Small Town Boredom – Notes From The Infirmary

Paisley’s Small Town Boredom are finally set to release the follow up to their debut record ‘Autumn Might Have Hope.’  The new record will be released through Trome Records and entitled ‘Notes From The Infirmary.’  All I can really say is thank goodness for that!

I’ve been sitting on this record for far, far, far too long and have been holding back my review of it for what seems like forever now.   So long, in fact, that when I told Fraser I wasn’t sure about whether I’d keep the blog going he was gutted as I’d promised to review the record.   I also have an interview with him from way back, which has been sitting waiting to be posted online near the time of release.   Hopefully that will see the light of day soon.

Put simply, I have to write about this record and this band.  I just cannot sit back and let this great record go unnoticed, which I fear may be the case.  And if it is the case it would be a real tragedy as this record is as good, if not better, as anything I’ve heard released this year in Scotland.  That comment will undoubtedly cause a few rumbles and grumbles amongst you all but the simple truth is that this record has been brilliantly thought out and executed.  I guarantee had Arab Strap released this the plaudits would come thick and fast. 

I think the genuine reason for this record’s success is simple.  It’s only 6 tracks in length, proving that quantity is never as important as quality.  I remember when the Strokes debut ‘Is This It?’ was released way back when, what struck me was that the brilliance of the record was not each individual track but the length of the record as a whole.  30 minutes, or thereabouts.  10 more minutes and I think the record would have been ruined.  The type of music, the lack of a change in pace and intensity, just couldn’t cope with more.  In truth, The Strokes nailed it.   They got it spot on.  Well, though this record is a million light years away from the sound of The Strokes, the same rule has been applied.  Were this record to have 10 minutes more music on it I just don’t think it would have the impact it does.  Where debut ‘Autumn Might Have Hope’ clocked in at 14 tracks, this record is short, succinct and the overall impact benefits from this very fact.   Whilst sometimes its predecessor, though stunningly beautiful in places, lost focus and felt overly long, this record is clearly the product of songwriters who have matured, grown in stature and know exactly what they want to achieve.  8 songs less than the record before yet double the impact in the process is quite the achievement.  This is an assured, confident piece of work and does leave you longing for more.  Whether we get more, time will tell.

Lets face it, this is mood music.  If you pick this up in your inbox or at a record store and fire it on the stereo on a bright summers day whilst you enjoy an ice cream, you’re probably not going to get this at all.  If you listen on a dark night, with the rain on the windows and a glass of red wine in hand, you’re going to get it big time.

‘Void Lighting’ is quite simply one of the most wonderful songs of 2010 and ‘World’s Most Unwanted’ and ‘Moments For Denial’ are not far behind in the brilliance stakes.  Aidan and Malcolm may have left an opening for the title of ‘Miserablist Kings of Scotland’ and had Small Town Boredom had more attention in the past I’m sure they’d have grabbed it without contest.  It’s just a shame more folk have not discovered them.  Now’s the chance.  Grab yourself a copy of ‘Notes From The Infirmary’.  Check out Small Town Boredom here.  Enjoy.

Goldmund – Famous Places

Not much music has been exciting me of late if I’m honest.  I’ve read with interest as bloggers, journalists, djs and music writers across Scotland proclaim Scottish music to be in a strong state, with exciting new artists apparently appearing left, right and centre.  This has, in all honesty, really surprised me as I can think of very few albums or artists in 2010 that have genuinely made me sit up and go “wow.”  In fact, if I’m honest, not many records have got me excited at all this year and not many forthcoming releases are making me think that I want to part with my money to have them.  Most of the things I have been sent, or heard, have left me feeling nothing more than confusion as to how some of these bands have the support they do, frustration at how lazy, boring and sloppy a lot of the music is and disappointment that such mediocracy is being championed by so many.  Of course, a lot of this comes down to personal taste, but it kind of depresses me that there are so few artists that genuinely excite me these days.

Before people attack my view; the view that music in Scotland is, for the most part, mediocre I would suggest that it’s nothing new.  I’d also hope that a little bit of honesty might be considered refreshing in a time where not many people seem willing to say anything bad about Scottish music.  After all, nobody achieves anything by constantly being told how great they are.  A little bit of constructive criticism and honesty, I feel, is very important in any profession.  I think the problem with working in music in Scotland is that it is just far too small at times.   People are often afraid to put their head above the parapet and say what they really feel because of the backlash that they will face or for fear of upsetting somebody they know or respect.  It’s fair enough.  The backlash can be horrible and is more often than not unjustified and rude.  Everyone should be able to handle criticism (including me).  In fact, everyone should thrive on it.  After all, constructive criticism is the only way that you improve in anything you do.  I guess the biggest problem is that a lot of criticism tends not to be constructive and lacks real clarity of thought.  Saying something is shite without a reason is not useful to anyone.

I remember being at uni, doing my masters.  Every essay I wrote came back with red pen through it.  Lots of good comments.  Lots of bad comments.  All constructive and all of it helped me become a better writer and to think more about how to write a cohesive essay.  That’s how it should be and I think everyone who writes about music should be free to say what they think and more importantly that artists should learn to take it on the chin.  The simple fact is, just cause I don’t like you, doesn’t mean you’re not good.  It just means I don’t like you.   So I’m going to say what I think from now on.  That’s not to say I will destroy artists on my site because that’s not what I like to do.  But I will be honest.   

Despite this lull in quality, I am looking forward to The Phantom Bands second record, which I don’t doubt will be packed with creativity, at the very least, and, despite a disappointing second EP, I am really looking forward to the debut record from The Scottish Enlightenment when it’s due.  Small Town Boredom, a criminally over looked band from Paisley, also have a second record due for release soon.  At just 6 songs in length it really is a brilliant piece of downbeat miserbalism.  Reminds me of Arab Strap at their very best in many ways.  I’m also looking forward to FOUND’s new record when it comes out next year on Chemikal Underground and of course the debut from Conquering Animal Sound will be out in 2011 as well and is sounding brilliant.  Unfortunately, that’s about it if I’m perfectly honest. 

In the meantime, I guess I’ve been looking out with this country for inspiration and I was lucky enough to find some recently, when I stumbled across a couple of new records from the USA, which have firmly grabbed my ears and made me want to write about music again.

Goldmund is better known as Keith Kennif and otherwise known as Helios.  Helios provides him with an outlet for his more complex guitar based electronic ambience.  Goldmund on the other hand allows him to explore the simplicity of the piano and its make up, and on this new record I think I have stumbled across one of my favourite piano records ever.

Everything about this is perfect.  I was speaking to somebody just last week about the differences between listening to a recording of an instrument and to somebody playing an instrument live.  A real upright piano, more often than not, has creaky pedals and noises associated with the actual playing – a finger nail hitting a key for example.  More often than not, these creaky pedals and glitches are removed from a recording, or recording techniques are used to ensure these noises are not picked up during recording, to give a cleaner, clearer sound to the end result.  Kennif, however, embraces these sounds, these existant noises, that make the recording real, sound alive and add wonderful texture and interest to the pieces.  Why should these “imperfections” be a distraction?  They really do make the music come to life.  They act like a pause in a phrase, each phrase punctuated by this need for the instrument to breathe.  They are very much a part of the song.  As they should be.  And for me, the beauty of Kennif’s work is that he never over does anything.  His songs can be short.   His songs can be simple.  But they are always real.  And they are never anything short of beautiful.

Of the Goldmund records I own, this is by far and away my favourite and, I also feel, by far and away his most accomplished to date, both in terms of playing piano and the overall sound of the record.  I put this on this morning on the bus and my sense of dread of another day suddenly disappeared.  I was calm.  I was taken to a beautiful place.  This record will do that for you.  I promise. Check out Goldmund here.  Enjoy.