Song, by Toad

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The Wytches – Annabel Dream Reader

wytches I’ve played these guys on the podcast a couple of times already, and I’ve had the album for a while, but it seems to be one of these records where what I think of it yo-yos back and forth every time I listen to it. Sometimes I think it’s fearsomely fantastic, sometimes a bit chuggy and samey, and it doesn’t seem to depend on anything consistent I have been able to notice besides mere whim. Which I don’t like. I prefer to know what my opinions are and why I have them.

Gravedweller, for instance, has a baseline which could easily enough be straight out of Love Buzz. Get me in the right mood and I think ‘fucking brilliant, what a fantastic baseline’. The wrong mood and the similarity bugs me a little.

Generally I love the thumping intensity of this album. It’s psyche-rock (not in the way everything these days is fucking psyche-rock, this is actual psyche-rock) but it’s dark and heavy, and you just can’t really imagine them playing this at anything other than full pelt. There’s something about that heaviness which is a real gut-grabber, too. It makes you screw up your face and bunch fists and do a really aggressive pigeon-peck with your head.

I don’t mean to keep coming back to Bleach again, but there’s loads of it in here, meaning that more than a lot of the other psyche revivalists out there, but the result is that instead of just being a knock-off band with (in some cases admittedly) great tunes, these guys feel really fresh.

I fucking hate that word, particularly when used to describe new music; in fact I really hate it. But there’s life and sparkle to this which belies its relatively familiar recipe. There’s nothing new here really, and it can get a bit chuggy, so when I am in the wrong mood that bugs me a bit. But generally it’s just awesome.

I mean, as thrillingly wild songs go, the rest of the world is going to have to go some way to match Wire Frame Mattress this year. The other single Burn Out the Bruise has possibly had more radio play I think, and is a cracking song in its own right, but Mattress is just fucking great.

Again, the recipe is relatively simple – guitar, bass and drums with some pretty familiar effects pedals – but it’s all played with purpose and energy. There’s a sort of reckless abandon here which is utterly absent from pretty much any band who are described as ‘bringing back guitar music’.

Royal Blood, for example, when they hear this, should give pretty serious consideration to retiring immediately out of sheer embarrassment. Not every tune here is brilliant, but ‘guitar revival’ bands seem to all sound so leaden, whereas this is loose, brilliant fun and played with gleeful malevolence.

Also, if anyone buys one from Heavenly, which you can do here, can you please let me know where to go to validate my download code. I bought the damn thing in a shop and got a card with a code, but no clue as to where to redeem it.

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Looking Forward to 2015

future What, seriously, already? Actually, as much as Christmas being in the shops already annoys me, and as much as online List Season starting in November also annoys me, at a record label where manufacturing lead times are now measured in months rather than weeks, and where a PR campaign takes four months to execute, 2015 has actually been on my radar for some time.

The thing is, we’re going to be sort of different next year, I think. Our two biggest-selling bands aren’t going to be releasing anything for a while, if at all.  Sparrow and the Workshop are in double-baby meltdown/heaven (delete as appropriate) and Meursault are officially no more.

In terms of our more established bands, Adam Stafford is working on a new album, which should be reaching completion near the end of the year, David Thomas Broughton has a mental but brilliant transcontinental project planned, Meursault has become Neil Pennycook who has become Supermoon, and Rob St. John is also working on new recordings. And I haven’t heard much from The Leg recently either, which tends to mean a new album is somewhere in the future.

Before all of this, however, we’re likely to be releasing something like four debut albums, and these can be weird, mostly because they are so unpredictable. The Plastic Animals one is being mixed as we speak, Numbers Are Futile have finished theirs, Ian Turnbull from Broken Records has made a beautiful instrumental album which has just gone for mastering and there is something very rocky and boisterous which we are likely to be releasing but I can’t really announce just yet as I haven’t actually heard the record – tonight, apparently!

The upshot of all this is twofold. Firstly, we could look like a very different label by the middle of next year. All the new bands will give it a very different flavour, I think, and the music is a wee bit different from what we normally release, which is rather nice.

Also – and this is the part which gives me the most thought – a lot of the stuff we’ll be doing will be short-run, either because that’s the safest way to deal with debut albums or just because it is the nature of the project itself. We’re also going to start releasing some stuff on tape too, and these are short run pretty much by definition and should allow us to do a lot more spontaneous, informal recording in our new warehouse space.

Consequently, instead of not having anything by our two biggest-selling artists being a drawback, I actually think it could be turned into a real advantage in a way. I won’t be worrying as much about managing big PR and distribution campaigns, and I think by far the best way to make a virtue out of a necessarily short run is to make each one really quite different. Not that we didn’t put a lot of thought into our releases before, but it simply isn’t practical to give each artefact individual care and attention when you are making thousands of them, whereas with hundreds you can do something a bit more special.

I would like to work a lot closer with local artists and illustrators too, and maybe get them and the bands into the warehouse together and make the release more of a collaboration, get a printing station set up and do our own screen-printing, try and find really nice things to add to our releases beyond just giving people a record, be it art, photography, writing… anything which makes sense with the band and the music and which just makes each release that little bit more personal and that little bit more of a treat.

I don’t know quite how these changes will affect our reputation or the image this label has in the public eye, but it does go back to what we intended to do when we started out, which is to make short, DIY runs of interesting music that might not be obviously commercial, and not worry too much about being a junior version of a traditional record label, which frankly the world has more than enough of already.

So it’ll be different. But I think it’ll be ace – I’m really looking forward to it.

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Toadcast #306 – The Crumbscast

tag This is called the Crumbscast for no better reasons than that I like the name and that it starts with a song called Crumbs, the new single by Jonnie Common. Given I’ve had to try and think up unique names for all of these bastard things anything which sounds good and has at least a tenuous link to the topic at hand will do.

I’ve not done a podcast for ages actually, but the last one was the one just before the independence referendum, and I still feel so utterly let down and disappointed with how that went that I’ve been unable to really talk about it since. On you go, Westminster, you’re doing a decent enough job really – at least a better one than we could ever hope to do on our own. Is that really the message we just delivered to the world? Yes, yes I think it is, at least to some degree. How sad.

So you see, probably a good thing that I waited at least a couple of weeks for the worst of the depressed bitterness to wear off. I almost get dragged into it at the start of the podcast, but like a champ I manage to break free and deliver an hour (and a little bit) of the usual awesome music that no-one’s really heard of because the world is WRONG about music. Sorry.

Toadcast #306 – The Crumbscast by Song, By Toad on Mixcloud

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01. Jonnie Common – Crumbs (00.22)
02. Tired Tape Machine – Your Ghost (07.30)
03. Passion Pusher – BLT (17.18)
04. Allison Crutchfield – Supermoon (22.22)
05. Sun Kil Moon – War On Drugs (31.01)
06. Velvet Morning – Green Whale (40.31)
07. 808s and Greatest Hits – Great Western featuring A. Fantastic Reprise (48.44)
08. Memory in Plant – Rainy Veins (54.09)
09. H. Hawkline – Black Domino Box (58.01)
10. Wallflower – Ambien (1.03.02)

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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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Crumbs: New Jonnie Common Single

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It is indeed New Jonnie Common Single Day here at Song, by Toad Records, with the second song from his belting new album Trapped in Amber now being officially set loose upon the internet. The album is being released on Halloween this year, and we’ll be doing a small run of launch shows in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow on the 13th-15th November and are looking at a label Christmas Party down in London in early December as well.

You can pre-order the album on vinyl or CD here. The CD version comes with an entire alternate version of the album, and if you pre-order the vinyl you’ll get a download card for this version as well.

This tune is a classic example of Jonnie’s way with a lyric: even though not all of it makes immediate sense, there’s a sort of playful warmth there. The Books were actually cited as a possible comparison on CMU the other day, and I have to confess that although I had never really thought of it, the similarity is definitely there. Which is ace, because I fucking love The Books.

Anyhow, I think think we’ve now served up the most obviously cheerful pop moments on the album, so be aware that the rest of it is both melancholy and downright weird at times, but if this and Shark can’t tempt you to buy this record, frankly nothing will. Great songs, the pair of ‘em.

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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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Emily Edrosa – Animal

I have to confess that when I first saw the subject line of this email I thought ‘oh fuck, another tediously earnest singer-songwriter’ and very nearly just deleted it unread. Still, no matter how judgemental I am, I do have a policy of trying to listen to absolutely everything which gets sent through, so I clicked on the video link despite my misgivings and figured I’d give it a go.

At first I thought it must be playing too fast, I have to confess. The rhythm is just weird, and stays weird throughout the song actually, never really seeming to fit with the rest of the tune. It’s great though, pacy and reckless and that mismatch between the rhythm section and the relatively laconic delivery of the vocals is absolutely brilliant when you get your head round it.

This is part of an EP, apparently, so we can look forward to more in the very near future I would hope. And this is why I try and listen to everything, no matter what I think of the email: my tendency to make snap judgements may be vigorous, but it clearly isn’t very accurate.

Bandcamp page is here.

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11th October: Independent Label Market Edinburgh

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The Indepdendent Label Market comes to Edinburgh next week as part of the Pleasance Sessions, a week long celebration of music and fine beer and various other good things (are there any other good things, beyond those two?) which takes place at the Pleasance.

The Label Market will be taking place in the Cabaret Bar, the Och!toberfest in the Courtyard and the music upstairs in the Pleasance Theatre.

I love the Pleasance Sessions, actually, because one of my biggest grouses about music in Edinburgh is how easy it is to find all these amazing venues in August for the fucking Festival, but somehow when the actual living Edinburgh arts community need them during the rest of the year, that goodwill vanishes into thin air and we’re left relying on one or two stalwart heroes to give us a place to play.

Well Rae and her team have done a great job of opening up the various Edinburgh University spaces for use as venues for the rest of the population to enjoy, and I think that’s an absolutely fantastic thing. So come along to the Pleasance Sessions and the label market and encourage this sort of thing to continue to happen.

Because you know what Edinburgh’s like: we complain, someone tries something, we only half-heartedly pay attention, and then we lose it. So we complain. And thus the cycle continues.

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Nostalgic Wandering in Manchester

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I am in Manchester at the moment, visiting my Granddad, who has lived in the same house in Withington since before I was born. I’ve lived here myself on two occasions, and for some reason the last one particularly comes back in waves when I walk around this part of the city, despite being back around the turn of the millennium.

I’ve said dozens of times before that my relationship with Manchester, where my mum’s family are all from, was always a bit ropey simply because I lived here during a couple of the most difficult parts of my life and for some reason it’s always coloured my relationship with the place.

That changed a few years ago when I started to come down here regularly for music events, and met some brilliant, inspirational people in doing so. Now I really look forward to coming down to Manchester, and think of it as one of my favourite places in the UK, but for some reason wandering around Withington always brings back that strange period of limbo after I graduated from university when my life was perhaps as sensitive to small nudges in one direction or another as it has ever been. Read the rest of this entry »

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Frankie Cosmos – Zentropy

frankiec I can’t remember who introduced me to Frankie Cosmos first, but I think it might have been Phil from PAWS. As I have said a million times before, keep an eye on your favourite bands’ social media feeds as their recommendations will often be far better than we self-appointed guardians of good taste.

I am a long way from an expert on her output, but I think this is Frankie Cosmos’ first recording with a band, and whilst that might be a slight culture shock for long-term fans of her work, but for us neophytes it sounds absolutely great.

You get a lot of awkward, lo-fi introspection which seems prevalent in her other material (which I confess I have only skimmed so far), but then she seems to channel early Wave Pictures at other times, with a sort of ramshackle rock ‘n’ roll sound which, for all it feels about to fall to pieces at any point, has real force and strength.

Owen, below, is absolute stormer. The kind of impact you can suddenly make with an increase in instrumentation and numbers, but nevertheless still minimal and not in any way overdone or detrimental to the core charm of Frankie’s delivery.

Buses Splash With Rain comes next, and embraces a sort of rough, nineties-inspired guitar pop sound. It’s loose and charming, and perhaps shows how this album, for all its inward-facing interior monologue, retains a sense of lightness and affability. It’s not all entirely my cuppa, I guess, and perhaps Leonie isn’t really for me, but in general it is a (very) short, sharp splash of personal, personable lo-fi pop music.

You can find the CD and LP links and listen to the whole thing on her Bandcamp page. Zentropy is so short it’s in the same territory as The Leg and their 22-minute albums, but it’s ten songs long, so it counts. Besides, it’s well worth it, short or not.