Song, by Toad

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Song, by Toad’s Top Albums of 2013 11-20

cup 1-5 / 6-10 / 11-20

It has been, I must say, an absolutely phenomenal year for great albums this year. Really, really great.

Even before February was over I had some records I knew would end up being favourites. Yo La Tengo were back Nick Cave was brewing something, and there had already been some fantastic surprises.

So that’s a good thing, but the other good thing is that I seem to come across as less of an anti-big-label snob this year. Last year the biggest labels represented in my top twenty were Fatcat and Chemikal Underground, and the rest were tiny labels or self-releases.

Those tiny releases are still here, of course, but despite the disappointments of The National and Kurt Vile, the bigger labels are a little better represented this year. We have Nick Cave and Yo La Tengo, and might have had The Flaming Lips too, had I spent more time listening to their album, which I really like the sound of so far.

There are also some of the bigger indies represented as well, and in general the whole list just looks a lot more balanced than last year. Not that I have changed my mind about last year, but it did look a bit like I was being intentionally obscure, which I wasn’t.

Anyhow, without further ado, here is the first half of this year’s top twenty, below the jump to stop all the embedded song players from slowing the whole page down completely. Read the rest of this entry »


Music Language Festival 2013

musiclanguage2013 I think you could probably say that the Music Language Festival in Glasgow is just the sort of thing I would love to put on, if only I had the balls. There are hardly any big name bands on the lineup, and a lot of it is so esoteric it’s well outside my frame of reference.

Why would I want to put on a festival where a lot of the bands are things I find too weird to be really all that listenable? Well it’s a question of spectrum. There are a lot of bands on the bill who make music I love – Magic Eye, eagleowl, The Yawns, Wounded Knee and Ela Orleans for example – and a lot I am pretty sure I would hate. But there’s a pretty broad spectrum inbetween, and I genuinely enjoy being able to expand my palate like that.

If you listen to a few bands you hate, tempered by a few you love, then when you hit something inbetween it’s the chance to stretch your taste in one direction or another. It has worked that way for me with experimental music, as well as lo-fi – I’ve heard a few things which were far too weird or rough for me, but there are plenty of things in my music collection heavily influenced by both lo-fi and experimentalism, and that music which took it too far still managed to drag the boundaries of what I found acceptable and open my ears to previously inaccessible music.

The festival takes place from the 6th-8th September, and there is a pay-what-you-want compilation available on Bandcamp if you’d like to try out some of the bands before you head down. I’d encourage you to go if you can, though. It’s incredibly cheap (tickets), and depending on where your music taste sits at the moment, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have the chance to get into something new and interesting.


The Pale Imitation Festival

Pale Imitation Digiflyer

So, we can finally announce the full lineup for the inaugural Pale Imitation Festival.

A run of gigs taking place at Henry’s Cellar bar over the course of August 2013, Pale Imitation is intended to focus almost entirely on local bands, from the high profile to the brand new. Furthermore, we selected nine headliners and then asked them to suggest the rest of the lineup and to provide the music for the night, to give a much stronger sense of the personality of the bands involved – it seemed to fit with the idea of putting the shows on in a small venue with no real backstage area.

As well as trying to keep ticket prices for all the shows down to a fiver (with one exception), we’re also going to be selling season tickets, where £25 gets you into absolutely everything. You’ll have to get there for half eight to be guaranteed entry of course, so we can let the rest of the punters in, but it seemed like a nice thing to do.

And finally, in addition to all the awesome gigs, we’ve got an opening party on the first night with Pale Imitation DJs until 1am, which is free, and then on the 24th August we are partnering with Papi Falso to give a pound off their night and a pound off ours to anyone who attends both. So don’t say we aren’t good to you.

All advance tickets, including the season ticket, can be found here, and the Facebook event pages are here.

And of course, we’re committing to paying an awful lot in terms of fees for bands and so on so, erm, any sharing and general encouragement you might wish to offer on the old social networks would of course be greatly appreciated. Back Garden Promotions came from a beery chat in our back garden between myself, Bart from eagleowl, Neil from Meursault and Rob St. John.

Thursday 1st August: William Henry Miller, Jonnie Common & The Bad Books (plus opening party until 1am) (tickets)

William Henry Miller: hermaphrodite politician from the Nineteenth Century, who also does a fine line in alt-rock pop tunes. Jonnie Common: quirky pop maestro.  The Bad Books: they sound a lot like college rockers The Book Group from Edinburgh. An awful lot like them.

Tonight will also include the opening party for the Pale Imitation Festival, with DJs until 1am.

Saturday 3rd: FOUND, Adam Stafford & Mike MacFarlane (tickets)

FOUND: bouncy electronic pop weirdos. Adam Stafford: the slow-motion preacher. Mike MacFarlane: bitter, moaning singer-songwriter.

Thursday 8th: Plastic Animals, Deathcats & Mad Nurse (tickets)

Plastic Animals: sludgey, grungey shoegaze.  Deathcats: devilishly handsome, radgey Glasgow surf.  Mad Nurse: growly shoegaze from Edinburgh.

Saturday 10th: Sparrow and the Workshop, The Rosy Crucifixion & Siobhan Wilson (tickets)

Sparrow and the Workshop: is snarling country-tinged punk a genre? It is now. The Rosy Crucifixion: a bit of garage, a bit of psyche, and a bit of awesome. Siobhan Wilson: honey-voiced singer-songwriter.

Saturday 17th: RM Hubbert, Wounded Knee & Lidh (tickets)

RM Hubbert: twinkle-fingered Flamenco heartbreaker who has recently achieved global superstar status after winning the 2013 SAY Award.  Wounded Knee: have a rummage in his bawbag. Lidh: Fife lass with an acoustic guitar and a fine voice.

Thursday 22nd: The Leg, Zed Penguin & Numbers are Futile (tickets)

The Leg: screaming mentalists, with equal parts deranged lunacy and pop inspiration. Zed Penguin: swaggering, lo-fi indie-rock.  Numbers Are Futile: thrummy electronic soundscapes, with hidden pop gems.

Saturday 24th: Malcolm Middleton, Ian Humberstone & Now Wakes the Sea (plus Papi Falso until late) (tickets)

Malcolm Middleton: a solo set from the patron saint of depressive introspection.  Ian Humberstone: lush, gentle folk-pop.  Now Wakes the Sea: glorious, halting miserablism.

This one is a smidge more expensive than the other shows, but it is still covered by the season tickets. Also, we have a reciprocal deal with the awesome Papi Falso, whose eclectic nightclub spectacular directly follows this gig: if you go to both, then you will get a pound off each show.

Thursday 29th: Rob St. John, Hanna Tuulikki & David Orphan DJ set (tickets)

Rob St. John: gloomy purveyor of dark geographical folk. Hanna Tuulikki: wild-voiced siren of the Glasgow experimental folk scene. David Orphan: inspired architect of Finders Keepers Records.

Saturday 31st: eagleowl, Rachel Lancaster & Nap Sholty (tickets)

eagleowl: post-slo-fi, post-anti-drumcore, and a bit krauty. Rachel Lancaster: fine, shoegazey guitar work. Nap Sholty: helmed by the artist formerly known as Tom Western, this could be just about anything.


Live in Edinburgh this week – 8th July 2013

ZOMG! Advance Base are playing Sneaky’s tonight. I saw Owen Ashworth play the same venue a few years ago when he was still known as Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. He’s one of my all-time favourite songwriters. So aye, get alone to Sneaky Pete’s tonight, because he is awesome at music. Support comes from eagleowl. Who I suppose are alright.

So Dewar’s continue to support Scottish music by putting on a big ol’ free gig at The Caves on Thursday. Fatherson, Sparrow and the Workshop and FOUND play it. So it’s a line-up with something for everyone, and not three bands I would have thought to put on together, but I suppose that makes it a bit more fun. It’s first-come-first-served so get down early, doors are at 8pm.

And that’s it for the listing. Anything I’ve missed? I sure hope so.


Live in Edinburgh This Week – 24th June 2013

embra Phew, what a very fine festival that was, and what a punishing recording schedule. It was all pretty well-organised and the room was amazing, but in music something always finds a way to go wrong, and this weekend was no exception. Still, nothing fatal though, and the recording for the 3rd Song, by Toad Split 12″ has all been done successfully, and I think we will have an amazing record.

I’ll write more about the Insider Festival and the recording process a little later though, but for now this is our traditional Monday listings post, where I pick the live music in Edinburgh which interests me, and write it down on the internet in the hopes that it will interest you too. It’s also something of a lamentable and unintentional tradition that I leave something out of course, so please have a word in the comments thread if I have missed anything.

Also, if you want to avoid Wounded Knee (which you shouldn’t), you’re basically going to have to stay in until the end of the week I’m afraid. He and his notorious bawbag will be appearing no less than three times in the next three days, which makes him even more ubiquitous than cat photos on the internet.

He is playing tonight at the Peter Potter Gallery, in Haddington in East Lothian, where he will be joined by enigmatic folkie C Joynes. It may be traditional stuff, but Joynes embraces a really eerie aesthetic, and sounds to these rather ignorant ears like a really interesting musician. Then tomorrow, the pair are playing at Summerhall in Edinburgh, and will be joined by Stephanie Hladowski and Neil Davidson for another awesome Braw Gigs show.

On Wednesday Mr. Knee then takes himself out to the Dalkeith Arts Centre for some fun with local epic, dark, post-folkers eagleowl. Post-folk is a silly term isn’t it. Ah well, I can’t think what else to call them. A band, maybe. But that’s not exactly informative, as descriptions go.

Anyhow, if you want to anything at all other than go and see Wounded Knee a lot, which I would imagine is relatively few of you, then you might wish to pop along to Henry’s Cellar Bar on Saturday night where some very interesting new Edinburgh talent will be showcasing together: instrumental post-rock from Wozniak, dreamy, experimental soundscapes from  Swallows Fly Low and big, shoegazey rock tunes from Mad Nurse. If anyone wants to see three excellent Edinburgh bands you’ve definitely never read about on these pages, then I recommend you get down there, because these three sound very promising indeed.


eagleowl – This Silent Year

eagleowl This is an impossible album for me to review objectively for a few reasons. Firstly, Rob St. John, who is signed to Song, by Toad Records is in the band, which doesn’t help. But also, having known these guys since I very first became involved with the local music scene here in Edinburgh, the band are good friends of mine now and so objectively evaluating their music is basically impossible.

Having said that, for a lot of their fans it will be the same way. We’ve been waiting for this album for over five years now, longer depending on how early in their development you first started going to see the band, and by the time you reach that level of tortured anticipation you can’t really hear anything without the interference of years worth of expectations and imaginings. It’s like seeing the movie version of a beloved book you’ve been reading and re-reading ever since your childhood.

That was kind of my response on first listen, as well: a sort of flat “Oh, right. Okay.” It wasn’t like it wasn’t what I had expected, because it was, it was more that after all this time it sounded exactly like an eagleowl album, rather than the massive flood of cathartic relief I felt that I needed. To give you some idea of what I’m hinting at, certain members of the band have been in the pub pretty much constantly since the release date – that sort of sense of relief! As a mere punter, however, I just had a record to listen to, not a euphoric sense of the final culmination of six or seven years of work.

Mind you, the time its taken me to get into the album sort of mirrors how I got into the band in the first place. Compared to their Edinburgh contemporaries, with Meursault and Broken Records it was instantaneous, with Withered Hand it was a delayed-but-sudden realisation, whereas with eagleowl the progression from ‘they’re pretty good’ to ‘fuck me this is awesome’ was slow and steady and took a good year or so.

On my first listens to This Silent Year I couldn’t help but struggle with the feeling of tension in it. Working on the album for this long seems to have smoothed out a little of the looseness and the ragged edges of the live show, and that is subtly but definitely to the detriment of the record, I think it’s fair to say.

Having said that, whilst that seemed significant on the first few listens, it has seemed less and less so as time goes on. The band don’t exactly vary things sharply, but this is a really well-constructed album with a proper emotional trajectory, and that means I have gone back to listen to it again and again since release. A little like when I first started going to see the band play, this has given me the time to let the inherent tension and tightly repressed emotional expression in the songs seep in slowly, so that the release I was expecting on listening to the album doesn’t come from the album as whole, but from allowing the album to deliver it when it’s ready. Until then, you just have to put up with more agonising and seemingly interminable anticipation.

The first little uncoiling comes from the second song, eagleowl vs. Woodpigeon, when the perpetual tease of Forgetting loosens up into something more expansive and lush. Even so, the true moment of catharsis doesn’t come until about five or six minutes from the end of the album. Here, all the gorgeous harmonies, rich, deep string arrangements and slow, clenched drumming cut loose into a massive crescendo which finally, finally delivers the euphoria I’d been expecting when I first listened to the album. And then there is five minutes of massive, krauty, messy cacophony, before it all burns off and the album closes with the whispered gentleness of Laughter.

So yes, they made us wait seven years for the bloody album, and even then they made us hang on for another bloody forty minutes before they finally give us that ‘fuck yeah’ air-punching moment we’ve already been made to wait so long for. It’s about the most malicious case of musical blue-balls I’ve ever seen. But umm, at least they deliver in the end.

Band website – Buy on vinyl or CD from Fence Records

eagleowl – Laughter (Toad Session) from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.


Live in Edinburgh This Week – 6th May 2013


Well the Sounds From the Other City headache has just about worn off, and I am back in my chair at Toad Hall staring at the internet and wondering what pearls of wisdom I can possibly add to its infinite pages of bounteous goodness this fine morning. Let’s face it, if the internet doesn’t already contain all the writing in the world, then it can’t be bloody far off, can it. But hooray, here’s more.

For obvious reasons my focus will be on the two Sparrow and the Workshop album launches this week – on Wednesday at Mono in Glasgow with Strike the Colours, and on Thursday at The Caves in Edinburgh with the brilliant Magic Arm. The tickets will be available for £6 from Brown Paper Tickets up until about twelve hours in advance of the event itself, and if you miss that then they’ll be £8 on the door. Not a massive difference, I grant you, but I thought we should at least try. Anyhow, Sparrow are pretty fearsome live these days, and if you doubt me this is what Clash Magazine had to say about their London show recently.

So, self-serving headline-hogging aside, what else is going on this week? Well it turns out there’s plenty, actually. The other Very Exciting One from my perspective is the eagleowl album launch on Friday, at the Pleasance Theatre. After two Sparrow and the Workshop gigs I think I will be entirely ready to kick back and relax and watch a show which it is entirely someone else’s job to be stressed about.  Eagleowl’s slowcore has developed a distinctly epic krautyness recently, and I would imagine there will be a bit of a whirlwind finale to this gig. Also, about fucking time too, guys, but congratulations. It’s a fine record.

The Electric Circus have a couple of good gigs this week as well, with Treetop Flyers‘ choral Americana on Wednesday, and Adrian Crowley’s hushed minimalism on Friday. Personally, for obvious reasons, I can attend neither of these gigs, but they both look good to me, and I would recommend them.

[Edit: I am a fucking idiot, I forgot that Hookers For Jesus and Edinburgh School For the Deaf are at Sneaky Pete's on Saturday as well!]

And that, my fine pixelly friends, would appear to be about it for this week.  Tune in next week when you’ll hear Nurse Piggy say…


Live in Edinburgh This Week – 15th April 2013

BeervsRecords digiflyer

This week is, of course, the week of Record Store Day where we hopefully remember that record shops are nice places to  spend time and money and resolve to go there more often, rather than just fight for the exclusive scraps scattered like breadcrumbs for pigeons. Understandably, most of the gig action this week is focussed on that very event, and naturally I am going to tell you that *cough cough* our stuff is by far the most awesome.

It is though.

We have the Beer vs. Records launch at Summerhall on Saturday evening, where all four bands on the Split 12″ will be playing. Full door price is £8, but if you spend money in a Scottish independent record shop on Record Store Day you can come in for £6. That goes down to £4 if you buy our new Split 12″ (this record, here) from a Scottish independent record shop.

During the day on the 20th there will be plenty of events as well. Over the road from VoxBox Music on St. Stephen’s Street there will be a whole day of live music in The Last Word cocktail bar. Playing will be all of the following: Mike Heron Band (feat members of The Incredible String Band and Trembling Bells), Adam StaffordWounded KneeRob St. JohneagleowlKid Canaveral (ish), Honeyblood and Magic Eye. I think it’s going to be brilliant. Meanwhile down at Elvis Shakespeare on Leith Walk Saint Max and the Fanatics will be playing, and after seeing them live at Wide Days last week I highly recommend them.

Finally, in non-Record Store Day news, we have two other excellent gigs taking place this weekend. Firstly, on Saturday (again – I know!) Brinksfest will be taking place down in Leith, with craft merchants, zine makers and all sorts, as well as the excellent lineup of Stanley Brinks, The Wave Pictures, Freschard, The Occasional Flickers and Saint Max and the Fanatics. This will all be taking place at Henderson Halls, which is a new one for me, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a gig being put on there before.

And finally, on Sunday we have the eccentric and awesome Thomas Truax coming to Henry’s Cellar Bar, with his homemade instruments which look a bit like something out of Batteries Not Included. It will also be your first chance to catch excellent Edinburgh newcomers Numbers are Futile live too, so I’d go, if I were you.


Toadcast #266 – The Gnomecast

posttag The Gnomecast could have been called many, many things. It could have been called The Widecast after Wide Days, the Edinburgh-based music convention I attended in the middle of last week, and from the showcases at which two of the songs on this podcast were chosen. Equally, it could have been called the Witchcast, due to the fact that the vicious old Fucker of Working Britain is now a thing of the past.

In fact, now that I think about it, a whole podcast dedicated to anti-Thatcher songs would probably have been a distinct possibility, but my feelings on her death are not quite so clean cut. Yes, I am glad she is dead, but it’s more of a sense of relief, just a sort of feeling of peace now such a vindictive, spiteful cause of so much harm is finally gone, rather than the sort of air-punching, high-fiving glee which was in evidence after Osama Bin Laden was finally rubbed out.

But make no mistake, Thatcher was far more evil than Osama Bin Laden. Never mind domestic politics, her support for despots around the world was directly involved in the deaths of many, many more people than amateurs like Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden.  The fact that these people were mostly brown, or at least brownish, leads us to underestimate the horror for which she was responsible, but responsible she most certainly was. To be fair, of course, I don’t doubt that Hussein and Bin Laden would have been capable of far, far worse deeds had they had the power to actually carry them out, but I am not sure that should really be an excuse for the likes of Thatcher, Reagan, Bush and Blair.

Sorry, that really had nothing at all to do with gnomes, did it. Ah well, move along.

Toadcast #266 – The Gnomecast by Song, By Toad on Mixcloud

Direct download: Toadcast #266 – The Gnomecast

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01. Judy Garland – Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead (00.19)
02. M.J. Hibbett and the Validators (01.07)
03. eagleowl – Not Over (12.24)
04. The Pictish Trail – Wait Until (17.46)
05. Numbers are Futile – Justice is Light (and Blood) (27.37)
06. Law Holt – Hustle (34.30)
07. Garden of Elks – Floaty (42.07)
08. Siobhan Wilson – Reading You (45.10)
09. Kid Canaveral – Who Would Want to be Loved? (51.31)
10. Virgin of the Birds – Evening of Light (58.09)


Live in Edinburgh This Week – 25th February 2013

waver Ah, so here we all are, back on the internet where everything of note seems to take place these days.  Except this post of course.  Sorry about that.

Anyhow, as we gear up for SXSW, gaze at the sunshine outside and wonder if we can start anticipating Spring, and join the world in wondering if that damn eagleowl album is ever, ever going to be released* there is another week of gigs upon us.

Not that there’s all that much going this week actually, at least not all that much which I personally am that into, so it depends how much respect you have for my opinion I suppose.  If the answer is ‘basically none, I’m just bored at work and need to find someone on the internet to sneer at’ then, hey, you’re in for an amazing week. Alternatively, if you treat The Word of Toad with a sort of hushed, deified reverence then a/ I pity you and b/ you might find things a bit thin this week.

Anyhow, the highlight of the week for me looks to be the relaunch of Henry’s Cellar Bar. Don’t ask me why, but I love that place, and it’s splendid to be back doing Toad gigs there again this year.  There are new owners now though, you get ice and a slice in your G&T and someone’s even cleaned the floor and wiped the tables.  So in honour of this momentous event they are having a relaunch party on Saturday, with all sorts of bands playing. Go to it.

Other than that there are a few things which are probably on the fringes of my taste, but in which you may be interested: Hidden Orchestra at the Queen’s Hall, and The Stranglers at the HMV Picture House on Friday, and then Egyptian Hip Hop at the Electric Circus on Saturday.

* May, apparently. Or that’s what they’re promising this time.

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