Friday, 23 December 2011

My top 36 songs of 2011

Some of my fave songs from the year in no particular order;

1. Go Outside - Cults

2. Take Forever - Japanese Popstars (Featuring Robert Smith)
3. Belongings- Clock Opera
4. Gabriel - Joe Goddard featuring Valentina
5. Chairs - Big Deal
6. Tiny Little Sparks - Sonny Marvello
7. Video Games (Mr Fingers Mix) - Lana Del Rey

8. AKA What A Life - Noel Gallagher
9. Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall - Coldplay
10. Love In My Mind - Nevada Base
11. Hey Sound - Miaoux Miaoux
12. Love Is Dead - Vigo Thieves
13. Germany - Moth and the Mirror
14. Never Alone - Jonny
15. Need You Now - Cut Copy
16. Lippy Kids - Elbow
17. John Candy - Remember Remember
18. Heart in your Heartbreak - The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
19. Jenna - Futuristic Retro Champions
20. Mona Lisa - Atlas Sounds
21. My Mistakes - Eleanor Friedberger
22. Feel the Morning - Stevie Jackson
23. Daddy Was A Mod In The RAF - The Store Keys
24. California - EMA
25. Scale It Back - DJ Shadow featuring Little Dragon
26. R E A L L O V E - Factory Floor
27. Pumped Up Kicks - Foster the People
28. Piledriver Waltz - Alex Turner
29. Lofty Ambitions - Discopolis
30. I Love You But I Don't Know What To Say - Ryan Adams
31. Beauty - The Shivers
32. Cats Eyes - Cats Eyes
33. Heaven - Emeli Sands
34. Fire Went Out - Sonny Marvello
35. Montezuma - Fleet Foxes
36. How Deep Is Your Love? - The Rapture

Monday, 19 December 2011

Aidan John Moffat - (Oh What A Night ) Before Christmas

Every now and then a tune comes along that makes you smile, laugh a little, dance and sing....even  make you go back to the old days of taping something off the radio and then pressing pause to make sure you can note the lyrics.

Ladies and gents, Aidan John Moffat of Arab Strap fame has come up with the Christmas goodies with the release of his Christmas EP Oh! What A Not So Silent Night Before Christmas.

i was only alerted to this bandcamp release via The Sunday Times Culture magazine - always good for 'hottest downloads.' It is a self release via bandcamp. If only a record label had released this and put some money into a video, it would be amazing.

The lead track is amazing enough, Aidan singing over a sample of the Frankie Valli classic 'Oh What A Night', staple of many a fine wedding. 

To take such a recogniseable piano riff and tune and take it to somewhere completely different...and I mean COMPLETELY different, takes some doing. It is a piece of piss for Moffat though. This guy is prolific, his imagination, lifestyle and way with words lead to a seemingly endless supply of songs.

Listen to this, please. It is total genius as Aidan is woken by a pissed up Santa and 

Some sample lyrics.....

the children pretended to sleep in their beds, 
with visions of consoles and phones in their heads
while Mum was in latex flexing her lip, a little abuse always helps us both kip

his cheeks were quite ruddy, his nose like a cherry
his eyes were all bloodshot and he reeked of cheap sherry

he has a spectacular massive beer belly
like a homeless cartoon of the santa's on the telly

Santa passes out and Aidan has to sort out the presents himself.

Was it all a dream, an alcoholic stupour? Well leave that to your own imagination.

The rest of the EP? 'Santa Clause is Coming to Town' is a throwaway, the cover of 'Last Christmas' by Wham! is much better, Aidan going for it karaoke style and you believe him.

The EP closes with the title track, a spoken word version of track 1.

My Christmas song of the year, if only this got the press thaT Tim Wheeler and Emmy the Great are getting.


Friday, 16 December 2011

Five for Friday 16/12/11

This weeks 5 for Friday may well be one of the strongest yet.

We kick off with 'Sugar Man' by Sixto Rodriguez, a track I discovered on a compilation album by the DJ David Holmes, a man with fantastic taste in music.

David Holmes also creates his own music and this is probably my favourite track of his, although '69 Police' runs it close.

This reminds me of a crazy week in 2001/2 when Lynn and I went to about 5 gigs in the space of a week, including a couple of really wild ones that went on to all night parties. I think David Holmes was at the QMU on the Thursday, Basement Jaxx was on the Friday night at the Barrowlands and that led to a party and me getting home at 7am, spending the day in bed and getting up at 5pm going to McChuills, sinking a few pints and then going to see the Stereo MC's. I burnt myself out.

I also remember queueing for the cloakroom at the Barras and someone started the chant 'Where's My (Ma) Jacket?' to the tune of 'Where's Your Head At?'

This is a beast of a track, so powerful in a club or live and the Jaxx team sure knew how to put on a show. Here is a live version from Glastonbury.

We end  with another act I caught at the Barrowlands in 2001, Orbital. This is the quite magnificent 'Chime'.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

My albums of 2011

In no particular order (although starting with my sisters band) here are a list of 17 albums that have sound tracked my year. I'm not going to pick my favourite as I think it has been an outstanding year for music and at various times through the course of the last 12-months, all of the albums listed have been a favourite. 

There are still albums from 2011 that I still intend to buy - FOUND, White Heath and Jonnie Common to name a few. Ridiculous considering I was standing next to Jonnie Common at his merch stall a few weeks ago enthusing about his music!

There is a real mix of music below, dig in, each album features a video to one of my favourite tracks from it. 

Love and Lemonade - Futuristic Retro Champions
Futuristic Retro Champions brought an end to almost 5-years of joyous pop music with this staggering 26-track compilation of their releases, demos, and unreleased tracks. Taking influences from the girl bands of the 60's, through to bang up to date electro pop, this is a gem of an album. Only £7.99 on itunes!

Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub) and Euros Child (Gorky's) combine their songwriting talents with gorgeous harmonies and a sense of humour to create a wonderful album. Only £3.49 on itunes!!!! 'Never Alone' is also one of my songs of the year, absolutely gorgeous.

One of my albums of the year and their gig at Sneaky Petes in Edinburgh as part of their launch tour was one of my gigs of the year. CAS provide something genuinely different from anything else going on in the Scottish Music Scene. Anneke's vocals and twisted melodies are a joy. Bear (below) is a prime example of CAS at their best, layering voclas, melodies and sounds to create something truly special.

Build A Rocket Boys - Elbow
Guy Garvey and co returned with more big tunes, reflections on love and life and a warmth that few other bands can even dream about. Whilst not having anything as anthemic as One Day Like This, not many albums released in 2011 can boast two openers like The Birds and Lippy Kids. I love the lyric from the latter, reminiscing of youth 'walking on walls, stealing booze and hour long hungry kisses.'

Ryan Adams - Ashes and Fire
What can you say about Ryan Adams that truly captures his genius? He really is a one off. This is a stunning album that I can imagine myself going back to time and time again to really appreciate the depth of it. Yet in saying that, it is immediately accessible. You need to listen to the album to get the finished version of the song below, but this video is amazing.

Cat's Eyes - Cat's Eyes
Faris Badwan's main band The Horror's turned many heads this year with the release of their 'Skying' album. I liked the reviews, bought the album, but I just can't get into it at all....yet. Faris is clearly a creative guy though and this is his side project with Rachel Zeffira. Bonding over a love of The Shrangri-La's and Phil Spector, they have produced a cracking album. 30-minutes long, well worth investigating. This title track is more Sonic Youth than Spector, I love the groove. 

This could easily be classed as a mini-album, however regardless of the length of the album, the quality is undisputed. Absolutely flawless in terms of the music and production. The lyrics and vocals are pretty incredible, especially on headphones. Gorgeous.

Cut Copy - Zonoscope
I got Cut Copy's debut album back in 2004 and although I haven't bought every album since then, they are certainly a band I have continued to follow. With Zonoscope, their third album, they have reached new heights. There are the synths, the beats, the bleeps, the hooks, the harmonies and all the stardust you associate with Cut's just done better. 'Where I'm Going' is pure pop with elements of the Beach Boys, while 'Need You Now' is Cut Copy at their MDMA sprinkled best, taking you on a trip and then releasing the beats. The closing number 'Sun God' lasts for a truly epic 15-minutes.

One of my favourite guitarists released his debut solo album. Stories and reflections from his youth are told with humour and brilliant playing. Try Me is pure Kinksy rock, while the lovely Feel the Morning closes the album in style.

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
Fleet Foxes debut album was remarkable, it just seemed so perfectly formed. Could they repeat  it? Thankfully they could. They are fast becoming one of my favourite bands; great playing, harmonies to die for and beautiful lyrics and lead vocals.

Bon Iver - Bon Iver
Along with Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver made a mockery of the 'difficult second album syndrome' with the release of his eponymous album earlier this year. He didn't retreat to a log cabin this time, instead he added layer upon layer to produce stunning results. I wish I had gone to see him in Edinburgh.

Player Piano - Memory Tapes
I loved Memory Tapes Seek Magic album from a couple of years ago. Whilst I didn't fall for this in quite the same way, it did soundtrack quite a few summer days. Sadly there isn't any form of video at all on youtube for 'No. 79' which is just pure summer pop. There is for 'Sun Hits' which is just as good.

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
Surely his best album since Pavement? It starts with the brilliant 'Tigers' with catchy guitars and hooks and Malkmus rhyming stuff with Birkenstocks. The Jicks playing throughout is tremendous, the production is crisp and clean (by Beck), Malkmus sounds like he is really enjoying himself. 

The Babies - The Babies
I popped into Mono in Glasgow at the start of November and got talking to Dep about his albums of the year and he said that this was probably his favourite. I respect his taste, so I bought it and it is brilliant. Really raw pop. Much of it sounds like it could be live, there is a great feel to it as a result. 'All Things Come To Pass' is one of my highlights, great guitar and an almost nursery rhyme like melody. Just over 2 minutes long.

Adam Stafford - Build A Harbour Immediately
I've caught Adam live quite a few times over the last couple of years and enjoyed his live performances immensley. I've seen him in the small confines of the Captain's Rest, looping and layering his vocals to astonishing effect, on stage at Platform in Easterhouse supporting Jonny and more recently at his album launch at Stereo where he played with guests. Adam has an amazing ear for melodies and is incredibly creative with sound. I like this album so much that I bought it on ltd editon yellow casette as well as on CD. Check Adam's own track-by-track guide at the PEENKO blog. 'Shot Down You Summer Wannabe's' is my personal favourite, sadly that isn't on YouTube but this highlights Adam's talents.

Remember Remember - The Quickening
There are some bands that I keep hearing about, seeing their name and I never get round to checking them out. Remember Remember were one of those bands and how I have kicked myself for not checking them out sooner. They tick so many boxes for me; cool front man, diverse band members, experimental sounds with a pop edge..... They blew me away when they played the Detour night at the Science Centre and I can't wait to see them live again. 'The Quickening is an outstanding record that offers something new with every listen. 'John Candy' is a song that got me immediately on first listen and I never tire of it.

Noel Gallagher and the Flying Birds
Oasis ended in a mess. Liam Gallagher has become a caricature of himself, while Noel seems intent on highlighting that he was the chief all along. It's a sad state of affairs when two brothers are going to court and arguing through the media on a weekly basis (all publicity is good publicity as they say). On to the music though, Noel has produced a good album. Opener 'Everybody's On The Run' is widescreen, a huge song with brilliant strings. 'AKA What A Life' is a brilliant single.  

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Nevada Base at the Captain's Rest, Glasgow, 10/12/11

Nevada Base surfaced from months of studio time at the weekend with a Christmas show at Captain’s Rest. The band who released their debut single ‘Love In My Mind’ earlier in the year now have over and albums worth of material recorded and intend to release their music in various forms over the next year leading up to an album.

You can get new song ‘An Avenue’ as a free download by signing up to the Nevada Base mailing list at

But back to Saturday night. Support came from DJ Gerry Blythe (New Life) who played at the start, between bands and afterwards. I hadn’t met Gerry before but he came across as a lovely guy with a fantastic taste in music and I asked him about a few of the tracks he played. I will DEFINITELY be buying the soundtrack to Drive very soon.

The fist band were Machines In Heaven and they played a sublime set with singer and guitarist Graham Crossan conjuring up some sweet melodies, vocally and via his guitar. Check out their track Sub-E, dedicated to the bass speakers in the Sub Club HERE.

Next up were Crash Club from Kilwinning whom Nevada Base pinched their young drummer from, so it was only right that they should offer them a support slot in return! Crash Club picked up the pace from Machines In Heaven and went at it full pelt for 25-minutes. The front man had a swagger and a sneer that captivated many, whilst the bass player kept the groove that allowed guitars, synths and effects to go mental. The crowd loved it.

Nevada Base strode confidently on to the stage and went straight into old favourite ‘Electric Touch’. There were smiles all round as the crowd danced and sang along. Old songs mixed easily with new; ‘Crisis’ was a highlight, as was the sublime ‘Kisses Her Bullets’ with an extended instrumental intro and the hook ‘the stars, the stars, she shoots at the stars.’

The addition of Calum Muir (below) on drums has really beefed up the live sound, the fact he is a handsome and cheeky young blonde 21-year old won’t escape many females attention.

One new song had a reggae/dub feel at the start before morphing off into synth led euphoria and ‘Love In My Mind’ and ‘If I’m Late’ went down well as always. There was no encore, the band eager to look ahead to 2012 and leaving their fans eager for the next gig.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Serious Drugs - A film about the BMX Bandits

Yesterday I headed along to the Glasgow Film Theatre for the world premiere of ‘Serious Drugs’, a film/documentary about the cult guitar pop band, The BMX Bandits.

The producer is a guy called Jim Burns who discovered the music of the Bandits during a period of very heavy depression in his life. The revealing Q & A at the end of the film saw Jim really open up about this, describing a time when he was ‘emotionally numb’, he couldn’t feel anything good or bad. Yet somehow, the music of the BMX Bandits broke through the ‘numbness’ and reached Jim.

So Jim set about trying to discover ‘who or what are the BMX Bandits’, ‘what makes a BMX Bandit’ and ‘why can the songs of the BMX Bandits reach me when I am so down?’
The answer comes in the form of the leader of the BMX Bandits, Duglas T Stewart. The film, an incredibly personal project for Burns who funded the film himself, was shot over a 4-year period following Stewart and his fellow Bandits, interspersed with rare footage and photos from the Bandits career.

The Q&A at the end was relatively short, but it revealed a great deal. Burns had never picked up a camera before, let alone attempt (or even think about) making a film. That innocence probably helped to make the film as special as it is. It is clear from the start that there are no barriers between the band and Jim, he is accepted. Indeed Jim did say at the end of the Q&A that this is ‘the closest he will ever get to be in a band.’

To many people, the BMX Bandits are essentially Duglas T Stewart and he is naturally the focus for the film. However, throughout the film Duglas is very keen to highlight the importance of his fellow Bandits and how important they are to allow him to create the music he hears in his head.

There is a great bit in the film where Duglas is creating a very colourful and neat BMX Bandits family tree. Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub), Eugene Kelly (The Vaselines, Eugenius), Sean Dickson (Soup Dragons), Francis MacDonald (Teenage Fanclub) and David Scott (The Pearlfishers) are just some of the names that have contributed to the 25-years of music by the Bandits. Duglas may be the lead Bandit, but he realises the importance of his fellow Bandits.

The film takes us on a 25-year rollercoaster, discovering Stewart’s ability and desire to perform at an early age. Duglas reveals how he used to be taken around the classes at school to perform impressions and how he was particularly good at Frank Spencer! Early pictures of the Bandits show them busking in Sauchiehall Street with Duglas’ performance generating large crowds. There is also grainy footage from someone’s living room and back garden, everyone is always smiling, a feature that continues to this present day, regardless of who is involved with the band.

Humour is evident throughout the film, whether it is direct from Duglas, or via the producer. Nice words and reviews from the likes of Kurt Cobain, Sounds and the NME are shown directly before reviews that pan the Bandits. There is a hilarious interview where someone asks a young Duglas about being a sex symbol, some good stuff from Alan McGee and Duglas is on top form throughout, whether comic or candid.

It is all relatively good fun until the release of the single ‘Serious Drugs’. The film suddenly changes from being about a fun guitar pop band to commenting on depression. Stewart reveals how he was on medication when he met a new girlfriend and she told him she didn’t think he needed it. 3-weeks later she was saying that his medication could be stronger, hence the line ‘I said I don’t think I can take it much longer, she said ‘maybe your tablet should be stronger, get some serious drugs’, I need some serious love.’

I originally anticipated Jim Burns being shown in the film and talking about his own depression. Instead he allows Duglas to reflect on his own, which in turn reflects on Jim’s.

My personal highlight from the film is probably the scene where Duglas is in his kitchen making Cheese & Toast, a very un rock’n’roll (and therefore a very BMX Bandits) thing to do. It is late at night and Duglas can’t sleep. He has been warned that cheese can bring nightmares, yet he finds that it brings him good dreams, so he continues to make cheese and toast at night. Duglas pours his heart into his songs, he lays himself bare. So he writes a song called ‘Cheese & Toast’. The song is on the 2006 album ‘My Chain’, the album that got Jim Burns into the BMX Bandits.

The last two Bandits albums have really seen them develop and mature. The lovingly endearing ramshackle guitar pop of debut single ‘E102’ has grown into brilliant pop, but in a more Beach Boys (Brian Wilson is a hero for Stewart) vein. The layers, harmonies and musical ability of the band has developed (as you would imagine over 25-years) considerably. Despite this, many of the media still view BMX Bandits as some kind of joke group. Something referred to a few times throughout the film.

I can only hope that this film may readdress that. Stewart writes songs about love, life and hope. Simple, yet powerful, funny at times, moving at others.

The last two albums have seen the addition of Rachel Allison (vocals) and David Scott (keys and many other things) and they seem to have helped inspire Stewart to some of his best work to date. Not that he can’t rely on others to help when it comes to the Bandits.

Norman Blake, Stewart’s great friend, features throughout the film and towards the end he likens being a BMX Bandit to being an Army Reserve; ‘you could get called up any time.’ Indeed Blake features on stage at the Bandits 25th anniversary show at Oran Mor in January 2011, a few songs are included in the film.

So how would you summarise Serious Drugs? Well, it is kind of like the Bandits; There is more than a splash of humour and fun, it is one man’s vision – yet with the help of others, there are many layers to it and ultimately it may prove to have a cult audience.

I was tempted to ask Jim at the Q&A at the end what he intends to do with the film now. However I opted not to. He is taking a well deserved holiday and he has seen the result of 4-years of work with his favourite band displayed on the big screen in his favourite cinema surrounded by family, friends and fans.

I do hope that Jim finds the time and energy to take this further – would BBC Scotland/BBC3 show the film? Could he take it to some independent film festivals?

Anyway, Jim has captured the spirit of one of Scotland's most endearing bands and artists. I look forward to hearing what Duglas and the Bandits come up with next.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The Lemonheads at Oran Mor 05/12/11

Last night I got to see one of my all time favourite bands in an absolutely brilliant venue. 

I've only previously been to the upstairs venue at Oran Mor for a wedding. I had no idea it was used for live music. So it was a real pleasant surprise to hear that The Lemonheads were playing there, rather than the usual downstairs venue.

I met my mates Lorna and Colin at 7.30pm and we decided to go straight in. I was meant to be going with my wife and my sister, but the weather and illness prevented that, so thanks to Lorna and Colin for stepping in. I was suffering from a bit of the 'man flu' myself.

A couple of pints and a good catch up at the bar meant that the support act passed by without us noticing. The gig was a sell-out, but thankfully there was room to move and we skirted down the right hand side of the venue to get near the front.

Evan Dando strolled on to the stage at 9.15pm and launched straight into the glorious 'Being Around', a brilliant playful and humourous love song,

He was joined by a bassist and drummer and they literally tore through the 'It's A Shame About Ray' album with little between song chat, often going straight from one song into another, possibly as they were a little late on stage.

The songs have stood the test of time since the albums release in 1992. Dando's poster boy looks have also lasted, despite years of drug abuse.

'Rockin' Stroll' opened proceedings with Dando's guitar sounding fantastic through his twin Marshall Amps. It was straight into 'Confetti', the chiming, simple guitar riff underpinning the lyrics about love coming to an end.

The album was played in order, so after the title track we had my own personal favourite song off the album 'Rudderless'. The guitar sounded fantastic again, it is often hard to believe it is just Dando on stage, playing rythm and lead with ease.

All the way down to the lake
(Found the lake was wet)
How much more could I take?
(Better yet)
Walked back home to my place
(Tired of getting high)
Guess I don't wanna die

'My Drug Buddy' was another highlight, slowing things down with Dando telling the tale of scoring drugs and making friends, before 'The Turnpike Down' upped the pace, with the band then flying through the pure guitar pop of 'Bit Part' and 'Alison's Starting To Happen'.

'Hannah and Gabi' slowed it down again, a gorgeous dreamy song.

Got me watching your eyes, watching things go by outside
Out the window of a train

'Kitchen' and 'Ceiling Fan Hit My Spoon' prompted a bit of pogo-ing in places, before Dando ended with the crowd singing-a-long to 'Frank Mills'. He wisely opted not to play 'Mrs Robinson', despite it being the song/cover that broke the band.

The band left the stage to allow Dando to take some acclaim and play acoustic; 'Different Drum' was a particular highlight. The second part of the set was largely lifted from the equally good 'Come On Feel The Lemonheads' album; 'The Great Big No', 'It's About Time', 'Into Your Arms', 'Big Gay Heart' and 'Style' all got an airing. 'Hospital', 'If I Could Talk I'd Tell You' and 'Stove' were brilliant before Dando ended with the lovely 'Outdoor Type'.

This was a great show. I hope more bands use this fabulous venue.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Seven for Sunday

That crazy, busy, mad time of the year has started and I missed my Five for Friday post this week, so here are 7 for Sunday.

We kick start with the lofi but glorious indie guitar pop of The Pastels. This is my favourite song of their's.

We then go a bit mod psych with the original Nirvana and 'Rainbow Chaser'.

The Zombies with 'She's Not There'. Did the 90's Nirvana watch this and use the poses and suits for their 'In Bloom' video?

Sticking to 60's cuts, this is The Move with the brilliant 'I Can Hear The Grass Grow'. Then we have cuts from the Small Faces, The Kinks and The Beatles.