Song, by Toad

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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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My Invisible Friend

mif Given the musical disconnect between the UK and a lot of our European neighbours, I am always slightly curious when we seem to see eye to eye on certain genres. Britain and Sweden are indiepop cousins, for example, and our mutual love of excruciatingly pretentious atmospheric cinemascapes brings us and Iceland wonderfully close together. Germany seems to embrace our glum side, we and France vaguely agree on electro-pop and for some inexplicable reason, we seem to be pretty in sync with Italy when it comes to shoegaze.

I have no idea why this is, but generally when I have heard Italian bands I have liked, they have been shoegaze ones. This is another example: My Invisible Friend, from Parma.

I would say that, vocals aside, they don’t sound a million miles away from Hookworms, but then Hookworms themselves are very classically krauty-shoegaze I guess, so I suppose that would be crediting them with inventing something they didn’t really invent. I also hear bits of a rather less frantic, nasty Ringo Deathstarr too, but I suppose the band don’t sound much like them either, so don’t ask me why these sideways comparisons sprang to mind, they just did.

Shoegaze like this does something different for me than other music, I think. It inspires the slowest possible head banging – just this slow, quasi-spiritual rocking back and forth with a bit of a head-peck at the end of each forward tilt for emphasis.

It’s not rough or distorted like a lot of British shoegaze-inspired stuff I’ve been listening to recently, but it certainly strikes the right balance between sludgey noise, and meandering guitar solos and dreamy vocals in the upper register to cut through the fog. Really good.

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The Music Industry Isn’t Fake, It Just Isn’t What You Think It Is

I watched the above ‘exposé’ and I can imagine it is intended to be shocking. And I can imagine, I suppose, that for some people it might be pretty shocking, although I doubt very many of them read this blog.

In short, every – and I mean every – record in mainstream pop is auto-tuned to hell. It’s just an assumption these days. And every live performance is auto-tuned to fuck as well, in the odd occasion it isn’t just lip-synched. Live shows, the last leg the music industry apparently has to stand upon, are a sham. The product is a lie. None of these people can sing. None of them are who they are presented to us as being.

Imagine that.

The issue I have with the whole premise of the above video is that it misunderstands the nature of the thing it is describing. That’s fair enough, because the name it is given is almost entirely false, but the ‘music industry’ isn’t a music product so the way the music is put together is pretty much secondary.

The music industry is an entertainment product, not an art product, and so we seem to consistently misunderstand how it is supposed to work, what it is trying to achieve and how things are actually done.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some very talented musicians working in the music industry, and some amazing music being made, but that is a secondary aim. There are some talented artists working in the graphic design industry as well, but that doesn’t mean that its primary goal is to produce great art.

Modern musicians gain far, far more from celebrity than they do from music. Their money is made in appearance fees (and not always to perform either), in branded products and image licensing. Selling music is the means to this end, but it is really not the end itself.

I despise the X-Factor with its legitimised bullying and ridiculous karaoke circus, but I don’t hate it because it is Bad Music. It isn’t about music at all. It’s an interactive soap opera, so really, we shouldn’t care what it ‘says’ about the modern music industry.

Except for the fact that it makes explicit what should have been obvious to everyone for years: that the people we think are the stars are not really the stars. In the X-Factor the show itself is the star, and the contestants, even the winners, are disposable tokens whose individuality is more or less irrelevant.

The above video complains about lip-synched or auto-tuned live shows cheating the consumer out of what they came to see, but they think that musical excellence is what they came to see, and it just isn’t. It’s entertainment. They came to see a show – a spectacle.

And you can criticise Madonna or Beyoncé for miming their live shows, but look at all the dancing around they are doing. If they were performing those feats of athletics at the same time as having to really, properly sing, then all you’d hear would be their heavy breathing as they tried to gasp their way through their songs. They have to lip-synch. The performance and the spectacle are hundreds of times more important than some misplaced sense of musical integrity.

And if every song is auto-tuned and every performance lip-synched, then effectively you are looking at someone whose acting and dancing are far more important than their musical abilities. There are people who cross over of course, and have some influence over the nature of the product they are the face of, but who is more important to the Katy Perry machine – the people they buy the song-writing from, the army of image consultants, or whoever they hire to play the Katy Perry character.

And I am not being an indie-snob here. I have heard too many tales of stadium-filling guitar bands with teams of ghost-writers writing hits in the style of the band because the band themselves can’t do it anymore to dismiss those stories as bollocks. Anything that big is a product.

Of course this isn’t a neat division. There can be a lot of great art in even the most commercially successful music products, but that doesn’t mean that’s what the industry does, or what it is there for.

And I think it’s this messy overlap which confuses people. Underground DIY bands can ascend to this level of celebrity too, but it’s extremely rare. How many Hollywood superstars are actually decent actors, as opposed to hugely charismatic celebrities. Some of them can act, but at that level of the industry it becomes pretty much secondary.

The crossover can be weird. I remember Drowned in Sound going to the Mercury Prize this year and seeing this disconnect first hand. Young Fathers won the prize and instead of being interviewed about anything of substance were simply expected by the assembled press throng to rattle through a series of rote answers about how it was the music that mattered but how honoured they were, and the atmosphere when they didn’t play the anticipated game was highly uncomfortable.

I can’t speak for them, but it seems to me simply that Young Fathers weren’t prepared to step from the musicians’ ladder, which they have doggedly and successfully been climbing for some years now, onto the celebrity ladder.

I was a little taken aback by DiS’s surprise, I have to be honest, given their awareness of how celebrity drives traffic which in turn drives ad revenue on music websites and the effect that has on what actually gets written about. They should know that the fundamental basis of how you make your decisions changes based on whether you are an artistic product or a commercial one, and how early you have to make that decision.

Late last year I lamented how hard it was becoming for me to get our bands any coverage in the bigger online music magazines – ones, funnily enough, like Drowned in Sound. Irrespective of the reasons why this is the case, a friend of mine made the suggestion that I have a look for some bands being covered already, with some traction of their own, and sign them.

It’s an eminently sensible suggestion of course, but my reaction was really hostile: I’m not being told who to fucking sign by a straw poll of random volunteer music writers who will rattle out some stuff for these sites for free for as long as it takes them to get bored of not getting paid and fuck off to get a job in PR instead. I am putting in the work, I am spending the money, I am making the fucking decisions.

And of course therein lies the difference. What I was essentially saying was ‘I am not signing someone just because I think they’re going to do well’. Or, even more starkly: ‘I’m not signing someone for business reasons’. And if as a label you’re not willing to base who you sign on business reasons, then you can’t really claim to be a business can you?

And we’re not a business – well, not primarily at least. Like the ‘music’ industry, which uses art as a tool to enhance its business, we use business as a tool to generate revenue which enhances our art.

So I am neither surprised nor at all outraged that modern pop stars either can’t or don’t sing – mostly because that’s not really what they’re selling. Even Beyoncé. Even Madonna. Even Taylor Swift. And I am not judging or claiming some sort of moral high ground or smug level of integrity. They are just totally different things, done in totally different ways, for totally different reasons.

And if you don’t think so then ask me or thousands of small labels like me how willing we would be to compromise our art for business reasons. Then wonder how much someone like the One Direction would be allowed to fuck up their business in the name of art.

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Song, by Toad’s Albums of the Year 2014 1-5

n9068 Okay okay, before we get down to the serious business of 2015 (and there’s really rather a lot of that piling up already), I suppose I should clear the decks of one last thing before I can declare 2014 done and dusted and that is my favourite albums of the year list. I can only imagine how devastated the internet would be if I didn’t get this one finished.

As I explained in the post accompanying numbers 11 through 20, the list this year has fallen particular victim to the vagaries of real life, so it’s not really ‘The Very Best’ albums of the year, even just in my opinion, because I have found myself without the time to sit and really listen properly to vinyl for about  a third of the year.

Due to moving house, touring in the States, having our living room rebuilt and all sorts of other things some albums have been disproportionately favoured over others. This happens all the time anyway – sometimes things just don’t get a fair crack of the whip – but this year has been particularly bad.

Song, by Toad’s Best of 2014
1-5 | 6-10 | 11-20

So if you’re reading this and thinking ‘holy fuck, no Twilight Sad, no John Knox Sex Club, no Old Earth’ then it really is just because I haven’t found the time to listen to those albums (and plenty more) just yet. I am pretty certain that by the middle of 2015 I will have a fairly different perspective on the year just gone, but for now the usual disclaimer feels even more necessary than ever: don’t worry, I am not saying these are definitively the best albums of 2014, but given my rather unpredictable listening circumstances, these have ended up being my favourite.

Not that much in the top five will surprise you of course – I may have had a weird year, but I am still as predictable as ever!

1. Timber Timbre – Hot Dreams

This is a lush, weird, sleazy and gorgeous. Timber Timbre evolve fairly slowly, but go back four albums and the band sound nothing whatsoever like this. One of those rare moments where immaculate production and more involved arrangements seem like the absolute right thing for an album.

2. Powerdove – Arrest

One of those albums which very, very nearly squeaked under my radar this year, which I suppose is just one of the drawbacks of being on a small label – we just don’t have the personnel for exhaustive PR campaigns. Fortunately I happened across it a month or two ago, and balls on a stick is it gorgeous. So many abrasive noises and so much lovely stuff, all intermingled into one perfectly executed whole.

3. Micah P. Hinson – Micah P. Hinson and the Nothing

Given how barely Micah P. Hinson’s music changes from one record to the next I don’t really know why I never get bored of it. I don’t, though. In fact given his near omnipresence in my top five every time he releases an album, it would seem Hinson’s wild swings between intensely sad and intensely angry, with just a little bit of contemplation and playfulness mixed in here and there strikes a chord in me as reliably as a metronome.

4. David Thomas Broughton – UnAbleTo

David himself may be on our label, but given we didn’t release this ourselves I am giving myself an exemption from my usual rule of excluding anything we are directly involved in from these lists. Fuck it, this is amazing, and given David released the Juice Vocal Ensemble collaboration this year, as well as appearing on our latest Split 12″, and also has a triple – yes, triple – vinyl album ready to go for 2015 as well I marvel at the man’s productivity. Even more freeform than Powerdove, this is another one of those albums which veers from the absolutely gorgeous to the aggressively discordant, but that’s what makes it great.

5. Now Wakes the Sea – Bildungsroman

Another under-appreciated gem from pretty much my favourite non-Toad Scottish band at the moment. This isn’t all quite as slow or minimal as its predecessor, in fact there are some breezy, clattery, lo-fi pop songs in here, but that awkward screech is never too far away – it’s an album which teeters on the edge, but a band which is comfortable enough with this that they handle it with increasing confidence. Proof, if ever any more was needed, that Scotland is WRONG about music.

So there you go. I suppose, all my disclaimers at the top of the page notwithstanding, that this top five is just about the most inevitable of any list out there on the internet. You all know by now, if you read this site with any regularity, that I love all five of these bands and have done for ages. Still, not many of these, with the possible exception of Timber Timbre, seem to have made it onto a lot of other people’s lists so I hope that this wee nudge might encourage you to check them out.

And now… ON WITH 2015!

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2015: Let’s Get on With This Shit

fuck_yeah Ah man, one more alcoholic mini-apocalypse until 2015 starts in earnest and I dunno, 2014 was probably our best year yet at Song, by Toad, but I am cautiously looking forward to 2015 and hoping it might be better. We have most of the year’s releases planned out and ready to go already – or thereabouts, anyway – and I can imagine writing something very similar to the previous sentence in almost exactly twelve months as I look back on yet another year of releasing my own favourite records, wondering how the fuck I am still getting away with all this.

Hopefully the world’s fascination with tepid, dreamy and completely fucking lifeless wishy-washy electronic duos will have fucked right the fuck off by the end of 2015 too. There is so much of it, and it is so formless, lifeless, passionless and dilute that I can barely muster the strength to close the fucking tab whenever I accidentally click through to one of their videos. The names aren’t always the obvious signposts they are with many other bands, so you can be fooled, and then it’s upon you like Kryptonite. Or like spider venom, leaving you immobilised by its tedium and unable to lift a finger to save yourself from the life-sapping joylessness.

I know that shit it is a favourite of labels because you can stuff a couple of Shoreditch hipsters in the back of a fucking Vauxhall Corsa and send them on tour at minimal expense, but is that the defining characteristic of whether a band is considered signable these days? Fuck off. It’s the same with all these bearded, top-knotted folk-soul singer songwriters out there. Jesus Christ that shit makes the genitals of everyone in the fucking room shrivel up and drop off within the first impassioned ten seconds. Middle class boys with no real problems cannot evince emotion by faking heartfelt delivery, no matter how much they wobble their heads and scrunch up their eyes with sincerity. If you see one in the street or a pub please do everyone a favour and smash up their fucking guitar and cut off their fucking stupid top-knot.

Folk music should be fucking dead anyway by now, given how it was utterly overwhelmed by the upper middle classes almost the second it went overground. Sure, they can listen to and make whatever fucking music they like, but let’s not call it art please. It’s no more a fucking calling than repeated holidays in Tuscany make them connoisseurs of Italian culture – another ornament in a life lived by fucking design and not fucking spark.

Guitar music used to have that – that inner rage – and that was what made it so vital. Fortunately 2014 finally seems to have brought us to the end of the constant articles about whether or not guitar music was absolutely dead, or thrillingly revitalised. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and Royal Blood seemed to be proof that both conclusions were indisputably true. Personally, mainstream guitar music has been fucking OVER for fucking years – since that post-post-Britpop turdpocalypse era which spat abortions like The Feeling, The Hoosiers, Hard Fi and the fucking Pigeon Detectives into the world – but there has always been truly awesome stuff being made in the underground. Fierce, snarling and spiteful.

Pop music is supposed to be the opposite of that mythical guitar-wielding howler of truth: as crafted, designed, assembled, polished and delivered as perfect gaudy Japanese confectionery. And yet it seems that this year liking Taylor Swift has been the most ‘real’ thing people can fucking do. Real enough to unabashedly love pop music is this year’s musical badge of honour – a year of post-snob snobs for whom anyone who suggests that their brand of fun is just vacuous shit is just trying too hard to be earnest and meaningful to allow themselves to have fun. Just relax. Just enjoy yourself. Then you will like this. No. No I fucking won’t. It’s garbage.

We get into a simple clash of views here. Taylor Swift is just shitty, pointless bubble-gum pop and I do not understand why she is the hipsters’ candy-floss of choice this year. Maybe because she’s white, middle-class, tame, self-consciously content-free and utterly, utterly unthreatening. I would say ‘she’s no different to the fucking Spice Girls and fucking Katy fucking Perry’ and whilst I intend that as a dismissive criticism, a lot of folk would just say ‘exactly – that’s exactly what she is’ and see it is as a compliment. I just don’t fucking like pop music I suppose.

But why her? Why is she the fluff that the earnest cognoscenti have decided it is okay to embrace? It’s like they’ve realised that if they all agree on one thing they can pretend is ‘smarter’ or better than the other hollow prancing then they can give themselves a collective free pass for liking it, and then carry on intellectualising the gritty and real tomorrow as if nothing had ever happened.

But let’s face it, the alternative press really is no longer the alternative press anyway. Since when were underground music sites honestly and with a straight face reviewing albums by Katy Perry and Taylor Swift. Even a lot of the ‘alternative’ stuff getting coverage has a ton of major label or management money behind it. All these Hot Tips for 2015 and Radio 1 hot new artists are all well-researched and market tested on social media before they are ever considered for overnight success.

It’s the nature of the hipster and hipster-hatred, I suppose. You create an underground, it gains momentum and then bursts into the overground, hollows itself out and eventually bursts, releasing nothing but hot air and flimsy pretence into the world, and lo we have to start all over again.

Unsurprisingly, as a middle-class (sort of) hipster myself I don’t hold much truck with hipster hatred. The last person to admit to being a hipster is generally the hipster themselves, but I don’t mind it. I am not cutting edge and I don’t mind that. I dress how I like, and I know how much that’s influenced by fashion. I am a foodie to an extent, and I like that. I am not going to cultivate my own heritage strains of kale in the back garden, but you know, small-batch gin and salads of bitter leaves are nice things.

I know there are some utterly detestable things happening in the world of hipsters at the moment, but it’s just underground fashion being co-opted by the wealthy mainstream, pre-middle aged and very much middle class, just like absolutely every single fucking fashion movement in the history of fashion. And far, far more annoying than the ‘guitar music is dead/rejuvenated’ and the (thankfully over, I think) ‘blogs are/aren’t dead’ pontificating has been the proliferation of pseudo-intellectual lamenting of the dire truths the hipster reveals about our society.

Just fucking stop it. When fashions go overground they lose their potency, their meaning and become simple avatars of people’s self-image, as meaningless and quickly changed as their Facebook profile pic. Although if you wrote one of those articles it probably contained a line about you quitting Facebook for ever and ever next week anyway. That’s always the way it has been and hipsterism is no more important than any other fashion trend which has peaked and is ripe for being undercut by something new and more interesting, brewed in the underground where they are already utterly fucking sick of organic, knit-your-own heritage juniper-infused artisan home-reared poussin dans son jus.

So rejoice. That imbecilic fucking cereal bar in Shoreditch (or wherever it was) and the stupid fucking cat café here in Edinburgh and all the idiots infusing their own this or that with something their grandparents used to make before the war aren’t the signs of the end of society, they are the squeaky sounds of a bubble so bloated and stretched so thin that it can’t do anything other than burst and make way for the next thing, which will be stewing away somewhere already.

I probably won’t notice it for years, because as I said, I am not exactly cutting edge. But as the alternative music press goes mainstream there will already be new forms being hatched somewhere; and as top-knotted soul-folkies ruin the acoustic guitar for anyone with the faintest flickerings of an actual soul, there will be someone doing something nasty somewhere which we can embrace instead, and as the focus-grouped stars of the new underground emerge from their clickbait, What Happened Next Just Broke My Heart cocoons into the foetid reality of the pop world, there will always be some stubborn, pig-headed fuckwit out there incapable of doing what the people want, because they just don’t have it in their personality to bend that way.

So as much as it permanently enrages me and vigorously stokes the fires of indignation which keep me pointlessly tilting at windmills as chimerical as they are immovable, 2015 should perhaps be the year to acknowledge that if you laud the underground, the DIY, the contrarian and the stubborn, determined visionary, no matter how small the vision, then you have to accept that setting yourself against the mainstream means that mainstream acknowledgement will not and possibly even should not come your way.

Because that would, in some way, make you just like them. And you can’t have it both ways.

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Song, by Toad’s Albums of the Year 2014 6-10

trophy Welcome to the latest instalment in what must surely be the most hotly-anticipated of all of the end of year lists which thunder towards us as this time of year with all the unavoidable, wild-eyed hysteria of a flock of panicking sheep.

Actually, that’s maybe not fair, is it. Actually, I think I’ve probably missed the giddy peak of List Season by a good fortnight or so by this point, but I don’t mind that. I like to assemble this kind of thing in the shell-shocked quiet of the post-Christmas boozing, where as our initial wave of epic multi-day-hangovers starts to finally wane, it slowly starts to dawn on us that we’re about to have to do it all again at New Year’s.

Song, by Toad’s Best of 2014
1-5 | 6-10 | 11-20

Needless to say, this list is entirely objective and can be backed up with meticulous charts and graphs and is therefore the Definitive Truth of Music in 2014, and thou shalt hold no other lists before mine. Or something like that.

Alternatively, it might just turn out to be the random, incoherent bletherings of yet another keyboard warrior with too many opinions and too few people who give the tiniest fuck about them, but I’ll leave it up to you to choose which one.

6. Paws – Youth Culture Forever

It seems like a back-handed insult to their previous album to say that this represents a huge step forward for Paws. I loved their previous record, and we all knew they could write infectious yet affecting pop songs, but this is a fantastic album with all sorts of new directions on it – noise, drone, a bit of cello, some piano, plenty of nastiness and still the same knack for a singalong chorus. Cracking band, cracking album.

7. Malcolm Middleton and David Shrigley – Words and Music

It seems a bit unfair to rank this on a list of albums, because it feels kind of like it should be on a separate list all of its own. I don’t know how this will bear up over time, but the mix of horror, delight, fascination and just plain old bafflement which greeted my first listen to this deranged record of spoken-word charcoal-black absurdity was pretty much still there on the dozenth listen.

8. Myriam Gendron – Not So Deep as a Well

This is so, so simple. Just acoustic guitar with minimal embellishment and a beautiful, beautiful singing voice. It’s the kind of genre so well-populated that people can’t really bring anything new anymore, but albums like this nevertheless feel like wonderful new additions.

9. Adam Faucett – Blind Water Finds Blind Water

Half of this album could be my favourite record of the year. It’s a tad uneven, but while the classic Southern rock of Melanie is one of the best songs of the year, it’s the more contemplative tunes like Walking Home Late, Sparkman, Poet Song and Benton which make the middle bit of this album as good as anything else I’ve heard all year. Another one of those ‘why the fuck are they not more fucking famous’ moments.

10. Chad VanGaalen – Shrink Dust

CVG acolytes have said that this, whilst good, is not his best album. It’s the first one I’ve really got into though, so I don’t come with the baggage of allegiance to previous recordings and to me it sounds absolutely fucking great.

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Song, by Toad’s Albums of the Year 2014 11-20

prize Welcome to Song, by Toad’s brief tuppence tossed into the swirling whirlpool of List Season. I know everyone writes these lists and mine isn’t exactly going to overthrow the status quo, but I think mine tends to be a little different, so I hope you’ll find it worthwhile. Most of the big sites are offering up pretty much what you’d expect, particularly the ones who collate votes from amongst their writers, which always tends to iron away the more interesting wrinkles.

In that sense, I think that if you can find the right person, then one person’s list is generally more interesting than an organisation’s list, just because the law of averages tends to push the more left-field (and therefore by my definition more interesting) choices out of the limelight. For me the aim of these lists is not to be definitively right – everyone who writes one is right by definition; we’re all just expressing our own favourites after all – but to find those surprise gems which have stuck with people over the course of the year despite little or no real exposure.

Song, by Toad’s Best of 2014
1-5 | 6-10 | 11-20

I don’t need another list telling me about those insipid fucking records by FKA Twigs or Alvvays or Woman’s Hour or War on Drugs or, God forbid, that fucking dismal Royal Blood album. I want someone like Tom from Gold Flake Paint to give me ten albums I know (even if I might disagree with some of them) and ten I’ve never heard of before so I can go exploring.

That said, this year’s end-of-year list on Song, by Toad is going to be far from complete. There are all sorts of albums you might reasonably expect to see on here – The Twilight Sad and John Knox Sex Club spring most obviously to mind – but I genuinely just haven’t had time to listen to them (and many others), what with the record player being out of commission for months while we had our living room sorted out, and with moving house, and being out of country for over two months in the course of the year.

So what you have instead is a weirdly skewed list of the albums I have enjoyed the most this year. No doubt in six months I will want to change it, once I come to terms with some of my more recent purchases which I just haven’t heard enough yet, but at this precise moment this is what 2014 was like for me, musically.

11. Broken Records – Weights and Pulleys

The better these guys get, the less people seem to talk about them which is… I dunno, odd, perverse, infuriating? Take your pick. Their grandiose, broad-vistaed, slightly US-leaning indie-rock gets better with each release and this new album is no exception.

12. Deathcats – All Hail Lubo

Surfy, psychey and garagey are pretty much my ideal combination of traits, and this album is all of these. Just enough pop tunes to be hummable as fuck and just enough nasty meandering to be weird and unpleasant. In a good way.

13. Krill – Lucky Leaves

Flat, nasal and very plain-vanilla in terms of its American indie rock style, but for some reason this has just grown and grown on me with every listen. There’s plenty of self-loathing and self-dissection, but it never gets as annoying as it can with other folk.

14. Sex Hands – Pleh

Short, sharp punchy rock songs about Friends. Yes, Friends the TV show. No, I have no idea why either. Doesn’t matter, because it works fantastically well, and they may be about virtually nothing at all, but every one of these tunes is great.

15. Michael Cera – True That

A meandering, shambolic mess which is barely an album at all, frankly. There are barely-conceived interludes, a cover song, some bits and pieces of this that and the other and yet for some reason the final result is a record which is great to listen to but for some weird reason makes me like Cera more as a person for having made it. Don’t ask how that makes sense, but it does.

16. Goat – Commune

Shamelessly anachronistic folk-tinged proggy psychedelia, but done with such hypnotic abandon that it stands head and shoulders above all the other people ploughing this particular furrow. Joyful and exuberant.

17. The Wytches – Annabel Dream Reader

This is an unbelievably simple formula, and far from a new one: short, sharp psyche-rock songs played with plenty of snarl and fantastically nasty guitars. Simple things done well can yield fantastic results.

18. Body Cheetah – Raking the Wind

I think I’ve heard a lot of people make music a bit like this, but for some reason this is the first time it’s all really, properly clicked for me. It’s ghostly and weird, but the beat keeps it from drifting off into the ether.

19. Frankie Cosmos – Zentropy

Simple, personal, engaging and lovely. If things like Juno were to be less smug and irritating they should try and be more like this, because that kind of underground smarts can be really nice when done with some subtlety and sincerity.

20. 808s and Greatest Hits – Featuring A. Fantastic Reprise

An album so DIY is exists only as a pay-what-you-want download on Bandcamp, which is a complete and utter fucking travesty. This is a fantastic, ambitious album of experimental psychedelic pop – and if you’ve had a shot every time I’ve used the words ‘psychedelic’ or ‘pop’ whilst reading this list I suspect you may need to have your stomach pumped by now.

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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.

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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.