Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Dinosaur Jr at the Art School

Last night Dinosaur Jr played their second sold out night at the Glasgow School of Art and blasted away everyone's winter blues (minus 8 outside) with an array of warm guitars.

It was my first time seeing Dinosaur Jr, despite being into the band for a couple of decades and going through a phase of collecting their 7-inch singles. I was looking forward to seeing J Mascis shredding his guitar and blasting out songs from their long history. They didn't disappoint.

Everyone was wrapped up for the cold weather outside, so it was a little bit disappointing that the Art School didn't have a cloakroom open. So everyone was roasting inside.

Spinning Coin were supporting and they charmed the crowd, generating a good response from their mix of melodic songs (Sean Armstrong) and powerful (Jack Mellin). They've had a great year with a string of headline show, some fantastic support slots and the November release of their debut album Permo BLOG HERE

My brother and I departed for the downstairs bar and bumped into old school friend Grant Mitchell and his friend Mark Richie. Grant is an incredibly passionate record collector and had been to Lou Barlow's Nice n Sleazy matinee show the afternoon before, as well as Dinosaur Jr the night before. He told us we were in for a treat.

The Art School is a cracking venue, although the positioning of the sounddesk creates a bit of a bottleneck down either side. We skipped down the right hand side to the front and thankfully found we could dump our jackets by the stage.

Dinosaur Jr came on, Lou Barlow looked hyper, J Mascis looked relaxed/stoned/unbothered by the fanfare that greeted them. Grant made us laugh with his story that the crowd sang 'happy birthday' to him the previous night and he never even acknowledged it!

Mascis' guitar playing was a joy to watch, he just makes it look easy - zipping about his frets and creating joyful riffs and melodies.

Barlow was the star of the night for me though; looking trim and cool, acting like Animal from The Muppets had leapt from his drum kit to discover the joy of playing bass. He jumped, rocked out, played way up the neck of the bass, thrashed around and generally made it look fun and super cool.

Dinosaur Jr were tight, at times assisted by a second drummer. The songs from last years Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not are among their very best, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that Feel The Pain, Start Choppin' and Freakscene weren't my favourites.

I remember getting guitar lessons as an 18-year old and asking for help figuring out how to play Start Choppin'. So it was great to watch J's fingers dance around his various guitars and work his pedals and whammy bar and it was hard to take my eyes of Lou Barlow who was just the embodiement of indie cool.

How cool to rock up in a city and play a couple of small shows at the Art School and also do a matinee show at Sleazys? Indie cool.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Albums of 2017

2017 was a kind of weird year musically for me. I didn't buy anywhere near as much music as I once did as Spotify got its hooks into me. That along with the fact that I'm just not in town (or near a record shop - sorry Monorail) so much these days.

That said, through Spotify I possibly listened to more music than ever. I discovered bands and albums new and old and in some cases this prompted me to also buy the vinyl.

A look through the 30 odd albums that have made an impression on me this year evidences a pretty eclectic selection; ranging from self-released and DIY indie labels in Scotland, through to long term faves like The Charlatans, Flaming Lips and BMX Bandits, with comebacks from Ride, LCD Sound system balanced with falling for bands like The Courtney's and then discovering albums by the likes of The National, Kelly Lee Owens and Michael Head towards the end of the year

I fell for The Courtney's during a Spotify browsing session armed with a couple of Arran Blondes. Their song with the title 90210 took my eye in some recommendations and I checked it out. It blew me away. I then discovered they had released their second album earlier in the year, checked that, fell for that too and also bought the vinyl.

Last year I said that any one of the top 5 in my end of year list could be my (favourite) album of the year. This year I'm not so sure what my favourite album is, I like a lot and have loved a lot at various points of the year.

A special mention must go to Mark W Georgsson who kicked off 2017 with his beautiful Faces and Places album. Knowing Mark as I do, I knew that this was a labour of love and everything about the album highlighted that love - from the songs, the playing and the production through to the artwork and sleeve notes. The fact I had the album for over a year in digital form made me appreciate it all the more when it finally came out on vinyl. Check it out HERE

I obviously have a special affinity to local label Last Night From Glasgow and the 6 albums the label has released through 2017 (one jointly with Scottish Fiction) have all given great pleasure. In addition to Mark, LNFG released;

  • Medicine Men's Into The Light LP and it is a real melting pot of influences with bubbling synths matched with guitars and beats, taking off on lengthy and trippy grooves. 
  • Stephen Solo worked his iPhone magic again with Pii 2, homemade psychedelia with raw soul throughout and also dashes of humour, intelligence and stark honesty. 
  • Sister John's Returned From Sea is exquisite, pretty perfect from start to finish.
  • Annie Booth's is remarkable for someone so young and hints at a great deal to come.
  • while Sun Rose's The Essential Luxury is rich in layers, beats, synths, melodies and harmonies.

The amount of quality (and diverse) music that the label has released since forming in March 2016 is quite breathtaking. It highlights the gap there was and the need for the label in Scotland. I've not been able to offer much time to the label this year which is a shame, but a growing number of people are involved in helping CEO/Chair Ian Smith with the running of the label and each release. There is much more to come in 2018.

Please take the time to check these fine artists out. You can stream them all on Spotify, download from iTunes or buy physical copies from www.lastnightfromglasgow.com

So without wishing to show any favouritism, I'll keep the LNFG artist above,  here are my 5 favourite albums from 2017 with the rest in no particular order listed below.

Top 5 from 2017

1. Adios Señor Pussycat - Michael Head and the Red Elastic
God damn it, I only discovered this album after Michael's Oran Mor show in October when loads of people I follow on Twitter went into overdrive regarding how good the show was and the album is. I agree - melodic stories, a great band, a singer in rich voice, a choice cover of Wild Mountain Thyme and an album that gets better with every listen. SPOTIFY LINK

2. How The West Was Won - Peter Perrett
I blogged about this incredible album in August and described it as the sound of chiming guitars, a tight rythm section and the sound of Perrett pouring his heart out. It is pure, soulful and true.

Catching Peter and his band at King Tut's made me appreciate it even more. A love letter to his long suffering wife, self help for himself - this is special. SPOTIFY LINK

3. The Courtney's II - The Courtney's
As above, the second LP from The Courtney's is direct guitar punk/new wave pop. There is a groove to some songs, others show humour, they all brim with excitement and energy. SPOTIFY LINK

4. Every Valley - Public Service Broadcasting
One of my favourite bands from recent years, they really know how to take the listener on a journey through the incredible sounds they create and their innovative use of samples; ranging from old BBC recordings, to NASA and to their recent album documenting Welsh Coal mining. The way they create music around the samples is extremely clever and I wonder how much the samples inspired the music, or if they had to search for samples to fit. SPOTIFY LINK

5. Erratic Cinematic - Gerry Cinnamon
What a year for Gerry! Heis rounding it off with 2 sold out nights at the Barrowland Ballroom and they are set to be pure celebrations of his honest, soulful storytelling songs. Keysies is one of my songs of the year. SPOTIFY LINK

Others albums I enjoyed

Sleep Well Beast - The National
This could easily have made my top 5. An album with real depth, an album clearly displaying real care and soul. I've never reached for The National before, but a number of friends urged me to check this album out. My only disappointment is that I didn't go and see them live.

New Energy - Four Tet
Stephen Pastel recommended that I check this album out. Recorded in a sparse home studio looking out a window, New Energy has a beautiful feel to the sounds and production. It sounds very fresh and natural despite its electronic origins.

Different Days - The Charlatans
The band that keep on keepin' on. Guest appearances from Marr, Weller, Rankin and more inspired The Charlatans to swiftly follow the incredible Modern Nature with another gem. Many journalists deemed this their best album since Tellin' Stories - but that is doing a massive dis-service (yet also highlighting the consistency of the band) to the aforementioned Modern NatureYou Cross My Path and the wonderful Us and Us Only. I reviewed the album in this BLOG highlighting a sense of freedom, confidence and fun.

Kelly Lee Owen - Kelly Lee Owen
I only discovered this album a couple of weeks ago on a train to London and enjoyed it so much that I listened to it twice on the way down and twice on the way back. A gorgeous album that really fitted with my sunny train ride to and from the big smoke. Trippy, laid back, dreamy and with stunning effected vocals throughout.

Oczy Mlody - Flaming Lips
The Lips produced one of the most memorable musical highlights of my year with their Barrowland Ballroom show that featured Wayne Coyne riding round the hallowed ballroom on a unicorn. Psychedelic with pulsing electro, fantasies, dreams, nightmares.... The Lips continue to push boundaries and imagination to the limit and beyond.

Antisocialites - Alvvays
Loud melodic guitars, a guest spot from Norman Blake and the sound of a band playing with confidence and fun. Alvvays are on the rise.

American Dream - LCD Soundsystem
Back, but they weren't away for long, James Murphy and co keep on keepin' on with songs about ageing, death and dreams accompanied by all kinds of grooves and beats

Weather Diaries - Ride
Ride returned with guitars set to stun and lots of talk of the sun.

Morningside - Fazerdaze
I discovered this album through a tweet by Gold Flake Paint; falling for the real charm in the guitars, production, vocals and lyrics.

Forever - BMX Bandits
I blogged about the Bandits recent number HERE and it is a gem of heart-breaking, heart-aching, warm and reflective pop.


Stellular - Rose Elinor Douglas
Kelvingroove - Fnuf and the Fairylights
Colours - Beck
Permo - Spinning Coin
Earl Gray - Girl Ray
Last Place - Granddaddy
Who Built The Moon? - Noel Gallagher
Another Summer of Love - GospelbeacH
Saved by Metal - Broken By Rock
Friday Night The Eagles Fly - The Bar Dogs
There Are No Saints - Siobhan Wilson
Waiting On A Song - Dan Auerbach

Monday, 4 December 2017

Never Ending Mixtape Part 17

Hello and welcome to the last additions to the Never Ending Mixtape for 2017. This fine list takes the total songs on the mixtape to a whopping 380!

We begin with 2 cracking tunes by Michael Head via Shack and The Pale Fountains, taking in Mancunians The Smiths and Buzzcocks, the brilliantly titled Young Lovers Go Pop!, a pile of tunes I discovered through an Andy Bell (Ride) DJ setlist including the impeccable La Ritournelle by Sebastian Tellier, we have legends like Hendrix, Glen Campbell, The Stones and Bowie, an ode to Teenage Fanclub's Norman Blake by The Swedish Polar Bears, one of my most recent favourite bands in Public Service Broadcasting, two brilliant early Teenage Fanclub tracks and two songs by The Pooches from Glasgow.

Search for Everything Flows Never Ending Mixtape on Spotify or CLICK HERE.

Scroll to near the end for the latest additions or simply press shuffle and enjoy at random.

Thanks to those of you that either follow the playlist, have checked it out or taken the time to send messages of encouragement and thanks for turning you on to some great music. Greatly appreciated.

Beautiful - Shack
Jean's Not Happening - The Pale Fountains
Ask - The Smiths
Young Lovers Go Pop! - This Many Boyfriends
Ever Fallen In Love - Buzzcocks
Girl You Better Change - Sag Ware Fare
Norman Blake - Swedish Polarbears
Like An Old Time Movie - Scott Mckenzie
Where's The Playground Susie - Glen Campbell
He Called Me Baby - Candi Staton
This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) - Talking Heads
I Can't Kick This Feeling When It Hits - Moodyman
La ritournelle - Sebastian Tellier
We Love You - The Rolling Stones
Castles Made Of Sand - Jimi Hendrix
Straight At Yer Head - Lionrock
The Other Side - Public Service Broadcasting
Rebel Rebel - David Bowie
Changes - David Bowie
Critical Mass - Teenage Fanclub
Every Picture I Paint - Teenage Fanclub
Heart Attack - The Pooches
I'll Be Gone - The Pooches

Friday, 1 December 2017

Dance Around The Fake Fir Tree

Mark W Georgsson has bookended my year musically, releasing his beautiful debut album Faces and Places back in January, playing a memorable cosy Celtic Connections show in the basement of The Hug and Pint to launch in style. Check my blog on the album HERE 

And now in December he releases a funky, glam, soulful pop Spector-esque Christmas single in the shape of Dance (Around The Fake Fir Tree).

The flowing chorus is Springsteen-esque, backed by soaring strings, sleigh bells, church bells and stomping beats. The way it is repeated at the end brings a sense of euphoria to the song. Epic.

At the start it's quite Marc Bolan/Jesus and Mary Chain, funky and poppy, fun and frisky and then leading into that sky scraping chorus.

So take my hand
And let's go dance
Around the bare fir tree
I wanna hold you tight
Every Christmas night
Like we were young and care free

The post second chorus breakdown and subsequent build up is a little spine tingling and then Georgsson and friends let rip with the chorus again and again.

Recorded in Iceland, where the beautiful artwork was photographed, this is a gem.

Mark W Georgsson and friends play a Christmas show at The Hug and Pint on Dec 8th.

The digital single is out today, available on iTunes, Spotify and all the usual outlets. Check the lyric video below.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Baker Street

Cover version of the month #31

The Foo Fighters cover Baker Street

A couple of months ago I tweeted my usual cover of the month blog and I asked if anyone would like to contribute to the series. Dedé Arneaux messaged me to say that he would like to send something in and I was rather surprised to learn that it was a blog on The Foo Fighters covering the sax classic Baker Street! My first thought was, really?! And then, I must check this out!

And that is exactly the kind of reaction that I love to get from cover versions at times. Curiosity and surprise.

So they really did cover it.

Dedé Arneaux 

Written in '77. Gerry Rafferty's break up and move-on song when Stealers Wheel split. It's smooth, starting with flute, congas, cymbal rolls and a hint of fretless bass before the swooping sax solo chorus glides in supported by solid piano stabs high in the mix. There's a distinct air of swing about it. Sexy and at home on a Roxy Music album. Warm strings enter as we move from the bass and congas in the verse to the bridge. "You used to think that it was so easy" continues the horizontal, feet-up, hands behind the head feel before the chorus returns. If it's an advert ... it's for yoghurt.

In '92 Undercover record it, there's a longer Mickey Modelle clubland version and 20 years later and 20 years ago Baker Street appears as the final track on a special edition of Foo Fighters' '
The Colour and the Shape. It's the antithesis of smooth, the soundtrack for Hurricane Ophelia.

A single snare crack wakes dual rhythm guitars. Bludgeon riffola - overdriven to the point of darkness on the edge of down and out badness, 180 degree drum fills drive it, before the lead guitar comes crashing in playing the sax melody we all love. It's brutal and bionic.

Released into the verse, spoken word vocal sits atop a picked guitar line and another lightly strummed. Neither acoustic and teased along by bass drum and rim shot.

A leap from 2nd gear to 4th for the bridge, heavy duty drums on the one and returning distorted double rhythm guitars provide a contrast to the laid back voice and whooping and sliding bass that hark to the original. Grab your sixteenth note seat belt before kicking into top with the guitar solo chorus shadowed by dive bomb slides that add a whole lotta love and a sonic whiplash.

Foo Fighters replace give up the booze and the one night stands with give up the crack. Kinda sums up the transformation. The song climaxes with 2 mins plus of instrumental guitar and drum  riffery with a solo that's true to the original, doused in lighter fuel and alight.

Previous covers of the month

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Permo by Spinning Coin

If I was 20 odd years younger I would probably be a little jealous of Spinning Coin; releasing on Stephen Pastel's Geographic label with support from Domino, recording with Edwyn Collins and touring with Teenage Fanclub and Dinosaur Jr... the stuff of a young indie guitar fans fantasies.

And as I approach 42 it still is a kind of fantasy of mine to put together an indie guitar band and have loads of fun. I can't afford the mid-life crisis sports car, so that might happen!

It is a reality for Spinning Coin, they are playing great shows, they have recorded a great indie guitar album that is at times; fragile, raw, rough n ready and full of harmonies, humour and playfulness.

Photo by Stuart McIntosh

Spinning Coin have released a number of singles from the album over the last couple of years; drip feeding their sound on to record tables and into hearts.

Only 5-songs (one by a mere 2 seconds) across the 14 on Permo break the 3-minute barrier. They don't mess about with the two songwriters Sean Armstrong and Jack Mellin displaying their talent in many ways.

Fuzzy melodic guitars and beautiful strained vocals usher in Armstrong's Raining On Hope Street, while there is pace, power and more frantic riffs to Mellin's Tin.

We then have two songs referencing money in the title; Money For Breakfast and Money Is A Drug. The first has some beautiful lyrics and has a great melancholic vibe to it, a kind of stoned groove.

So soothing, it's so soothing when the sunlight reaches your bed

Armstrong's fragile and melodic tunes with his storytelling lyrics that somehow fit into a song are pretty special. It almost kind of should't work, but it really does as evidenced on Metronome River.

Floating With You is a gorgeous tune, possibly my favourite from the album. Did I mention stoned groove earlier on? Well this is the sound of someone in a special place, just happy, gloriously so.

Everything you say just gets me higher

I'm happy just floating with you

Sides punky pop urgency has delightfully simple lyrics that we can all relate to and a brilliant guitar break/riff halfway through that propels the song towards a great conclusion with Mellin and Armstrong's voices combining deliciously.

Telling lies all the time
Telling lies is a waste of time

I've blogged about Sleepless before and it is another fave; melodic, fragile, heartfelt and soulful with lovely chiming guitars.

There is definitely an element of Collins and Goddard to some of Mellin's songs in his style, phrasing, lyrics and delivery. Powerful is an example of the raw yet melodic punk pop racket he demonstrates throughout the album.

These words just can't express
Just how much I have been blessed

Starry Eyes has an unexpected political tone, while Running With The World is another of my favourites before the album closes with the gorgeous I Feel The Need To Be An Actor.

Well I sure love the rain
I love the way it defeats me
I try to explain
But I don't have the brains to

You can order the vinyl from Monorail's website with a signed print, or pop into the store.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Sun Rose and L Space at Nice n Sleazy

Last night I caught two stunning bands in the basement of Nice n Sleazy, both blew me away.

I introduced L-Space in a previous blog. I was really looking forward to seeing them live and they didn't disappoint. Singer Lily wore a headband that lit up and started the set kneeling in front of a tiny keyboard at the front of the stage, picking out a beautiful melody, covered by an umbrella that also lit up. Her band mates created a beautiful wall of noise to back her up.

The 4-piece were refreshingly different to any band I have seen in Glasgow in a while. Gordon Johnstone played some brilliant riffs and melodies on guitar, before at times unleashing some ferocious white noise. Synth player Maura Keane looked super cool, creating some great sounds, whilst bassist Dickson Teller kept the groove.

Blue Flowers was a highlight for me as I've really fallen for that song, but in truth the whole set was incredibly impressive and there were knowing nods from the people around me that we were witnessing a band with huge potential. The crowd responded with increasing applause and hours after each song. A great set.

Sun Rose were launching their debut LP The Essential Luxury by playing their first ever show after a grand total of four rehearsals. The album was created by Albert Kawmi, Calum Muir and Gus Wemyss between Glasgow and Manchester, with emails playing an important role.

The trio gradually pieced together a stunning album full of inventive beats, breaks, layers, sounds, melodies and harmonies. With no band name, social media or gigs to concern themselves with, this gave them an almost unique freedom in todays day and age to take their time.

I'll be blogging about the sublime and blissful album in the very near future. What were they like live?

The trio became a 6-piece for the night; lining up with Calum and Gus playing back to back synths, Albert on bongos, maracas and very occasional synth, backed by guitar, bass and drums.

What a treat! The band played superbly. Albert told us how it was his first live show in 4-years. He looked confident and full of joy. Calum and Gus looked deep in concentration, playing synths, getting involved in funky percussion and both complimented Albert superbly with harmonies and backing vocals. Their band mates looked delighted to be playing to a packed Sleazys and to be involved in creating such sublime music live.

Debut single Smirk gave us an indication of the style and capabilities of Sun Rose live. They were on it - funky, sublime and able to recreate the layers and changes in pace that they beautifully offer on their album,

Dry In The Water was outstanding; surging upwards, dropping back to almost nothing before soaring sky high and taking the audience on a journey with them.

Second single Minima was blissful and the band had the confidence not only to sing a song in Arabic but to also drop in a cover version of The Pointer Sisters Automatic.

Singer Albert was quick to thank the band, their friend who drove them to and from Manchester, the audience and then his wife Lynsey who was celebrating her birthday. The audience sing song was followed by Albert coming into the audience for a kiss. There was a collective awwwww, a nice touch as Albert when back on stage and told us of how he broke the news to Lynsey that they were launching the album on her birthday.

The band ended their set with Counting Upwards, the beautiful closing number from their album. They got lost in the gorgeous sounds they were producing and there is a section where things just build to a euphoric mantra.

There was no encore. Just grateful thanks to the audience and to Last Night From Glasgow who Albert said the album and gig wouldn't have happened without.

What will they do next? Will they play again? A packed Sleazys will hope so. And for any festival promoters reading this - get them booked. Blissful, funky and euphoric.

Album review to follow. Check it on Spotify HERE or order vinyl HERE