Sunday, 23 December 2012

xmas playlist

we survived black eye friday! here's what we played...

1. sally shapiro - anorak christmas
2. built to spill - dystopian dream girl
3. au revoir simone - fallen snow
4. the supremes - santa claus is coming to town
5. aztec camera - walk out to winter
6. gruff rhys - post apocalypse christmas
7. talking heads - the girl wants to be with the girls
8. xtc - thanks for christmas
9. jesus and mary chain - living end
10. asobi seksu - merry christmas (i don't want to fight tonight)
11. dusty springfield - i only want to be with you
12. mitch ryder - jenny take a ride
13. buzzcocks - something's gone wrong again
14. pete shelley - homosapien
15. lcd soundsystem - north american scum
16. purity ring - fineshrines
17. pet shop boys - always on my mind
18. twin shadow - five seconds
19. brenda lee - rockin around the christmas tree
20. kathy and jimmy zee - santa claus rock and roll
21. mabel scott - boogie woogie santa claus
22 dutch uncles - go your own way
23. rem - it's the end of the world (and i feel fine)
24. billy idol - yellin at the christmas tree
25. david bowie - let's spend the night together
26. prince - 1999
27. gang of four - i found that essence rare
28. orange juice - falling and laughing
29. the who - can't explain
30. donna summer - i feel love
31. julian casablancas - i wish it was christmas today
32.the undertones - true confessions
33. joey dee - peppermint twist
34. the ronettes - frosty the snowman
35. the muppets - it feels like christmas
36. mariah carey - all i want for christmas is you
37. the jackson 5 - blame it on the boogie
38. devo - that's good
39. churches - lies
40. kurtis blow - christmas rapping
41. beastie boys - intergalactic
42. the dickies - silent night
43. the ramones - merry christmas (i don't want to fight tonight)
44. barrett strong - money
45. the sonics - the witch
46. kim wilde - kids in america
47. the b-52s - butterbean
48. violent femmes - blister in the sun
49. the stranglers - no more heroes
50. the smiths - is it really so strange
51. idlewild - little discourage
52. abba - gimme gimme gimme
53. ash - girl from mars
54. bruce springsteen - i'm a rocker
55. marlene paul - i wanna spend christmas with elvis
56. elvis presley - suspicious minds
57. the waitresses - christmas wrapping
58. kc and the sunshine band - give it up
59. meatloaf - dead ringer for love
60. j geils band - centrefold
61. the pogues and kirsty maccoll - fairytale of new york
62. the drifters - white christmas

Friday, 21 December 2012



Tuesday, 18 December 2012

december skinny

the december issue of the skinny has been kicking about for a couple of weeks now - here's which bits my rabid fanbase should flick to first...

- albums of the year #5: cloud nothings - 'attack on memory' (interview with dylan baldi - read here!)
- light and shade: the skinny's films of 2012 - 'tabu' and 'the kid with a bike' (read here!)
- 'leap's year: an interview with randolph's leap' feature (read here!)
- bill wells and aidan moffat @ cottiers live review (read here!)
- breathless - 'green to blue' album review (read here!)
- various artists - 'some songs side-by-side' album review (read here!)
- martin rossiter - 'the defenestration of st martin' album review (read here!)
- the douglas firs - 'the furious sound' album review (read here!)
- sinkane - 'mars' album review (read here!)
- a band called quinn - 'red light means go' album review
- steve adey - 'a tower of silence' album review (read here!)
- various artists - 'whatever gets you through the night' album review (read here!)
- 'code name: geronimo' dvd review (read here!)

Thursday, 13 December 2012

leap's year: an interview with randolph's leap

As an eventful 2012 winds down, we get acquainted with Adam Ross of indie-folk ensemble Randolph’s Leap to discuss albums, 'proper' albums, and the perks of Fence patronage.

When Randolph’s Leap christened their 2010 debut EP Battleships and Kettle Chips, they did so with the utmost innocence. “It was weird – I had no idea ‘kettle chips’ was a brand name,” protests founder and frontman Adam Ross. “I thought it was just like ‘crinkle-cut’ or ‘ridge cut’…” So when Kettle Foods Inc. got in touch, Ross naturally assumed the worst. But, in a warming tale of corporate kindness, the company’s response was less litigious than feared. “I was worried we were going to get a cease-and-desist ordering us to stop using their brand name, but they sent us some crisps instead. I will mention that they were almost out-of-date-crisps” Ross adds, lest we get too rosy an impression of the gesture. “We had 32 bags I think – which was a lot of crisps to eat in one week before they went stale…”

Luckily, Ross wasn’t left to tackle this potato mountain alone. A six-piece at the time of Battleships and Kettle Chips, and with a brass section since recruited to bring membership up to eight, Randolph’s Leap has gradually become a many-spoked wheel with Ross the de facto hub. The Nairn-raised songwriter first performed under the name in 2006, and now uses the moniker for both solo ventures and full-band activities. “The idea initially was to take on loads of people so that, on a good day, we can have eight people playing, but then the rest of the time have [whoever’s available],” he explains. “I thought if somebody can’t make it, it wouldn’t matter. But what I found is that whenever we have a rehearsal and somebody isn’t there, you really notice it. Everyone else in the band is a great musician, so they always add something. Everyone else? So he's exempting himself from that? “Er, yeah…” Ross nods. “Three chords and a capo is all I know.”

The complete roster currently stands at Gareth Robert Perrie (keyboards), Vicki Cole (bass), Iain Taylor (drums), Andrew MacLellan (cello), Heather Thikey (violin), Ali Hendry (trumpet) and Fraser Gibson (trombone) – any plans for further expansion? No it would be stupid,” Ross laughs. “I mean, it’s stupid to have eight people in the first place. The logistics of trying to do a tour at the moment, it wouldn’t work, I don’t think – financially, and in terms of everybody getting time off work, stuff like that. We did a gig in London recently, but that’s as far as we’ve gone. So it has its downsides.” But when asked how playing with seven other bodies onstage compares with going it alone, Ross’s preference is clear. “The times I enjoy it most is when the band are just making a racket, and I don’t really need to think about what I’m doing,” he smiles. “During a solo gig or a quiet one, it’s much more nerve-racking because you can hear every cough and every little whisper or comment in the background. Whereas with the full band, the whole audience might be chatting but you don’t know cause you can get lost in your own wee world and pretend you’re Bob Dylan or whoever. If you get a good solo gig it’s great, but they’re a lot harder to pull off – especially when people don’t know who you are. I mean, yeah, if you had thousands of adoring fans who came up and hung on to your every word it’d be great, but most of the time we’re playing to new audiences, and it’s harder to make an impression or create an atmosphere when you’re on your own and terrified. The full band gigs tend to give me a bit more confidence.”

Judging by the recently-released Hermit 7” (the first Randolph’s Leap release to feature the full eight-piece), this confidence translates well to tape. In place of the (to appropriate a lyric of Ross’s) “endearingly shambolic” sound of past releases is a more polished and muscular dynamic; when second track Mutiny releases a blast of distorted guitars and keys, the volume is unexpected but invigorating. “Once we brought the brass in it kind of lifted everything,” says Ross. “It took us up a notch in terms of noise levels. We used to not let Iain play with sticks – very occasionally we’d let him do a gig with sticks, but never a rehearsal as we’d all be deaf by the end of it. Andy has recently been playing electric guitar as well, which seems to work… basically, we’ve become a bit louder, there’s a bit more energy to it.”

One thing that has remained a constant are the lyrics, which are as intelligent, witty and perceptive as ever (for instance: “no man is an island but an archipelago/ is something I could aim for if you’d only let me go”). Ross names Ivor Cutler, Jonathan Richman and Stephin Merritt as key influences in the development of his own distinct lyrical voice. “I’m not comparing myself to any of them, but these are the kind of people that I listened to and something clicked,” he says. “I was like, oh yeah, you don’t have to necessarily sing about being in love with your best friend or being really depressed.” Instead, Ross sings about underdogs and hangovers, feeling squeamish and pretending to luge in the bath, an array of subjects sometimes serious, sometimes silly, but always smartly and affectingly phrased.

Released as part of Fence Records’ Buff Tracks EP series, Hermit caps a year spent under the nurturing wing of the Fife collective (“Just being at Away Game was one of the highlights of the year,” Ross enthuses). For the EP’s sold-out launch gig in October, the support slot was filled by a “songwriter’s circle” of Fence-associates led by label chieftain Johnny Lynch – a show of peer support that Ross still seems pretty chuffed by. “Having been a massive, massive Fence fan for years, that was pretty surreal,” he says. “It was Johnny, Ziggy from FOUND, and Dave from Kid Canaveral taking it in turns to play. They totally upstaged us.”

In addition to Hermit, 2012 saw a wealth of other recordings released under the Randolph’s Leap banner, including two home-recorded albums, each with its own distinct style: the lo-fi cassette hiss of Randolph’s Leap and the Curse of the Haunted Headphones, which mixed acoustic folk with jaunty electro interludes; and the even more stripped-back As Fast as a Man, nine home recordings featuring Ross and Thikey only. Then there’s The Way of the Mollusc, another nine new tracks packaged with Introducing, a compilation of songs featured on previous EPs. That’s a lot of material in one year. “It’s partly the result of taking the lo-fi route a lot of the time, where it’s more instantaneous,” Ross shrugs. “If I’ve got some songs in my head, I can just record them and put them out… I think it’s quite useful nowadays to be able to do that. I think we’ve kind of got it lucky, because of the kind of music we make. The sonic properties don’t have to be at a certain level, it’s more about just the general feeling of the words or whatever, so you don’t have to spend loads recording it. It’s weird though, because people say we’re prolific but we’ve never released, like, a proper album.”

By a ‘proper’ album, Ross means one involving the full band – something they’re currently in the midst of recording. “We’re almost a third of the way there. Having done really, really lo-fi stuff at home that sounds mince, and then having gone to Chem19 to record the Fence EP, our album should be somewhere in between. We’re doing it with Pete [MacDonald] from the State Broadcasters, at his house. I enjoy recording there, without worrying about deadlines and stuff. Chem19 was great, but I was really stressed out, watching the clock the whole time. So it’s nice to be able to take our time over it.”

Randolph’s Leap round out their year with a couple of Christmas parties: the Olive Grove Records shindig at the Glad Café on 14 Dec, and Kid Canaveral’s Christmas Baubles event on Dec 22, where they’ll play alongside Malcolm Middleton, Meursault and many more. Then they’ll welcome in the New Year at Mono’s Hogmanay party (alongside Johnny Lynch and as-yet-unannounced special guests), before commencing an already busy 2013. “We’re playing a gig at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh [16 Feb] which seems pretty daunting cause it’s huge,” Ross laughs nervously. “We’re going to maybe try and have a single ready just before that, and then the album… I don’t know, before summer, hopefully. We’ll just see what happens with that.”

With the crisp windfall engendered by Battleships and Kettle Chips in mind, The Skinny asks whether they’ve considered any copyright-infringing titles for the album. After some pondering, Ross offers a trio of options: Plasma Screens & Levi Jeans and Hazelnut Lattes & Maseratis beckon the more lucrative endorsements, “although truthfully,” he concludes, "I’d be happy with Waterproof Coats & Scott’s Porridge Oats.”

[written for The Skinny]

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

reviews: the douglas firs, sinkane, steve adey

The Douglas Firs - The Furious Sound (****)

Albums about the superstitious persecution of woman are like buses, it seems. A month after Darren Hayman’s The Violence set the witch trials of 17th century Essex to song, The Douglas Firs’ second album The Furious Sound takes inspiration from the earlier North Berwick trials, which resulted in the deaths of around seventy people. Where Hayman weaved accessible narratives, Neil Insh’s project spins out into broader themes and more testing musical terrain, with a sepulchural atmosphere no doubt augmented by the decision to record in darkened woodlands and castle dungeons.

There are mysteries layered throughout its droning, drifting duration; unsettling and insidious on certain tracks (the incantational Devils), gentle on others (the instrumental Black Forest), and always extremely evocative. Like debut Happy as a Windless Flag, The Furious Sound surrenders its secrets slowly but surely, its spectral hymns crafted with great care and likely to haunt thoughts for some time.

Out now

Sinkane - MARS (****)

Wiping the slate of less distinctive past releases, Sinkane (Sudanese New Yorker Ahmed Abdullahi Gallab) presents MARS as a re-boot debut – a fresh start with a refreshed sound. A multi-instrumentalist of some renown (having previously played with Of Montreal, Caribou and Eleanor Friedberger, amongst others), Gallab’s utilised his connections well, coaxing contributions from a number of peers.

Yeasayer’s Jason Trammell occupies the drum stool for several tracks (with bassist Ira Wolf Tuton joining in for Jeeper Creeper’s rolling space-funk); Ann Arbour afro-beat collective NOMO chip in horns on occasion, with Lovesick’s coda especially vibrant; while a smokin’ guitar solo from George Lewis Jr (aka Twin Shadow) ensures Making Time is a super-slick highlight. But Gallab never allows himself to be shunted out of the spotlight, guiding MARS though a diverse but complementary assortment of genres (the disco-funk of wah-wah workout Runnin’; the title track’s abstract jazz) with skilled self-assurance.

Out 17th December

Steve Adey - The Tower of Silence (****)

It’s taken Edinburgh-based songwriter Steve Adey six years to follow up debut album All Things Real, for reasons ranging from tropical maladies to obsessive studio tinkering. While the former militating factor is unfortunate, the latter has paid off nicely, with the bubbling soundscapes of opener A Few Seconds Have Passed establishing The Tower of Silence’s beautifully delicate production.

It’s followed by the sparse and majestic Laughing, its slowcore sadness lifted by the tender interplay between Adey’s rich baritone and the soothing embrace of Helena MacGlip’s background vocals. Just Wait Till I Get You Home reappears from last year’s These Resurrections EP, its steady splendour no less impactful, while With Tongues ventures into new celestial territories, with choral harmonies and electronic blips offering a mid-point breather from the concentrated emotions threaded elsewhere. Unrushed and uncluttered, The Tower of Silence is an album to drink in slowly.


Out now

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Albums of 2012: Cloud Nothings - Attack on Memory (interview with Dylan Baldi)

As well as the film list posted last week, this month's issue of the skinny features the music team's top 50 albums of the year. here's the top 10...

1. death grips - the money store
2. django django - django django
3. grimes - visions
4. errors - have some faith in magic
5. cloud nothings - attack on memory
6. el-p - cancer4cure
7. dirty projectors - swing lo magellen
8. godspeed you! black emperor - allelujah! don't bend! ascend!
9. the twilight sad - no one can ever know
10. matthew dear - beams

i put in votes for three of those (grimes, errors, cloud nothings) and since voting have grown rather fond of a further two (godspeed and dirty projectors). so while i can't say i'm much of a fan of the money store, the list as a whole is a good un i reckon.

like the film list, i'm holding off posting my personal list till nearer the end of the year, to give more time to catch up on some things i've not got round to hearing (that matthew dear album just jumped to the top of the pile). in the meantime, here's a small feature i wrote to mark cloud nothings' placement: 

Attack on Memorys introductions came way back in November 2011, when lead single No Future/No Past prowled online to throw expectations askew. Just ten months earlier, Cloud Nothings’ self-titled debut had showcased Dylan Baldi’s condensed, adrenalised pop-punk style superbly, lightly polishing the scruffy no-fi fuzz of his earlier basement recordings (collected as 2010’s Turning On) and seemingly clarifying the scope of his considerable talents.

Galloping on youthful energy and endless hooks, its peppiness was infectious, but while we were smitten, Baldi was already bored. With Cloud Nothings barely out of its shrink-wrap, its creator re-entered the studio, writing and recording its successor in a tight three weeks. The only part the self-titled album played in the process was that I wanted to do something very different since I was really sick of those songs,” explains Baldi. “I liked the idea of us doing something new and confusing people who were familiar with us playing a certain type of music.”

Opening the album with a crescendo of strained howls and crashing cymbals, everything about No Future/No Past seems designed to signpost this change of direction, from its title to its sullen pace to the grungy lack of melody. Wasted Days takes the reinvention/reinvigoration further, rolling and snarling over nine minutes of self-doubt and guitar solos, Baldi screaming mantras of disillusionment. Admittedly, the remainder of the album is less thoroughly divergent, with Stay Useless among those tracks retaining a clear bowline to the band’s punchy, poppier past, but nevertheless, Attack on Memory signals a significant shift in Cloud Nothings’ parameters.

Its intensity is partly attributable to changes in the recording process. Where Cloud Nothings’ sleeve proclaimed ‘all songs written by Dylan Baldi/ all instruments played by Dylan Baldi,’ Attack on Memory saw his long-time live band (Jayson Gerycz on drums, Joe Boyer on guitar and TJ Duke on bass) credited as co-writers and invited into the studio for the first time. “I wrote the songs and lyrics and all that, then the band wrote their own parts around them,” clarifies Baldi. “But we would change things around sometimes. It's really always been that way; I just used to record things on my own instead of with them. We'll definitely approach [future albums] in a similar way – it's a lot more fun to record with other people than by yourself.”

With the last two albums released almost exactly 12 months apart, we ask if Baldi has something lined up for 2013. The answer, excitingly, is yes. “It's shaping up to be a pretty different record than Attack on Memory,” he says of Cloud Nothings’ next move. “Hopefully people are willing to go along with it.” If his personal favourite albums of 2012 are any indication of where his mind’s at (Aaron Dilloway’s avant-noise triple album Modern Jester, Swans’ searing The Seer, a re-release from experimental drone-folk duo Natural Snow Buildings), chances are it’ll force another rethink of where Cloud Nothings are headed, and how much of a racket they’re going to make getting there.

Monday, 10 December 2012

live review: mission of burma @ mono, 5th december

A decade into their second wind, Mission of Burma have arguably set the criterion standard for how to reform a cult act and not only preserve your reputation, but enrich it. Considering they originally split due to guitarist Roger Miller’ chronic tinnitus, the sheer volume tonight is a (welcome) surprise, with Bob Weston keeping the levels loud and the three onstage members playing with undiminished vigour.

While only an explosive That’s When I Reach For My Revolver triggers a room-wide response, there are pockets of enthusiastic appreciation for all corners of their set: a raw-sounding Dust Devil is the pick of the Unsound material, while 2wice (from 2006’s The Obliterati) further attests to the gnarled might of their post-reformation output. But it’s the still-fresh early cuts that leave the deepest boot print, particularly Dirt’s tense, incendiary riffs and a stomping Fame and Fortune in the encore. Mission still accomplished.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

bottle rocket christmas!

There’s magic in the air, frost on the ground and Band Aid in every shop in town: hark, tis almost Christmas! Which means it’s even more almost Bottle Rocket Christmas! It’ll be much like the other 11 bottle rockets of the year, except with 78% more peace, 49% more goodwill, and a bit more Mariah Carey than usual. And with our Christmas party falling on ‘black-eye Friday’ for the first time ever, consider the basement of Nice n Sleazy an inviting stable in which to shelter from the rest of Sauchiehall Street. There’s always room at our inn! (unless we’re full – get down early!)

Requests - particularly those that contain sleigh bells, jolliness or any of the following key terms: ‘Santa’, ‘reindeer’, ‘tree’, or ‘he was roly, he was boly and I said holy moly, you got a lot of whiskers on your chinny chin chin’ - belong on the facebook event wall.

bottle rocket!
Friday 21st December!
11:30pm – 3:00am!
Nice n Sleazy!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

live review: some songs side-by-side album launch @ stereo, 29th november

Since Some Songs Side-By-Side is the debut release from Stereo’s fledgling record label, the bar’s basement space seems the natural place to launch it. Along with co-labels Watts of Goodwill and RE:PEATER, they’ve coaxed three-quarters of the compilation’s contributors out tonight (Muscles of Joy and Sacred Paws being the only absentees), providing a compressed taster of the box set’s contents and affirming why each act was invited to participate in the project in the first place.

Things start on the floor, with the room edging and craning to catch sight of Palms belting through a short set of terse hooks and galvanic, rough-hewn post-punk. With six bands to squeeze in, there’s no dawdling: a swift changeover and The Rosy Crucifixion are plugged in and laying down tremolo-hammering rock n roll of a surf and greaser vintage, making an old set of influences sound very fresh indeed.

Gummy Stumps follow in a fashion entirely their own: Colin Stewart’s gruff barks and the eclectic racket strummed and drummed beneath remain a singular composite, with Silver Sliver their performance’s craggy crest. Things move up on to the stage for Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gates Lock Pickers, plying their strutting rhythm and blues with panache. A splash of Psy in Mary Hell turns heads, while The Grace of God is a downcast delight.

While there have been drop ins and drop outs throughout the evening, Organs of Love are the first act to play to a noticeably less attentive crowd. But it doesn’t last long, as the duo’s brand of moody, off-kilter electro extends wispy tendrils to refocus drifters. Finally, Tut Vu Vu bring the event to a close, with their wonky and wild fusion of polyrhythmic jazz and playful prog-rock undertones crowning an excellent night with its final flourish.

Friday, 7 December 2012

gft programme note: the hunt


Please note that this article contains spoilers.

With accusations of child molestation at its core, The Hunt is a kind of companion piece to director Thomas Vinterberg’s break-through feature Festen (1998). But where Festen’s dramatic beat came from the exposure of a hidden truth (specifically a dark family history of sexual abuse), The Hunt presents the effects of a public falsehood, dramatising the way rumour insidiously percolates throughout a community, smearing reputations and destroying lives. A small lie begets huge consequences for wrongly accused nursery assistant Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen), branded a paedophile due to a series of knee-jerk assumptions and errors in judgement. His descent from community pillar to pariah makes clear the suffering that a wayward canard can inflict, its target tainted by association regardless of guilt.

Like the deer caught in the crosshairs in the first of the film’s hunting scenes, Lucas is oblivious to and powerless against the dangers headed his way. To assert his innocence gives away nothing – unlike, for example, John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt (2008), in which a priest is accused of molesting a young member of his parish and his guilt left ambiguous, Vinterberg and cowriter Tobias Lindholm make plain from the outset that Lucas is wronged against, not wronging; a victim of circumstance to be pitied, rather than a perpetrator to be punished. The film’s opening seconds teach a potted lesson in this regard: the screen is initially kept dark, and we hear unfamiliar sounds followed by men shouting. For a moment the effect is mildly threatening, until matched to its image: a hunting party merrily daring each other to leap in a freezing lake. This manipulation of tone seems to carry a warning: don’t jump to conclusions.

But while the taut script does not permit doubts in the audience, it does manage to believably delineate how and why such doubts form in the minds of Lucas’s neighbours, colleagues and even his closest friends. When the sad and lonely Klara (Annika Wedderkopp) tells her naïve lie to head teacher Gerthe (Susse Wold), the latter is visibly (and understandably) unsettled. While Gerthe initially expresses open-mindedness, objectively attempting to rationalise the child’s claims, it is soon apparent that, once an idea of such unpleasantness has formed, it becomes difficult to shake. As a result, once-unquestioned behaviour is re-contextualised as sinister, with Lucas’s friendliness and affection for the children scoured for ulterior motives. A repeated game, in which the children ambush Lucas as he arrives at work, demonstrates this parallax shift: on the first occasion, the children blithely swarm around Lucas, squealing with excitement as they playfully attack; on the second, Lucas pre-empts their impish trap by sneaking over a fence and reversing the roles, his harmless roughhousing watched over by a newly suspicious Gerthe. The headteacher’s subsequent actions are highly injudicious, aggravating a flippant accusation and generating an assumption of guilt that spreads throughout the town. But while some reviewers (even those positive about the film’s other qualities) have taken this as evidence of implausibility or “crude” plotting,[1] Vinterberg at least gives a sense of how emotions can override logic in the (apparent) presence of such abhorrent misdeeds. Mistakes are made, but without exception, characters act with the personal conviction that they are doing the right thing, with the best interests of the children at heart.

A scene in which an unspecified specialist interviews Klara to ascertain whether there is validity to her allegation underscores just how delicate ‘truth’ can be. His leading questions layer Klara’s vague fib with imaginary and prejudicial detail, moving from open questions (“Tell me what Lucas did”), to closed (“Did he show you his willy here in the nursery?”), speculating both act and location and simply asking Klara to confirm. Throughout the scene, children can be heard playing outside; as Klara distractedly glances over her shoulder, she is told that if she answers the question she’ll be allowed to join them, coaxing her to ratify the lie. When Grethe subsequently meets with Klara’s mother, her language is unequivocal. “Something has occurred…” Grethe firmly states, tailing off with a haunted “the things she said…” But, as the audience has just witnessed, Klara has ‘said’ very little. This process of external reinforcement is repeated later: having been advised that Klara will likely recant her accusation out of embarrassment, a genuine attempt to come clean is dismissed, her mother stressing “listen Klara, it did happen”.

Misinterpretations are rife. When other parents are warned that their children may also have been abused, they are told to look for symptoms including nightmares and bedwetting – genuine indicators of abuse in some circumstances, but also broad behavioural traits shared by many children of pre-school age. More accusations inevitably follow, the rising hysteria echoing Arthur Miller’s witch-hunt parable The Crucible. But though rejected affections play a part, Klara is no Abigail Williams-figure exacting deliberate revenge, but rather a confused child acting without malice. What The Hunt does share with Miller’s play, however, is a claustrophobic, nightmarish helplessness – a their-word-against-yours indictment near-impossible to defend against.

In the wake of last month’s Newnight scandal – in which Tory peer Lord McAlpine was erroneously identified as a paedophile following a flawed investigation by the BBC – The Hunt could scarcely be more topical to UK audiences. When the blunder became clear, journalist George Monbiot (one of several to name McAlpine on Twitter) was quick to apologise, in words that resonate with the events depicted in Vinterberg’s film. “I helped to stoke an atmosphere of febrile innuendo around an innocent man, and I am desperately sorry for the harm I have done him” Monbiot wrote. “I allowed myself to be carried away by a sense of moral outrage. As a result, far from addressing an awful injustice, I contributed to one.”[2] As well as dramatising the potential consequences of such unbridled moral outrage, The Hunt sympathetically attempts to unpick some of its causes.

Christopher Buckle
Journalist and researcher
December 2012

[1] Geoffrey Macnab (2012) ‘The Hunt Review’, Sight and Sound, accessed 02/12/12 at
[2] George Manbiot (2012), ‘Lord McAlpine – An Abject Apology’, accessed 03/12/12 at

Thursday, 6 December 2012

live review: shearwater @ broadcast, 27th november

With Animal Joy ranking amongst their best work, Shearwater feel like one of 2012’s great overlookeds, their seventh album receiving only a fraction of the attention it deserves. However, the fact they remain inexplicably niche carries a silver lining for those assembled in Broadcast for the band’s second swing through Glasgow this year, with the venue’s small size helping foster a particularly intimate performance (“the best thing about this place is the low overheads,” jokes/forecasts Jonathan Meiburg of the ceiling’s close proximity).

“Tour lurgy” has left Meiburg feeling robbed of some range, but a thunderous sound compensates ably, imbuing tracks like Animal Life and Castaway with real power. In the encore, Meiburg invites requests and selflessly selects the one most testing to his ravaged voice-box, stretching for every high note of a solo Hail, Mary and setting hairs on edge. As the full band exit the stage, Meiburg’s hand goes through the aforementioned low ceiling, branding the fledgling venue with a memory of the evening and delivering an irresistible metaphor: a fist raised in triumph that confirms they’re destined for bigger things.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

dvd review: code name geronimo - the hunt for osama bin laden

Airing in the US just days before last month’s election, SEAL Team 6 (as it was then titled) caused a minor outrage, attracting accusations that distributor and Obama-supporter Harvey Weinstein was trying to influence ‘undecideds’ with a strategically-timed reminder of the President’s first-term accomplishments. Obama went on to secure a second term, of course, but this badly-conceived dramatisation of the raid on Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound is unlikely to have swayed even the most easily-manipulated of voters.

While its military re-enactments create a certain amount of tension, the lead-up is hokey and unconvincing, as the filmmakers strain to inscribe personality on a cast of ciphers through hackneyed backstories and substantial guesswork. It’s the latter flaw that rankles most: by rushing into production before the dust had settled, Operation Geronimo is left looking ill-informed and sapped of credibility. Hopefully Kathryn Bigelow’s forthcoming Zero Dark Thirty will offer a more considered take on events, with a more appropriate degree of moral complexity.

Out 24th December

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

the skinny's films of the year...

tis the season to be jolly, which means it's also the season to survey the preceding year and assemble ranked lists of favourite albums/films/tracks/etc. why? the same reason for half the stuff people do around christmas: tradition!

the skinny began its culture countdowns with the film section's top 10 movies of the year:

1. the raid (dir. gareth evans)
2. tabu (dir. miguel gomes)
3. moonrise kingdom (dir. wes anderson)
4. looper (dir. rian johnson)
5. about elly (dir. asghar farhadi)
6. the turin horse (dir. béla tarr, agnes hranitzky)
7. this is not a film (dir. jafar panahi, motjaba mirtahmasb)
8. the kid with a bike (dir. jean-pierre and luc dardenne)
9. the master (dir. paul thomas anderson)
10. holy motors (dir. leos carax)

the full article, with wee write-ups of each, can be read here. from that list, i lodged votes for tabu, moonrise kingdom, the turin horse, this is not a film, the kid with a bike and holy motors, so it's nice to see so many of my favourites reflected in the final run-down. the fill article includes each contributor's individual choices in full, though i'm going to hold off posting mine since i'll undoubtedly tweak it a dozen more times before the year is out... 

for now, here are the two reappraisals i penned, singing the praises of tabu and the kid with a bike respectively.

Months after its release, Tabu nestles in the cerebrum not as a dazzling, enigmatic whole (which it undoubtedly is), but as a series of indelible images: a glassy-eyed crocodile submerged in still waters; a solitary woman transfixed by flickering celluloid; a colonial explorer shadowed by a spectre. With these images come echoes of its soundtrack, particularly the erudite voiceover that extends throughout the second half, silencing dialogue and fostering a disconcerting nonpareil tone. Memory, with its mysteries and vagaries, proves Tabu’s natural habitat, the power of these fragments corroborated by a narrative steeped in romance and nostalgia. Formally audacious and thematically opulent, Tabu is a treasure trove to be pored over. 

The Kid with a Bike
Warming hearts and rending them in equal measures, The Kid with a Bike’s impactful drama is built on small moments and big gestures. The latter comes from the virtuous Samantha (Cécile de France) and her selfless decision to foster ten-year-old Cyril (Thomas Doret), weathering the young boy’s storm of emotions – anger, sadness, confusion – in the hope of easing his pain. The former, meanwhile, signifies the storytelling prowess of the film’s creators Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, who craft their latest neorealist masterpiece from little details: a collision between two strangers; a frustrated outburst; a thrown stone. The results are acutely poignant, with an all-too-rare optimism and a finely felt sense of compassion.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

reviews: martin rossiter, some songs side-by-side, whatever gets you through the night

Martin Rossiter - The Defenestration of St Martin (***)

Eight years since the curtain came down on Gene, Martin Rossiter has lost none of his earnestness or theatricality. Grandly opening the grandly titled The Defenestration of St Martin with a ten-minute ballad, his melancholic croon is as bruised and brooding as ever, even if the song’s subject matter (a bitter indictment of poor parenting, anchored by the line “the only thing I got from you was my name”) leaves him sounding overwrought by the end.

But though unashamedly emotional, he’s self-aware with it, as proven by the tongue-in-cheek melodrama of I Must Be Jesus, in which the tortured narrator wallows in self-pity and compares his suffering to Christ prostrate on the cross. The simplicity of the arrangements (almost exclusively piano and voice throughout) will undoubtedly limit the album’s appeal, with only negligible variety in sound and a terminally stark tone, but the eloquence and elegance of the songwriting is undeniable.

Out now

                                                  Various Artists – Some Songs Side-By-Side 

Various Artists - Some Songs Side-by-Side (****)

Jointly assembled by a trio of labels, with 22 tracks across four sides of vinyl and artwork from eight different artists, this endeavour is evidently more than just ‘some songs side-by-side.’ But the box set’s matter-of-fact title acknowledges an important truth: the effort’s worth nowt if the music lining its grooves doesn’t excite. But for its full 77-minute duration, Some Songs… most certainly does.

All involved shine: Tut Vu Vu open with an unhinged fusion that prods the amygdala and gets into your bones; Palms deliver a trio of raw garage cuts including threatening come-on Blood; while The Rosy Crucifixion’s rock-n-roll sashay is a sucker punch of reverb and rockabilly rhythms. But with Organs of Love, Gummy Stumps, Sacred Paws, Muscles of Joy and Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers completing the set, there are no weak links, only a bold print reminder of just how good Glasgow’s got it.

Out 3rd December

Various Artists – Whatever Gets You Through the Night

Various Artists - Whatever Gets You Through the Night (****)

Having cycled through theatre and film iterations, Cora Bissett, David Greig and Swimmer One’s multimedia Whatever Gets You through the Night project arrives in album form. And despite being partial by nature, it never sounds incomplete thanks to savvy sequencing and a consistently high standard of contributions.

With the wee small hours as inspiration, we get agony (Meursault’s wracked A Kind of Cure) and ecstasy (Wounded Knee and Bigg Taj’s Live at the Bongo Club, built from muffled beatboxed beats and background chatter); melancholia (Rachel Sermanni’s Lonely Taxi, 2am) and drunken munchies (Eugene Kelly’s droll Chips and Cheese) – a breadth of moods as varied as human experience, combining neatly into a vivid nocturnal tapestry.

Other peaks include Errors’ Embassy Approach, with eccentricities cut from the same cloth as Have Some Faith in Magic; Ricky Ross’s plaintive The North Star; and Withered Hand’s horn-backed bittersweet bookends, which bracket the anthology’s nighttime sketches splendidly.

Out now

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

reviews: benjamin gibbard, breathless, waves of fury

                                                     Benjamin Gibbard – Former Lives

Benjamin Gibbard - Former Lives (**)

If the key to unlocking former lives is regression, Ben Gibbard’s solo debut is perfectly titled: there’s scant sign of progress or advancement in these 12 tracks. Jettisoning the light experimentalism that’s characterised recent Death Cab for Cutie releases, Gibbard offers in its place a comparatively bland collection cobbled together over an eight-year period.

A handful of relatively-strong cuts struggle for air: for instance, Teardrop Windows evokes Teenage Fanclub to decent effect, while Bigger Than Love overcomes its sickly slickness thanks to Aimee Mann’s soulful vocal contributions. But these are very much the exceptions – on the opposite side of the scales are the flavourless mariachi undertones of Something’s Rattling (Cowpoke); the insufferably wispy and wet lyrics to Lily; and the featureless plod of A Hard One to Know, which resembles Rilo Kiley on autopilot. Even these low-points aren’t catastrophic; they’re just a long, long way from their creator’s finest work.

Out now

                                                         Breathless – Green to Blue

 Breathless - Green to Blue (***)

4AD founder Ivo Watts-Russell is a big fan of Breathless, mentoring their latest opus and describing bandleader Dominic Appleton as his favourite living male vocalist. It’s a shame he didn’t sign them, really – perhaps if they’d been part of his illustrious mid-eighties stable (and certainly, their lightly-gothic, melancholic dream-pop would have fit in nicely amidst the likes of Cocteau Twins and Ivo’s own This Mortal Coil), they’d have a more befittingly prominent public profile.

Yet this oversight has advantages too: chiefly, it perhaps means that the fact they haven’t changed much in thirty years won’t be noticed by newcomers, wooed by their reverb-soaked style for the first time. Green to Blue (emphasis on blue) is an unwaveringly forlorn listen, and at seventy minutes, is possibly more funereal glumness than anyone needs in a single sitting. But it’s nevertheless an enveloping experience, one that deserves to kick-start a wider (re)appreciation of the band’s oft-overlooked talents.

Out now

                                                         Waves of Fury – Thirst

Waves  of Fury - Thirst (****)

It doesn’t take long to get a handle on Waves of Fury. A few seconds of distorted piano ease you in to opener Death of a Vampire, then BAM! – a wall of sound floods the speakers and starts firing off melodies unapologetically modelled on vintage rhythm and blues and its branching family tree: northern soul, garage rock  and proto-punk, smothered in fuzz and dripping with attitude.

Vocalist Carter Sharp shouts, sneers and wails over a dense bed of chugging guitars, stomping rhythms and warm brass, and despite overflowing with touchstone reference points – The Stooges, Louie Louie, Geno Washington – their four to the floor energy and snappy melodies never come off as recycled or ersatz. Rather, the impression is of a band with an acute understanding of their chosen musical lineage, with every horn parp, handclap and howled yelp expertly positioned and hitting its target.

Out now

Monday, 26 November 2012

dvd review: polisse


A vérité-style drama based on the daily work of Paris’s ‘Brigade de protection des mineurs,’ Polisses treatment of difficult subject matter (child abuse in all its forms) is boldly uncompromising. In preparation, writer/director Maïwenn spent time embedded with the aforementioned child protection unit, and her research fosters a grim verisimilitude on proceedings, as does a coreless structure that flits from traumatic case to traumatic case, withholding both closure and context.

The film’s chaotic and messy non-plot instils a befitting breathlessness, staring unblinkingly at an everyday depravity in which childhoods are snuffed out with terrible regularity. Interspersed are scenes of the officers off-the-clock, each life complicated and invaded by the pressures of their bruising occupation. But, an unnecessarily overwrought climax aside, the film resists turning these professionals into saints or martyrs, with insensitive behaviour and misjudgements to digest along with the expected soul-searching. The end result is tonally erratic and susceptible to cliché, but hugely affecting nevertheless.

Out now

Saturday, 17 November 2012

november playlist

1. errors - tusk
2. vanessa paradis - joe le taxi
3. grimes - vowels = space and time
4. big black delta - ifuckingloveyou
5. neu - after eight
6. danananaykroyd - glee sells trade
7. archers of loaf - might
8. cloud nothings - fall in
9. the kills - cheap n cheerful
10. le tigre - let's run
11. moon duo - circles
12. wussy - funeral dress
13. the undertones - teenage kicks
14. del shannon - runaway
15. ballboy - you can't spend your whole life hanging around with arseholes
16. broadcast - goodbye girls
17. devo - peekaboo
18. sparks - i want to be like everybody else
19. brilliant corners - why do you have to go out with him
20. magazine - because you're frightened
21. esg - dance
22. phantogram - futuristic casket
23. talking heads - girlfriend is better
24. holy fuck - red lights
25. lorrie and larry collins - whistle bait
26. y niwl - dauddegtri
27. dave dee, dozy, beaky, mick and tich - hold on tight!
28. marvin gaye - aint that peculiar
29. smokey robinson - mickey's monkey
30. dexy's midnight runners - burn it down
31. the divine comedy - becoming more like alfie
32. pulp - razzamatazz
33. morrissey - suedehead
34. justin timberlake - rock your body
35. the cramps - human fly
36. the aislers set - long division
37. dr feelgood - milk and alcohol
38. wanda jackson - let's have a party
39. the pipettes - pull shapes
40. the b-52s - roam
41. orange juice - what presence
42. jonathan richman - astral plane
43. the smiths - handsome devil
44. jon spencer blues explosion - she said
45. ray orbison - i drove all night
46. elektryczny gitary - co ty tutaj robisz
47. foo fighters - up in arms
48. bloc party - banquet
49. the stooges - search & destroy
50. gary moore & phil lynott - out in the fields
51. david bowie - china girl
52. bruce springsteen - glory days
53. depeche mode - people are people
54. belle and sebastian - me and the major
55. the strokes - new york city cops
56. fleetwood mac - go your own way
57. electric light orchestra - evil woman
58. kirsty maccoll - they don't know
59. abba - lay all your love on me
60. idlewild - little discourage
61. the crickets - la bamba
62. ersel hickey - bluebirds over the mountain

Wednesday, 14 November 2012


Michael has an invitation to share...

November is a bit negative isn't it? What with that big fat "No" right at the beginning of it. Campaign time guys: join us in our bid to change the calendar and rename this month YESvember. YESvember we can! Alternatively, just come to Sleazy's on Friday 16th November to get pished and have a boogie with us. We can promise you the usual confused mix of indiepop, new wave, postpunk and stuff like that.

* 11:30PM - 3AM! *
* FREE BEFORE 11:30! *

ye dancin?

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

bill wells & aidan moffat/ rick redbeard @ cottiers, 7th november

After several years of performing solo with next-to-nowt to line his merch stand, Rick Anthony’s Rick Redbeard guise is picking up pace. Debut album This Selfish Heart is coming soon, The Phantom Band frontman promises, and tasters are shared tonight, including its impressive title track. But it’s the willowy beauty of Now We’re Dancing (from the summer’s split EP with Adam Stafford) that reduces the room to its quietest hush, as pew after pew gets swept up in his baritone serenade.

Opening with an especially wistful Tasogare and closing with And So We Must Rest, Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat deliver the still-remarkable Everything’s Getting Older in its entirety across tonight’s set. Where recent shows have involved a full band, tonight is a more intimate setup, with Wells behind his piano, Moffat brushing cymbals, and trumpeter Robert Henderson upping the jazziness of certain tracks with bravura grace notes. Particularly effective are The Copper Top and Dinner Time, the trio’s quiet performance accentuating the former’s pathos and the latter’s tense absurdity splendidly.

In addition, Box It Up and Man of the Cloth appear from Cruel Summer, though in lieu of the EP’s titular Bananarama hit we get a fresh girl group cover, with Stooshe's Black Heart re-worded to cast Moffat as the coal-souled monster in question – a deliciously louche appropriation that slots nicely into his pop covers repertoire. We're also introduced to a song reportedly dropped from Everything’s Getting Older for being too chirpy: with an upbeat swing and a whistling coda, it’s certainly conspicuous, though by this juncture, they’ve earned enough trust to take us anywhere.

Monday, 12 November 2012

november skinny


A lean month for contributions from yours truly...

- the dirty dozen: aidan moffat (read here!)
- paws/north american war live review (read here!)
- ben gibbard - 'former lives' album review
- guided by voices - 'the bears for lunch' album review (read here!)
- trapped mice - 'winter sun' album review (read here!)

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

reviews: darren hayman and the long parliament, jon derosa, guided by voices

Darren Hayman and the Long Parliament - The Violence (***)

For the concluding instalment of his ‘Essex trilogy’, Darren Hayman rewinds the clock a few hundred years. The first two parts surveyed the songwriter’s home county as it is now, his typically incisive vignettes encompassing new towns and joyrides (amongst other things). The Violence inhabits a somewhat different landscape, taking as its concept the 17th century witch trials that sent hundreds to the gallows.

The presiding tone is understandably melancholic, both lyrically and musically. Consider Elizabeth Clarke: named after (and told from the perspective of) an 80-year-old woman amongst the first to hang, its chorus of “who’s going to feed my dog... who’s going to pull my ankle when I swing?” sung over what sounds like the creaking of the hangman’s scaffold, finds sad poetry in small details. It’s a skill demonstrated repeatedly across the album’s twenty tracks, and despite occasional filler-pieces, Hayman’s historical odyssey is never a trial.

Out now

Jon DeRosa - A Wolf in Preacher's Clothes (****)

When Jon DeRosa croons “don’t say goodnight” in the song of the same name – his rich voice tempting an unnamed companion for one last drink in an emptying bar-room – the soulful seduction puts into images A Wolf...'s overriding atmosphere. Continuing the romantic night-music style established on last year’s Anchored EP, DeRosa’s first album under his own name confirms the New Jerseyite as an estimable find.

Both lyrics and delivery of True Men convey vintage interests (name-checking Robert Mitchum and William Holden and smoothly singing “I’ve played the part, I’ve played the fool” like a lovesick Sinatra), as does a smoky, jazz-flecked version of The Blue Nile’s Easter Parade. Elsewhere, there are echoes of Stephin Merritt (with whom DeRosa worked on Showtunes) and Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy, so while it would be a push to describe this as a unique record, it’s no exaggeration to call it an excellent one.
Out now

Guided By Voices - The Bears for Lunch (***)

Usually when a treasured act reforms, they hit the road, give fans an opportunity to hear the hits, and then go back to whatever it was they were doing beforehand, bank balances replenished and legacy topped up. Guided By Voices do things differently, with The Bears for Lunch their third album of 2012 – that’s 61 songs in 11 months (plus two solo albums from bandleader Robert Pollard to boot). Yet somehow, quantity hasn’t totally eclipsed quality.

Opener King Arthur the Red gets everything right, its crunchy guitar solos setting a powerhouse pace. But Pollard never met an idea he didn’t consider worth committing to tape, and disposable tracks like Have a Jug could have done with spending a little longer at draft stage. In a parallel universe, Guided By Voices spent 2012 lapping up praise for one awesome album; instead, they settled for a trio of pretty good ones.

Out 12th November 

Monday, 5 November 2012

The Dirty Dozen: Aidan Moffat reviews November's singles

Ahead of this month's Scottish tour with Bill Wells, noted no-nonsense 2am Twitter pop critic Aidan Moffat pops by to give the November singles the long-form review treatment. Yes: we take requests...

Dead Sea Souls – Trendsetter (Big Rock Candy Records, 5 Nov)
Aidan: Well first off, this is far too chirpy for my frame of mind. I’m glad the boy’s singing in his own accent but it’s not the sort of music that excites me at all. I don’t want to disparage local bands because I wish them all the luck, but… it’s not something I would listen to at home, shall we say. Can I abstain from marking anything Scottish? Anything Scottish automatically starts at 5 out of 10, and this gets a 6 for the guy’s voice.

The Staves – Tongue Behind My Teeth (Atlantic Records, 5 Nov)
Aidan: I think we can write this off as pretty bland. I can’t really say anything nice about that. It’s very, very dull isn’t it? This sort of music makes me angry, quite frankly. I find nice music most offensive. Just hurt me, I’d rather be hurt. Everything about this was so pleasant. It can have a 2.

Tame Impala – Feels Like We Only Go Backwards (Modular, 19 Nov)
Aidan: My girlfriend hates this band solely because of the stupid name. I’m actually quite surprised I like this, because it is a silly name, it’s a ridiculous name. I think the song lacks a strong chorus, but coming from someone who doesn’t bother with choruses when they write music, that isn’t really much of a criticism. I’m not blown away, but it’s good aye – 7.

Swim Deep – Honey (Chess Club Records, 5 Nov)
Aidan: I must admit, I like the look of this disgraceful cover, with the girl with honey dripping out her mouth. It’s piqued my curiosity, because if you’re going to have a bold cover like that, you’ve got to have a bold sound. [Approximately 10 seconds in...] No, I’m bored already. My curiosity ends after the first bar, so we can safely say we willnae bother with that one. [Chorus starts...] Nah, ‘ooh ooh baby’ is not allowed in this day and age I’m afraid. That is a cardinal offence – 1 out of 10, let’s move on…

Two Door Cinema Club – Sun (Kitsuné, 19 Nov)
Aidan: I’ve definitely heard this band before, and there’s a reason I don’t listen to them. I think the best thing I can say about this is I like that girl in the video’s hair. This just bores me completely. What is the point? I can guarantee you he’s a brilliant guy though – everybody I’ve met who makes records I can’t stand have been amazing people, then you meet people who make records you really love and they’re fucking wankers. It just seems to be a rule in music, so I bet he’s a brilliant laugh down the pub – though I imagine he gets ID’d a lot.
The Skinny: Marks?
Aidan: I’ll give the girl’s hair 3. Actually, 4 – she was wearing nice shorts as well.

Damn Vandals – This Amazing (Sexy Beast, 5 Nov)
Aidan: I don’t like his voice, it sounds like he’s trying too hard. I quite like the sound of the band though. If Damn Vandals ever fall out with their singer, if they contact me then I might be into it. That’s not to say that they would be, but at least I’m willing to leave my ego at the door and turn my vocals down in the mix, if nothing else. An instrumental version of this would get 7.  [skips to B-side] Actually, having heard another song from their repertoire I’d like to retract that. They’re doing one thing on the A-side and something entirely different on the B-side, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but unfortunately it seems to be at odds to me. That was a shame. I’ll bring that down to a 5.

Heaven’s Basement – Fire, Fire (Red Bull Records, 5 Nov)
Aidan: I don’t understand this at all. Originality isn’t important in all walks, but I’ve heard these noises so many times before that they’re wholly meaningless. It’s like they don’t care. I wonder why the uncensored version is longer – does he just scream ‘fuck you’ at the start or something? Can we hear it? Actually, no, I take that back – I’ve just realised we’d have to listen to it again. I’d rather we just end this torture now. I presume Heaven’s Basement is a reference to Hell, so rightly named: hellish indeed. Fucking zero – they don’t even merit a score, they’re not worth talking about.

The Ramona Flowers – Dismantle and Rebuild (Distiller Records, 18 Nov)
Aidan: This is horrible. Sorry, I must sound like a right curmudgeon. Will we listen to the D/R/U/G/S remix? You never know... [Still unimpressed] See, this remix has just highlighted what was annoying about the first version: that rhythm. That rhythm’s so prevalent in songs today, it fucking annoys me. Me and Hubby [RM Hubbert] were on a wee tour and we sat in a Travel Lodge one night watching the music channels with a carry out, and all the pop songs had the same shitty trance rhythm. If you watch any sort of pop thing, it’s such a limited palette of sound that people seem to be using.
The Skinny: Even Girls Aloud, judging by their comeback single…
Aidan: Oh, I haven’t heard the new Girls Aloud song, but after the Nicola Roberts album I don’t see how they can come back, 'cause that’s a fucking brilliant record. But [returning attention to Ramona Flowers] I’m afraid we have to ascertain from this remix that the old adage is true: you can’t polish a turd. They get 2, and only cause I quite like D/R/U/G/S. Can we hear the Girls Aloud song next? Is that allowed?
The Skinny: Aye, why not…

Girls Aloud – Something New (Polydor, 18 Nov)
Aidan: Oh for fuck's sake! What’s going on there? Is that Cheryl Cole’s influence? The title must be ironic because it sounds exactly like everything else that they’ll be competing against in the charts. Well, at least Kimberley will be in the video – that’s something to look forward to. But this is awful. And the bad news is I’m going to have to listen to that because I am undoubtedly going to go and see them when they play, and they’ll insist on playing their new record. I wish Girls Aloud had just stayed dead and let Nicola go on, but [shrugs] it didnae happen…

Jack White – I’m Shakin’ (Third Man Records, 30 Oct)
Aidan: It’s like a Sesame Street version of Tom Waits. Turn it off, I can’t be fucked with this. I liked a few of the early White Stripes records but lost interest pretty quick cause they basically made the same record about 5 times – which is rich coming from me but, you know… Zero.

Animal Collective – Applesauce (Domino, 12 Nov)
Aidan: I don’t quite know where I stand with Animal Collective. They’re the sort of band where I’ll hear a song like this one and like it, but find it difficult to get through their albums. I think I admire their inventiveness more than I enjoy their sounds – they make interesting sounds, but it lacks an emotional feel to me… I’ll give that 6.

SINGLE OF THE MONTH: Stubborn Heart – Starting Block (One Little Indian, 26 Nov)
Aidan: This is far and away the best thing I’ve heard so far. I’m a sucker for anything that has a frantic rhythm and a very calm vocal. Yes, I’m very fond of this actually, this is the sort of thing I’ll seek out and listen to at home. There’s a mystery about them that I quite like. I’ll give that 8.

Written for The Skinny

Friday, 2 November 2012

reviews: this many boyfriends, brasstronaut, trapped mice

This Many Boyfriends - This Many Boyfriends (***)

This Many Boyfriends’ scrappy-go-lucky debut wears its DNA like so many button badges. It’s in their name, a nod to Beat Happening. It’s in their titles, with Tina Weymouth opening the album and I Don’t Like You (‘Cos You Don’t Like the Pastels) returning from 2010’s Getting A Life With EP. And it’s in their lyrics (boy, is it in their lyrics), stocked with nods to The Go-Betweens, Orange Juice and dozens more indie-pop darlings.

But most of all, it’s in the music itself. Sometimes, the quotations are overt, with Young Lovers Go Pop! sharing more than exclamation marks with You! Me! Dancing!. But their genre-worship is also present in more diffuse form – in the jangling guitar tones, and singer Richard’s insouciant, punk-Morrissey delivery. The results are lightweight but knowingly so – irritatingly so if you’re looking for even the slightest bit of parameter-testing, but wonderfully so if you share their tastes.

Out now

                                                 Brasstronaut – Mean Sun 

Brasstronaut - Mean Sun (***)

As their clunky name indicates, trumpets aren’t just an occasional adornment in Brasstronaut’s songwriting; they’re its heart. Like debut Mt. Chimaera, the Vancouverites’ second album is principally structured around the warm tones of founding hornblower Bryan Davies, whose parping supplies melody to some tracks, texture to others.

Despite the sextet’s punning moniker, this relatively uncommon focus never sounds gimmicky, with Davies’ band mates chipping in mellow bass lines, reverb-heavy guitar, clarinet, synths and more. Their layered contributions ensure Davies’ elevated role isn’t at the expense of balance, though on occasion, smooth assuredness metastasises into a character-free blandness, a complacency that cries out for some kind of maverick intrusion; something bold and daring to ruffle the record’s sophisticated plumage and inject some soul. But allow such dissatisfactions to drift on, and there’s plenty to admire in Mean Sun’s understated urbanity, particularly its bookends: graceful opener Bounce and shivering finale Mixtape.

Out now

Trapped Mice – Winter Sun

Trapped Mice - Winter Sun (***)

Winter Sun starts with An Ending: a two-minute instrumental in which plaintive accordion wheezes over traffic noise and sirens, conjuring an enticing air of mystery. It’s an evocative introduction, demonstrating that even without Ian Tilling’s studiedly poetic lyrics, Trapped Mice spin stories with skill.

For the remainder of the band’s full length debut, Tilling’s passionate vocals are an upfront focal point, and his words prove extremely effective (Hermit Point and The Devil Wandered In in particular; awkward spoken-word piece Cameraman, less so). In terms of audible influences, Okkervil River continue to cast a pronounced shadow over the Edinburgh five-piece; a flattering comparison but one which exposes the occasional thinness of Winter Suns lo-fi production. But while the home-recording perhaps undersells some of their music’s finer qualities, it can’t detract from the overall confidence with which they present themselves, best represented by ambitious centrepiece Quiet Place; a multi-part expedition with considerable impact.

Out 5th November