Under-rated – Grand Drive – True Love and High Adventure.

I stumbled upon this band mainly because of my friend David.  I think they made 4 or 5 albums in total before breaking up and going their separate musical ways.  For the life of me I will never understand why these guys did not make more of an impact.  I guess perhaps it was the whole Ameircana slant to their music, which just wasn’t accepted in Britain at the time.  It’s funny, I could easily imagine them supporting Fleet Foxes so easily there days.  How fickle the British music press is.  But if I’m honest, perhaps it was more the public than the press because I recall at the time of release True Love and High Adventure got some amazing reviews.  I never forget this album because I had bought the Sophtware Slump by Grandaddy at the same time and I think between the 2 they occupied my stereo most of the time.  Anyways, I guess this is a trip down memory lane for me as I haven’t put this record on for a while and when I did today I remember just how brilliant a piece of music it actually is.  ‘A ladder to the stars’, ‘the guy who could carry on’ and ‘a little numb’ being stand outs for me.  If you like Fleet Foxes, if you like your music with a slight touch of Americana, if you are a fan of Grand Archives or indeed any band that can produce stunning harmonies, then you need to check out this album.  I don’t think many do it better than Grand Drive.  I guess they must wish they were born on the other side of the Atlantic so they could have been liked in the UK.  It’s just not cool to do Americana if you’re from Hartlepool or Norfolk I guess.  Shame.

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis

So I don’t really want to spend too long talking about this gig.  It was, quite frankly, astounding, inspiring, amazing and has left me so so glad that I decided to get a ticket for the show.  Nick Cave is the ultimate entertainer and the sound quality in the Corn Exchange was exceptional.  I hold my hands up and admit I didn’t know every single song that was played last night, but that really didn’t matter.  I will put that show firmly up there with the best ever gigs I’ve been too.  Absolutely stunning.

But something intrigued me last night.  There is a little story in the bible about when Jesus meets the devil.  Some of you will be familiar with it, some of you may not be, but it’s known as the Temptation of Christ.  Jesus basically spends 40 days and 40 nights fasting in the desert and being tempted to display his supernatural powers by the Devil.  Nick Cave is the devil, or last night it certainly felt like Nick Cave was the devil.  Warren Ellis was Jesus.  But in a weird way, a Jesus who has given in to temptation and when Cave goaded him or instructed him to perform something amazing on the guitar or violin he was more than happy to oblige.  I know it’s weird to be looking at 2 people on stage performing and comparing them to characters in a religious story, but if there is a devil then I firmly believe he will take the form of Nick Cave!  The man struts, points, gestures, unleashes rage and venom at every turn.  The stage backdrop for the show would have been perfect if it was set in the firey depths of hell.  At times Ellis performs as if Cave is not even there, as if the audience is not even there.  In his own world, soaked up in the music, doing the will of the devil and doing it fucking brilliantly.  I have to be honest, whilst brilliant musicians I didn’t even notice the rest of the Bad Seeds.  This show is about 2 people and 2 people only.  One the puppet master, the other the puppet – unleashing hell and making my week just about perfect.  I intend to catch this man live, everytime I can from now on.

Nick Cave

So the next few weeks are some of the busiest I’ve had in the last months.  I have been trying to cut back and doing fewer and fewer Kays shows, just focusing on the recording of the album and getting songs ready for this purpose.  Next week though sees me, graeme and grant head out on the road though for a 4 date jaunt with The French Quarter.  We’ll be playind Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen and Edinburgh along with the lovely Kartta lads.  I am so excited about this but am so disappointed as well as it means I will miss the Song by Toad Christmas party at the Bowery which was something I was really looking forward to.  Nonetheless, the opportunity to get back out playing shows is welcome after such a long break and I fully intend to preview as much new mateial as possible.  First up is Gimme Shelter this Saturday night at the Caves where I will be joined on stage by Russell aka Team Turnip on viola, Bart from eagleowl on electric guitar and Derrick from the legendary Dead Beat Club (R.I.P) on mandolin.  It should be a lot of fun.  Then the following week come the 4 shows with The French Quarter.  The Wee Red Bar on Sunday 7th for any Edinburgh folk who would like to come along.  It should be a really enjoyable show.

But before all that, I have the lovely thought of going to see Nick Cave tomorrow night at the Corn Exchange (yes, that place again!!)  I cannot wait.  I must admit, I am very new to Nick Cave’s music.  It’s probably been a year since my boss Jenny introduced me to Abbatoir Blues but since first hearing that, I’ve never looked back.  I love his music.  I love his theatricallity which I am assured is even more impressive in a live setting than on record.  I love his words.  I love his voice.  In the same way that Tom Waits provided a show at the Playhouse earlier this year, I fully expect Nick Cave to deliver a similar performance tomorrow night.  And I am excited.  There is nothing better than a show to go along with the great music.  I am going with open ears because I don’t know enough of his stuff to expect or demand songs – or indeed create a set list wish list as I did for Tom Waits under the instruction of Mr Toad.  I’m just glad this show didn’t cost £95 though!  Great music inspires me to write great songs and better myself.  I hope that tomorrow night makes me want to be the best I can be at Gimme Shelter.  I already want that. But it may focus the mind because the cider I’ve requested as a rider may well make that mind a little fuzzy before i go on stage!

www.myspace.com/thekayslavelle

www.myspace.com/thefrenchquarter  

Gimme Shelter – This Weekend

This is going to be great.  It always is.  It’s so much fun to be a part of and so much fun just to be there.  The Saturday line up in Edinburgh is great.  I’ve been helpeing Graeme flyer last week after the 2 shows I was at at Cab Vol and I am comfident that he’s going to get the best turn out he’s ever had in Edinburgh.  I think the Glasgow one will be busy as usual and hopefully if Graeme can get somebody along to the Frightened Rabbit King Tut’s show on the Saturday night, then a whole load of their fans will make their way along to Mono on the Sunday for their performance and stick around for others.  It’s actually a pretty perfect way to spend your weekend.  I am nervous about the Kays set – mainly because my backing band are not Kays members.  But it should be good.  Won’t be too dissimilar to the set I played at Trampoline on Saturday night.  But I am reall looking forward to just hanging out with friends, drinking beer and having a great laugh.  Raising awareness for an important charity, drinking beer and having a laugh I should say.  And it is an important charity and it is important that people come along and support the night because it will be great.  For £8 it’s a total steal.  So please come along and support Graeme and all the work he’s put into the night.  He deserves it.

The Wintergreens and White Heath, Trampoline, 22nd November 2008

So I don’t get it.  A number of people have commented to me about how they don’t like the music of White Heath.  And I don’t get it.  And here’s why – if you like Broken Records and don’t like White Heath then you are either not listening to White Heath or you’re just being a snob about what you listen to.  I have no beef if you openly say you don’t like Broken Records and don’t like White Heath but I cannot possibly understand how you can like one and not the other.  And that’s not to say White Heath sound exactly like Broken Records, because they don’t, but if I were bracketing bands in Edinburgh together I would place White Heath firmly in the Broken Records box.  It’s kind of like saying that you love Mogwai but don’t like Explosions in the Sky.  The ideas are similar, but the tunes are very different.  And you know what, I’ve seen Broken Records live a lot and I actually enjoyed White Heath more at times last night than I have ever enjoyed Broken Records.  I don’t know exactly how young these guys are but the energy and passion in their delivery of their set last night was fantastic to watch.  The musicianship on offer was great, their piano player as good as any piano player I’ve seen, the songs are well structured and interesting and they have to be the nicest bunch of lads to have played a Trampoline show in such a long time.  Really genuine, really friendly, and really upset about things that other Edinburgh musicians have said about them.  I’m not going to get involved in that, but I am going to say that as performances go, I would put theirs up there with the best of them.  I thought they were fantastic.  I will certainly be keeping an eye on their progress and would be happy to have them back at Trampoline anytime.  If I have one criticism it would be over use of the trombone.  But it’s just a small personal thing I guess.

The Wintergreens were also great.  I thought their dancers – I’m not sure what to call them though so if anyone can fill me in on the proper name for their style then I’d be delighted.  Anyways, not only were they beautiful, they added exactly what I have always wanted for Trampoline, an element of art and diversity.  The performance of the Wintergreens was enjoyable though I did feel a little distracted by the dancers at times.  Maybe it was because they were actually beautiful or maybe it was because at times they got in the way a little.  Having said that, the wintergreens are similar to my own band in the sense that they don’t really offer a lot to look at.  Visuals really add to the performance and I personally loved it.  They are an interesting band, clearly influenced by their Icelandic roots and I thought they delivered an excellent 40 minutes of music.  

I’m also delighted that the turn out was so good and hopefully the nights will attract those people ack.  I hope so.  I don’t want to discuss my own performance last night.  I was happy with it and a big thanks to Russell for playing viola for me.  I hope people enjoyed it.  But if I think too much about it then I will just get upset aout being let down.  So it’s best left alone.

Another good night for Trampoline I think.  Already looking forward to Withered Hand in December.

http://www.myspace.com/whiteheath

http://www.myspace.com/trampolineuk

Top Ten

So it’s maybe a bit early to be doing a top ten album list for the year.  But fuck it.  I am not going to buy many more albums between now and 2009 – it’s usually about now I get banned from buying just in case somebody buys me something for my Christmas!  So here goes.  In no particular order my top 10 albums of 2008 are:

Meursault – Pissing on bonfires/Kissing with tongues.  Yes, it makes it in to my top ten albums.  So what if they are not signed big, so what if they are not the darlings of the music world, this album is just blinding genius.  I feel so lucky to have Neil recording and producing the Kays album.  Can’t wait to see how it all sounds once he’s worked his magic.

www.myspace.com/meursault

Olafur Arnalds – Eulogy For Evolution.  This is such a beautiful piece of classical music.  Stunning.  Minimal piano and strings for the most part with a surprisingly noisey end to the album.  It’s fast become one of my favourites not just of the year but ever.

www.myspace.com/olafurarnalds

Finn – The Best Low Priced Heartbreakers You Can Own.  Another recent purchase but this is simply stunningly beautiful.  Sparse, delicate and  heartbraking.  This collection of tunes reminds me of Sigur Ros, Elliott Smith at his most delicate and, like Pamela said – a little of Radiohead/Broken Records bastard love child when he gets a little more aggressive.

www.erasedtapes.com

Bon Ivor – For Emme Forever Ago.  Just simply a gorgeous album which should be on everyone’s top 10 list for 2008.  Gorgeous voice, lovely lyrics.  Brilliant.

www.myspace.com/boniver

Micah P Hinson and The Red Empire Orchestra.  I love MIcah P Hinson.  I don’t think I’m alone either.  This is the most positive upbeat album he’s released but the step form the dark into the light is one that suits him.  Lush and uplifting, this is a fine piece of work.

www.micahphinson.com

Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight.  One of Scotland’s best new bands these guys are just blindingly good songwriters.  Having seen them live numerous times I cannot recommend this album highly enough.  And the Greys – which was their first album is also well worth a shout.  If you can check them out then do.

www.myspace.com/frightenedrabbit

Damien Jurado – Caught In The Trees.  This was a surprise to me.  Upbeat?  Damien Jurado?  No way.  I couldn’t get my head around the idea.  Then I heard the album and it’s absolutely brilliant.  He does it so so well and it’s a really excellent change in direction.  There are the usual downbeat, bleak moments, but the contrast is welcome and exciting.  great listening.

www.damienjurado.com/

The Low Lows – Shining Violence.  Absolutely blinding.  I don’t know how to describe this band but I highly recommend them.  The vocals on this album are amazing.  I didn’t think they’d be so amazing live but they totally were.  Effects galore, maxed out on reverb, but something different and something special.  glorious stuff.

www.thelowlows.net

Mogwai – The Hawk Is Howling.  Yes Matthew and other Mogwai haters, I am going there.  Fucking brilliant album.  Everything that Mogwai should be about, everything that I’ve wanted them to be about since Young Team and CODY.  Just a brilliant return to their classic best.

www.mogwai.co.uk

Sleepingdog – Polar Life.  Was swithering on this last choice.  It was between Glissando, Sleepingdog and Sigur Ros.  Whilst I love Sigur Ros I think it is fair to say that the new album, whislt beautiful, is more of what we’ve come to expect in the past.  Glissando’s album is also excellent, but on the basis that I think their live shows are more cohesive and enjoyable than the album, I am giving the last space to Sleepingdog from Belgium.  I’m sure Rich won’t quible though as she is on his label Gizeh Records anyways – so a win win situation.  This is another recent purchase and the sparse piano, gorgeous vocals and lovely instrumentation make it an instant winner.

www.sleepingdog.be    www.gizehrecords.com

So there you go.  Feel free to post your favourite albums of 2008.  Lets see if we agree on anything.

Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

I’ve been writing this blog for a while now.  It will no doubt amaze some of my closest friends that I haven’t written anything about Wilco as yet given my complete obsession with the band.  I think they think that whenever I get into a conversation about music I will somehow swing it around to Wilco, and invariably they are right.  But this band mean so much to me both as a music fan and a musician.  I guess if I was being honest, my favourite Wilco album for music alone is ‘A Ghost Is Born’ but I have chosen to write about Yankee Hotel Foxtrot because it is probably the most important album that I have in my collection.  It’s precious.  It’s tatty now, but precious all the same.  The Antiques Roadshow aren’t going to value it greatly, but to me its priceless.  

I first got into Wilco when I randomly saw them on some dodgy German sky channel.  I was about 18 – no comment on what I was doing on dodgy German sky tv channels!  Anyways, I stumbled upon them live at some German fesitval and decided the next day to buy whatever album I could get.  That happened to be Summerteeth and soon it was my favourite album in my collection.  ‘She’s A Jar’, ‘How To Fight Loneliness’, ‘Shot In The Arm’ and ‘Via Chicago’ are still some of my favourite songs.  Yankee Hotel Foxtrot wasn’t released for another 4 years, which I guess for most bands is a long break between records but in the case of Wilco, the time between records was prolonged by arguments with their record label about the marketability of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which ultimately lead to the band being dropped by their label.  It’s a really fascinating story and insight into the world of music, which is documented in the brilliant film ‘I Am Trying To Break Your Heart’.  Anyways, the album was released on the bands website initially and then released on record once they had tied up a new label – ironically another subsiduary of the same major that had dropped them previously!  When I first put Yankee Hotel Foxtrot on the stereo I got a bit of a fright.  So detached from its predecessor was this album that I couldn’t get my head around it at first.  This album introduced me to the idea of noise music.  Songs taken apart and rebuilt again and again.  Layered beyond belief.  Constructed then deconstructed and rebuilt.  Folk songs masked by static, bleeps, clicks and all sorts of weirdness.  And I fell in love with it.  This album opened my eyes both as a music fan and a musician.  From a music fan perspective, I started exploring more diverse music, straying from the commercial, ignoring music mags and trying to find my own path.  I rarely buy a music mag these days and value the opinions of those who write blogs or online magazines more highly than anything Q, NME or Uncut could ever offer.  I like to read about Micah P Hinson, I like to hear about the Avett Brothers, I love exploring and finding bands because somebody put together a playlist on their myspace page or blog.  Yankee Hotel Foxtrot shaped the way I not only search for music but indeed the type of music I search for.  As a musician, it simply taught me that the simplest of songs can be made interesting using the simplest of techniques.  I love hearing songs of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot played on the acoustic guitar and hearing where they originated, but I love the fact that on record they are so busy with so much going on – but you don’t always notice that.  It’s quite simply a masterpiece.  I love it from start to finish and I can honestly say that if you ever see a better song live than ‘I Am Trying To Break Your Heart’ with its complex drumming and waves of noise then I would be surprised.  This record made me who I am in so many ways.  I never ever tire of it.  Never will.

www.wilcoworld.net

From The Fields And Seas

I’ve always lived by the water.  It’s strange how this affects you.  Broughty Ferry is a lovely fishing village just outside of Dundee.  It was a magic place to grow up.  Being part of the big city meant you weren’t too far from the busy night life as a young adult, but as a kid, Broughty Ferry was just about perfect.  I love the sea.  It fascinates me and scares me at the same time.  I remember going to Campbelltown on holiday when I was young and spending a lot of time at the beach.  We then stopped going there and started going to Islay, which meant we had to take a 2 hour ferry journey.  I loved the boat ride.  I loved the water.  I even loved rough crossings, just a total buzz.   But it kind of feels like it’s in my blood.  When we moved to the Shore from Leith Walk I felt more settle.  There was the water again, every morning when I woke, bringing a sense of calm.  There is something so peaceful and relaxing about the sea on a still, calm morning.  I recently sat on Portobello beach wall at 8am on a Saturday morning and just existed.  Completely detached from the world around me.  It was almost perfect.  It also gave me the title for the Kays album.  It feels right.  I don’t think I ever want to live too far from the water.  It just wouldn’t feel right to me.

Why So Surprised?

Last week I went with some friends from work to see another colleague of ours perform as part of Leith Theatre in their version of Tunes of Glory – apparently it was originally a film starring Sir Alex Guinness.  Anyways, we went along and if I’m being honest I don’t think we were expecting much.  How wrong we were.  We had a great time and the play was well executed by the various amateurs actors.  I really enjoyed the story and thought the acting was of a very high standard.  It kind of reminds me of whenever I say I’m in a band.  People talk to you about it but assume that if you’re not known then you’re probably not very good.  The number of times people have come up to me after a show and said “wow, you were great” or “you were actually very good”……it makes me laugh.  I should have been more expectant rather than dismissive of Duncan’s play.  Why did I immediately assume it would not be good?  It’s weird.   But I should know better.  And I will in the future.

Finn – The Best Low Priced Heartbreakers You Can Own

The title of this album alone should tell you what I think of this album.  It does exactly what it says on the tin and is exactly the kind of album I’ve been looking for of late.  This is an absolutely stunning album of beautiful, delicate songs.  From the opener ‘Half-Moon Stunned’, Finn takes us on a journey that is, at times, so fragile that I fear his voice is not going to make it through each song.  The lovely atmospheric instrumentation used on songs such as ‘Boy-Cott’, and on the instrumental fills between each full song, add so much to the album.  However, it is at his most delicate where this musician excells.  ‘Dew’ is simply exquisite with his voice straying to paths not dissimilar to that of Sigur Ros.  This is the best lo-fi album I have bought since Elliott Smith released Either/Or.  Of course, there is often more instrumentation on this album than on Either/Or but the voice and the songs are in the same vain and leave me with the same satsified feeling.  There’s tragedy in this voice.  A sense of being lost in such a big world.  All the things that made Elliott Smith special for me are in evidence here and that excites me.  I can’t imagine this coming off my stereo anytime soon.  Another great find by Erased Tapes.

www.erasedtapes.com