Tuesday, 31 January 2012

february skinny!

hey look, i wrote another cover story! well, my errors interview is part of a larger editorial take-over by the band, but i'm chalking it up regardless...

here's the full list of mr me's bits and pieces:

- 'stop making sense': errors interview
- 'sound and vision': glasgow music and film festival preview
- m83/porcelain raft @ the arches gig review (read here!)
- a winged victory for the sullen @ oran mor gig review (read here!)
- rm hubbert - 'thirteen lost and found' album review (read here!)
- icarus - 'fake fish distribution' album review
- matthew bourne - 'montauk variations' album review
- boy friend - 'egyptian wrinkle' album review (read here!)

t'other stuff will be up shortly, so just haud yer horses.

Friday, 27 January 2012

album reviews: rm hubbert, boy friend, lal

RM Hubbert - Thirteen Lost and Found

RM Hubbert - Thirteen Lost & Found (****)

First & Last was perhaps ungenerously characterised as a ‘low-key introduction’ to RM Hubbert’s solo methods within these pages as we greedily anticipated its already-in-the-works successor two years ago. While such impatience undoubtedly sold his debut short, Thirteen Lost & Found is certainly the more immediately satisfying volume; where that first release was a straight-up expression of his compositional style, its follow-up adds guest vocals and more varied instrumentation, with wholly positive results.

The credits are a who’s who of Scottish talent, each diversifying Hubbert’s songwriting in their own particular ways – from Aidan Moffat’s characteristically droll contribution to The Car Song, to Alasdair Roberts’ traditionalist take on folk standard The False Bride. An ovation for all concerned, then – yet, unexpectedly, it ends up being the solo, instrumental pieces that impress most. Set amidst this record’s more mixed aesthetic, their expressive qualities are brought sharply into focus, with For Joe the album’s peerless highlight.

Out 30th January

Boy Friend - Egyptian Wrinkle

Boy Friend - Egyptian Wrinkle (****)

Those looking for a short-cut introduction to Boy Friend’s sound could do worse than track down their cover of Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man after Midnight) online. Slowed a beat, with glassy vocals draped across woozy synth washes, Christa Palazzolo and Sarah Brown transform the overly-familiar ABBA standard (thanks, Mamma sodding Mia) into something fresh, without sacrificing the track’s finer qualities amidst the serene coos and tasteful echoes.

This balance between esoteric atmospherics and pop accessibility is carried across to the duo’s ten track debut, its somnambulist drift reminiscent of an extra-dreamy Cults, or Blouse after a mitt-full of Nytol. It’s a winning combination – and, unlike Stephanie Franciotti’s more abstract, shrouded Sleep ∞ Over project, with whom Palazzolo and Brown used to play, Boy Friend are comfortable piercing the ambience with some straight-up emoting; see, for instance, In Case, a torch song Shakespear’s Sister would be proud to call their own.

Out 6th February


LAL - LAL (**)

For thirteen years, LAL have sat proudly outside the mainstream, embodying a multicultural, multi-genre approach that combines political activism with elements of trip hop, soul and dub (amongst other influences).

On their fourth album, Rosina Kazi’s lyrics address civil liberties and political disillusionment (“where’s the integrity you spoke about last week…trying to act, act like they’re leaders/ they’re kicking us down”), but are let down by unfortunate dips into cod-philosophical hippy territory (see Live Your Light, the chorus of which has echoes of pre-Timbaland Nelly Furtado, without the youthful naiveté).

Similarly, for every successful sonic blend (I Know Your Face’s bassy Portishead-like brooding; Red Room’s thick electronics) there are moments of boredom (Background, for one, makes little impression), meaning that, while LAL the album successfully demonstrates the breadth of LAL the band’s ambition, it stops short of achieving them. An intriguing record, if not quite an exemplary one.

Out Now

Thursday, 26 January 2012

m83 @ the arches, 19th january

Like post-Fromageau M83, Porcelain Raft is effectively one man’s nom de plume, but, also like M83, Mauro Remiddi is not performing alone, with live drums augmenting his array of electronics. It’d be fair to say that there are quite a few similarities between headliner and support, in fact, though Remiddi’s dreamy electro-pop is considerably less bombastic than Anthony Gonzalez’s recent work; more hesitant and personal than M83’s comparatively unsubtle accomplishments. Tonight is Porcelain Raft’s debut Glasgow show, and it’s an excellent introduction.

Over an hour passes before the evening’s next Intro; by the time the Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming opener takes flight, the oscillating drone piped from the PA between sets has fair outstayed its welcome. A stellar opening run initially helps quell any potential doubts that M83’s tardiness might have instilled in a packed-in Arches crowd: a Teen Angst/Kim & Jessie double prompts a mental note to dig out half-remembered eighties-films when The Skinny gets home, while Reunion’s opening chords add The Breakfast Club to the viewing list.

Thereafter enthusiasm dips; by all measures, Sitting should ignite the room, but it’s knocked out coolly and, in response, dancing remains minimal, with neither band nor crowd as animated as you might expect. Midnight City successfully hoists audience buzz up several gears, but the fresh spark it generates has nowhere to go - Gonzalez is unwell, and the set is brought to an early close. On the plus side, though, that leaves plenty of time for a post-gig Gleaming the Cube/Dreamscape double-bill.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

a winged victory for the sullen @ oran mor, 15th january

“You can keep chatting – Dustin’s just having a meltdown” explains A Winged Victory for the Sullen’s Adam Wiltzie as their expected start time creeps past. Apparently, Glasgow’s Baltic temperatures are playing havoc with tunings, a weather report that rings personally true after spending a half hour shivering at Oran Mor’s entrance due to a guest-list mix-up. It’s a minor hiccup, but one that unfortunately means missing most of Sleepingdog – though from what little we hear through the outer wall, their unhurried, crystalline atmosphere is the perfect mood-setter.

With meltdown averted, AWVFTS are ready to begin, but not before issuing an apology for the list error (Dustin O’Halloran sheepishly claims responsibility) and due notice that they may not be wholly fighting fit (“I just ate a plate of fish and chips and I want to fall asleep” cautions Wiltzie). Wiltzie is walking a dangerous line: the duo’s sedative ambience is never dull, but its chemical effects are often soothing to the point of requiring a ‘do not operate heavy machinery' warning. That said, this is emphatically AWVFTS’s non-drowsy guise: all the components sound more pronounced than on record, particularly the robust drones that rumble beneath the gentle neo-classical strings and piano lines. When they announce they’ve all but exhausted their material and bid Glasgow good night, it’s a shock akin to being roused from slumber – with no rough edges to their beautifully sonorous yet minimalist sound, the evening flies past.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

reviews: mull historical society, chris devotion and the expectations, hyperpotamus

Mull Historical Society - City Awakenings

Mull Historical Society - City Awakenings (***)

After two albums under his own name, Colin MacIntyre has readopted his former moniker for the first time in eight years. While the intervening releases only nominally diverted from the established MHS sound, his latest fizzes with such optimism that the name switch makes sense; City Awakenings exaggerates past strengths tenfold.

As a result, it risks overdosing on positive energy – Must You Get Low, for one, resembles a Patrick Wolf Glee-guest spot, and the degree to which you find that analogy amazing/horrifying may determine your tolerance levels for this charming but relentless collection of big choruses and (mostly) high spirits.

Constant nods to the thrills of city-living add to the air of musical-theatre (half the tracks contain a reference in title or opening line alone, which, coupled with the persistently upbeat tone, suggests On The Town- levels of urban-enthusiasm), but Macintyre’s sharp ear for a winning hook keeps things appealing throughout.

Out Now

Chris Devotion and the Expectations – Amalgamation

Chris Devotion and the Expectations - Amalgamation and Capital (****)

Encounter Amalgamation & Capital anonymously and you might presume it a greatest hits rather than a debut, its no-nonsense new-wave suggesting a lost genre classic from a contemporary of Elvis Costello – a Jags, or an Any Trouble perhaps, with extra punk crunch in some of its more straight-up rock n roll numbers. It’s packed to the gills with big hooks and boundless charm, Devotion’s song-writing so expertly lean that the occasional non-starter is easily overlooked.

Highlights include I Don’t Need You Anymore, an old-fashioned pop hit in all but sales and timing; Blister’s robust yet radio-friendly riffing; and closer Better than This, sounding positively epic after so much bubblegum. Needless to say, Devotion and his Expectations are not exactly reinventing the wheel, but nor are they attempting to; instead, they’ve elected to rev it into a rubber-shredding spin, sparks flying from every boldly-struck power chord and cheeky lyrical bon mot.

Out 30th January

Hyperpotamus - Delta

Hyperpotamus - Delta (**)

Hyperpotamus’s talents are unquestionable – search for video evidence of his looping skills, and marvel as he builds complex tracks from no more than a microphone, a pedal board, and his own voice. This is as refined as the ‘one-man band’ concept gets, with not only every idea emanating from its creator, but every single sound stemming from his adaptable larynx.

When visible, Hyperpotamus shares with all loop-pedal practitioners that curious alchemy of witnessing the singular made plural – the thrilling orchestration of inconspicuous vocal components into incongruously busy compositions. But on record, when this layering process is cloaked, only the final product matters – and it is here that Hyperpotamus’s skills lose their fascination. Unfortunately, when divorced from their notable assembly method, most of these tracks just aren’t particularly compelling, leaving novelty their only sturdy point of recommendation. As a performer, Hyperpotamus raises eyebrows; as a songwriter, he lifts shoulders into shrugs.

Out Now

Monday, 23 January 2012

aye, sum 41, WHATABOUTIT?

(here's saturday night's bees-knees playlist)

1. the legends – something strange will happen
2. superchunk – digging for something
3. ladybug transistor – clutching stems
4. deerhoof – chandelier searchlight
5. feist – my moon my man
6. martha and the muffins – echo beach
7. new pornographers – letter from an occupant
8. rem – exhuming mccarthy
9. frankie rose – night swim
10. sparks – at home at work at play
11. rusted root – send me on my way
12. eleanor friedberger – my mistakes
13. hefner – hymn for the cigarettes
14. los campesinos – by your hand
15. sebadoh – licence to confuse
16. andrew wk – party hard
17. battles – ice cream
18. errors – pleasure palaces
19. beck – the new pollution
20. yuck – get away
21. the wedding present – brassneck
22. the rolling stones – sympathy for the devil
23. super furry animals – herman loves Pauline
24. the clash – hateful
25. the dead kennedys – kill the poor
26. dum dum girls – bedroom eyes
27. etta james – in the basement
28. orange juice – blue boy
29. the who – can’t explain
30. buzzcocks – harmony in my head
31. pixies – planet of sound
32. robyn – konichiwa bitches
33. m83 – reunion
34. david bowie – modern love
35. xtc – that’s super, supergirl
36. deacon blue – real gone kid
37. dexy’s midnight runners – the celtic soul brothers
38. kurtis blow – do the do
39. beyonce – crazy in love
40. beastie boys – sabotage
41. violent femmes – I held her in my arms
42. ash – girl from mars
43. the go-betweens - ?
44. talking heads – burning down the house
45. prince – when doves cry
45. the hollies – bus stop
46. fleetwood mac – go your own way
47. the smiths – is it really so strange?
48. bruce springsteen – dancing in the dark
49. placebo – nancy boy
50. queen – I want to break free
51. sleater kinney – oh!
52. sum 41 – fat lip
53. the undertones – teenage kicks
54. rod stewart – maggie may
55. arab strap – it’s a heartache

Saturday, 21 January 2012

bottle rocket, nice n sleazy, TONIGHT.

that's all ye need to ken, ken?


Tuesday, 17 January 2012

if it's good enough for edison it's darn well good enough for you

Bottle rocket is, obviously, totally rad. But don’t take OUR word for it – let’s hear from our celebrity fans.

“Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% BOTTLE ROCKET” – Thomas Edison

“BOTTLE ROCKET is a constant source of inspiration, surprise and wonderment” – Gloria Estefan

“A multitude of small delights constitute BOTTLE ROCKET” – Charles Baudelaire

“To be truly happy and contented, you must GO TO BOTTLE ROCKET” – Confucius

“We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance AT BOTTLE ROCKET” – er, Japanese Proverb…

You heard em folks!
bottle rocket!
21st january!
nice n sleazy!
£3 or free before 11:30pm!
any requests, stick them on the facebook wall!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

2012 preview: the history of apple pie

here's a short piece i wrote for the skinny's january edition, as part of a feature previewing bands and albums we (as in, the music team as a whole) were looking forward to in 2012. i settled on the history of apple pie; other writers tipped the likes of grimes, laurel halo, and (slightly cheating ifyouaskme, since everyone knows they already kick large amounts of ass) future of the left. Click here to read the full feature over on the skinny's website.

The History of Apple Pie apparently selected their awkward moniker for its easily-Googleable qualities. So we went ahead and looked them up, and it turns out they’ve been around since 1381 – though back then they were known as ‘Tartys in Applis’. Butseriouslyfolks, such pastry-related webpages are growing increasingly outnumbered by those extolling the virtues of these London slacker-rock nostalgists.

Released in May 2011, debut single You’re So Cool modestly announced their sound’s twin illuminations – Stephanie Min’s breathy vocals and Jerome Watson’s fuzz-saturated guitar lines – while B-side Some Kind dialled up the distortion to add depth to their appeal. The DayGlo food-fight video for second single Mallory gave that appeal a fitting visual metaphor: as converse and denim get splattered in cake and jelly, their messy but sweet charms revealed their full potential.

The divisive Yuck have already come out as fans, which is fitting when you consider how neatly the two bands’ influences dovetail: to Dinosaur Jr, Malkmus and the rest, THoAP fold in shoegaze (check out Before You Reach the End’s feedback bedrock) and noise-pop (early Primitives to give a period reference; Asobi Seksu a contemporary one), to delicious effect. When their debut album arrives, they’ll leave deserts for dust in the Google rankings.

Friday, 13 January 2012

january's skinny

the new issue's been out for a couple of weeks now - here's a cut out and keep guide to my personal contributions!
- 2012 preview: the history of apple pie
- robert redford/django django/she's hit @ nice n sleazy live review (read here!)
- muscles of joy @ oran mor live review (read here!)
- errors - 'have some faith in magic' album review (album of the month! read here!)
- letka - 'far off country' album review (read here!)
- francois and the atlas mountains - 'e volo love' album review (read here!)
- chris devotion and the expectations - 'amalgamation and capital' album review
- hyperpotamus - 'delta' album review
- three cane whale - 'three cane whale' album review (read here!)

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

GFT programme note: The Artist

As i mentioned in a previous post, i'm fair smitten with The Artist, so much so i'll be seeing it again this evening for the third time. Below are my GFT programme notes, but if you haven't already seen the film, be warned: i discuss the plot openly, so these are best read after watching, not before. Incidentally, if you're in the Glasgow area and fancy seeing the film tonight, i will be leading the GFT's screen salon later, which basically entails giving a brief introductory presentation, and then leading a post-film discussion. It starts at 6.15pm, and tickets are available from the box office.

No, you can't have a partial refund if i'm cack.


Please note that this article contains spoilers.

Even before its first reel begins, a screening of The Artist at the Glasgow Film Theatre evokes an older fashion of filmmaking. Once advertisements and trailers have been dispatched, the theatre’s curtains move in towards one another, closing off the screen’s outer edges and confining the available space to the once-dominant 1.33:1 ratio. Such boxy dimensions were an industry standard in Hollywood’s early days, until widescreen formats such as Cinemascope re-configured screen proportions and established a new, more spacious norm, and so the contemporary use of such a comparatively ‘square’ ratio is immediately indicative of The Artist’s nostalgic ambitions.

The story opens with the premiere of silent screen idol George Valentin’s (Jean Dujardin) latest cinematic spectacular. We join the film-within-a-film near its climax, with Valentin’s character bound and tortured, but remaining heroically resistant to interrogation. ‘I won’t talk!’ he declares via the first of the film’s inter-titles, underscoring the character’s valour, whilst announcing The Artist’s chief novelty – the absence of sync sound for the majority of its duration. As a black and white, silent production, The Artist is a period piece in both content and style – a description that could equally be applied to director Michel Hazanavicius’s previous two features, the spy spoofs OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006), and its sequel Lost in Rio (2009), set in the fifties and sixties respectively. ‘Usually, when you do a period movie, you just recreate what you are shooting’ says Hazanavicius, ‘[but] you don’t recreate the way you shoot it’.[1] In The Artist, as in his OSS films, he endeavours to do both, albeit with modern technology on hand to simplify the task.

With his film a roaring success, George exits the theatre to meet his fans. In the bustle, he is jostled against aspiring actress Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), and together they pose for photographs, landing Peppy on the cover of industry paper Variety. Peppy’s sudden press exposure kick-starts her career, but as she begins her rise to the A-list via bit-parts and supporting roles (a rise charted in montage form, her name ascending the credits with each successive picture, from misspelled, bottom-of-the-page ‘beauty girl’ to principal cast status), George finds his silent acting style threatened by the arrival of ‘talking pictures’. Even from this brief synopsis, echoes of Singin’ in the Rain (the transition to talkies and its impact on silent cinema stars) and A Star is Born (one actor’s rise to fame set against the declining popularity of another) are obvious, but while The Artist’s narrative may be simple and familiar, it’s the execution that has had critics effusively praising its charms.

As his career flounders, George sinks his fortune into an ill-fated directorial venture, labelling ‘talkies’ a soon-to-pass fad, and declaring himself an artisan, in contrast to other celluloid ‘puppets’. Hazanavicius is evidently a silent-cinema enthusiast, as evidenced by the affection with which The Artist recreates the period’s iconography and cinematic grammar, not to mention the film’s numerous allusions to the works of Pickford, Fairbanks and Garbo, amongst others. But The Artist complicates its protagonist’s equation of silence with some form of ‘purer’ artistry by characterising George’s resistance as a combination of stubborn pride and debilitating fear. In an imaginative nightmare sequence, George’s dreams are infiltrated by deafening sound effects, with the dull clunk of a glass placed on a dressing table building into the deafening crash of a feather landing on tarmac – even his faithful Jack Russell (played by Palm Dog-winner Uggie) finds his voice, barking away as his owner’s mute panic escalates. Thus, the aforementioned interrogation scene becomes, retrospectively, a metaphor for George’s tribulations, as his refusal to respond to the public demand for talking pictures leaves him destitute and alone.

While George’s recalcitrant attitude can be taken simply as arrogance, the final scene suggests another possible motivation for his obstinate behaviour, one relating to the popular conception of silent cinema as ‘Esperanto for the eyes’, as Kevin Brownlaw puts it.[2] ‘When people say, ‘We lost something with the arrival of the talkies,’ that’s what they are talking about’ suggests Hazanavicius. ‘We lost the utopia of a universal language.’[3] This perceived loss seems to influence The Artist’s conclusion: with his career at rock-bottom, George is thrown a life-line – a co-starring role in Peppy’s next picture. ‘No one wants to hear me speak’ he protests, but a solution is at hand. The film is reconfigured as a musical, and The Artist closes with an exuberant dance routine (foreshadowed earlier in the couple’s relationship when they trade tap steps from either side of a partition). To refer back to the aforementioned dream sequence, the dance finale sees George finally embrace sync sound (with the rhythmic tapping of their feet integral to the routine’s effect), without having to speak on-camera – replacing one utopian ‘universal language’ with another. When their dance concludes, the couple hold their stance, and the score is replaced by the sound of their exhausted breathing, followed by the film’s first line of audible dialogue: ‘Cut!’ The director asks for ‘just one more take’, and we hear George’s voice for the first, and only, time. In interview, Hazanavicius has noted that with silent film you ‘bring your own dialogue’, but also ‘your own accents’,[4] so George’s heavily-accented response seems to reveal an important psychological motivation for his steadfast resistance to sound’s advancing hegemony in Hollywood. As Bryony Dixon notes, the oft-repeated myth in which actors with ‘disagreeable voices’ were forcibly made redundant by the arrival of sound is an easily-refutable one,[5] but The Artist’s final gag works regardless – after all, in the movies, historical accuracy is no match for entertainment.

Dr Christopher Buckle
Researcher and Journalist
January 2012

[1] Sheila Roberts, ‘Director Michel Hazanavicius The Artist Interview’ Collider, accessed 9/01 at http://collider.com/director-michel-hazanavicius-the-artist-interview/126248/

[2] Kevin Brownlaw, Hollywood, the Pioneers (The University of Michigan: Michigan, 1979) p. 7

[3] Alistair Harkness, ‘Interview: Michel Hazanavicius, film director’ The Scotsman, accessed 09/01 at http://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/film/interview_michel_hazanavicius_film_director_1_2019264

[4] James Bell, ‘The Sound of Silents’ Sight and Sound, January 2012, p. 33

[5] Bryony Dixon, ‘Life After Sound’ Sight and Sound, January 2012, p. 34

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

album reviews: francois and the atlas mountains, three cane whale, letka

Francois & The Atlas Mountains – E Volo Love

Francois and the Atlas Mountains - E Volo Love (****)

Saintes-born Francois Marry has been on Scottish radars for some time already, as a continental cousin of Fence (who released previous album Plaine Inondable) and touring member of Camera Obscura. Signing to indie titan Domino would suggest a calculated bid for wider recognition in the UK and beyond, but if E Volo Love is destined to push its creator into the spotlight, it will do so gently.

Airily produced by Jean-Paul Romann (best known for his work with Tinariwen), it’s unfussy, yet intricate; redolent of the past, yet inventively forward-thinking. It’s also unabashedly romantic: hopeless mono-linguists won’t have to recruit Babel Fish to unlock the beating hearts of Les Plus Beaux and Cherchant Des Ponts – they’re right there in the former’s afro-beat sway and the latter’s string-backed duet. A study in understatement delivered with finesse, be sure to find time to let E Volo Love in; it is tray bon.

Out 23rd January

Three Cane Whale - Three Cane Whale

Three Cane Whale - Three Cane Whale (****)

Recorded live in an eighteenth-century church, in a single eleven-hour sitting, by a minimalist-folk-jazz ‘supergroup’ wielding lyre and bowed psaltery: it’s fair to label Three Cane Whale’s debut a somewhat anachronistic proposition. But it’s also a pleasantly surprising one; the aforementioned backstory might suggest a tediously niche slog for anyone but the most ardent of aficionados, but the Bristolian trio lock on to an accessible aesthetic that speaks to a wealth of musical traditions and triggers a broad range of emotions.

Each short instrumental piece (few breach the four-minute mark) finds its own tone, tweaking the presiding atmosphere in a multitude of interesting ways: Look Up at the Sky (And Remind Yourself How Insignificant You Are) belies its unsubtle title with an air of whimsy; Dancing Ledge trades trumpet and acoustic guitar lines to great effect; while Cassiopeia’s simple glockenspiel melody gradually cedes to one of the album’s warmest segments.

Out Now

Letka – Far Off Country

Letka - Far Off Country (***)

Letka have the fixings of something special: Sandra O’Neill sings beautifully; Peter Chilvers has proven his diverse talents through collaborations with Brian Eno amongst others; while Eno himself contributes to opener Beyond the Fold, a presence guaranteed to boost their debut’s visibility. And yet something feels amiss, their pace-less alt-country pitched too safe to match its ‘post-ambient’ billing.

More imaginative song selections might have helped (trying to reinvent a genre via staples like Country Roads seems somewhat futile), though their chillily pristine version of Not a Job fares little better, paling next to Elbow’s soulful original. But then redemption arrives for the finale, the ingredients finally clicking for a haunting cover of I Dream a Highway. Of course, one great track does not a great record make, but as it stretches through fourteen sumptuous minutes – a third of the album’s length – it goes a long way towards redressing the balance.

Out 16th January

Sunday, 8 January 2012

album of the month: errors - have some faith in magic

here's my five-star review of the new errors album, out at the end of the month.

Errors - Have Some Faith in Magic

For their latest trick, Errors have produced their most impressive album thus far. Tusk is an impeccable introduction – bombastic and tight, its opening is a Richard Burton monologue-short of Jeff Wayne, its central melody a crystal-prog wonder. It’s one of their third album's boldest points of progression from past releases, though the echoing vocals that slink through single Magna Encarta also refresh the band’s palette.

It’s not the first time a human voice has entered Errors’ sphere – as far back as 2006's How Clean Is Your Acid House? EP, Terror Tricks arrived with vocoder over its glitches – but on Have Some Faith in Magic the typically instrumental quartet exercise their larynxes in a more sustained fashion. It’s a significant alteration, one with an attendant danger of homogenisation, but – in a manner comparable to Battles’ recent evolution – they make good on their promise to treat the vocals like any other instrument.

Despite these tweaks, Errors' strengths remain consistent, dextrously push-pulling the listener between dance floor and headphones, the latter to appreciate the invention on offer, the former to get lost in its folds. The pointillist-style artwork is nicely representative in this regard – intricately clever up-close, unfussy yet beautiful when surveyed as a whole: quite simply, magic.

Out 30th January

Friday, 6 January 2012

favourite films of 2011!

in order to meet the december print deadline, i was asked to submit my top ten to the skinny back in november. my personal selections and the skinny's ended up surprisingly similar, with six of my choices appearing in the final list. of course, the problem with writing a top ten so early is that it locks out worthy contenders - and since winter always contains the lion's share of award fodder, the chances of overlooking something truly great are high - as proven by my number one choice.

i am but one man, with one set of eyes and ears and a limited number of hours, so, naturally, plenty of films slipped by unseen. i didn't see tom boy, senna, weekend, jane eyre, archipelago, mysteries of lisbon, pina, tyrannosaur, attack the block, the guard and loads of other movies. i've also opted to include only those films that received a uk cinematic release in 2011 - ruling out bela tarr's masterful the turin horse, alex de la iglesioas' brilliantly bonkers the last circus, and gen takahashi's confessions of a dog, finished in 2006 and brought to the glasgow film festival back in february. my new rule does mean, however, that how i ended last summer - number 7 on last year's list - reappears.

1. the artist (dir. michel hazanavicius)
i'll have a more comprehensive write-up of the artist in the next few days, which i'll link back to then. it's on general release today, and i urge you to go and see it if you haven't alraedy done so.

2. tinker tailor soldier spy (dir. tomas alfredson)
this was initially my number one - a superb adaptation deserving of every superlative chucked its way.
3. project nim (dir. james marsh)
i aint ashamed to admit it: i cried. then i saw it again, and blubbed again. click here to read my five-star review.

4. the tree of life (dir. terence malick)
loved and loathed in seemingly equal measure, i fell firmly in the former camp. and not just because of the dinosaurs.

5. meek's cutoff (dir. kelly reichardt)
"As with most of Kelly Reichardt’s filmography, the triumphs of Meek’s Cutoff are as much in what it doesn’t do as what it does." i wrote for the skinny's december edition. "A female-focussed western that doesn’t involve saloon girls, anachronistic behaviour or a rootin’ tootin’ Doris Day is a rarity in itself, while the director’s typically measured pace has a hypnotic allure, drawing the audience deeper and deeper into screenwriter Jonathan Raymond’s tale of a diminished wagon-train’s fateful progress through the Oregon plains. But perhaps fateful isn’t the correct word; as desperation mounts, a careful ambiguity anti’s the climax just as tensions reach a head, ensuring it lingers long in the mind."

6. we need to talk about kevin (dir. lynne ramsay)
a tense and not entirely pleasant viewing experience, but so intricately and imaginatively structured that it's worth the discomfort - let's hope ramsay's next feature isn't quite so long coming.

7. drive (dir. nicholas winding refn)
a b-movie pitch with a-movie polish, imbued with sufficient smarts to win over both cool-loving teens and haughty cannes-crowds alike.

8. son of babylon (dir. mohamed al daradji)
"Mohamed Al Daradji follows Ahlaam’s flashbacks and dreams with a straightforward road movie of sorts." i wrote in my GFF11 review. "This devastating indictment of Saddam Hussein’s legacy – a million missing; 250,000 bodies dug from the earth thus far – is desperately sad, the soundtrack filled with the anguished ululating of grieving mothers and widows, the character’s journey a series of mass graves. But the sadness has purpose: visit the Iraq’s Missing campaign to find out how you can help."

9. le quattro volte (dir. michelangelo frammartino)
another one which i wrote about for the skinny's end-of-year write-up. "Taking inspiration from the Pythagorean concept that we each cycle through four lives – human, animal, vegetable and mineral – Michelangelo Frammartino’s second film studies the unhurried pastoralism of a remote Italian town to haunting effect" i reckoned. "As goat-herd cedes to goat, goat to tree, La Quattro Volte pares away causal relations until we’re left absorbed in simple scenes of branches in the breeze. Though the temporality of existence may seem a potentially uneventful theme, its treatment is never less than fascinating; Frammartino leavens his metaphysical meditation with beauty, grace and – in a single-take scene of collie-caused destruction – humour, and the result is unforgettable."

10. incendies (dir. denis villeneuve)
one of several films i wrote GFT programme notes for this year - read em here.

11. warrior (dir. gavin o'connor)
12. a separation (dir. asghar farhadi)
13. the deep blue sea (dir. terence davies)
14. melancholia (dir. lars von triers)
15. 127 hours (dir. danny boyle)
16. true grit (dir. joel and ethan coen)
17. the skin i live in (dir. pedro almodovar)
18. kaboom (dir. gregg araki)
19. the interrupters (dir. steve james)
20. black swan (dir. darren aronofsky)
21. midnight in paris (dir. woody allen)
22. animal kingdom (dir. david michod)
23. how i ended this summer (dir. aleksey popogrebskiy)
24. kill list (dir. ben wheatley)
25. poetry (dir. chang-dong lee)

right, i'm off to watch the artist again.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

albums of 2011!

as with last year, i've limited the list to a top 25. it could easily have been 2 or 3 times that length, but it kinda cheapens things if you end up listing everything you quite liked, as opposed to just those albums that really hit the spot. no blurb this time, just a video each for the top ten.

25. suuns - zeroes qc
24. mogwai - hardcore will never die, but you will
23. yuck - yuck
22. los campesinos - hello sadness
21. atlas sound - parallax
20. danananaykroyd - there is a way
19. world's end girlfriend - seven idiots
18. destroyer - kaputt
17. deerhoof - versus evil
16. battles - gloss drop
15. bright eyes - the people's key
14. the go! team - rolling blackouts
13. kate bush - 50 words for snow
12. remember remember - the quickening
11. conquering animal sound - kammerspeil

10. fucked up - david comes to life

9. vampillia - alchemic heart

8. james blake - james blake

7. bon iver - bon iver

6. m83 - hurry up, i'm dreaming

5. parts and labor - constant future

4. pj harvey - let england shake

3. mountain goats - all eternals deck

2. bill wells & aidan moffat - everything's getting older

1. tune-yards - w h o k i l l

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

most played artists of 2011!

another day, another list - here's a countdown of the thirty bands/singers/etc that have been played the most times at our last twelve dancing parties! wherever there's a tie, i've ignored it and gone with, well, whatever really - not like it matters...

30. the radio dept.
29. depeche mode
28. kate bush
27. surfer blood
26. dexy's midnight runners
25. the strokes
24. the rolling stones
23. idlewild
22. bon jovi
21. the ramones
20. elvis presley
19. dananananaykroyd
18. rem
17. the magnetic fields
16. ash
15. pulp
14. pixies
13. the b-52s
12. sons and daughters
11. the beastie boys

10. weezer

oh hi, can you play some weezer? like, early weezer, obviously?

9. belle and sebastian

well, it wouldn't be a scottish indie-pop evening without em...

8. abba

for a long time, abba basically equated to 'lay all your love on me', but lately we've been diversifying...

7. talking heads

there's a crazy amount of danceable stuff to choose from in their discography - this one went down pretty well i recall...

6. the smiths

see #9 - if we don't play them, someone will sulk. truth.

5. prince

oh lordy, that little purple fella sure ups the dancefloor ante...

4. fleetwood mac

the top four are all tied on 11 appearances in 12 nights. wowee. when it comes to fleetwood mac we basically just rotate the same three or four songs, but what marvellous songs they are.

3. david bowie

nicely flexible with pretty much all eras getting a look-in, though eighties bowie has the edge

2. blondie

parallel lines used to dominate, but only because it was the only one of theirs we carried with us. it's a bit more varied these days...

1. bruce springsteen


Tuesday, 3 January 2012

top ten scottish albums of the year!

happy new year! I hope 2012 is going swimmingly thus far - since we're three days in already, it seems high time i put 2011 to bed with a trio of 'best-of-year' lists. i know, they're boring and self-indulgent, but humour me for goodness sakes.

first, my favourite ten scottish releases of the last twelve months. my main list will be a bit lengthier, and will probably see four or five of these appear again - a pretty good showing really.


Zoey Van Goey – Propeller Versus Wings

Zoey Van Goey - Propellers Versus Wings

I reviewed this for The Skinny back at the start of the year. “One of their best assets has always been the vocal contrast between Kim Moore and Matt Brennan – both pleasant individually, but bringing out the best in one other when combined… In this way they echo early Camera Obscura and the sorely-missed Delgados, while also helping ZVG stamp their own name on Scottish indie-pop with equally persistent ink.”


United Fruit – Fault Lines

United Fruit - Faultlines

I feel like United Fruit snuck up on me a bit – no easy feat when they’re known for making quite the racket. Looking forward to seeing where they go next…


Jacob Yates & the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers – Luck

Jacob Yates & the Pearly Gates Lock Pickers - Luck

Here’s another one I reviewed for The Skinny… “Yates growls like a Weegie Cave on album centre-piece Mary Hell’s haunted strut, but it’s the closing When You Left Me’s tale of bereavement that will floor those expecting an uncomplicated good time. Yet amidst the finale's mourning, there’s room for some jet-black humour – a balancing act few manage so adroitly.”


We Were Promised Jetpacks - In the Pit of the Stomach

We Were Promised Jetpacks - In the Pit of the Stomach

And another one! “A gutsy rebuttal to the whole concept of ‘Difficult Second Album Syndrome’” I reckoned. “It’s not quite perfect – a little spark dissipates whenever they take the foot off the pedal – but on those (numerous) occasions where the band locks in and nails it, the Jetpacks truly soar.”


King Creosote & Jon Hopkins – Diamond Mine

King Creosote & Jon Hopkins - Diamond Mind

It took a few listens for this to click, and if it hadn’t been received so enthusiastically elsewhere, I probably wouldn’t have persevered. Glad I did, like; it’s a corker.


Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

Mogwai - Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will

They chuck out great albums with such consistency that it’s easy to take Mogwai for granted – I feel like if I’d listened to this just a teeny bit more often this year, it might well have been squaring off against messrs wells and moffat for the top spot.


Dananananaykroyd – There Is A Way

Dananananaykroyd - There is a Way

I wasn’t responsible for reviewing this one, but I did throw together some words on their final Glasgow show, where we bid farewell to The Most Funnest Band Live You Ever Did See. “And then it’s over: but in the words of their almost-namesake (after accidentally conjuring a giant marshmallow man, blowing up a high-rise, and getting sued by half of New York): yeah, but what a ride.” Ach, at least we’ve There Is A Way to remember them by.


Remember Remember – The Quickening

Remember Remember - The Quickening

It doesn’t matter how late you leave these lists – they always end up a compromise. A couple of weeks ago, this wouldn’t have featured at all – I loved the debut, but never got round to picking this one up (I was probably sulking about missing their much-talked-about planetarium gig at The Science Centre). A top twenty placing in the Skinny poll reminded me to check it out, and I’m smitten.


Conquering Animal Sound

Conquering Animal Sound - Kammerspeil

I reviewed this back in January: a “gracefully busy tapestry of scuffling electronic loops and toy-box tics”, which carried echoes of Sally Shapiro, Bjork, Mogwai, The Deer Ticks and Múm. “For some, this is confirmation of the significant promise demonstrated live; for others, it will be a remarkable unveiling.”


LinkBill Wells & Aidan Moffat – Everything’s Getting Older

Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat - Everything's Getting Older

I’ve written a pretty lengthy appraisal of this album already (read it here): suffice to say, if you haven’t given this a spin already, you’re a mad un.