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Thursday, April 17, 2014Farewell, Bastard Mountain

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On 12th May we will be releasing the gorgeous Farewell, Bastard Mountain on 12″ vinyl and download. You can pre-order your copy here, if you’re feeling nice and helpful (this is always a big help for us in terms of cash-flow, in case you’re swithering).

Bastard Mountain are: Pete Harvey & Neil Pennycook from Meursault, Jill O’Sullivan from Sparrow & the Workshop, Rob St. John from eagleowl & Meursault, Rory Sutherland from Broken Records & Reuben Taylor formerly of James Yorkston & the Athletes.

Farewell, Bastard Mountain was recorded in October 2012. Jill, Neil and Rob each brought three songs, one to sing themselves, and one each for the other two vocalists to sing. Over the course of a week the group wrote and recorded music to go with these new versions, the result of which is Farewell, Bastard Mountain.

It’s a record full of drones and textures, but not as dark and oppressive as that might lead you to imagine. Instead, the semi-improvised nature, live recording and playfulness of the album gives the record a real lightness and sense of unity, to the extent that the vinyl has been pressed without any track breaks at all, as it all just fits seamlessly together as a single piece of work.

This approach to collaborative music was inspired by the Cold Seeds album we did several years ago with Animal Magic Tricks, King Creosote and Meursault. That album was more ad-hoc, there was no real plan for how it was going to happen, the music was almost entirely improvised and it all sort of fell together by happy accident.

This time around we wanted to reproduce that level of experimentation and excitement, but once the musicians got together it turned into something more like a conventional band. They may not have had much time, but they still rehearsed everything a little and then recorded the bulk of each song live, playing off each other to mitigate the uncertainty of trying to record a song they’d only learned a couple of hours ago.

The results are absolutely beautiful, with new takes on older songs as well as new and previously unheard tunes by all three main songwriters, as well as a first ever officially released song by Rory Sutherland which we all liked so much we’re pushing him to write a solo record as soon as possible.

Tracks written by:
Meadow Ghosts & Palisade: Rob St. John, Drone Armatrading: Rory Sutherland, The Mill, New Boy & Pissing on Bonfires: Neil Pennycook, Swam Like Sharks, Old Habits & My Crime: Jill O’Sullivan, Something On Your Mind: Dino Valenti.

Album launch shows:
London – Shhh! Festival, Sat. 24th May. Tickets here.
Edinburgh – Queen’s Hall, Thu. 29th May. Tickets here.

Friday, April 11, 2014Record Store Day 2014 and the Vinyl Revival

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Record Store Day 2014 is next Saturday, as you probably know, and although we don’t have a formal RSD release the new Virgin of the Birds album is out pretty much now and if you want to buy something Toadly then that’s the one.

It’s understated, and Virgin of the Birds stuff often takes a while to settle in, so I don’t expect it to be an immediate hit but nevertheless this is an absolutely excellent album – one which on first listen immediately had me going back to the start to listen again, which is a rather fantastic thing to feel when you release records for a living.

As well as the first single Every Revelry (see video below) there are exclusive plays of two album tracks Nine Sisters (which contains the best saxophone solo of all time) and The Serpent Plume on this excellent interview Jon did with Dani Charlton from Amazing Radio.

You can buy the album from Monorail or LoveMusic in Glasgow, or from Vox Box Music or Coda here in Edinburgh, or if you are more electronically inclined, from our website here.

It’s only out on 12″ vinyl (or digitally of course), not CD, and I suppose it looks a lot like we’re becoming a vinyl-only label these days, which in a sense we are, but it’s not a deliberate or strategic decision actually, just circumstances.

We can really only afford to release most album in one format, either CD or vinyl, not both, as we simply can’t afford the extra manufacturing costs. With albums like this one and Adam Stafford’s which are both co-released with North American labels, we pretty much have to press vinyl as apparently North American customers have all but given up on CD. Or at least that’s what I am told by my US-based hipster spies.

Now, I love vinyl, don’t get me wrong, and I was at the recording of Vic Galloway‘s vinyl special for BBC Radio Scotland earlier this week where they talked about many of the things I love about the format: the tactility, the artwork, the ritual of playing records, the physical embodiment of your love of music, and all the other stuff.

What didn’t come up, though, were any of my reservations about either the format itself or the much-vaunted revival it has experienced of late.

Revived it may be, but vinyl still only accounts for a tiny number of album sales. A huge percentage increase in sales is easy to achieve when the numbers are low, even if the absolute number of sales is still small.

For larger labels I strongly suspect the future is still in the effective monetisation of streaming and on-demand services, rather than vinyl sales, and for smaller ones vinyl is expensive to press and simply doesn’t generate very much profit on short runs. I love the stuff, as I said, but I am not sure it’s quite the industry saviour which the press paints it as.

Headlines need to be written simplistically and sensationally of course, so they are mostly bollocks when it comes to sensitive issues like this, but the whole ‘vinyl revival’ line reminds me of the mindless and utterly wrong statement that ‘all the money is in touring, nowadays’, which was repeated so often that it became common knowledge, despite being complete balls.

The relatively recent revival of interest in building vinyl collections is a good thing, of course, but perhaps more because it points towards an admittedly small but nevertheless important group of people for whom a strong relationship with music is still a core part of their personality, rather than implying any specific importance of vinyl itself. Some people collect plants, some buy every cooking implement going and create incredible meals, and others want to build a large, beautiful collection of the music that they love, and to surround themselves with that collection. It’s nice.

Is vinyl particularly central to that, as a format, though? I don’t know. It’s bolder and more visual than other formats, so I guess it’s the most obvious candidate. But (whisper it) a good CD gives you better audio fidelity, and I have seen some truly lovely CD and cassette releases too.

There is a definite possibility that a significant aspect of the vinyl revival is simply a passing fashion, no more significant than the retro-fetishism of Super 8 film, Instagram, drinking from Mason Jars, and an awful lot of hipster clothing fashions. It could easily, in other words, go away as fast as it has seemed to appear.

I don’t like to think like this, because I love my record collection, and I love making albums as well. But I do sometimes think the vinyl revival needs to be approached a little more critically than it is, rather than people pointing at 200% rises in sales from tiny to very small numbers, and endlessly parroting the dubious claim to superior audio fidelity.

I still welcome it, of course, and I will inevitably spend far more money than I can actually afford on RSD, but I still think a healthy degree of scepticism is needed, because these simplistic narratives are almost never right, and in the music industry at the moment we need to keep open minds about the future rather than relying on jumping from one version of ‘The Answer!’ to the next.

You should totally still buy the Virgin of the Birds album though. Seriously.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014Song, by Toad Records Sampler 2014

a1625803646_2 Yep, it’s that time of year again – the time when I try and parlay your loyalty and support into something altogether more cynical and tawdry: email addresses for our mailing list.

Well, that’s not entirely fair. Actually, you do get plenty in return for either your email address or modest donation: ten fantastic songs from our upcoming releases in 2014.

This includes an exclusive new track from Sparrow and the Workshop, a sneak peak at our next Split 12″ and a song from a fantastic collaborative album between David Thomas Broughton and the Juice vocal ensemble, due out in September.

So happy, erm, I don’t know, is it Easter soon? Or Chinese New Year? Well happy them, then, and don’t say we never give you anything.

Song, by Toad Records Sampler on Bandcamp.

2. Ilona, You Should Still be My Vampire Attendant by Virgin of the Birds (4.39) 
A slick pop classic from Abandoned Love, part of our Five Years/Five Records anniversary box set. We’re also releasing the next album by the band, who are from Seattle: Winter Seeds, out on 7th April.

3. Photosynth (Split 12” version) by Jonnie Common (4.58) 
This is an off-cut from our third Split 12” album, which we recorded up at the Insider Festival in June last year. The others on the split are David Thomas Broughton, Sparrow and the Workshop and Siobhan Wilson.,

4. Sex Acts by Animal Magic Tricks (3.10) 
Another from our Five Years/ Five Records box set, this is from Brighton-based Animal Magic Tricks debut album Sex Acts. Frances’ last appearance on one of our releases was with Meursault and King Creosote on the Cold Seeds album from 2009.

6. Yorkshire Fog by David Thomas Broughton & Juice (3.54) 
Vocal ensemble Juice and experimental pop maverick David Thomas Broughton will be releasing a collaborative album with us in September 2014.

7. Ghosts by Plastic Animals (4.47) 
After their brilliant contribution to our second Split 12”, released last year alongside the Beer vs. Records project, we are currently working on Plastic Animals’ debut album. This song will be on there, but this version is an old one.

8. Dear God by Siobhan Wilson (5.08) 
Another gorgeous song from the Glasgow-based singer-songwriter, this is also from the third Split 12” recorded up at the Insider Festival.

10. Dirt & the Roots (2014 version) by Meursault (3.24) 
Another tune from the Five Years/ Five Records box set, this is from Kissing on Bonfires by Meursault which is a complete, start-to-finish re-record of their classic 2008 debut album.

11. In Heaven by Naked (4.29) 
The b-side to the Edinburgh band’s debut single Lie Follows Lie, which we released last year, with their follow-up effort Tell Me What is Not Yet Said due for release in May.

12. Switches by The Leg (3.27) 
From The Leg’s gloriously abrasive 2008(ish) album What Happened to the Shrunken Tina Turner, this is as gentle a song as there probably is on the album. Another from our box set.

14. One Brush by Sparrow & the Workshop (2.22)
And finally, we finished with an exclusive new tune by Sparrow and the Workshop. This was an off-cut from their brilliant album Murderopolis, which we released last year. The band are also on the Insider Split 12”, out in June.

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