Song, by Toad

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Toadcast #204 – The Phewcast

 PHEW!  Thank fuck that’s (more or less) over.  This year has been a bit full-on, I have to confess, but the bulk of the hard work now seems more or less over.  Our last release (Lil Daggers) came out last week, and our label Christmas Party is now done and dusted which leaves me a relatively comfortable run into the Christmas period from now on, which is some for which I am quite grateful.

Nevertheless, The Leg album, the Jesus H. Foxx album and the second album by Yusuf Azak are all on the menu for early next year, so those need to be nudged into motion, so it’s not exactly like my feet are going up and my hands reaching for the remote control and a bag of popcorn.

Well maybe, but mostly between Christmas and New Year, I can’t really bring myself to work then!

Next week I’ll be going through the Song, by Toad readers’ top five songs and albums of the year vote, so if you want to chip in then just fill in your top albums of the year on this week’s Friday Five.

Direct download: Toadcast #204 – The Phewcast


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01. Coolrunnings – Rusk (00.04)
02. The National – I Need My Girl (09.35)
03. Islet – This Fortune (15.44)
04. Saintseneca – Acid Rain (20.45)
05. Doe Paoro – Can’t Leave You (25.46)
06. Mark Lanegan Band – The Gravedigger’s Song (32.47)
07. Micah P. Hinson – My God, My God (40.30)
08. Liars – Scissor (43.17)
09. Jackson C. Frank (51.43)
10. Monster Rally – Creeping Ghost (58.22)
11. Monster Rally – Sahara (59.57)
12. Monster Rally – Crystal Ball (62.09)

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Friday Five: Favourite Songs of the Year

 Okay, angry mob of the Toad readership, do your very worst.  Today, as promised, is the day we vote on our five favourite songs of the year so there will be no foolish questions as per usual, but what there will be is the chance for you to write down your favourite songs, in no particular order, and I will count them up and find out which songs the readers of Toad have enjoyed the most this year.

There aren’t any real rules, although the song should have been released in 2011.  And also, just to help me count, I’d appreciate it if you could write in in the form Artist – Song Title please.  Other than that, umm… well, do your worst, I suppose.

And, as per usual, El, Brian and myself will be live on Fresh Air Radio from about half three in the afternoon.  We have special guests this week, but they were invited by El and I have no idea who they are, what they do or why they are there.  I guess I will find out when I get there.

Live on Fresh Air Radio from 3:30pm UK time – listen here.

Now, to get you in the mood for voting for your top five songs, here’s a quick recap of last year’s winners, as well as a link to the thread itself where the voting took place.

1. The National – Bloodbuzz Ohio

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2. eagleowl – No Conjunction

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=3. Meursault – What You Don’t Have

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=3. Broken Records – You Know You’re Not Dead

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=3. Foals – Spanish Sahara

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And the playlist for this week’s show shall appear live below, as we play the songs:

1. Whirling Pig Dervish – Bawjaws
2. The Cure – The Love Cats
3. King Creosote & Jon Hopkins – John Taylor’s Month Away
4. Ringo Deathstarr – Do It Every Time
5. Twin Shadow – Slow
6. Hooray for Earth – True Loves
7. DZ Deathrays – Teeth
8. Joanna Gruesome – Lemonade Grrl
9. Class Actress – Weekend
10. Shirley Ellis – The Clapping Song
11. Blondie – Hanging on the Telephone
12. Rob St. John – Sargasso Sea
13. Foals – Spanish Sahara
14. The National – Bloodbuzz Ohio
15. Diana Ross – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

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Song, by Toad Festive Fifty 2010: 1-10

And now, drum roll please for the final installment of Song, by Toad’s Festive Fifty for 2010.  Woo hoo!  I am sure Liars, The National and Micah P. Hinson will be breaking out the champagne at the excellent news.  Ah well, at least The Japanese War Effort and Li’l Daggers might give a shit.

01. Liars – Scissor When this song breaks it is absolutely fucking fearsome, and it is absolutely all I can do to stop myself leaping around the room and breaking stuff, no matter when or where I am or what time of day it is.  And this is about all I need to say about the matter.

02. Micah P. Hinson – My God, My God Just utterly, utterly beautiful, with a carefree little string coda rendered completely heartbreaking by the content of the song.  Three albums of sheer genius and one that was pretty damn good – why is this man not infinitely more famous?

03. The National – England It’s not as obvious, but the piano opening of this track is every bit as emotionally gripping as Fake Empire, once it properly sinks in.  And the build is so, so slow that by the time the brass kicks in you feel like you’ve been waiting for an age.  It reminds me of Elbow’s glorious Station Approach in that sense: some of the most euphoric depressing music ever made!

04. The Japanese War Effort – Summer Sun Skateboard First the guitar is really good, then the harmony vocals are fucking lovely, then the massively scratchy lead vocal is fucking great, then the glockenspiel is fucking superb, and then half way through it peaks, and takes the rest of the song to slowly drift into a blissed out coma.

05. Micah P. Hinson – Seven Horses Seen It’s easy to explain this one: just listen to the lyrics.  Hinson can be unflinchingly fucking brutal in his writing, and this is just another example of it.  That it goes, again, hand in hand with some truly beautiful music makes it all the more poignant.

06. Jason Lytle – D.U.I. BBQ Checkpoint Officer number two is talking to the driver of the car who just pulled into the D.U.I. barbecue checkpoint. “Good evening sir, have you been drinking tonight?” “Hell yeah officer!  I cracked my first beer this morning at nine and I’m wasted right now.  Any of you fucking pigs wanna fight?’

07. Songdog – 3.30am (Small Talk) I could fill an entire review with Songdog lyrics which make me do a double-take, but let that not detract from the wry, laid back music, performed as if with one eyebrow raised and here rendered even more lovely by the conversational duet.

08. Liars – Scarecrows on a Killer Slant Erm, this is Liars again, and unlike Scissor, which makes you beg for it, this is just loud and feral.  I don’t really need to justify this choice any more than that, do I?

09. The Walkmen – Blue as Your Blood The rhythm which underpins this has you ready for the song to break, ages before they finally let it happen about two thirds of the way through.  Hamilton Leithauser has one of the most yearning voices I’ve heard, and this is my highlight from yet another great album by one of the more under-appreciated bands around.

10. Li’l Daggers – King Korpze I’ve been loving my scuzzy, garagey guitar pop this year and this four song EP is as good as I’ve heard. Picking this ahead of Ya Tu Sabe or Hungry may be a bit arbitrary, but something from here was always going on.

Click here to download all these songs in one zip file.

1-10 | 11-30 | 31-50

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Song, by Toad Festive Fifty 2010: 11-30

Welcome to the second installment of the Song, by Toad Festive Fifty for 2010.  Yesterday I explained why I am going to have to exclude Song, by Toad Records music from my end of year lists from now on, and today I am going to explain (i.e. make feeble excuses for) some of the inconsistencies and idiosyncrasies you might perceive in this particular list.

There are certain albums, for example, which just don’t yield edited highlights all that easily.  There are no songs by Mount Erie or The Books, for example, because I found it next to impossible to disentangle individual songs from their records – this does not, of course, mean that I don’t love the albums.

In other cases, bands have been somewhat penalised by having too many good songs.  Micah P. Hinson, for example could have had loads of songs on here, because I bloody loved his album, but I tried to restrict the number of times any one band appeared on the list.  Basically, once a band had a song on here, the second one was treated a little more harshly, and third even more so.  It wasn’t systematically done by any means, but I just wanted to represent as broad a selection of bands as possible.

And finally, I suppose it kind of goes without saying, but don’t pay too much attention to the specific order of these songs.  Ask me on a different day and I would probably sort them differently.

11. Sam Amidon – Pretty Fair Damsel It’s rare that I hear pretty much anything played as a Toad Session and still end up preferring the full studio version, there’s just something so special about seeing your favourite songs played live in your own living room.  This, however, is just amazing.  As much as I love Sam’s voice, in this case I think the way the rich, beautiful backing just twinkles its way through the song is what really sets it apart.

12. Jason Lytle – Liquid Hyper Tweeker Energy Drinks If ever a song embodied its subject matter, then it’s this one, with a hyperactive electronic signature harrassing the song from start to finish.

13. David Tattersall – The Typewriter Ribbon David Tattersall is probably starting to get a bit sick of people going on about his lyrics, because it kind of implies that his actual songwriting isn’t good enough to merit mention on its own.  Once again though, one of the chief reasons I love this song is the fantastic lyrical content, but to labour that aspect would be to do all the others a massive disservice.  There is a lot of sax in this song, for example.  Yes, sax!  And you know what, it’s fucking cool too!

14. Hezekiah Jones – I Love My Family Here’s a free tip for anyone starting up a brand new label from scratch: have something as utterly beautiful as this on your first release and you will be well on your way.  Fucking gorgeous.

15. Kid Canaveral – Her Hair Hangs Down Ever since that video I suspect Kid Canaveral might be growing a little tired of people telling them how great this song is, especially for a band who play some of the most upbeat, infectious pop tunes you could hope to hear.  But if Broken Records have to put up with me constantly picking their sad songs, then this lot can bloody well take it too.

16. Male Bonding – Year’s Not Long This is nothing like as rough and ready as their earlier stuff, or so I am told, but there is a furious pace and a reckless rhythm to it which brings what is essentially no more than a first rate pop song to life with incredible vim and relish.  They just batter through this with such joyous disregard that you get the impression they might have their next album recorded by the end of the week if only we wouldn’t keep demanding they play the song they’d just finished over and over again.

17. Sweet Baboo – I’m a Dancer The contrast between the loveliness of the music and the darkness of the lyrics on this song is really quite disconcerting.  There’s also an odd mixture of self-loathing and leering arrogance about this as well, which just adds to that conflict, despite being a pretty sort of song your mum might well hum along with.

18. Perfume Genius – Mr. Petersen The possible undertones of sexual abuse – or at the very least, of the unspecifically sexually inappropriate – in this song give an almost unbearable emotional weight.  The whole album has that, actually, and this song might be one of the poppier ones, but still devastating if you actually think too much about it.

19. Sam Amidon – Way Go Lily The rolling, repeating lyrical refrain in this song give it an hypnotic quality, particularly the way the vocals cut through the swirling orchestration.  There’s barely any actual lyrical content to speak of, but the vocals are layered and interwoven like part of the orchestra.

20. Onions – I Want to be a Dancer Some of you might point out that this song was actually released in 2009, not 2010, and is therefore ineligible for this list.  I would point out to you that this is my fucking website and I will do what the fuck I like with it.  So by virtue of the ‘I will make exceptions as and when I fucking well please’ clause, this counts.  For a website most commonly described as supporting Scottish music, I think I’ve found out more about Manchester this year than anywhere else, including my first contact with this massive pop diamond by Onions.

21. David Tattersall – The Old Family Aside from writing truly incredible lyrics, David Tattersall plays a mean guitar.  If The Typewriter Ribbon was all about the lyrics and the sax, this is all about that guitar rhythm.  I am really itching for The Wave Pictures next album to go nuts with the guitar, because it’s really fucking awesome when they do that.

22. The National – Little Faith My reasons for picking this would be the same as almost any other song on this album: defiant warmth, and resolute gravitas.  Why do I like this one marginally better than the others?  Dunno, just do.

23. Warm Ghost – Claws Overhead I know this is pretty much this season’s must-have production technique, but here is a big, pounding anthem which has been buried under a blanket in the next room.  Or, to put it differently, it sounds like it was written for people on acid but recorded for people on heroin.

24. Glass Animals – Leaflings This song has been put together really carefully and, in my opinion, utterly brilliantly.  The bursts of muffled dancefloor beat which emerge at intervals from the muddy background is the only instance in recorded history of me even being able to tolerate that particular sound, never mind absolutely loving it.

25. Admiral Radley – I’m All Fucked on Beer This song needs no more explanation than the title.  It’s loud and rude and fucking brilliant. Punch the air, bang yer heids and open another can of Special.  And the wee two-second carnival interlude is pure genius.

26. Sweet Baboo – Y’r Lungs In a similar vein to I’m a Dancer, this song isn’t as sweet on the inside as it is on the outside.  But in this case the lyrics are at least sufficiently cryptic that the beautifully wistful sense of sadness which pervades the music is the impression which dominates the song.

27. Broken Records – Modern Worksong I said in my review that there was a palpable sense of well-disciplined purpose to this album, and nowhere is this more evident than in this song.  Forced forwards by that skittering beat, this track has such drive it’s fantastic.

28. Silver Columns – A Warm Welcome Like Kid Canaveral and Broken Records before them, Silver Columns are learning the immensely irritating lesson that no matter how upbeat and exciting your album, I will absolutely, definitely, always pick the one downbeat number as my favourite song on it.  Sorry lads, it’s not you, it’s me.

29. The Scottish Enlightenment – All Homemade Things The Scottish Enlightenment have been relentlessly productive this year, perhaps making up for all the lost time since their last single.  The only danger with their album being so well-received is that it seems to make people forget how good their two 2010 EPs were.  This is such a simple, simple song too, but that one riff and the customarily unhurried pace are judged just about perfectly.

30. Perfume Genius – Learning A bit like with The National, choosing songs from Learning to include on this list was a little bit arbitrary, as there’s barely a weak song on the album.

Click here to download all these songs in one zip file.

1-10 | 11-30 | 31-50

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Song, by Toad Festive Fifty 2010: 31-50

Welcome to the start of this year’s Song, by Toad Festive Fifty, where I list, in order, my favourite fifty songs of the year.  As with the albums of the year, I have had to exclude Song, by Toad Records bands from this list.  Partly this is to stop me inevitably wounding the pride of whichever bands fared less well than their label mates, and partly to stop the label collectively dominating this list too much.

I don’t think the concept of objectivity is possible, or even all that relevant, when it comes to discussing what music you like, but I am so closely involved with the music on our label that there would inevitably end up being so many of our songs on here that I think it might well run the risk of just boring people, honestly.  You all know about the label by now, you all know where to find the music we release, and it pretty much goes without saying that I would only release it if I thought it was bloody brilliant to begin with, so no need to labour the point in my end of year lists.

31. Cotton Jones – Sail of the Silver Morning The weird collision of the modern and the old-fashioned on this record has its less successful moments, but is amazing when it really clicks.  You end up with what should be fairly plain and lovely pop songs, yet with an elusively strange undercurrent to them.  His voice is strange, and hers is fucking lovely, which also helps.

32. Titus Andronicus – A More Perfect Union This whole album, frankly, is fucking ridiculous.  But it’s ridiculous with such joyful exuberance that I just couldn’t help but love it – after I’d overcome the ‘what in the precious bundle of cherry-flavoured fuck is this then?’ reaction of course.  This track pretty much embodies the crazy brilliance of the whole record as well as anything, I think.  Turn it up loud, and don’t be ashamed of punching the air like a fool.

33. Thirty Pounds of Bone – A Lesson in Talking There’s an extremely harsh edge to Method which my choosing this particular song for my Festive Fifty somewhat neglects.  There is still plenty of bleakness in the lyrics of course, but the loveliness of the music rather overcomes it.  Maybe that’s why I like the song so much – but there are plenty, plenty more where this came from on the album.

34. Liars – The Overachievers I am not sure why none of the more sinister songs on Sisterworld made this list, because it’s not all about battering the shit out of the guitars.  But having had my fillings severely rattled by these lads at SXSW has rather come to dominate how I think of them.  Loud please!

35. Broken Records – Home I can almost see the band rolling their eyes at me as once again I pick one of their quiet songs for my end of year lists.  Broken Records are very much not a quiet band, but that’s probably why songs like this end up standing out so much, particularly when they draw the curtain on such a brilliant album.  There’s a lot of tension in Let Me Come Home too, and this song really does feel like a release at the end of it.

36. Ringo Deathstarr – Imagine Hearts I haven’t heard anything from Ringo Deathstarr for years, but this is a wonky bit of excellence.  There’s plenty of shoegaze here, and the backing sounds like it’s being played on a tape so old it has distorted to the point where it will barely play properly anymore.  And this, of course, is a good thing.

37. The National – Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks I could no more explain why this song is now one of my favourite on High Violet than I could explain why I really didn’t like the album itself all that much for about three months after it came out.

38. Barton Carroll – Shadowman Apart from the fact that this is a gorgeous song in itself, I absolutely defy anyone to listen to the lyrics and not choke up.  It is a bitter tale of mean-spirited weakness without a shred of redemption at the end of it.  Truly brutal.

39. Broken Records – A Leaving Song A Leaving Song perhaps sums up the new Broken Records album as well as any other individual song on the album.  It’s exuberant, tight and driven and manages to balance a definite air of confrontation with a real sense of focus.  This may be because I know more about the personal emotions behind the album than I really should, as a straightforward music fan, but nevertheless the purpose of a band with a point to prove seems to have made this song, and the whole album, really quite excellent.

40. The Scottish Enlightenment – The First Will Be Last This song just builds and builds and is one of relatively few Scottish Enlightenment songs to end with something vaguely approaching a crescendo of guitars and noise.  It takes bloody ages to do so as well,

41. The Driftwood Singers – Coco Ellis The production and arrangements are copied and pasted so directly from some old, romanticised version of the past that this borders just a little on parody, but that really doesn’t matter to me, I must confess, because the results are fucking great.

42. Warm Ghost – Open the Wormhole in Your Heart There may be plenty of muffled electronica out there, working to reproduce the wobbly distortion of old analogue equipment, but this is easily some of the best I have heard.  The construction of crackle and stumble, and the hints of the epic about the vocals, give this song an amazing dynamic between its anthemic and introverted lo-fi aspects.

43. Hurray for the Riff Raff – Slow Walk This is the flipside of a similar fascination with lovely old-time music as seems to motivate The Driftwood Singers, but in this case it’s clean and clear, with a lovely twang to the lead vocal, and a simple hook running all the way through the song.  Anyone who loved Samantha Crain’s early stuff is almost certain to love this song.

44. Cotton Jones – Song in Numbers The way the rhythm of this song drifts into passivity before rattling itself into life is probably one of the key things which makes it special for me.

45. Keaton Henson – Oliver Dalston Browning There’s nothing at all to this song except the gentle rise and fall of the guitar, recorded in as raw and unaffected way as you could ask for, and then Henson’s gorgeous, trembling voice. To do so much with so little is really impressive, and this song is just beautiful.

46. Hot Panda – Mindlessnesslessness This might be the closest to a haircut song in this whole list – the band even have ‘Panda’ and ‘Hot’ in their name and everything.  Hot Crystal Bear Fuck Owl Ghost Panda!  Never mind the name though, this is a brilliant song, tucked away near the end of a varied and interesting but slightly inconsistent album.  The thumping bounce of the start of it, compared to the odd epilogue (there is probably a technical term for this which I don’t know) which breaks in about two-thirds of the way through is just weird.  And excellent.

47. Roy Robertson – Icing This is a spooky but lovely acoustic pop song for about a minute and a half, before handclaps and spacey swooshing noises raise it up to a euphoric finale.  A bit like the Hot Panda song, but this gears the song up rather than down.

48. Tusk Tusk – Crazy Little Birthmarks Another song which starts as a simple, rolling acoustic pop track, but in this case the build is more gradual, as a choral backing swells and grows until it envelops the whole thing.  The song then steadily crumbles until there is nothing but the choir and a simple electric guitar refrain, and then finally silence.

49. Silver Columns – Brown Beaten Pure, awesome disco-pop.  I have never seen a single song generate so much interest in a band in my life (well, not amongst the kind of music I listen to anyway), and I have heard some people grumble about this being just a Bronski Beat knock off etc etc etc, but in all honesty, the only way you could dislike this song is if you hate fun in some fundamental and frankly unhealthy way.  Pure.  Pop.  Genius.

50. Jason Lytle – Indie Rock Freestyle Alright, so something of a lighthearted one to end with.  But this spirit of freedom and playfulness is precisely what gives Lytle’s album of cast-offs and mutants such liveliness compared to some of the more sticky stuff he’s released in the past few years.  It may not be a proper album, as such, but the liberated approach that results is brilliant, and little embodies that throwaway attitude better than this.

Click here to download all these songs in one zip file.

1-10 | 11-30 | 31-50

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Toad Readers’ Five Favourite Albums of 2010 (and Happy Christmas)

Happy Christmas all.  For any confused Americans out there, yes I am an atheist, and yes I love Christmas.  It’s a Pagan holiday, appropriated by the Christians so they could convert subject peoples without having to force them to give up the traditions which bound their communities together, so the idea of an atheist celebrating Christmas is no more hypocritical than a Christian doing so.  I just like the feasting and the tree and the lying in bed watching stupid movies part too much to give it up over the trifling matter of a mish-mash of sellotaped-on religious nonsense.

For any non-Americans out there who have no idea what that paragraph was all in aid of, they get awfully excited about that sort of thing over there, as far as I can tell, and try and make Christmas all non-religious by saying stupid things like Happy Holidays, when it’s not even a Christian fucking celebration to begin with.  Celebration of the Winter Solstice pre-dates Christianity by many thousands of years anyway.

Anyhow, that rather splendid cover version up there comes from the excellent LY and SO on YouTube.  They only have a couple of covers up there, but that one really is nice.  It’s funny when that sort of thing starts happening.  I can only imagine that more popular bands who get covered all the time find the experience generates a weird combination of fascination, pride, embarrassment and all sorts.

And… just to completely change the subject again, I am not going to list all the end of year’s that our bands have turned up in, because there have been too many.  I try and get them up on Facebook and Twitter as and when they turn up, so follow/friend/stalk/whatever me on there if you are really that interested.  Thanks though, of course, to everyone who has included any of our lot, because I do genuinely find and appreciate them all.

One little bit of boasting I have to do though is this: The Recommender recently asked music bloggers to nominate their favourite music blogs in the world and, somewhat surprisingly I have to confess, I finished joint fourth with Gorilla vs Bear.  That’s joint fourth favourite blog in the universe as voted by fellow bloggers.  This, I think I can say without seeming too vain, is extremely nice.

And so finally we come to our penultimate Friday Five of the year, and the official announcement of the album of the year vote last week.  As you can probably tell from this week’s posts I disagree with all but about one of you about what the best album of the year is, but no matter.  You wouldn’t need me constantly lecturing you about Acceptable Music Fun if you had all the answers already, now would you.  Anyhow, drum roll please…

5. Broken RecordsLet Me Come Home I picked this one myself so I am not at all surprised and extremely pleased to see so many readers vote for it.  The excellence of this record doesn’t seem to have entirely stopped the hipster sneering from a few quarters, but I do get the impression that once folk have started doing a band down it can become rather contagious.  Fuck these people, I say.  And so do you from the looks of it.  Good on you.

Broken Records – Dia dos Namorados!

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4. Kid CanaveralShouting at Wildlife I don’t honestly know why this album isn’t in my top albums of the year, because I love it, but I think it might be down to how and when I listen to Kid Canaveral’s music, which is mostly live.  In fact, had I not spent a sizeable chunk of the festival season driving Meursault about the bloody country I would say that I have probably seen them live more than any other band this year. Also, this is generally music to encourage the having of Fun, which is not what I listen to in the house all that much. It’s not just that they write some killer pop tunes, but the album itself is really well assembled and perfectly paced.  They and the Scottish Enlightenment would probably be my Scottish bands of the year for 2010, I reckon.

Kid Canaveral – Cursing Your Apples

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3. Arcade FireThe Suburbs Personally I find this album pretty dull, I have to confess.  But if you look at the results of both this vote, the Readers’ Song of the Year vote and pretty much every tight-trousered list out there then I suppose I have to grudgingly admit that the majority of the internets seem to disagree with me.  A very late spurt of voting carried this into third place ahead of Kid Canaveral, who seemed to have that spot completely sewn up.  I have to confess this is something I rather resent.

Arcade Fire – City With No Children

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=1. The NationalHigh Violet As Big Fez said in the comment thread where the vote took place, it’s not so much the album of the year as the year of this album.  Even my mum loves it.  Enough said.

The National – Anyone’s Ghost

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=1. MeursaultAll Creatures Will Make Merry When Meursault did so well in the song of the year voting I kept saying to myself that of course they were going to get a lot of votes on this site of all places – it’s like the ultimate home court advantage.  And that’s true.  But if the home court advantage counted for all that much, you’d expect to see the vote full of Toad Records bands, which it just wasn’t – not even close.  So I think it’s time to stop making excuses and accept that basically this is a fucking great record, bollocks to false modesty.

Also, of all the bands we have worked with Meursault have worked the hardest, for the longest, played the most gigs, recorded the most songs, and have never ever let me down on any count.  So instead of making excuses for why they might have got more votes here than in other places, especially when that didn’t seem to count in anyone else’s favour at all, I think I should really just be saying well done and thank you.  It’s been some year lads, well fucking done indeed.

Meursault – Crank Resolutions

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So, after possibly the longest post in Friday Five history, I can’t be arsed making up five stupid questions, so just list five things you are either very much looking forward to or very much dreading over the next couple of days.  I am guessing that this will be a quiet one anyway, given it’s Christmas Eve and all.  So happy Christmas everyone, and remember to drink massively, massively irresponsibly.

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Song, by Toad Favourite Albums of 2010: 1-5

1. Micah P. HinsonMicah P. Hinson & the Pioneer Saboteurs

There’s not much which really distinguishes this records from the two preceding, but when I sat down to give it some consideration, I came up with one simple reason: emotional range.  Micah P. Hinson goes from the sentimental to the heartbreaking to the furious to the playful and back at the drop of a hat, whereas Perfume Genius and The National pretty much find their level and stay there.  Having interviewed the man, he is someone I am not at all surprised to see has the ability to sustain that burning desire to make music which deserts so many musicians as they reach a level of personal comfort after a few well-received albums.

Micah P. Hinson – The Striking Before the Storm

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2. Perfume GeniusLearning

This album is in some ways a one-trick pony, but I find it completely captivating nevertheless.  The lyrics are personal and poignant, something the drowsy, woozy production only serves to emphasise.  It’s the kind of album I tend to stick on and listen to in its entirety as well – in fact I don’t think I’ve ever done anything else.  I struggle to really articulate what it is I like about this album, for some reason, and I can easily imagine people not liking it, but it’s just one of those which grabbed me from the very start for some reason and in the six or seven months since I first heard it rarely has a week gone by when I haven’t played it at least once.

Perfume Genius – Write to Your Brother

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3. The NationalHigh Violet

I am, as you probably know by now, something of a contrarian.  The fact that this fucking album is in every bloody end of year list imaginable means it irks the living shit out of me to put it on this one as well.  Honestly, though, there is no escaping the fact that after a very, very slow start indeed I have completely fallen for this album.  What turned the slow build of an album I was initially indifferent to into a complete about-face was probably seeing the band at Glastonbury.  They mixed the new songs in with the old, and despite a fairly low-key performance, it was still obvious that I had come to love pretty much everything on High Violet.   I now have it on two slabs of gorgeous purple vinyl (alright, alright ‘violet’ vinyl) and even my bloody mum loves it.  Alright you National bastards, you win.

The National – Anyone’s Ghost

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4. Broken RecordsLet Me Come Home

I knew virtually every song on Broken Records’ first album, and that robbed me of a little bit of excitement on hearing it, but this one was (almost) all new, which was brilliant.  In terms of the music itself, this record harnesses Broken Records’ instincts to wind themselves into a frenzy and gives it a real sense of purpose. It’s also very much a whole album, with fantastic dynamics from start to finish.  In fact, there have been a lot of these this year, which somewhat contradicts the popular assertion that digital music has killed the album.  Maybe for people who were never that fussed about albums in the first place it has, but not for most of the rest of us.

Broken Records – Dia dos Namorados!

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5. Sam AmidonI See the Sign

I still feel this album tails off a little, and I still can’t stand that bloody R Kelly cover, but neither of those gripes stop this being a fucking amazing record.  The lush orchestration is never intrusive, and complements the more traditional elements with rare beauty.  Sam’s voice is truly an amazing thing, which gives him something of a head start, but almost every element of this record is lush and captivating.  Every time I hear Sam Amidon’s music I find it baffling that I actually had to listen to his previous album for about six months before I realised that I loved it. It really, really should have been obvious.

Sam Amidon – How Come That Blood

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Toadcast #153 – The Mobcast

I am not personally going to bother doing a ‘Best of 2010′ podcast based around my own choices.  Over the next couple of weeks you’re going to get more than enough of that in text form anyway, so I think we can all live without a podcast as well.

What I thought I might do, though, was just do a quick rundown of the Song, by Toad Readers’ song and album of the year voting because… well, why the fuck not, I suppose.  As much as anything I felt like doing it because there were a couple of surprises in there, a couple of omissions and a couple of disagreements, so I guess  it gives me something to whinge about when introducing the songs, eh.

Direct download: Toadcast #153 – The Mobcast

01.The Japanese War Effort – Summer Sun Skateboard (00.21)
02. The National – England (06.05)
03. Foals – Spanish Sahara (11.17)
04. Broken Records – The Motorcycle Boy (24.31)
05. Kid Canaveral – Her Hair Hangs Down (29.06)
06. Arcade Fire – Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) (33.51)
07. Micah P. Hinson – My God, My God (41.13)
08. David Tattersall – The Typewriter Ribbon (43.44)
09. Meursault – What You Don’t Have (52.46)
10. eagleowl – No Conjunction (60.54)

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Song, by Toad Readers’ Top Five Songs of 2010

The results of the only real award that matters this Winter season (apart from the oracular annunciations of my own opinion, of course) can now finally be announced!  AWESOME! I hear you cry in unison.  Maybe.

Last year we had these votes as well, but I rather neglectfully failed to actually add up the final scores.  In all honesty, it’s the making of the lists which is often the best bit, so picking a winner at the very end is probably not entirely necessary for fun to take place, but given you all did me the honour of voting it seems a little rude not to fulfil my side of the bargain.

So yes, my enormous and profoundly complex algorithm (also known as a tally chart) has finally processed all the entries, and we can announce the winner of the Song, by Toad Readers’ Top Five Songs of the Year.  On Friday we will vote for our top five albums, so you might want to start thinking about that one in advance.

Anyone who actually followed the votes will know two things about this particular vote: firstly, that the winner was completely obvious from the very start; and secondly, that there are dozens and dozens of songs with no more than a single vote each, which is kind of inevitable in this kind of thing, but at least suggests that for all Song, by Toad probably represents something of a musical monoculture, there is at least a fair bit of diversity within that narrow vista.  So congratulations to the likes of CTel for coming on here and posting five entirely different songs from a notably different genre to the norm around these parts, and balls to the indie kids who don’t like it!

So, in reverse order, we had many songs tied for sixth place.  They’re not really part of a top five, of course, but I thought you would be interested to see them:
Arcade Fire – Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
Arcade Fire – We Used to Wait
Meursault – One Day This’ll All Be Fields
Meursault – Weather
The National – England
The Scottish Enlightenment – Little Sleep
The Walkmen – Angela Surf City

Getting into the top five, we ended up with a three-way tie for third place (in alphabetical order):

=3. Broken Records – You Know You’re Not Dead (Buy here)

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=3. Foals – Spanish Sahara (Buy here)

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=3. Meursault – What You Don’t Have (Buy here)

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There was a really close-run race for second throughout the voting, with Meursault, Foals and Broken Records all in there at various times, but in the end a little burst of enthusiasm carried the following tranche of epic gorgeousness over the line ahead of the others:

2. eagleowl – No Conjunction (Buy here)

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Which leaves the winner, obvious from the very start of the voting, and a song which, from the moment it was first released, generated so much excitement for the album from which it comes that High Violet was almost guaranteed to do well weeks before anyone heard more than a single song.  Bloodbuzz Ohio may not even be my personal favourite from that record (that would be England) but it does embody the rich, luxuriant sombreness of the album beautifully.

1. The National – Bloodbuzz Ohio (Buy here)

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And so there we go, your favourite five songs from 2010, a year which I thought was brilliant for new albums, far better than the extremely disappointing 2009.  A few things stood out to me from the voting, which are sort of worth mentioning, just by way of follow up.

1. No Sparrow & the Workshop?  Come on, people. I know the Sparrows have been quiet for a while, working on their new album, but I reckon they deserved a little more love than they ended up getting in this particular vote.

2. Ha ha ha, no Joanna fucking Newsom or Laura Marling. Well done.  They’re fucking shit.  I am proud of you.

3. Meursault and The National got a lot of votes. The National scored marginally more total votes than Meursault, but they were mostly for Bloodbuzz Ohio.  Meursault had about five or six songs, all of which could easily have been nudged into the top five by a couple of stray votes here or there.  In the end, I think it’s fair to say (with some pride) that the consistent excellence of their album, and their general schizophrenia as a band, cannibalised their own vote.  No matter though, because these two bands both scored almost double as many total votes as anyone else on the whole list, which is accolade enough in itself.

4. How do I know nothing at all about Foals? I assume that you all read this site because you more or less agree with my taste in music.  Otherwise, I can’t entirely see the point.  So how come, given we all listen to broadly the same kind of music, do you all love Foals so much while I have never once made the time to sit down and listen to their stuff.  Shame on me.  Homework for Christmas!

5. We got a lot of votes. This fact gives the results a sheen of respectability which I could never hope to generate on my own. Thank you.

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Some News, and Why The National and/or 4AD Can Fuck Off

There’s a shitload of news today, but let’s start with that naughty bit of the headline, shall we?

The National have announced that an expanded version of High Violet is to be released on November 22nd.  If, like many of us, you own the album already I urge you to download the new material illegally, or email 4AD and demand they send you the tracks for free.  Having initially been lukewarm on this record, I have since come to think of it as one of my favourite of the year, but for fuck’s sake, the fucking thing’s only been out for, what, six months?  Is my version already obsolete, and am I really going to have to buy the whole fucking thing again?  This is grasping huckstersim of the worst kind, and exactly the reason people started to hate the big labels (and George Lucas – in fact, especially George Lucas) in the first place, because cajoling people into buying the same thing again and again is technically referred to as ‘ripping the the right royal fucking piss out of your fanbase’.

Born to Be Wide is at the Electric Circus again on Thursday.  There will be another round of the excellent Charity Shop Disco (where DJs pick records from the Oxfam music shop and you can buy what you hear), as well as round-table chatty stuff based around A&R.  Guests will be Hannah Overton from XL Records, Stewart Henderson from Chemikal, Kenny McGoff from Columbia and Yvonne McLellan from Island.

The Scottish Music Awards are now accepting nominations and submissions and so on for 2011.  Canada has the Junos, darf sarf has the Mercurys, America… well, doesn’t really have anything, and now it seems we will be making a square go of kicking off our own up here. So if you want to submit your stuff or make a suggestion, there are forms at the bottom of the front page of the site.

My Sweeping the Nation interview has just been published, as has one with new blog Five Minutes With… so for those of you who haven’t had quite enough of my incoherent and self-contradictory burbling over here, pop over there to have a quick scan of even more of it.

The Music Alliance Pact was started by Jason from the Pop Cop and recently reached its one-year anniversary.  The Pact itself is a coalition of bloggers, each from a different country, who regularly compile a collective post containing one song each from their respective countries of origin.  Apart from reminding us that decent independent music isn’t all anglophone, it also serves to magnify the reach of Jason’s personal choices several-fold.  Being on a single blog post is one thing, but being featured in the MAP puts you in something like three dozen.  To celebrate, Jason has made a compilation available at the above link, including songs by every band he has featured in the MAP since its formation, many of which are exclusives recorded specifically for the occasion.  Happy birthday!

So there you go.  Honestly, what are the fucking National thinking?  I am tempted to guess that in this case it wasn’t really their choice, more the record label, but of course I really don’t know.  I mean, this is a total piss-take isn’t it?  Can anyone think of a decent excuse for this sort of balls?

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