PR clichés to them.

And the album is fucking ace. It’s experimental psychedelic pop music, I suppose, if you’re looking for a glib attempt at genre description. And it is weird. And there are times I am not sure about it, I suppose, such as the moments during Eyes Up where it flirts with shouty American guitar music, which I generally dislike. It’s a brief moment though, and tempered by the fantastic oddness going on around it a brief excursion into something more conventional doesn’t hurt at all.

Generally when people use opera singers in music like this is pretty terrible too – a sort of pretentious attempt to show that they are cultured and open-minded and just because they’re breaking down all the walls, they still appreciate fine things. Here, on Rain Veins, it’s nothing of the sort. The operatic vocal is treated in just as distorted and cosmic a way as everything else – simply another sound that they love, and want to play with.

What I love about this is the fact that there are so many different sounds in here. There are all sorts of sounds I wouldn’t normally like, loads I love and plenty more I am just not used to listening to, and the way they’ve been smooshed together into one big, messy, weird, and yet oddly coherent whole really is masterful. How I found music this strange so instantly accessible that it went from my inbox to the blog in about ten minutes is truly baffling, and seriously impressive.

Music like this is why I started a label, I suppose. While the hipster world is going crazy for utterly uninspired, tepid, rehashed garbage like Haim and Royal Blood (Royal fucking Blood for fuck’s sake, what the fuck has happened to us?) these guys are having to give away their album for free on Bandcamp. The world is backwards.

In a genuinely crowded field, these guys seem to have managed to create something actually different for a change. It’s weird as fuck, but I got into it immediately. It’s experimental, but has flavours of rock and electronica, which blend seamlessly with soundscapes and even the dreaded ‘international pop’. I don’t know what the fuck it is they’ve actually done here, but they’ve done it joyously well.

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Adam Faucett – Blind Water Finds Blind Water

adfaucAdam Faucett is someone who we discovered on Meursault’s March tour of the States, after SXSW. He played with the band at Boone in North Carolina, which sounds hugely unpromising, but was actually just about the best show of the tour, give or take.

On the bill that night were Adam and his band, and fucking hell they were good. So much beard. Such glaring! They were lovely guys actually, but the sheer volume of facial hair still made them look really intimidating.

I don’t know if you saw Meursault much before their last ever show at the Queen’s Hall last month, or if you’ve seen Neil play solo recently, but if you have then you might well have noticed Day Drinker from this album featuring pretty regularly in his set ever since.

Listening to the album immediately after the show was a bit of a surprise, I have to say. On stage the band were fucking fierce, and Faucett himself was playing a Fender amp which was failing, but in a way which only made everything sound more nasty and awesome. The album is a lot smoother, for starters, but also more dominated by slower, more pensive songs, and that took a little getting used to after such a brilliantly ferile set.

They’re great though, those quieter songs. Not what I was expecting, but really good nevertheless. Day Drinker, for example, is a particularly unflinching tale. Walking Home Late is a brilliant wee song as well: reflective and a little maudlin. Poet Song is another one.

I suppose in some ways this album’s problem is one of it’s greatest triumphs: Melanie, the second song, is such an awesome beast of a swaggering, Southern rock song that you can be fooled into spending the rest of the album waiting for the next one, and it doesn’t really come. I think that’s what happened to me when I first heard the album too. Live, Melanie had produced that moment of ‘holy shit, who the fuck are these guys‘ and I sort of expected that to be the album I heard.

And it’s just not. Faucett is actually an really talented painter of pictures. Melanie is one of those pictures just as much as Walking Home Late, so actually the two songs have way more in common than you would think, despite being musically very different. So I went into this record thinking ‘big, nasty, snarling riffs’ and slowly realised that it’s one to be played with whisky and properly listened to, not one to throw on when you want to bounce around doing air punches.

It’s just come out on vinyl too, and mine just arrived, which is what prompted me to write about it. Seriously, if you’re tempted, just fucking do it!

And here’s Day Drinker. The sound on the video is pretty rotten, but hopefully the song itself still comes across properly:

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Sharptooth

sharptooth I didn’t know about Sharptooth, I have to confess, before this year’s Pale Imitation Festival. I asked PAWS who else they would like on the bill for their festival-closing slot, and they recommended Sharptooth and Halfrican. Sharptooth couldn’t make that particular date, but they did happen to be around for the show last Saturday with The Yawns and alansmithee, so we took the opportunity to get them on the bill somewhere else instead.

And you know what? They were fucking ace. Really early-nineties-sounding, they remind me in some ways of a slightly more hypnotic and less jagged North American War – a band whose demise I still lament. They share a sort of flat delivery, and the constant possibility that they’re going to thrash the shit out of everything any second now.

It’s not as languid as the other two bands with whom they shared a stage, perhaps not as aggressive as other guitar bands who like their distortion, so I would maybe say that there’s a sort of cold defiance to this stuff. It’s all shattered from time to time, like the deranged screech in the middle of Invidia, or the brief squalls of frenetic guitar which boil over occasionally, such as three quarters of the way through Bonnie Blaze, and that means that as brief as these moments are there’s always the threat of something exploding from somewhere to slap you round the head, which makes the generally deadpan delivery all the more menacing.

It was more obvious live than on the recordings, but I particularly enjoyed drumming on Saturday as well. They can be ominous too, but there’s a thumping roll to them which offsets the thrum of the guitar fantastically well.  So thanks for the recommendation, PAWS. This was ace. There are only three songs up on Soundcloud at the moment, and I am not entirely sure what the band’s plans are (I probably asked, but there was a lot of beer involved) but they sounded fantastic and I am really looking forward to seeing what else they get up to.

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Neon Waltz

I’ll probably seem a bit slow to pick up on Neon Waltz, given their appearances at T in the Park and Wickerman this year, and I assume that the ‘ZOMG Scottish music is just all so amazin’‘ frotherati will have been all over them for some time. Nevertheless, I like to take my time with these things, and I wasn’t totally blown away by the first thing they sent me through, but this new tune is really good.

Just as I am forever saying that you shouldn’t rush to declare a band are brilliant after no more than a couple of decent tunes, I do have to keep reminding myself that the reverse is true as well, and that even if then first thing you hear by a band is no better than ‘pretty good’, then you really have to hear some more before you can really have an opinion one way or another.

So, after a decent start to their existence with Sombre Fayre, I find myself really very much enjoying the new tune by this band from the very, very North of mainland Scotland. It has a sort of gentle mix of psychedelia and Britpop and a truly hummable, confident way about it. There aren’t that many bands around that I like who dabble in early-nineties British music (compared to the dozens poking around in early-nineties American music) but these guys certainly touch on that kind of area.

The music has an easy-going feel to it, but the rhythm is still up front and danceable – albeit in a rather mellow manner. If they can maintain this lovely balance between lively pop and wistfulness, and come up with a few more tunes as enjoyable as this one these lads could do pretty well for themselves. I’d certainly have tried to book them for the Pale Imitation Festival if I’d heard this song in time. Ah well, there’s time yet.

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Los Angeles Police Department Album Approaching

lapd I  am forever sneering at people hopping up and down claiming to have ‘discovered’ bands*, or claiming far too much credit for talented people achieving things in their lives. I don’t know how bad bloggers are for it these days, but back when I started there was a fair bit of that kind of territory-marking and it was pretty depressing.

Having said that, however, it is pretty nice when you hear someone’s scrappy first demos and follow them through to a full album release, and then the album is awesome. Even if you don’t really contribute anything at all, you still feel kinda proud of them. It’s not supposed to be condescending, more that the music industry drives so many people away that you catch yourself accidentally investing emotionally in folk, and it can be very nice to see them succeed.

Not that this album announcement represents a sudden explosion of success, just yet, but when the first Los Angeles Police Department demos started floating around the internet  I don’t remember many people taking much notice other myself and Tom from Gold Flake Paint. I seriously doubt you end up with ten thousand Soundcloud plays from just the support of those two websites of course, but it was still a nice moment – a sort of ‘see, I knew there was something good happening here’.

Tom liked the band so much he is now handling their new album release on Gold Flake Tapes. It’s available on vinyl and cassette, and for all I haven’t heard the album yet there has been a new teaser track released and it shows an interesting progression, most obvious in the vocal treatment. Have a listen:

From their earlier demos, the vocal seems a lot less murky, as well as being higher in the mix. I suppose this raises the age-old question about whether or not lo-fi production values are deliberate aesthetic choice, and how an artist actually hears themselves in their own heads. LAPD actually remind me of Smog a fair bit at times, as they seem to operate in that vague area between lo-fi guitar tunes and slow, warm downbeat pop with a sense of solidity and reassurance about it. Primarily because of the vocals, I guess, the two bands don’t sound all that similar, but they can generate the same emotional impressions at times.

There’s a bit more twee-pop in this, I guess. The new track above certainly has a bit of that, but there’s enough growl and haze in here in general that I don’t mind that aspect, and actually I think it gives it really nice texture. So I’m looking forward to this, and nice to see Gold Flake Tapes building up a head of steam too.

*Alright, alright, let’s be honest, I am forever sneering at people, period. I am just not a very nice person, sorry. Also, I am lying about being sorry.