BONUS POST : THE NOT SO SECRET DIARY OF JC (aged 54 and a smidgin)

Wednesday 28 June : Paisley, 2017 Scottish Album of the Year Award Ceremony

The sixth year of the SAY Award and I keep my 100% attendance record. As ever, delighted to make it along and I’m in the company of Aldo. I see a few well-known faces who I manage to say hello to, some involved in the music industry, others who have become friends in recent years from this blogging lark. Someone I know happened to be talking to Stephen Pastel and so I politely barge my way in just to say thank you to the pop star for making Teenage Superstars such an enjoyable view. Turns out Stephen hasn’t seen the finished version nor indeed any of his own contributions. As ever, I come away from a few seconds in his company amazed at his modesty and the fact he doesn’t ever seem to understand how so many of us are in awe of him.

Last year’s winner Anna Meredith gets things off to a decent start before The Spook School take to the stage and deliver a 15-minute mini-set that channeled the energy and fun of Buzzcocks when they were at their peak.

mp3 : The Spook School – Books and Hooks and Movements

The next two acts to perform didn’t do anything for me so I won’t waste time writing about them.

The night ends with the announcement that the 2017 SAY Award is to Sacred Paws for Strike A Match. I’m pleased as it is a record I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment out of since its release back in March but it wasn’t the one from the long list of 20 and then the shortlist of 10 that I’d have put my money on.  Rachel and Eilidh were thrilled and stunned in equal measures when told they were to receive the £20,000 prize.

mp3 : Sacred Paws – Strike A Match

Thursday 29 June : Glasgow, launch of Reverse Drift by Adam Stafford

Regular readers will know how much I love the work of Adam Stafford.  There was no way I was missing out on the launch of his latest piece of work, Reverse Drift, which has just come out on the local indie label Gerry Loves Records.

It’s an ambitious piece consisting of a 40-minute piece of improvised music that was recorded live in one take with no overdubs featuring just a synthesizer, a sequencer, some effect pedals and Adam’s occasional vocal, along with a 48-page book containing photos he had taken over a period of eighteen years, between 1999 to 2017, mostly of landscapes in and around his home town of Falkirk.

Adam announces that as Reverse Drift was wholly improvised on the day it was recorded, he won’t be playing any of it at the show to launch its release!  Instead we are treated to 50 minutes of new, mostly instrumental music. Just one man and his guitar, foot pedals and various effects mics and made for an unforgettable and special evening. He’s hopeful that the music will be recorded in October this year for future release. It was everything those of us who like Adam have come to expect and appreciate, but it had added anger and energy that translated the music into gothic landscapes. Something to look forward to in the months ahead. In the meantime, here’s a lovely nimber that was an outtake from his 2015 LP Imaginary Walls Collapse

mp3 : Adam Stafford – Sound Of Fear Evaporating

It’s a song that features a vocal contribution from Siobhan Wilson who herself was launching her latest album the following night in Glasgow, an event I’d have gone along to except it clashed with something else….

Friday 30 June : Dunfermline, The Skids Homecoming Show

This was a huge surprise.  The 1,500th posting on the blog a few weeks back was an ICA featuring The Skids. I lamented that I had missed their show in Glasgow as they embarked on a 40th Anniversary Tour but I hadn’t minded as it had clashed with the bloggers’ weekend and the unforgettable hook-up with Dirk, Walter, Brian, Adam and many others.

I took a call from Mr John Greer, past contributor to these pages, saying that he had come into possession of four tickets for the band’s long sold-out gig in their home town; not only that, but it was part of a package that had been bid for at a charity event that enable the ticket holders to attend the sound check and have a meet’n’greet with the band. There was also some food and drink at a nearby pub thrown in (but not with the band!!)

I was thrilled to be invited along as one of the guests, mainly as I was keen to see the band on the back of consistently great reviews on the tour, but especially for the fact I would meet a long-time hero.

Yup. In a year that is proving to provide all sorts of wonderful first-time happenings, this was right up there.

The gig could have been an anti-climax but that was far from the case. In front of a manic but brilliantly behaved 600-strong audience in the splendour of the art-deco Glen Pavilion (another new venue for me), Richard Jobson and co really did turn the clock back. As he said, in his head he was on the stage still thinking he was a 16-year old punk looking out at an audience of 16-year old punk music fans – fat and bald 16 year olds for the most part, but still determined to singalong and dance away as if there was no tomorrow.

The set-list was majestic:-

Animation
Of One Skin
Melancholy Soldiers
Thanatos
Dulce et Decorum Est (Pro Patria Mori)
Working for the Yankee Dollar
The Saints Are Coming
Scared to Dance
Charles
The Olympian
Out of Town
Hurry On Boys
Circus Games
Masquerade
Into the Valley

ENCORE

Charade
A World On Fire
TV Stars
Of One Skin

Yup….they ended with a song they had aired before as they didn’t want to leave the stage. I’ve no idea just how these old troupers managed to keep up the sort of energetic pace throughout the near 100 minute set. It was sweltering hot from the word go but not once did any of them appear short of breath. Richard Jobson remains a front man who so many could learn from – utterly charismatic, witty and performing throughout with the widest grin imaginable. It was wonderful.

mp3 : The Skids – The Olympian

Saturday 1 July : Villain Towers, Glasgow

Lazy day to recover.  Was able to reflect on a few personal things such as my parents celebrating 55 years of marriage earlier this week, my many Canadian friends today celebrating 150 years of theirs becoming a country and the fact that one of my younger brothers would have been 50 years old today if he hadn’t passed away in a car crash in 2010.  I toasted his memory as I recharged my batteries

Sunday 2 July : Edinburgh, world premiere of England Is Mine

Once again, a late and unexpected invite courtesy of Mr John Greer as the 2017 Edinburgh International Film Festival comes to an end with the screening of England Is Mine:-

For all that the subject matter of the film is an utter twat these days, there was no way I was missing out on this invite. I’ll be on my way east as these words are posted.

AS PROMISED…..A LOOK AT HIS NEW VIDEO (A BONUS POSTING)

This new single isn’t all that typical of Adam Stafford, but it does show he can turn his hand to catchy pop tunes (but then again, he was great at that in the days when he was part of Scottish indie/folk band Y’All Is Fantasy Island).

Here’s what one astute reviewer has said about the new video:-

Adam Stafford is a real voice of independence.

A songwriter moving to his own, very unique, set of rules, he recently unveiled new album ‘Taser Revelations’.

Out now on Song, By Toad, it’s a wonderful record, one rich in allusion and autobiographical detail.

Album highlight ‘Phantom Billions’ has now received the visual treatment, and it veers between dreamscapes and evocative dance routines.

Check it out now.

Enjoy.

BONUS POSTING : ADAM STAFFORD ALBUM LAUNCH

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I normally never put up a bonus posting on the day of a guest ICA. But this is for a special reason.

Along with my regular gig-going buddy Aldo I was at the gig last Friday night when Adam Stafford launched his new album Taser Revelations. My mate Mike from Manic Pop Thrills was also there, accompanied as usual by Mrs MPT.

Mike is one of the best at reviewing gigs, and he’s no mean photographer either. As I was already lined up to contribute to the evening by selling the merchandise after Adam had finished his set, we agreed that I’d be able to use Mike’s words as a review, on the basis we agreed with each other’s take on the evening.

Which we do. So here is Mike’s take on things:-

“Friday night at Summerhall was the album launch for Adam’s new record ‘Taser Revelations’ (reviewed on here on Thursday) and the show was every bit as special as the record.

Compared to previous shows where Adam performed on his own this one was, for me at least, a bit different as producer (and former bandmate) Robbie Lesiuk provided bass guitar on most of the songs.

Over the course of more than 75 minutes, Adam again illustrated what a singular performer he is with a set drawn from his last three albums and even one song from the repertoire of previous band Y’All Is Fantasy Island.

The songs from ‘Taser Revelations’ came first and the album’s closing track ‘The Penumbra’ eased us gently into the show. It was followed by a selection of other songs from record including a superb ‘Atheist Money’ and forthcoming pop single ‘Phantom Billions’.

It was also fascinating to watch what I’d imagined as being some sort of rhythm sample on ‘Railway Trespassers’ in fact being built from scratch by a series of percussive strikes to the guitar.

Promotional duties dispensed with (his words not mine!) the back catalogue was then raided for the remainder of the set.

Particularly well received were ‘Vanishing Tanks’ and ‘Shot-down You Summer Wannabe’ the latter which Adam had to restart as the rather lusty singalong from the Gerry Loves crew had put him off!

If that was an example of how difficult the technical aspects of these live shows can be it only served to emphasise how impressive this type of performance is.

Add in just how compelling a performer Adam is (and of course the records) and it’s hard not to regard Mr Stafford as one of Scotland’s premier musical talents at the moment.

Beforehand Dan Willson had delivered a well-received Withered Hand solo set. These are always enjoyable experiences given the quality of the tunes and Dan’s between song repartee and Friday was no exception. We were also treated to a new song.

Opener Robbie Lesiuk also impressed in his own right despite having crawled out of his sick bed to play. I’ve seen audience members frequently looking at their watches during support sets before but never the artist which suggests that Robbie was checking how quickly he could get backstage to take another Lemsip!

But he still delivered an enjoyable set, even if for the second time in a row I didn’t see the full performance (in this case due to interview duties).

Adam played:

1.The Penumbra 2. Phantom Billions 3. Atheist Money 4. Black Lung Applications 5. Railway Trespassers 6. Cold Seas 7. Vanishing Tanks 8. Please 9. Shot-down You Summer Wannabe 10. His Acres

Encore

11. Phased Return 12. With Handclaps

Adam will be out an about in Scotland over the next 2 or 3 weeks (dates here) even if a Dundee show will have to wait until his co-headline show with Book Group on Saturday 21 May.

JC adds:-

Here’s two examples of Adam’s genius.  It’s all live….

Shot Down You Summer Wannabes

Enjoy.

IT’S FINALLY MARCH 2016

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The rather strange title of today’s posting simply reflects the fact that I’ve been waiting patiently for an awful long time for March 2016 to arrive as it marks the month when Adam Stafford finally gets to release his new album.

I’ve said before that if Adam lived and worked in somewhere like New York, Berlin or Tokyo he would be hailed as a visionary genius making the most extraordinary music, much of which would be famous to millions thanks to it being snapped up by directors and producers for use on film soundtracks or as themes to strange and unfathomable TV commercials. It’s his rotten luck to be Scottish and while he is revered by those of us who are fans there are just far too many folk out there who never get the chance to hear or experience this most incredible of talents.

His last work, Imaginary Walls Collapse, should have won the Scottish Album of The Year after its release in 2013 but had to make do with simply making the long list of finalists. It was an album that defied conventional description, with a thin white duke playing his guitar, beat-boxing, crooning and using effect pedals to make sounds unlike any other release that year. And it worked even better in the live setting.

I feared that an album of such magnitude couldn’t be topped but I’m thrilled and amazed that Taser Revelations, which comes out on Song By Toad Records on Monday 14 March, achieves that by some distance as it is an alt-music opus in the truest sense of the phrase.

If you like your music to be accessible, radio friendly and occasionally danceable in an indie-disco sort of way then there are a number of songs on this album which will more than tick all of your boxes. On the other hand, if you prefer things to be more experimental, weird and reminiscent of the sort of stuff that would stop you in your tracks when spun by John Peel, then there is a great deal within its grooves that you will never tire of.  It’s a captivating album that seems to offer something new and different with every listen with all sorts of subtle and clever bits of melody, instrumentation and vocal delivery (often thanks to the wonderful harmonies provided by Anna Miles). Oh and then there’s the continued evidence that Adam Stafford is one of the finest guitarists of this era.

The songs have been in the live sets for quite a while and indeed it was as long ago as ten months that a taster single was released :-

mp3 : Adam Stafford – Atheist Money

A second single, Phantom Billions is due for release soon. It contains steel drums and is set to a foot-tapping, head-nodding and infectiously catchy beat that pisses all over anything in the charts right now. I’ll get round to sharing that tune with you when the promo video becomes available!! (one has been made which is a first for the record label and the artist). In the meantime, I recommend that you demonstrate your impeccable taste by getting a hold of the album, which is available on pre-order, from here.

Finally….and at the risk of becoming repetitive, I have to emphasise that hearing the music of Adam Stafford is one thing – seeing him perform on stage is something else altogether. Thankfully there’s an upcoming short tour:-

March 11th (Fri): Summerhall, Edinburgh, The Dissection Room w/Robbie Lesiuk & Withered Hand (solo)
March 17th (Thurs): Mad Hatters, Inverness w/Robbie Lesiuk
March 18th (Fri): The Old Bridge Inn, Aviemore w/Robbie Lesiuk
March 19th (Sat): Aberdeen, Downstairs, w/Robbie Lesiuk & Special Guests
March 20th (Sun): Glasgow, The Hug & Pint w/Robbie Lesiuk, WOLF and Sweethearts of The Prison Rodeo

I’ll certainly be at the Edinburgh and Glasgow gigs. Most likely weeping with unbridled happiness down the front.

GAZING INTO MY CRYSTAL BALL….

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I’ve never shied away from talking up the talent that is Adam Stafford.

The world should by now have taken full notice of the truly magnificent music he has been offering up over the past decade, initially as part of the band Y’All Is Fantasy Island and more recently as a solo performer; but sadly, and despite being feted by just about everyone who is anyone in the Scottish music industry, he is still very much a cult figure.

Things could have changed a bit this time last year when Imaginary Walls Collapse made the 20-strong longlist for the 2014 Scottish Album of The Year (SAY) Award but sadly, and criminally, it fell agonisingly short of the ten that made it onto the shortlist.

But perhaps that is just as well, for I think it will be impossible for any singer or band to pick up the SAY Award more than once (not until it has been going for at least 10-15 years) and I’m willing to say with extreme confidence that Adam Stafford is a great bet to win outright next year.

I make this bold statement not on the back of having secretly invented a time machine that fast forwarded to the 2016 Awards Ceremony but purely on the basis of hearing the first bit of music that will feature on Adam’s next LP – tentatively called Taser Revelations – which is due for release this coming autumn.

Said bit of music is coming out as download single tomorrow (Friday 1 May) via Song, By Toad Records. It is called Atheist Money and it takes everything that was so special and extraordinary with the last LP up to a whole new level.

There’s no way of course that I’m providing a link to an mp3 of the song – instead you can click here to listen on soundcloud and then click here to take yourself over to the Song, By Toad shop where I hope you will give the single your full support.

But as I’ve said before on T(n)VV, hearing the music of Adam Stafford is one thing – seeing him perform on stage is something else altogether and I’m delighted to pass on the news that he is embarking on a small tour of Scotland and England to coincide with the singles release, the dates are:

May 1st – Newport-on-Tay – New Port Sound, Rio Community Centre,
May 2nd – Aberdeen – Cellar 35
May 5th – Stirling – Tollbooth
May 6th – Glasgow – Glad Cafe
May 7th – Leeds – The Fox & Newt
May 8th – London – Disorder at The Old Blue Last
May 10th – Edinburgh – Summerhall, Dissection Room

Go along and be astounded. And remember, buy Atheist Money now so that you can boast to everyone that you were among the first to pick up on it.

In the meantime please enjoy this, a single from 2012 (shared with Rick Redbeard) that was later re-recorded for Imaginary Walls Collapse

mp3 : Adam Stafford – Vanishing Tanks

Enjoy

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #3 : ADAM STAFFORD

Adam Stafford @ Limbo, The Voodoo Rooms, 14 September 2013.

I may well be biased as I booked him as the support act to Butcher Boy in the first ever gig that I promoted back in 2011 to celebrate the 5th birthday of the old blog, but I think that Adam Stafford is one of the most underrated and under-appreciated talents of our time.

My first exposure to his work was when he was part of Y’All Is Fantasy Island but it is what he has done since the band broke up in 2010 that is really extraordinary. The first few times I saw him live in the solo setting I was completely in awe of what he was doing as the sounds that were coming from the stage were equally bewildering and bewitching and the result of highly clever and imaginative vocal and instrumental looping. I had never seen or heard anything like this before and even now, having seen him perform maybe 20 or so times, I still get a huge kick from watching him in action.

His contribution of Vanishing Tanks to a split 7″ single with Rick Redbeard on Edinburgh-label Gerry Loves Records was my favourite bit of vinyl ib 2012 while the following year he found himself on the radar of many a Scottish blogger and music critic thanks to the brilliance of his LP Imaginary Walls Collapse again on an Edinburgh label, this time Song, By Toad Records.

Adam is also a highly regarded film, documentary and video maker with his 2009 work The Shutdown gaining a number of international awards on its release while his 2010 video for Seven Years of Letters for The Twilight Sad also gained much favourable comment.

The last I spoke to him was at the tail end of last year when he opened for The Twilight Sad at one of the gigs of 2014 at The Tolbooth in Stirling where, as his norm, he set a very high standard for the main act to follow. He told me that he is working on new material that hopefully will see the light of day in the months ahead.

In the meantime, please enjoy one of what was nine outstanding tracks from his 2013 LP:-

mp3 : Adam Stafford – Cold Seas

But given I believe he is a talent best seen live, then please also enjoy this performance of the same song as recorded for a Song, By Toad session:-

And while I’m here….I’ll feature something recorded back in 2010 as Adam Stafford & The Death Bridge Convention as part of for a seven-track covers LP entitled Music in The Mirabel. The title track set to music a poem by the Austrian poet George Trakl (1887 – 1914) while the six songs had originally been recorded by Daniel Johnson, Devo, The Handsome Family, Jandek, The Police and The Twilight Sad…which is about as eclectic a set of influences as you could ever imagine:-

mp3 : Adam Stafford & The Death Bridge Convention – Walking For Two Hours

Enjoy.

MY FRIENDS ELECTRIC (3)

toadsketch

Matthew Young has a blog called Song by Toad and he also runs a fantastic label called Song By Toad Records. He is an incredibly talented, generous and humourous human being on so many levels. He’s also a fantastic writer.  I wish I’d come up with this from earlier this month:-

TEN YEARS OF SONG BY TOAD, WHY DO I FUCKING BOTHER?

First things first: the answer to the above question is that I have absolutely no fucking idea why I bother.

Secondly: I have absolutely no idea if I’ve been doing this for exactly ten years, but I know it’s roughly there or thereabouts. It may not have a date stamp, but the first review I ever wrote was of Modest Mouse’s Good News for People Who Love Bad News, and that was released in April 2004, so I guess ten years is a reasonable guess.

It’s not strictly ten years of Song, by Toad either, because when I first started writing about music on the internet I didn’t call it Song, by Toad and it wasn’t a blog, initially. I just fired up reviews on a static site which nobody read.

I only discovered blogs a couple of years later, and realised that I was actually writing one already, so I moved everything over to Blogger and suddenly there I was, writing a blog like so many others. And the rest, of course, is history – if you know about the site you probably know it all already, and if you don’t then you probably don’t care.

I suppose I have to mark a (vague) ten-year anniversary one way or another though, and I suppose I’ve lived through the full cycle of blogging as it emerged, peaked and now seems to be petering out somewhat.

I say that, but people who talk about the death of blogging annoy me now as much as journalists who, back when it first emerged, would say that blogging was killing journalism. Blogging is simply a form of writing, and any good writer should be able to write a compelling blog. Blogging itself has simply been incorporated into mainstream journalism, and there are also more and more ways for amateur enthusiasts to get involved these days, so it would be daft to say that blogging is in decline.

What is in decline, though, is the sense that blogs are the drivers of the broader music conversation*. Back in about 2007 or 2008 they – or we, I suppose – seemed to be where an increasing number of fans went to read about new music. But that audience seems to have wandered off recently and blogging has diffused into dozens of different variations, from online magazines like Drowned in Sound, which publishes plenty of bloggy pieces but is still basically a magazine in digital form, to Twitter, which is published fan participation at its most minimal.

If you think about it, back when they first began to rise to prominence, blogs were the embodiment of the promise of the internet. Interactivity, amateur involvement, instant reactions… all the things we still talk about now. But back then there was no social media, for example, so all the silly conversations we see on Facebook and Twitter now actually used to take place in forums and in the comments sections on blogs. The informal nature of the writing was a welcome change to the rather stuffy world of real music journalism as well, but they learned their lesson pretty fast, and now professional journalists (being talented writers, generally) write some of the best blogs out there.

Most prominent bloggers with ambition either parlayed their status into jobs in the music industry itself or turned their blogs into online magazines, and the emergence of these has filled a large amount of the space between the amateur and the professional music press which bloggers had briefly threatened to overrun on their own.

Random chatter has now moved to social media as well, and as a consequence not only have blogs’ readerships declined, but that argumentative bickering in the comments section has moved elsewhere as well, and with it the obvious evidence of an engaged audience which made blogs so enticing to a music industry which, in 2009, had pretty much no idea where its audience had gone.

Nowadays, we know. Music fans are all over social media, they supply all their listening stats on Spotify, and with Soundcloud and YouTube embeds it is pretty easy to gauge exactly how much traction a newly released song has gained. Blogs somehow seem so old fashioned these days.

Partly, they have destroyed themselves, I must say. Posting and re-posting all the same old shit, regurgitating press releases, needless click-baiting, it all seems a bit passionless and craven. Some people made a real name for themselves with their blogs and it seems a lot of people are entering into the field with that as the goal from the start, rather than just for the joy of writing.

Back then, people blogged for loads of reasons. Some of those reasons are better served by social media these days, and others by other forms of participating in the music industry. Not all that many people wrote blogs for the particular joy of writing, or even because they thought of themselves as writers. They weren’t, they were music fans, blogging was just a way of enjoying music.

But I think that’s why I am still going some ten years later, when most people have a two or three-year trajectory from starting off to petering out. As well as music, I actually love writing and I always have. Song, by Toad isn’t just about reviews or finding the most acest new music ever, I just enjoy sitting down at the keyboard and wondering what nonsense is going to emerge this time.

It’s a pretty standard artistic cop-out to say that I don’t really expect people to read this blog, but I don’t. I’d like people to read it of course, but it’s not something I expect. There are more informed and analytical writers out there, and god knows what most people make of my music taste.

I’ve no idea where I’m going from here, either. There’s no real sense that I want to stop, although I would imagine that it’s pretty obvious that the label is taking more and more of my time these days. But two things come together here at Song, by Toad – my love of music, which writing the blog has enabled me to explore to levels I never really imagined, and my enjoyment of the act of writing.

I rarely know what I am going to write about, and although I think about albums a lot before I write about them, I never really plan the actual thrust of a write-up or think about phraseology or anything like that, I just sit down and write. And it’s fun. And I guess that’s probably why I’m still going after ten years when so many people who started at the same time has quit.

*Awful expression, I know. Sorry.

JC adds

Matthew didn’t add any songs to that particular posting, so I’m going to post a few things you’ll find on his label, beginning with an old song from probably the best-known act on Song By Toad Records:-

mp3 : Meursault – A Few Kind Words

Now a songs taken from Imaginary Walls Collapse, a release that should have been named Scottish Album of The Year 2013 (but somehow it didn’t even make the final shortlist of 10)

mp3 : Adam Stafford – Cold Seas

And finally, something rather beautiful and moving from Bastard Mountain, a Scottish indie/folk supergroup (of sorts!) given that they consist of Pete Harvey & Neil Pennycook from Meursault, Jill O’Sullivan from Sparrow & the Workshop, Rob St. John from eagleowl & Meursault, Rory Sutherland from Broken Records & Reuben Taylor from James Yorkston & the Athletes.

mp3 : Bastard Mountain – Meadow Ghosts

Now get yourself over to this website and spend some money.

More Friends Electric next Monday