Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Now Retired

Thanks for a brilliant ride, folks.

It wasn't quite a year of content but damn, it was fun. People change, live moves pretty fast and I just can't keep up with a blog, or even music itself, at the moment.

Hope you enjoyed it while it lasted. I did.


Wednesday, 30 October 2013

ALBUM REVIEW: Deerheart - Blood Relatives

Blood Relatives' debut album 'Deerheart' is a 10-song, 38-minute pop tour-de-force. Here they showcase their ability to perform pop anthems and to write with striking lyrical genius.

Title track and lead single 'Deerheart' appears early in the album and is the perfect introduction to the debut. Lead vocalist Anna Meldrum shines through in the whole album but major credit should go to her on this one, and it is, like the rest, lyrically strong. 

For what might be considered a short album, it manages to make great impact and will stick with the listener long after first, and subsequent, listens. It is the kind of album that requests, nay demands, multiple listens and will improve your winter with the summery sounds. There's plenty of toe-tapping to be had throughout the length of the album and it's sure to be a big hit on the Scottish scene, and hopefully beyond.

Making a fresh start in 2013 as Blood Relatives is likely to lead this band to bigger and better things. This debut album has a great deal of promise and so much to love that I cannot see anything but a bright future, filled with their bright poppy tracks. I, for one, will certainly be listening for a long time.

'Deerheart' is available now on Comets and Cartwheels

Monday, 28 October 2013

GIG REVIEW: Blood Relatives Album Launch 26.10.2013

The blog took a little holiday recently, whilst I also took a little holiday to the States, and so this Saturday was first review gig back and it was hosted once again by the excellent Comets and Cartwheels.

Taking place at the newly (re-)opened Bar & Fly on Clyde Street was the Blood Relatives 'Deerheart' album launch. The new Barfly, in the exact spot of the old one, has had a makeover but wants to offer the same exciting nightlife as before. However there is a problem here, the newly positioned stage on the main bar level stands right in front of the bar itself meaning all punters watching to watch the bands are forced to stand around the bar, blocking off an area that everyone would want easy access to and not allowing anyone a properly full view of the show. It's disappointing for a venue that was so well renowned in its original form, and helped launch so many bands. I certainly wouldn't rush to see a band there again, though the sound was great on the night, even from the back of the room away from the stage.

Support on the night comes from Kill the Waves and Pronto Mama, who amply warm up an ever-growing crowd before the headliners take the stage just after 10pm. Blood Relatives follow the long line of bands in 2013 who have risen from the ashes of a previous band (in this case Kitty the Lion) with a new look and new sound. The refreshed band bring so much energy and likability that it makes for a wonderful atmosphere on the night. Hampered a few times by the loud club downstairs, another strike against the new Barfly, the band perform their new album almost in full for the packed out crowd, who received the album with the price of their ticket in. All in all it makes for a wonderful deal and a great night of music. Blood Relatives start as they mean to go on with bright tunes that you can dance to and that stay with you long after the gig has ended. They can only build on this early success and have a bright future ahead of them.

'Deerheart' is released on Comets and Cartwheels today. An album review will be posted shortly. 

Thursday, 5 September 2013

ALBUM REVIEW: Breaks & Bone - RM Hubbert

Fresh off a SAY Award winning second album, RM Hubbert returns with his third release which sees him once again return to his solo guitar roots. Running at thirty six minutes for ten tracks, it is short and sweet but a gentle reminder how extremely talented Hubby is.

The album is made up of striking instrumentals that rival anything else released this year, as well the inclusion of Hubbert's vocals on each consecutive track. The strength of the album, for me, is definitely the instrumental tracks. It is joyous to see what one single man, his guitar and a few other DIY elements can produce. Music is a very strong medium for telling stories and Hubby is one of the best storytellers Scotland has.

'Feedback Loops', one of the tracks to include Hubby's vocals, is also a highlight. Lyrically, it is a beautiful track and the softness of his voice only lends to this, as well the usually stunning guitar. This is a track that will certainly stick with the listener long after you've played through the album. Definitely a standout track of the year, let alone this album.

This album could very well lead to the first repeat winner of the SAY Award as it is so strong, and so unique. A completely different album from its predecessor and yet one that has all the elements to reproduce its success. RM Hubbert can shine completely in his own light here and he absolutely deserves to. An incredible talent who has produced his third incredible album. 

'Breaks & Bone' is released September 27th on Chemikal Underground

Monday, 2 September 2013

FESTIVAL REVIEW: Doune the Rabbit Hole 2013

Now in its fourth year, Doune the Rabbit Hole is bucking a trend that has seen small, boutique festivals bite the dust in the last few years. Moving to a new location and taking place on the Cardross Estate in Stirlingshire, the festival was also hoping to move past the troubles of years past and having heard some scare stories of last year’s festival, I was prepared for the worst when I left on Thursday afternoon. Thankfully though, things were running much more smoothly this year and the festival went off with very few hitches.

Opening up the festival on the first evening to the early arrivals were Honey and the Herbs with their lounge psych instrumentals on the Jabber Wocky stage. Their tunes are the right mix between soft and funky to warm the crowds up for who are to follow. The festival, being on a small site, worked with a staggered schedule between their two main stages – Jabber Wocky and Baino – meaning there was less noise over noise (though there were still issues with the Inspire stage having loud music almost drowning out quieter bands on Jabber Wocky). The Fast Camels opened up the Baino stage for the weekend with their power-pop show and gain new fans aplenty with their stage banter and funky tunes. But they were not to be the funkiest band to play the evening as Orkestra Del Sol closed the Jabber Wocky stage on the first night with a powerhouse show, leading the crowd in a mass polka and leaving everyone with smiles on their faces as they headed back to the campsite, or the bar.

The festival site opens fully on Friday morning allowing punters to sample more stages, stalls and installations. There were ample activities to keep the kids busy at the Kids Area, and all your possible alcoholic needs were served by the main bar, Cairn O’Mohr wines bar and the Jeremiah Weed truck. And the lovely people at Jeremiah Weed also brought with them a table tennis set and the Liverpudlian band, Man Get Out. The latter band weren’t to be found on any schedules or listings but prove to be a great find.

The first day of the festival has many highlights and interesting stories, from bands playing in honour of deceased past members (Lady Bird Killers on Inspire stage) and the loud and proud catchy hooks that only We Are The Physics could provide. I was a bit disappointed to not find Esperi on the Inspire stage at the scheduled time, with no notice of any changes but this proved to be the only real scheduling disruption I found over the weekend. Rick Redbeard plays melancholy folk to bring us all down (his words) on the Baino mid-afternoon, and his songs prove to be even more powerful live. He is an early contender for highlight of the festival, quickly followed (in the standings and on the schedule) by Meursault on the Jabber Wocky. The Baino stage is packed out for PAWS’ rock show on Friday evening and their energetic show is exactly what we need to send us further on into the night. Miaoux Miaoux are the days main stage headliner and their synthy pop gets the crowd dancing the entire hour and even longer as the festival continues into the night. The Baino stage runs right into the early hours and before calling it a night for day one, I was able to see the stunning Trembling Bells put on a powerful show perfectly suited for this time of the evening.

The second full day of the festival begins with an early afternoon dance party in the Baino provided by Bar Room Crawl’s apocalyptic funk. It was impossible not to be caught up in it and they certainly started the day off right. The Baino also played home to Beerjacket’s heartfelt songs and strong vocal, as well as Stealing Sheep’s soft-pop that packs the tent and spills out into the main arena. It is one of the biggest crowds of the entire weekend. But the highlight of the Baino’s schedule was the return of The John Knox Sex Club, who prove to be as tight a live band as they were before their hiatus and frankly if you weren’t excited about their return at this festival then you missed out. Getting a hug from lead singer Sean Cumming during their final number is one of my favourite things that happened over the whole weekend. Meanwhile over at the Jabber Wocky, Washington Irving brought their strong live show and folky vibes for the mid afternoon and noted that this was a special show for them as it’s their last live show for the next three months. Panda Su’s soft pop gathers a crowd of young to old on a sunny Saturday afternoon. The Monochrome Set bring their post-punk show for the early evening and the revelers are more than ready to party hard by this time. There was a three-way clash at 10pm on this day with Nevada Base’s stripped back set at the Fruit Stand stage, The John Langan Band on the Inspire a night after having played the Jabber Wocky but with a crowd of as many or more people to enjoy their folk for all and Clinic’s noise rock to close out the Jabber Wocky for the day. They are the first band to properly pull a crowd close to the main stage and they put on a complete performance that everyone will remember well beyond the weekend itself. Doune being a small festival, I was able to catch parts of all three sets in this clash and see all the bands I wanted. However my Saturday highlight had to be when I was walking the site looking for a band to fill a free hour and came across an impromptu drum jam at the big tree in back area of the site. Musicians on the site as well as revelers made up the twenty or so strong drum band, seeing everyone from kids to seasoned musicians playing together on site is definitely my favourite thing I witnessed all weekend and certainly something you would not see at a bigger festival. Small festivals has a special atmosphere all of their own.

I begin my Sunday at the Inspire stage watching young Charlotte Brimmer who performed original songs with her beautiful vocals. She proves to be a brilliant raw talent and will hopefully go onto bigger and better things in a few years time. The Inspire stage also played host to The Rag’n’Bone Man’s one-man guitar and drum show, which shows a level of talent and showmanship I was unaware it was possible for one person to wield. It was an incredible show and I must thank Mark from The Girobabies for the recommendation to catch him. Jo Mango brings her heartfelt alt-folk to the Jabber Wocky on the last afternoon, playing tunes for the crowd enjoying a sunbathe and a sleep with soft vocals and easy listening tunes as the perfect backing. Following on from Jo was Randolph’s Leap with their indie-pop show fitting in perfectly with the summer’s day and going down a treat with the afternoon revelers. Hidden Masters’ good old rock’n’roll show gathers a large appreciative crowd in the early evening before Samba Sien & Diwan provide funky African beats that get the crowd dancing in ways that only such delightful and soothing tunes could. For a second headliner band on the final day of the festival, they are a wild card choice but prove to right in with the festival atmosphere and are exactly what we need on the final night. The Jabber Wocky’s final band for the weekend is the excellent Horn Dog Brass Band. It was an absolute joy to see a brass band with such incredible showmanship and originality headline a Scottish festival, and I wish this happened more often. They certainly deserve to be playing to bigger crowds. Sunday was the day where I spent a lot of time at the Fruit Stand stage at the back of the arena, with its intimate offering some highlights on this day alone. Banana Sessions, another recommendation from Mark of The Girobabies, get the early evening slot and they are perfect summer festival music from talented musicians that gather a crowd in and around the Fruit Stand. Siobhan Wilson’s set could have easily been hampered by a power cut at the stage but instead turns into a totally memorable experience as the talented singer resorts to going fully acoustic for two songs whilst the equipment is fixed, and these two songs have such power and beauty that I was actually disappointed that the power returned for the end of the set. As sun went down on Sunday evening I caught Rachel Sermanni for the first time, her strong vocals and funny stories were perfectly fit for this festival and she gains many new friends during this set. My festival came to an end with the musical and comic stylings of Shambles Miller, choosing to watch him over what he perfectly describes as Super Mario on acid over the side of the arena. He gathers a crowd as his set goes on and his original songs and banter go down a treat, and for a guy who’d been at the festival himself since Friday and suffered a bug bite, he played a very strong set. A superb end to my first festival.

Also available over the weekend was the Low End dance tent, though I never found the time to get there myself.

Doune the Rabbit Hole’s fourth year may have been their most successful yet, certainly in terms of the running of the festival. With so many volunteers and musicians on site for the full weekend it did become hard to tell where the paying punters were but I do hope there was enough to make doing this festival again a viable option. The site they chose this year was also much better suited to a festival experience than previous ones and the locals in the area were apparently all happy to have everyone in town so let’s hope that allows the festival to stay put for the long run. As for the rest of the site, there could have been a few more food options (though I appreciate as a boutique festival they want to offer a different experience, and therefore different food options) and some more lighting over the arena and site itself to make it safer for people moving around at night. There were also more wasps than I’ve seen in my life over these few days but that’s more out of the festival runners’ control than everything else. Overall, this was definitely a successful festival and Doune seem to be on the right track to providing a fully functional, one of a kind festival.

Monday, 19 August 2013

NEW MUSIC: Romance - Mast.

Summer may be almost over, but not before another killer song with catchy hooks makes an appearance. And this time it's in the shape of brand new one-man DIY pop band, Mast..

Mast. is the new project from Liam Rutherford, previously of The Darien Venture, whose demise this year saddened me greatly. It is most wonderful to see the members of the band beginning to take new routes in music and produce such quality anthems as this.

The track debuted on The Pop Cop's Music Alliance Pact for August, where you can still download it for free. As an opening salvo for a band, Mast. have started with a track that has incredible replayability, along with a brilliant video to go with it and a stunningly catchy tune that has all the elements of a summer hit.

It's been a brilliant summer, and year, for Scottish music and this yet another show of strength from Glasgow's music scene. I, for one, certainly cannot wait to hear more where this came from. Don't keep us waiting too long, Liam!

You can listen to Romance and watch the video below:

Thursday, 15 August 2013

GIG REVIEW: Admiral Fallow at The Queen's Hall 13.08.2013

Slots at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe can be hard to come by, and with venues constantly in use they can also be quite tight, and so given only a 2-hour slot to put on a gig, Admiral Fallow put on a showcase of their own music and talent, no supports, just one full Fallow set. And we're all very glad they did.

"Gig-going connoisseurs amongst you will notice there was no support tonight.", Admiral Fallow's lead singer Louis Abbott notes to the audience mid-set, "That's because we want to play a long time." Rapturous cheer follows this remark and Louis goes on to make a Lionel Ritchie joke, showing that he can still banter with the best of them on the Scottish music circuit. In fact, if you had walked into this gig at a few points you would have been forgiven for thinking it was a comedy show, with the audience participation levels high and lots of laughter. 

But this was very much a music gig and the crowd in attendance were treated to 90 minutes of the best of Admiral Fallow. The band deftly move between their debut and sophomore albums, never missing a beat and proving that they are a band with many strengths. A few of the older tracks have received a little makeover ("so we don't hate them when we have to play them together" Louis notes), in particular 'These Barren Years' which has been given a much slower take that builds to a massive finish. It's hard not be awed when you see a band completely turn a song around and give it a whole new life, just by rewriting how they perform it live. Another such track which gets some new treatment is 'Bomb Through the Town', performed by only Louis, Sarah Hayes and a string quartet. The most wonderful thing about this hauntingly beautiful rendition was you could hear a pin drop in the crowd, the band had their complete attention and adoration. It was a joy to be part of such a thing.

In addition to the older tracks receiving a new lease of life, we also got a small window into the what's next from the band. Playing a never before heard, and not yet named (for the night it was called Queen's Hall Posse, a reference to the continued audition participation throughout. Though I wish it had been called 'Steeeeeeeeeve!', the name given to an as-yet unnamed song when Frightened Rabbit played the same venue a few years back.), we get to see a band that continues to grow and develop, this song is definitely an advancement and a new Fallow but there are also very familiar traits of the band on show. I, for one, am certainly interested in hearing much more where this came from, the song itself has anthemic qualities and will surely be a sing-along hit in years to come. The introduction of the new song also lead to the night's longest running joke; "Pick your favourite current chart hit..."

Other highlights of this gig were the rapturous response to 'Squealing Pigs' (our reward for being so quiet during the new song), the dancing reaching all the way to the back of the room and up into the top decks during hits like 'Beetle in the Box' and 'The Paper Trench' and the well-deserved encore that featured the simply beautiful 'Four Bulbs' performed to an enraptured and completely silent crowd followed by the wonderful 'The Way You Were Raised' to send us off into the night. In fact, the entire set was peppered with hits and highlights that it's hard to pick just a few. And whilst the crowd didn't quite use their voices to sing-along as much as I'd like at a gig, they certainly gave the band the attention they deserved and the band gave us so much to enjoy. The banter is particularly strong, reminding me why going to an Admiral Fallow gig is much more than just a music performance. And they have so much talent that they are bound to follow in the footsteps of Frightened Rabbit, Scotland's current indie darlings. 

The Queen's Hall is one of the best venues in Scotland and, on this Tuesday night, it was host to one of the best gigs of the year, and a performance by Admiral Fallow that those who were lucky enough to be there will be talking about for a long time to come.