Conor Oberst And The Mystic Valley Band – Outer South

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Ok, I have one major issue with Conor Oberst and it’s the same issue I have with Ryan Adams. It’s also probably something that though it bothers me slightly I shouldn’t complain as a fan of their music. Basically, it’s my opinion that the level of output by both artists is so great that it really does stop them releasing classic albums. Their albums are always good with a number of classic songs but because they fire them out in quick succession I never think they manage to produce an album which captures me from start to finish – Ryan Adams and The Cardinals Cold Roses Disc 1 perhaps being an exception. Basically, this is a really solid album, it’s got loads of good tunes on it and is really enjoyable to listen to for sure. However, it can’t even be a year since he released his first solo effort. Like Adams, I reckon if he took a little more time between releasing albums and put together his strongest songs off the last 2 or 3 then he’d have a far stronger album than this. But it is good. Like Adam it’s always good. It’s just not classic. Not that I am really complaining, it’s more an observation than a complaint because I fucking love Bright Eyes and I fucking love Ryan Adams so the more they put out, the more I consume by them the happier I will be. It’s an observation more about what they could be considered as as an artist. But as a fan I will accept more albums like is every week if he’s got them up his sleeve. Lets hope so.

TSP Grade = C

Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson

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So here’s another early contender to make my top ten list at the end of the year. And it’s purely by chance that I stumbled across this record. Faced with a £20 HMV voucher and no idea what to buy I was casually browsing the records when this album jumped out at me. As is often the case it was the art work that first caught the eye. a skeleton in a dress with an umbrella and a fan. Jake and I have discussed the appeal of album art many times and the art I tend to be drawn to is the subtle stuff that catches your eye but makes you go in for a closer look to understand it. Subtle, understated and simplistic. And this album’s art falls into this category. The next thing that made me take the gamble was the fact that the album features Daniel Rossen from Grizzly Bear. However, Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson is a solo artist and this album is simply great. Sounding like the bastard love child of Neil Young and The Arcade Fire this album is rough and edgy but filled with wonderful tunes. It grabbed me from the get go and held me right through until the end. I was reading the new biography on Tom Waits during my first listen and the music distracted me, a sure sign that an album is good. If anyone can drag me away from Waits then they are worth a second listen. And so after numerous listens, I do proclaim that this album is as good as any in 2009 so far. You can check out Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson on myspace. Enjoy.

TSP Grade = A-

Trespassers William – The Natural Order Of Things

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Well this has been in my cd collection for a while now but I kept forgetting to burn it to my ipod so hadn’t properly sat and listened to it until today. I’ve listened to it on repeat this morning though as it’s simply gorgeous. I am even more excited about these guys coming to play Trampoline in Ocotber now. ‘Sparrow’ is an odd and sparse intro which develops into a lovely tune and the rest of this EP follows suit mixing really interesting sparse sound scapes with the warm and gorgeous vocal of Anna-Lynne Williams. I was so chuffed when Rich from Gizeh asked me to put these guys on in Edinburgh and even more chuffed when Phil aka Debutant asked The Kays to support them in Aberdeen the following evening. I know these 2 shows will be highlights of this musical year for me and you can buy tickets for both the Edinburgh and Aberdeen shows here Simply put, this is a beautiful dreamy EP which follows on beautifully from last album ‘Having’ without ever repeating the sound of the previous work. The one constant is the vocal which drenches each tune with heartaching beauty. Make sure you check these guys out here and make an effort to get out to see them on their UK tour in October. I for one cannot wait.

TSP Grade = B

Jason Lytle – Yours Truly, The Comuter

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I read somebody describe this as a stinker the other day. I can’t actually believe that the person in question has bothered to listen to this album if that’s their genuine opinion. As somebody who considers themselves a grandaddy fan I would suggest that whilst the album in no way breaks new ground, it’s a very enjoyable piece of music. I fail to see how you could enjoy Sumday and not enjoy this album. I’m not arguing that this is anywhere near as good as some of Jason Lytle’s previous work, but I cannot quite get my head around anyone who likes grandaddy calling this stinking. I tend to agree with Matthew at www.songbytoad.com who would have preferred to hear the album Lytle wanted to make as opposed to the album he thought others would want to hear. Some of their best moments have been when the weirdness has crept into their songs. I assume there was pressure from above to make the album more accessible too. I just think the little electronic noodles that made me fall in love with grandaddy have got less and less as the albums have gone on, and releasing a solo album was the perfect opportunity to avoid playing safe. However, play safe he has and to be perfectly honest, this is a perfectly lovely album which would not be considered as anything else had it not been produced by such a cult indie hero as Lytle. I for one am really enjoying listening to it and you should check it out too.

www.jasonlytle.com

TSP Grade = C+/B-

Jay Bennet 1963 – 2009

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This is truly tragic. According to BBC News no official cause of death has been confirmed, though it has been said that he “died in his sleep”. He was 45 years old. As everyone knows, I am a massive Wilco fan and though I do believe that the band has gone on to better things since the departure of Bennett, I do believe that his contribution to the history of the band is significant and important. He played a massive role, from what I can gather, in shaping the direction of both Summerteeth and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and was a fantastic musician and song writer himself. The mess that has followed in terms of him suing Jeff Tweedy and the fall out from their break up is extremely sad but not nearly as sad as this. We lose yet another fantastic musician who had so much to offer. RIP.

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

I’m feeling a little hurt tonight. I’ve basically been accused on another blog of ganging up on a friend and being hurtful and attacking him personally. This could not be further from the truth as I was merely having a discussion in what I thought was a light hearted joke with a friend. However, it is the same old story, having a discussion about a emotive topic on the internet is a seriously dangerous thing. For what I saw as a fairly innocent conversation about music snobbery, others were misconstruing as me attacking a friends opinions and being hurtful. Firstly, let me say this: the person who I am acused of hurting is a very close friend and somebody who I admire and respect. Not only would I not ever attack somebody on a blog I would not argue with somebody seriously on one. When upset by comments made on blogs I have been known to contact the person that upset me by e-mail or text and dealt with it one on one. I find airing dirty laundry in public quite offensive if I am perfectly honest. Tonight I feel hurt though. If people truly believe that the chat was anything other than a difference of opinions then I don’t know what to say. There was no real problem until others started throwing acusations around. Which simply goes a long way to highlight how difficult it is to have a personal conversation by e-mail, text or online. You cannot convey emotion in any way and people get upset, hurt, whatever, even when it is not intended. So tonight I feel shit. 1 because people actually believe that anything said was malicious and 2 because I certainly never intended to offend anyone. Fuck.

Randan Discotheque, White Heath and The Stormy Seas @ Trampoline, Saturday 16th May

This was fun. A really excellent night of music if you ask me. But then I should say that shouldn’t I! 2 of these artists were new to the Trampoline stage and 1 are a favourite from last year so it was set up to be enjoyable.

The Stormy Seas play pretty agressive traditional Scottish folk music. And they play it really well. There was something about them that reminded me of Foxface for some reason. I’m not sure that they sound entirely like Foxface, but the delivery of the vocal, the agression and passion of the songs remind me of the lead singer of Foxface. Or maybe it was just Michael Tovey’s excellent beard!? Who knows. Still, a thoroughly rousing and enjoyable start to the night. And the interplay of the vocals – I’ve just been raving about My Latest Novel and how they do it – well the 2 vocals are an essential ingredient to this bands set up. Definitely ones to watch this year.

White Heath were next up and, as per last year, they deliver a set of powerful tunes. If I have one criticism of them it would be that there songs sometimes last that little bit too long, just when I think they’re about to end perfectly the start up again. Perhaps thats just me though and I am probably nit picking slightly as there is no doubt that they are one of the hottest young bands in Edinburgh at the moment. Swirling violin, distorted guitars, sublime piano lines and THAT trombone. Somehow, with only a floor tom, they sound as massive as any band I’ve seen and are definitely a bunch I’ll be having back along as the deserve to be heard.

And so to Randan Discotheque. I saw Craig and his band recently play the Leith Tape Club at the Iso Bar. On that occassion they were stripped right back and the songs came across as being steeped in traditional Scottish folk. However, tonight the electric guitar and effect pedals are out and the tunes have more edge and drive to them. There are still those sublime moments of Scottishness throughout but the mix of tunes and style on show tonight adds something to the set. Colvin doing the lights and dry ice for him adds something else to the performance – now he’s set a precedent though I’ll be making him do the same for everyone! This was a really enjoyable set though and I will hopefully be at Alasdair Roberts on Friday night to catch him do it all again.

So all in all, a very good night of music. Next up in June we have Meursault, Wounded Knee and The Foundling Wheel, which should be excellent. Hope to see you there.

My Latest Novel – Deaths and Entrances.

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Fuck me this is good! This has been played over and over today on my stereo and is an early contender to make my top 10 albums of the year. I’d be surprised if many or any albums surpass this for me this year. It’s seriously brilliant. I really am a late comer to My Latest Novel having only bought Wolves towards the end of last year. I like it but I have never been blown away by it. I wouldn’t automatically be drawn to it when I deciding what to listen to on the bus in the morning. This album, however, is a different ball game altogether. I’m not sure what exactly has changed about MLN since Wolves but this album just feels more together, more focused, more complete, just more. It’s simply brilliant. The interplay of vocals is something not many bands use. I never understand bands only having 1 vocal – unless of course only one person can actually sing. MLN use their vocals better than most bands I know and do it sublimly. In fact, I’d say the weakest singer in the band is the lead vocalist. However, this works as well. From the word go this album will grab you. It’s a massive step forward from Wolves in my opinion and it must surely propel this band towards, if not beyond, their compatriots Frightened Rabbit and the Twighlight Sad as the frontrunners for Scottish band of the moment. I am finishing this post now to go and listen to the album again, and again, and probably again. Listen to some of the tunes here and buy the album here. You know you should. Do it.

TSP Grade = B+/A-

William Elliot Whitmore – Animals In The Dark

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This has been a really nice weekend. Friday night was nice and chilled, spent most of Saturday afternoon at Joseph Pearces bar with friends, then went onto Trampoline where The Stormy Seas, White Heath and Randan Discotheque all played storming sets. After that we went to the Blue Blazer for some more drinks before heading home. On Sunday we celebrated my 30th birthday by going back home to Dundee to visit my mum and dad. My brother and his girlfriend were also there so it was a really nice family day. I got some amazing presents too and my mum and dad had prepared a little book of memories from my 30 years on this planet which was really lovely…and quite funny too.

Anyways, part of a birthday is always receiving a lot of new music so I have a fair few albums to write about in the next few days or so. However, I’m going to start with one I bought myself just before my birthday. We’re sitting listening to it now as I write actually, and it’s just the perfect soundtrack to this lazy holiday Monday that we’re having. The wee man is asleep, the wife is reading about the wee man and I am writing about this excellent album. It’s hard to explain how wonderful a voice this man has. It’s like a combination of Tom Waits, Chuck E Weiss and Ray Lamontagne all rolled into one. If you take a look at a picture of him you will certainly be surprised. I was. Anyways, this album is steeped in the deep south, almost bordering on gospel at times but definitely driven by the blues. It’s wonderful. In terms of instrumentation, well there’s not a huge amount going on, this man is all about the voice and the soul. Banjo and guitar driven numbers are drenched with his gorgeous vocal. I cannot recommend enough that you check out this artist It’s undeniably perfect music for a wet and lazy Monday or indeed any lazy day of the week. Please check him out.

TSP Grade = B-

Andrew Bird @ Oran Mor, Glasgow, 14th May 2009

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Ok, so I’ve seen some pretty amazing artists live in my life, Wilco, Radiohead, Tom Waits and Neil Young being the pick of the gigs for me. But quite simply, this was up there as one of the best, if not the best show I’ve been to. By no means am I the biggest Andrew Bird fan in the world. I only own his last 2 albums, which I love. However, many people tell me his earlier stuff is even better and it’s something I plan to explore for sure. Anyways, without a real knowledge of the man, other than 2 excellent pieces of music, I was delighted that I was able to attend this show and was simply captivated from start to finish. He basically played most of the night with only a violin and a loop pedal drifting onto his electric guitar from time to time, but not that often. Now, the whole loop pedal approach of building a song from scratch is something I’ve seen done often and done well often, but never with the violin and never so well. Simply put, Andrew Bird is a stunning musician and this was a performance that everyone who missed should be gutted about missing. I left the gig buzzing and I am still buzzing this morning. I can’t really express how good it actually was. It was just one of those perfect musical moments which will remain with me forever. Absolutely brilliant. If you can get along to see his live show then please do. That has taken my breath away and left me dying to see him again soon.

www.andrewbird.net