SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #21 : BASTARD MOUNTAIN

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From the Song, By Toad website:-

Bastard Mountain are: 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.

Farewell, Bastard Mountain was recorded in October 2012. Jill, Neil and Rob each brought three songs, one to sing themselves, and one each for the other two vocalists to sing. Over the course of a week the group wrote and recorded music to go with these new versions, the result of which is Farewell, Bastard Mountain.

It’s a record full of drones and textures, but not as dark and oppressive as that might lead you to imagine. Instead, the semi-improvised nature, live recording and playfulness of the album gives the record a real lightness and sense of unity, to the extent that the vinyl has been pressed without any track breaks at all, as it all just fits seamlessly together as a single piece of work.

This approach to collaborative music was inspired by the Cold Seeds album we did several years ago with Animal Magic Tricks, King Creosote and Meursault. That album was more ad-hoc, there was no real plan for how it was going to happen, the music was almost entirely improvised and it all sort of fell together by happy accident.

This time around we wanted to reproduce that level of experimentation and excitement, but once the musicians got together it turned into something more like a conventional band. They may not have had much time, but they still rehearsed everything a little and then recorded the bulk of each song live, playing off each other to mitigate the uncertainty of trying to record a song they’d only learned a couple of hours ago.

The results are absolutely beautiful, with new takes on older songs as well as new and previously unheard tunes by all three main songwriters, as well as a first ever officially released song by Rory Sutherland which we all liked so much we’re pushing him to write a solo record as soon as possible.

Tracks written by:
Meadow Ghosts & Palisade: Rob St. John, Drone Armatrading: Rory Sutherland, The Mill, New Boy & Pissing on Bonfires: Neil Pennycook, Swam Like Sharks, Old Habits & My Crime: Jill O’Sullivan, Something On Your Mind: Dino Valenti.

mp3 : Bastard Mountain – Something On Your Mind

Enjoy.

BIRTHDAY PRESENTS

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Your humble scribe turns 52 years of age today.  My body is beginning to get its own back on me for decades of abuse and neglect.  My hearing is going, I need glasses to read, my hangovers last a minimum of two days and when I go out to indie-discos or to gigs where I don’t have a seat, my bodyfat, creaking bones and underused muscles prevent me from gyrating in the way my mind believes I still can. Oh and in recent weeks I’ve developed a foot problem near my heel which hurts like hell when I’ve been walking about or merely standing up for a few hours.  And yet in my mind I still think I’m 22……

I know some of you may well be tempted to offer birthday wishes via the comments section and I will therefore be so bold as to offer my heartfelt and sincere thanks in advance. But what I’d really like you to do is have a listen to these magnificent seven previously unfeatured acts from Scotland and when you like what you hear – and I can say that with confidence as I know you all have great taste – then please click on the provided links and spend your currency on physical product. Here they are in alphabetical order:-

BASTARD MOUNTAIN

Turns out that you can’t buy anything by Bastard Mountain, so this post hasn’t gotten off to a good start!!  This lot were a sort of one-off supergroup of Scottish indie/folk musicians comprising 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 formerly of James Yorkston & the Athletes.

A one-off album, Farewell, Bastard Mountain was recorded in October 2012 featuring a mixture of new songs and new versions of stuff released previously by bands associated with the individual musicians. The idea was to make an ad-hoc largely improvised record on the back of minimal rehearsal and while it may sound like a recipe for an umitigated disaster, the results are stunning and often beautiful.

For one reason or another, it took until May 2014 for the album to be released on Song, By Toad Records, with two live shows to promote it; I was fortunate enough to make it along to the Edinburgh gig and hear the entire record gorgeously and perfectly performed.

mp3 : Bastard Mountain – Meadow Ghosts

More details here: http://songbytoad.com/2014/05/bastard-mountain-launch-shows-tomorrow-and-thusrday/

HONEYBLOOD

This duo may well be all over the newspapers today as last night they were one of the ten acts shortlisted for the Scottish Album of the Year (it’s not a calendar thing – the competition is open to any album that was released in a 12-month period since the 2014 competition long list was announced in April of that year).

Honeyblood came together in late 2012, consisting of Stina Tweeddale (vocals and guitars) and Shona McVicar (drums and vocals) and their blend of low-fi indie rock, heavily influenced by early PJ Harvey, Throwing Muses and The Breeders quickly gained them a fair following across their native land, and just as Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad had done previously they signed to Brighton/Brooklyn-based Fat Cat Records with the label releasing the self-titled debut album in the summer of 2014.  Within a matter of months, McVicar decided to quit the band but was replaced seamlessly by Cat Myers.

A review of the band in The Guardian here in the UK said “The lead track on their self-financed and self-recorded debut , ‘No Spare Key’, sounds like Taylor Swift’s ‘We’re Never Getting Back Together’ performed by two Scottish goth-girls doing an impression of the Jesus and Mary Chain in a tomb, or an enervated, dejected Haim in need of a square meal.” 

See what you think from this re-recorded version lifted from the debut LP:-

mp3 :  Honeyblood – No Spare Key

More details here : http://honeyblood.co.uk/

PAWS

This is another lot who are on Fat Cat Records and who were also on the shortlist for the Scottish Album of the Year Award, but for their sophomore rather than debut LP.

PAWS are one of the most exciting and lively acts around right now.  I was late on picking up on them but became a convert just about a year ago after catching them perform in a tiny pub venue in the east end of Glasgow on the launch night of a cultural festival linked to the staging of the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

They formed in 2010 with a line-up of Phillip Taylor (guitar and vocal), Josh Swinney (drums) and Matt Scott (bass) and by late 2013 had released a number singles as well as debut LP Coke, played every small venue imaginable in Glasgow and Edinburgh and toured extensively, often as the support act, across the UK, Europe and North America.  They had also lost a founder member with Matt Scott moving on but again there was a seamless transition with Ryan Drever stepping in.

This time last year their latest LP Youth Culture Forever was released to great critical acclaim and rightly so.  Twelve loud indie punk/rock tunes over 42 minutes – the first eleven flash by in just over half an hour before the closing track stretches out to almost twelve minutes.  PAWS are a long way removed from the sort of music most normally associated with T(n)VV but I can’t recommend them highly enough to you.

mp3 : PAWS – Tongues

More details here : http://www.wehavepaws.com/

SACRED PAWS

Not to be confused with the previous act….nor with Honeyblood albeit this is another all-female duo with a guitar and drums line-up.

Sacred Paws are a relatively new band in terms of releasing records with their 6-track debut LP, snappily entitled 6 Songs, being released in March 2015 but the two musicians Rachel Aggs (guitar/vocals) and Eilidh Rodgers (drums/vocals) have been part of other bands and their local music scenes respectively in London and Glasgow and their demos have been kicking around on the internet since 2012.

The EP is on Rock Action Records which has been formed by Mogwai.   So you might think that Sacred Paws are another duo whose music is heavily influenced by the Glasgow noisters….well think again.  It’s more the offspring of Vampire Weekend and Sleater Keaney

mp3 : Sacred Paws – Vince

More details here : http://rockaction.co.uk/releases/4196/6_songs_ep

TEEN CANTEEN

Enough of these all-female duos….it’s time now for an all-female four-piece.

Teen Canteen, aside from having a tremendous name, make tremendous old-fashioned pop music that makes you want to just dance and sing along. The band consists of Carla Easton (lead vocals/keyboards), Sita Pieracinni (vocals/bass), Amanda Williams (vocals/guitar) and Deborah Smith (vocals/drums). Note right away the emphasis on all four members contributing on vocals as that is central to their sound, not just on record but in the live setting.

My mate Aldo had been raving about Teen Canteen for a while as he had caught them on a number of occasions since 2013 and I got to see them late last year at a gig at a small venue on the south side of Glasgow not too far from my home and I was highly impressed.

You can still pick up copies of their excellent 7″ single You’re Still Mine/Vagabond (on glittery vinyl no less!!) and so rather than offer up one of those songs for your enjoyment I thought I’d offer a recorded as live version of a previous sold-out single :-

mp3 : Teen Canteen – Honey

More details here: www.teencanteen.co.uk/

TUFF LOVE

More female musicians, but this lot also include a boy drummer when they play live.  Tuff Love are centred around Julie Eisenstein (guitar/vocals) and Suse Bear (bass/vocals) and specialise in catchy songs of an indie-pop bent that wouldn’t sound out-of-place at a C86 evening albeit there are noticeable influences from later acts such as The Breeders, Elastica and Bikini Kill.  They formed in 2012 and are on Lost Map Records for whom there have been two enjoyable 10″EPs over the past year – Junk, on white vinyl, was released in May 2014 while Dross, on pink vinyl, hit the shops and on-line places in February 2015

If I have one criticism of Tuff Love is that they have proven to be inconsistent in the live setting, sometimes even within the same short show!  I’ve seen them be the best band of an evening and I’ve seen them be the most disappointing band of an evening, struggling to get the sound right to for the venue and the occasion.  But both EPs are well worthy of your attention. The track chosen here is from Dross:-

mp3 : Tuff Love – Slammer

More details here: http://lostmap.com/tuff-love/

WITHERED HAND

Withered Hand is the stage name adopted by singer/songwriter Dan Willson. He’s not Scottish born and bred but has lived in Edinburgh since 1996 and with a Scottish wife and family is very happy to be pigeon-holed as a Scottish act (indeed his latest LP was nominated but not shortlisted for the Scottish Album of the Year.)

Willson came very late to the music industry, initially as part of Edinburgh-based and highly unsuccessful rock bands, but shortly after turning 30 years of age he got an acoustic guitar and tried a whole new direction and in August 2006 he began performing as Withered Hand.  He was a total natural with his fragile vocal delivery complimenting perfectly his mature,  intelligent, thought-provoking and often amusing lyrics that brought a smile to the face of any listener.  A number of low-fi home recordings led to him getting increasingly noticed and in 2009 his debut LP,  Good News, was released on SL Records. It seemed to be universally praised and was a real ‘word-of-mouth’ grower with some magazine reviews being some nine months or so after it was first released!

Much was made of the fact that a lot of the songs refered to Willson’s religious upbringing – he is a lapsed Jehovah’s Witness – but there was much to admire in his wry take on life and love from someone whose upbringing and development, even in his 20s and 30s, was more unusual than most.

It took five years for the follow-up album to appear and New Gods, released on Fortuna Pop!, brought Withered Hand a whole lot of new fans.  The songs are fleshed out by guest appearances from some of the finest musicians Scotland has produced in recent years including King Creosote, Eugene Kelly of The Vaselines, Stevie Jackson and Chris Geddes of Belle & Sebastian and Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit and the end result is a tremendous blend of indie/pop/folk/acoustic music of what seems like short stories set to memorable tunes. Here’s one of the singles lifted from it:-

mp3 : Withered Hand – Horseshoe

More details here : http://witheredhand.com/

And with that I’m off to see if being 52 is bearable…..

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