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Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Griff says; From scenes like these old Scotia's grandeur springs.

St. Andrew's Day today and a good excuse to take some Scottish connected musicians I was going to write about anyway, and lazily throw them together in the style much loved by journalists and bloggers the world over. The first artist I want to introduce is Stephen Harrison (pictured), a singer/songwriter born in London, but for some time now based in Scotland. I think Stephen is exactly the sort of under-rated but highly talented artist that The Streetlamp exists to bring to your attention. Moving to Edinburgh and The College Of Art in 1977, he was a founder member of the post-punk group Metropak. In 1984, Stephen formed Heyday. When that band broke up in 1985, Stephen embarked on solo musical projects that are still evolving and through which he continues to create engaging music. These songs are released through Close Up Records UK. Very kindly, he also allows several of his songs to be freely downloaded on his page. I'm going to feature one of those tracks here; The Colour of Black Is Black, as I really think it's a wonderful song and I like the compelling yet simple video that Stephen has made to accompany it. This song is a great showcase for Stephen's pleasing baritone and is reminiscent of such Streetlamp favourites as Richard Hawley, Tindersticks and The Divine Comedy. Have a listen to Stephen's other tracks on and you'll hear a bit of Scott Walker and Bowie in there too, so whatever else you can say about him he certainly has impeccable musical taste.

Our next act is indie-pop trio The Social Services who are two thirds Glaswegian and one third Swedish (I suspect that's probably the perfect indie-pop mix). Anyway, they're playing at Glasgow Popfest this December, so if you can get along to see them then I suggest that you do so. In the meantime, they've made their fantastic song The Baltic Sea available as a free download on their page, so if you don't already have it now's your chance. I warn you though, once you've heard it you'll want to buy It's Nothing Personal, It's National Security, and no bad thing either. Here's the video:

Last, but not least, I want to draw your attention to the second hand marching band who, for the uninitiated, are a sort of Scottish, lo-fi, post-rock, indie-folk super-group. Featuring 20-plus members from multiple other bands, including The Just Joans, Eagleowl, The Lula Maes and The Belle Hops among others (some of whom have featured on The Streetlamp and some of whom certainly will in the future). The band have been together since the end of 2007 and play guitars, ukeleles, mandolins, triangles, accordians, trumpets, tenor horns, saxophones, trombones, glockenspiel, castanets, marching drums, melodicas, woodblocks, tamborines, bells, violins, flutes, clarinets and anything else available. They describe their music as untraditional folk music and I think that that is as good a description as any. The second hand marching band have lots of free songs available to download on and kindly invite you to help yourselves. I'm featuring two videos here (both songs available at; the first is the amazing A Dance to Half Death and the second is a rather fun, live, marching version of Don't!, which as it takes place through the streets of St. Andrews, rather nicely bring us back to where we came in. Enjoy!


Friday, 26 November 2010

Griff says; When she was bad she was better!

Tonight's artist is another wonderful find from the CLLCT music collective and also a musician with a flair for the visual arts, so she certainly ticks all the 'Griff says' boxes. The artist in question is Megan Biscieglia, from Brooklyn, New York. Megan has always written songs, but unfortunately was always too scared to play them in front of people up until about a year ago. Her early, pre-new-found-confidence, work was released as Sans Ben and a little of this output can still be found on the internet (see here). It's undoubtedly lo-fi, in fact best described as rough and ready, but the keen listener should discern the germ of something great waiting to sprout forth here. And indeed, the flowering of that talent is now upon us with the release of Arrow and Orb, a new 6 song EP, and the first released under the new name of Bad Braids.

The music is difficult to categorise, there's a strong folk element but also a touch of psychedelia, dream-pop and even country music. I suppose it reminds me most of the lo-fi, folk-pop of another Streetlamp favourite, also from the North-east of the US, Lady Lioness. But frankly, who cares how we label it, it's enough just to say that I love it. Since I first came across Arrow and Orb a couple of weeks ago I've listened to it almost every day and still find myself intrigued by its musical twists and turns.
Megan is assisted on the album by Jared Stafford-Hill who provides; organ, piano, mandolin, lap-steel, bass and percussion and Derek David Dobson who supplies vocals on track 3; Oh Righteous One. Megan herself wrote and produced the songs and contributes vocals, guitar, piano, tamborine, whistles and percussion. As if that weren't enough, she has also produced the rather splendid artwork and 'zine which accompany the release. Megan's style; detailed, brightly-coloured ink-drawings combined with collage, reminded me instantly of the work of Henry Darger and I asked if he was much of an influence. Megan told me that she finds Darger's style wonderful but didn't really have him in mind whilst completing the work.
As well as being available on CLLCT the album can also be downloaded at bandcamp where you can also make a donation if you're feeling generous and want to support a talented young artist.
I'm embedding three songs from the album below and I'd like to encourage you to listen to all three to fully appreciate the breadth of Bad Braids musical style. Enjoy!


Thursday, 18 November 2010

Griff says; Who says I'm afraid to rock?

Despite Gordon's impressive efforts (see the preceding article, below) I still don't totally see the attraction of The Butthole Surfers. However, rumours that I am an introverted, folk-loving beardy who is (gasp!) afraid to rock are very much exagerated. In an effort to dispel this rumour, and also to bring some great music to your attention, I have not just one, but two, top-class tunes for you tonight. And not a ukulele or banjo to be heard!

The first song is an amazing little indie-pop number with a real Phil Spectoresque wall-of-sound feel. It also has a rather gory, but humorous nevertheless, video to accompany it. The song is 'Never Come Around' by La Sera. La Sera is the solo project of Katy Goodman of Vivian Girls and All Saints Day. This is the first material from her debut solo album, also called La Sera, which is due for release on the Hardly Art label in February of next year. The MP3 can be downloaded for free at the Hardly Art site or you can go there to purchase the physical single or pre-order the album. Here's the aforementioned video:

The next song I want to mention came out earlier this year on an amazingly good indie rock album by the band Ralpheene (pictured).
If you like the jagged, guitar-driven indie-rock of The Strokes, or the fiery glam-riffing of Placebo, then you'll love this lot. They made two of the songs available as free downloads on both CLLCT and PureVolume and, criminally, I forgot to mention it on the blog at the time. I'd like to remedy that now. The track I'm featuring is one of the free ones, called Lovely, and is from the album Quiet Seems Asleep. This really is excellent.

Ralpheene-Lovely by SadPanda


Tuesday, 16 November 2010

~Kitten Wine~#23: 'This Butt's For You!' this one is a little onanistic and self congratulatory, but I felt compelled to write this one to try and prove a point to Griff and Ray.

You see, as you can imagine from these Blogs, Griff, Ray and myself pretty much share a heftily similar taste in music.....we all like roughly the same things. However, if there is one band that they(especially Griff) cannot get their head around my absolute devotion for, it is The Butthole Surfers. Even fairly recently Griff AGAIN questioned quite why I love this band can someone like The Smiths, The Field Mice, The Marine Girls and Belle And Sebastian AND The Butthole Surfers.'s where I'm going to try and prove a prove that amongst all the mad screaming, the skronking skreeching guitars, and the scatological humour, there are some choice plums of pure skewiff pop majesty. To me, The Butthole Surfers are the David Lynch of Pop fact I'm surprised he's never used them in his films instead of rubbish like Rammstein and Marilyn Manson!
So let's choose a few of my favourites and we'll see how we go....
First off is a sweet little nugget called simply 'Hey!'. This was the first track that proved to me that the Buttholes were something other than some acid ravaged punk avant garde nightmare. It stems from their debut album which is either called 'Brown Reasons To Live' or 'Pee Pee The Sailor Man' depending on what you've heard and it's a cute little post-punk love song that contains one of my favourite ever lyrics: "Now I'm in love// Not with he or she// It's burning hate// Why don't they see?// Get your hands off me!!"

Now we come to 'Creep In The Cellar' from 'Rembrandt Pussy Horse' which originated from a time when the band attempted a cover of Neil Young's 'Heart Of Gold'(if you listen, the opening piano motif is identical). This song, for me, proves that while guitarist Paul Leary is hailed as a deranged guitar genius by some, the rest of the band are good musicians too and can certainly play(Mike Mills of REM agrees with this!), the piano and violin on this track are excellent.

Ah, now we have 'Strangers Die Everyday', a song that is pure atmosphere. When Griff and I had the ~Lost Gloaming~ project running along with ~Sighrens~, THIS is what I wanted ~LG~ to sound fact I even used a sample of this track in on of our own('Lunar Bay(Phase 1)') to be exact. I really love this piece of music and I think the video that has been made to accompany it really adds to it's sinister surrealism.

Which brings us to the incomparable 'Johnny Smoke', a song that I heard gestating over several bootleg tapes until it arrived fully formed on the 'Hairway To Steven' album. This sees vocalist Gibby Haynes at his most 'mad preacher'-ish and his rambling, insane oration is just a joy to listen to.
I had this song on a mix-tape that I took with me when I went on holiday to Arbroath with some friends at I now can never listen to it without thinking of walking along the cliffs at Seaton Sands.

Next is 'TV Star', another really sweet pop tune and a tribute to the actress Christina Applegate it is alleged. Actually I say 'it is alleged', it sounds pretty direct to me! Why are these songs never hits I wonder? Maybe it's just me.

And now another beautiful little song simply called 'The Wooden Song'. This song stems from around 1994 when I was listening to a lot of Alt-Country(which we have already covered in the 'Red Wine And Downers' Blog) and this really fitted in with the mood of that whole period. I really love this song and I think this song more than any shows WHY I love them so much. There is a haunted wounded melancholy in Gibby's voice sometimes that really strikes a chord with me.

So there you are!
Six slices of Butthole Surfery that I hope will find a place in your hearts. I hope you will agree with me that these are fine pop songs indeed and worthy of their place in the ~Streetlamp~ canon.

This Butt is definitely for you!


Sunday, 14 November 2010

~Kitten Wine ~#22: The Strange Case Of Raymonde And The End Of The World!

April 1986 was a very strange time indeed.

America launched a military strike on the Libyan capital Tripoli in response, it claimed, to attacks on American soldiers in Germany orchestrated by Col. Gadaffi. For our generation, this was the first time we had seen one of the Super Powers flex it's muscle and lash out in anger. It became a very worrying time. The night before the attacks, Gadaffi announced that, if America launched attacks on Libya, he would fight back "even if it led to World War Three!" There...somebody actually said it on a news bulletin...World War Three.
Almost immediately the Russians spoke out against the attack, as did every Arab leader....the sabre rattling was intense.
I know this is going to sound mad, and a tad insensitive, but when, 14 days later, the main reactor at Chernobyl went into meltdown, it was almost a blessing in disguise as it took the heat off the antagonistic rhetoric that was filling the air. But of course, this also exacerbated the apocalyptic feeling that was surrounding us all.
The events of that fortnight cast a shadow over the whole year, especially in entertainment; old bores like Status Quo and Genesis released the singles 'In The Army Now' and 'Land Of Confusion' respectively, Mick Hucknall of Simply Red announced that "when the bombs start dropping, people should be dancing to our music"(yeah, right!!), Mark King of Level 42 said in a Smash Hits interview that we had better all start enjoying ourselves now as the end was nigh. Alternative pop stars also had a grim view of things; Killing Joke released the single 'Adorations' saying we should just accept and enjoy the forthcoming holocaust, New Model Army released '51st State' in which they lambasted Thatcher's government for assisting America in it's attacks on Libya. This sentiment was shared by Matt Johnston of The The whose 'Heartland' single and album track 'Sweet Bird Of Truth' were about as dark as it could get.
Yeah.... it was a weird and worrying time indeed, but it was during this week in 1986 that I bought one of my favourite records of all time....

The Saturday after the attacks on Libya, my friend Gary and I went to Glasgow to buy records. We had planned this long before the attacks because we didn't often get Saturdays where we were both off. It seemed almost churlish to be buying records and enjoying one's self at this time, especially as there was that strange feeling that we were now living on borrowed time. We both were planning on getting the BMX Bandits debut single 'Sad/E102' and I was hoping to get hold of another debut single, a single by a band called Raymonde which was also entitled 'Raymonde'.
So who were Raymonde then.....
Raymonde were a band founded by a young gentleman called James Maker and it was because of him that I wanted to get the single. Why? Because James Maker was the official 5th member of The Smiths! He had been in the band in pretty much the same role that Bez has in the Happy Mondays....he provided backing vocals, danced and played maracas. In this picture, the earliest that exists of The Smiths, he is on the far left of the picture.
He was in the band because he was a close friend of Morrissey, but this didn't stop Morrissey removing him from the band after a few shows when someone pointed out to Morrissey that "they're looking at him and not you!".
And so James founded Raymonde and they released their eponymous debut record in April 1986....
And what a fine record it is indeed! Musically it's not that dissimilar to The Smiths, although a little chunkier and little crunchier and thundering along at a fine old clatter. And then in swoops the vocal, again using Morrissey as a blueprint but far more histrionic, overwrought and even hysterical, reaching fever pitch on the line "Can you live without me?". It's a corking performance and, like 'This Charming Man', time has never diminished the thrill I get while listening to it.

On the other side of the 12" single there is a cover of 'These Boots Are Made For Walking' which I've decided not to write about as it's a little pedestrian(no pun intended!), but then comes another remarkable song, a fine Gothic(in it's proper context) slab of melodramatic balladry called 'Children Of The Gospel Song'. It's the kind of song that Marc Almond produced in his Marc & The Mambas phase, and sounds like a massive leap forward on from the A side; like going from 'Hand In Glove' to 'The Queen Is Dead' in the simple flip of a record. And in the vocal, James delivers one of my favourite performances of all time, leaping from octave to octave and really putting a full throated performance in.

As with many of the bands and artists I've covered in this blog, listening again to these two songs makes me wonder how they never became as big or even bigger than many of their contemporaries. Even a lot of Smiths fans that I know appear not to have heard of them or of these songs.
Raymonde didn't release an awful lot of records and split within a year or so.
The next time I saw James Maker was on dreadful early 90s show The Word where he was promoting a new full-on Gay Heavy Metal band he had formed called RPLA!!

But back in April 1986, as I sat in my room wondering when the bombs were going to drop, I played these two songs over and over, and even now almost a quarter of a century on, I can still feel, touch and taste that sense of dread that cloaked the land in that most worrying of times.
It's funny how music can do that.....especially brilliant music!!


Saturday, 13 November 2010

Griff says; Come down from the mountain, Top Montagne

I have a nice combination of music and visual arts for you this evening. As you'll hopefully know, I'm rather keen on artist/musician fusion (see Colorform, mkf, entertainment for the braindead) and, as I'd like to begin blogging a little about lo-fi artists, as well as musicians, I admire, I'm confident that this should be an agreeable little taster for you. The band is called Top Montagne (pictured), they come from Paris, France, and remarkably the band line-up contains, not just one, but two excellent visual artists.

I'll begin at the beginning. Back in the days when Myspace was a thriving community for aspiring musicians to meet and share their art, I became friendly with a young musician and graphic artist called Pierre Chandeze. Pierre had attracted my attention as he was a rather fine purveyor of that most evocative, and yet most neglected instrument; the musical saw. Rather infuriatingly, he also seemed to have an almost inhuman work rate and every other week he was playing on someone else's song, or producing their cover art, or designing their website. He also found time to create a distinctive series of art works featuring 'ugly animals' (pictured).

I was rather fond of these and for quite a while the above freaky sea-creature was my pc desktop picture. Anyway, Pierre is still at it and last month one of the bands he plays with, Top Montagne, released their album 'J'aime Pas La Musique'. The album contains 14 brilliant little, quirky, home-produced, folk-pop masterpieces and features those perennial Griff favourite's; the glockenspiel, the melodica and the concertina, but of course, this time with the added bonus of the aforementioned saw to add a bit of whimsical Gallic charm. Naturally, this being Streetlamp, the album is available as a free download but, interestingly, not from one of the usual sites. No, 'J'aime Pas La Musique' is available only on comic book artist David Snug's website. In fact, 'J'aime Pas La Musique' is also, the name of the next David Snug comic book and will include the Top Montagne album inside. Unfortunately, the comic book is not yet completed but, for now, feel free to download the album. So, you're no doubt wondering, who is David Snug? David Snug is the psuedonym of Guillaume, the band's main composer. He also provided the wonderful album cover art as well as other diverse artworks (below) for the band. Like Pierre, he has his own distinctive and idiosyncratic style and his site is well worth a visit.

While it's creditable to laud the band's in-house artists I shouldn't neglect the other band members, so I'll correct that now. The full Top Montagne line-up is: Aude (vocals, glockenspiel, melodica, concertina, flute...), Guillaume (guitar and percussion), Hélène (oboe and backing vocals) and Pierre (guitar, musical saw). I've added two songs from the album to soundcloud so that you can have a listen (below). I think you'll like it!
08 les animaux - Top Montagne by SadPanda

11 c'est pas fait - Top Montagne by SadPanda

I hope you enjoyed that. If you want to hear similar I should also mention that; Guillaume and Pierre also play with the band Quetzalli who have free music available at CLLCT, Guillaume also fronts The David Snug Trio, Pierre is a member of Sean Croft, and finally (phew), Pierre's solo music work goes under the name of Carton Sonore. Carton Sonore's music is free and can be found on, CLLCT and bandcamp. You may also remember that a Carton Sonore track 'Dérive' was also featured on Daydream Generation No. 9 (along with a sighrens track), which can be downloaded here.
If you liked Pierre's 'ugly animal' art then you might want to buy one of his rather fine self-produced t-shirts or bags from here. As it's getting close to Christmas might I suggest that these would make excellent presents for family and friends. Now, how many music blogs do you know that help with the Christmas shopping? Yes, as always, The Streetlamp likes to go that extra mile.



Sunday, 7 November 2010

Griff says; bringen Sie mir meinen Glockenspiel!

I was browsing through the CLLCT website when I noticed that 'A Pile Of Lo-fi!' (featured here previously on Streetlamp) have recently released the latest volume, number 6 since you ask, of their free, lo-fi, indie-music taster series. As always it's well worth a listen and contains a number of previous Streetlamp recommendations such as shalloboi, Wisdom Tooth and Tinyfolk. I also noticed that this volume contains an excellent song, Blue Highways, by the criminally under-rated Cabinet of Natural Curiosities. For those of you who dont know, the group’s principal members are Jasmine Dreame Wagner and Alex Wilson (pictured) who retreated to Wagner’s childhood home in the woods to record chilling lo-fi lullabies and country dream songs. As well as this track for A Pile of Lo-fi, a new album, reportedly to be titled Buttermilk Channel, is also apparently in the offing. We look forward to that and as soon as we know more we'll post it on here. In the meantime, I also noticed that Cabinet of Natural Curiosities have made a sweet, home-made video for their absolutely outstanding song Owllullaby from the Searchlight Needles album. This song has been a firm favourite of mine for a while now and so I need little or no excuse to post the video (below).

I hope you loved that as much as I do. A free MP3 of the song can be downloaded from the band's page and their official website (where you can also order the band's CDs).

Watching that video with it's cute, baby-blue glockenspiel instantly reminded me of a few other videos by Streetlamp favourites. You see, I own that self same brand and colour of glock and, therefore, I can't help but notice when it pops up on screen. For no other reason than that, I'd like to share some of these videos with you tonight. First of all there's Scotland's own Camera Obscura with their acoustic cover of 'Some Guys Have All The Luck', hastily filmed, and nicely intimate for that, in a camper van at the Connect festival in Inveraray in 2008.

Did you spot the glock? Here it is again, in another charming, low-budget video, this time by Spanish indie-pop darlings Mittens (previously featured here on Streetlamp). On this occasion it is part of a perfectly-performed, synchronised glock display, which is sure to amaze and delight.

Finally, I'm going to feature a video which we've shown before on Streetlamp but which I'm posting again as Ray and I both love it. This time it's Guillermo of Mittens in his other guise of Wild Honey (featured here previously on Streetlamp). This is the fantastic Isabella. Now play that glock!


Friday, 5 November 2010

Griff says; The Felt Tips -Tales of the Unexpected

It's nice to give publicity to deserving musicians from far-flung shores but, I have to admit, it's even more satisfying to be able to give a little boost up the ladder of success to a young band from our own little corner of the world. The Felt Tips are an indie-pop four-piece, composed of three Scots; Andrew, Neil and Kevin, bolstered by the chiming Marr-like guitar skills of Miguel from Almeria in southern Spain. Despite this exotic influence, the band's songs slot seamlessly into the Scottish indie-pop canon; lying somewhere between the literate pop sound of Belle and Sebastian and the plaintive kitchen-sink drama of The Just Joans. Sound like your kind of thing? Well, the good news is that the band's eagerly awaited, Scottish Arts Council funded, debut album 'Living and Growing' is released on Plastilina Records on the 15th of this month.

Playing the album is a bit like picking up a book of short stories as, even at a first listen, it's obvious that The Felt Tips are very much one of those bands for whom the lyrics matter and it's soon apparent that Andrew, the vocalist, is not so much singing as engaged in story-telling. And it's story-telling with a bold and sometimes brutal honesty. It's this aspect of The Felt Tips that makes comparison to The Just Joans most relevant, but where the Joans have an undeniable west of Scotland, working-class grittiness, The Felt Tips have an unashamedly more genteel, north eastern, middle-class take on life. This is apparent from track 1 'A life More Ordinary' with its guilty, petit bourgeois refrain of "This is the curse of having no cause to complain". Track 2 'Boyfriend Devoted' is another little, self-contained story and, surely uniquely in the annals of pop lyricism, recounts the point-of-view tale of a girl with an overly pious boyfriend all set to a solid-gold, jangle-pop acompaniment.
And the album just continues right on in this vein. There's 'Bought and Sold', telling the story of an exile in London with it's loping indiepop bass interweaving with some tremendous shimmering guitar work. There's the uptempo 'Engaged for A Visa', with it's contemporary tale of the the suspicions faced by young love complicated by UK rights of residency issues. There's; 'Garden of Roses' with its pantheistic view of life and death, the graphic 'Lifeskills', which is the most Just Joans-like, with it's frank tale of teenage oral sex performed in the public park, 'Silver Spoon' about a privileged young man left quadraplegic following an accident, 'Not Tonight', a bouncy and breezy indiepop song chock-full of sly humour, about not losing your virginity.
I've deliberately kept the best (in my opinion) two songs till last. Undoubtedly, the song that will provoke more music press column inches and music-blog purple prose than any other is 'Dear Morrissey'. This takes the form of an open-letter to their (and our) erstwhile idol SPM. The song engages not only with their own sense of drifting away from their former teen hero, viz "less need to find solace in you" but also finds time to address the recurring accusations of racism that have dogged the great man's career. There's lyrical ambition for you!

The Felt Tips - Dear Morrissey by eardrums

The album ends with the gentle and elegant bitter-sweet love ballad 'Double Bluff'. It's this song that Ray has chosen to give The Streetlamp video treatment to, providing us with a charming, lo-fi, Harryhausenesque stop-motion classic (below).

Hope you liked that. Now find out if the band are gigging near you by checking here or here, and remember, 'Living and Growing' will be available in the shops from November 15. Until then, here's a little bonus; track 5 'Garden of Roses' can be downloaded for free here. Enjoy!