Song, by Toad

Posts tagged pictish trail


Upcoming Toad Gigs


After a wee break and a couple of house shows, we actually have quite a lot of gigs coming up in the next little while, and that’s without even having thought about our New Year’s House Gig yet.

Obviously you are morally obliged to come to absolutely all of these shows and if you don’t attend each and every one I will secretly suspect that our friendship is based upon nothing more than a tissue of lies and pity. And if you can’t manage all of them then, erm, well one would be nice if you’re up for it. Please. They will be great shows, I promise.


Passion Pusher EP launch shows:

This Saturday 8th Nov – Voxbox, Edinburgh
With Sean Armstrong (The Yawns)
Sunday 9th Nov – Flying Duck, Glasgow
With FROTH, Herbert Powell Youngstrr Joey

These shows may have been a little hastily arranged, but they mark two important events: our first formal release with Passion Pusher, and our first ever cassette release.  James calls his genre ‘dingus rock’ which I have to confess I rather like, and I suppose you could throw slacker and lo-fi in there too, but those terms get applied to fucking everything these days. Slop rock maybe, because it has that sort of feel to it where you’re not sure if he would perhaps rather be playing computer games rather than singing the songs, but the end results happen to turn out brilliantly anyway.

Jonnie Common Album Launch Digiflyer

Jonnie Common album launch shows:

Thursday 13th Nov – Downstairs, Aberdeen
Friday 14th Nov – Pilrig St. Paul’s, Edinburgh
Saturday 15th Nov – Glad Café, Glasgow

Jonnie’s album may be mired in manufacturing delays (sorry everyone) but we will have copies on CD in time for the album launches. Jonnie just recorded a session with Vic Galloway (including an absolutely awesome John Cooper Clarke cover) which you can listen to here. In Aberdeen he will be joined by Christ and Colin Austin, and the Edinburgh and Glasgow shows will be with Wolf and poet Ross Sutherland.

ToadGig2014 1 digiflyer

My fucking birthday!

Wednesday 19th Nov – Henry’s, Edinburgh
The Pictish Trail, Two White Cranes & Owen McAulay

Quite why I have volunteered to work on my own fucking birthday I don’t know, but when Roxy from Two White Cranes got in touch asking about gigs in Edinburgh on the 18th or 19th of November I thought why the fuck not, let’s have a laugh and see some great bands. And I haven’t seen Johnny Pictish play solo for bloody ages either, and he is, despite being head of Song, by Toad Records’ most deadly rival, fucking ace at music.


Song, by Toad Christmas Parties:

Wednesday 3rd Dec – Total Refreshment Centre, London
Jonnie Common, Plastic Animals & Numbers Are Futile

Saturday 20th Dec – Henry’s, Edinburgh
Plastic Animals, Garden of Elks & erm, some other things.

We have two Christmas parties planned for this year, one down in London and one our traditional Edinburgh drunken train-wreck. London will be a bit of a label showcase, with a van-full of muppets heading down from the North to bring actual music and culture to our impoverished cousins in the South. Young Fathers won the Mercury, right? So England will be looking to Scotland for cultural leadership from now on, right?

In Edinburgh we shall have various friends doing weird and silly songs for a bit, and then some Proper Guitar Bands, and finally Irregular Owl Movements and Mrs. Toad DJ sets. God fucking help us.


Howlin’ Fling

Click to go see all my (pretty mediocre) pics from the weekend.

I am not writing a review of this fine festival. It is good. The music is ace. You should go if you can.

It’s in Scotland, just off the West Coast. So it will probably rain. In the words of Billy Connolly. “Of course it rained. It’s Scotland. Where did you think you were, fucking Benidorm?” When the sun comes out, though, and even when it doesn’t, it’s fucking beautiful. Really, seriously fucking beautiful.

I have sunburn on my back. Not bad sunburn, but you know, Scotland, rain etc..

The drive through Glencoe and down the coast to Arisaig makes you feel like you are heading to another world. The Sheerwater is class. Remember to take some beers for the trip. Driving a band full of people who’ve never seen it before was fun too. Watching people see that stuff for the first time is a nice little reminder of how special it really is.

Sam Amidon playing reels out the back of the café as we got there was awesome. So was Sam playing music on stage. So was Sam playing music with Beth Orton. So was Beth Orton playing music on her own. In fact those two were just bloody brilliant in general.

Samuel. Stream. Rocks. KABOOM!

Lisa, Tamsin, Caroline and Susie brought stinky, stinky cheese and gin and tonic, complete with genius tactics to make sure IT WAS ALWAYS COLD! Words cannot express my admiration.

Johnny Lynch playing the hits to his fans after the year (or so) that’s he’s had, while everyone went mental. That was brilliant. Well done old chap.

No matter what anyone tells you, swimming in the sea off Eigg is fucking cold. Really bollock-shrivellingly fucking cold. And no, you do not get used to it.

I still don’t understand how pretty much all the water in the world can fall from the sky on Saturday night and yet still there was none of it left for showers the following day. But Jens Lekman breaking out the tropical pop (and looking like he was having all the fun in the entire world all at once) during a tropical downpour was pretty brilliant. As was Jonnie Common’s eight-legged groove machine. POP!

Double breakfast every day. One bacon-and-egg roll (all runny and hot – mmmm!) and a coffee. Then forty-five minutes later, same again. No hangover in the world can compete with that kind of tactic.

I like how festivals like this have stalwarts, who are at every damn one, and then people like Boxed In who were fantastic, and who I’ve never heard of before and might not have heard of otherwise.

I did dancing. Presumably extremely bad dancing, but it was dancing nevertheless. And the thing: I only had to be ever so gently coerced. The last time I went mental and danced like a pillock was at the front of British Sea Power at the first Away Game. And the time before that was at FOUND in Legends at Homegame. I am starting to spot a theme developing here. I am told there are videos, but I really don’t want to see them. Let’s just leave it as a happy, slightly murky memory shall we. Oh no wait, this is the fucking internet isn’t it. Balls.

There was a moment when Meursault played the first chords of Ellis Be Damned and I was absolutely alone in my whooping. And then it dawned on me that I was the only person in the whole tent who knew how fucking awesome the next four minutes were going to be. That was nice. Especially as people kept turning to me during the song with an ‘oh that’s why you were whooping’ look on their faces.

I think it’s something to do with the lack of superstars, but perhaps mostly the proportion of musicians to punters, but having the two sets of people entirely mixed together instead of being in their own little enclaves makes everything better.

Only two stages running at staggered time means you see everything. No sneaking off into your own little bubble of pre-approved music.


Oh, and fuck, I still have a record label to run don’t I. Don’t you fucking dare judge. YOU try kick-starting your brain after a weekend like that.

Samamidon – Fiddle Mayhem (Toad Session) from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.


Record Store Day 2014 at Vox Box


Saturday 19th April – St. Stephen’s St., Stockbridge, Edinburgh.

Of all the Record Store Day stuff I think the Vox Box events are consistently my favourite. Instead of endless grasping after exclusive releases, these days seems to be a bit more about music fans and music makers hanging out together and having a good time. Records get sold as a by-product, rather than a direct goal (although I am sure Darren wouldn’t put it in quite such idealistic terms!), and there’s none of the queueing or frenetic charging around associated with most other places.

Let’s be honest, if you’re a real record collector then you will be quite prepared to wait it out anyway. RSD teases a certain level of hysteria into people if it can, but it’s still nice to go to a good shop and have a look at the few things they have chosen to stock, rather than fighting it out with a million other people for the list of things you definitely NEED.

That is the point of shops, after all. If you’re adamant you need a certain thing, you’re better off with the internet. If you want someone who gives a fuck about music to have a look at the huge list of limited edition stuff being put out and to pick out their own favourites, then you might just get some pleasant surprises.

I’ve never gone into Vox Box and got what I came for. Mind you, I’ve never come away less than delighted with the stuff I ended up buying either.

Anyhow, here is the press release about what’s happening tomorrow. It will be fun, I promise:

Featuring loads of exclusive releases and lots of live music with a few surprises too: Simon Goddard & Ian Rankin Q&A, Tuff Love, Law, Stanley Odd, Book Group, The Pictish Trail and more!

The shop will open at 9.30am and we’ll be stocked up with as many of the exclusive RSD releases as we can get our hands on, as well as our usual selection of other new and used records.

Then at 12 noon at a venue very close by we have Simon Goddard in a Q&A with Ian Rankin about Simon’s new book, Simply Thrilled: The Preposterous Story of Postcard Records which is released that day – 

From 12.30 till 6pm we’re bringing you some of the very best bands from Edinburgh and beyond: 

This is all free entry and also open to children (accompanied by an adult).

Last year was a fantastic celebration and we are going bigger and better this year as we approach our 3rd anniversary in the music business.  We’ll have as many of the exclusive RSD releases as we can, but it’s not just about the exclusive records!

We are celebrating what we love. A wide selection of music, the vinyl format, the grass roots record industry, the local bands and record labels as well as our fantastic regular customers that give our shop such a positive feel and of course our wonderful street.

Simon’s new book is released by Random House on Record Store Day. Come down and hear them discuss all things Postcard, arguably Scotland’s favourite and the original Independent record label. (featuring Josef K and Orange Juice. Pick up a book and have it signed by the author. These copies come with Ltd Edition free poster.


ALBUM STREAM: The Toad Sessions

Toad Sessions 2

Toad Sessions 1

I think it’s fair to say that the Toad Sessions are one of the things we’ve done since starting this whole enterprise of which I am the most proud. I just, honestly, think they are way better than almost all other internet sessions. It’s not about our ‘one gimmick’, we ask the band about some of their favourite music, we do a nice big long interview with them,  we give them really nice recordings at the end of it – it feels to me like our sessions are more genuinely about the band than most others.

It feels more like a benefit to the band than most others out there too, and there’s none of this ‘hahaha, here’s a session from the back of a chip shop in Shoreditch – wahey!’ nonsense, which I have to confess I am starting to find really annoying.

Having said that, that appears to be pretty much my opinion and my opinion alone. The sessions and the accompanying videos are actually some of the least popular material we publish, judging by the stats. I tend to ignore stats anyway, however, so don’t worry they won’t be going away just because people don’t seem as interested as I would have expected. I hate people who point to stats when it comes to things like music. I think you should have some fucking courage in your creative convictions in this industry, and in a way I guess the Toad Sessions are one of the most obvious ways I try and do that.

You can see them all on their own dedicated site too, if you fancy a browse and still have some time to kill this Friday afternoon…


Song, by Toad’s Top Albums of 2013 6-10

horse1-5 / 6-10 / 11-20

Welcome back to the utterly definitive, empirically more correct than anyone else, final once and for all list of the best albums released in 2013.

In fact, these aren’t necessarily even definitive in my own bloody house, and actually depend a little on various factors, not least of which is the amount of diligence I’ve put into actually listening to particular records.

I love the Flaming Lips new album, for example, but haven’t spent enough time properly listening to it to be able to put it in this list. Old Earth, on the other hand, I have listened to an awful lot because as well as loving his album, I also helped put him on twice in Scotland and recorded a Toad Session with the guy, so I have listened to his music a lot!

So yeah, don’t think I take this too seriously, there are plenty of factors beyond the specific excellence of the album which influence where it finished in this list. Read the rest of this entry »


No More Sitting on the Fence


Oh come on, there was always going to be a nasty Fence-related pun in an article like this, wasn’t there. Always. ‘The king is dead, long live the king’ is one I fortunately managed to avoid, though, as is ‘end of an era’, although for all it’s a cliché the latter is pretty apposite this morning.

Fence Records have announced that the label is to cease to exist as of this coming weekend, with the showcase at Green Man being the last ever show to take place under the Fence name. On the face of it, that sounds like a bit of a disaster for persons sharing my particular musical inclinations, but in actual fact it looks like pretty good news when you delve beneath the surface even just a little. As anyone with an internet connection has probably read by now, it may be the end of Fence, but it is not the end of the project itself. As much as label head Johnny Lynch was loath to use the term in the announcement, in most ways it is basically just a re-branding, with himself and the bands on the roster continuing their existing work under a new name.

And here’s where I think this is good news. The reason this was necessary is because Johnny Lynch, who ran the label, and Kenny Anderson, who as King Creosote founded it, were drifting apart quite significantly in terms of where they wanted Fence to go. They are both people I would consider friends, so I never really delved very deeply into it, because it seemed like a personal issue which was none of my business, but as the Fence announcement states, it led to Kenny leaving Fence at the end of last year to do his own thing.

I think the parting was a difficult one, although as I said, I never made any real attempt to get into the details because it seemed intrusive. But I can see how it would have been hard. Without Kenny there simply would be no Fence Records, but without Johnny it would never be the label it is today, so I can see how both would feel pretty intense feelings of ownership and how both would have entirely legitimate grounds to think of it as their baby. So given their decision to go their separate professional ways I think that even though Johnny is taking the bulk of what we (outside of the East Neuk of Fife) think of as ‘Fence’ these days with him, there is still so much of Kenny in the heart and soul of the thing that simply drawing a line under it all and starting a new venture makes perfect sense.

Traditions can be great things, but they can be a bit of a millstone as well, frankly. If Johnny was to simply carry on running Fence by himself then he’d be lumped with a bunch of history and tradition – much of which is absolutely great, and from which I have many, many incredible (and some rather hazy) memories – which might prove as much of a hindrance as a help. Given that I am inclined to ascribe the label’s more recent innovations to Johnny, such as the postcard singles, Away Game and stuff like that, I think that it’s best if he has an entirely free hand to try new ideas, when they come up.  Home Game, for example, was a magnificent thing, but if it becomes more labour than love then perhaps Johnny is better off without that feeling of obligation hanging round his neck.  It’s not like he’s short of other good ideas to replace it, as we’ve seen recently.

Put more simply, if he is to run an enterprise entirely by himself then he is probably better off starting with a blank sheet of paper, gazing out of his window on Eigg with a wee glass of whisky (fuck him and his awesome life) and figuring out exactly what it is he wants to do from now on. Is he a band? A promoter? A label? Home Game and Away Game are some of the best events I have ever attended. This year The Pictish Trail, eagleowl and Monoganon will have released some of my favourite albums of 2013. So there is a huge amount of great stuff to work with, and a lot of goodwill within the music community, and what could sound like sad news actually sounds to me like a hugely promising beginning. I doubt much will change on the surface, so most fans won’t be too discomfited, but in terms of giving the engine of one of the flagships of Scottish music a good spring clean, an oil change, and turning it loose to see where it goes next, this whole business quietly feels like something really exciting.

So good luck to both Johnny and Kenny in their new adventures, and thanks to them and everyone else who helped them make Fence Records something truly special.

And finally, here’s one of our first ever Toad Sessions, recorded in early 2009 with The Pictish Trail.

The Pictish Trail Toad Session from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.


Toadcast #271 – The Saycast

posttagAfter writing about the SAY Award, I thought I might well do a podcast about it, given there are more than enough ace bands and ace records on that list, last year’s list and I assume next year’s list to make a couple of podcasts.

I play a couple of shocking, scandalous omissions from this and last year’s long- and shortlists, and stamp my little foot about them. I play a couple of tracks from bands who I reckon should be in with a very strong shout of making next year’s shortlist.  And I play a random tune by David Thomas Broughton because he, along with Rick Redbeard who I tip for next year’s shortlist, is playing a show in Edinburgh this week.  David on Thursday with Rachael Dadd and Ichi, and Rick on Saturday with the awesome Ian Humberstone.

And again, I try and remind people not to get too worked up about this kind of thing, because, well, if no-one agrees with you that something is excellent, it should hardly make you love it any the less, should it. And equally, being told that yes, you are right, this album is good, shouldn’t particularly improve your enjoyment of it should it. So these things are here to be bickered over and are good fun, as well as being fantastic for the artists who win them, but they aren’t of course to be taken too seriously.

Toadcast #271 – The SAYcast by Song, By Toad on Mixcloud

Direct download: Toadcast #271 – The Saycast

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01. Meursault – Untitled (00.26)
02. PAWS – Bird Inside Birddcage, Ribcage Inside Bird (06.40)
03. Rick Redbeard – Any Way I Can (14.35)
04. David Thomas Broughton – River Lay (20.10)
05. Now Wakes the Sea – Propranolol (28.47)
06. RM Hubbert – Car Song (With Aidan Moffat and Alex Kapranos) (35.42)
07. Django Django – Love’s Dart (39.59)
08. King Creosote & Jon Hopkins – Bats in the Attic (45.36)
09. Rob St. John – Stainforth Force (52.54)
10. The Pictish Trail – I Will Pour it Down (1.02.06)


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)


The Pictish Trail – Secret Soundz Vol. 2

soundz Alright, let’s be straight about my subjectivity here: Johnny Lynch is a pal, and as tends to happen when my friends release music, I was terrified I wouldn’t like this.

Friendship apart, that wasn’t a totally unjustified fear.  One of Johnny’s favourite bands is Hot Chip, who I think are fucking dreadful, and his last big release was the disco-tastic* Silver Columns album.

Now, I loved Silver Columns but a Pictish Trail album which explored more Hot Chip leanings might very well not have been my cup of tea, and with the band’s recent penchant for huge, full-band wig-outs I was nervous that the idiosyncratic charm I find so engaging about The Pictish Trail might be a bit smothered.

I have to confess that my fears were not entirely allayed by the pre-release teaser track Of Course You Exist, which I don’t mind and which makes sense in the context of the whole album, but is nevertheless not my favourite Pictish Trail song.  I would have said the same about Michael Rocket actually – although that’s a song I have come to really like subsequently, I wasn’t smitten the first time around.

In fact, when you think about it, it’s sort of an odd tribute to this record that so much of it is comprised of songs I knew well before the release, and yet the album still managed to surprise me. Michael Rocket, The Handstand Crowd, Of Course You Exist and I Will  Pour it Down (see a really early Toad Session recording of that one below) make up much of the backbone of this record, but having heard those songs I still had little idea of how it would actually feel to listen to Secret Soundz Vol. 2 for the first time.

So, having added a remarkable number of caveats and mean-spirited asides, it’s probably time to admit that I love this album.  Funnily enough, it’s not so much the big songs which I have ended up loving, as much as it’s been the filler.  Not that there is filler on here per se, but when people call things ‘album tracks’ it sort of implies the same thing.  Here there are a good few ‘album tracks’ which, in my view, absolutely make the record.

You probably couldn’t take them out of context all that easily, but songs like Sequels and Wait Until are far less insistent than others on the album, and yet they manage to simultaneously be my favourite to listen to in and of themselves, and also to anchor the rest of the record.  Tunes I wasn’t as keen on to begin with, like Michael Rocket and The Handstand Crowd, find a place amongst songs like that which seems to make more sense.

The Pictish Trail – I Will Pour It Down (Toad Session) from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

I may have known I Will Pour it Down before this album, but honestly, I didn’t know it as it sounds now. The recording on here is absolutely gorgeous, and perhaps hints at what I mean when I talk about certain songs providing the context.

The Pictish Trail can produce big old pop songs, but whilst they are good, and whilst they flesh out the range of the sound, they are several layers away from what makes this music genuinely special.  There is a simple, personal warmth about Secret Soundz Vol. 2 which mirrors its maker, and which gives the listener a real sense of belonging.  The slower, more elusive tunes seem to embody that more, somehow.  The wobbly synth and twinkling electronics, instead of adding coldness to the more organic elements of guitar and gorgeously delivered vocals, seem to add an approachable charm.

There’s a documentary about the making of this record embedded below.  For the last year and a bit Johnny has been living up on the Isle of Eigg, in the Inner Hebrides, which is where this album was recorded. It’s easy to superimpose impressions retrospectively once you know the provenance of a record, but instead of imbuing his album with a sense of the bleakness or grandiosity of the Scottish countryside, or indeed of the isolation of living in a static caravan on an island with a sparsely distributed population of eighty people, instead this seems to embody the warmth of having a cosy wee home and the increased intimacy of the friendships you make in situations like that.

I’m still not sure about Of Course You Exist, I suppose, but everything else which I wasn’t as keen on in isolation makes sense when pulled back into the eddies of the album. This is a gentle, odd record of strange detours, and one with moments of genuine tenderness and emotional impact.

And by happy c0incidence, the band happen to be playing at The Caves tonight with eagleowl, as the final night in an epic month of touring.  You can buy this record there on vinyl, of course, or you can go to the Fence Records webshop and do so there instead.  I strongly recommend you do one or the other.

*Yes, yes, I know no-one says disco-tastic anymore.


Live in Edinburgh This Week – 20th February 2013

stockbridge So, after a couple of awesome gigs (Randolph’s Leap and Paws) last week, I started to feel the live music bug again after a surprisingly long period without seeing any gigs but my own BAD FUN ones at Henry’s.

Nevertheless, a good run of stuff and the kind of weekend which felt like a little island of Spring in the middle of February seems to have cheered shit up around here and there are some fine things taking place this week to keep that particular bandwagon trundling along.

Things kick off with the Pictish Trail and eagleowl show at the Caves tomorrow night.  Apparently there’s a special secret opening act as a temptation to draw people down early, so take that as you will. Both the headline bands seem to have taken folk pop and spent the last couple of years torturing it into massive krauty wig-out endings so umm… well, you’ve been warned.  It will be brilliant.

As well as that, the Electric Circus has the awesomely-named ear-beasters Wet Nuns on Friday, as well as habitual ear-beasters the Twilight Sad and We Were Promised Jetpacks on Saturday, although the Saturday gig will be all stripped back and acoustic. I’ve seen the Twilight Sad acoustic before and it was really, really good.  You know, just in case you were wondering.

And finally, there is also an interesting-looking wee show at the Banshee Labyrinth on Saturday with The Pheromoans, Shareholder and Ace Elementary bringing some very retro-sounding indie rock indeed.  Retro maybe, but they all sound really rather good, if you like your guitar music just a little bit slack, discordant and what the fuck did you expect anyway. Which of course I do, as you know.