Sunday 29 December 2013

Runaway by The Velveteen Saints

I've blogged about the Velveteen Saints a few times over the last year; they are one of the young Scottish bands on the current scene that get me excited - looking good, sounding good and growing in confidence.

They've just finished a European and UK tour with The View. Last month they released a video for their glorious fuzzy electric guitar pop song 'Runaway'.

'Runaway' lodged in my head on first listen as I recognised it from some live shows; the verses are simple and catchy, the chorus arrives quickly and there is a fuzzy guitar solo. The video is grainy black and white footage of the band in the studio, playing the legendary King Tut's Wah Wah Hut and shots from around Glasgow and some old pictures.

I've mentioned Jesus and Marychain before when I've written about the band and when you check the song and video you'll understand why. Velveteen Saints know how to write a brilliant guitar pop song. Check it out.

Monday 23 December 2013

Introducing Flash Talk

On Saturday night Lynn and I ventured into Faktory in Byres Road to see the relaunch of Flash Talk, one of the most promising new bands on the Scottish music scene.

The band had issued some teasers in early 2013, posting a couple of DIY videos that ripped scenes from classic films to tie in with their widescreen cinematic sounds. They then disappeared as quickly as they arrived, bunkering down to record an album so they were ready to fly when they launch for real in 2014.

The 5-piece opened with the incredible 'Synthesise', which, as the title might suggest, is full of huge synths and also the best guitar riffs I've heard in a while. The band are impeccably tight, yet loose with it.

'Synthesise, when I'm feeling down you sympathise'

The song breaks down beautifully at the end and there are some 3-piece harmonies for the section. 'Woah-oh, every time you touch me' section.

'Automatic' follows and takes influences from Bowie through to Kraftwerk. There is another killer breakdown towards the end.

'Automatic when I needed you, automatic when I needed you…..'

'Miracle' slows things down, all moody synths, allowing the singers stunning vocals to take centre stage. The 3-piece harmonies lift the song along with huge synths for the chorus.

The 5-piece (vocals, guitar, bass, synths and drums) play other songs that they don't introduce. One contains a section 'everybody light a fuse' and is pure brilliance. There are glances of recognition among the people in the room that they you don't come across a band like this very often.

'Land Of The Lost Cause' sears and soars. Singer Stephen Farrell has a voice that you don't get to experience very often - capable of delicate whispers, strong enough to take songs and melodies to exceptional levels. 

Hooks, soaring choruses, stunning breakdowns and exceptional musicianship -keep an eye out for Flash Talk in 2014.

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Albums of 2013

I have bought and enjoyed a good number of albums in 2013, probably quite a bit more than last year.

I've only just discovered the Kurt Vile album and I have still to buy John Grant and Jon Hopkins.

I'll no doubt discover a few gems released in the last 12-months further down the line, but for the time being, here are my top 10;

Big Inner by Matthew E White
I blogged about this back in February and described it as 'poetic, beautiful, hushed, thoughtful and the playing, singing and production is just outstanding'. Nothing has changed other than the fact I have just fallen further in love with it. A work of beauty.

It's Not About War by Chris Grant
Recorded in his garage on an £80 laptop, this album contains some of the best songwriting and love songs that I have heard in a long time. Grant has complete confidence in his skills and songs and it shows. 'I Am The One' and 'Like A 45' are just stunning.

My blog upon release in October declared; 'It's Not About War is a fucking beautiful album. Chris Grant sings from the very bottom of his heart, the passion and truth in his vocals match the open and honest lyrics.'

Reflektor by Arcade Fire
An outstanding album, what would you want from one of the world's best and most ambitious bands? Some production by James Murphy? Check. Bowie backing you up? Check, a wide range of songs across a sprawling double album that lets the band explore their talent and sound? Check. Brilliant. Their show at the Barrowland will stay with me for a long, long time.

A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart by Bill Ryder Jones
Contemplative, gentle, melodic, rustic, homely, dreamy, lovely… this is a rather gorgeous album. 

Slow Summits by The Pastels
I don't think any band sound as comfortable with their sound as The Pastels. It's just so…them. They produce pop gems and glorious laid back grooves and just run with them. The joyous indie pop rush of 'Check My Heart' is glorious while 'Summer Rain' shuffles and flows.

The Next Day by David Bowie
This album was a surprise in many ways. The secrecy surrounding it created an almighty buzz, the songs offered great depth for the listener to delve into. Bowie was on form, sounding great and producing some outstanding material; reflective at times, biting at others.

Random Access Memories by Daft Punk
Could it live up to the hype? Well that would be difficult as the hype was incredible and the success of 'Get Lucky' probably overshadowed the album. However if you wanted some robots to make an album in 2013 then Random Access Memories delivered the goods; wildly eclectic and crazily addictive.

Understated by Edwyn Collins
A very soulful album; stomping at times, tugging at the heart strings at other. Edwyn's show at the ABC in the spring was a delight and his recent show at Mono was incredible. An artist who keeps on giving and long may that continue.

Kingdom Of Wires by Kevin Harper
A stunning self released solo album by one of Scotland's best songwriters. Kev's solo performance at King Tut's back in the summer was exceptional. The album sees Kev wear his heart on his sleeve and bare his soul. The guitar playing is sensational, echoing the Foo Fighters and classic American indie bands.

The Bones Of What You Believe by Chvrches
Hyped beyond belief, could Chvrches deliver? They certainly could. This is what I wrote in my blog review in September;

'The Bones Of What You Believe' is a fascinating album, extremely polished pop on the surface, often with darker, menacing undertones. The production is crystal clear, staying clear of the trap that many modern acts fall into - that of over-production. The songs have space to breath, there are hooks galore with synths (lots of them) beats and bass combining in a glorious manner and Lauren Mayberry's vocals are delicious; sweet at times, capable of anger, revenge, hurt and heartfelt emotion at others.

I listened to the album for the first time in a month or so this week and it actually sounds better. If anything I overplayed this when it came out. I am currently kicking myself for not buying tickets for their Barrowland show in March.

Monday 16 December 2013

Edwyn Collins at Mono, Sunday 15th December 2013

Last night was a joy. Edwyn Collins played an intimate show at Mono in Glasgow, we were just a few rows from the front and got to witness one of Scotland's finest at close hand.

London Mississippi were the main support act, with Edwyn's young son Will playing bass. The 3-piece played well, delivering a high energy set of guitar power-pop with loads of soul and attitude. Dropping in a bit of Whitney Houston's 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody' towards the end of their set. A song that may or may not be titled 'Stay' was a real highlight.

Mono is one of my favourite venues (indeed places) in Glasgow. Tucked neatly out of the way but still within walking/stumbling distance of trains and the city centre, it has a unique vibe, laid back to the max, fiercely independent, supporting the arts and it has a great record shop to boot.

I didn't need any proof that Mono represented an intimate show, but evidence presented itself to me when I nipped to the loo just before Edwyn was due on and found myself taking a pee just along from the great man! There are no backstage areas at Mono!

I can't remember the exact setlist order, but here is what went on.

We had tucked ourselves in three rows from the front, so we had an excellent view. Edwyn's band took to the stage before he came on stage to a huge ovation. Sitting on an amp he introduced the opening song - 'Falling and Laughing', his debut single with Orange Juice, released away back in 1980. As openers go, this was up there and it set the tone for a wonderful set that drew from his extensive back catalogue and this years fantastic 'Understated' album.

Edwyn introduced his band who were absolutely sensational from the off. 'Dilemma', '31-years', 'Understated' and a gorgeous 'Forsooth' from the current LP all slotted in with ease next to songs that Edwyn has been singing for over 30-years.

'What Presence', 'Felicity' and 'Blue Boy' thrilled the crowd and Edwyn looked just as pleased and happy to be singing them.

There were a number of times throughout the show when I reflected on Edwyn's lyrics - very positive but also reflective on life and death, even the early stuff. I guess they take on a new perspective following his brain haemorrhage in 2005. This was a life affirming gig in more ways than one, there was such warmth in the room.

There were some emotional moments when Edwyn rose to his feet and tried to move his microphone up on the stand but needed his tour manager to help. Even more so in the encore when he tried to do this with his mouth, lost in the moment of the music.

'Losing Sleep' was brilliant, a pounding Motown drum and a song that just seems like one long chorus. 'Ghost Of A Chance' flowed superbly, highlighting the brilliance of the band and the genius of a songwriter that Collins is.

'Rip It Up' was a buzz, I took the time to look around the room and everyone was grinning and dancing along. It has to be one of the best pop songs ever produced by a Scottish artist, if not the best. It was then followed with 'A Girl Like You', the searing guitar sounded incredible.

Edwyn came back on and announced that although he was born in Edinburgh he was home again, playing a lovely version of 'Home Again' back by acoustic guitar and keys.

'Don't Shilly Shally' sent the crowd out into the winter night with huge smiles on their faces. This was a stunning show from an exceptional artist. The added bonus is that I get to do it all again at the re-opening of the Glasgow School Of Art in the new year.

Friday 13 December 2013

The rise of Vigo Thieves

Vigo Thieves, an unsigned band from Wishaw on the outskirts of Glasgow, have announced their biggest and most ambitious headline show to date - the ABC in Glasgow on Saturday 29th March as part of their 'This Love' tour for their forthcoming single.

It's been coming. The band have progressed at incredible pace over the last two years.

Back in February 2012 they released the 'Heart & Soul Pt I' EP with lead single 'Heartbeats' delivering a statement of intent, packing out Nice 'n' Sleazy's and handing out glowsticks to fans to create a stadium style atmosphere.

By the summer the band were ramming the BBC Introducing Tent at T in the Park, delivering a blistering performance full of anthems that were being sung back at them with gusto.
They followed that up with a support slot to The View at the O2 Academy and they took to the huge
venue with ease.

A sold out show at the Classic Grand in the Autumn to promote the stunning 'Forever' single ended with a stage invasion. The band then announced a date at King Tut's Wah Wah Hut for February 2013.

The date sold out in a week and a second show was added, that also sold out. The word was out.

The two shows at King Tut's were absolutely sensational, launching the epic 'Heart & Soul Pt II' EP. The first was a dream that ended with Stevie surfing across the crowd, being carried on the shoulders of the adoring masses. The second, if possible, was even better. Perhaps due to the fact that the first night contained a lot of old fans and friends, on the second night the band gave it that little bit extra to welcome new fans to the fold.

Onwards and upwards. There was a support slot to The Fratelli's at the Barrowland and then back to T in the Park, becoming the first unsigned band to play the Transmission Stage. It was rammed and the buzz for band and fans was incredible. The Solus Tent at Wickerman was even better with the tent bursting at the seams.

What next - well it was a show at the 800 capacity Arches in town. It sold out as well, the bands songs, performances, desire and belief were spreading through the best form of advertisement - word of mouth. This was a band you had to go and see. The band released the 'Believe' single. That word has been their motto from the word go and more and more people were believing.

The Arches show was epic, the sound, the lighting, the songs, band and fans all coming together as one. Two new songs were played, including 'This Love'.

The stuff listed above isn't half of it. There were shows in London, Dunfermline, Stirling, Inverness, sessions, STV sessions, radio play, great reviews and lots of hard work....and play!

And so.....what will 2014 hold for Vigo Thieves?

This is a band reaching for the stars, come along for the ride.

Get your tickets for Scotland's hottest band HERE

Sunday 8 December 2013

The Pastels at Mono

Last night I ventured out to see The Pastels, 20-years on since I first saw them; Stephen and Katrina hardly seem to have aged at all in that time. As Lynn and I walked into Mono I spotted my old school friend Grant who I went to that very show with and we shared a few beers and memories as we watched the bands.

Support was from the German band Lali Puna, a 4-piece armed with an assortment of synths and keyboards who produced some lovely dreamy electronica that would fit right into a movie like 'Lost In Translation'. I made a mental note to get one of their albums next time I was in Monorail (the record shop that is in Mono, where Stephen Pastel works).

The Pastels took to the stage with Stephen thanking the crowd for coming and pausing to reflect on the terrible tragedy at the Clutha that took place just a week ago and a couple of hundred yards away.

'Slow Summits' was a great opener, largely instrumental with psych surf guitar. The Pastels were a 6-piece for the night and they sounded superb with the addition of trumpet, flute, keys and a second guitar. Gerry Love from Teenage Fanclub was on bass duties.

'Summer Rain' and 'Check My Heart' were further highlights from this years 'Slow Summits' LP, but the band were certainly not afraid to delve into their back catalogue. The cover of 'Different Drum' was a delight and 'Classic Line-Up' was possibly my song of the night.

The band gelled superbly with Stephen's rhythm guitar, Gerry's bass and Katrina's drumming allowing lead guitar, trumpet and flute to combine and flow. Three, two and even one chord riffs sounded brilliant, creating a real groove.

'Nothing To Be Done' was lovely with Stephen and Katrina creating a great vibe. 'Baby Honey' was outstanding, the lead guitar seared and soared and the bass held everything together.

It was a great night; a legendary Glasgow band in one of my favourite venues. And next Sunday I'll be back for Edwyn Collins!

Monday 2 December 2013

My songs of 2013

Here are some of the songs that have been released in 2013 that I have particularly enjoyed. I hope you do too.

There are tens of thousands of songs that have been released this year that I haven't heard. If you have any songs you think I should check out then please tweet me. You'll get an idea of my taste from below.

I've probably forgotten a couple, but here we go...

I Am The One by Chris Grant
Absolutely beautiful song. Number one in another universe. You can imagine people wetting themselves if Chris Martin had written it. Not on YouTube as yet.

Reflektor by Arcade Fire
The kind of music you want from one of the biggest bands in the world in the year 2013. Produced by James Murphy and featuring backing vocals by Bowie - ambitious in sound, texture and performance.

Too Bad (That's Sad) by Edwyn Collins
Northern Soul style stomper that had me hooked on first listen. Collins ABC show in the spring was a delight.

Royals by Lorde
Original and exceptional. The production on this is simply exquisite, the lyrics and melody sublime.

Will You Love Me by Matthew E White
Big Inner floored me when it was released back in January, it is such a warm and gorgeous album. This is lazily lovely.

Honey by TeenCanteen
'Honey' combines Spector with the Velvets and C86 indie to make everyone smile.

Get Lucky by Daft Punk
Quite enough has been written about this song. Great though!

Forever by Vigo Thieves
The 'Heart and Soul Pt II' EP was incredible, all 3 songs off it are in my songs of the year. 'Forever' remains my favourite as it just soars to places other bands can only dream of reaching.

Giorgio by Moroder by Daft Punk
The synths and the groove in this song when it kicks in are glorious.

Stoned and Starving by Parquet Courts
Raw catchy punky guitar pop a-la The Strokes circa 'Is This It'. In fact it is even rawer.

Foresight by Nevada Base
Slightly deranged sounding synths, tribal drums start the song before funky bass kicks in and the lyrics and vocals sound paranoid. 'all the science that we know will be in vain'.

The Stars Are Out Tonight by David Bowie
A mighty return from Bowie. This was a standout for me.

It Starts And Ends With You by Suede
Suede returned in magnificent fashion with this single, up with their best work. Their show at the Barrowland in October was nothing short of sensational.

Check My Heart by The Pastels
Glorious warm summery guitar pop with a video to match.

He Took You in His Arms by Bill Ryder-Jones
From a rather gorgeous album. This is all kinds of dreamy goodness.

2013 by Primal Scream
Sounding as vital as anything they have ever produced.

Strong by London Grammar
Just beautiful.

Summer Rain by The Pastels
Slow Summits by The Pastels is one of my albums of 2013. They sound more comfortable with themselves and their music than most artists. This is just pure Pastel-ism.

The Mother We Share by Chvrches
2013 was quite a year for Chvrches. This is just superb, crystal clear production, nice hooks in the verses and a chorus that flows superbly. Synths are beautiful.

Sore Tummy by Paws featuring Alice Costelloe
I wish Paws would write more stuff like this. Catchy as f**k.

One Of These Days by Matthew E White
'Big Inner' is an album that I will return to for a long time, songs like this are the reason. A special talent.

Big Love by Matthew E White
The song that introduced me to the talented Mr White. Echoes of the Beta Band. A real groove.

Stroh 80 by Casual Sex
The debut single by the Glasgow band is pure pop with echoes of Orange Juice and Franz Ferdinand. A delight.

It's You by Chris Grant
Grant's album is stunning, it really hasn't received the press it deserves. Just listen to this for a love song. Beautiful.

24 Hours (Night Time My Time)
My friend Craig introduced me to Sky Ferreira last year and to this song just last week. It is brilliant pop music that you can just escape into. '24-hours we still have time, 24-hours you're still mine' the chorus flows superbly.

The Perfect Life by Moby with Wayne Coyne
Moby cutting about with Wayne from Flaming Lips dressed up as Mexicans on LSD? That caught my attention. The song is brilliant too!

Kingdom of Wires by Kevin Harper
The title track of Kevin's debut solo album is brilliant. Building slowly and movingly into crashing guitars. Link HERE as for some reason I can't post the video on here.

I Love It by Icona Pop featuring Charlie XCX
Released in 2012 but I only discovered it this year and it was everywhere. Absolutely incredible joyful punky pop.

Thursday by Pet Shop Boys
Pet Shop Boys are still creating brilliant pop music.

Best Song Ever - One Direction
OK take the piss if you like, but I think this is brilliant pop music. A 2013 update on The Beatles 'I Saw Her Standing There' taking in a bit of The Who along the way, just full of great hooks. And how many songwriters kicked themselves for not nabbing that title first?

Fade Into You by J Mascis
J Mascis from Dinosaur Jr covers this classic from Mazzy Star. Suitably dreamy and gorgeous.

We Sink by Chvrches
My fave from their debut album. Pop with a raw edge.

Baby Blue by Badfinger
OK this was released a long time ago, but it received the kiss of life courtesy of the series finale of Breaking Bad - perfect choice.

You've Got Me Wondering Now - Parquet Courts
I'm squeezing another one in for Parquet Courts as this is just brilliant, raw and catchy sounding like they just don't give a fuck. 'I thought I knew a thing or two about the blues but you've got me wondering now.'