Song, by Toad

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New release: David Thomas Broughton & Juice – Sliding the Same Way

dtbj Well well, it’s time to formally announce a new album here at Song, by Toad Records. Sliding the Same Way is a collaboration between David Thomas Broughton – who you hopefully know from our latest Split 12″ release – and the Juice Vocal Ensemble, and it is absolutely fucking lovely – pre-order one here.

It’s another semi-improvised album on the label, and makes me kind of wonder how many of my favourite albums are also semi-improvised, if only anyone would tell me. This one was recorded in Otley when David was back over from North Korea for a while, so perhaps a slightly more intriguing set of logistical hurdles than our usual ones, but if the album was at all rushed or uncertain you’d never know it.

I don’t know much about Juice until I heard this album, but holy shit what they’ve done here is beautiful. Whilst they embrace David’s experimentalism a lot of the time, their presence and the need to work together seems to have curtailed some of his more meandersome instincts, and when all four voices decide that it is time for the gorgeous stuff to break through the effect is absolutely stunning.

This album has everything on it which made me want to work with David in the first place, most obviously that incredible ability to make ostensibly small shifts in mood which can take you from weird to confrontational to playful to heart-breaking and right back again in the blink of a an eye. Just as you steel yourself for something abrasively strange to happen, you get something layered, melodic and beautiful. And just before it all gets too heavy, brief, almost throwaway little ditties like Woodwork crop up.

I know his use of an acoustic gets David rather oddly labelled as a folk musician, but some of the group singing on this album is really quite folky at times, particularly on tunes like the aforementioned Woodwork and the lovely Yorkshire Fog which follows. But in general this album is a lush collection of ballads which embrace the strange and the lovely in equal measure.

It’s amazing how much depth Juice add to this as well. It’s so lush, and their contributions are so varied from song to song, that you can forget you’re listening to an album which is almost entirely a capella. It feels like a band album, almost, with the fullness and versatility of sound they and David create between them.

Sliding the Same Way will be released on CD and download on the 22nd September, but in the meanwhile enjoy the free song above. It’s bloody gorgeous. You’re welcome.

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The Leg

leg The Leg are headlining tonight’s Pale Imitation Festival gig at Henry’s, so I thought I might as well tell you about how they slowly but surely became one of my favourite bands, because it wasn’t something that happened overnight.

As I first started to get into local music Bart from eagleowl and Neil from Meursault always used to insist that it was The Leg who were the best band in Edinburgh, not any of the newer ones I was so excited about at the time.

I genuinely didn’t get it at first. It basically just seemed like deliberately obscure mentalism to me, honestly. I did try though, given the people who kept insisting that they were great, and I am not sure what changed, but as they prepared to release An Eagle to Saturn a few years ago I remember hearing Twitching Stick and absolutely loving it.

I don’t know what the difference was, either in me or in the band, but it’s not exactly like they had suddenly become more digestible. Twitching Stick is great, but it might not be the first thing you’d play to a Leg newbie as the easiest song for them to get into, but for whatever reason I suddenly heard something in the music that I absolutely loved.

From that point on, I was sold. I don’t know what changed in my head but I suddenly saw that thing that Neil and Bart had been going on about. We released An Eagle to Saturn on Song, by Toad Records and subsequently released not only their next one as well – 2013′s Oozing a Crepuscular Light – but also their previous one, which we included in the label’s fifth anniversary box set in January this year.

I remember this happening with Tom Waits, too. I never liked his more avant-garde stuff when I first heard it, and I always thought Bone Machine was actually just a bad album. It took ten years, starting with the accessible early troubadour years, moving through Swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs a few years later onto the more theatricl stuff like The Black Rider a couple of years after that, only to eventually get to the stage where I finally realised that Bone Machine is, in fact, as brilliant as everything that went before it if not better.

The same sort of happened with The Leg. After the penny finally dropped we released not only An Eagle to Saturn, but also Oozing a Crepuscular Light last year, which is bordering on being an album of show-tunes. Deranged, hooting, terrifying show-tunes maybe, but by The Leg’s standards it is absolutely full of pop music. Lionlicker, for example, might be a bit lyrically odd, but the music itself certainly isn’t scary.

And funnily enough, once we’d arrived at a position where the band were releasing music which was as accessible as anything they’ve ever done, I went back to What Happened to the Shrunken Tina Turner, an album they released before we started working with them. It’s a ferocious, snarling beast of an album and I think the first recorded work of theirs I ever listened to. At the time I pretty much just turned it off immediately, and now it’s one of the go-to albums when people ask me about The Leg. In fact, when people about me ask about the whole label.

It’s got the aggression which a lot of metal seems to think it has, except because metal follows such a template it ends up just sounding a bit tame and formulaic to me. This album oozes menace and unhinged, terrifying intensity. It’s phenomenal. I just don’t understand how I didn’t get it the first time.

A bit like metal bands, though, deliberately ‘strange’ bands can end up sounding really tame and uninteresting to me, because oddness and confusion is a goal. The Leg just make music this way naturally. There’s nothing forced or deliberate about it, this is just the way it seems to spill out of them. Alright, they’re all phenomenal musicians so it’s not just random smashing, but there’s no sense of archness or artifice, they just make pop music and this is what it sounds like.

Where the band are going next I couldn’t tell you. There are a couple of sketches and demos up on their Soundcloud page which might offer a clue, but with guys like this I tend not to look too closely. Why worry. They will tell me when they are ready with their next thing, and if they want us to release it they will say so and I will be fucking delighted to do so. But with this band I really think the best way is just to sit back and wait and see where they decide to go, and worry about what it is afterwards.

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Now Wakes the Sea

nwts Continuing with our profiles of Pale Imitation Festival bands, joining yesterday’s New Fabian Society on the bill with The Leg tomorrow (7th August) at Henry’s will be the fantastic Now Wakes the Sea.

Given my constant exhortations not to over-estimate bands on the basis of one or two songs, it’s sort of ironic that I find myself looking at the entire output of this band and thinking hang on a minute, they’ve three incredible albums, two EPs, an experimental cassette thingy and an entire re-recording of Hospice by Antlers.

It’s time to stop fucking about talking about potential here and start insisting what is patently true: these guys are without a shadow of a doubt one of the very best bands operating in Scotland at the moment. And by that I mean definitely top ten, possibly top five. This is not exaggerating for effect or careless use of hyperbola: looking at their output over the last three years or so, I can’t think of anyone who has bettered it.

It’s not radio pop, I suppose, and the use of noise and low vocal mixes probably puts it in a fairly small niche in terms of taste, but nevertheless in amongst the narcotic haze there are some really accessible pop songs.

Whilst their recorded material is brilliant, however – like the best lo-fi pop music slowly being strangled by the weight of its own intransigence - the live show is a bit less predictable. I’m not sure if it’s inconsistent personnel, predictable booking or a lack of will, but I haven’t seen the band all that determinedly out and about playing over the last few years.

I managed to put them on as a full band once, and it was ace, but they’ve appeared solo, and done entire sets of abstract noise too, so I think it can be a bit erratic. Who knows though. We have a full band set waiting for us tomorrow, and some of the finest songs I’ve heard in ages. So pretty much whatever the outcome I am highly looking forward to this.

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New Fabian Society

nfs Throughout August I shall mainly be blogging about bands we’ll be putting on at the Pale Imitation Festival.

The festival itself is pretty much a live extension of the blog, I suppose, with me basically just booking a bunch of bands I myself most want to see, and that’s basically what I do here with writing, really. Although with the Pale Imitation stuff I do make a specific effort to keep it local.

Anyhow, on Thursday we have our second gig of the festival, with The Leg, Now Wakes the Sea and New Fabian Society. Tickets can be bought here, and *cough* you should come.

The New Fabian Society released a handful of EPs up to about the middle of last year, but have been a little quiet since. In that scenario the best bet is usually that they’re working on their debut album, but you never know, they could just be being lazy. In any case, I’m really looking forward to seeing how they’ve progressed in the interim.

For a two-piece they make an absolutely furious fucking racket, these guys. The first time we put them on in Edinburgh they sounded not unlike a denser, more industrial version of Interpol actually. You know, the Interpol which Interpol could have become after Turn on the Bright Lights but didn’t.

This stuff is so much less stylised, though, and so much more intense, it has that proper ‘clean out your brain and singe your eyebrows’ quality to it, particularly live. They’ll be opening the show on Thursday and I think it will get people’s heads in the game nice and early – no talking at the bar, motherfuckers, unless you think you can talk over this!

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Toadcast #302 – The Palecast

tagWell as you can probably tell from the graphics and indeed also the title, this is going to just be one long plug for our August antics at the Pale Imitation Festival this year.

But, as you will hear me rattling on about, I suppose the label and the gigs are essentially the same as the blog really aren’t they, in that it’s basically just me having a massive tantrum that the entire world doesn’t completely agree with me about music. So in that sense plugging label releases and our live shows on here isn’t me compromising the integrity of the site, is it, it’s just an extension of the original purpose of the site in the first place isn’t it? ISN’T IT?

I hope so, anyway.

In any case, for those of you outside Edinburgh you can’t actually attend this festival but that won’t really matter because basically this is just a podcast full of absolutely fantastic Scottish bands, so for a change I am being Mr. Scotland tonight, although as you will hear, I’m not all that gracious about it!

Toadcast #302 – The Palecast by Song, By Toad on Mixcloud

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01. Adam Stafford – Vanishing Tanks (00.22)
02. Le Thug – Paints (08.40)
03. Andrew R. Burns – Stinking Ship (16.19)
04. Sharptooth – Bonnie Blaze (19.22)
05. alansmithee – Snooze (26.07)
06. Deathcats – Danny Dyer (29.47)
07. Ian Humberstone – Ocean Paths to Palace (37.57)
08. LAW – Lilo (44.45)
09. Rick Redbeard – Dreams of the Trees (47.30)
10. Kitchen Cynics – When Father Hanged the Children (57.22)
11. Halfrican – I’m in L.U.V. (1.05.55)
12. PAWS – War Cry (1.07.04)

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Oh Dear God, Bryan Adams

Yeah, sorry to disappoint you, but I am afraid that this post is heading exactly where you feared it might from the headline.

I think most of the truly embarrassing skeletons are out of the closet by now when it comes to my youthful music taste. I’ve been writing this damn blog for over ten years now, and most stuff has ended up spilling out and one time or another: Hootie and the Blowfish, Erasure, Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley (and sadly not ironically), The fucking Dave fucking Matthews fucking Band, the first couple of Meat Loaf albums, hell I think I’ve even mentioned an shameful partiality to a bit of Phil Collins from time to time.

But until now I haven’t quite had the flaps to mention Bryan Adams*.

And no, don’t be ridiculous, of course not that Robin Hood abomination song, fuck me, I’m not a monster.

It’s pretty much impossible to overstate quite how bad every single thing about this video is. There’s not even a fabulously malevolent Alan Rickman to save the day.

Anyhow, my local coffee shop has, by way of music provision, a ghetto blaster (and what a gloriously eighties term that is!) and a pile of tapes about as old as you would imagine, given when mainstream artists finally stopped releasing things on cassette. I was in this morning and Bryan Adams was playing, and of course my mind went right back to when I was twelve or thirteen living in Singapore and only just starting to develop a music collection of my own, but generally spending most of my time listening to my parents’ records. And Reckless, Cuts Like a Knife and Into the Fire by Bryan Adams were amongst them.

I’ve said before that I don’t really care about whether it’s nostalgia or indoctrination which casts such a warm glow over music you might otherwise consider toe-curlingly awful if you hadn’t listened to it an awful lot when young. It doesn’t really matter, does it. Embarrassing as some of it is, for whatever reason you like it, and that’s about all that needs to be said.

Maybe we’d like more utterly embarrassing shit if we didn’t have our ideas of what is good, bad, indifferent or apocalyptically horrendous so strongly shaped by our peer groups. Who knows. Given what we’ll dance to in a club when shit-faced, I reckon our tastes would be broader than we think if we didn’t use music as such an important tribal identifier.

And there we go: I’ve fallen into the trap of using long words in a Bryan Adams post, probably just to give the impression that this is some sort of serious, scholarly piece, when in actual fact it’s really just ‘holy shit, I forgot how much I used to like Bryan Adams as a kid! Thank fuck no-one on the internet know about that, or they’d have a fucking field day.’

*Or the balls, if you prefer, you big old sexist you.

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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.

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Howlin’ Fling

Click to go see all my (pretty mediocre) pics from the weekend.

I am not writing a review of this fine festival. It is good. The music is ace. You should go if you can.

It’s in Scotland, just off the West Coast. So it will probably rain. In the words of Billy Connolly. “Of course it rained. It’s Scotland. Where did you think you were, fucking Benidorm?” When the sun comes out, though, and even when it doesn’t, it’s fucking beautiful. Really, seriously fucking beautiful.

I have sunburn on my back. Not bad sunburn, but you know, Scotland, rain etc..

The drive through Glencoe and down the coast to Arisaig makes you feel like you are heading to another world. The Sheerwater is class. Remember to take some beers for the trip. Driving a band full of people who’ve never seen it before was fun too. Watching people see that stuff for the first time is a nice little reminder of how special it really is.

Sam Amidon playing reels out the back of the café as we got there was awesome. So was Sam playing music on stage. So was Sam playing music with Beth Orton. So was Beth Orton playing music on her own. In fact those two were just bloody brilliant in general.

Samuel. Stream. Rocks. KABOOM!

Lisa, Tamsin, Caroline and Susie brought stinky, stinky cheese and gin and tonic, complete with genius tactics to make sure IT WAS ALWAYS COLD! Words cannot express my admiration.

Johnny Lynch playing the hits to his fans after the year (or so) that’s he’s had, while everyone went mental. That was brilliant. Well done old chap.

No matter what anyone tells you, swimming in the sea off Eigg is fucking cold. Really bollock-shrivellingly fucking cold. And no, you do not get used to it.

I still don’t understand how pretty much all the water in the world can fall from the sky on Saturday night and yet still there was none of it left for showers the following day. But Jens Lekman breaking out the tropical pop (and looking like he was having all the fun in the entire world all at once) during a tropical downpour was pretty brilliant. As was Jonnie Common’s eight-legged groove machine. POP!

Double breakfast every day. One bacon-and-egg roll (all runny and hot – mmmm!) and a coffee. Then forty-five minutes later, same again. No hangover in the world can compete with that kind of tactic.

I like how festivals like this have stalwarts, who are at every damn one, and then people like Boxed In who were fantastic, and who I’ve never heard of before and might not have heard of otherwise.

I did dancing. Presumably extremely bad dancing, but it was dancing nevertheless. And the thing: I only had to be ever so gently coerced. The last time I went mental and danced like a pillock was at the front of British Sea Power at the first Away Game. And the time before that was at FOUND in Legends at Homegame. I am starting to spot a theme developing here. I am told there are videos, but I really don’t want to see them. Let’s just leave it as a happy, slightly murky memory shall we. Oh no wait, this is the fucking internet isn’t it. Balls.

There was a moment when Meursault played the first chords of Ellis Be Damned and I was absolutely alone in my whooping. And then it dawned on me that I was the only person in the whole tent who knew how fucking awesome the next four minutes were going to be. That was nice. Especially as people kept turning to me during the song with an ‘oh that’s why you were whooping’ look on their faces.

I think it’s something to do with the lack of superstars, but perhaps mostly the proportion of musicians to punters, but having the two sets of people entirely mixed together instead of being in their own little enclaves makes everything better.

Only two stages running at staggered time means you see everything. No sneaking off into your own little bubble of pre-approved music.

Whisky.

Oh, and fuck, I still have a record label to run don’t I. Don’t you fucking dare judge. YOU try kick-starting your brain after a weekend like that.

Samamidon – Fiddle Mayhem (Toad Session) from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

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Toadcast #301 – The Bettecast

tag As you should well know by now, this is not the Bett-cast, it is the Bettycast, as our ridiculous car is named after Bette Davis, who spelled it Bett but pronounced it Betty. So there.

Once again this is a bit of a Rust2Rome retrospective, with ruminations on brake fade in the Alps, grown men sporting mohicans, driving far too fast and complaining about things not being entirely predictable when on holiday in a car which cost lest than £500. There may also be a little teeny-tiny bit of ranting about stupid people, but y’know, there usually is on these things isn’t there.

Also, I think some of my Rust2Rome pals might end up listening to this, which is going to be weird, because they’ll get to realise what depressing taste in music I have. Generally when you tell someone you work in music they think ‘oh, that’s interesting’ and you can pretend to be cool for a bit. Then they hear the kind of music you’re into and the illusion is shattered. Ah well, they had to find out sooner or later.

Toadcast #301 – The Bettecast by Song, By Toad on Mixcloud

Direct download: Toadcast #301 – The Bettecast

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01. The Wedding Present – Drive (00.24)
02. The Electric Prunes – I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night) (06.24)
03. Parts & Labor – Fractured Skies (16.16)
04. My Teenage Stride – The Genie of New Jersey (20.20)
05. R.E.M. – Be Mine (26.43)
06. Jonnie Common – Summer is For Going Places (35.52)
07. David Thomas Broughton – Ain’t Got No Sole (40.47)
08. Steven Malkmus & the Jicks – Baby C’mon (50.23)
09. Eels – Woman Driving, Man Sleeping (54.49)
10. Band of Horses – The Funeral (1.03.25)