Thursday, 31 January 2013

reviews: galoshins, christopher owens, acres of lions

 Galoshins - EP1/EP2 (****)

Recorded separately but released concurrently, EP1 and EP2 work well in combination as a single, album-length introduction to Galoshin’s peculiar brilliance. Shake Up opens the first, its rolling drums, restless organ lines and distorted howls initially resembling punked-up merseybeat before visiting more abstruse territories. As the remainder of EP1 unfolds – from The 4th Chord’s driven art-pop to the off-kilter creep of Mink – the band’s chameleonic qualities sharpen, their nervy eclecticism keeping listeners on their toes.

EP2 repeats the trick, tailing opener Chank’s adrenalized post-punk with a jazzy coda that adds further hues to an already busy palette. Devil in Us is another highlight thanks to vocalist Mark Macphail’s frenetic delivery, while final number Get Me out of This Hole ups the mania with cackles and moans, ending on a high. Further EPs will follow later this year, but these twin releases offer more than enough to be getting on with.

Out 4th February

Christopher Owens - Lysandre (****)

Despite quitting last summer, it seems Christopher Owens isn’t quite ready to leave his time in Girls behind, with his solo debut loosely inspired by his former band’s first tour. Running just 28 minutes (that’s two minutes shorter than Girls’ Broken Dreams Club EP), Lysandre is an undeniably slight work from the prolific songwriter, but it’s fecund with ideas and charm.

It opens with the brief but integral Lysandre’s Theme – a pretty flute motif that establishes the record’s wistful, sometimes whimsical, tenor. If the theme’s medieval undertones are a turn-off, however, brace yourself: variations resurface with bold regularity (a sax version on the Eels-like New York City, a keys take on the yearning A Broken Heart, and so on). But while some will consider the melody excessively deployed, others will toast its unifying effects; weaving through tales of introspection and self-doubt, it fosters a winsome and captivating sense of harmony.

Out now

Acres of Lions - Collections (**)

Over a year since its Canadian release, the second album from British Columbia’s Acres of Lions arrives in the UK tripping over its own peppiness and oozing calculated heartache from every gloss-clogged pore. Though smartly presented, with buffed-up choruses and radio-friendly polish, Collections is a limp, generic and bland set that solves an equation no one ever posed: what might Jimmy Eat World sound like if they took inspiration from Scouting for Girls?

Lead single Reaction carries a particularly strong flavour of the latter thanks to finger clicks and bouncy piano lines, while everything about Kids, from lyrics (“we were young and we were bright / with diamonds in our eyes / you kissed me on the summer’s edge”) to production (including mid-song crowd sing-along) strains unsuccessfully for the relative respectability of unit-shifting millennial-emo in the Saves the Day vein. The results sound cynical and watered down; undeniably proficient, but difficult to warm to.

Out now

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

gig review: the pictish trail/rozi plain @ the art club

Despite its air of exclusivity (playfully mocked multiple times by tonight’s headliner), the Glasgow Art Club proves to be a felicitously intimate setting for this evening’s entertainment. Between the candles and couches, coffee tables and Persian rugs, the overall impression is of an oversized living room – an appropriately cosy venue for two highly personable performers.

Rozi Plain opens her set with Joined Sometimes Unjoineds Take It, its quiet elegance ensuring all ears fall under her understated spell. Initially, Plain gets a little help from friends Kate and Jamie of This is the Kit, who add vocals and percussion respectively. When the duo are later forced to dash away to play another gig across town, a solo Plain showcases a couple of recently-written newbies, before inviting onstage her label boss plus backing band for a charming finale topped by the ever-excellent Humans.

The boss in question is, of course, the always affable Johnny Lynch - aka The Pictish Trail, aka tonight’s headline act. The backing band meanwhile, is recent Fence-signings eagleowl, bulking out Lynch’s compositions in thrilling ways – Of Course You Exist, for instance, is particularly well treated by the addition of strings, its threads nicely unwound into a vaguely Layla-ish coda. Both parties seem to thrive on the setup, with Lynch apparently relishing his role as band leader, and his conscripts’ enjoyment evident from the grins and flourishes (with drummer Owen Williams deserving special mention for his stellar showboating).

With a full house of talent at his disposal, Lynch recasts his lo-fi, electronically processed originals in new and flattering shapes, demonstrating the versatility of his songwriting in the process. But the evening’s boldest reversioning is reserved for the closing number: an epic take on Bonnie "Prince" Billy’s Master and Everyone, beefed up and expanded to several minutes of monstrous, throat-shredding splendour.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Thursday, 24 January 2013

january skinny

It's been out for ages already, so let's cut to the chase: here are the bits from moi...

- 'Ones to Swatch: Janelle Monae' preview
- Mission of Burma @ Mono live review
- Shearwater @ Broadcast live review
- Some Songs Side-by-Side album launch @ Stereo live review
- Album of the Month: The Pictish Trail - 'Secret Soundz Vol. 2' album review
- The Ruby Suns - 'Christopher' album review
- Acres of Lions - 'Collections' album review
- Matthew E. White - 'Big Inner' album review
- Cuddy Shark - 'The Road to Ugly' album review
- Indians - 'Somewhere Else' album review
- Satellites - 'Satellites.01' album review
- The Dirty Dozen: Miaoux Miaoux (Julian Corrie reviews January's singles...)
- 'V/H/S' film review
- 'You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet' DVD review

blah blah blah

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The Dirty Dozen: Miaoux Miaoux

Requesting we keep the identities of the artists secret (“I’m going to try and guess”), Julian Corrie aka Miaoux Miaoux slips on his critic’s hat. “This reviewing gets harder as you go along,” he laughs. “I’m feeling my brain starting to melt a little..."

Biffy Clyro – Black Chandelier (14 Jan, RCA)
Is this Frightened Rabbit? It sounds a little bit like them, but he’s not got quite the same voice... I think if I was 14 I’d be mega into this. It’s alright, there’re some nice ideas… Is it Biffy? I have a lot of respect for Biffy Clyro, because they’ve been in it for so long. I wouldn’t buy it or choose to put it on the stereo but I think they’re very good at what they do. I’ll give that 7.

Sinéad O’Connor – 4th and Vine (28 Jan, One Little Indian)
I’m quite into a lot of folk stuff – I do like a bit of, you know, tales of woe and doom… This is fine. It’s just fine. She’s got a nice voice, so 6 out of 10. Who is it? Sinéad O’Connor, really? Wow, I’m surprised actually. The only thing I know about Sinéad O’Connor is when she went Rastafarian and did that terrible TV interview. I think we do need more of that sort of thing in music – people just being a little bit weird. Everything seems very bland at the moment and, I don’t know… actually, I can’t say everything’s bland, cause it’s clearly not, that’s a stupid thing to say. But I really like it when artists are just a bit more like an artist, in the truer sense of the word, where they create this sort of slightly strange world. I like eccentricity a lot.

Devlin Feat. Diane Birch – Rewind (28 Jan, Island)
[About a minute in] No, no, I’m done. Can you turn that off actually, I don’t want to listen to it. Eminem just did this so much better 10 years ago. It has that chord sequence that drives me fucking nuts, it’s in every song ever. It’s literally everywhere. We’ll give it a 3 because the production’s good.

Tomahawk – Stone Letter (28 Jan, Ipecac)
The production’s really good on this too – that’s really a skill, to make heavy records sound good. I don’t care for the song though. Who is it?
The Skinny: Tomahawk – one of Mike Patton’s bands.
Really? Somebody introduced me to Fantômas recently, and it was one of those occasions where I just thought ‘what the hell is this shit?’ I thought that the first time I heard Deerhoof, who went on to be one of my favourite bands, and Fantômas was the same – it just completely baffled me. I still don’t quite get it, but Mike Patton is definitely some kind of insane genius. I’m a little bit disappointed actually, having heard what he can do, with Fantômas and Mr Bungle. I think I’ll give it 4, because I know that he can do better. Actually, I said I didn’t want to be influenced by the artist, so I’ll stick with my first thought – 5.

Teleman – Cristina (14 Jan, Moshi Moshi)
They’ve studied at the XX production school haven’t they, with that reverby guitar. It’s a really popular sound just now. This is the first thing we’ve heard that I would maybe consider listening to for fun. But I’m not sure yet… There’s maybe a lack of personality, because I’ve heard those production sounds so many times before. 
The Skinny: This is the band’s debut single.
Really? I’m surprised, because it doesn’t sound like a band making many mistakes; it sounds like a band being super-safe and ticking all the right boxes. I want a debut single to be a little bit risky, and this doesn’t really have any risk to it at all. But I prefer this sort of sound to other kinds of sound, so 6.

SINGLE OF THE MONTH #1: Roger Miller – Big Steam (7 Jan, Good Road Records)
I like those opening chords – that’s guitar how I want it to be played, like nasty and dissonant. Can you turn this up? That’s a good sound, it’s got a sort of swagger to it. It had me from the intro to be honest. That’s a guitar having a bad time… Yeah, that guitar solo is wicked. It’s got balls. We’ll give it 8.

Booty Luv – Black Widow (20 Jan, Pierce Entertainment)
Nah – it’s just the same as a lot of commercial dance music. I was half-expecting it to drop into an extremely dirty half-time bass line, and if it had done that it would have got an extra point. But it didn’t, it’s just really vanilla. I mean, it’s well produced again, so points for that, but I really don’t like it at all, so 2.

Villagers – Nothing Arrived (14 Jan, Domino)
This sounds like Arcade Fire – I quite like Arcade Fire, and I quite like this as well. They’re doing a lot with quite a small amount of material. That bass part is good – it’s the same sequence but just changing the root note, which I like to do a lot. Yeah, I like this, it’s nice. 6 and a half.

Christian Rich feat. Angela Mcluskey – XIX (28 Jan, Good Luck Chuck)
Is this Starslinger? No, don’t tell me! I like it, this is exactly my sort of thing. It sounds like Flying Lotus – it’s obviously not, but I imagine it’s someone related to Brainfeeder… I would chill out that compression a little bit though – I know that’s kind of the point, but it can make you feel a bit seasick sometimes. Who is it?
The Skinny: Christian Rich – production credits include NERD, Chris Brown
So quite commercial… It’s interesting that they’re taking an edge from Brainfeeder, who’ve basically been doing this sort of thing for years. Yeah it’s nice – 7. I’ve got to stop using the word ‘nice’, it’s pathetic. Everything’s just really nice

Delphic – Baiya (28 Jan, Polydor)
I simultaneously admire and detest this sort of homogenous production – it’s amazing how it falls onto your ears and everything just sounds right, but then you dive in there and there’s a ridiculous amount going on. So to be able to get that all to gel is a really good skill I think. But it’s like having sex with an android: it’s sex, but at the end of the day you feel a little bit used. Because music is a very emotional thing and this has been so well engineered that, while it gets you there, you feel a little bit dirty that you’ve let it. I’ll give it… 6.

Everything Everything – Kemosabe (14 Jan, RCA)
[Ten seconds in] This is Everything Everything. I think they’re a frustrating band because they showed so much potential on that first album, but didn’t quite realise it. [chorus starts] Yeah, that bit just kind of ruins it – it’s all going a bit V Festival 2013. Even though their first record was mega-produced, some of it was bonkers, with really interesting progressions. I don’t think this is their strongest song, but I respect them as a band – I’m just waiting for them to do something really, really good, because I think that they can. I like that bass line… [chorus starts again] and then it goes rubbish there. But I prefer this to their last single – 7.

SINGLE OF THE MONTH #2: Foxygen – Shuggie (22 Jan, Jagjaguwar)
Is this Foxygen? I heard this literally just this morning. I actually quite like it, it’s a bit like Beck crossed with Jonathan Richman. This is a perfect example of a debut single that has loads of character and interesting ideas; they’re making a statement about themselves as an artist, as opposed to that one earlier that basically sounded like The XX. This has life and energy about it. I’ll give that 8. Can we make that joint single of the month with Roger Miller? I really like his Mission of Burma guitar solo-y madness, but Foxygen’s good for entirely different reasons.
[written for The Skinny]

Saturday, 19 January 2013

january playlist

1. cocteau twins- pearly dew drops drop
2. broken social scene - kc accidental
3. paws - sore tummy
4. television - friction
5. david bowie - cat people (putting out the fire)
6. twin shadow - beg for the night
7. arcade fire - neighbourhood #1 (tunnels)
8. the ronettes - be my baby
9. franz ferdinand - this fire
10. yeah yeah yeahs - bang
11. ten benson - rock cottage
12. the fall - i'm frank
13. the flatmates - shimmer
14. martha reeves - heatwave
15. the au pairs - you
16. the b-52s - cosmic thing
17. wild flag - romance
18. blondie - i'm always touched by your presence dear
19. veronica falls - my heart beats
20. iggy pop - gimme danger
21. richard hell - blank generation
22. the modern lovers - roadrunner
23. buzzcocks - lipstick
24. sugar - a good idea
25. pixies - tame
26. pavement - date with ikea
27. the ramones - do you remember rock and roll radio?
28. the cars - magic
29. devo - through being cool
30. xtc - this is pop
31. charlie feathers - one hand loose
32. elvis presley - got a lot of living to do
33. little richard - keep a knockin'
34. the hollies - stay
35. wilson pickett - land of 1000 dances
36. etta james - in the basement
37. tommy james and the shondells - mony mony
38. esg - dance
39. talking heads - girlfriend is better
40. killing joke - eighties
41. duran duran - hungry like the wolf
42. the smiths - william it was really nothing
43. the velvet underground - rock and roll
44. new order - age of consent
45. cyndi lauper - money changes everything
46. pulp - after you
47. archers of loaf - web in front
48. modest mouse - float on
49. the dickies - banana splits
50. tom tom club - downtown rockers
51. squeeze - pulling mussels (from the shell)
52. prince - i wanna be your lover
53. blur - mor
54. the cure - friday i'm in love
55. stiff little fingers - alternative ulster
56. twisted sister - i wanna rock
57. ultravox - rockwrok
58. van halen - jump

Friday, 18 January 2013


you may dance with us to these, if you wish...

+ much, much more!

this is what you need to know:

--> BOTTLE ROCKET, NICE N SLEAZY, 11:30PM - 3:00AM <-->

Thursday, 17 January 2013

reviews: satellites, the ruby suns, indians

 Satellites - Satellites.01 (***)
Satellites.01 originally touched down in early 2011, in a limited run that was evidently too niche for such an ambitious-sounding record. Though imperfect, these smartly-presented transmissions certainly merit wider exposure, with the album’s finest moments raising the nape hairs and triggering goosebumps.

Satellites is the nom-de-plume of Johnny Vic, whose baritone vocals signal The National as a key influence, with his delivery in Where Love Lies Bleeding particularly Matt Berninger-ish. But Vic doesn’t always balance rousing grandeur and reigned-tight emotion with the same poise as the aforementioned Ohioans; the build-and-release surge of Mindreading, for instance, steers close to Snow Patrol at their most efficiently stadium-hungry.

Yet by the time Sale of the Century rolls around, faith is restored, its symphonic splendour reaching for the stars without pandering. Satellites.02 will follow in March; if it shows a little more willingness to eschew tried-and-tested sounds, Vic could be onto something very special indeed.

Out 21st January

 The Ruby Sun - Christopher (***)
On fourth album Christopher, New Zealander Ryan McPhun has pushed The Ruby Suns further still from their psychedelic-threaded indie origins, embracing a dancefloor-friendly aesthetic to mostly swish effect. Inspired by time spent immersed in Oslo’s arts scene, it sees McPhun continue down a path first paced with 2010’s Fight Softly, combining lush melodies with intricate, disco-lite production.

The opening trio are arguably the record’s peak accomplishments: Desert of Pop struts to the same blueprint as Electronic's Getting Away With It; In Real Life elevates the elation with faint echoes of Kool and the Gang; while Dramatikk is a bubbling, laidback gem. But for all its early promise, later stretches feel detached and even a little hollow, melting into an undistinguished zeitgeist sound when once The Ruby Suns stood out a little more distinctly. Pristine and glittery on the surface, but not enough to push McPhun up a league.

Out 28th January

Indians - Somewhere Else (***)

One year ago, Indians – aka Copenhagen’s Søren Løkke Juul – had yet to release a song or play a gig. Now he’s got 4AD backing his debut album, a tour log featuring support slots with the likes of Beirut and Perfume Genius, and a fair bit of (deserved) buzz to boot.

But if the speed of his naught-to-lots trajectory seems rushed, the calm confidence of Somewhere Else provides immediate reassurance, with an impressive opening run of tracks that pairs the fresh (Birds’ fluttering euphony) with the already familiar (the gentle embrace of New; the barely-there sparkle of Magic Kids), ably affirming his readiness.

Admittedly, small doubts later set in thanks to directionless stretches that, while reinforcing the record’s dreamlike atmosphere, lack the spark of highlights like La Femme or the theramin-infused title track. But on those occasions where Juul’s stars align and he hits the sweet spot, the effect is heavenly.

Out 28th January

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

film review: V/H/S

Conceived and co-produced by’s Brad Miska, V/H/S unites horror movie formats past (the anthology) and ever-present (found-footage), yet fails to fulfil its grisly potential. While the wraparound tales are rarely a highlight of such horror anthologies, Adam Wingard’s puerile and boring effort is particularly tiresome, while Ti West – director of the superb The Innkeepers and The House of the Devil, and therefore perhaps the contributor with the most genre pedigree – disappoints with a pedestrian stalk-and-slice trifle.

Throughout, the found footage conceit is overplayed, fostering a moribund monotony on what might have otherwise been a diverse omnibus, but it’s not all such a slog. Just about making it worthwhile are Joe Swanberg’s enjoyably daft offering, which delivers V/H/S’s most effective stingers despite its canny absurdity; and an intense finale from the Radio Silence collective, which side-lines story for an all-out assault on the nerves. But these late entries can’t salvage an otherwise stale collection that quickly outstays its welcome.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

bottle rocket, 18th january, nice n sleazy

Michael, would you be kind enough to invite the good folks of glasgow to this month's bottle rocket?

New year - same Bottle Rocket.

As anyone who has ever attended or read one of our playlists will know, BR doesn’t do new. You can stick your hoverboards up your arse. We’re more Flintstones than Jetsons, except we don’t use the beaks of dinosaur bird things to play records.

Anyway, we’re fed up with all this “new year, new you” nonsense. What’s wrong with the current you? Don’t go changing dear reader, we like you just the way you are. Celebrate this fact and get the current you down to Sleazy’s on Friday ...18 January, where you can drink and dance to the usual confused mix of indiepop, new wave, postpunk and stuff of that ilk.

*FREE! (before 11:30, £3 thereafter)

Requests belong on the facebook wall. See you Friday!

Friday, 11 January 2013

GFT Programme note: Either Way

Either Way is showing at the GFT today and tomorrow, and is well worth seeking out if you like your comedy understated and Icelandic. It's also available on the GFT Player, from where it can be streamed at the bargain price of £4.99 [info here]. Here are some notes commissioned by the GFT to accompany its release...

In his 2007 ‘Notes for a Theory of the Road Movie’, Argentinian filmmaker Walter Salles laid out what he considered the genre’s key characteristics. With three such films already under his belt and a fourth then in-development (an adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s epochal On the Road, completed and released last year), Salles defined the genre both historically and personally. ‘[Road movies] are about experiencing above all’ he wrote. ‘They are about the journey.’[1] This emphasis upon movement and incident is typical of literature on the subject: Susan Hayward’s cinema studies’ dictionary, for example, defines it as ‘movies in which protagonists are on the move’.[2]

While by no means a conventional example, Either Way is a road movie in a very literal sense, with its characters spending the duration on, or beside, the road. But rather than the dynamism of travel, stasis and routine govern Icelandic writer/director Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson’s debut feature, his ‘1980-something’ set tale sharing more common ground with Samuel Beckett than Easy Rider (Hopper, 1969). Its central characters are chalk-and-cheese labourers, painting roads and planting wooden posts in remote northern Iceland. Finnbogi (Sveinn Ólafur Gunnarsson, also credited as co-writer) is the elder and more experienced of the pair; when not grafting, he spends his time writing to girlfriend Rannveig whilst grumpily enduring her feckless younger brother Alfred (Hilmar Guðjónsson). Alfred, by contrast, lives an arrested adolescence, obsessing over sexual conquests, playing computer games and masturbating in his sleeping bag. Their clashing personalities are emphasised in the opening scenes: first, when Finn pedantically scolds Alfred for lifting a boiling kettle from the stove seconds too early (the whistling kettle already referencing the tensions between them); and then in the first scene of the men at work, in which they bicker over who gets to play their cassette on the shared tape deck.

Though tasked with maintaining transport links, the duo possess little forward momentum of their own: when working, their movement through the landscape is slow and stilted, stopping every few yards to hammer a post or daub a line; when off-the-clock, they make camp, rooting themselves in place. Even their jeep doesn’t present much freedom: when Alfred decides to drive to the nearest (unnamed) town to spend his weekend drinking and meeting girls, his trip stalls due to a puncture. The puncture (and, indeed, the rest of Alfred’s weekend exploits) is not shown onscreen, only revealed through subsequent conversation, emphasising the duo’s sequestration; civilisation may be reachable, but it plays no part in the day-to-day experiences that are the film’s focus. The period setting is important in this regard – with no mobile phones or internet to provide easy communication with the wider world, their seclusion is made more absolute. ‘The story is about loneliness’ explains Sigurðsson, ‘and it was very important that these two characters would only have each other and nothing else to get through their difficulties.’[3] Even the roads they work on seem comically underused, with next-to-no traffic; as Finn and Alfred measure out section after section of gravel and asphalt, their actions start to seem less like important maintenance and more like some cruel Sisyphean punishment. The most significant exception to the duo’s isolation is a handful of visits from a gruff truck driver (Þorsteinn Bachmann, in the film’s only other onscreen speaking role). But even these visits become routine: he arrives, offers Coca Cola and moonshine, and then drives on. With the shape of Iceland’s Route 1 network in mind (a two-lane ring road encircling the island), the sense of looping seems even more pronounced.

But while its characters may not journey far in a geographic sense, another key characteristic of the road movie genre – the journey as metaphor for personal discovery – has a definite bearing on the narrative’s development. As Salles notes, road movies ‘are rarely guided by external conflicts; the conflicts that consume their characters are basically internal ones.’ While both Finn and Alfred are, at different points, left reeling by off-screen bombshells, it is their softening attitudes towards one another that constitute the film’s dramatic arc. Also notable is the importance of landscape: while Finn and Alfred may not move through it at any great rate, as they toil amidst harsh beauty, their surroundings effectively constitute a third main character. In the words of film historian Peter Cowie, ‘Iceland remains a cinematographer’s dream’, due to ‘its unpolluted light and its rare combination of lunar landscape and pastoral intimacy’;[4] a striking natural soundstage oft utilised by domestic filmmakers and international productions alike (with the country’s fjords and black sands regularly standing in for alien worlds, fantasy realms, and post-apocalyptic wastelands in the latter).[5] Cinematographer Árni Filippusson helps Sigurðsson make the most of the local assets, providing Finn and Alfred’s mundane labours with an arresting backdrop, the passive, ancient beauty of the barren topography making their disputes seem all the pettier.

Unlike its isolated protagonists, Either Way is already travelling well, with strong showings at film festivals worldwide, topped with an award for Best Film at Turin. Later this month, the film makes another kind of journey, with a US remake due to premiere at Sundance. Retitled Prince Avalanche, it stars Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch, and marks a return to smaller-scale projects for director David Gordon Green (more recently associated with lowbrow mainstream comedies like Your Highness). Whether it sticks closely to Sigurðsson’s map or takes detours remains to be seen, but the speed at which the remake rights were acquired and utilised is already testament to the wide appeal of Either Way’s simple but eloquent setup.

Christopher BuckleResearcher and journalist
January 2013

[1] Walter Salles (2007) ‘Notes for a Theory of the Road Movie’, The New York Times, 11/11/07, accessed at

[2] Susan Hayward (2000) Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts (Routledge: London and New York), p. 313

[3] Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson (2012) ‘Crossing the Line’, Iceland Review, 16/01/12, accessed at

[4] Peter Cowie (2005) ‘Icelandic Films’, accessed 06/01/13 at

[5] Recent productions include Prometheus (Ridley Scott, 2012), Game of Thrones (HBO, 2011-present) and the forthcoming Oblivion (Joseph Kosinski, 2013). Further information is available at

Thursday, 10 January 2013

a handful of words about janelle monae...

as is often the case with january magazines, this month's skinny has a 'ones to watch' sort of feature. rather than try and predict which brandspankingnew act would make the biggest splash in the coming year, i went with a tried-and-tested artist with exciting plans afoot...

Last seen bending brains with The ArchAndroids neo-funk robo-soul revue under the watch of Outkast's Big Boi, Janelle Monae isn’t exactly understated in her ambition. She’s got big plans for its follow-up, too: not one, but two new albums tentatively scheduled for this year.

While she’s not yet set a release date for these twin creations, work is apparently well underway – judging from the tracks debuted live so far, she’s dialled down the oddball concepts but sacrificed none of her glamour or magnetism.

[that's it - told you it was just a handful of words... the rest of the article, with words on deafheaven, plastic animals and vasquez, can be read here]

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

the skinny album of the month: the pictish trail - secret soundz vol. 2

Many artists develop signature sounds; rarer is the musician who accrues several. Johnny Lynch is one of the few to do so successfully, with a palette as diverse as roof-raising dance duo Silver Columns and In Rooms’ playful genre experiments. For The Pictish Trail’s second volume of Secret Soundz, the spectrum re-restricts to a core of folk-influenced balladry and warm electronics, but the variation on offer remains striking and enriching.

Recorded in a caravan on Lynch’s adopted home of Eigg (the Hebridean island forever stitched into Fence-lore thanks to Away Game), Vol. 2 is wrapped into a fluent whole by woozy lo-fi production, which helps establish an absorbing aura of intimacy. Appropriately, the album’s finest moment sits at its centre, with Wait Until setting sad, murmured vocals against a persistent electronic throb; written following the death of Lynch’s mother, it’s the record’s heart in more ways than one.

Other standouts include the subdued and introspective Sequels, while the instrumental interludes that studded Vol. 1 are resumed to great effect. Leftovers from a soundtrack to an unreleased children’s film, these colourful miniatures act as bridges in two senses, both echoing the much-admired prior volume, whilst threading together the soon-to-be-beloved current one.

Out 21st January

Monday, 7 January 2013

reviews: matthew e white, cuddly shark, a band called quinn

Matthew E. White – Big Inner 

Mattthew E. White - Big Inner (****)

As well as being the debut album from Richmond, Virginia’s Matthew E White, Big Inner is the vanguard release from Spacebomb, White’s Stax-and-Blue-Note inspired production house. Brought to wax by the nascent studio’s generously-proportioned house band, these seven heavenly slices of country soul unfold with leisurely precision, with horns, strings, keys and guitars folded through White’s delicate baritone.

There are hints of Lambchop circa Nixon in the instrumental interplay and bittersweet air, while Jason Pierce’s gospel blues are echoed in Big Love’s lifting choir. But for the most part, White recalls an earlier songwriting vintage, with opener One of These Days unfurling smoothly like an old spiritual, and the warm chorus of Steady Pace displaying White’s self-confessed and oft-noted affinity with seventies storytellers in the Randy Newman mould. Both indebted to and reflective on its patrimonial past, this is the kind of debut on which devotional followings are founded.

Out 21st January

Cuddly Shark - the Road To Ugly 

Cuddly Shark - The Road to Ugly (***)

Few bands have monikers as apt as Cuddly Shark’s; fun and loveable, but sharp in tooth. Like last year’s Body Mass Index EP and their self-titled debut before it, The Road to Ugly overflows with energy and ideas, with the Glasgow-based trio hopping genres with spiky nonchalance. Not everything fully works, but that only confirms one of the band’s most endearing traits: a refusal to play it safe.

Body Mass Index returns as bonkers as before, furnishing the album with its title and supplying its most marmite moments. Indeed, throughout the record, Colin Reid’s off-key yaps take a bit of acclimatising to (particularly the pretty fly Dexter-echoes on Pull the Finger Out), but their distinctive flavour soon convinces. Elsewhere, more straightforward numbers like My iPod Made Me Do It give a good account of the accomplished rock chops that lurk beneath the quirk, its dynamic riffage confirming the seriousness of Cuddly Shark’s abilities.

Out 28th January

A Band Called Quinn – Red Light Means Go

A Band Called Quinn - Red Light Means Go (**)

A Band Called Quinn’s third album was ready for release three years ago, but other projects delayed its arrival till now. With such a lengthy build-up, this inadvertent time capsule perhaps inevitably feels like an anti-climax, the talents of those involved having been channelled in more interesting directions in the interim. Nonetheless, the components all gel nicely, and Louise Quinn’s voice is as resplendent as ever, its pure tones more than capable of carrying mediocre material.

Unfortunately, it has to do so with regrettable frequency, and even on the tracks that do more-or-less hit the mark – soulful torch song Gene I’m Starting to Remember; the sassy Sayonara; Can You Swim?’s gentle sway – Quinn invites monotony by adding superfluous repeats of every chorus, sabotaging otherwise concise pop songs by overstretching them. Proficient but never spectacular, Red Light Means Go isn’t an embarrassment, but nor does it shower its creators in glory.

Out Now

Sunday, 6 January 2013

favourite albums of 2012!

final list, promise...

25. Tindersticks - The Something Rain
24. Efterklang - Piramida
23. Liars - WIXIW
22. Japandroids - Celebration Rock
21. Swans - The Seer
20. Animal Collective - Centipede Hz
19. Deerhoof - Breakup Songs
18. Future of the Left - The Plot Against Common Sense
17. Moon Duo - Circles
16. Paws - Cokefloat
15. Human Don't Be Angry - Human Don't Be Angry
14. The Magnetic Fields - Love at the Bottom of the Sea
13. Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan
12. Meursault - Something for the Weakened
11. Lower Dens - Nootropics

10. Cloud Nothings - Attack on Memory

9. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!

8. James Yorkston - I Was a Cat from a Book

7. Jens Lekman - I Know What Love Isn't

6. The Fresh & Onlys - Long Slow Dance

5. David Byrne & St. Vincent - Love This Giant

4. Grimes - Visions

3. Errors - Have Some Faith in Magic

2. Perfume Genius - Put Your Back N 2 It

1. Twin Shadow - Confess

Saturday, 5 January 2013

films of 2012!

last month, i posted the skinny's top 10 films of the year - a poll topped by punchandkickathon the raid. i held back on posting my own personal choices as i wanted time to catch up with a couple of late releases, and i'm bloomin glad i did cos otherwise the life of pi would have been missing and that would have been AWFUL.

as with last year's list i've stuck with films that got an actual release in cinemas this year, ruling out anything caught at a film festival that's yet to be snapped up for uk distribution. despite seeing hundreds of new movies this year, some big guns slipped through the net - most prominently, the master. but c'est la vie - here's what i did watch and think 'cor, that's pretty good huh!'

1. The Kid with a Bike (dir. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne)
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. [written for the skinny's films of the year feature]

2. This is not a Film (dir. Jafar Panahi, Motjaba Mirtahmasb)
As with The Kid with a Bike, this was a highlight of the 2012 Glasgow Film Festival, and of the whole year. Here's an extract from my five-star review: "This Is Not a Film is a bold artistic statement, a guided career retrospective, a political act, and a mediation on the very nature of cinema – all at once, with neither self-pity or intellectual elitism to muddy the waters. While Panahi’s plight is deplorably sad, his uncowed defiance delivers an inventive and eloquent exposition of injustice."

3. Amour (dir. Michael Haneke)
Amour arrived in the UK on a wave of critical buzz from Cannes and managed to live up to every scrap of acclaim. I haven't wept so much at a film since Toy Story 3.

4. Moonrise Kingdom (dir. Wes Anderson)
Didn't catch this until quite recently, but I'm very glad i did - sweet, sad and very funny, it might well be the divisive director's finest feature.

5. Tabu (dir. Miguel Gomes)
Another 5-star review, and a mini write-up for The Skinny's end of year feature: "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.

6. Martha Marcy May Marlene (dir. Sean Durkin)
In the absence of The Master, this was hands down the year's best cult-movie-built-around-two-exceptional-actors: Elizabeth Olsen, electrifying in a deceptively complex role; and John Hawkes, creepily believable throughout.

7. The Turin Horse (dir. Bela Tarr, Agnes Hranitzky)
I saw this back at the 2011 Edinburgh film festival, and wrote these here words about it: "Over two and a half portentous hours, Béla Tarr’s swan-song proves as vexingly enigmatic as his fans no doubt hoped, and his detractors might have feared... The crisp cinematography is stunning, the soundtrack an evocative loop of haunting post-rock, and every utterance is pregnant with precise, unquestionable purpose – but it’s also exhausting. However, were its sequences trimmed, its ascetic tone softened, or its obscurities given clarity, the potency of its metaphor would be diminished, making it a wholly worthwhile endurance. There are echoes of The Sacrifice (the film with which Andrei Tarkovsky concluded his similarly-feted career) in the sparse despair and unfathomable bleakness, lending added poignancy to the quiet desolation at its core: the end of a pioneering filmmaker’s career, mapped onto the end of the world."

8.  Holy Motors (dir. Leos Carax)
Talking cars, shagging dragons, multiple metamorphoses and a gorilla for a wife - what did it all mean? Er, I'll get back to you on that..

9. Avengers Assemble (dir. Joss Whedon)
Easily the most fun I had at the cinema this year. In a good year for blockbusters - The Dark Knight Rises, The Hunger Games, Skyfall - this stood out by getting everything from character to action spot on.

10. The Muppets (dir. James Boban)
A re-watch over christmas confirmed what i already suspected: The Muppets rule.

11. Argo (dir. Ben Affleck)
12. Sightseers (dir. Ben Wheatley)
13. The Hunt (dir. Thomas Vinterberg)
14. A Dangerous Method (dir. David Cronenberg)
15. Shame (dir. Steve McQueen)
16. The Life of Pi (dir. Ang Lee)
17. The Raid (dir. Gareth Evans)
18. Five Broken Cameras (dir. Emad Burnat, Guy Davidi)
19. Killer Joe (dir. William Friedkin)
20. Looper (dir. Rian Johnson)
21. The Angel's Share (dir. Ken Loach)
22. Michael (dir. Markus Schleinzer)
23. Le Havre (dir. Aki Kaurismaki)
24. The Cabin in the Woods (dir. Drew Goddard)
25. Nostalgia for the Light (dir. Patricio Guzman)

Almosts: Rust and Bone, Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, The Dark Knight Rises, The Descendents, 21 Jump Street, Carancho, Young Adult, Brave, The Forgiveness of Blood, Even the Rain, Damsels in Distress, The Hunger Games, A Royal Affair, Frankenweenie, The Imposter

[read 2011's list here!]

[read 2010's list here!]

Friday, 4 January 2013

dvd review: you aint seen nothing yet

Half a decade since his hypnotic feature debut Hiroshima Mon Amour, Alain Resnais’ latest reverie dissects many of the same themes: love and death, performance and identity, time and memory. A meta-adaptation of two works by playwright Jean Anouilh, You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet is overtly intellectual and formally audacious. Yet, as its title suggests, it’s lithe and playful with it, with a who’s who of French cinema playing fictionalised versions of themselves, summoned together to commemorate a departed dramatist friend.

As the thespians (including Lambert Wilson, Mathieu Amalric, Anne Consigny and Michel Piccoli) watch a recorded performance of the deceased’s magnum opus Eurydice, they begin to interact with the onscreen Orphean drama, revisiting past roles while their surroundings shift and change around them. It’s an adventurous and cerebral undertaking, and while arguably more interesting in concept(s) than execution, it’s pieced together with skill by a filmmaker who, at 90, has evidently lost none of his passion for the art-form.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

top scottish albums of 2012!

happy new year! just like last year, i'm gonna follow the lead of every magazine, blog and opinionated so-and-so by arbitrarily ranking a bunch of things, grouped together pretty much solely on the basis that they all happened to come out in the same 365 day period. first up: my favourite scottish albums of 2012.

it was a very, very good year for north-of-the-border music. how good? twilight sad didn't even make the list. good grief!


Chris Devotion and the Expectations – Amalgamation  

Chris Devotion and the Expectations - Amalgamation and Capital

I reviewed this for The Skinny back in January last year, reckoning that, if you encountered it anonymously, "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... 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."


RM Hubbert - Thirteen Lost and Found 

RM Hubbert - Thirteen Lost & Found

Another one I wrote about at the top of 2012. More satisfying than debut First & Last, in part thanks to contributions from a rather talented bunch of guests (Aidan Moffat, Alasdair Roberts, Alex Kapranos and more), but mostly due to the fact that Hubbert has an awful lot of talent crackling in his fingertips.


Holy Mountain - Earth Measures

Holy Mountain - Earth Measure LP

Capturing the ferocity of their ever-awesome live show and then some, Earth Measures was an almighty sledgehammer of a record. Of the album launch, i wrote: "the trio know when to exert moderation and when to cut loose; coiling tight then releasing the tension in wild displays of abandon." A-fucking-men.


The Curse of the Haunted Headphones cover art

Randolph's Leap - The Curse of the Haunted Headphones

A stripped-back cassette-only release that perfectly captured the lo-fi brilliance of Adam Ross's songwriting. The more recent Fence EP demonstrated Randolph's Leap's full-band style splendidly, but this is the release that coaxed me back most often in the last few months.


Paws - Cokefloat

Again, I didn't review the album, but i did have some choice words to say about its launch. Words like "awesome" and, er, "crunchy" (you can read the full review here).


Human Don't Be Angry - Human Don't Be Angry

Human Don't Be Angry - Human Don't Be Angry

Aaaaaand another i reviewed for The Skinny on release: "Working with a pseudonym borrowed from a German board game, Human Don’t Be Angry sees Malcolm Middleton in an appropriately playful mood. Opener The Missing Plutonium lounges like Don Henley’s Boys of Summer given a retro-futurist reshuffle, while H.D.B.A. Theme further clarifies the album’s combination of guitar-based vistas and looped cores. Both tracks impress by blowing open expectations, pushing Middleton into new, but intuitively grasped, territories."


 Meursault – Something for the Weakened

 Meursault - Something for the Weakened

Another absolute cracker from Pennycook and co - one that's rightly topped more than one best-of list this year.


James Yorkston - I Was A Cat From A Book

James Yorkston - I Was a Cat From a Book

Yorkston's best album yet, full of beauty and fire and sadness and anger.



David Byrne and St. Vincent - Love This Giant

Ok, so this one's only 50% Scottish, but the album was 100% ace, so it's in.


Errors - Have Some Faith in Magic 

Errors - Have Some Faith in Magic

A five-star review back in January, and still on top 12 months on. "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... [But] 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."

[read 2011's list here!]

[read 2010's list here!]

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

most played 2012

for bottle rocket, 2012 was a year of change (in that we moved from saturdays to fridays) and stubborn stasis (in that our playlists remain resistant to modernisation...).

here's a top 30 of the acts we most frequently reached for in the last 12 months. the order is a little arbitrary, but that's ok; it's just for fun!

acts from last year's list to drop out this time around include surfer blood, the radio dept, depeche mode, pulp and erstwhile top-10-er weezer... 'wh-wh-what?!' i hear you cry. 'well who the devil's replaced them then'? the answer is: this lot...

30. le tigre
29. xtc
28. new order
27. errors
26. rem
25. lcd soundsystem
24. ash
23. belle and sebastian
22. michael jackson
21. jonathan richman and the modern lovers
20. orange juice
19. pavement
18. twin shadow
17. devo
16. idlewild
15. the undertones
14. the cure
13. the beastie boys
12. pixies
11. sparks

10. abba

9. blondie

8. the magnetic fields

7. prince

6. bruce springsteen

5. the b-52s

4. talking heads

3. the smiths

2. fleetwood mac

1. david bowie