Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The Savings and Loan - Today I Need Light

I don't really listen to many bloggers when it comes to what to listen to, but I have a few exceptions. Matthew from Song, By Toad is usually someone who I find my tastes align with on most things (but not all things), so it was strange that despite him raving about The Savings and Loan for nearly two years my first introduction to them was only a few months ago at their house gig. It was certainly a case of preconceived notions being blown out the water as the Edinburgh/Glasgow duo are nothing like I anticipated. Whilst I was gripping myself for some dirty fuzzy rock (which was really based on nothing more than Matthew's token taste) I was greeted with some of the most delicate and beautifully constructed songs I've heard in a long time. This, thankfully, transfers amazingly well on their debut album 'Today I Need Light'.

There is an amazing symbiosis between the duo as it seems that multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bush creates these wonderfully patient soundscapes as a back-drop for lead singer Martin Donnelly's world-weary and imaginative lyrics. From the very start 'Today I Need Light' seems to mix despair with beauty and 'Swallows' announces this emphatically; "time will pass/time will leave you all alone/with only swallows passing by" . This is the one of the benefits you get from having a seasoned poet (Donnelly) teaming up with a seasoned musician (ex-De Rosa and professional sound engineer), another is that the record just oozes with effortless class. A tortured darkness spines all the way through each song but there is never a case of malaise from listening. Songs such as 'Catholic Boys in the Rain' and 'Pale Water' definitely show the bands Cohen-esque tendencies, combining both folk with a sense of dreamy apprehension. The highlight of the entire album is closer 'A Pleasing Companion'. It really sums up the whole album so well; a classy, dark and beautiful lullaby. That is basically what these songs are, adult versions of lullabies, in the sense that they lull you into a sense of comfort while actually having rather dark subject matter that I'm sure everyone can relate to. "I hope you find me a pleasing companion/and someone to waste an hour with in a bar".

'Today I Need Light' is nothing like I anticipated, but the reality trumps my expectations as it is nothing short of wonderful.

The Savings and Loan - Swallows by Song, by Toad

The Savings and Loan - Pale Water by Song, by Toad

'Today I Need Light' is out not via Song, Toad Records.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

[MP3] Johnny Reb - Emile (Part One)

In the past couple of years the exposure for so-called 'guitar bands' seems to have dramatically lessened. Now it seems many people are starting to claim that there is going to be a resurgence of this sound next year. While I do know or care much about that, I do know that Glasgow's Johnny Reb are a rock band with both the tunes and the talent to make a bit more noise in Scotland's predominantly folk laden landscape.

'Emile (Part One)' is one of a number of songs the band recorded with Boz Boorer (of Morrissey fame) in Portugal. It is based on events concerning the boxer Emile Griffith who murdered his opponent in the ring in 1962 after he was allegedly called 'faggot'. Musically, it is a frantic affair with thunderous drums and a singalong chorus. In a genre that can often feel homogenised, Johnny Reb have made my ears prick up and take notice for bringing a bit of imagination and life to the fold. Their debut E.P should be with us Spring 2011.

Johnny Reb - Emile (Part One)

Monday, 15 November 2010

Hooded Fang - Hooded Fang

I have been listening to a lot of pop-leaning-indie at the moment. I suppose I am kind of the whole 'hipper than thou' rhetoric adopted by a whole load of blogs just now and it is refreshing just to put on a nice pop record. You might recall I did a wee interview with Hooded Fang and they were saying the album was coming along nicely. That is has as the album has turned out to be a wonderful collection of perfect pop songs. The singer's voice reminds me of a happier Stephen Merritt which I feel really pulls me to the songs. It swerves away from being too twee that the songs become sickly and there is always substance and meat to each song. There is also a really nice feeling about the album as a whole as the ebb and flow of the songs seems to bode really well in juxtaposition to the cold Scottish weather outside my window.

It's always nice when you have been waiting for an album from a band since their debut E.P and it really delivers. A perfect remedy for all those bands with a colour followed by an animal for their name adhering to some flash in the pan genre.

Hooded Fang - Laughing

Hooded Fang - Promise Land

Buy Hooded Fang via Bandcamp.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

The Scottish Enlightenment - St. Thomas

I'm sure most you are the same as me in that you see complete strangers often enough that you end up feeling like you know them. My favourite couple are an elderly husband and wife who regularly get on my bus. The man is always impeccably turned out, often sporting a suit and a tie and the woman is equally well-dressed. I first started to notice something strange about the couple when the man was constantly getting flustered and confused about where he was and who he was. The woman would calm him down in a loving and patient manner, often holding him and speaking to him until the fear he was feeling subsided. It's been pretty obvious since that the man suffers from fairly advanced Alzheimer's. Now, to my point. I know a hundred reasons why I should or could adore this couple so much; the devoted love the woman has for her husband or the hope that one day someone would care about me enough to stick by me through something as terrible as Alzheimer's. However, none of these reasons seem adequate or fully sum up why I like them so much as there is just an endearing quality I can't seem to put my finger on. Maybe it is all the reasons combined, maybe it is not. I just can't say. This leads me to The Scottish Enlightenment's 'St. Thomas', an album which has the exact same effect on me as that elderly couple.

I could put my adoration of this album down to numerous things. It could be due to the faultless musicianship, the world-weary and existential lyrics, the variation and slow build of their wonderfully and carefully crafted songs or due to the immaculate production. However, just like how I can't explain the why I admire that elderly couple, none of these reasons seems to fit or fully justify why I love this album so much. There is something homely about 'St. Thomas', while simultaneously crushingly sad. Songs meander and then build to create lush soundscapes that really catch you surprise as they often masquerade as unassuming. Unassuming they are not as they seep into your consciousness and really grab hold of your attention. They have built upon their two strong EPs from this year ('Pascal' and 'Little Sleep') and they have created an album that flows almost seamlessly from start to finish. The dip in pace near the end of the album doesn't really affect the quality of the album all too much as I particularly enjoy 'The Soft Place' which makes up for my less favoured 'My Bible Is'.

In 'St. Thomas' The Scottish Enlightenment have created the one of the best albums to come out of Scotland this year. However, I am at a loss to why I find it so great or why I am so awestruck that I can't really write a proper review. To be honest I am perfectly okay with that.

The Scottish Enlightenment - Earth Angel (With Sticks In Crypt)

The Scottish Enlightenment - Taxidermy of Love

St. Thomas is out tomorrow via Armellodie Records.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Yusuf Azak - Turn On The Long Wire

As a general rule I hate using cliches like 'he has a real Marmite sound'. However, Yusuf Azak has a real Marmite sound. His rasping voice and perplexing guitar plucking is certainly an acquired taste, lucky it is a sound I more than take to and have been looking forward to his debut LP for quite some time. I actually halfheartedly tried to get Yusuf to release this album on my non-existent record label a while back, I am glad he decided not to as I reckon I would have royally fucked it up. Instead, he is releasing with the finest purveyor of good underground Scottish music, Song, By Toad Records. I think he made the right choice. Sniff, sniff.

From the opener 'Your Story' it is evident that Azak is hardly reinventing his sound from his first two eps. However, there is a real growth as there seems to be a new spritely exuberance and warmth about the song. What I always like about Azak's songs is that his lyrics are often semi-audiable due to his almost lisping accent, but when you listen closely his turn of phrase is as good as anyone else in Scotland at the moment. 'Time to Kill' ushers in an almost pre-war string sound to the fold which is both enchanting and rather haunting. 'Rosalie' uses two components of Azak's sound to great effect as the lush backing vocals sound best next to the juxtaposition of the sharp twang of his Spanish guitar. Now, I kind of hate myself for saying this but probably the closest thing Scotland has to a chillwave anthem (UGH!) is 'The Key Underground'. It definitely has the backbone of a dance song placed on a folky backdrop and is certainly my favourite song on the album. It sits oddly well in the tracklisting considering the difference in it's sound compared to the rest of the album and I would have been a little disappointed if it didn't feature. Next on the album is a trio of extremely strong tunes, 'Thin Air' 'Stepping Stone' and lead single 'Eastern Sun'. All are, again, so distinctive to Azak and even if I wanted to make the common blogger comparisons to other artists I really can't. I have heard Nick Drake banded about a lot when people are trying to grasp Azak's sound but I don't think that is accurate as Azak, I feel, is not as restrained as Drake and is certainly more inventive with fewer instruments.

What Yusuf Azak has achieved with 'Turn On The Long Wire' is a solid and enchanting debut album. It is not a necessarily short album but it feels like a very short listen, which I suppose is a very good thing indeed. Time flies when you are having fun. Well I opened with a cliche, I may as well fucking close with one!

Yusuf Azak - The Key Underground

Yusuf Azak - Stepping Stone

Monday, 8 November 2010

[Interview] Randan Discotheque

When I get sent music to review I seldom react with great enthusiasm. After a couple of hundred trendy bands with haircuts you get a wee bit jaded so it is always nice when you get something as refreshing as Randan Discotheque's new single 'Heather the Weather/Duke & His Orderly'. The folky opening of the ode to Heather Reid, weather forecaster for Reporting Scotland, instantly brought a wee smile to my face. However, on closer inspection the song had shades of sadness and melancholy which made it all the more enchanting. B-side sees frontman Craig Coultard weave a tale about the Spanish Civil War and Armenian cannibals. It is another refreshing song with catchy hooks and just enough sincerity to not seem overly gimmicky. The single ushers in the band's second release after last years superb 'Daily Record May 18th 1993'. With an album release penciled in for next year I felt I better have a wee word with Craig. After all, he has made me not dread reading my emails anymore!

Hi there, care to introduce yourself? Who make up Randan Discotheque?

Randan Discotheque are:

Myself, Craig Coulthard (Vocals, guitar, words)
Olly Ridgewell (bass, vocals, my brother in law)
Hugo Phillipe Laurent de Verteuil (guitar and keyboards)
and Owen Curtis Williams (drums, though the drums on the recordings are by our old comrade Doug Currier)

Based in and around Edinburgh College of Art - formed in 2005 as a solo act, this line up for the last 18 months or so.

Your second single 'Heather the Weather' is out on 7" and digitally on the 6th December. What made you write a song about the celebrated weather-woman? I always rated Gail McGrane...

'Heather the Weather' was written while I was feeling quite sorry for myself - a large group of my closest friends all left Edinburgh for London at the same time around 2005/2006, and I was struggling with the thought that maybe I had made a mistake staying in Edinburgh. I was watching Reporting Scotland, and the weather came on - I decided rather stubbornly that I was right to stay, and my friends were wrong to leave, and I started writing a song from the point of view of a regretful friend who missed home. Needless to say, they all still live in London. I feel that Heather represented a certain homeliness and familiarity, a humble attraction.
Gail is pretty sweet, but Heather had/has a certain gravitas, and a softness, a comforting look. I am glad I wrote the song when Heather was presenting - if I'd left it a couple of years it would have been about "Glamourous Gillian" Smart, and she's a little too saucy for the sentiments I wanted to express.

The b-side is inspired by Armenian cannibals and a Spanish Civil War siege. Do you find it easy to switch between light-hearted topics (weather women) and somber topic such as war?

I don't really think like that. All of these things are connected. I like to write songs that are not necessarily what they appear. To me, both Heather and The Duke & His Orderly have elements of humour and melancholy. I think music should be a reflection of the personalities who write/make it. Comedy and tragedy are pretty closely related. The other thing is that different songs aren't written at the same time, so it depends on how I'm feeling. I have always been a bit put off by music/art that suggests the same emotion time after time, song after song.

You definitely flirt with the folk genre regarding your sound. What kind of bands influence you?

When I began playing solo, I only played with an acoustic guitar, so there was an inevitable folk/country sound. Now we are a band the sound has expanded. As for influences, I always find that too big a question to answer with any logic. If you listen to our mixes on Mixcloud, that might give an idea of some of the things we like : http://www.mixcloud.com/randandiscotheque/

You hail from Fife, do you feel that Fife is often overlooked in terms of music in comparison to Glasgow and Edinburgh bands?

I'm the only member from Fife, and I haven't lived there for 10 years, though my parents still do. I think for the size of it, Fife has produced lots of great music, though I never really felt that the live scene was that healthy. The Skids for example - When I was at school there was The Beta Band, and The Skoubhie Dubh Orchestra - after that came Fence and everyone involved in that scene. I was at school with members of The Phantom Band, Django Django and Dogs Die in Hot Cars, so there's plenty of talent in Fife, I guess as is often the case, people need to leave to expand themselves a bit. I guess that's what makes Fence so special. There's no comparison with Glasgow and Edinburgh when it comes to venues and scale of musical community. However, like I say, I haven't lived and worked there for a while.

What does 2011 hold for Randan Discotheque?

2011 is the year when we will release our first album as a band - hopefully we will be able to play some festivals and raise our profile a bit. I feel that we are very strong as a band now and it would be nice to connect with more people. It's also the year in which we hope to receive our custom made suits and start a dance. There's so few new dances nowadays. Maybe a couple more vinyl releases and help some other people release their music.

Single launch is at Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh on the 4th December.

Friday, 29 October 2010

HF@D Presents...Hallowe'en Mix

For a wee bit of a laugh I've put together a Hallowe'en Mix for your enjoyment. Roky Erickson's 'The Evil One' is one of my favourite albums ever and songs such as 'I Walked With a Zombie' show how far his mental deterioration had came that he actually believed the subject matter of the songs. It adds a whole different layer and sadness to them, which is maybe why I love them so much. As Hallowe'en is a fun (and completely daft) holiday I've had some fun with this playlist with The Munsters Theme kicking it all off! Enjoy, and have a great Hallowe'en.


[Intro] - 'The Munsters' Theme
I Walked With a Zombie - Roky Erickson & The Aliens
Weighty Ghost - Wintersleep
Monster Mash - Misfits
The Witch - The Sonics
Casper The Friendly Ghost - Daniel Johnston and Jad Fair
Night of the Vampire - Roky Erickson & The Aliens
Walking With a Ghost - Tegan and Sara
Death at the Chapel - The Horrors
Enter Sandman - Boy or Bison
All My Hate and My Hexes Are For You - Crocodiles

Download here

Favourite Son Presents...Oxjam

I am not generally one to pimp gigs on this blog but when it is for the always important Oxjam events I make a wee bit of an exception. Oxjam is a month-long musical event aimed towards raising money for Oxfam. Bands chip in and give up their time so you can enjoy yourself and also feel good about yourself!

Fellow blogger Favourite Son is running an event in Glasgow tonight, so why not pop along to see his excellent line up for a good cause. Do it.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Y Niwl

Surfing is something I do not particularly associate with Wales and it was not until recently I found out that there is a large surfing scene on their beaches. With this in mind, surely it was only a matter of time before a band playing catchy Welsh surf music emerged. Y Niwl are one such band who tip their hat to 50's instrumental surf acts such as Dick Dale, The Ventures and Link Wray. Taking an old formula and making it sound fresh is a difficult task, but Y Niwl more than pull it off.

Catchy guitar riffs featuring the token surf twang are guaranteed to make you smile, if not dance. Y Niwl dodge the bullet that often comes when revisiting a dated genre in that they don't sound conceited or purposefully hip. Every song sounds like it was fun to make, and is in turn a delight to listen to. Which is can only be a good thing, right?!

Y Niwl first captured my attention when I heard them on the excellent Clound Sounds podcast. I can often find the constant seriousness and trend-adherence of bloggers and music types a drag so it was delightful to hear something so amazingly fun. However, it seems that the fan base of Y Niwl has grown since a reportedly thunderous set at Swn Festival. With their playfully addictive 7" EP 'Adreryn Papur' released last year and a debut album set for next month, music has just got a lot more fun.

Saith by Y Niwl

Un by Y Niwl

The next Y Niwl gig I am aware of is the aforementioned Cloud Sounds' Christmas Bash at Fuel, Manchester on 10th December. I am very tempted to make the wee trip down. SURFS UP! (ugh)

Monday, 25 October 2010

Keeping It Peel Day

Unfortunately I am too young to have experienced John Peel as fully as other bloggers, having only enjoyed the tail-end of his broadcasting career. However, his influence has reverberated to all corners of the alternative music world. We must ask ourselves if we would have as many podcasters, bloggers and hardworking DJs if it was not for him. His passion, hard-work and diverse musical taste epitomised everything that is right about music and about broadcasting. It is six years today since he died but certainly no one will be forgetting the big man anytime soon.

To show how important his later sessions were to me I have picked some ones I can remember being originally aired. I've chosen The Crimea as they were a band that I can particularly remember being tipped by John and a band I kind of fell in love with due to it. That kind of experience was so important to me when I was 15 and it is funny how I can still identify certain bands as 'Peel Bands'. I can't find their Peel Session anywhere so if someone has, email me. Oh, and a Wedding Present session thrown in. He would have wanted that I think.

Mull Historical Society - Mull Historical Society (Peel Session)

Bloc Party - So Here We Are (Peel Session)

The Crimea - Lottery Winners on Acid

Wedding Present - Flying Saucer (Peel Session)

Hung Over as the Queen in Maida Vale by Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Saturday, 23 October 2010

How To Swim - Retina (or More Fun Than a Vat of Love)

Glasgow's How to Swim are a band who have never shied away from the audacious. Their ambitious stream of orchestral rock is...well...batshit crazy. As soon as they sent over a track for my Glass of Scotch Compilation I knew 'Retina' would be anything but a boring affair. Said track happened to be opener 'Diego Whirlwind' which sets the album off on a dark and epic note. 'Inferiority' and lead single 'High School Apocalypse' have a happier tone to them (while having equally surreal/dark content matter) using strong guitar hooks to lull you into a false sense of the ordinary... and then comes the orchestra and they grab you by the scruff of the neck. 'Genesis P and Me' is a manic affair with a mish-mash of influences being fused into a wonderful, wonderful mess. This epitomizes what How to Swim do best, make crazy tunes that somehow you can relate to and enjoy. My favourite track on 'Retina' is 'From Here To Dundee Slash Eternity'. It is delicately constructed and patiently built up with lead singer Ink Wilson's voice so strong and earnest that it is hard not to sit up and think 'what the fuck, this is brilliant'. The female vocals of 'False' serve as a tranquil rest-bite and interval to the final half of the record which features the darkly humorous 'Ink Wilson's World of Fear' and the excellently croontastic closer 'It's Alright'.

How to Swim always aim high but with 'Retina' they have really caught their stride. Combing ambitious and patience while always conscience of how big they can go before the listener becomes exhausted. The quieter moments set upon a backdrop of stadium sized tunes really makes 'Retina'. A completely crazy listen but a genuinely worthwhile one.

Retina is available now from their bandcamp page. Crackin' artwork too.

Friday, 22 October 2010

[Vinyl Fetish] Dreamend - So I Ate Myself, Bite By Bite

Sometimes I buy an album on vinyl and it is just so lovingly and wonderfully crafted that it makes me feel good about music and record companies for a while. Dreamend's 'So I Ate Myself, Bite By Bite' is one such album. They are the output of Ryan Graveface, owner/sole employee of Graveface Records. Every vinyl Graveface puts out is something worth owning. Dreamend's previous record 'The Long Forgotten Friend' was a two vinyl LP with a pop-up picture in the middle of the sleeve. Albums by The Appleseed Cast and Monster Movie put a lot of record labels to shame. 'So I Ate Myself, Bite By Bite' has a lovely picture disk with a phenakistoscope so you can see the pictures moving whilst the record is playing (see below).

Now that the vinyl geek in me has spoken, I shall let the music fan in me speak. This record is a complete surprise to me. My previous encounters with Dreamend have been ones filled with layered shoegaze music but this record features songs driven by soaring melodies and banjo laden hooks. Graveface may not be the most technically gifted singer but his songs are so wonderfully crafted and patient and his voice actually suits them perfectly. 'My Old Brittle Bones' on side two of the LP has a rapturous finish that never ceases to put a smile on my face. 'Magnesium Light' is banjo lead and psychedelic fusing together Sam Amidon and Mitchell Museum, if that doesn't sound completely absurd! 'Pieces' is a definite highlight and is perhaps the most straight forward pop song on the album. Graveface exposes his shoegaze roots with the ten minute closer 'An Admission' as it tops the album off in grand fashion with it ending in a wall of noise and fury.

I love everything about this album. The way it looks, the innovation, and most importantly the music. This is something I cherish to own, which is what music should be and is sometimes lost in this age of MP3s.....being the hypocrite that I am there are mp3s below but I urge you to have a look at the wonderful vinyl on sale at Graveface Records. It is well worth it.

Dreamend - My Old Brittle Bones

Dreamend - Magnesium Light

The Last Battle - Heart of the Land, Soul of the Sea

There is always a real danger with folk-leaning bands that their albums fall flat on their face due to a lack of variation. I feared this about The Last Battle for a while as I wasn't sure where they would take their sound and if they could diversify it enough to make an album that would grab me from start to finish. Then they released their single 'Ruins' and my worries and fears were put to rest. The dirty guitar lead number is just one of many tracks on 'Heart of the Land, Soul of the Sea' that really makes the album a winner from start 'til finish. It is evident from the offset that we are in for something different than their demos when the crackling feedback and slow build up of opener 'Heart of the Land' whets my appetite for the rest of the album. The aforementioned 'Ruins' follows and the album is off to a rollicking start. Reverting back to a simple acoustic orientated formula we find 'Lifejackets', which is my favourite track on the album. Whenever I hear Scott Longmuir's vocals I always find them so sincere and honest and 'Lifejackets' extends this notion. In another change of pace there is the excellent spoken word piece 'Photographic Memory' which is equally sad as it is hopeful. Just when I felt this album hadn't kept me on my toes enough there is the Polka feel of 'Cutlass' which makes best use of the token male/female vocal harmonies. Old favourite 'Whisky!!' is as pleasing as ever. I was fairly sad to see 'Ward 119' not feature on the album but by the time 'Soul of the Sea' comes round you realise it would have seemed out of place on this almost perfect concept album.

From start to finish The Last Battle take you on a wee journey without pretense and have achieved making an 'album' in the best sense of the word. It all flows so nicely together without ever seeming tired or uninspired, constantly adapting sound and keeping you interested. They have successfully side-stepped the pitfalls of making folk-tinged music, and in doing so have created a captivating listen.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Shopping With...Neil Pennycook from Meursault

[It often seems to me that music journalism and blogging can be all about 'the next big thing' and the newest and buzziest bands around. I feel this often breeds flash in the pan trends and bands, which means the concept of a good album or back catalogue is lost on a lot of people nowadays. It is important to talk about bands and albums we adore and cherish and to exemplify this I have devised Shopping With...]

If anyone asks me about the Scottish scene which bands I'd recommend there is immediately one band that comes to mind almost every time and that band is Meursault. Both their albums have been critically lauded. Debut Pissing on Bonfires/Kissing With Tongues was voted as the 16th greatest Scottish album of last decade and their second album All Creatures Will Make Merry, released this year, saw a rise in their popularity with them playing Glastonbury, T in the Park, Rockness and End of the Road in the summer. They effortlessly mash together different influences and genres to create something truly unique so, to me, there was no one more interesting to speak about important and diverse albums than their songwriter, Neil Pennycook.

Meursault - Crank Resolutions

Meursault - William Henry Miller Pt.1

Neil was adamant upon which local record shop I would take him shopping, The Hog's Head in Newington, Edinburgh. Filled to the brim with second hand CD's and DVD's, Neil comments that it is exactly what a good record store should be as there is always something new and different in from the last time he was in. His point is proven when the shopkeeper informs him he has Songs of Pain by Daniel Johnston in stock and will keep it back for him. Unfortunately this is not on the shopping list for today but Neil quickly picks his five albums and we head off to the pub to discuss them.

Dinosaur Jr - Where You Been

I first heard this record when I was about 17 or 18 and I originally hated it but I forced myself to like it because a bunch of bands that I really like, you know, like Nirvana, would all wear Dinosaur Jr t-shirts so I thought that there must be something in it for me and I persevered with it and it turns out they are like one of my favourite bands ever. This might be my favourite album ever, ever, ever. Definitely my favourite album artwork, it is just awesome, you just don't...I know I sound like an old man.. get album artwork like this any more. The first song I heard off this was 'Start Choppin'', infact, I think I bought it as a single before I bought the album. It has a song called 'Pumpkin Farm' as a b-side which is really good aswell. They are just one of these weird bands. They are a proper fucking hardcore band but with solos. I just love everything about this album. I love the fact that it is the original three-piece, I love the fact that in terms of their sound they have never really...they aren't what I'd would call a progressive band. J Mascis clearly has this thing that he does really well and he's just spent the last couple of decades absolutely perfecting it. It's probably not the favourite among Dinosaur Jr purists just because it doesn't have the original line-up, but I suppose I didn't know any of that when I was a kid any way. I think the weird thing was that I had already been listening to Sebadoh before I had been listening to Dinosaur Jr. and I didn't realise that Lou Barlow had anything to do with the band or that he was even in the band until a few years later when I started listening to old Sebadoh stuff and you hear all these songs blatantly about being really, really cross with J Mascis.

Dinosaur Jr. - Start Choppin'

The Magnetic Fields - Distortion

We were just talking just now about how the general consensus is that 69 Love Songs is Stephen Merritt's masterpiece and how many people think he is never going to better that, I think he has. Distortion and The Charm of The Highway Strip are better records than 69 Love Songs. Not by a lot, I still think 69 Love Songs is a great album, it's just that I think they are a little bit better. Again, the art work is fucking amazing. The artwork on all the records I've chosen is nice, just tasteful choices, I suppose..

Is that something you find important?

In artwork? Yeah. Hugely, in fact. To the point that if a band that I like or a band that I've been following releases an album and I feel the artwork doesn't particularly strike me I do find myself maybe not rushing out to get that record and it take me a little bit longer to want that album. I think it is a subconsious thing more than actually going "the artworks crap I'm not going to buy it."

Have you ever bought an album based purely on the artwork?

Em...Mogwai. The first Mogwai album. When that came out I didn't really know who Mogwai were and I bought Young Team just because of the artwork which I thought was incredible, really weird. I've not really got a design background so I can't talk about why I like it but I've always been a fan that if you can get a really simple image that just absolutely compels you to buy a record and this [points to Distortion] is a really good example.

Well that whole theme is carried on to the next album..

Yeah, which I don't know yet. That could be, like I was saying, because the artwork isn't as cool as this one.

It's not pink..

It's not pink, exactly! There is no other album in your collection that is going to look like that.

Back to the actual album itself, the music on it is just really, really great. It is essentially the idea that Stephen Merritt has really bad hyperacusis and wanted to make an album that would let other people experience music like he experienced music. Which I guess is a bit of a fool's errand as you are next going to really recreate that. How could you possible do that? But I think he actually gets pretty close and at the same time manages not to make it unlistenable. The last thing anyone who follows The Magnetic Fields would expect is for them to make a shoegaze album, which is kind of what this is. It's got that kind of blissed out feel and everything is just covered in layers and distortion. It reminds me more of stuff like My Bloody Valentine than it does other Magnetic Fields albums.

With The Magnetic Fields, you can draw parallels between them and Meursault in how they go from folk-based music to electronic-based music seemlessly. Do you think that's fair?

[sounding unsure] ..Okay. I think it's fair. They influenced me big time. Especially Charm of The Highway Strip was a really big influence, it was constantly getting played. Charm On The Highway Strip and On Avery Island, the first Neutral Milk Hotel album, that was what I was listening to on constant repetition over and over again. Just because everybody gets that thing when you hear a band that just doesn't sound like anything else and that was Magnetic Fields for me. You can draw parallels between other bands but...

Well I didn't mean you sounded like them...

Yeah, yeah. But the thing I liked about them is that they used folk instruments but didn't play folk music. That has been a thing with me as well. I like acoustic guitars and I like banjos and whatever but the music I am playing on them isn't necessarily what you would call folk music. Particularly because folk music has just been ruined now. It is not that it has been done to death and there is still some really good folk coming out. In an ideal world I'd be quite happy to call the music I make folk. The kind of music people call folk music these days is just fucking garbage. It is absolute garbage. I could name names....and I will..[tells me off-record two very big folk acts who he despises]. It is just this sort of commercialisation of folk music has happened before, it is not the first time that has happened with that genre. It is just annoying that it is happening again every twenty years. It is depressing, I'm like. "we have been through this before!" Hey-ho, whatever. Magnetic Fields' Distortion...not a folk album.

The Magnetic Fields - California Girls

Neil Young - Mirror Ball

This is by far of all the artists I picked the most commercial. Is that fair to say of Neil Young? He is one of these guys, isn't he? No matter how massively famous he gets you could never call him commercial, you know, like Tom Waits or Springsteen. They just are who they are. Mirror Ball...everyone fucking hates this album. Especially Neil Young fans...they just hate this album and I've never got why people don't like this album, it's amazing, everything about it. It's got tunes, the production is great, really nice and scrappy kind of like Ragged Glory...that sort of idea. I think the reason why there was such a backlash against it was because for this album his backing band, instead of Crazy Horse or The Stray Gators, he had Pearl Jam. Who, to be fair, at one point quite a good fucking band. I don't know what happened to Pearl Jam critically. They became really 'uncool' to like and I'm not sure why...

Maybe because they were tagged with the 'grunge' label which became quite uncool?

I suppose, but they were always more just rock rather than grunge. Then I can't really think of what a grunge band is...I can only think of Nirvana. You hear people saying Dinosaur Jr. is grunge and that Neil Young is the 'Godfather of Grunge' it is just fucking sweet guitar music, get over it! This album is incredible. It might not be my favourite Neil Young album but it has my favourite Neil Young song on it called 'I'm the Ocean'. He seems to write effortlessly these ten minute long sprawling narrative sorta songs. He has done it before in his career when he writes about getting older and settling down and having kids which you don't really connect with, but somehow on 'I'm the Ocean' I do totally get it. You don't necessarily have to take it as an age thing that he is talking about he is just feeling disconnected about these people around who he feels he should have a connection with. There is a line in the song, 'people my age they don't do the things I do', just the disassociation he has from his peers because of that. You should listen to that song. I'm not going to go into why that particular song means so much to me as that would be boring. I'd recommend this album as a whole to anyone...it's got everything there. The massive rocking song, he has the ones he does on organ like you see if when he does in things like Neil Young Unplugged. There is a reprise of I'm the Ocean at the end that just has the melody...Fallen Angel, that's the one, beautiful. It just sounds like he has had fun making it which is nice to hear someone of that age still enjoying making music. I can't remember the last time I listen to Bob Dylan and thought 'it sounds like he's having a hoot!' [laughs]

That Christmas song he wrote?

[raises his eyebrow and gives me a look...laughs]

Neil Young - I'm the Ocean

Fugazi - The Argument

Now I have got a funny feeling that after we speak about Fugazi's The Argument that if there are any Fugazi purists at the next Meursault show they are going to fucking bottle me. I don't really like Fugazi, I just really like this album. I'm a little turned off by Fugazi and Minor Threat because of the Straight Edge politics which I don't agree with and I find that if music is overly politicised and I don't agree with the message...it's the biggest turn off in the world for me. Anyway, that is that said and done..this album is fucking amazing. To be fair, it was the first thing I had heard by them. When I listened to it I just thought if a band can make an album this good then surely the rest of it is going to be great to dig out and discover. Unfortunately it just wasn't a rewarding experience for me. This album is just a masterpiece, though. I can't imagine a band making a better record and it was there last album. Artwork again is gorgeous. [pulls album out] It has a lovely pull out gate fold and beautiful photography and pictures...

Do you find that important when you are putting out an album, the finished article, packaging, the artwork?

Yeah it has to be sort of a finished piece. It has to be...

Worth buying?

It doesn't have to be worth buying it just has to be worth making. If I was going to not give a fucking about the album artwork then I would just give away CDR's from a plastic bag. I got lectured by one record shop over that bands don't seem to care enough about album artwork these days and I think that it is the total opposite. Bands realise the importance of it more now than ever. If you want people to buy the album and not download it then you have got to make damn sure that it's something that you want, it is not just the music on the record, if you have images that go along with the music...it is just that thought process...you might never have to explain why you have chosen those particular images to any one else. It just shines through. A random image on a record cover and you can just tell. I thought I could talk about this album until the cows came home but I can't, I mean the main talking point is why I don't like Fugazi. There is not much to say about it...lyrically the themes aren't too overbearing which would possibly make it unlistenable but with this one it is more personal. I don't know what Ian Mackaye was particularly on about when he recorded it but it seems to be more from the heart than the head. That sounds corny as fuck but it's true.

Fugazi - Full Disclosure

AC/DC - If You Want Blood

This is probably one of the bands that all the guys in Meursault and probably all my friends have in common. We all like-stroke-love AC/DC especially the Bon Scott stuff. I don't mind Back in Black, to be honest. I think after that everything kind of went down hill and their best stuff is definitely the Bon Scott stuff. If You Want Blood is my favourite recording by them, it's a live album but I don't care. I like live albums I think they get a lot of shit and obviously you do get a load of trash with stuff you feel like they have just thrown it in and it does happen. Albums like Live Seeds by Nick Cave are absolutely incredible. It's weird, you listen to AC/DC songs...have you ever heard What's Next To The Moon by Mark Kozelek?


Well that made me reevaluate AC/DC and really go back and listen to it. Instead of listening back and being all nostalgic about it and thinking, "oh yeah, I used to listen to this as a kid" and dance around the room, it made me sort of listen to it...I was a bit more open-minded about it. Instead of listening to it as a kid and thinking, "hahaha, this song is about rape and my mum will hate me listening to this"..it sounds really childish, well, it is childish as I was a child but you listen to it now and, this is going to get me in trouble from a lot of mates, I almost think Bon Scott wrote about what it was like to be young and lustful and a bit of a misfit a lot better than a lot of people, including people like Springsteen. I think he nailed it as he kept the fun and sort of danger aspect of it and, I shouldn't go on about it as I fucking love Springsteen, but I think with him it was always dramatised. It was like 'Teenager; The Musical', whereas AC/DC was more warts and all.

Springsteen has aged better don't you think?

In that Springsteen didn't die?!! It is quite hard to age well as a corpse! [both laughing]

I mean post-Bon Scott and AC/DC as a whole. Do you even listen to the newer ones?

I mean Bon Scott was their lyricist and Angus Young's lyrics just aren't the same. I've just lost interest, I think. It is one of those things were it just doesn't capture my imagination any more. I think the albums that I did have as a kid were previous to Back in Black as well, and including, I don't think I realised as a kid that Back in Black wasn't Bon Scott but obviously now I do. I just think by the time I would have gotten round to listen to the rest I had reached a point in my life, late teens and early twenties, everything just became really earnest. Only the last four or five years I have sort of come around again. I find it really hard when music is overly earnest to engage with it. That might sound a bit weird coming from me giving that our last album, by all admission, was really quite earnest indeed.

Do you think you are going to make an album of 'I am young and want to have fun songs', then?

Maybe not 'I'm young and I want to have fun' but maybe 'I'm middle aged and I would like to have a bit of a better time'. I'm 29, man. I'm not that young. It's not that old, I know. Certainly when I look at what I am listening to since we made the last record...the stuff we've got here was maybe in the back of my mind. The stuff I am listening to now is sort of a regression into stuff that is a bit more....I don't know how to describe it...

Easier on yourself?

Yeah. Fuck yeah. Music should be enjoyable and it doesn't have to be this thing that you have to purge yourself every time you want to write a song or listen to a record. I think that is a big thing for me at the moment.

Can you see yourself stepping away from making your music so personal?

I think it will always be personal. It is just...life's a bit better now. I listen to the first record and I think there is a lot more range of emotion on that record.

You've said before you thought the first record was quite bitter...

It's weird how your opinions change, isn't it? That is totally the reverse for me now. The bitterness I had on the first record seemed to be towards certain things. The bitterness on the second record...I think I gave myself a bit of a hard time. I'm still glad I made the record though. You realise a lot of shit when you made a record like that.

Was it quite cathartic then?

That one was, aye. Unnecessarily so. Meursault have another tour and then after that there is going to be a break. After that we are going to have an album ready and for all intensive purposes it is going to be a new band, which is quite exciting for me. Same people and pretty much the same process to writing songs it is going to be a little bit different content wise. A different approach sonically and just...

Would you say it is going to be as different...to say...Nothing Broke compared to All Creature Will Make Merry?

Yeah absolutely. Maybe not in that direction though. I won't say any more as it is still early days.

So basically you want to be Bon Scott?

I just want to get on a stage with my top off! [we both laugh]

AC/DC - Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be

Meursault are playing The Caves, Edinburgh on the 25th (Monday) they are then extensively touring Britain and Europe. Go see them live, eh?

31 OCT 2010 - THE PLAYHOUSE BAR [free entry] : NORWICH : UK
03 NOV 2010 - STEREO : YORK : UK
04 NOV 2010 - DEXTER'S : DUNDEE : UK

I Build Collapsible Mountains - A Month Of Lost Memories

It is always interesting when a member of a band takes a step in a different direction, Luke Joyce former shoegazer guitarist in The Gothenburg Address has done just that. His frankly ridiculously named folk project I Build Collapsible Mountains is obviously the music he felt he should have been making and A Month Of Lost Memories is an ocean away from his former band's sound. A voice and acoustic guitar is more is, perhaps, a little more daring than hiding behind a wall of reverb as Joyce certainly bares his soul on this record. 'Rails' is fairly paint-by-numbers Americana but there is something intriguing about how earnest Joyce's voice seems whilst singing it. 'To The Dark' is a drum lead affair which tumbles along in a nice juxtaposition to 'Rails'. The rest of the album reverts back to the simply guitar/voice combo. 'Slowapproacher', 'Switches' and closer 'And The City Sleeps' are clearly extremely personal songs and this comes across in everything about them; the singing, the playing, the lyrics.

There may not be enough variation or digression in sound to hold the non-folk fans attention here, but if you do enjoy relaxing and simple folk then this is for you. You have to admire Joyce for clearly choosing to make a record he has wanted to. In doing so it never seems conceited or self-absorbed, yet feels extremely personal. I might not know what I Build Collapsible Mountains means but I certainly know what its purpose is.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Introducing - Aloha Tigers

I first came across the Illnoise dream-pop duo Aloha Tigers whilst writing the The Line Of Best Fit 'Song of the Day' column. Every track I've been sent regarding the feature has been good, however I was completely blown away and pleasantly surprised when I first heard 'Oh, The Glory Of It All'. Thus began my excitement about this up and coming band. I've heard some new songs from their forthcoming album and this has only amplified my child-like and giddy excitement. I caught up with them to have a wee chat.

Who are Aloha Tigers? Care to introduce yourself?

Mike is the dreamy one. I'm the bald one who scowls a lot, although not usually intentionally.

How would you describe your sound?

Well, hopefully people find it catchy. We like big sounds, drony sounds, pretty sounds. Do you all have syzurp over there? It's like listening to top 40 radio after drinking a big cup of that.

One of you is song writer and one of you is producer. Do you feel this balances out the band quite nicely?

We wouldn't have it any other way. We get along really well and are both on the same page about what we want to accomplish, so we kind of lucked out in that department. It's a 100% equal collaboration and has thus far been a really positive and enjoyable experience. Maybe a bit more wrestling than I'd prefer, but it goes with the territory.

You hail from Bloomington, Illinois. Is there much of a scene there and how much does the area influence you?

Bloomington is like a great place to raise a family and a not so great place to start a band. Sometimes it feels like nothing is really going on here, but having said that, we've also met people from around here who are doing stuff that's as good as anything you can think of, so it's hard to say. It's like a town full of really creative shut-ins.

Which bands do you look up to?

Tears for Fears are a big influence. George Michaels is getting to be a big influence. Lots of the bands we grew up with, people who treated pop music as a totally legit, adult form of expression. As far as contemporary people that I'm actually influenced by, I really dig Luke Steele and his two bands, the Sleepy Jackson and Empire of the Sun. We're both all over the map with what we like. With Mike, one day he'll be on about Nilsson, the next we'll be listening to Gucci Mane, and then like the expanded works of Phil Spector. Although we do not condone his murderings.

Is everything you record home recorded? Do you find that more natural/easier?

It is. Home recording technology is amazing right now. You can work at your own leisure and slave over every detail. It's great.

You are currently recording your debut album. Can you give us any more information about its release?

It's being released as part of the Way Slow series on Lefse Records, which is also featuring people like Houses, Teen Daze, Ganglians, Banjo or Freakout, and a bunch of other exceptionally good bands, so that's really exciting for us. When you start out, you dream about putting out a record under any circumstances, so to have the opportunity to be doing something associated with a label like Lefse, where literally every band on the roster are incredibly talented and forward thinking and skull-crushingly cool is both an honor and kind of humbling. We aren't sure exactly when it's coming out yet, but my guess would be sometime in the first half of 2011.

Where do you hope 'Aloha Tigers' to be this time next year?

Hopefully by that time we'll be out playing shows and working on another record. It would be incredibly cool if we could make it over there at some point. An equally plausible scenario is that we will be riding the rails and eating shoe leather like hobos, given the direction the U.S. is going in. And honestly, either would be acceptable. We'd make fine drifters.

Aloha Tigers- Cruisin' (Rick and Alex's Theme) by alohatigers

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The Scottish Enlightenment - Little Sleep EP

I have somewhat of a strange love affair with The Scottish Enlightenment. When they released their debut single 'Eyes' back in 2007, I was an impressionable young 18 year old. 'Eyes' grabbed me so much that I wanted to delve deeper into the treasure chest that is the Scottish music scene. Lo and behold, three years on, I have fully embraced Scottish music and this is partly due to that one The Scottish Enlightenment song. After 'Eyes' things kind of went a bit quiet for the band, but last year they released song free tasters and my appetite was whetted once again. Then came along 'Pascal EP' which has been one of my favourite releases of the year so far. So how does 'Little Sleep' weigh up?

It is an EP you have to devote time to, that's for sure. The title track will grow on you in time as the unusually catchy chorus sinks into your consciousness while the thundering guitars have a certain dark warmth about them, which kind of lulls you into a sense of wanting more. 'Get My Limousine' is a patient affair, tumbling along slowly, with their token self-deprecating and insecure lyrics about the pitfalls of busting your gut in a criminally underrated indie band. The real turning point is 'Drip Feed'. It reminds me of when I first heard the Fugazi song 'I'm So Tired', due to it being so far from their token sound, yet it could never be by any other band. Built on a catchy piano hook and with superbly intriguing and haunting lyrics it is certainly the stand out track on 'Little Sleep'. 'When You Hate Me' returns back to the less immediate feel of 'Get My Limousine', while closer 'Saint Germain is Thick Tonight' is a fairly upbeat number for the band.

Upon receiving this album I thought it was going to be cast-offs from 'St. Thomas' - their upcoming album - but how wrong I was. 'Little Sleep' stands on its own as a great EP with some of the bands strongest tracks yet in 'Drip Feed' and 'Get My Limousine'. Show this record patience and you are bound to be rewarded.

<a href="http://thescottishenlightenment.bandcamp.com/track/get-my-limousine">Get My Limousine by The Scottish Enlightenment</a>

<a href="http://thescottishenlightenment.bandcamp.com/track/drip-feed">Drip Feed by The Scottish Enlightenment</a>

'Little Sleep' is out now via the brilliant Armellodie Records. Please support the artist.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

[MP3] Crocodiles - Mirrors

I have listened to almost nothing else since purchasing Californian duo Crocodiles' sophomore effort 'Sleep Forever' last week. The album takes a quieter, more restrained step back from their debut 'Summer of Hate' and it is all the better for it. With multiple Mercury Prize winning producer James Ford behind the desk they effortlessly change the gears between noise-rock, shoegaze and even a fairly upbeat organ and drum machine lead closer, 'All My Hate and My Hexes Are For You'. However, it is the opener 'Mirrors' that really steals the show here. Get this album now!

Mirrors by Crocodiles

Crocodiles play Captain's Rest in Glasgow on the 2nd October.

'Sleep Forever' is out now via Fat Possum

Introducing - Iglue

My first introduction to Iglue - real name Niaal Manson - was during my visit to Inverness for GoNorth. I remember fellow blogger Peenko remarking that he sounded like a mix between Bright Eyes and Bombay Bicycle Club and at the time I thought that description was as accurate as you could get. The 21 year-old's new batch of songs are a far cry from that initial reaction. Sparse and timid melodies replace the pop sensibilities of his older songs and youthful optimism is now traded for jaded cynicism. 'The Modern Youth' is a perfect example of this as Manson strives for answers via a sullen existential lament. Environment plays a massive hand in the foundations of his songs as he grew up on the small, ocean locked Island of Lewis. 'Afloat', 'Men Are Made At Sea' and 'Jump Into The Sea' evidently have a recurring theme, using the sea as a vehicle for many a metaphor. The lack of optimism can, at times, grate on you and a wee glimmer of hope would be nice but I suppose this is the whole charm of these songs. It also illustrates the bleakness of island life extremely accurately (as I found out during a stint in Shetland).

Iglue is far from a finished product but these songs definitely show promise. Some variation in sound would certainly give the songs more longevity while bringing back the initial sound which caught my attention. However, what young Manson has achieved is show his diversity and maturity which makes him one to watch.

If you want to find out more there is a lovely wee interview with Niaal at the aforementioned Peenko Blog.

The Modern Youth by iglue

Afloat by iglue

Myspace / Soundcloud

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Introducing - The Son(s)

I don't really write as much here as I would like. Partly laziness, partly drunkeness, partly summerness, partly writing for other places. Anyway, I've been sitting on a band I really think are head and shoulders above the rest in terms of Scottish folk-tinged laments for a long while and it would be a waste if I didn't write anything about them.

The Son(s) are an Aberdeen based trio (although it is said that members are dotted all over the place). Their music is as haunting and elusive as their identity. Knowing very little about them other than they are fronted by a lovely chap called Karl. They don't gig, they don't have a Myspace, and stream their entire catalog via Bandcamp or Soundcloud. It doesn't matter as they have created a collection of songs which are so beautiful and timid that they beg to be listened to.

Their songs feature lush instrumentation is fused together with vocal harmonies reminiscent of the very best Americana chamber music. If you didn't know otherwise you would think that The Son(s) are an experienced American band releasing their fifth or sixth album. They seem that accomplished. 'You Belong To No One' gives folky troubadours such as Justin Vernon a close run for their money, while lead single 'Radar' takes a poppier direction while still featuring the bands token harmonies and ebbing and flowing between tranquil guitar picking and electric guitar showmanship, a mixture of the restrained and the confident. 'Dogs, Boys and Men' is a more urgent affair, producing a rock track of the highest songwriting, production and execution.

Whoever The Son(s) are is not important. What is important is that you listen to them. Now.

You Belong To No One (Master) by The Son(s)

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Meursault - Crank Resolutions (Live at Glastonbury)

I have two reasons for posting this video. One being that it is fucking brilliant and the other being that I feel it is the perfect response to the editorial piece written by Radar. The article asks whether or not the friendly and close knit nature of the Scottish music scene does more harm than good. I feel Meursault are a band who prove to be the antithesis of said article. Hard work by themselves and their record label lead to them gaining a small yet loyal fan base in Edinburgh. The momentum from this combined with more hard work and support from local press, bloggers and podcasters lead to them gaining recognition in the rest of Scotland, then Britain, Europe and now the world. They prove that the close knit community in Scotland can, infact, take a band further than if a dog eat dog type attitude or overly critical attitude was adopted. The community surrounding the band was even the focus point in an extremely favourable review from Pitchfork. Yes, we need to be honest with each other, but the amount of work some people put in and the support bands get from such a vast number of outlets in Scotland is something I feel should be praised not criticised.

intro at the start is new to me, but sounds absolutely amazing. Enjoy.