Well as you probably know, Mrs. Toad and I spent the last quarter of 2015 living in Brooklyn – in Red Hook to be precise – and it was fucking amazing.
Red Hook itself is a fucking brilliant neighbourhood. Still pretty industrial, but with loads of really nice places, so the balance between residents and incoming hipsters (like, I suppose, ourselves – we are the problem!) is still pretty decent for the time being. Only a matter of time, I suppose, but for now it’s a pretty great place to be.
Well while I was out there I went to some gigs, listened to some music, and with the help of my little brother’s recording expertise and Tom from Gold Flake Paint‘s curatorial sagacity we made a record. That’s right, the fifth Song, by Toad Split 12″ (actually the one and only release on Toad Flake Paint Records) was recorded at the National Opera Centre while I was out there.
So this is a mix of bands I saw, bands I listened to and bands I worked with in the three months when we could pretend to be a trendy Brooklyn record label for a bit.
01. The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You (00.24)
02. Told Slant – Ohio Snow Falls (09.29)
03. Sean Henry – The Crow (12.32)
04. Samantha Crain – Elk City (20.59)
05. Kevin Morby – Slow Train (29.01)
06. Florist – Vacation (39.39)
07. Furnsss – Settle Down (43.31)
08. Alex G. – Kicker (52.15)
09. Cashavelly Morrison – Iodine (55.24)
10. Infinity Girl – Firehead (1.03.52)
Toad pal and musical favourite Samantha Crain has a new album out called Under Branch & Thorn & Tree (buy one here). I haven’t covered the album on Song, by Toad yet, mainly because I don’t really write record reviews anymore, but it’s really good.
It’s been interesting watching Sam become more and more politically vocal on Facebook recently. It’s mostly US socio-political stuff rather than global geo-politics, and tends to cover a lot of the topics which have been in the news over the last couple of years, from the treatment of non-white people in the States to the more specific issues facing native people (she is Choctaw herself, I think).
I’ve also seen some folk have a dig at her here and there for being too much of an activist and not staying in the nice, neat box of ‘popular entertainer’. Personally I think it’s great though. Partly, if non-white people don’t speak up whenever they can, how is the fact that white voices dominate all media conversations ever going to be challenged. And partly, as a white, cis-gendered, hetero middle-class etc. male, how am I going to develop a better perspective on my own privilege if my non-white, non-male, non-hetero etc. etc. etc. friends don’t constantly point out things which my privilege might easily either cause me to underestimate or blind me to altogether. Personally, I am just grateful that she has the energy to keep talking about this stuff.
Protest music is a tricky one to tackle, post-Bono, but Sam describes this as her underdog album. From the press release:
“It focuses on every-day, small town life and the challenges of the working class who have lost their voice in today’s “one-percenter” society.
“The oligarchy we live under today is not the republic we were promised and it is important to see that and to take action,” said Crain. “I’m not trying to win arguments, I just want to get people involved in the conversation.””
I remember some painfully contrived attempts at addressing the 9/11 attacks, and wondering if we could really produce proper protest music anymore, given how strongly we cling to irony, tangent and obliqueness in the lyrics of fashionable music. It seemed like a straight, sincere protest album addressing current issues would simply seem too self-conscious and somehow naive these days.
Recently, though, with economic hardship and gross societal power imbalances nibbling away at the actual foundations of the Western civilisation it seems people can tackle this stuff and have it come out sounding ‘right’. I don’t know what the difference is. Maybe people are just so pissed off these days that they just don’t give a fuck, and that is what makes the music good. Given how little access people of colour have to dominant forms of mainstream media, music still feels to me like an important outlet for these voices, and it seems that more and more good stuff is emerging that is pissed off, unabashed and has something to say.
And finally, some more details on the video at the top of the page:
“Directed by Houston-based filmmakers Weston Getto Allen and Dorian Electra, the “Killer” video was inspired by Michael Brown, who was brutally gunned down on a Ferguson, MO street by police officer Darren Wilson, Freddie Gray’s “rough ride” in a Baltimore police van that led to his traumatic death, and John Crawford, shot by police in an Ohio Walmart while facing away from the officers, on his cell phone, holding a toy BB gun he had picked up off a store shelf.
“According to Allen and Electra, “‘Killer’ tells the story of Evan, an African American boy who dreams of becoming a police officer in order to better his community, but who is killed by the police because of the colour of his skin.” The video stars Evan Horsley and was filmed in Houston’s Third Ward and at the historic African American Olivewood Cemetery in Houston. Dating back to the 1870s, it was the first African American burial ground within Houston’s city limits, and was established on land that was formerly a graveyard for slaves.”
So, a little over halfway through the Pale Imitation Festival, and here we are. There are still four gigs to go, with Rick Redbeard, LAW, eagleowl and PAWS headlining (tickets and full details here), and the gigs are only a fiver to get into, which in Edinburgh in August represents a monumental fucking bargain.
We also have a new single out on Song, by Toad Records, from David Thomas Broughton and Juice Vocal Ensemble‘s new collaborative album Sliding the Same Way which is now available for pre-order so I’ve popped that on the playlist as well, along with a Passion Pusher song from our first cassette release which is due in October or November or something like that.
Other than that, there are a couple of new Scottish singles, some live gig plugs and a couple of Song, by Toad recording alumni with some bits and pieces, so it’s all quite local music for local people this week. Phew. I am finding the Festival heavy going, I have to confess. Not that I’m not enjoying it, just that it does kind of wear you out, not least with all the drinking. Still, my Mum turns up on Sunday, so that should at least put the dampers on some of the worst carrying-on. Hopefully.
01. Neon Waltz – Bare Wood Aisles (00.17)
02. Broken Records – So Long, So Late (06.37)
03. David Thomas Broughton & Juice Vocal Ensemble – In Service (12.41)
04. Numbers Are Futile – Justice is Light (and Blood) (18.37)
05. Sharron Kraus – When Father Hanged the Children (22.45)
06. Samantha Crain – Paint (30.50)
07. Sex Hands – Gay Marriage (36.07)
08. Ian Humberstone – House on the Hill (43.55)
09. PAWS – Poor Old Christopher Robin (Tape Demo) (46.11)
10. Passion Pusher – BLT (54.06)
11. eagleowl – Too Late in the Day (1.02.34)
This podcast is composed of songs which namecheck towns I drove through on my rather epic 7500 mile drive across American in March and April of this year.
Part 1 is places I drove through between collecting the van in Phoenix, collecting Meursault in Texas and then driving up to New York on their East Coast Tour. Part 2, which is coming next week, will be songs about places I drove through with Mrs. Toad on our way back to drop the van in Phoenix again.
Most of the connections are a little tenuous, honestly, tending to concentrate more on the fact that the song name-checks the town in the title rather than provides a touching insight into real life in that town, but you know, superficial is kind of what we do best here.
01. Bob Dylan – Romance in Durango (Live) (00.22)
02. Willard Grant Conspiracy – Christmas in Nevada (11.00)
03. Samantha Crain – Santa Fe (14.55)
04. Sleepy Horses – Lubbock Love Song (21.50)
05. Fastball – Sweetwater, Texas (29.47)
06. Micah P. Hinson – On the Way Home (to Abilene) (33.17)
07. REM – Texarkana (38.11)
08. Paul Simon – Graceland (43.07)
09. Steven Malkmus and the Jicks – Baltimore (47.57)
10. LCD Soundsystem – New York, I Love You, but You’re Bringing Me Down (59.22)
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.
Yep I feel a bit like I’m emerging from hibernation at the moment. Something about the way Christmas and New Year fell this year completely obliterated two weeks, and this week has been spent mostly trying to slow the levels of alcohol intake from Oliver Reed levels down to about George Best ones.
I’ve also been trying to force my sleep patterns to return to something vaguely resembling normality as well. I have been an absolutely appalling weakling in the face of that ‘oh just one more episode’ syndrome you develop when you have access to entire series of TV shows at once, so I’ve been staying up until five and six in the morning watching one absolutely terrible TV show after another.
I can’t even claim it was something decent like The Wire or Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad, it’s all been absolutely dismally shallow and repetitive crime and supernatural series. Fucking dreadful. WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO MY BRAIN? Anyhow, you can see how I am having a little bit of trouble getting back into gear for the new year, can’t you. Fucking hell, WAKE UP, BOY!
01. Clem Snide – Delight (00.22)
02. The Left Outsides – The Third Light (04.47)
03. Brown Brogues – Split Disc (Toad Session) (11.17)
04. Samantha Crain – Paint (14.39)
05. Water of Life – Sources and Springs/Abercrombie, 1949 (21.57)
06. Falling Stacks – White Wild Hare (27.37)
07. Waylon Thornton – Mustache (33.42)
08. Deathcats – Cowabunga Surf Jam (35.32)
09. The Twilight Sad – The Wrong Car (Live with the RSNO) (41.50)
10. Clem Snide – The Ballad of St. Paull (51.24)
11. Mothersday – Motion Sickness (59.25)
I don’t generally do announcements on this blog – that tends to be kept for my Tumblr – but Samantha Crain is someone Mrs. Toad and I first met back in 2008 and someone with whom I conducted one of my first ever interviews. We got on really well with her, and when she was in the UK a year and a half ago we put her on at Henry’s Cellar Bar and recorded a Toad Session at our house.
And now, some three albums into her career, she finally has a UK record deal, and with none other than the incredible Full Time Hobby. Given they release the absolutely phenomenal Micah P. Hinson and Timber Timbre, Full Time Hobby are one of the very few labels for whom I genuinely have Roster Envy (it’s a legitimate medical condition, just ask anyone who’s ever run a record label) so it’s brilliant news that Sam has ended up there. They’ll be releasing her latest album Kid Face in early January along with a free five-song bonus EP, and have released For the Miner as a free download to heighten everyone’s anticipation.
It’s nice, honestly – nice to see someone progress like this and get good news. People come and go so fast in the music industry that there’s genuine satisfaction to be had when someone sticks around, and crops up again in your life a few years later, so good luck to Sam and her new label for the release.
Yep, a couple of days into September and Scotland really has decided that it’s Autumn now, all of a sudden it’s fucking Autumn. Cold, crappy rain, wind, all the usual fun and games. Season OVER! We are into shitty territory now, just you accept it!
Anyhow, I have never figured out whether good (more likely to leave the house) or bad weather (more likely to want to be inside in a venue) weather is more likely to lead to good gig attendances, but I suppose it’s always nice to have the excuse either way if no-one turns up to your gig.
One nice thing about the weather turning shitty, of course, is that the fucking builders who repaired our roof – Traditional Roofing and Building – whilst excellent in every other respect, managed to paint my office windows shut and are ignoring my requests to come out and fix them. So at least if it’s cold I won’t just be sat up here fucking sweltering all day. Enjoy the tunes!
01. Temple Songs – Passed Caring (00.16)
02. John Murry – Southern Sky (07.45)
03. Sparrow and the Workshop – Odessa (remixed by White Label) (15.47)
04. Samantha Crain – For the Miner (23.57)
05. Vandaveer – Poor Edward (29.27)
06. Stefan Noons – Signals (35.26)
07. Playlounge – Grandma Death (40.01)
08. The Hundredth Anniversary – Last Drive (43.02)
09. Monster Rally – Orchids (48.44)
10. Califone – Move Music Kills a Kiss (54.23)
This is another one of those painfully late Toad Sessions which crashed into the bottleneck created when we recorded five sessions in a very short space space of time at the end of 2011 and then ended up putting most of them on ice when the label took over my life in early spring.
Nevertheless, this is a lovely session, and as an acoustic one it is also something of a change of sound from the recent ones. Sam had played one of our gigs the previous night at Henry’s Cellar Bar with Withered Hand and Mike MacFarlane, and the next day we recorded a session and promptly buggered off to the pub for a few pints.
Thanks are due to Neil from Meursault who recorded this session, to Dylan Matthews for the photos, video camera work and excellent leftover turkey sandwiches, and to Ian Greenhill for helping with the filming, as well as for being gracious enough not to make me re-export all the videos after forgetting to add him to the credits because we recorded this damn thing so bloody long ago.
As per usual, mp3s of the session tracks can be downloaded below for free, then there is the full interview podcast (tracklisting at the bottom of the page) and then the four individual session track videos, with the main video at the top of the page. Cheers – Woodpecker Wooliams in a couple of weeks!
Afternoon, and happy Friday. Welcome back to the Friday Fives, where I find five sometimes interesting, mostly frivolous thing which I have happened across on the internet this week and slap them up here for a bit of time-wasting Friday afternoon fun.
In the comments please feel free to add any daft shit you’ve come up with because… well, because I certainly have no intention of doing anything productive the afternoon, do you?
1. Samantha Crain Toad Session coming up.
Yep, after the scandalous passage of over a year I am finally almost ready to publish this session. The first couple of videos are already up on Vimeo, and Dylan Matthews‘ photos are up on Flickr. The rest of the session will be published next week.
Generally speaking I have little to no interest in Burns Night, although whisky and haggis are both excellent things. But late last night this little gem appeared on Bandcamp, and it’s bloody brilliant. Now Wakes The Sea’s Fluoxetine Morning is in my top five albums of 2012, and this is a fine record of music based on the poetry of Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns.