All posts by Jo Bell

Hey! I'm Jo, I live in Edinburgh and love many things including writing, travel, of course music, books, sunshine.

Kid Canaveral…Go Bananas!

I discovered Edinburgh band Kid Canaveral later than most folk, actually not through music but because I met one of them (*ref the smiley chap below). I do however believe them to be on the cusp of greatness, the more I listen to their album Shouting and Wildlife the more I like it – in three words it’s bouncy, summery and undeniably Scottish. I put ‘You Only Went Out To Get Drunk Last Night’ whenever I have that lurching morning-after-a-few-too-many feeling: it always makes me smile.

KC’s David McGregor talks through his musical picks (yeah tried to reel him in – but he just kept throwing songs out there!)

If only everyone had my million dollar smile

I couldn’t decide. So, I did a short playlist. Not for Spotify, though. That is the devil.

St Patrick – James Yorkston and the Athletes

James Yorkston’s debut album, Moving Up Country, is being re-released in a deluxe double disc edition to mark its 10th Anniversary. It never goes unlistened to for long, but I put it on recently whilst driving through the Highlands, taking it in from start to finish, having been prompted by the news that it was a decade old. It is a flawless record. There isn’t a part of it I would change, and St Patrick is an incredible composition that is entirely typical of the record. It has a subtle, yet devastating lyric and a pop hook that any chart hit would regard jealously. If I ever write anything with half as much heart or wit as JY, I’ll give up music, a satisfied man.

Early That Night – Standard Fare

Standard Fare are my favourite pop band. They released their second album, Out of Sight, Out of Town, a few months ago and this song is one of the quieter moments from it. Emma Kupa has a way with words, and a way with their delivery. This, combined with the dreamy reverb of Dan Howe’s guitar, may make this an atypical representation of the band’s usual high energy indiepop bent, but it is a beautiful inclusion as the penultimate track on the record. You should buy it. And their first one.

Birdhouse in your Soul – They Might Be Giants

This is the best song ever written. You can try and argue with me, but you’d only be woefully incorrect.

Bloodless – Fever Fever

I first heard Fever Fever in the car park of Waterloo Cycles in Austin, Texas (ClassicI’m-a-total-wank, opening anecdote). We’d just played in the sweltering heat and I was trying to find shelter and water after three outdoor, daytime shows taking their toll on my shite Scottish complexion. Then Fever Fever came on and snapped me out of my sunstroke. They’re from Norwich and they’re fucking loud. They’re also really, really good. It was a genuine pleasure to watch Rosie play her guitar by standing on it. I managed to see them in London last week and it was even better than before. So, have this – the title track from their Bloodless EP. It’s a belter.

Birdhouse in Your Soul reminds me of being really little, eating an ice lolly in drizzly Scottish rain.

As I up so ridiculously early for Saturday here’s an appropriate number from Kid Canaveral, Good Morning – a Peenko Session!

Check out more at a second album is in the pipeline *Excited Face*

Cancel The Astronauts play…Pet Lions!

Edinburgh’s Cancel The Astronauts make cheery as hell music, a generally brilliant and bouncy dose of guitar pop-like material. I’ve received a really mixed bag of suggestions from musicians on this journey so far, and on this one there’s a palpable synergy between the music both bands are making. Over to the astros Matt Riley, complete with Easter appropriate chick, to tell us more about a great discovery…

Play a Song For Me…Cancel The Astronauts!

Cancel The Astronauts favourite Pet Lions' EP Soft Right

‘I’d suggest a band from Chicago called Pet Lions, who last year released an album called Houses. I’ve only just picked up on it, despite being a fan since their first release in 2009 – an EP called Soft Right. They’ll appeal to anyone who enjoys chirpy upbeat US garage pop. A lazy way to describe them would be to say ‘The Strokes with synths’, and I’ll stick with that – though to be honest the album is much more nuanced; a lot of quiet moments, chiming guitars and pretty beach boys harmonies on this one. The EP, which I actually prefer to the album, is more four to the floor INDIE-POP. There’s also the odd very noisy soundgarden, like on the the first track The English Room, and while I’d have enjoyed a few more pumping up tempo numbers that they really excel at (Roman History or Propeller Plane off the EP) they obviously have grander musical ambitions than keeping me happy.

Check out the utterly brilliant video for Cancel the Astronauts single Intervention below, I love, love love the vintage footage…

It’s from the band’s new EP which also includes ‘Echoes of Love’ and ‘The Hardest Thing’, an unexpectedly stunning love song.

The Last Battle are playing…John Knox Sex Club

Edinburgh’s The Last Battle arrived on my musical radar last year with ‘365 days’, one of the only original New Year songs I could find from a Scottish band (yes folks, they all went for Christmas). The band have a new album coming out later this year, and have just announced the single ‘Hope is Gold’ will be released on June 18th, with at launch night at Pilrig Church.

Singer and guitarist Scott Longmuir talks about a discovery of last year (deftly drawn and modelled by his wee son Oskar)

John Knox Sex Club, Kiss The Dirt
From their album Raise Ravens

I started seeing JKSC’s name getting knocked around on blogs and gig listings well over a year ago. Shamefully I paid them no attention, and rather stupidly it was because of their name; I instantly assumed they were some kind of Glaswegian trendy ironic joke band, so, like a fool, ignored them. (I will never do this again).

In September last year a friend of mine directed me to the opening song on their album ‘Raise Ravens’. He told me I had to listen to it. At 12 minutes long. I thought there was no way I was going to listen to it all the way to the end, but I did, and every minute of it drew me in and thrilled me to bits. It reminds me of early Danananankroyd (who I used to love) only with folk sensibilities and manic violin. It’s equally bonkers & amp; brilliant.

The Last Battle enlisted a violinist (the lovely Jon) into the band around about the same time I heard JKSC, but I can’t say for sure if it was before or after my ears met them.At Christmas we all made ‘secret santa’ mix cd’s for each other and I had to make one for Jon. ‘Kiss The Dirt’ was the closing song and the only one Jon enquired about weeks later. I also bought the album for our bassist Paul’s birthday, and reluctantly handed it over as I wanted to keep it for myself!

Some of us finally got to see them live not too long ago. They opened with ‘Kiss The Dirt’ and blew me away. They were brilliant that night.

Anyway, all I can say is go go buy their album from their band camp page or local record store; it comes in a lovely handmade sleeve, and it’s brilliant, worth the money for ‘Kiss The Dirt’ alone.

I was in two minds on including what is quite a plug there, but I have to say I agree.

Listen to The Last Battle’s Springwell EP here, it’s also brilliant. If you don’t live in Edinburgh, all I can say is think about coming for the music, there are some great things happening…

Happiness in the Eye of a Scottish Storm

I should really have left the house already, but it’s one of those horrible Scottish days where the wind’s been howling for hours. Instead I’m listening to Dark Was The Night, one of the best compilations I believe was ever made, and in particular Riceboy Sleeps Happiness .

The photo behind the CD is the Firth of Forth, on a far sunnier day than this!

The Stormy Seas Play…Alasdair Roberts

Ok folks, I won’t beat about the bush on this one – I love Edinburgh’s The Stormy Seas. Their first album Of Rust and Loss was released in November 2011, I believe it to be something of a modern day maritime marvel. It’s the kind of music you’ll like more the more you listen to it, sea shanty like tunes which are refreshingly original. They also have a little more lyrical weight and musical play than your average folkish fodder.

Stormy drummer Graeme shared Alasdair Roberts Spoils, with this story…

Five years ago I wasn’t playing in a band, hadn’t for a while and generally saw playing music as something consigned to the past. I was enticed along to St Paul’s Church one Friday night to hear some fellow play what was sold to me as ‘really good folky stuff’. I went along, more out of curiosity about the set-up than anything else – bring your own bottle gigs in churches was a new one on me. I’m glad I went. That fellow was Alasdair Roberts and within a few months I was back in a band and as enthusiastic about playing as I had been at fifteen.

In 2008 Alasdair Roberts released Spoils. I bought it the day it came out and to this day, not a fortnight has gone by when I haven’t listened to it in it’s entirety. It’s a rare thing for me to find an album, or any piece of art for that matter, which seems to bleed beyond it’s medium in the way Spoils does. It evokes cinema, in particular, ‘You Muses Assist’ and ‘Ned Ludd’s Rant (For a World Rebarbarised)’ conjures the spirit of Bill Douglas’ ‘Comrades’. The lyrics are poem-like in their precision and on each listen at least a line or two will always astound me.

The music itself is at once antiquated and modernist – like aural Art Nouveau – and really does sound quite like nothing else (that has happened upon my ears at least). Baroque and 19th century guitars sit atop whistling and buzzing synths, while the drumming is free and idiosyncratic. This strange, timeless quality, and the fact that I hear the most simple and sparse sections with the same reverence and amazement as the more intricate passages creates a multiplicity that serves to support the lyrical themes. The opening track, The Flyting of Grief and Joy (Eternal Return) is something of a mission statement in it’s allusion to reincarnation and the cyclic nature of existence; themes repeated and expanded upon throughout Spoils. Though the album is dealing with pretty esoteric theological musings, the tone is never churchy or preachy or smug. Though it is hallucinatory in it’s shifting, multi-faceted deceptiveness, a psychedelic freak out this is not. It is, despite what I’ve said here, a comparatively light and easy listen. You may even get a giggle at the absurd ‘Unyoked Oxen Turn’.

Quite how influential Alasdair Roberts has been on the sound of The Stormy Seas, I couldn’t say, though I can say that hearing an album like this makes me sure I want to keep making music for as long as I can.

Listen to The Stormy Seas, Of Rust and Loss here. Highlights including the sweeping Are You My Maker and thundering Morbid Desires.

Call to Mind are playing…Pandit

Call to Mind are, if you don’t already know them, simply worth checking out. The Glasgow based four piece have been making self-tagged ‘glacial pop’ for several years, an atmospheric blend of electronic sounds and sultry vocals. Their debut LP is due out in 2012.

Martin from the band suggested a track from Pandit, a gem of a discovery and incidentally perfect Sunday morning listening.

Pandit- Kathryn My Love

Pandit is Lance Smith from Lumberton in Texas. He records everything from his home studio. His ‘Steady Nerves and a Strong Heart’ EP is rather lovely.

Listen to the Latest Call to Mind EP below, or downloaded it at Bandcamp for free!

Mike Nisbet Plays…Townes Van Zandt

I first discovered singer-songwriter Mike Nisbet through his debut album Vagrant, which if you haven’t heard is often poignant, sometimes catchy and ultimately one to remember. Mike’s suggestion was (for me) like rifling through a stack of old records and choosing one a great one by chance: American Country-folk singer Townes Van Zandt. I’ll leave it to him to tell you more…

Townes Van Zandt‘Townes Van Zandt’

This is one of my favourite albums, released on 1969 i guess it’s a ‘classic’. Songs of a man telling it straight, how he’s feeling about lovers, life and passing of time. It’s like a friend you can return to when you need them, someone who’ll take you under their arm and say ‘it’s ok man, lets have a whisky, and I’ll tell you a story about that’

The album soars from from beautiful highs to cut throat lows, with lines like ‘I tried to hide the pain / bought some wine and hopped a train / well it’s easier than waitin’ around to die’ from the track Waitin’ Around To Die, making you think ‘what’s this all about?’ But the sweetness of Colorado Girl reminds you why the world is beautiful. ‘the promise in her smile / shames the mountains tall /she can bring the sun shining/ and tell the rain to fall’

A man who knew him well, Steve Earle, once said ‘Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the world and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that’ and I’d stand there with him.

Listen to the title track from Mike’s album here…

The Son(s) Play…Tim Weary and Richard Swift

The Son(s) recommend Richard Swift and Tim Weary

I first heard of The Son(s) late last year when they got in touch with me via soundcloud for my tumblr site – one of those days that made me glad to be writing about music. The track sent was Underneath The Arbor, a fragile, captivating and beautiful song: in short an absolute gem of a discovery. As musicians go, K.P. son also couldn’t be nicer, hence why I asked them to give me a musical suggestion…

Play a Song for Me: The Son(s)!

“I’ve been listening to a lot of new music so far this year; RM Hubbert’s new album, Maraqopa by Damien Jurado and Heart Heart and the Simple Folk radio session by Withered Hand. But two songs which have been stuck in my head almost constantly are:

Looking Back I Should Have Been Home More by Richard Swift (who also had a large hand in Maraqopa) which is a song from some years back…

Begin Again by Tim Weary (of The Weary Band) which is on their new album (but I like this version slightly better).”

The Son(s) new EP Leviathan is released on 7th May via Olive Grove Records.

Hello World(press!)

Play a Song For Me has been living over on tumblr since its inception last August, I just looked back at the start and the first song I posted was Mr Tambourine Man (for the title of course). The idea was to champion new music as much as possible and facilitate discoveries. I love doing a photo blog, but I wanted to be able to share more than one piece of content at a time, hence why I have ended up over here too.

It will be changing form slightly – from a fairly straightforward music blog to a treasure trove of suggestions which I’m in the fortunate position of being able to curate. At least that’s what I’m hoping.

So…let’s set this thing off and see where it takes us!