Friday, 4 March 2011

Album Review: The Great I Am - Real Capital

Well now, here's an album that will send those that like their music to fit into a category easily into conniptions. For the rest of us though, it is a wee belter.

Real Capital is the debut album by The Great I Am, AKA Graham Crossan, who called on a few of his friends, including members of Dirty Keys, Punch and The Apostles and Miaoux Miaoux to put it all together.

The presence of Julian Corrie (Miaoux Miaoux) is particularly noticeable, with him lending all sorts of electro bits and bobs to the odd numbered tracks. The even numbered tracks? Well, that's where things get really interesting. The beats and synths are left aside on these, on some occasions for a more full band treatment, on others for a stripped back guitar and vocals take.
Each style has it charms, and all are very well executed. Le Quark stands out as a highlight on the electro side, while Do Your Best, Pal is a good old fashioned rollicking, foot stomper, with fiddles adding a gorgeous folky feel. Vocally The Great I Am isn't the strongest, but enthusiasm, warmth and charisma comes across in spades, which is always more pleasing to my ears than being technically excellent.

Real Capital is all over the place musically, in the best way possible. The dramatic switch in styles from song to song works well and more importantly feels natural when it could have come across as gimmicky. Clocking in at around 20 minutes in length there's no risk of Real Capital outstaying its welcome either.

People who like their music to fit into a genre pigeonhole might be left scratching their head, but those of us who just like our music good, with a side helping of fun and a lack of pretensions, regardless of style are in for a bit of a treat.

Real Capital by The Great I Am is out now. Listen to and buy it on Bandcamp.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Gig Review: Let's Buy Happiness, Trapped In Kansas, So Many Animal Calls, Two Zebras

Let's Buy Happiness, Trapped In Kansas, So Many Animal Calls, Two Zebras.
The Captain's Rest, Glasgow.
1st March 2011.

Another weeknight, another beer, another basement in a pub in Glasgow. Welcome to my life.
First up tonight is Two Zebras. There's a slight sense of disappointment that there are no zebras on show at all, never mind two of them. At least that doesn't mean we run the risk of breaking any animal cruelty laws. Two Zebras is instead one man - Danny- his guitar and laptop. Most of the music comes from the laptop, with Danny playing and singing along to something he made earlier. There's always a risk that when you watch someone play along to a backing track that the attention can wander, or worse leave you with the feeling that you could have just have listened to a record instead. Thankfully Danny has more than enough energy, charisma and between song chatter that he keeps us in the crowd engaged throughout and stops the mind from wandering. An especially good thing for me, since my mind is far too small to be allowed to wander off unsupervised. Decent songs certainly help keep you interested too, and Two Zebras supply enough lo-fi poppy fun in half an hour to keep me happy.

So Many Animal Calls don't have it particularly easy tonight. A bit of a delayed start due to a wonky mic and a singer with a dodgy throat don't seem to take their toll too much though as SMAC rattle into their set. I often feel like I'm "too old" for So Many Animal Calls, especially since I don't much care for a lot of bands that do similar things as them, but there's a certain something about them that never fails to grab me. They are a charming wee bunch, with minimal egos and a nice line, intentional or not, in self deprecation. When a guitar string goes there's a meek apology for having no banter to fill the gap as guitars are swapped rather than any tantrums or freak outs, though this also results in me being name-checked from the stage with a plea to not be mean to them in my review, putting my impartiality in the bin. I give them a lot of credit for recovering from the technical hitches as the pick up where they left off without missing a beat, when I've seen countless bands lose their composure and confidence entirely when things go against them, and fall apart completely. Material from their forthcoming new EP sounds strong, as does the earlier songs with We Sleep Back To Back still standing out as a highlight. The addition of a forth member to the band recently makes a difference from the earlier gigs I caught when they played as a three piece, giving the band a bigger, fuller sound. For a band arguably having an off night they still played a blinder. So Many Animal Calls might have asked me to be nice, but so long as they keep delivering the goods they don't need to worry.

Trapped In Kansas are a band I've not seen in a while, which might have been a bit of a bonus. Last couple of times I caught Trapped In Kansas things suffered a little bit from over familiarity, through no fault of their own. With new material from a recently completed EP sitting alongside some old favourites I'm given a reminder of what drew me to them in the first place. Being technically excellent often leads to a slightly clinical performance, but there's no hint of that from Trapped In Kansas tonight, with energy and warmth added to the musical quality. There's also an eagerness to get loud enough to shake the crowd into motion, brushing off the "math rock" tag for just plain old rock. Older songs sound fresh, while the new ones make an instant impression. This is probably as good as I've seen Trapped In Kansas, and a nice refresher of what the band are capable of when they are on their game.

Let's Buy Happiness are pretty new to my ears, having only given them a quick listen previously. When they swing into action first impressions are good, and nothing that follows changes those impressions. There's something slightly old fashioned, and right up my street, about the jangly guitars and sweet vocals of Let's Buy Happiness. Their songs are packed with hooks and melodies that wrap themselves around you, before wiggling into your brain and/or heart. They too seem like a charming bunch of people, with a mixture of sweetness and cheekiness adding a little something extra to their songs. In short, lovely stuff. I might be late to the game on Let's Buy Happiness, but they did their job tonight by sending me home a fan, with a smile on my face.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

News & Bits

Since the regular Sunday gig guide was written and posted much earlier than normal, and since I have an inbox full of press releases and things that likely won't get dealt with elsewhere, here's a wee round of up some news and new releases. I also spend too much time each week trawling Bandcamp for new things, so I might as well report back on what I've came across this week. Exciting, no? Don't answer that.

The other day Debutant surprised a few of us by suddenly releasing his long promised album We Stand Alone Together. Even better, the album has been made available for free. You can download it over at Bandcamp. Less surprisingly, the album is really good.

Spaghetti Anywhere slipped out a free EP at the start of the week, which I forgot to mention. You can get hold of Arrochar here. You should too, we really like them.

Arran Arctic has a new album out too. In My Hands is a DIY effort put together entirely by Arran, available on CD from his website, or a name your price download from Bandcamp.

Black International release their debut album, In Debt, in a few weeks, and will be heading off on tour to launch it. Tour dates are:
4th March 2011- Other Rooms, Newcastle w/ Waiting for Winter & the Prison Library
5th March 2011- Doghouse, Dundee w/ the Heebie Jeebies
11th March 2011- Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh w/ Verse Metrics & Little Yellow Ukuleles
12th March 2011- Admiral Bar, Glasgow w/ Male Pattern Band, Ex-Men & Rollor
16th March 2011- West St. Live, Sheffield w/ Death Rays of Ardilla & the JC Albyn Complex
17th March 2011- Ram & Shackle, Manchester
19th March 2011- Market Bar, Inverness
25th March 2011- Vintner's Parrot, Worthing w/ Vacant Empire & Matron
15th April 2011- Labour Club, Northampton w/ the Sailplanes & Blood Visions
16th April 2011- Upstairs at the Garage, London w/ Verse Metrics, Lightguides & the Sailplanes
The albumis available to pre-order from the band's Bandcamp page, and I'll have a review of it this week.

Le Reno Amps are gearing up to release a new album too. Appetite is released on April 18th, with a limited number of copies coming with a digital EP of six songs that didn't quite make the album. Le Reno Amps will be playing a few pre-release gigs at the following times and places:
10th March - Drummonds, Aberdeen w/ The Scottish Enlightenment & Steven Milne.
11th March - Thunderton, Elgin (An Audience With Le Reno Amps)
12th March - Hootanannys, Inverness (An Audience with Le Reno Amps)
Appetite is available to pre-order now on Bandcamp, and you'll get a download of it right now if you buy. We bought our copy just before writing up this blog post, cause we are eager.

In other album pre-order news, You Already Know unleash their second album, Petrol Money, on the same day as Le Reno Amps, April 18th. There's a number of pre-order options available on Bandcamp, all of which will get you an immediate download of the (brilliant) album.

Not long after one half of Bottle of Evil released a new, free download album (Evil Hand's Huldra, available here) they've now released an instrumental version of their self titled debut album, also for free. You can get that here. The original version made it on to the Aye Tunes favourites of last year, and is still available from Bandcamp and all the usual online places.

The next release from the Eli and Oz label comes from Open Swimmer. Sugar Bowl is released tomorrow, but you can buy it from Bandcamp now. You can also get your hands on a free download of a remix of the title trick by Miaoux Miaoux here.

In the "records I really need to review" column, Real Capital by The Great I Am came out last week. The album is excellent, and available for a minimum price of £1. You can find it here.

Not ones for resting, apparently, How Garbo Died have released their third set of new tracks. A Collection of Things Better Left Unsaid is probably the best stuff I've heard from them yet, and available for free here.

Dananananakroyd have released a teaser of their upcoming second album. E Numbers is available free here. They've also announced their first Glasgow gig in a while, at The Ivy on June 3rd. Tickets are available here, and going fast.

Sonny Marvello are looking to get together some money for their next release, and to do so have put together the 100 Club. Here's the details - membership to the Sonny Marvello 100 Club will entail:
A free download of "Who Needs Somebody".
An exclusive, strictly limited edition acoustic mini-album. This will never be made available online, there will only ever be 100 copies made. The album will be sent out in April.
Access to a special secret show later in the year – only 100 club members will be invited.
An exclusive limited edition Sonny Marvello 100 club pin badge
A permanent mention of gratitude and thanks on the Sonny Marvello website.
You can sign up for the 100 Club here.

Birdhead will be releasing their first EP on March 16th. Available digitally and as a limited run of only 50 CDs, the EP is released with a gig Edinburgh's Electric Circus on that date. Don't worry, I'll remind you in the relevant gig guide too.

There are probably a million other things happening that I've forgotten about, but I think that's enough reading for you for one Sunday afternoon.

This Week's Gigs: 1st - 6th March

How did it get to be March already? I've failed to do anything I planned to in February. Oops.
It is, as usual, a hefty week for gigs. Before I get into it though, a whiny little request: if you have a Facebook page for yourself/your band, and at the rate that MySpace is becoming utterly useless you probably should have, then you can make life a little easier by getting yourself a custom page URL. You only need to have about 20 fans to get one I think, and it is so much less of a pain for me to link to. Also, if you only have a MySpcae page then every Sunday when that blooming thing freezes my browser I will have a lot of hate for you. Ta!


Well, that's a pretty sweet way to kick off a month and no mistake, with not a duff band on the bill. This is Trapped In Kansas's first Glasgow gig of the year and to celebrate they are giving away an exclusive new track at it, only available to those that attend the gig.

Miaoux Miaoux. Mono. Free.
If you visit Aye Tunes and don't love Miaoux Miaoux by now we clearly can't be soul mates, sorry.

Flats, Aspen Tide, Rosewood. King Tut's. (Tickets)

This Silent Forest launch their new single. If I get myself organised there'll be more on the blog about the single before the gig takes place.

I dare say a significant slice of the crowd will be there for the supports, rather than Wild Palms.
PAWS launch their new EP, with a gig line-up I'd bite my hand off to put on myself.
Another Ides of Toad gig. These are coming thick and fast at the moment, which considering the first was the day after the first Aye Tunes Presents gig means I am seriously slacking, and need to put something on soon.

Speaking of Aye Tunes Presents, Trapped Mice who played at that first one are launching their second EP. I just might have to make another trip to Edinburgh for this, which is pretty much as high praise as a line up can get from me.

Mocker, The Tenemants, Vendors, The Sneaky Russians, Catie Pilgrim. The Courtyard, West Nile St. 1pm to 6pm. £2