Friday, 19 February 2010

Live Review - Sophie's Pigeons, Julia and the Doogans & Panda Su

Sophie's Pigeons, Julia and the Doogans & Panda Su
Brel, Glasgow
17th February 2010

First of all, I hate buses. Two of the swines failed to turn up at the times they were meant to, leaving me running way late for this gig.
So it was that I turned up slightly harassed, in a bad mood, and having missed the start of Sophie's Pigeons. Not the best of starts then.
Thankfully it only took about a minute for Sophie's Pigeons to lift my mood. A three piece from around Manchester, aside from a quick listen on MySpace when I knew I was going to be seeing them they were totally unknown to me before tonight, Sophie plays piano and sings, Beckie plays saxophone and melodica, while Phillip hits things. Poppy and infectious as heck, any annoyance at mythical buses was soon blown away. There's a danger when there's a girl sat at a keyboard things can go all Tori Amos, but while I could certainly hear an element of Tori in Sophie's vocals the band's wit and apparent determination to have fun at all costs meant there was never any risk of things turning too po-faced or annoying. While attempts at audience participation had mixed results - only Ian from Have Fun At Dinner joined in with the singing, showing off an impressive falsetto in the process - nothing else fell flat. Frankly I find it hard to do anything but enjoy and admire a band that both pull of a cover version of Shakira's She Wolf, and end with a song called Boring Fucking Cunts. Sophie's Pigeons turned out to be one of those unexpected delights that make getting out to gigs worthwhile.

It is hardly a secret that I have much love for Julia and the Doogans, so it'll come as no surprise that they only let down from them was that Julia's oven wasn't working, so there were no cupcakes on the go. Luckily between stuffing myself with cakes when seeing the band on Sunday and filling myself with pancakes on Tuesday cake wasn't very high on my list of priorities.
Playing with a full band tonight - for a while at least, band members dropped off throughout the set until only Julia was left - Julia and the Doogans remain as good as they have been every time I've seen them. Warm, gentle, lovely songs, a great live band, and beautiful vocals, once again. It wasn't all plain sailing though, it almost went horribly, horribly wrong, when for the penultimate song Julia decided to do a cover version. Coldplay's The Scientist. I wasn't alone in getting a little worried at that point, clearly I wasn't the only person in the room with a dislike for Coldplay, the identity of the person behind me and her audible reaction shall remain secret. Thankfully, pleasantly, surprisingly, Julia didn't just get away with the cover but with just her and her guitar she - in the words of every judge on every TV talent show on the planet - made The Scientist her own, and rescued it from my hatred.

Panda Su is another that I've hardly shied away from admiring in the past either, but this set was without doubt the best I've seen from Su and her band. The songs were always good, and past gigs were great, but there was something about the band tonight that really just clicked perfectly. Jonnie Common was in attendance for his now customary banjo playing cameo on Eric Is Dead, a song which does genuinely send a pleasant tingle up my spine, and the band showed of a bit of a reworking of Moviegoer on the night. I always seem to struggle to get across how good Panda Su is, how much I like the songs, and how bloody good Su & her band sound live, so just take it from me that they are a fantastic band, with beautiful songs delivered from the heart. There wasn't a dull moment, nor a lull, in the set just a great girl with her guitar, her two backing men hitting or blowing into various things, and a whole lot of greatness.
Su teased us that one of her songs might soon be used in a television program - a dirty one in her words, go ahead and make your own guesses - and Panda Su is more than worthy of the exposure something like that would bring. I must admit when Su said they'd supported Lost Prophets I thought she was joking, but she wasn't. I'm not sure what Lost Prophets fans would make of her, but if they had any sense they embraced that rather strange line up, and took our favourite Panda into their hearts.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Machar Granite: Lost In History - Album Review

Machar Granite are an Edinburgh based four piece who released Lost In History, their debut album, way back in the middle of 2009. Fair to say this isn't the most timely of reviews then, but better late than never.
One of a wave of bands who proudly go for a folky sound, it would be easy for Machar Granite to get lost in the shuffle. Thankfully on the evidence of Lost In History there should be enough to make them stand out from the weaker of the pack.
The album kicks off with a couple of rockier tracks which although perfectly good don't resonate the way the later, gentler tracks do. Round about the middle the album hits it's strongest points, with Out Goes a Light and Heart of My Exsistence being real standouts for me. From the middle on the album remains strong. There's an air of Prevention era De Rosa about the songs at time, but it's never overpowering, just a similar kind of feeling. Considering my opinions on De Rosa, it's no bad thing.
It's not a perfect album, but it is a good one. It takes a little bit to find it's feet for me, but when it does it tarts to leave an impression. There's certainly more than enough here to merit having a listen at least, and hopefully Machar Granite will remain a band worth paying attention to in future.

Lost In History can be purchased directly from the band through their website (link below) and downloaded from iTunes (there's a link below for that too.)
Machar Granite - Lost In History
Machar Granite: Website - MySpace

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Hinterland 2010 Takes Shape

On the 3rd of April the Hinterland Festival makes a return to Glasgow and a good bit of the line-up has now been announced. Taking place from 5pm till 3am, currently on the bill are:

Mystery Jets
British Sea Power
Jeffrey Lewis
Friendly Fires (DJ)
Hot Chip's Joe Goddard (DJ Set)
Hot Club de Paris
Wave Pictures
GrecoRoman Soundsystem
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs
Fenech Soler
Johnny Foreigner
French Wives
Kitty the Lion
Midnight Lion
Cooly G
Marcus Nasty
Eclair FiFi
Art installations by Konx Om Pax & Christina Kernohan
Make Sparks
Little Yellow Ukuleles
Pulled Apart By Horses
Panda Su
The Boy Who Trapped the Sun
The Darien Venture
The Kays Lavelle

Announced so far as venues are The Arches, Sub Club, MacSorleys, The Admiral, Pivo Pivo & Rockers. That's a nice cluster of city centre venues, with a very short between between most of them.

Early bird tickets are currently on sale, for only £10. There's more than enough bands on the bill already - I count ten right away that I like a lot - to make that price sound like quite a bargain.

For more info and tickets swing by the Hinterland website.

The Unwinding Hours - Album Review

First of all, a confession: I never liked Aereogramme all that much when they were around. It wasn't until they split that I listened to them more and discovered what I'd been missing out on. Bad timing on my part there. With that in mind, when I heard that former members Craig B. and Iain Cook were working on new material together, I was immediately interested. When the first fruits of their efforts - album opener Knut - appeared I was glad that expectations hadn't been dashed. Knut was, is, a wonderful song that had me hungry for more.

Seeing The Unwinding Hours on their debut live performance at the Chemikal Underground Celtic Connections gig at the end of January removed any doubt that Knut would be a one off. Although it was a short set, it was clear that The Unwinding Hours had a selection of beauties ready for release. Now the debut album has come along and the songs sound just as good on record as they did live.

The Unwinding Hours don't just sound like Aereogramme did. Of course there's a lot of common ground in the styles and a lot of familiar dynamics remain, but this album sound more focused, more mature. The songs are grand but never overblown, ambitious and beautifully arranged, switching from delicate to loud in the blink of an eye.

It's only February, so saying this is the best album released so far this year doesn't mean much. The album does however lay down a strong benchmark for everything that has to follow it for the next eleven months.Welcome back Craig and Iain.

The self titled debut album by The Unwinding Hours is out now, from all good record shops online and off. Probably some bad ones too. Unless you live in the US, in which case you have to wait till March 16th, sorry. There's a gig in Stereo in Glasgow on March 5th. If anyone fancies buying me a ticket for that I'll love them forever, cause I'm a bit skint.

The Unwinding Hours: Website - MySpace

Monday, 15 February 2010

This Week's Thing

There wasn't one of these last week because I couldn't find any releases out. No albums, no singles, nothing. If I somehow managed to miss something, do let me know. There was a ton of gigs, but other places do gig guides better than me, so I skipped it.

This week however there's some stuff out, including two I highly recommend.


The Unwinding Hours release their self titled debut album today. It is probably the best album I've heard so far this year, although admittedly we are only half way through February. If you liked Aereogramme you'll want a copy of this. If you didn't you should still have a listen. Available all the usual places, including the Chemikal Underground shop - link over on the right - on Chemikal Underground, funnily enough. Should have a full review of this up later too. While I'm at it - and I earn no commission from saying nice things or linking to it - it's well worth using the Chemikal Underground shop. User friendly, loads to buy, physical products and digital downloads and incredibly fast at getting your order to you, at least in my experience.

Sticking with debut releases, The Kays Lavelle release their first single, The Hours. Released by Wiseblood Industries, it's available as a free download from the Wiseblood website. We do like The Kays Lavelle a lot around here, and the single goes a long to way showing why.

More debuts, of a sort, come from The Wildhouse. Two releases from them today, the albums Hyenas and Poet:Saint. Both albums are re-issues, but also mark the first album releases by 17 Seconds Records.

Paul Vickers and the Leg have a new album - Itchy Grumble - out today. Released by SL Records you can get a CD from the SL website, and a download is available on Bandcamp.

As usual tell me if there's anything I've missed.

Err, like this one that I forgot to mention. Thanks Tim for the reminder!
The description for this one makes my head hurt a bit, and I can't quite remember where I am after reading it, so I'll just reproduce the whole thing - "Glasgow/Barcelona based French/Argentinian electropunk male female duo's ravey anthem to love remixed by Essex born ex-Londoner aging punk producer in Scotland in a warped dubstep/skipstep style"
In short it's a singe by A-Lix, remixed by Tim London. Listen to it on the MySpace and if you like it buy it off iTunes.

Good gravy there's a lot of gigs on this week. I might not see the inside of my house much. Usual deal: other, better gig guides are available, but here's my standouts.

Panda Su is off on a tour at the moment with Sophie's Pigeons. Pop along to either MySpace page for the full list of dates. For the purposes of the round up note that they'll be in Dundee on Tuesday and Glasgow on Wednesday. I know nothing about Sophie's Pigeons, but Panda Su is a big favourite around here.
Julia and the Doogans happen to be on the bill at that gig on Wednesday too. It's in Brel, you should go. If you are away to Edinburgh to see Frightened Rabbit that night we'll forgive you though. On Thursday Julia and the Doogans are playing in Ayr too. On Sunday they played Pivo Pivo in Glasgow - well two of them did, it was a stripped back line up of just Julia and Alan - and were, as they have been every time I've seen them so far, fab. Great cakes too. If you go along on Wednesday for no other reason, do it to stop me eating all their cakes.

Alternatively on Wednesday, you could pop along to Box to see The Red Show. I caught them last week at the Classic Grand. There were some technical hitches that affected them, but there was still plenty to enjoy, and they are on the list to see again soon.

Thursday sees a gig celebrating Glasgow Podcart's first birthday. To the delight of those who complained that their birthday gig was to feature English and Northern Irish bands, the line up has changed from that original announcement. Playing at The 13th Note on Thursday for the party are Little Yellow Ukuleles, Campfires In Winter and St Deluxe. It's free. If you can find something to complain about there, you might never be happy.

Friday has the fourth Elba Sessions Presents gig. The line up has King James, Craig Davidson, Maple Leaves, and a special acoustic set from Cuddly Shark. I know nothing of the first two, and love the second two. I've not seen any of them live so far, which is why you'll find me in Glasgow's Liquid Ship on Friday for this.

That's three days of gigs with at least one band on that I've loved round these parts. If anyone dares to put on something excellent on Saturday I'll have to assume that they hate me and are trying to kill me.

There's not much time for rest though, as Sunday has Meursault playing Nice 'n Sleazy, with Xiu Xiu and North Atlantic Oscillation. That's likely to be a gig too far for me, but we'll see.

There's bound to be other stuff on this week too, but those four are the ones that will be entertaining - and probably knackering - me this week.