Wednesday, 25 November 2009

EP Review: Sparrow and the Workshop - Into The Wild

Monday saw the release of the second EP by Glasgow based but hailing from all over the place three piece Sparrow and the Workshop. Since I really enjoyed their last EP (or are the mini albums? I'm not sure) Sleight of Hand, I picked up the new one too and now, somewhat obviously, I'm going to write about it a wee bit.

First of all Into The Wild, like Sleight of Hand was, is really good.
The band have a real chemistry together, which is obvious right from the off on opener You’ve Got It All. Jill O'Sullivan has a really powerful, but never overpowering, country tinged voice which is nicely complimented by Gregor Donaldson's vocal contribution.
The songs are dramatic, melodic and unpredictable, often taking twists and turns in the instrumentation that you never saw coming. Add all the parts together and you get something quite thrilling

Swam Like Sharks is probably my favourite of the songs on offer here, starting out gently, before morphing into something altogether rougher. It's only a slight nudge away from being all out metal at times, and all the better for it. There's not a bad song in the bunch, and enough variety across the seven tracks to show that Sparrow and the Workshop won't be going short of ideas any time soon.

As is befitting of a band with members hailing from America and Wales, as well as a Scot, there's no chance of Sparrow and the Workshop ever being tagged as just another Scottish band. Their sound is very distinctive, and stands out a mile from the also rans. They are one of those bands who bring to mind plenty of other songs and other bands, without ever sounding like anyone but themselves.

Into The Wild more than delivers on the promise of Sleight of Hand. Now, can we have something longer next time please?

Sparrow and the Workshop MySpace

Into The Wild is available as a download now from all the usual places. A physical release is due to follow on November 30th. Sparrow and the Workshop have a few gigs coming up, including a freebie in Glasgow for The Mill. Check their MySpace for full dates.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

SXSW Announce Scottish Showcase Bands

South By Southwest have announced a list of their showcase acts for the 2010 festival.
Scottish bands playing include:
Broken Records
Frightened Rabbit
The Law
Tommy Reilly
Trembling Bells
Twin Atlantic
The View

Bit of a mixed bag, frankly...

Loch Lomond/The Builders and the Butchers - Split 12"

As promised, I'm attacking my inbox and doing all that stuff I was meant to do ages ago, but forgot about.

I'm not going to claim this is a review, because I don't have an awful lot to say about it, but I will throw in a wee bit.
Before that i should really tell you what I'm talking about first, shouldn't I? Well, it's a slightly unusual release in that it's a vinyl split 12". It's hard to make a 12" CD or download after all, although if you buy the 12" you will get a CDr thrown in, which is handy for folk like me that don't have working record players anymore.
The bands involved are Loch Lomond & The Builders and the Butchers, each contributing four songs. Neither of them are Scottish (although with that name Loch Lomond can at least claim a connection), hailing instead from Portland over in the good ole US of A. Why am I covering the release then? Well firstly because I'm allowed to write about stuff that isn't Scottish if I want, I'm not under a trade embargo you cheeky git, but mostly because the 12" is released over here by Song, by Toad Records. So there.

Both bands featured here are new to me, but after hearing this I'll be doing a bit of hunting down of their other stuff now.
Loch Lomond's songs are both gentle and lovely yet also at times a bit creepy and sinister. In that way they remind me a bit of Lambchop, even though the two sound nothing like each other.
The Builders and the Butchers are a bit rowdier, but the songs are just as good. Their first songs throws a bit of a mariachi flair into proceedings, before Vampire Flair, which you can sample below, goes off in another direction, almost putting me in mind of The Pogues.
Any release that can make me think of both Lambchop and The Pogues is a sure fire winner in my book.

The 12" has a very pretty drawing by Matthew of Song, by Toad on the front too.

Loch Lomond - A Field Report
The Builders & the Butchers - Vampire Lake

Buy from Song, by Toad Records

Album Review - Cuddly Shark

First of all, Cuddly Shark is a brilliant name, therefor to pull off such a name, your band has to be pretty great too. Good thing that Cuddly Shark manage it then. I've had this album a few weeks, and it that time it's had plenty of listens, but as is the way with me it has taken this long for me to get round to writing up a review.

Cuddly Shark caught my attention earlier this year with a trio of very promising singles, some tracks from them make a reappearance here on the album, so I was rather looking forwards to hearing this self titled debut album.

Right from the off the album grabs you and yells in your face, opening track Bowl of Cherries is all thrashy, shouty vocals and even - hurrah - hand claps. I'm a sucker for hand claps, ever since Kenickie released Come Out 2Nite.
From there on in the album is packed with fantastic riffs, razor sharp lyrics and most of all a massive sense of humour, at time the lyrics are so tongue in cheek it's amazing anyone can actually sing them.
Influences are worn of sleeves, but Cuddly Shark have so many different influences that throwing them all together brings out something quite special.
It isn't all manic riffs and shouted vocals either, the band switch things up often enough to keep things from getting stale, showing on Whiteoaks that they can be tender as well as tongue in cheek, and throwing in a cover of old country song Boney Fingers for good measure.

Along with all that this album contains both my favourite celebrity diss of the year with "Jamie Foxx on Later With Jools Holland", and my favourite sweary moment of the year on last single "The Sheriff of Aspen Bay".
AND there's an old fashioned hidden track at the end.

Brilliant stuff quite frankly. Cuddly Shark are clearly having a fantastic time on this record, and so am I.
The album might not have been out for long, but it has already forced it's way into my favourites of 2009.

As a wee sampler here's Cuddly Jim, which was a b-side to The Sheriff of Aspen Bay single. I'm picking this instead of something from the album because (a) it is fab, and the album tracks can be heard on MySpace and (b) it's got my name in it, obviously.

Download Cuddly Shark - Cuddly Jim

Cuddly Shark MySpace - Website
Buy the album here.

Monday, 23 November 2009

This Week's Thing

You know the deal with this post by now. Records out this week, a few gigs I like the look of and so on. It's essentially my shopping list.

Starting off with a freebie, Steve Mason (The Beta Band/King Biscuit Time) has a single out, called All Come Down. You can buy it, but it's also available as a free download here.
Sparrow and the Workshop follow up last week's download single with a new EP, Into the Wild. Digital release is today, CDs will be out next week.
eMusic has a reissue of Malcolm Middleton's Waxing Gibbous, which includes his "girl band" covers of The Saturdays, Girls Aloud, Ladyhawke and Joan Osbourne. The extra songs are also available without the album, on the Girl Band Pop Songs EP.
Some Scottish wummin off the telly has an album out too I think. Haven't heard much about it, don't expect it to shift many copies.

I'm not expecting to be out this week, in a desperate attempt to save money, so I haven't paid a whole lot of attention. Still, there's a couple that are tempting me.
On Thursday Make Sparks launch their new EP with a gig at Bar Bloc. Support comes from Little Yellow Ukuleles I mostly missed Make Sparks when they played Define Pop 2, so I might try and catch them this time.
Pin Up Nights takes place on Friday and it is having it's 6th birthday to boot. Playing live are The Dirty Cuts, Always Me, Me, Me as well as a pair of Aye Tunes favourites in We're Only Afraid of NYC and Mitchell Museum.
Our other good looking gig this week is on Sunday. The Second Hand Marching Band, Benni Hemm Hemm, theapplesofenergy and Meursault are playing at Stereo. Looks like a good one.
If you are in Dundee or thereabouts on Sunday, why not go along to the latest Manic Pop Thrills Presents night? There's more bands Aye Tunes love playing, like Kid Canaveral and Panda Su.
Also at the weekend there's all that Homecoming stuff going on. Tickets should be easy to get, if you fancy it. I'm still half expecting it to be downsized into taking place at the train station next to the SECC.

On The Blog:
This week I'll attempt to pick out anything in my email I've been meaning to cover but have forgotten about, and possibly catch up on some reviews. There's a vague plan to revive the old A-Z that fell apart back in May, and sometime over the next few weeks I'll be writing about some of my favourite releases of the year. You can make your own Al Megrahi jokes regarding that last one.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Single Review - eagleowl: Sleep The Winter

Somewhat luckily for me I came to the eagleowl party quite late. While all the people that have loved them since their last release, For The Thoughts You Never Had, have had to wait ages for a follow up I only got that EP recently, when the band offered it as a free download (which you can find here) so my wait for new material hasn't been long at all.

Even without the long wait, I was still terribly excited when the new single popped up in my inbox a bit ahead of release.

First reaction? Pretty much just "wow". Followed a few listens later by "this is bloody gorgeous".
I've listened to the single quite a few times since last night, and those two reactions haven't changed. These songs are bloody gorgeous.
On A-Side Sleep The Winter Bart's cracked voice is complimented perfectly by Clarissa's sweet, gentle tones. Likewise guitar and strings work perfectly together. What starts off dark and broody soon becomes warm and uplifting around halfway through, all courtesy of just a few simple changes.
B-Side Laughter is no less gorgeous. Again it keeps things simple, there's no histrionics, no showing off, just a great song.

Your one word review? Back to that first impression then. Wow. You'll struggle to find a more perfect seasonal release.
Now, like all the cool kids who picked up the first EP way back last year, I'm eagerly awaiting more new material from eagleowl. With a second EP due next year, hopefully the wait won't be too long...

The Sleep The Winter 7” single will be launched with a show at The Bowery (2 Roxburgh Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9SU) on Friday, December 11th. Doors open at 7.30, entry is £5, and early arrival is strongly advised, so’s not to miss the amazing special guests.
From December 14th the single will be available from select independent record stores, and to order via and You also can listen to and buy it below.

eagleowl MySpace

<a href="">Sleep the Winter by eagleowl</a>


As you might have noticed I got bored and repainted.
I don't think I broke anything this time, let me know if I did.