Thomas Western – Quite Early One Morning

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This is an EP I think.   And it’s a lovely piece of work.  Michael from the Stormy Seas put me onto this fella as he’s organised for him to play Trampoline in January and I am delighted that he’s agreed to play because this EP is simply gorgeous.  I noticed from his myspace that he seems to just play the Bowery on a permanent basis.  I’m surprised he’s gone under my radar to be honest but delighted that I’ve been pointed in his direction.  There’s something very traditional in the music.  Not really the kind of folk music we’re used to in Edinburgh I don’t think.  No, this is far more traditional sounding and from start to finish is brimming with beautiful melodies and tales.  It’s very tender in and romantic I think.  And very fitting that I’ve been thinking and listening to Rabbie Burns today.  There’s a real story teller at play here and they really are fabulous little tales.  A truly lovely little EP which I’m no doubt going to listen to over and over to in the next few days.  In the meantime, if like me you have only really discovered this fella please head over to his myspace page and go buy this ep off itunes.  Really is worth the fiver or so.  Enjoy.

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Something Magic About Robert Burns

Don’t ask me what got Robert Burns into my head this weekend.  Burns night is not actually until 25th January.  However, I was sitting listening to Kris Drever’s album, a folk album soaked with traditional Scottish music and lyrics and Rabbie Burns inevitably popped into my head.  For those of you not from our shores and perhaps not that familiar with Robert Burns, though I am sure most of you are, he was a Scottish poet and lyricist who live from 1759 until 1796.  He became one of Scotland’s favourtie sons, and something of a national treausre as one of the greatest poets to have lived. 

When I was younger at primary school there was an annual Burns Poem Competition.  Each class from Primary 3 onwards was made ot learn one of Burns poems and then had to recite it.  It was kind of a knock out competition with the best in each class progressing to the final and being judged by the headmaster of the school.  The winner was then awarded a prize at the end of year prize giving and had to recite the poem in front of the whole school and indeed parents as well.  Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, for me I had the honour of winning this prize 3 of the 5 years I entered it.  I feel slightly cheated by the 2 years I didn’t win as I think they gave it to somebody else just so I didn’t keep winning!  Only kidding.  But I did love being part of the competition and learning these wonderful Scottish poems.  So I did a wee search on the internet as I lazed about this afternoon and I found the video below. One of my favourite Burns poems and performed by one of my favourite Scottish artists.  This whole post may seem a little pointless.  I guess I’m just chilled and happy and wanted to share this song with you.  Enjoy.

 

 

Please, Please, Please Help.

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The Kays Lavelle’s guitarsit Chris has decided this year to do something important for charity.  Please read the information below and if you can help by donating a little cash to the cause then please do.  It’s certainly worthwhile and important.

Hi y’all!!

I am growing a moustache this year for Movember.  I have decided to put down my razor for one month (November) and help raise awareness and funds for men’s health – specifically prostate cancer. 

What many people don’t appreciate is that one man dies every hour of prostate cancer in the UK, more than 35,000 men will be diagnosed this year and that prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK.  Facts like these have convinced me I should get involved and I am hoping that you will support me. 

To donate to my Mo, you can either:

•    Click this link http://uk.movember.com/mospace/130355/ and donate online using your credit card, debit card or PayPal account
•    Write a cheque payable to ‘The Prostate Cancer Charity – Movember’, referencing my Registration Number 130355 and mailing it to: Movember – The Prostate Cancer Charity, First Floor, Cambridge House, Cambridge Grove, London, W6 0LE.

Movember is now in its third year here in the UK  and, to date, has achieved some pretty amazing results by working alongside The Prostate Cancer Charity.  Check out further details at: http://uk.movemberfoundation.com/research-and-programs.

If you are interested in following the progress of my Mo, click here http://uk.movember.com/mospace/130355/. Also, http://uk.movember.com has heaps of useful information. 

I HAVE POSTED A LINK ON FACEBOOK, WHERE I WILL BE KEEP EVERYONE UPDATED ON THE STATUS OF MY MO AND IL STICK SOME PHOTO’S TOO AS IT DEVELOPS!
 
PEACE!!

If you have ever seen or met Chris, you will know that facial hair is not his strong point!  I think what he’s doing is quite simply brilliant, so do please support him if you can.   Thanks.

 

 

How Uncool Am I?

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It’s a scary fact of life but it’s a dangerous thing to admit a liking for something that might be considered “uncool” amongst your peers in this world.  Not many people are willing to stand up and admit to liking things which their friends would immediately dismiss as garbage, rubbish or embarrassing.  In fact, you might even find yourself ridiculed or isolated simply because you have the balls to say you like something.   I guess it’s even more dangerous to have a blog and admit globally that you like certain things.  But you know what, I am tired of trying to be cool.  Cause at the end of the day I am one of the least cool people in the world., simple as that.

Of late, I note that I have a fond liking of Lily Allen.  Yes, I completely fancy the pants off her, but that’s a different matter all together.   I actually think everything she has released off her new album has been seriously great pop music.   So as well as not kicking her out of bed for farting (sorry Shonagh, what a typically male thing to say!), I now wouldn’t turn her music off if it came on the radio either.  And I am seriously considering buying her latest album.   Honest.   If that is not bad enough, to date, everything I have heard by Paulo Nutini from his new album has also been really good, and I thought his performance at T in the Pak was simply great.  Right, whats next?  Might as well get it all out on the table.  Kasabian.  Having produced a good debut album and being one of the best bands I’ve seen live, Kasabian went on to produce 2 pieces of utter crap in my opinion.  However, I have become mildly addicted to the tunes they’ve released off their new album.   The need to dance when these come on XFM during feeding time for Roddy in the evening is undeniable.  So 3 down, how many more to get off my chest?!  Editors – poor mans Joy Division, Interpol etc. yadda yadda yadda – what a lot of crap, they really fucking rock!  I really like Idlewild too, not just 100 Broken Windows and before but everything they’ve done since as well.   I like a lot of what Calvin Harris has  released.  ‘Come into my house.  You’re invited into my house. Welcoming you into my house……”    And I own the majority of Coldplay and Snow Patrol albums – though it must be said not the more recent offerings as I just don’t like either of them anymore. 

And it’s not just nowadays I’m uncool either.  Being this uncool has taken years of uncool training.  Let me see.  I once had a Bon Jovi poster on my wall and loved albums like New Jersey, Slippery When Wet and even Keep the Faith.  I used to listen to compilation CDs like Hot City Nights, a classic rock cd.   I liked and still like Counting Crows.   I once paid good money to see Hootie and the Blowfish live at the Clyde Auditorium.   One of my favourite old records is ‘New Miserable Experience’ by the Gin Blossoms.   I love Soul Asylum and own pretty much all their records.  Even when they got a little shit.   I loved the Backstreet Boys song ‘I Want It That Way’ – perhaps the best boyband song of all time.   And even before I hit my teens I was being uncool listening to hip hop such as MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice.  And before this owning music by the likes of Wet Wet Wet and Bananarama.

But you know what, I don’t care.  I am uncool and I’ve always been uncool and I’m pretty sure I’ll always be uncool.  But one thing wipes clean all those flaws.  All those things that I can be criticised for, laughed at for, mocked for are forgiven simply because the very first record I owned was ‘Dancing On The Ceiling’ by Lionel Richie.  How cool is that?!

Beerjacket with The Kays Lavelle Live For Glasgow Podcart

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Well this really is exciting.  This has been on the agenda for a while now but I’ve been loathe to post too much about it as it’s an invite only show and I think the invites are all taken up.  I’m not too sure.  When I last talked to Halina they had 11o names confirmed and it’s at the 13th Note in Glasgow, which I’m not even sure can hold 11o folk!  So it’s going to be packed!  Anyways, the wonderful folk at Glasgow Podcart have asked us to be a part of a live session to be headlined by the wonderfully talented Beerjacket.  It’s on the 18th November at the 13th Note and it’s going to be an amazing night.  We are majorly excited about it.  The thought of playing a sold out little venue is extremely exciting and I for one cannot wait.  I am sure you’ll be able to hear the session on the Podcart at some point in late November, early December.  Bring it on.  Sometimes life is really good. 🙂

Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More

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I like Mumford & Sons.  And ultimately, I guess, I really like this record.  I think I said it about Deer Tick and again in this case there is nothing really new or ground breaking going on on this record..  It’s just a collection of really good songs.  But I guess I have 2 problems.  Firstly, for me, it feels like a collection of good songs rather than a well thought out and constructed record, an art which I think is slowly dying simply because the album is becoming less and less important to people.  Such a shame.  But that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.  Secondly, by the end of the album all I really wanted to hear was just one song that started quietly and stayed quiet throughout.  It was my biggest issue with the Broken Records album and it’s my biggest issue with this album too.   They do deliver on my wish but it does not happen until the very last track of the album, almost like an afterthought.  And it’s a stunning track to close.   Had they taken it to a loud climax I probably would have thrown my lap top across the room in frustration. I really do believe that if they dropped that track somewhere earlier in the album then my opinion of the record would be significantly altered or even if they had kept just one other tune down instead of swelling the aggression like they do at the end of most songs.  It’s like ‘A Small Stretch of Land’ by Meursault. There could not be a more perfect moment in a record to drop in such a beautiful song.  A moment to breathe.  The calm before the storm begins again in earnest.  Mumford & Sons don’t do this and it frustrates me.  Again though, these are just personal taste issues.   Ultimately, this is a really good record which I am really enjoying listening to.   Stand out tracks for me would be ‘White Blank Page’, ‘I Gave You All’ and album closer ‘After The Storm’.   

As an aside, I made comment on Songbytoad that ‘Little Lion Man’  had moments which reminded me of Frightened Rabbit.  And these moments are definitely evident on other tracks too.  For the avoidance of doubt though, I do not think that Mumford and Sons sound like Frightened Rabbit.  But they do remind me massively of Meursault if the electronics were removed from Pissing on Bonfires.  Marcus Mumfords voice is also so close to Neil Pannycook’s that at times it scared me a little listening to it.  There are so many reference points on this record though and I wouldn’t’ want to pin the band down to sounding like bands they probably know little about.  In its own right, this is a really good collection of songs and I’d definitely recommend people check it out and come to their own conclusions.  Enjoy.

TSP Grade = B

Sufjan Stevens – The Brooklyn Queens Expressway

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God I love Sufjan Stevens.  The first thing I ever heard by the man was ‘Seven Swans’.  What a gorgeous album that is.  Simple and beautiful it draws you in with its gentle tales and stories.  Compare and contrast this with the full on extravagance of ‘Welcome to Michigan’ and the stunning ‘Come On Feel The Illinois’ and you’d be surprised it was the same artist.  For me, Illinois is one of the most important records of the past 10 years easily.  On that record Mr Stevens crossed the divide between pop music and theatre, producing a masterpiece of its time.  Flamboyant and extravagant one minute, quiet and serene the next it really is a brilliant, brilliant piece of music from start to finish.  And what’s more, ‘the Avalanche’ an album of out takes from the Illinois sessions was also stunning.  All in all he produced around 40 tracks worthy of top marks on any blog or in any music mag.  It’s enough to make you sick really.  Or it would be if it’s as good as he gets.  But with this new album ‘The Brookyln Queens Expressway’ Sufjan Stevens has gone and pushed the boundaries once again and done so with such success that it really is quite annoying that he’s only 34! 

This piece of music, and that’s what it is, a piece of music, is actually relatively old having been first performed about 2 years ago in New York.  And once again, Sufjan Stevens successfully manages to negotiate a tricky cross over this time between straight out pop and classical symphony.  This is why I love the man so much.  Once again he has pushed himself and pushed the boundaries of what he’s known for, yet retains his identity completely. For whilst this is undoubtedly a step into the classical world of composition, it remains completely identifiable as a piece of work by Sufjan Stevens and I guess ultimately a pop record.  Despite the fact that his voice never once appears on this album it is unmistakably a piece of work by him.  All the floaty instrumentation you associate with Michigan or Illinois is present and correct and in a typical Stevens way the music swells and drops, swells and drops.  I am yet to watch the DVD footage that accompanies this album, for it is as much a soundtrack as it is a classical composition.  But as a stand alone piece of music, this is once again above and beyond the standard of others.  I mean, I love instrumental music and I love classical music too so this might not be up everybody’s street, but for me this is as good as instrumental music can get.  Classical in arrangement but never once losing its pop sensibilities, this really is a great piece of work, once again, from a man who seems to be able to churn out brilliance on demand.  And it’s not even his new, new album.  Run Rabbit Run is due out at the end November.  I assume this will be more orthodox Sufjan Stevens, but the beauty of the man is that you never can tell until the record is on your stereo and I’m not really sure what orthodox Sufjan Stevens is anymore!  Ultimately, if you are a fan of Sufjan Stevens I would recommend this record as it’s fabulous.  If you are a fan of classical music, again I’d recommend buying this record.  I would not recommend it as a starting point for those who know nothing of the man.  But as a piece of music I find it stunning and as a musician he never ceases to amaze me.  Wonderful stuff.  You can check him out here.  Enjoy.

There’s a whole story behind this record which adds to its charm.  The Brooklyn Queens Expressway runs from Southern Brooklyn, New York to the Grand Central Parkway in Queens, New York.  It was completed in 1960 and has become something of a controversial portion of interstate in New York.  The  BQE album by Sufjan Stevens is a mixed-medium artistic exploration of the BQE.   I am looking forward to watching the DVD soon to see how the music fits.  If it’s anywhere near as good as the music in isolation then it’s going to be well worth watching and I think ultimately that is how the music is meant to be viewed, in the context of the film.  Not out at all this week.  So that’s on the to do list for sure!

TSP Grade = B+

Deer Tick – Born On Flag Day

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Deer Tick.  What a great name! I watched a show on reptiles last night and even though I love wildlife shows, some of the things I was watching did make my stomach turn a little.  I think the same applies to creepy crawlies.  I’m not afraid of spiders or bothered by daddy long legs in any way, but seeing them close up always does make my stomach turn a little.  So a Deer Tick is not the prettiest little creature in the world I’m sure you will agree and it certainly does not help conjure up images of the most appealing music.  Isn’t it weird how a name can really draw you to a band or put you off.  I mean, a band called the Deers in my head would suggest a kind of folky, lo fi sound yet when you add the word Tick on at the end it changes everything.   I really wasn’t sure what to expect.  It certainly wasn’t what I ended up listening to that’s for sure.  So what did I end up listening to I hear you say?

Well, this is a band for anyone who loves The Felice Brothers, The Builders and the Butchers, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, early Wilco, Bob Dylan, The Ba or indeed anything smothered in rocking country blues.  From the word go it sets it’s stall out with a foot stomping track called ‘Easy’ and by the time tracks 3 and 4  ‘Smith  Hill’ and ‘Song About a Man’ kick in, if you’re not drawn in by this band then I’m not sure you ever will be.  ‘Straight Into The Storm’ ups the tempo with some straight up rock n’roll.  A real foot stomper of a track which cannot fail to get you smiling, dancing, singing along and ‘Friday XIII’ keeps the mood upbeat before the album slows towards it’s conclusion.  ‘Hell On Earth’ is a simply lovely piece of music to finish the record with.  It’s over too soon though.  Or perhaps it’s not.  Perhaps that’s the beauty of this record.  It’s short, it’s sweet and it makes you want more.  And the great news is that they are playing Sneaky Pete’s in Edinburgh on 4th December and the Captain’s Rest in Glasgow on 5th December.  If you love your country alt rock I would highly recommend that you clear you diary and make sure you get along to check out these guys live.  Sure, it may not be anything new, it may not be anything ground breaking but it’s a great little album from a band with great potential to go onto bigger and better things.   Check them out here.  Oh and for the record, they seem to call their fans Tickheads.  Which is simply genius.  Enjoy.

TSP Grade = B

My Latest Novel, Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh – 24th October 2009

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Two things are abundantly clear at Cabaret Voltaire on this wet and windy Saturday night. 

1.  The turn out for My Latest Novel is fairly disappointing for a band on their 2nd album

2.  The band deserve so much more attention and a much bigger audience to hear their tunes.

“We were shite the last time we played in Edinburgh” mutters frontman Chris Deveney.  “We’ll try and be better tonight”.   This is something which I’ve been told numerous times by friends about My Latest Novels live sound.  It can be hit and miss.  I saw them for the first time at the Liquid Rooms last year supporting Frightened Rabbit and I have to say my experience was not all that bad.  Mind you, Mr Toad, Chutters and I had already had a fair amount of booze by the time we got to the venue and whilst I enjoyed their set and it made me want more, both of them dismissed it as “shit”.  However, I bought and fell in love with their debut album ‘Wolves’ before this years ‘Death and Entrances’ came along and firmly placed itself in my top albums of the year.  What I love about this band is how much is happening when they play.  The album is packed with vocal harmonies, with interesting instrumentation and with layer upon layer of texture.  At times they soar filling the space with harmonies, guitars, violin and tons of atmosphere.  At others the delicacy and simplicity of the band is wonderous.  I love their albums and was intrigued to see how the band could make their intricate soundscapes work in then live arena.  It’s not easy having 4 vocals going on, believe me.  Not many bands are brave enough to use so many vocal parts.  If there is one thing that can go wrong it is vocal harmonies and if they go wrong they can go so wrong as to ruin a live performance.  And if you ask me, this is perhaps where My Latest Novel may have struggled in the past (This is of course just conjecture given my lack of experience of them live).  Their vocal harmonies are not exactly simple ones.  So being brave enough to go for it live is comendable in itself.  Making it work is an art all in itself, especially when so much else is happening.

After last nights gig I must admit that I am completely baffled by the doubters.  This band are brilliant.  I don’t get excited about Scottish bands all that often.  There is so much good music in Scotland at the moment but not many artists that make me think – “yes, this is brilliant.”  I truly got that feeling last night listening to My Latest Novel.  From the opening noise leading into ‘All In All In All Is All’ to set closer ‘If The Accident Will’ this was an accomplished performance.  Sure, the vocals don’t always get nailed.  It’s not easy.  But I’ve definitely changed my opinion about the vocals since my first experience.  At that time, I said it was strange that the worst singer was the lead singer. However, Chris Deveney proved me wrong last night.  He’s not the worst singer.  He has a fascinating voice.  It’s deep and rich.   And I do believe that when notes are missed it is the simple fact that when you sing deep it’s so much easier to go out of tune, as the vocal gets lost in the music a little and you can’t hear all that well when on stage.  But they missed rarely last night and for the most part the combination of the 3 male vocals and 1 female vocal was sensational.   This really was a great live performance to match any other band in Scotland. 

Under rated?  Definitely!  These guys are so so so good.  I’m not one for arguing about other peoples taste.  Taste is taste.  You either get something or you don’t.  I just wish more people got My Latest Novel because not only have they produced one of my albums of the year, last night they delivered one of my gigs of the year. And I can confirm for Deveney that they were not “shite” – far far from it.  Love them.  If you’ve never heard them, please check them out here.   I’d highly recommend ‘I Declare A Ceasefire’.  Absolutely sensational last night.  Enjoy.