August is traditionally the month where my slender grasp of Song, by Toad Records admin is finally broken and everything collapses into a massive pile of shit. And that is just what has happened this year: I am behind on the accounts, haven’t opened a single envelope which has been delivered to the house for about two months, and my inbox is a sprawling, out-of-control mess. Boo fucking hoo.
Nevertheless it all has to be smartened up by September. I have a new accountant, having been kicked to the kerb by the previous one for being too disorganised to be worth the hassle, so I can’t fuck this one up or I really am in trouble! So August gets to be messy, and then I have to get my shit together for real and get this whole nasty mess under control again.
There are plenty of old favourites on this podcast – blog-era favourites, not real oldies, but nevertheless, some artists I haven’t played for ages. There’s also a wee taster from the new batch of Toad Sessions we’re working on, to give you a taste of the new stuff. They are going to be a lot of work, but still tremendous fun to do, and I think the results are likely to be awesome.
01. Frog – Ichabod Crane (00.16)
02. Sparrow and the Workshop – The Gun (Toad Sessions) (08.06)
03. Alela Diane – Desire (Piano Demo) (11.55)
04. Sam Amidon – He’s Taken My Feet (18.47)
05. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – We Real Cool (25.37)
06. Waylon Thornton and the Heavy Hands – Garbage Pail Kids (33.33)
07. Alela Diane – About Farewell (36.26)
08. The Black Tambourines – Bodies (44.54)
09. Yoofs – For Her (48.12)
10. Emmylou Harris and Liela Moss – So You’ll Aim Towards the Sky (56.27)
Another podcast from the South Coast, as I am down in Brighton again this weekend, visiting my parents. My wee brother happens to be over visiting from the States as well, so we went to see Brighton & Hove Albion yesterday, which was rather fun, despite the rain.
Tonight there will be roast pork and gins and tonic, and then tomorrow we will walk into Brighton to see how good a job our distributors are doing at getting Song, by Toad Records releases into the music shops around these parts. It feels a bit sneaky, checking up on people like that, but it has to be done I suppose.
Anyhow, next week I am hoping to have a new Toad Session for you. About fucking time blah blah get on with it etc… I know, I know, but I promise I really am doing my best to get these edited and out for you – honest!
I remember reading an article in Metro recently where someone actually did the sums on just how much Father Christmas would have to drink, how many miles he would have to cover and how many present he would have to carry in order to deliver presents to every little child in the world in one night (not the Muslim, Hindu or otherwise slightly dusky-skinned babies of course, because Jesus doesn’t love those babies and the chapter on Father Christmas came right after the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John in the Bible as we all know – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Saint Nick, as they are more properly known).
Anyway, the bit which amazed be about that article was the sheer banality of it. Every child has a bit of an epiphany quite early in their lives when they realise the monumental job FC would have getting round to every child in the world in one evening (the divisive bigotry of religion tends to be something we pick up later, so we still think the poor babies from heathen countries might be included at this stage – sadly this is not the case – poor heathen babies). “Really?” we say to ourselves, or more usually to our Mums and Dads, “all the children in the whole world?” and that first little bit of the Father Christmas myth begins to crumble. It’s a short leap from that to setting fire to kittens as a teenager, and so the diabolical spiral to a cynical, loveless death alone in a bedsit, bony, transulcent fingers clutching that one last bottle of gin desperately in our dying grasp has begun.
So, er, anyhow, how was your Christmas? This is going to a deserted, surreal Friday Five I think. Most normal people will be enjoying nurturing time at home with their family and friends, leaving the internet to the desperate and the lonely and obsessive internet weirdos like myself. And, hopefully, you. The deserted plains of Planet Toad will be forgiving place to introduce yourself to the fives this week I would imagine, given the usual cacophony of ridiculous nonsense will presumably be somewhat dampened, so what better time to delurk, chip in, and relieve the belly-bursting gluttony of the immediately surounding forty-eight hour period.
1. Which day do you predict will bring your worst hangover of the Christmas period?
2. Describe your worst present (if you dare).
3. Favourite Christmas trilogy you absolutely have to watch over the Festive period?
4. Favourite TV programme Christmas Special.
5. At what time will you get sick of all this festive shit and just fuck off down the pub to get scooshed
These are all taken from my parents’ music collection. Admittedly, some of it might be in my parents’ music collection because I insisted they put it there, but that still counts. Obviously, I can’t take credit for Bob Dylan, The Holy Modal Rounders or Johnny Cash.
I will actually be doing a podcast tomorrow, but it may be a little late as I am finally going skiing for the first fucking time in about ten fucking years.
Get it – Festive Fiddy! Oh I do crack myself up sometimes, I really do.
So here endeth the Festive Fifty for this year. As anyone who has compiled this kind of list will know, the whole process is more than a little arbitrary, and were I to start from scratch tomorrow I would probably end up somewhere notably different.
The interesting thing for me personally is to note how strongly the advantages and disadvantages of nepotism have made themselves known.
The advantages are obvious – would there be so much Withered Hand, Meursault, FOUND and all the rest so high on this list if I didn’t have a much closer personal relationship with their music than most other music? Well I doubt it. I am being a hundred percent sincere when I say that these are my favourite songs this year, but I do know that being as close to music as I am does change how you feel about it, so I have to acknowledge that.
On the downside, bands like Broken Records, Sparrow & the Workshop, Withered Hand and even Meursault to a degree have suffered from how early I became familiar with certain songs. I have a demo version, a Religious Songs EP version and an album version of New Dawn, for example. So while under normal circumstances songs like that, Devil Song by Sparrow, Eilert Loveborg by Broken Records and even Nothing Broke by Meursault would normally have figured very prominently indeed on this list, I already expressed my enthusiasm for them at least a year ago and consequently they are on other lists and I don’t really feel I can put them on this one.
And before anyone complains about Trips and Falls being another Song, by Toad Records band on this list, remember that, as with Meursault last year, it’s not that they’re on this list because they’re a Song, by Toad Records band, it’s that they’re a Song, by Toad Records band because they’re on this list.
01.Elvis Perkins In Dearland – Shampoo
There just something about the rhythm of this song which I cannot get away from. When I first played it on my Fresh Air Radio show Dylan commented that it had a sort of cocky swagger to it, and it really, really does. Then there’s the deep, foreboding harmonies which break in at the end. There’s strut to the rhythm, a crack to his voice, belligerence and tragedy in the mood of it all – it’s just a fucking special, special song.
02.Meursault – William Henry Miller Pt.2 (Single Version)
When Neil first played us this apparently he though ‘Fuck, I’ve finally written a song they don’t like’. Mrs. Toad now plays this single at least once a day in our house, and if ever there was a song to break your speakers for it’s this one. The cello is gut-shaking, the piano is chiming and gorgeous and those vocals are just about the most heart-wrenching I’ve heard anywhere, ever. So if he wants to write a song we don’t like he may have to try a little harder.
03.Navigator – Work is Done
This sensitive, emotional song interrupts an album which is basically an onslaught of overloaded mics and distortion and when this suddenly appears it hits you right between the eyes, largely because you’re so unprepared. It doesn’t depend on its surroundings though, because even in isolation this is every bit as heartbreaking a song.
04.Trips and Falls – And In Real Life He Wears Corduroy Pants
This was one of those moments where the very first second you listen to something you know for certain that you are hearing something a bit special. This is a genius combination of massively infectious pop song and really peculiar atmosphere. There’s something just plain creepy about this album, even the sugar-sweet Prelude to a Shark Attack, but this song perhaps embodies that better than any. And it really is one to be played loud as well.
05.FOUND – Mullokian (Toad Session)
I remember sitting there while they were recording this and thinking ‘What the fucking hell is going on here, this is amaaaazing!’ The gently rolling guitar refrain, the simple heartfelt chorus (if you can call it that) and Tommy’s phenomenal backing vocals – there’s just so little actually there, and even that is used with such economy. Brilliant.
06.Withered Hand – No Cigarettes
The first time I heard this I remember a grin slowly spreading over my face. Dan’s songs can often be about little in particular other than a weird sense of something really not being right, and this seems to be one of those – describing a general sense of malaise with such simple music and a deft turn of phrase, you can’t help but let this get to you.
07.Auld Lang Syne – Where My Fortune Lies
This is as rousing and uplifting as any church music could ever be, and has even more impact for shrinking back into such quiet in the middle. Some fucking voice as well.
08.The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You
The album may have disappointed, but this is stunning. It’s that voice, the slow piano, the… just the sheer sadness of it all. It sounds like the demoralisation of someone coming out the other end of a midlife crisis and surveying the wreckage of their lives, although it may not be about that exactly, it does feel that way to me I have to confess.
09.Navigator – Blood
This embodies Navigator’s brilliant album Bad Children, for me. It’s a song which is full of pain, but is angry and belligerent with it. There’s an underlying aggression to it which really batters out at you from within the noise, and prevents the song, or indeed the album, sounding at all self-pitying or maudlin. He’s hurting and he’s fucking angry, and the resulting music is absolutely superb.
10.Alela Diane – Age Old Blue
Age Old Blue may be from another album I wasn’t that keen on overall, but this duet with friend Michael Hurley is beautiful. I remember seeing them perform it for the first time after her performance at the Bongo Club a couple of years ago and having no real expectations when they took the stage, only to have my jaw drop at the combination of his nasal, grizzled accompaniment to her gorgeous voice.
To download all these songs as a single zip file, click here.
36.Wild Beasts – All The King’s Men
The vocals are weird, but there’s something about a large chunk of this record which I find absolutely compelling. I love Ben’s voice, for starters, and this song probably highlights it better than any other.
38.Meursault – William Henry Miller Pt.2 (EP Version)
Meursault releasing their singles so late in the year has really fucked with my lists. I love Nothing Broke, and both of the Williams Henry Miller on it, but the single version just blows this clean out of the water and the poor little acoustic version has ended up exiled to No.38. It’s non-lyrical vocal bits which make this – the sort of deflated sigh of dismal unhappiness in between verses – just brilliant.
39.Withered Hand – Providence
Erm, nothing to say about this actually. It’s just ace. Dan’s slightly peculiar lyrics, the borderline-Hawley guitar strums, the vocal harmonies… who knows what makes this song so good. Like all his music though, it just makes you like the guy.
40.Timber Timbre – Magic Arrow
Spooky and weird. That kind of describes the whole album, but the repeating bassline and the insistent rhythm give this one a sort of sinister purpose of its own. One of the discoveries of the year, as far as my ears are concerned.
41.Jeffrey Lewis & the Junkyard – To be Ojectified
There are a lot of songs about ageing and mortality on Em Are I, but this is one of the saddest and most resigned. It’s like a cross between a stream of consciousness and the gradual deflation of an airbed, and ends up being both maudlin and comforting. Which is to say that the lyrics are a bit on the horrible side, but the delivery is sympathetic and warm.
42.Broken Records – Wolves
Broken Records (and many of my other friends, like Sparrow & the Workshop and Withered Hand) suffer a bit in this year’s Festive Fifty because many of my favourite songs on their album, like A Good Reason, were actually featured in demo version on previous year’s lists. This song, however, did not, and is one of the highlights of their album for me. By the time everything gets going it’s just a fury of a song, and cannot fail to remind of how brilliant these guys are on stage.
43.Casiotone for the Painfully Alone – Tom Justice, The Choir Boy Robber
It’s an odd subject, and the story is almost as compelling as the music itself. There was a bit more full band stuff on vs. Children, and I’ve heard older fans complain about this, but the drum beat and the repeated, yet unintrusive chime of the piano in the background of this song are both lovely.
44.Alela Diane – White as Diamonds
This is fucking stunning and would have been in the top five had it not been for those goddamned bastard cymbals, which time has done nothing to soften. The acoustic Daytrotter version of this song is one of the loveliest things I’ve ever heard.
45.Broken Records – Out On the Water
Hmm.. am I allowed to include this, given it was out last year? Fuck it, I love it when a band whose live set is mental and reckless suddenly slow it down and play something surprisingly gentle. Here this is performed live at the Bedlam Theatre early last year – bloody great:
46.Wild Beasts – Hooting And Howling
A bit like other songs of theirs on this list, I don’t know whether I love the vocals, the laid back but nevertheless quite danceable beat or that really nice guitar sound they have. Cracking album.
47.The Leisure Society – The Last of the Melting Snow
The Leisure Society made a bit of a rod for their own backs with this song. By virtue of its Ivor Novello Award nomination it shot a tiny band on a tiny label right into the limelight, and infortunately the rest of their material just didn’t cut the mustard. The album was just plain weak, and I found myself forgetting about this song because of it, which is criminal because it is absolutely brilliant. There is a reason it got them so much attention.
48.Jesus H. Foxx – I’m Half the Man You Were
For a band with two drummers and four guitarists to make such nuanced and subtle music is downright weird. This is probably ‘the pop song’ from their fantastic Matter EP, and that head-nodding rhythm and the gorgeous vocal lead out make this one of my favourite songs of the year.
49.Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers – Beating St Louis
Shilpa Ray’s voice plus accordian. Job done. Honestly, for someone with pipes like these to be accompanied by the macabre accordian moaning which dominates this song is simply a cast-iron recipe for Toad-pleasing.
50.The Smiles and Frowns – Mechanical Songs
Another song which sound like it would be drifting around the abandoned site of a funfair which had gone horribly wrong, this song is from the band’s excellent debut, and also available on eminently desirable white vinyl 7″. Buy one, and make your friends slightly nervous by playing it all the time.
I know I promised the Notcraigcast last week, but it didn’t happen I’m afraid. After last week’s amazing Craigcast Neil and I were intending to introduce Craig to all sorts of modern music which we thought continued some of the traditions of the blues music he was describing to us, but circumstances have rather conspired against us unfortunately. Neil is off on tour with Meursault playing his songs, and Craig is off on tour with his liver, taking it around the watering holes of Edinburgh and giving it a good, hard kicking in each one.
Consequently I’ve sort of cobbled together a podcast from fragments of the Pantscast and the stuff I’d intended to play for Craig. It’s largely folky, but that wasn’t wholly by design, more to do with the fact that listening to the really early blues stuff Craig played for us sent me back to listening to old Smithsonian Folkways stuff and so there are a couple of songs from there, as well as a couple of modern things which those recordings brought to mind.
Smithsonian Folkways, incidentally, is a non-profit record label run by the Smithsonian Institute to preserve and support a truly epic amount of our musical heritage. Just go and have a browse through their archives – it’s amazing how much incredible stuff these guys are looking after on everyone else’s behalf.
1. Micah P. Hinson – She Don’t Own Me (02.57)
2. Hem – The Cuckoo (11.13)
3. Saint Etienne – Like a Motorway (16.52)
4. White Antelope – Silver Dagger (22.15)
5. The Boggs – Plant Me a Rose (28.00)
6. Willard Grant Conspiracy – River in the Pines (31.47)
7. Berzilla Wallin – Conversation With Death (Oh Death) (39.22)
8. Samamidon – O Death (44.26.)
9. Dock Boggs – Sugar Baby (49.21)
10. Alela Diane – White as Diamonds (Daytrotter Session) (54.09)
11. Sandy Denny – By the Time it Gets Dark (59.07)
I admitted in a comment yesterday that I don’t really understand my general dislike of cover versions. I don’t object to them at all, just the opposite in fact: generally I am really interested to hear them, and I like the fact that songs exist in that sort of malleable state, unfixed by any one ‘correct’ interpretation. The problem is not in principle, just practise; I simply tend not to like them very much, and I don’t know why.
To make matters even less logical, I love people playing folk songs, and of course the whole folk tradition is one of repeating and reinterpreting songs and phrases, tunes and riffs which have gone before. It’s one of the fundamental assumptions of the whole medium in fact: that each generation add their own layer to the existing ones, and in turn make their contribution to the richness of the art form.
In fact, if anything makes a mockery of the current abuse of copyright law by media corporations it is folk music. The idea that you need to incentivise people to create is just laughable. In fact the converse is true, as the art from every repressive regime in the world shows, no matter how much you discourage people from being creative you just can’t bloody stop them. I’m not arguing against people making money from their art, but the copyright law at the moment is increasingly becoming a straitjacket to creativity, the need for which is proven a lie by folk, which is essentially a big long chain of mashups, samples, rehashing and reworking. Read the rest of this entry »
This EP is as simple as it is beautiful. It has been released on limited edition 10″ vinyl by Family, an imprint of Names Records which they are keeping for limited runs of special stuff – like this.
The EP itself is unbelievably spare – guitar and two voices and the songs themselves are two of Alela’s own and three traditional folk songs.
It’s difficult to analyse something like this at all, honestly. It’s exactly what the above description will lead you to expect and you will either like it or not.
Personally, I think Alela Diane has one of the loveliest voices I’ve heard in bloody ages, and from the sounds of this Alina Hardin isn’t far behind. Add to that the fact that Alela has a rolling guitar plucking style which I think is warm and beautiful and you can pretty much guess that I love this, can’t you. It’s possible that you might find it a little bland, because it’s all so bare-bones, which gives all the songs a very similar personality, but that will only be an issue if you are less than captivated by the few elements which make up these arrangements, and the lovely open space given to them. For me personally, this is not a problem, it is one of the nicest aspects of this particular recording.
Incidentally, they also play a version of Matty Groves, a song I know from the brilliant version on Fairport Convention’s classic Liege & Lief and one which have heard rather a lot of versions of recently. I think I’ll make that the focus of a post in the next day or so, because it’s a great song to which I’d like to devote a little more time, but not here.
Well, we are nearing the end of our time in Puglia. We’re spending a couple of days in or near Napoli before we fly back on Sunday, presumably troughing like total pigs, rather than paying all that much attention to culture and all that bobbins.
Mrs. Toad is doing Sudoku and complaining about the ‘wrong sort of paper’. I kid you not, it’s just like British fucking Rail and their ‘wrong type of snow’, but she insists it’s just for that reason that she can’t solve them, not because they’re too hard. Personally I find myself wondering if ‘evil’ is used to describe the comments one’s spouse will inevitably make when you fail to complete it, rather than the actual difficulty of the Sudoku puzzle itself.
So yes, we have done the lazing about and there are now a few days of actually doing shit in between us and a return to the damp splendour of the British Isles. I suppose this is what you’re supposed to do on holiday – pay attention to the country you’re in and return, eventually – but honestly, another week of doing bollocks-all wouldn’t hurt anyone would it?
01. Snow Patrol – An Olive Grove Facing the Sea (04.14)
02. Beck – The Golden Age (12.33)
03. Belle & Sebastian – Simple Things (19.32)
04. Casiotone for the Painfully Alone – Tom Justice, the Choirboy Robber (21.00)
05. Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues (29.10)
06. Navigator – Work is Done (NOT Change, as we announced, sorry!) (34.44)
07. Lord Cut Glass – Holy Fuck! (40.19)
08. Son Volt – Sultana (46.46)
09. Smog – Drinking at the Dam (56.30)
10. Alela Diane – Age Old Blue (60.17)
This is not so much the holiday podcast as the pre-holiday podcast because, for all we are away now, I recorded this on Thursday night before going away, as we prepared ourselves for the unspeakable burden of doing absolutely fuck all for two weeks.
I am taking a pile of books and a pile of new music and we are going to do pretty much nothing at all. My parents used to do really adventurous travelling when we were young, but honestly I don’t have the energy. I am so incredibly fucking exhausted from constant Toadery that actually, despite having a holiday inferiority complex, pretty much all I can cope with at the moment is a couple of weeks of fuck all.
Even last year when we went to Portland for a couple of weeks, we took all the technology and recorded interviews and all sorts at Pickathon. It was relaxing and nice, but I still got a hell of a lot of work done. This time I will take along some tunes which I have been meaning to catch up with, perhaps record a podcast or two, and basically spend the rest of the time lying in the sun by the pool. My folks might not be all that impressed, but the recharging of the batteries is the sole purpose of this trip and I think we might manage just that.
01. MJ Hibbett & the Validators – Being Happy Doesn’t Make You Stupid (04.17)
02. Midnight Oil – Bushfire (10.06)
03. Headless Heroes – Hey, Who Really Cares? (Jon Hopkins Remix) (16.56)
04. Alela Diane – Pieces of String (21.05)
05. Inspector Tapehead – A Fillet of Bozo (25.42)
06. Maxwell Panther – Shiver on a Twist of Fate (33.19)
07. Jack Richold – Lady of the Calico (37.00)
08. Grant-Lee Phillips – Calamity Jane (41.16)
09. Billy Bragg – Bread & Circuses (50.20)
10. The Divine Comedy – Les Jours Tristes (57.45)