Song, by Toad

Posts tagged lady lazarus

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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 »

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Toadcast #282 – The Lovecast

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I can’t believe I’ve never recorded a Lovecast before, but honestly, I looked back through the old titles and it didn’t come up. So here we go, the counterpoint to last week’s Hatecast is this. I am full of the joys of life, relaxed and happy. Would you believe it?

Actually, the reason this podcast exists is not because I feel some need to eradicate the rage of last week. I like to live by the words of Clem Snide: “don’t be afraid of your anger”. I am not afraid of my anger. I actually love my anger. My anger, inner rage, permanent sense of simmering resentment – whatever you want to call it – is what makes me who I am, what drives me on, and what makes me enjoy what I do. Fuck it, you can deal with my anger.

Instead, this podcast simply exists because last week’s ragefest has genuinely lifted the black cloud which it represented clean away from my life. I feel refreshed and released by having got it off my chest and am in a genuinely good mood these days. Who’d have thought it!

Toadcast #282 – The Lovecast by Song, By Toad on Mixcloud

Direct download: Toadcast #282 – The Lovecast

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01. Plastic Animals – Sheltered (00.10)
02. Naked – Lie Follows Lie (09.13)
03. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Jubilee Street (16.12)
04. Mark Lanegan – You Only Live Twice (22.51)
05. Lady Lazarus – Never Ever Anna (28.29)
06. Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside (36.50)
07. Post War Glamour Girls – Johnny and Mary (39.55)
08. Le Thug – Swam (48.15)
09. Rob St. John – Stainforth Force (54.13)
10. Sharon Van Etten – I’m Wrong (1.04.13)

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Lady Lazarus Really is Fucking Awesome

I really could leave this post with the title and add nothing else and I doubt I would be missing out anything important. Her last album, All My Love in Half Light, is absolutely gorgeous – a perfect combination of warm loveliness and a slight sense of eerie ambiguity.

The album came out in January of this year, and I wouldn’t normally be badgering you about it again, but Lady Lazarus has just released the above video, and only recently also made a couple of b-sides from the album available for free as well. They are embedded below. As gorgeous as the songs are, I think I’m glad they weren’t on the album. Keeping that record down to nine songs made meant it avoided the kind of drift which such quiet, slow-paced music can be prone to from time to time, and also gives us a sort of post-album treat like this, which is ace.

I learned this when editing the Toad Sessions, actually, but I tend to encourage bands to cut as harshly as they possibly can when putting together a record because it almost always seems to make things better, and it’s never a bad thing to have good songs knocking around with no clear purpose. You can surprise people with them, rework them, put them on another release, give them away – all sorts.

But in any case, this stuff is awesome, you can hear the album on Bandcamp here, and it too is awesome. And Lady Lazarus in general is pretty fucking awesome. I really need a new adjective.

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Lady Lazarus – All of My Love in Half Light

ladylazarus I feel a bit like instead of writing reviews, I am basically just writing up my top albums for 2013 at the moment. The next few reviews, including this one, are basically going to be me gushing about music to the extent that you’ll think I’ve turned into one of those tedious backslapping blogs which just fucking loves everything, but I assure you I haven’t.  I’m still a contrarian dickhead deep down.

Just under two years ago I wrote about Lady Lazarus’ last album Mantic, and it was an album which didn’t click entirely with me, despite most of the elements being absolutely spot on.  Not that I didn’t like it, I really really did, I just had a series of small quibbles which for me stopped it ascending from the realms of being really good to being fucking brilliant.

I am going to go into those criticisms a little, primarily because I feel this album embodies why I found the last one slightly frustrating: I think All My Love in Half Light is the album Mantic seemed to be trying to be, but actually came within a whisker of properly achieving.

For starters, Mantic seemed a little long, perhaps more sprawling where this is self-contained.  Not that it was a long album, but this one feels complete – as if all the right songs are there in all the right order, and that’s that.

Also, Mantic at times felt slightly one-paced. It’s hard with an album which is mostly just vocal and piano to give it the variation which it needs, but here that doesn’t seem to be a problem.  There is a bit of accordion here and some cello there, but more than that, there seems to be an emotional rise and fall over the length of the record which means that you always feel like you are going somewhere, never just drifting.

The heavily reverbed piano and clear, unforced vocals are ghostly but never weak, and you end up with the impression of someone who is facing their troubles head on, prepared to suffer, but not to be beaten.  In some ways, although less fragile, there are strong echoes of Perfume Genius here; it’s an obvious comparison, but none the less accurate for that.

The treatment of the piano gives it a tremendous chime when hit hard and a gorgeous shimmer when simply caressed, and this allows the intensity of the music to rise and fall, so that when the minimal embellishments of cello and accordion do appear they are much like the sparkle on the swell of the sea at night. That might seem a little flowery, but there is a dreaminess to this which encourages that sort of stuff.

It feels like it’s coming from a very similar place to its predecessor, actually.  Only in this case all those wonderful ideas have been expressed more concisely, and all the meandering, filigree threads woven more tightly together into something more complete. It’s a lovely record, and I find myself wondering why I’m not reading about Lady Lazarus everywhere.

Website | Stream/buy from Bandcamp

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Toadcast #251 – The Darkcast

Winter has been slow to arrive this year, but it certainly feels like it’s here now. The last few days have been pretty cold, but more importantly when you live this far North, it’s getting fucking dark. It’s not something I dislike, actually.  We may not get much real cold in Edinburgh, nor indeed very much which anyone else would describe as Summer, but Edinburgh is at a surprisingly high latitude and during the Winter months it really is dark around these parts.

So there I was sitting at my desk at four in the afternoon and it was already really rather fucking dingy outside, and in the absence of an obvious theme it seemed about as relevant as anything else I could have come up with.  And let’s face it, without that this is just a mish mash of new stuff which has been piling into my inbox over the last little while, and where’s the fun in that, eh? Well? Where?

Direct download: Toadcast #251 – The Darkcast

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01. Temples – Shelter Song (00.21)
02. Eels – Peach Blossom (06.54)
03. PVT – Shiver (13.01)
04. Milk and Biscuits – White Noise (16.49)
05. Murals – Eyes of Loves (24.32)
06. Lady Lazarus – Lapsarian (31.44)
07. Garden of Elks – This Morning We Are Astronauts (38.47)
08. Palms – Cold (41.07)
09. These Brittle Bones – Anchor Bleed (48.11)
10. Qurious – Gold (55.16)

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Song, by Toad – Festive Fifty 2011 31-50

Here’s the first installment of the Song, by Toad Festive Fifty for 2011 – a collection of the fifty songs I have been enjoying the most this year.  The fifty themselves and the precise order can hardly be described as definitive of course, because you know how fluid things like ‘favourite’ songs can be, but roughly speaking this is the stuff I have been enjoying the most in 2011.

Just as a note, in order to make it a broader representation of the bands I’ve liked the most, I have made it harder and harder for bands to have a song featured on the list the more they already had on it.  So a band’s second song got a relatively free pass, but their third would be nudged down a wee bit, to try and encourage variation and stuff like that.

31.Anna-Anna – Mirrors of America I’m aware there are very few women represented on this list, and a lot of those who are seem to share the ghostly, incredibly still delivery, albeit in a more folky setting, with Anna-Anna.

32.Sonny and the Sunsets – Home And Exile I could have half of this album on here, but this one always stood out, as a gem of retro, slightly woozy pop.

33.Quiet Americans – Summer House Straightforward lo-fi garage stuff this, but a hugely, hugely hummable tune.

34.TV Girl – Benny and the Jetts Simple and enjoyable summery pop, but another one so hugely infectious you simply can’t stop humming it.

35.Yoofs – Sidewalk I love the guitar effect, the riff, the energy, everything.  Keep an eye out for this lot on the brilliant Art is Hard Records in the new year.

36.Zed Penguin – This Town A bit of a departure for an Edinburgh band, this. I think my favourite part might be the gorgeously tremulous guitar sound Matthew gets from his hand-built amp.

37.David Thomas Broughton – River Lay On an album as good as Outbreeding it takes an awful lot to stand out, but this does.  For someone who can be a little obtuse, this is such a warm, welcoming record and this track epitomises it as well as most.

38.Evil Hand – Returned In Time These guys don’t exactly push themselves forward, and their releases can be a little erratic, but when they nail it their songs are as good as anyone in Scotland at the moment.

39.Powerdove – Sickly City Ghostly, slightly disorientating, and hypnotic.  This is possibly the finest song on an album which makes a gorgeous job of using minimal instrumentation and glacial pace to turn those three characteristics into a truly beautiful album.

40.Emit Bloch – Dorothy (New Version) Given how much I loved the gorgeous acoustic version of this song which I heard last year, it’s almost inconceivable that I should then also love a big glossy pop version too.  But I do.  Good songwriting, it seems, trumps even my lazy habits.

41.The Honey Pies – Hair of the Dog Boisterous and enormous fun, this album is a gleeful romp through rock ‘n’ roll cliches, but done with such verve that you can’t help but enjoy it.  This is a bit of a Clash throwback, the most raucous song on the album and probably my favourite.

42.The Low Anthem – Ghost Woman Blues After the genius of Boeing 737, The Low Anthem show they can have just as much impact at the opposite end of the spectrum with this gorgeous ballad.

43.Loch Awe – I Will Drift into 10,000 Streams For a band who do things I like and things I don’t, this demo came out of nowhere a few months ago, and I love it.  The slow drum beat, the really sparingly used electric guitar, the way the two voices work together… fine work!

44.The Blue Runes – Stream For me to get into a classic/psych rock EP made by a band from Puerto Rico wouldn’t have been a particularly great bet at the start of the year, but The Blue Runes released a brilliant EP, and this track is probably the biggest track on it.

45.Adam Stafford – Shot-down You Summer Wannabes A cracking song by a guy whose music I only got into embarrassingly late in the day, considering how long ago his debut solo album was released.  Nevertheless, a couple of storming live performances did the trick, and I am now entirely converted.

46.Horsecollar – Christopher A jaunty little piano line stands out immediately, but the rest of this song is bloody great too – a presumably unheard monologue delivered to a friend, and a stand out on a fine album.

47.Timber Timbre – Creep On Creepin’ On A gorgeous song on a gorgeous album.  This record is a little more approachable and a little less creepy than the last, and lush, lovely songs like this one are the reason.

48.Lady Lazarus – Nazarite Oath Ghostly, unsettling and lovely at the same time, this has a lot in common with the excellent Powerdove.

49.Silverbacks – Atta Boyz Simple this one: a cracking pop tune, good riff, and extremely hummable.

50.Pet – What You Building Another song which came as a bit of a surprise, given Edinburgh doesn’t generally do this kind of music all that well, but this is lovely.

Zip file download: right-click, save as.

1-10 | 11-30 | 31-50

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Lady Lazarus – Mantic

I’ve read a lot of comparisons to describe Lady Lazarus’s music, and I think that if I were looking for one you might recognise I might plump for a slightly more sparsely-arranged Perfume Genius.  Yes, even more sparsely-arranged.

Although, unlike the rather harrowing nature of the barest grip on normality which seemed to appear all over the Perfume Genius album, this seems more of a series of sad, but manageable set of songs.  Those not about nearly being torn apart, but more about the kind of mind games you learn to keep yourself together in hard times.

On the assumption that you don’t hang on my every word and read every glib, vacuous post I spill forth on this blog I might actually prefer to give you a nudge back to recent reviews of The Honorable Worm and Powerdove. I was listening to all three of these album on pretty heavy rotation at much the same time, and for all they aren’t exactly all that similar, they feel closely related in some ways.

Mantic, for example, uses silence in a very similar way to the Powerdove album – in much the same way The Honorable Worm uses the low level white noise of harmonium drone which permeates his album – to generate an atmosphere where there is very little happening and therefore every single thing which does ends up counting a lot more.

This record isn’t long, exactly, but my initial enthusiasm doesn’t always quite seem to make it to the end, despite the fact that I really want it to.  I know this is a particularly tired old refrain in my album reviews, so I wouldn’t take it too seriously, but I’m still not sure this couldn’t have either done with being trimmed a little, or shaken up somewhere in the middle third.

Nevertheless, I’m really glad I found this.  It’s another of those records where the artist found attempts to record it more professionally weren’t sounding as good as the demos and very wisely returned to the methods which were producing the results.  It’s reverby and lo-fi, but nevertheless a really lovely album.

Lady Lazarus – Nazarite Oath

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Lady Lazarus – Fighting Words and Fists

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Toadcast #168 – The Springcast

It is a very, very fine Spring day indeed, this morning in Edinburgh, and so needless to say I am going to spend it in my office talking to imaginary people on the internet.

This week we are simply going to have a bit of a trawl through my inbox.  As I mention halfway through the podcast, I now have unlistened albums totalling a mighty one day, eighteen hours and thirty-four minutes worth of music.  So if you are wondering why I haven’t reviewed this that or the other, then that probably has something to do with it.

The trickiest part, of course, is that it’s not enough to simply have listened to something. To actually have anything resembling an intelligent comment to make you need to listen to something really quite often, and know the ins and outs of an album pretty well.  This takes a lot more than just a once-over lasting for one day, eighteen hours and thirty-four minutes.

Direct download: Toadcast #168 – The Springcast

01. The Lovely Eggs – Don’t Look at Me (I Don’t Like It) (00.40)
02. Lady Lazarus – Fighting Words & Fists (06.46)
03. Bill Callahan – Drover (12.09)
04. Evil Hand – Returned in Time (20.32)
05. Weird Era – Garage Honeymoon (24.41)
06. Teens – Golden Years (28.36)
07. The Spook School – Hallam (32.57)
08. The Sandwitches – Lightfoot (38.37)
09. Honeydrum – Human Stuff (45.09)
10. Timber Timbre – Woman (46.42)
11. Clem Snide – Pale Blue Eyes (54.29)

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Toad on Fresh Air – 24th March 2011

So, I may be jetlagged to all fuck, but why not get on Fresh Air Radio and pass my incoherence onto you.  Hell, what could possibly be more entertaining than listening to me almost fall asleep whilst introducing songs?

Actually, it will probably work in everyone’s favour actually, as rather than the usual bollocks talking, I will probably end up playing more songs and chattering far less in between, which will presumably be much more entertaining for those of you actually listening.

I will also be joined by Olaf Furniss of Born to be Wide, who will be introducing us to lineup for Wide Days, which takes place on the 7th April 2011 at Teviot House.

Live from 8pm UK time: click here to listen.

As per usual, feel free to chip in in the comments below, and I will be adding the playlist as we go along.

1. Pavement – Spit on a Stranger
2. Preston School of Industry – Straits of Magellan
3. Sparkelhorse – Happy Pig (Live)
4. The National – Think You Can Wait (with Sharon Van Etten)
5. Lady Lazarus – Fighting Words and Fists
6. New Animal – All I Want is Gone
7. My Teenage Stride – The Genie of New Jersey
8. Dolfish – Digitised Love Letters
9. Dolfish – I’m Proud of You Joanna
10. The Zincs – Rich Libertines
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