Song, by Toad

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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)

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Pale Imitation Festival 2014

Pale Imitation 2014 digiflyer

Well brace yourselves, here we go: the full lineup for the Pale Imitation Festival 2014 has been finalised and can now be announced, tickets can be bought, and giddy excitement can commence. It’s a cheap and cheerful festival of Scottish music, held at Henry’s Cellar Bar over the course of August.

Conceived initially as a way to keep the fun, family-friendly DIY spirit of the awesome Retreat Festival alive, I think for me it’s sort of evolved into something different. I like the Edinburgh Festival, I really do. Or at least I try. There’s lots of awesome stuff happening, but there is also a massive, stifling avalanche of over-priced, imported rubbish which smothers everything in the city and dominates the press and makes it almost impossible to do anything at all in music except sit back for six weeks and wait for it to be over. And being a bloody-minded little shit, I don’t accept that.

Music used to be really well served during the Edinburgh Festival, but now it seems that small local enterprises doggedly trying to support Scottish music are pretty much the only ones giving it any kind of foothold at all. The Queen’s Hall and The Electric Circus have some great stuff on in August, and then there is us: a reasonably-priced, month-long celebration of local music, held in one of Edinburgh’s stalwart underground venues. A fiver per gig, and a season ticket available for only £25, as well as a separate, showcase gig at the Queen’s Hall which will be the last ever Meursault show.

The full lineup is below, and tickets can be bought here, except for the Meursault/Plastic Animals Queen’s Hall show which can be bought directly from the Queen’s Hall. Season tickets are here, and they entitle you to attend all the Henry’s gigs (the QH one is separate) – meaning you could get nine gigs for the price of five, which is pretty amazing. Do try and get there by 8pm though, so we know whether to hold you a place or not at the busy shows.

Sat 2nd Aug - Adam Stafford, Le Thug & Duchess
SAY Award-shortlisted Adam Stafford is currently working on a new album, and his experimental, looped guitar pop songs will be complemented by the hazey washes of Le Thug and newcomers Duchess.

Thu 7th Aug - The Leg, Now Wakes the Sea +1 TBC
Screaming pop mentalists The Leg headline the second night, with support from the phenomenal, if a little wonky, Now Wakes the Sea, plus another band to be confirmed.

Sat 9th Aug - The Yawns, Sharptooth & alansmithee
The Yawns play a lazy brand of sloppy guitar pop, and made one of the sleeper albums of the year a wee while back. They are joined by the slightly more aggressive Sharptooth and Livingstone newcomers alansmithee.

Wed 13th Aug - Meursault & Plastic Animals – Queen’s Hall
The centre-piece of the Pale Imitation Festival this year is the last ever Meursault show, at the Queen’s Hall. That’s right, your last ever chance to see the current band play live, and they will be joined by pals and label-mates Plastic Animals.

Thu 14th Aug - Deathcats, Garden of Elks & Passion Pusher
Surfy, guitar loons Deathcats released their debut album this year, and it is every bit as hugely enjoyable and sloppily noisy as you would have expected. Abrasive shouters Garden of Elks and Edinburgh’s most hapless guitar pop star in the making comprise the rest of the bill.

Sat 16th Aug - Jonnie Common, Jesus H. Foxx & Andrew R. Burns
Jonnie Common is a maverick genius, who makes experimental music sound like the most accessible of pop songs, and he’ll be joined by the recently resuscitated Phoenix H. Foxx, and Chillwave revivalist Andrew R. Burns. Jonnie really needs to start using his middle initial, to fit on this bill properly.

Thu 21th Aug - Rick Redbeard, Siobhan Wilson (Ella the Bird) & Kitchen Cynics
If Rick Redbeard would stop buggering about being famous with the Phantom Band, I think he could be one of Scotland’s most loved singer-songwriters. He’d be one of mine, certainly, and after only recently discovering his stuff, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear myself saying the same of The Kitchen Cynics. Siobhan Wilson has just started to perform under the name Ella the Bird, but her gorgeous voice and songwriting remain very much the same.

Sat 23rd Aug - LAW, Numbers are Futile & Wozniak
LAW has been one of the breakthrough sensations of recent years. Based in Edinburgh, and collaborating with members of Young Fathers, her music is dark but danceable, and actually reminds me of an Edinburgh pop singer of a few years back – anyone remember Helicopter Girl? No? Just me, then. On the bill with LAW are the hypnotic, rhythm popsters Numbers are Futile and messy shoegazers Wozniak.

There will be a big old after-party after this show, with Lost Map DJs and, erm, well hopefully I won’t be allowed anywhere near the decks at all.

Thu 28th Aug - eagleowl, Ian Humberstone & Smackvan
Eagleowl are Edinburgh’s most glacial post-anti-drumcore, kraut-folk band, and will be joined by the gorgeously intimate croon of Ian Humberstone and warm miserablism of Smackvan.

Sat 30th Aug - PAWS, Halfrican & Et tu Brute!!!
Our favourite pop-punk band PAWS proved they had rather more strings to their bow than just awesomely hummable guitar tunes with their fantastic second album, released at the beginning of the year.  They are pals of ours, they almost signed to our label, and they’re the most prolific accumulators of parking tickets on the Toad Van, so they seemed like a perfect choice for the closing party of this year’s Pale Imitation Festival. Joined by short-shorts-wearing Halfrican and the intense battering of Et tu Brute!!!, it’s going to a lively last show. And then I will get some fucking sleep.

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Death to Meursault

Meursault Cloud For the eagle-eyed amongst you – or, basically, just those of you with Facebook – you may have noticed the recent announcement that August’s Pale Imitation show at the Queen’s Hall will be the last ever Meursault show.

It’s weird, this. There’s a large sense in which it’s none of my business, of course, but Meursault were the first band we seriously released, way back in late 2008, so it’s quite an important event from the the point of view of both myself and the label. It’s very fair to say that, initially at least, our reputation hinged on being Meursault’s record label. We’ve diversified since then, of course, but having them on the books from the off meant that people took us way more seriously than they would have otherwise.

Neil will continue to make music, of course, and a lot of his current collaborators will continue to work with him, so from a fan’s point of view I really don’t think too much will change.

You might ask, if that’s the case, why bother killing off Meursault, and I have to confess that I can’t quite answer that. People all know that Meursault is based around the songwriting, delivery and generally also the arrangements and production of Neil Pennycook, so Meursault can be whatever he wants it to be, surely. Song, by Toad is my voice on the internet, whatever I chose that to be, so when the Friday Fives and Monday listings became a serious chore to write every week I just killed them off, because labouring through those posts every week was threatening to sap my enjoyment of writing.

Having said that, creative identities can end up developing their own sense of confinement. In some ways the commercial damage done by having to relaunch a new band into the world will probably be quite liberating. Maybe we can finally, finally hear the end of terms like folk-fucking-tronica, and perhaps the general music industry perception that each project by a band needs to be bigger and more ambitious than the last will also be sidestepped.  So as much as I don’t think I would have made this particular decision myself, I can certainly understand it.

Then again, no one Meursault album has ever sounded all that much like any other anyway, so will the next project be wildly different from what has come before? I don’t know, but as I said, I doubt there will be much difference from a fan’s perspective. The new project, whatever it ends up being, will probably sound as unlike Meursault as any of the Meursault albums sounded like their predecessors, but the industry and the wider, less actively interested public will probably see things a little differently, and I think that will probably be enough.

Myself, well, there’s that ‘end of an era’ nostalgia, but I don’t really mind all that much, to be honest.  I just want to hear whatever music happens next, irrespective of what it’s called. I guess we’ll see. So with a bit of luck I’ll see you at the Queen’s Hall, and we can bid goodbye to the band who have given us a shitload of truly phenomenal music over the years. The King is dead, long li… no, hang on, that’s too clichéd even for me.

I guess I’ll just end with a song I heard on my first ever visit to the band’s MySpace page. A visit where I thought ‘holy fuck, what the hell is going on here’, and the rest, as they say, is hist… no, sorry, fuck that, no more clichés, I promise.

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Our Third Split 12″ Vinyl Is Here!

2014-07-15 16.24.27

Yep, that fine, yellow beauty up there is the third in our series of Split 12″s on Song, by Toad Records. You can buy one here, and I recommend you do, because it’s fucking awesome.

Of course, I would say that, wouldn’t I. But it’s not just me, we’ve had radio play for this from Tom Ravenscroft, Gideon Coe, Lauren Laverne, Steve Lamacq and Tom Robinson, as well as a ton of support on Amazing Radio as well. It’s been brilliant, particularly given our traditionally patchy results with self-promoting to national radio. Anyhow, the launch nights are fast approaching, so I thought I should give you another wee nudge. Firstly we have Glasgow at Nice ‘n’ Sleazy’s on the 24th July (tickets here), followed by our first Song, by Toad House Gig in the new place down in Leith on the 25th (tickets here). We’ll be getting the barbie on for this one before the gig (if it’s not raining) so bring something to throw on there if it’s nice.

And also, out of sheer, naive generosity, here is some more streaming fun for you – a cover of James Yorkston’s Chalkhill Blue by Sparrow and the Workshop. Side 2, track 1!