Monday, 31 August 2009

more skinny reviews: pastels/tenniscoats, trashcan sinatras, the big pink

here are three more reviews recently posted over at

Trashcan Sinatras - In The Music (***)

Despite pre-dating contemporaries such as Teenage Fanclub and having more than their fair share of seminal moments tucked away in their unjustly niche back-catalogue, Trashcan Sinatras have never managed to inspire quite the same levels of devotion as the Fannies. In The Music is too pedestrian to prompt any major re-evaluation of the band’s ranking in the literary Scot-pop pantheon, but it’ll at least add further gems to their repertoire. Prisons is a cheery jaunt that skips and jumps with delicately deft indie-pop nous, but it’s Should I Pray? (featuring Carly Simon on co-vocals) that impresses most by stylishly breaking free from the overly obvious indie-pop paradigm. For the album’s highlight, the Irvine-ites wrap themselves in a plastic soul sheen and adopt a smooth strut closer to Philly soulsters The Delfonics than anything born of a Glasgow postcode, and in the process redeem the album’s more tepid moments.

Pastels/Tenniscoats - Two Sunsets (*****)

The evocative title of this collaboration between Glasgow’s Pastels and Tokyo’s Tenniscoats neatly summarises its scope, cleanly articulating the twin creative impetuses and their distant origins on the banks of the Clyde and the Sumida. These titular skies cast shimmering reflections in the music’s deep pools of willowy sighs and gentle swells, with opening instrumental Tokyo Glasgow making the record’s duality unmistakable. There’s no abrasive culture clash here, only harmony.

Tenniscoats singer Saya’s bilingual vocals demonstrate that listeners don’t necessarily need to understand the lyrics to be moved by the sentiment, but those couplets that are discernable are unabashedly lovely - in particular the fragile lament that glides on Song For A Friend’s intensely pretty melody. Elsewhere, Start Slowly So We Sound Like A Loch makes floating in icy waters sound positively lush, while Saya’s own description of Sodane’s flute as “like cherry blossom falling from a tree” might sound twee and pretentious if it weren’t so apt. Two Sunsets, then, is a tale of two cities: an enveloping delight both familiar and unusual, gentle in its tempo yet invigorating in its possibilities.

The Big Pink - Dominos (****)

Until now, The Big Pink’s creepy crawly atmospherics seemed an unlikely target for industry hype: too weird, too esoteric and too light on direct pop thrills (though Disintegration-era Cure mixed with spaced-out shoegaze has plentiful appeal in itself). To make the expected jump they needed their own Time To Pretend – a song so instant that blogging tastemakers and mainstream masses alike would take firm notice. Dominos is that song –its lushly shimmering glitch-pop underbelly belies the laddish sentiments of the lyrics, and if its crunchy chorus chant isn’t already bouncing around your cranium it will be in the near future.

(you can tell the stuff i copy and paste from the skinny - i get all careful with ma capital letters an a' that)

Friday, 28 August 2009

reviews: andrew wk, on histories of rosenberg, mcintosh ross

a load of record reviews have been added to the skinny's website. these are the ones with the words and opinions of me >>>>>

(to stop there being one maaaaasive post i'll split em into sets of three or so...)

On Histories of Rosenberg - On Histories of Rosenberg (**)

With Am I Awake’s echoing guitar and plaintive cymbal ripples, On Histories Of Rosenberg waste no time establishing their serious-but-conventional intentions. Danger Danger tightens the tempest, but it’s too mono-dimensional for its howls to register as anything other than iffy Biffy. Overall, the closest comparison is Sparta, i.e. the plain tofu to Mars Volta’s intergalactic, Blumenthalian space-banquet - which sounds overly harsh till you add the caveat that Sparta were pretty good at what they did, just not exactly eyebrow-raising. Rosenberg are sporadically thrilling, and the (very) occasional surprise – the glockenspiel on Leave Us Here for example – proves they’re not coasting. But they’re also derivative and lacking definition; luckily, two elements that should improve over time.

out 7th september

Andrew WK - 55 Cadillac

A four-letter acronym – SSPI – adorns the cover of Andrew W.K’s latest. Super-Sweaty Party Initiator? Swell Solo Party Incubator? There are a few possibilities, but the P’s got to stand for Party, right? Wrong. Mr Wilkes-Krier instead humbly presents his Spontaneous Solo Piano Improvisations. That’s right – a man known for aural testosterone like Party Hard, Party Till You Puke and Party (You Shout) and, more recently, a kid’s television show entitled Destroy! Build! Destroy! (in which children are given – I shit you not – rocket launchers), has decided his new venture should consist of eight unstructured, unembellished piano ad-libs with nary a bloody nose or chugging guitar in sight. If you’ve previously dismissed him as a lunk-headed rock-gonk then you might be surprised by his piano proficiency, but novelty chutzpah aside, it’s difficult to recommend such an anachronistic project to even the most avid acolyte.

out september 7th

McIntosh Ross - The Great Lakes (***)

Deacon Blue have been relatively quiet since 2001 - a gig here, a best-of there. It's tempting, therefore, to imagine Ricky Ross and co spending their downtime sailing up the west coast through villages and towns on that ship called Dignified Retirement. With The Great Lakes, the band's twin voices (and husband and wife) Ross and Lorraine McIntosh have instead taken a more rewarding route, tackling a solo-project staple oft-favoured by mature musicians - the stripped-back Americana record. They've gone the whole hog too, recording in Los Angeles and chucking in banjo and crooning harmonies aplenty, but it's a shame they've allowed their once-distinct accents to melt into American drawls. That aside, this is a rich reminder of a brace of under-celebrated talents - wholly unoriginal perhaps, but ebbing with pedal-steel cries, laissez-faire melodies and late night tears. So pour a sour mash whiskey and get yourself reacquainted.

out september 28th

Sunday, 23 August 2009

frightened rabbit @ queen's hall, 18th august

here's my thoughts on that gig in that headline there...

Unlike their winged namesakes, the Moth and the Mirror initially find the bright lights of the Queens’s Hall less than attractive, not relaxing until they’re dimmed. But confidence aside, they’re a muted wonder, encompassing slow-burn melodrama, sleepy folk and the occasional xylophone melody reminiscent of Penguin CafĂ© Orchestra.

Meursault, by contrast, seem entirely comfortable with the notion of nine-hundred or so people nestled in the palms of their hands. As an anguished Nothing Broke reverberates around pillars and pews it’s almost possible to track the collective wonder rippling through the audience.

Though the awed atmosphere is nowt compared with that produced by Frightened Rabbit when Scott unplugs to play Poke. It’s a genuine ‘had-to-be-there’ moment: not in a hyperbolic ‘highlight-of-the-evening’ sense, nor because it’s impossible to imagine it replicated another night in another town, but because singing solo and acoustic leaves the song at the mercy of the crowd’s eager larynxes, and being in the room is the only way to tell that the band still exist. The passion that Frightened Rabbit elicit is given plentiful outlets, from an opening Modern Leper’s tumultuous splendour through to impressive new tracks, one of which is christened Steve at the suggestion of the crowd, and only the paucity of Sing the Greys material irks. Tonight the band seem humbled and emotional, the air charged and scintillating, and the crowd engaged to the hilt.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Monday, 17 August 2009

august playlist

well that was jolly good fun! if you were there on saturday then thanks a bunch for starting bottle rocket year 2 with a bang. as usual we had a tip-top time and danced to half death (oh billy joel, why does your sonic voodoo affect me so?). here's what was playing at the time:

1. Sparklehorse - Someday I Will Treat You Good
2. Polvo - Beggar’s Bowl
3. Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson - Woodfriend
4. Free Energy - Dream City
5. Fanfarlo - Luna
6. Arcade Fire - Rebellion Lies
7. The Clash - English Civil War
8. New York Dolls - Looking For A Kiss
9. The Adverts - One Chord Wonders
10. The Dears - Death of Life We Want You
11. Urge Overkill - Girl You’ll Be A Woman Soon
12. MGMT - Destrokk
13. Fever Ray - Triangle Walks
14. Crystal Castles - Crime wave (Crystal Castles Vs. Health)
15. Santa Esmerelda - Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
16. Chuck Berry - Never Can Tell
17. Lovin’ Spoonful - Summer in the City
18. The Monochrome Set - Strange Boutique
19. The Fall - Hey Student
20. Carly Simon - You’re So Vain
21. The Breeders - Cannonball
22. Martha Reeves - Jimmy Mack
23. Acid House Kings - Everlasting Love
24. Feist - I Feel It All
25. Sambassadeur - Between the Lines
26. Velvettes - Really Sayin’ Something
27. Aretha Franklin - Think
28. Human League - Together In Electric Dreams
29. The Raveonettes - Love In A Trashcan
30. Kate Bush - Running Up That Hill
31. OMD - Electricity
32. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Soft Shock
33. The Mae Shi - See You Again
34. ABBA - Lay All Your Love On Me
35. MIA - Jimmy
36. The Big Pink - Dominos
37. Mew - Repeaterbeater
38. Pulp - Misshapes
39. Vampire Weekend - A Punk
40. The Lucksmiths - Synchronised Sinking
41. Arab Strap - Speed Date
42. Wake The President - Miss Tierney
43. The Talking Heads - Pulled Up
44. The Magnetic Fields - Desert Island
45. The Hidden Cameras - Ban Marriage
46. Teenage Fanclub - Sparky’s Dream
47. The Associates - Party Fears Two
48. David Bowie - Modern Love
49. Blondie - Atomic
50. Stevie Wonder - Superstition
51. Gladys Knight and the Pips - I Heard It Through the Grapevine
52. Prince - 1999
53. Echobelly - King of the Kerb
54. St. Etienne - He’s On the Phone
55. The Ramones - Let’s Dance
56. The Smiths - Stop Me If You Think That You’ve Heard This One Before
57. XTC - Making Plans For Nigel
58. Orange Juice - Blue Boy
59. Violent Femmes - I Held Her In My Arms
60. Fleetwood Mac - Go Your Own Way
61. Gang Of Four - I Found That Essence Rare
62. Stereolab - French Disko
63. Altered Images - See Those Eyes
64. Kim Wilde - Kids in America
65. Billy Joel - We Didn’t Start The Fire

pictures to follow


Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Vladislav Delay review

a review of mine just got added to the Skinny's website. in amongst all the edinburgh festival coverage are these words:

Vladislav Delay - Tummaa (****)

Vladislav Delay, aka Sasu Ripatti, writes the type of music that causes parents to wail “but it's just random noise!”, while persevering connoisseurs defensively declare it too refined for their meagre MOR-fat brains to understand (often while secretly pondering the same). It’s quintessential IDM in other words – closer in sound to recent Autechre than the genre’s more melodic proponents. And like all good ‘Intelligent Dance Music’, it’s completely and utterly at odds with such an illogical and smug label: even if Delay is Mensa-smart, ten minute tracks and minimal instrumentation evidence obtuseness, not intellect, while the ‘D’ only applies if your preferred dancing environment is strapped into a flotation tank menaced by subconscious horrors. But these are the faults of whichever pseudo-intelligentsia coined the IDM term, not Delay’s. Tummaa is awkward, unsettling and, at times, patience-testing. But it’s also enchanting, rewarding and well worth your time.

released 24th August

Saturday, 8 August 2009


till this. hooray!