Album Review: Kinnie The Explorer


Kinnie The Explorer -‘Kinnie The Explorer.’ (Alcohol Records)

Bournemouth’s Kinnie The Explorer exist in an interesting point. The influences here are primarily psychedelic (rather than psychedelica, trust me, there IS a difference), meeting a point where shoegazing and prog-rock all meet and collide.

Still with me? The above might sound rather hard to digest, but the sound that KTE produce is not. Over the course of their ten track debut album, the overall effect is actually rather gentle. I don’t know what they’re like live-but on record the feeling is of a band who are avant-rock, but not in the way that that normally suggests raw-as garage punk.

And the effect is a rather pleasant, dreamy one. A few listens to this record later, this has actually rather grown on me. It’s cleancut in sound -but that shouldn’t be taken as meaning that they are without any edge… an interesting listen and a challenge of your expectations.


Kinnie The Explorer is out now on Alcohol Records.

Album Review: David Byrne & St. Vincent


David Byrne & St. Vincent ‘Love This Giant.’ (4AD)

If it surprises you that David Byrne and St. Vincent have collaborated on an album together, then it shouldn’t. Both of them, after all, have demonstrated (in the case of Byrne over thirty-five years!) that they are both capable of writing pop songs, whilst also having an urge to experiment and produce something new.

And they’ve managed to do that on Love This Giant. There’s what the press release -very accurately -describes an an ‘explosive brass band’ which provides the backing for much of the album, along with a drum machine. The result is that it seems like a very funky jazz sort of backing, not in a musically self-indulgent way, either…in a way that seems to be unmistakeably the two protagonists.

This is definitely an album born out of leftfield, and it won’t appeal to those simply expecting numbers in the vein of ‘Actor Out Of Work’ or ‘And She Was.’ But if you’ve heard ‘Who,’ the album’s opening track, it gives an idea of what the album’s spirit is like. You may not find you love this album…but it’s sure as heck worth spending some time with.

Love This Giant is out now on 4AD.

New from Meursault…


I’ve long supported Meursault via the blog and, of course, their label, Song, By Toad Records. Meursault released their third album, Something For The Weakened a couple of months ago. The second single from the album ‘Dull Spark’ was one of the tracks I picked up on in the review -and like most great singles, it is:

a)available to buy on 7″
b)has a b-side which makes it worth buying the package
c)has a rather cool video.

Now, I’m not going to go and buy the 7″ for you, but you can watch the geometrical (from about 04:00 in) video and then stream the single.

‘Dull Spark’ is released on Song, By Toad Records on September 24.

Album Review: Cancel The Astronauts


Cancel The Astronauts -‘Animal Love Match’ (Riley Records)

Over the last few years, I’ve enjoyed the slow but steady stream of EPs and singles put out by Edinburgh’s fine indie-pop band Cancel The Astronauts. The release of their debut album Animal Love Match is a cause for celebration, delivering on the promise of those earlier releases by producing a fantastic album. And all the more impressive as a debut.

Including two earlier singles ‘Intervention’ and ‘Seven Vices’ the end result is an album which is impressive from start to finish. As you’d expect from a band who released a song called ‘I Am The President Of Your Fanclub (And Last Night I Followed You Home)’ there is a degree of humour and fun here, without being irritatingly twee. Yet they can also do epic anthems without descending into bombast or ever trying to sound like any anaemic indie stadium fillers [fill in name of your choice].

So yes, they are local (to me) -but I have no hesitation in recommending this album to people who enjoy fantastic music. It’s about to hit the shops a week ahead of the new Mumford & Sons album, and it would be great if CTA got the amount of coverage that album will.


Animal Love Match is released on Riley Records on September 17.

You really should try buying this album from your local independent record shop first and foremost. If you can’t get to one, you can order it from the band themselves

The album launch on Saturday has been cancelled but will hopefully be rescheduled for November…

Gig review: RM Hubbert/Emma Pollock

RM Hubbert/Emma Pollock
Electric Circus, Edinburgh, September 2.

‘There’s two reasons you shouldn’t go on holiday,’ Emma Pollock tells us during her set. ‘The day before -and the day after.’ Hmm, she may not have been kidding. The night of this gig was the night before we went on holiday as a family -and I think it was only because it was Emma Pollock playing that my long-suffering wife acquiesced to my going. As for the day after, well, I’m getting to write this up -and I had a great time at this gig…

I first fell for Emma Pollock’s music in the nineties, when she was a member of The Delgados, my favourite Scottish band ever, and the four people behind what must be Scotland’s longest running independent label so far, Chemikal Underground. In 2005, the band sadly called it a day. Emma has gone on to release two excellent solo LPs, Watch The Fireworks and The Law Of Large Numbers. In addition to this, she has also been involved in Burnsong, The Ballad Of the Book compilation and The Burns Unit (the latter with other Scottish Acts, including King Creosote, Karine Polwart and Karine Polwart).

Tonight, her part of the show is drawn largely on numbers from, er, …Numbers. Armed on with her acoustic guitar, and a bottle of beer, she charms the audience, and I’m reminded that one of the reasons I have been to see her so many times as a solo artist is because she makes the audience warm to her banter inbetween songs. While some artists might make an audience cringe talking about their children and how they’ve influenced a song (see, you’re starting to do it almost involuntarily!), she explains ‘The Child In Me’ as about being in playgrounds with her son and how it brings out her childish side.
The version of ‘Adrenaline’ (no.1 in the 2007 17 Seconds’ Festive Fifty!) is stripped of the piano motif and presented in a much more sober way. I hope she records a version of it this way. She is working on solo album no.3, and amongst the songs she presents is one called ‘Dark Skies.’

This tour with RM Hubbert -or ‘Hubby’ as he is affectionately known-is a co-headliner. Whilst Hubby has been open in the press about his battles with depression, he is endearing on stage, and a warm sense of humour comes across. There is a sense of the openly, nakedly confessional -but more in the between-song patter than lyrically. After all, the bulk of his material is instrumental. But there is a beauty within -and whilst his life has obviously been touched by a great deal of tragedy, you sense that Hubby is (hopefully) working through it. I have encountered far more embarassing cartharsis than this.

And whether it’s songs like ‘SG.666’ or his own take on ‘Car Song’ (which appears on his latest album Thirteen Lost And Found with Aidan Moffat performing the spoken word part), there’s something moving and involving here…

Whether collaborating together or separately, La Pollock and Hubby managed to show that actually a solo artist with just an acoustic guitar can hold a room rapt. This show wasn’t anything like as well attended as it should have been, but I’m surely not the only one who left with a warm glow.

Album Review: Soledad Vélez


Soledad Vélez -‘Wild Fishing’ (Absolute Beginners)

‘Yes, she is a woman singing folk, but let’s not let that make us narrow minded.’ Thus begins the press release accompanying the debut album from Valencia’s Soledad Vélez. To approach this album in a narrow-minded way would be a mistake. Yes, she’s a bit folky, a bit bluesy, but the voice and the songs are more consistent with the likes of Cat Power or PJ Harvey.

So there are no ‘Hey Nonny nonnys’ and no painfully earnest/confessional outpourings. Instead, as the summer draws to and end, what we get instead is a reflective, mature album that makes for one very coherent whole. Standout tracks include album openers ‘Black Light In The Forest’ and ‘Hug Me’ and ‘Birds.’ I’ve been playing this album quite a bit over the past few weeks, and with autumn seemingly here, it suits the mood better than in summer.

And I mean that as a compliment. Accessible, without being bland; creative, without being impenetrable, this is a debut which suggests an artist with promise. I look forward to seeing what she does next…


Wild Fishing is out now on Absolute Beginners. Stream it below:

Album Review: Cat Power


Cat Power -‘Sun’ (Matador)

Well, it’s been four years since her last album (Jukebox, her second collection of interpretations), and six years since her last album of original material (The Greatest). But whatever the dramas in her personal life, the artist also known as Chan Marshall has bestowed her new album upon us. Damn fine it is, too.

How good? Well, put it this way: I don’t go out and buy every album that gets submitted to me on vinyl (especially when the RRP is over £20). So yes, it’s an album I was pleased to buy. A fantastic collection of songs, underpinned by that voice.

Though The Greatest may be regarded as being her ‘soul’ album, that smokey voice is still present. And the songwriting is still strong. At over ten minutes, penultimate track ‘Nuthin’ But Time’ may be seen as the centrepiece of the album, though the opening track ‘Cherokee’ and ‘3,6,9’ are pretty damn good, too. For my money, the standout track is ‘Ruin’ – sassy as hell, and with a catchy as anything piano motif that is a very pleasant earworm. One of the best tracks this year, in fact.

Doubtless there will be those who grumble that in being more accessible than some of her other work that it isn’t as good as earlier albums. Sod them. An excellent place to start, if you haven’t heard her before -and a fine album in its own right.

Sun is out now on Matador

Cat Power -‘Ruin.’ mp3

Interview: Stanley Odd


Edinburgh’s Stanley Odd are shortly to release their second album, Reject. Here, I discuss the notion of Scottish Hip-Hop with frontman Solareye AKA Dave Hook, and how the band are challenging stereotypes and preconceptions. Along with making awesome music…

Please introduce the band

We’re Stanley Odd. We’re a Scottish hip-hop band. That phrase alone is like someone competing in a competition to juxtapose the most unlikely of phrases – ‘So you’re in a band, that plays hip-hop and you’re Scottish…’ – ‘Aye’.

You’re due to release your new album Reject on September 17. How has the album come together?

The album has been a good while in the making. We released 3 EPs last year and that whole process was pretty much about developing our sound, production skills and song writing with a view to making this album. We started rehearsing for it in January, recorded the raw materials in March, then spent the last 3-4 months ripping all the stuff apart, distorting it, running onto tape, chopping it up and generally molocating (sic) it into something else. The last month has been particularly full-on, finishing all the songs while playing festivals every weekend but as of today it is officially finished! I’m a bit close to it all right now, to be honest, but I’m hoping that in a few weeks I’ll be able to listen to it without going ‘aw, that bit should have been louder’ or ‘I’m still not sure about this backwards vocal’.

Why the title ‘Reject?’ Your album, obviously, but taken on its own that might seem a bit negative…?

That’s a good question. I feel like there has always been a common theme of outsider-dom in our songs. Everyone can emphasise with feeling uncomfortable or socially awkward, so often that’s a starting point for me writing. The ‘Reject’ title is more like trying to write a collection of stories about rejection, and rejecting things, so it can be read as the noun, ‘Reject’ i.e. someone who is not accepted in a certain group or situation; or it can be read as the verb ‘Reject’, to reject an idea, opinion or accepted norm. A call to arms if you like.

You’ve also got a busy summer ahead of you. What have you got planned, and what can people expect from the Stanley Odd live show?

Yeah, we’re right in the midst of a busy summer of festivals. It’s amazing. We really look forward to this time of year. You get to travel all round the country playing songs to people, hang about at some really great events, rap at people round campfires at dawn and generally make a spectacle of yourself on a weekly basis. Our live show has probably always been where we are at our strongest, so it’s great when you get an audience that get involved and the summer festivals kind of lend themselves to that. We’ve been working a fair amount of the new material into the live set too so that’s kept us on our toes and should mean in theory that we know how to play the tunes by the time we launch the album!

How did the band come together? Were any of you involved with the Fountainbridge Collective?

No, we weren’t directly involved with FBC. I know the guys, I used to play in a band called Disciples of Panic Earth and we gigged with FBC quite a bit. We were all from Airdrie so one memorable time we took the FBC guys through for a gig there. Imagine Phoenix Nights with break-beats.

As a band, we started out with myself and Veronika [Elektronika, fellow vocalist]. We were meant to do a live emcee/DJ type set but the DJ pulled out so we got mates of ours to play drums and guitar and it just kind of grew from there.

You’ve been around for several years now. Did you ever feel that as a Scottish Hip-Hop act you had to fight harder in a genre that many people still perceive as primarily American? (Despite that there were fine UK Hip-Hop acts stretching right back to the eighties, thinking of Derek B, The Wee Papa Girl Rappers, Cookie Crew etc..)

It’s a difficult genre to try and define. There are those who have a predetermined idea of what hip-hop should be and they don’t necessarily see how Scotland could fit into that but that type of attitude is generally more likely to be from people that don’t know much about hip-hop. Scotland has a real depth of quality hip-hop artists right now, which is totally cool to be a part of. A variety of acts are playing major festivals like T in the Park, getting national airplay and being seriously and favourably reviewed so it’s an exciting time.

Which other Scottish hip-Hop acts would you recommend? After all, as well as you, Young Fathers and Nasty P…

I think there are some really outstanding artists in Scotland. Louie and his group Hector Bizerk are amazing both lyrically and as artists trying to push boundaries. Gasp and all of the Being Emcees are ridiculous lyricists, not to mention the production skills of Scatabrainz, Konchis, Steg G. Silvertongue is a brilliant emcee and his freestyles are bananas, Bigg Taj is a phenomenal beatboxer… this is just the tip of the iceberg… it feels like some seriously good music is coming out of Scotland these days.

Speaking of which, who do you view as being your peers? And who do you see as your influences?

See the above. I hear what people like Louie, Loki, Mog etc are writing and think, ‘I’m going to have to use ma heid here’. I just like words, I like messing about with them and trying different ways to say things. Sometimes if you get a concept the song writes itself pretty much. ‘Marriage Counselling’ off our new album was one like that. I also think your influences come from way wider than the type of music you end up making. I heard a Frightened Rabbit song the other day where he was singing about a messy night out and I was thinking how well constructed it was. Aiden Moffat is always good for a listen to learn about telling stories. In terms of the musical side of things, we’ve been trying to keep our horizons broad while also working on production. Samson, our drummer, releases bass music on Abaga Records as Dunt so he always brings some nice, fresh subby (sic) stuff to the table.

What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you at a live show?

Last year at Insider Festival was pretty special. It was probably the best gig of the year for all of us. We played the main stage at about 10 o’clock on the Saturday night, the busy crowd were well-oiled on Thistly Cross and an assortment of other things, half the audience were decked out in Victorian attire, people were zip-sliding across the crowd in the half-light and when we went on it just went mental. That was an amazing combination of the bizarre and the legendary. Definitely one to remember.

Finally, what are your plans for the next twelve months?

Weellll… We release the album on the 17th September and embark on a UK tour to promote it. We’re playing the Liquid Room in Edinburgh, Stereo in Glasgow, Dundee, Inverness, Aberdeen as well as dates south of the border. Right now, we’ve got a couple of videos to make for the new album as well as Wickerman, Belladrum and Greenbelt Festival in London still to come. There’ll be our annual Oddvent Calendar throughout December for free stuff and random nonsense, then next year we’ll be writing, recording and playing aw o’er the place.

Reject is released on September 17.

Looking for more live music in and around Edinburgh?


Proud to say that I am involved in putting together and, indeed, DJing at two special gigs taking place just outside Edinburgh over this coming month.

An eclectic programme of events will launch the re-opening of Dalkeith Arts Centre.

On Saturday 22 September, Bwani Junction will take to the stage, with support from local band Carter Damm, who I played on my radio show during the fringe.

Bwani Junction, who I have covered a lot on this blog, made history earlier this year by becoming the first band to perform on top of the Forth Rail Bridge. They have recorded a session for the BBC’s Vic Galloway and this summer have performed at numerous festivals, including T in the Park, Wickerman and Belladrum. They were awarded Best Newcomer at the Scottish Alternative Awards in 2012.

Buy Bwani Junction and Carter Damm tickets here

Meanwhile, the legendary King Creosote -who surely needs no introduction here -will play the same venue on Wednesday 26 September with support from The Last Battle. They are currently working on their second album, the follow-up to their debut Heart Of The Land Soul Of The Sea which came out on 17 Seconds in 2010.

Buy King Creosote and The Last Battle tickets here.

…and I will be DJing at both events!

Album Review: Ian Hunter and the Rant Band


Ian Hunter and the Rant Band -‘When I’m President.’ (Proper Records)

This is, apparently, Ian Hunter’s 20th solo album since Mott The Hoople disbanded in 1974. It’s solid enough musical fare, best demonstrated on the title track, and album opener ‘Comfortable (Flyin’ Scotsman).’

There’s not much by way of innovation or originality here -at least to these ears- but in terms of just getting on with the business of making a straight-ahead rock album, he does fine work in producing an album that seems to aim to entertain.

As to whether it will win him new fans at this point in his career (four decades plus) it’s hard to say, but for a man who already proved his worth many years ago, it demonstrates why he continues to be held in high regard on stage and on record.


When I’m President
is out now on Proper Records

Follow this link to download the title track as an mp3 for free