A sporadically-updated music collection blog. Send questions to twitter or email me.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Quadrilles - Isotopes

Quadrilles are a band who have been on my radar for a while now - their first few EPs were pretty solid and then they seemed to disappear a little bit. Indeed, the impending release of this EP completely passed me by until I received an email from them about it. The inevitable then happened (I bought it), then something slightly more unusual happened. A fortnight ago, on the EP's release day, I conducted what might loosely be described as an interview with the band's guitarist Ken. I know, I'm confused too. It's probably somewhat of a reassurance that it's still somehow taken me two weeks to write it up. Some things never change. This isn't something I've done before so the format is going to be a bit of a deviation from the norm, but hopefully it'll still be alright.
Am I right in thinking this is your first physical release? Was it an important thing for you guys that it was on vinyl? 
We've made our own CDs in the past which we have sold or given out at gigs but yes, the main release format at that point was digital 'cos we didn't really have enough money to do anything else. It does feel more 'physical' releasing vinyl and that was important to us for this release. It was a tough decision because when we priced it up it was terrifyingly expensive! Most of us in the band have been buying a lot of vinyl recently and we are fairly in agreement with the cliches about the better sound and having nice artwork etc, while digital releases can feel quite throw-away. We were really into the idea of creating some kind of artifact we could look back on and have some sense of achievement. In the end when we decided to do it, it felt like it was the right thing to do. 

As you mention, having nice artwork is pretty important for a 12" record. How did you go about picking the artwork for this release? It's pretty distinctive - was it something you'd seen separately and enjoyed or was it created specifically for this purpose? 
This lovely man called Michael Parkin (drummer from Olympians) came to the rescue here. We had seen some of his work before and its always been excellent, so we asked him he if would like to do something with us. Amazingly, he didn't tell us to fuck off...

So was the red vinyl planned before or after his particularly bloody composition had come back to you? Such a visceral cover deserves some colourful vinyl, no? 
We knew we wanted to do colour vinyl but we went for red after we saw the artwork. Actually, we tried the match the red colour on the artwork with the red that the pressing company had available since Parkin was the most flexible in terms of making changes. Then we realised it was see-through so the red changes shade with whatever is behind it! D'oh! But it still seems to work, so we are happy with that.

That you even tried to colour-match makes me disproportionately happy. Any reason for doing a coloured record, or just that it looks objectively more interesting?

Ah, it's just a bit more interesting isn't it? When I buy a record and it's coloured, I always get a little bit more excited.

Definitely the words of an appropriate interviewee for this blog. Your own record collection, then - what would be your personal favourites? Either in terms of things that are important to you or aesthetically pleasant releases.

One of my favourite records is Low's Things We Lost In The Fire. It's a double LP with 3 sides of music but side D is all of the lyrics etched into the vinyl in a circular spiral direction from outside to in. I also have a copy of Mogwai's Young Team signed by their drummer. While I was at university they did a tour of small venues and the Portsmouth Wedgewood rooms was one of them. I managed to get to the front and asked the guy Martin to sign it. He signed it with his pseudonym he used for that record which was "demonic" or something like that. That's pretty special to me.
One last question for us - who's your favourite wrestler? 
I had to defer this one to the rest of the band - our drummer Luke says Stone Cold Steven Austin, because sometimes he storms in during a royal rumble and does his special move like, 8 times in a row and sometimes he just has a chat with the crowd about what he had for his tea.

So there we have it! I think it should be evident from the words above that I'm a big fan of both the artwork and the pleasant redness of the record itself. As for how the EP sounds, it's a very pleasantly smooth slab of math rock.  My personal highlight is probably the lovely March of the Clowns, largely for the delightfully abrupt change of place about half way through, and you can stream/buy the whole thing on their bandcamp. Good work, lads.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

The Clippers - An Evening With

I realise that the end of one year and the start of the next is usually a time for people to do "album of the year" chat, but that causes me some problems as I don't have my number one album of the year on vinyl (yet!!!) and have already written about my number two album. So instead, here's a post about something I listened to an awful lot in 2014, even though it's from 2010. Happy New Year (over a month late, because I'm the worst).

So, this release is An Evening With The Clippers. The cover is fairly appropriate - showing two gentlemen in what might reasonably be described as "evening wear". Do I like it though? Eh, not massively. The "An Evening With" at the top gets kinda lost in the background, and there's nothing particularly memorable about the cover for me.

A lovely two-sided insert, which I think it should be fairly obvious by now that I'm a big fan of. Also note - there's only two chaps in The Clippers. That cover seems even more appropriate now, doesn't it?

This is an absolutely gorgeous record. I paid probably a little too much money to get a copy of it shipped from Germany (with other things), but "green with black smoke" was too tempting as a colourway (out of 285, pressing nerds!). Moreover, this is an utterly fantastic release. Clocking in at a remarkably precise 8 minutes across 5 tracks, such short tracks would normally suggest a grindocre release or similar, but that's way off the mark. The Clippers play summery poppy emo, and there's not a single missed step on this release. Every single song on this release has the capacity to wedge itself firmly into your head, the centrepiece being the magnificent Mature Women. It was with this song that I realised that The Clippers were a bit special, hearing it on a car journey to ArcTanGent and making a mental note to listen to the EP again. From that point onwards, I think I've listened to this EP most weeks. It's infectious, I can't listen to it and not be smiling. What a tremendous shame, then, that this is The Clippers' only real release. They have two other songs, on a split with Coping, and that's everything they ever did. What a tremendous shame. No matter - go get this EP from their bandcamp and let it make you smile.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Mastodon - Blood Mountain

It's not very often that I post metal albums on here and, to be honest, that's because I don't buy a lot of metal on vinyl. After spending a lot of my teen years listening to nothing but metal, I kinda drifted away from it a lot in recent years and these days it's rare that a metal album gets me overly excited (one notable exception being the phenomenal Longhena by Gridlink, but trying to get that on vinyl without spending a fairly large amount of money has proven difficult). This, though, comes from that golden age where I had rather long hair and wore almost only black and sweatbands. Man it was fun.

So, Blood Mountain by Mastodon. This is an expanded version of the CD album art, which is always nice, and it's absolutely magnificent. The "reduced" version of the artwork was my computer wallpaper for what must have been several years, I just really love the style of it and this version is even better. It's no exaggeration to say this is one of my favourite album covers of all time.

A lovely double-sided insert which matches the theme of the rest of the artwork. The side with thanks is relatively unimportant (though nice artwork) but yessss we have the lyrics and they are absolutely insane, in the best possible way. "Shake the hand of lightning", "evading sharks of the sky" - it's a sea of weirdness. I definitely benefit from having them written down rather than making my own interpretations.

Plain black vinyl. I didn't know what colour this was going to be when I ordered it, but it was so cheap that I didn't mind. There are some goregous colourways of this record, which would be lovely to own but I'm pretty content here. Apologies that you can see me in the reflection of the record as well, some poor photo skills from me here.

If I were pressed to make a list of my favourite albums of all time, this would most probably be in the top ten. I realise that for a lot of people Leviathan is the best Mastodon album, but for me they stepped it up another level by following that album with this one. It's less thrash-y and more proggy, which is pretty much the opposite of what I'd normally want but it just works. The tone of the album is absolutely spot on, and in terms of musicianship it's so so impressive. Even the pacing of the album is perfect - the whole thing feeling like a journey, with swells at the right times and a gradual slowing down as the album heads towards its close. With regards to my favourite track, it's rather difficult to pick one out in particular. The Wolf Is Loose is an excellent opener, a quintessentially Brann Dailor drum intro giving way to screaming guitars and the sprinting rhythm that begins the journey of the album. Capillarian Crest throws time signatures all over the place but still fits together cohesively. The song that sticks with me the most, though, is the utterly ludicrous Bladecatcher. It defies description - alternating between rapid-fire head-down riffing and sugary sweet melody, the only vocals being jumbled noise and whistling. It sounds silly and it is, but it's also absolutely great. So is this album. I love it with all of my heart.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Möngöl Hörde - Möngöl Hörde

Side-projects are generally known for being a bit of a hit-and-miss affair, and so a degree of caution is probably advisable when a new one is announced. This was kinda different though - Frank Turner and Ben Dawson, half of Million Dead, getting back together to form "a hardcore band"? Yeah, I have no shame in saying I got pretty excited about this. Then it came out in late May, and it has taken until now for me to write about it. Yeah, my bad.

I appreciate this artwork being solely black and white but honestly, this isn't really the style of artwork I enjoy. No mind.

For the first time in a long time - an insert with no lyrics! What a shame. What we get instead is a very happy-looking Frank and some thankyous, which kind of makes up for it? Except that it totally doesn't.

No complaints here though, a lovely white record to match the rest of the artwork. It looks slightly creamy here, but in real life it's a little whiter. I really like that picture on the back of the sleeve as well - my guess is that it's from when the band played Reading and Leeds two years ago, but I don't know any more than that.

This album was inevitably always going to be compared to Million Dead. Put Frank Turner back into a "heavy" band and that would always happen - adding in Ben Dawson only exacerbates that. What I'll say straight off the bat, then, is that this is not particularly like Million Dead. It's loud and it's aggressive and there are quite overt political references, but that's about all the similarities there are. Möngöl Hörde are a little heavier than Million Dead were, and a little more direct. What they also are, however, is a lot sillier - a look at those umlauts and the tracklist should make that clear. This album manages to be gloriously noisy and shouty, but also has a song about an uprising of tapeworms. It's actually about tapeworms, I don't think this is another Achilles Lung (which wasn't really about smoking) but instead seems to be a slightly ridiculous story about a tapeworm starting in Natalie Portman's insides. Like hell would Million Dead have ever done that.

Let's stop with the comparisons though - this is a great album on its own merit. The highlight for me is the almost-drunken swinging of the chorus to Casual Threats From Weekend Hardmen, a song that barely manages to contain its own seething anger beneath a tremendous riff and some reliably frantic drumming. Equally though, the aforementioned Tapeworm Uprising, Weak Handshake and Stillborn Unicorn deserve mentions as some of the best tracks in a quite consistently good album. Will this be the only album they make as a band? Possibly, but I certainly hope not.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Martha - Courting Strong

August in Edinburgh always ends up being a horrendously busy month. Not that I particularly enjoy the festival (population of the city increasingly rapidly with people who don't know where they're going? No thanks), but lots of things just seem to end up happening. As a result I've been relatively quiet and have ended up waaaay behind in terms of records. My bad. Let's start with something from the North East of England, picked up from Cargo Records.

This is a pretty great cover, isn't it? It feels so delightfully 90s, when cars actually looked like how I'd draw them. Check out those trainers as well, jealous.

Printed inner sleeves with lyrics, tick. Commitment to not eating meat, tick. Commitment to Irn Bru, huge tick. I like these people.

Some plain black vinyl, but with good bold labels. I'm a big fan of the font used throughout the release, and the general black and white aesthetic.

Martha, then, are a kind of power-pop band, They play catchy, cheery, slightly yelp music with strong accents and lyrics about the North East and I absolutely love it. The songs are really infectious and it's the kind of thing that makes me want to very politely flail around the place. The highlight of the album for me is the glorious Bubble In My Bloodstream - listen to it more than a few times and you won't be able to read the phrase without singing it at the same time. More, please.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Donovan Wolfington - Scary Stories You Tell In The Dark

As should surprise absolutely no-one, I ended up buying yet more TWIABP vinyl from the Topshelf UK store. While I was at it, I picked up a couple of seven inches. I'll hold off on the TWIABP record for a little bit (due to the minor onslaught of late) so here's one of those records instead. I picked this up because it was pretty cheap and Topshelf had been talking about how good it was, so I took a punt.

I dunno about you, but I would not be fond of scary stories told in the dark at a graveyard. That sounds hella creepy. Not entirely sure what's going on with the tombstone in the middle, but I appreciate the visibility of the phrase "At Rest". I like the muted colours here, they're quite pleasant.

The sleeve is a single piece of card, with lyrics inside. Bit of a shame there's no more photography here, but I'm always a fan of lyrics.

Now that is one pleasant-looking record. Most of the colourways are at least a little green-y, which goes quite nicely with the cover. This, the half-white half-green, is limited to 100 and I am very fond of it.

So like I said, I bought this pretty much on a whim. It may come as a surprise, then, that I've listened to this pretty much daily for the past week or so. Possibly one of the best EPs so far this year, it's angsty yet remarkably catchy. The whole thing clocks in at a little over 10 minutes, the highlight of which is the sub-2 minute punky blast of Quitting. It's well-suited for the summer and has proven to be the perfect thing to listen to in the morning to get me ready for the day ahead. Proof that sometimes purchases made on a whim can turn out pretty great.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Joie De Vivre - The North End

Same band, same scenario. As happened with We're All Better Than This, I bought a Joie De Vivre album digitally and still ended up buying the vinyl. There's just something about this band. This one I got from Count Your Lucky Stars at the same time as I did Snowing, and it was ruddy cheap. Thanks again, CYLS.

A minor case of deja vu. Another Joie De Vivre album with not a lot going on, one dominant colour and a nice slight fuzz on the image. Not sure on the lettering style for the band name, but that white band at the bottom is delightful.

Double-sided insert, as before. While WABTT's art was all about ducks, this album is all about dogs. Possibly even just one dog, as they all look quite similar. The other side, as usual, is lyrics - but there's a twist here. The tracks aren't listen in album order, there doesn't seem to actually be any order to the tracks. Very strange.

Though it looks like it could be white here, this is definitely the "milky clear" it was described as in the CYLS store. I'd probably go with "translucent white", but it's lovely regardless. Nice paper aeroplane motif, too. For you numbers nerds, this is from the second pressing and is limited to 350.

This is Joie De Vivre's first full-length album, following on from the extended EP Summer Months (more on that soon), and I have to say it took a while for this to click with me. It's a little slower than WABTT and maybe a little sadder too. The first few times I listened to it, nothing really stuck. I thought it was okay but little more and really it was only how much I enjoyed WABTT that kept me coming back for more Joie De Vivre. All of a sudden, everything fell into place. It's impossible to pinpoint exactly what it was - perhaps the impressively sad trumpets that signal the start of Salt, the immediacy of the chorus to Upper Deck San Diego or the dripping sadness of the title track - but I went from apathy to adoration in the space of about a day. I now rank this right up there with WABTT in terms of my favourite emo albums, and tend to listen to the two consecutively when I can (which more often than not involves being sat in bed with a cup of tea). The digital version is super-cheap because CYLS like that kind of thing. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Monday, 9 June 2014

your neighbour the liar - It seems we're made to suffer; it is our lot in life

It's strange the way things end up going sometimes. In the middle of my tremendous emo binge, I managed to stumble across a pleasant Scottish band but couldn't seem to find any of their records locally. Instead, I had to order one from Ireland. To get shipped to Scotland. Something in this equation doesn't quite make sense. Never mind, it was quite cheap so I'm not too bothered.

As someone who spends a rather worrying amount of time on Google Maps (through my job), a cover featuring maps was always bound to appeal to me. Being the tremendous nerd that I am, I had to work out where this was - a swift googling later and I have deduced that this is Dundee! Not entirely sure why they chose Dundee, but there you go. Also note the little sticker - "twinkly autumn-time emo". Very fitting.

Nice little insert with lyrics and more maps! Yay maps. Note also - the title of this 7" isn't actually the title of either song - it comes from the chorus of Window. I think I quite like this.

More plain black vinyl? Yeah, I know. Don't worry, we'll be back in colour soon. I like the use of white (well, brown) space on the back cover an awful lot - and the labels are pleasantly sparse too. Pressing info fans - this is limited to 350.

As explained so perfectly on that little sticker on the outer sleeve, YNTL are a lovely, twinkly, autumnal emo band. Between the two tracks here we've got a nice level of variety - Year is quite laid-back and pensive, the sound of a calm (but very grey) autumn day, if you will. Window, though, is much more like a sudden shower of heavy rain. There's an absolutely glorious guitar melody over a backdrop of just-right distortion and reassuringly Scottish vocals. It's pretty great, I have to say. The tracks themselves are pretty good value at free here, so go ahead if you're feeling twinkly.