Monday 21 April 2014

I Am An Island - Fatherson

Last week Fatherson, an independent/DIY band from Ayrshire in Scotland, released their debut album I Am An Island. It shot into the top reaches of the iTunes alternative album chart during the first week, but then Fatherson have been steadily building a fanbase and reputation in Scotland for a number of years.

The question is now whether they can replicate that in other parts of the UK and beyond.

I have to admit that their album has surprised me. Whilst it is pretty easy to predict when the riffs and beats are coming in on a lot of the songs, it is a good solid debut, including a few gems - An Island, Cat Stevens, Dust and the secret track I Am that highlight the promise of the band. 

I Am An Island is a showcase for singer-songwriter Ross Leighton, backed superbly by Chris Beltran, Marc Strain and Greg Walkinshaw. 

The album opener is one of a few real gems for me. An Island opens with Ross Leighton singing over a picked guitar and prolonged synth chord. Leighton's voice rises and falls, it immediately sounds open, true and honest. The lyrics match the voice. The rest of the band kick in at 2-minutes and then there is a huge 'woah-oa-oh-oh' chorus that would be perfect for a festival with Leighton singing 'I Am An Island' for all his worth over the top of it. A great start.

I find myself liking some bits of Hometown but not others. 

I Like Knowing is the lead single from the album. Crashing in with a riff that screams American College rock, it slows down (Fatherson like the loud/quiet/loud or quiet/loud/quiet formula), builds and then goes a little Futurheads (remember them?) at the end with an 'Oh no, oh no, oh no' refrain. 

I don't know where we are going
Could hazard a guess but I like not knowing

Cat Stevens is a real highlight for me, starting off with a picked guitar riff over a gentle synth chord. The band are in no rush, the structure, song and production gel superbly. Huge guitar riffs kick in at a minute and a half, backed by a cello, before it all slows down in a glorious manner at 2-minutes. What follows is just tremendous; backing vocals that fans can sing-a-long with, a huge and truly epic ending

Music fans will note the nod to Cat Stevens who has the song Father and Son.

Fatherson are managed by Bruce Craigie who also manages Idlewild and there is more than a hint of Idlewild about Lights and Mine for Me. The playing is tight and the guitars sound fantastic throughout the album; a great mix of light, fragile and gentle and then warm, brash, loud and proud at others.

From Idlewild to Biffy Clyro, fellow Ayrshire boys who have an uncanny knack for taking a formula and making it work. Half the Things does that 'quiet, loud, quiet, loud, hammer a refrain home' formula.  You can definitely imagine this going down well at festivals.

I'm on an island that no-one ever visits
I'm wasting all my time here
I'm never getting finished

Dust is another standout (for me anyway). Ross Leighton's voice is beautiful and he shows it off in many different ways throughout the album. Dust strips things down, just Ross and electric guitar. It is rather beautiful. Leighton's voice rises with ease as he strums, bashes and picks at his guitar.

James is big and bold, telling of moving home, making and losing friends. Fatherson may work to the quiet/loud formula quite regularly but they are capable of doing it very well. Many songs sound like they could be 3 or 4 different songs stitched together. In reality, Leighton and his band just have the ability (songwriting and musical) to do what they want and when they want.

James is a fine example of this, the minute (or so) of the song from 1 minute 30 seconds is mellow and gorgeous, picking pace and adding piano and then slowing right down again. It then goes absolutely massive and then breaks into another festival friendly refrain.

So go home, sober up
Take the weight off your feet and just chill

Kiteers doesn't quite work - at least not for me.

The album closes with Foreign Waters then there is a minute or so of silence before a secret track entitled I Am emerges, like Dust, it is just Leighton backed by guitar. Like Dust, it is a highlight.

Fatherson play their biggest headline show to date this Saturday coming (April 26th) at The Arches in Glasgow. Look out for them at Scottish festivals (and hopefully beyond) through the summer.

Monday 14 April 2014

Sweet Discontent by Tuff Love

Tuff Love is a name that caught my eye in a few places recently. Signed to Lost Map Records, they will be releasing the Junk EP on 5th May. Sweet Discontent is the single from the EP and it is an excellent introduction to the trio.

Pure and raw, Sweet Discontent reminds me of a lot of lo-fi indie guitar records from my youth, as does the video. I find this very refreshing in an age where songs can be deconstructed, over produced and polished to within an inch of their lives.

Sweet Discontent is the glorious sound of a band enjoying themselves; from the sound of the band finding riffs and chords and giggling over the start, to the infectious guitar riff that is played over furious bass and drums that begins when the song kicks in.

The vocals are slightly detached and dreamy, the lyrics tell it all.

When we first met you offered up your soul
And you saw depth where there was a black hole
And what you saw
Was more than I had ever dared to hope for

Tuff Love play the Old Hairdressers on Friday 2nd May.

Sunday 6 April 2014

Odludek by Jimi Goodwin

As a fan of Doves I was intrigued by the release of Odludek, on Heavenly Records, by their singer Jimi Goodwin. The press release to declare his intentions pressed all the right buttons for me.

If there was a starting point for the record, it was the idea of an old school mixtape. Anyone lucky enough to receive a handcrafted tape from Jimi over the years will testify to his diverse, catholic tastes and Odludek is a heady mystic brew steeped in Northern Soul, Southern gospel, hip-hop, psychedelica, ambient, krautrock, dub, funk and acid house. “I wanted it to be like that crazy mixtape you’d make your mate which had everything from Duke Ellington to some mad hip-hop track you’d just heard, and back again,” says Jimi. “That’s how I listen to music, and I wanted to make an album that reflected that. The last thing I wanted it to sound like was some geezer who was in a band. I don’t like being pegged.”

Terracotta Warrior opens the album in a blaze of noise. Goodwin's voice is sounding as sweet as ever, the bass during the breaks is gloriously funky. The psychedelia box is definitely ticked.

Didsbury Girl slows things down with some more funky bass. A beautiful guitar riff is picked out over a lulling synth chord. This is very Doves-y - no real surprises…but it does retain an element of funkiness and some of the stuff going on over the top is brilliant.

You're the only girl I see, you're the only girl that's free

This is definitely an album to listen to on headphones.

Goodwin stays true to his words as Live Like A River comes in on an Acid House trip. I look forward to seeing how Goodwin recreates the album live when he plays at King Tut's next month.

It cuts short to Hope which is a real stand out; all bluegrass and gospel, really suiting Jimi's voice. The playing and backing vocals are stunning throughout the album, as is the production.

In my dream I'm swimming towards the shoreline

The intriguingly titled Man v Dingo is next, squelchy Acid House synths lead to stabbing Northern Soul horns and beats over white noise; this is a real melting pot of Goodwin's tastes. This is the craziest song on the album; dipping in and out of styles and changing beats is as Goodwin delivers stream of consciousness lyrics.

Keep My Soul In Song is lulling, gentle and all kinds of beautiful that just lets you float along. The strings are lovely.

Oh Whiskey was the lead single from the album, understandably so. It is Goodwin at his best; a sweet sing song melancholy voice that just lifts you up. Things slow down just before the 3-minute mark before it just goes all kinds of dreamy gorgeousness. Absolutely stunning.

Oh whiskey give me patience
Oh you used to bring the truth the truth
You used to give me empathy
How come you just give me the blues
Please don't give me the blues

The Ghost of the Empties builds beautifully as well. When Goodwin hits the mark he really does hit the mark and thankfully he does through most of the album.

Lonely At The Drop picks up the pace before Goodwin collaborates with long term friend Guy Garvey from blow on Panic Tree which closes the album. It is 2 minutes and 37 seconds long; building from an acoustic number into something resembling an old music hall number.

Overall I really like this album with Hope, The Ghost of the Empties, Keep My Soul In Song and Oh Whiskey being my favourites.

Saturday 5 April 2014

Oasis at the Glasgow Tramway 1994

20-years ago I took the week off work to attend some gigs and workshops that made up Glasgow Sound City. I was 18-years old and a musical sponge, soaking up all kinds of stuff from the 60's through to the current day.

One band in particular had caught my attention and imagination - Oasis. They really did arrive at the perfect time for me.

Oasis had released a few demos on cassette giveaways through the NME and Select Magazine and were being talked in hushed tones about being a cross between Happy Mondays and the Sex Pistols. The Stone Roses had also been mentioned in reviews/features and when I saw them on The Word in March that year I was hooked.

When the line-up for Sound City was announced, Oasis were going to be supporting label mates The Boo Radleys (riding high with their acclaimed Giant Steps LP) at a venue called the Tramway. I had to go.

I still have my ticket - now framed (above) in a collage that has The Charlatans ticket from Sound City underneath. Hole were due to be supporting them, but they cancelled after Cobain's failed suicide attempt in Paris, and were replaced by Pulp. Later that week I would be attending The Pastels at King Tut's when sadly news filtered through that this time Kurt had been successful. It was quite a week for a young music fan.

The Tramway is a brilliant arts venue in the Southside of Glasgow and I had no real way of getting there and back by public transport from the backwaters of Carluke where I am originally from. So I remember driving in at the weekend on a 'test run' with my Dad!

I was in bright and early. I always was back in the day, I wanted to capture the build up to all gigs and see all the support bands - especially this one!

Jo Whiley was floating around looking rather gorgeous as the set was going out on Radio 1. I could see Oasis lurking about backstage.

From memory, Liam had a cool blue and white jumper on (possibly the one in this picture but I may be mistaken) and was shaking a star shaped tambourine.

The crowd was pretty sparse with most folk standing at the back or out at the bar before the Boo Radleys came on. I wasn't cool and was right down the front where I met some lads I used to go to school with.

Oasis strolled on confidently, were introduced by Jo Whiley, and they launched into Shaker Maker, throwing in lines from the New Seekers I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing for good measure. They looked like a real gang.

Digsy's Dinner was next and the band blasted through it. It's not their greatest song but I always enjoyed it live and the line 'these could be the best days of our lives' was pretty apt for an 18-year old at the time.

Live Forever is one of their greatest songs though. Astonishing. There was nothing else out that spoke to me as much as Oasis did at the time. I was looking for a band to fall in love with, a front man to model myself on and songs to sing from the bottom of my heart. I had found them.

I knew Cigarettes and Alcohol as a demo version had been given away on an NME tape. The T-Rex rip off riff and the shake of Liam's tambourine built into a powerful wall of noise that just blew people away.

You can wait for a lifetime, to spend your days in the sunshiiiiinnnneee
You might as well do the white line
Cause when it comes on top
You gotta make it happen
You gotta make it happen

Supersonic ended the short set. Tony McCarroll's drums were simple but punk pure, Noel's guitar sounded sensational.

I bought an Oasis poster and t-shirt after the gig. I followed them intensely for the next few years. That night at the Tramway led to some incredible nights out and life long friendships. I think the bands that you fall in love with in your teens are the bands that last with you through your life, for Oasis to come along when I was 18 was just perfect.

Oasis - Tramway setlist
Shaker Maker
Digsy's Dinner
Live Forever
Cigarettes and Alcohol