Them & Us Neon Lights EP review

Them & Us are Mark Mackenzie and Liam Macleod, a pair of producers who have been together for around a year now. In that time they’ve played a couple of fests, had a few really good support gigs and now they’ve got this EP out. They do Electro stuff. I don’t generally go in for electronical music. I say generally because…well you will never see a review on this site for something I haven’t at least liked. I’m not in the game of doing bad reviews. I’ve declined to do a requested review before for that reason.

Another thing, I haven’t a clue what I’m talking about. More so than usual. I don’t know all the terms or the sub genres for this type of music. While I post the odd thing here and there it’s a whole other scene. There’s not huge amounts of cross over. There’s these guys that straddle the two worlds a bit, The LED, others but this is kind of foreign territory for me. I wasn’t going to bother with a review until….well I’ll get to it when I get to it.

So, 4 track EP, mix of tunes, I like 3 and don’t hugely go for another one. I will now grope around like a man in a foreign country who only knows the words for “how much?” and “can I have a beer?”. And the swears obviously.

Things open up with title track Neon Lights. Now while I don’t go in for dance music, don’t start I class all this stuff as dance music, I did like a fair bit in the late 90’s. And I’m a fan of Daft Punk. Right off the bat the music struck me as reminiscent of the French duo. Synth keyboards and a bit of a build going on. Following classic song structure. Thrown in with this are….well I don’t know if it’s actually dub step as I don’t know that much about it. But wub wub motifs (honestly, this could end up being gibberish). Of all the tracks on the EP this is the most classically club style track as far as my dumb ass is concerned. It’s got good bits for dancing too, quieter bits so you don’t die before it’s done, Emma Hay providing the girl singing, KRTS doing some rap bits, and the lyrics are pretty much about going out and having a good time. Solid dance track, would fit in well with the big boys in mixes and that.

Now track 2….well track 2, 8 Days, is why I’m doing this review in the first place. I was listening to Marion Scott’s mighty fine show on MFR, first time I’ve managed to catch it in a long while, and she gave this one a spin. Very much enjoyed it. Some strings in the background, some mighty fine guitar bits, and a very strong hook. If that’s what it’s called in this kind of music. The main motif of the track which I assume is bassy sinth. Some mighty fine singing by Samantha Begg who I didn’t know was a singer before this. And some epic stuff as usual from Mr Toby Michaels, like me a stranger in a strange land as he’s in a rock band (for all I know he has a diploma in dance music). Whether he provides the guitars or not I don’t know. I was literally whistling what I’m describing as a hook to myself when I went to the shop for some beers. Damned fine tune, think I’ve heard it near 10 times now and not even slightly sick of it.

Track 3, Freak, is the only instrumental number on the EP and a very good piece of instrumental work it is too. Slightly brings to mind those French boys again in parts, actually reminds me of game music a bit as well. That is by no means a dig, I have heard some fantastic music in video games. I actually listen to things a few times pre-review (5th listen in a row while I type up the review) and the first couple of times I was playing a launcher game. Fit in perfectly. I’m sure it would work well for dancing along to as well, or as the score for some snowboarding footage or something. Nothing in the track really blew me away, but it was solid and I enjoyed it.

The last track, Move Your Feet, as you can guess by now, is the one that didn’t really do it for me. It’s not bad, just not my bag baby. I say that even though the person it brings to mind for me is another electronic bod that I really like, or at least did haven’t heard recent stuff. Fatboy Slim. I’ve heard old Norm put stuff like this out before. Not my thing then either. This would be when I’d pop outside for a cool down and a fag but I’m sure people who are properly in to this stuff would LOVE it.

Same goes for the whole EP. Extremely solid, well put together tracks with some interesting music choices. Track 2 is the definite stand out for me but the only one that would have me reaching for the skip button is 4. Not a comment on quality, one of personal taste. If you like electronic music go and buy a bloody copy already. If it’s not normally your thing but you like a bit, or did back in the day, give track 2 a listen, then the whole thing, THEN bloody buy a copy already. From here. It’s cheaper than a pint in a club. That would be another reason you won’t find me in clubs…

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Jemma Tweedie Two Hands EP review

First off, this review is WELL late. I’ve had the EP since a wee bit before it was due to come out, fully intended to review it before the release date and then the radio kind of got in the way. On the plus side it does mean that I’ve played her on the show. Twice. Anyway, sorry Jemma (and everyone reading).

So who the hell is Jemma Tweedie? Well she’s a young lady from Nairn, now Glasgow so she’s one of those not local locals, who plays the guitar and sings songs. She does these things (spoiler alert) rather well. I just read that she’s only been playing since last Christmas (I think) and has only been at it since August, which is frankly mind blowing on both counts. In addition to, probably on the back off, the EP she’s had a couple of good support slots in that time and a bit of radio play. Including landing on the radar of some bloke at 6 Music and of course ME! I’m the important one because the 6 Music guy isn’t Marc Reilly.

Only joking, that’s damned impressive. Marion Scott as well btw. Possibly others, I don’t listen to all the radio in the country.

So you can probably tell the general tone of the review then. Might as well get to the tracks. For a 3 track EP (commonly referred to as a 3P but fuck that, not a fan of the term) it’s very varied, showing quite a range of style while keeping to a general theme. And it’s all damned good. I shall now witter about each track adding themes that probably don’t exist and using terms that aren’t even close to correct. This is a review, that’s how they go.

Opening track Drunken Coastal Town will draw the inevitable Amy Macdonald comparisons, because she’s Scottish and sings. For once they aren’t too far from the mark but they’re still very distinct artists. The song highlights the dichotomy of teenage/ early 20’s life in a small Scottish town. Good times getting hammered with your mates/same bloody faces all the time and it’s a bit tedious. The song isn’t though. Bit of a country vibe, up beat pace, good use of near silences and just close enough to poppy in the Lilly Allen vein of things. Two comparisons in one paragraph eh? Minor comparisons though. There’s a wee bit of strings in there too.

Title track Two Hands is actually a wee bit risque if you listen very closely, but nothing that would hamper radio play. To me it’s about the start of a relationship, that nervousness before the first time something really happens where you’re at the “will I won’t I oh god” stage. The steady guitar in the background seems to follow a quickened heart beat pattern. Good use of pacing, sometimes bloody fast with the lyrics (well done) to highlight the emotional state. Second guitar and light percussion fleshings things out. Cracking tune.

And last but certainly not least, Draw The Line. Possibly my favourite actually. I think it could be about the end of a relationship, but I could be off there. The actual lyrics aren’t what does it for me though. Intricate finger plucky guitar work, including from a second guitar, the odd hint of xylophone and augmenting strings. Just enough echo on the vocals for depth without overly distorting things. And not too much acoustic guitar squeal. You know what I mean, the chord change noise. Too much of that gets tedious, though it can be understandably unavoidable, just enough gives it a live kind of vibe. The balance is spot on.

So nice and varied. Quite poppy with a bit of country ending on folk. Can’t ask for much more from 3 tracks really. Two Hands is available from all good digital outlets, take your pick, and physically at a gig which is best as the musician gets more of the money that way (some times it’s cheaper too). It’s also in a store in Gairloch. Her page is called Jemma’s secret music page but at the rate she’s going it won’t be a secret for long. Hopefully.

And yes, she’s got a solid spot on my play list so expect to hear a track every couple of weeks on one of my shows.

Fatherson@Ironworks 11/10/2012 review

We’re back to dodgy phone pictures again and apologees (I know that’s not how it’s spelt but the correct spelling makes no sense) to Purple Divide but I didn’t have my head screwed on so there’s none of them. SO one for Midnight High, and some Fatherson liberally sprinkled about then.

See? Dodgy pictures. There are better and worse though

I was also a bit late so I missed the start of Purple Divide‘s set. They’re a local indie/alt rock 3 piece who I don’t believe I’d seen before. Occasionally a bit moody (song wise, not the guys), a mix of mellow and full on rocky with well structured tunes. Good use of peddles to vary the lead guitar. They have an excellent bassist and a cracking drummer, with songs constructed in a way that everyone gets a chance to shine now and again. Crucially, as it’s often the weak point in bands at this level, they’re lead singer has a good set of pipes on him. While they can be a bit anthemic at times they’re a solid wee rock band. Glad I finally managed to catch them, look forward to making a whole set one day.

As is the fashion there were two support bands this evening. The locals above, and some locals for the main act who came along. I assume it’s the first time that Midnight Lion have played up here but I could be well off on that. I really wasn’t all that sure what they’d be like going in to this either as I hadn’t checked them out ahead of time. They’re a mix of electonic music and rock, a wee bit like the Capitals. Actually the band that really came to mind as the set went on was Ah Ha. But a rockier Ah Ha. And if you’ve only heard Take On Me, not that. Other stuff. Standing out for me here was the drummer. Don’t get me wrong the whole band are damned good and they brought some personality along so there was nice banter (same goes for all the acts this evening). It’s more of an equipment (EASY!) fascination than anything else really, though he had a bit of mental Animal drummer about him. He had a kind of synth drum thing for producing electronical and clappy noises BUT from what I could tell he never actually HIT it. It’s was theremin-like. Whether distance makes a difference or not I don’t know, but I thought it was pretty kick ass. Love seeing gear I haven’t seen before. But getting away from that, pretty anthemic, big sweeping tunes, a song called Fatherson (panderers) and at one point enough bass to rattle some of the barriers. Great stuff, check them out if you get the chance.

And finally the main men (and lady) themselves, Fatherson. Regular visitors to the top half of the country this year but first time I’d really managed to see them properly. Missed the set at Brew at the Bog unfortunately, wasn’t at the same other fests also unfortunately. The set starts off with band leader and epic beard wearer Ross Leighton on his todd with a guitar, before the band join him. I’m not one for writing down song names and stuff really so I’ll just over view the sound. They’re a mellow band. They’re a very loud band. These two aspects are blended wonderfully to give their tracks variety, nuance and something to jump along to. Ross has a fantastic voice. The song writing is great. They clearly enjoy what they are doing and are friendly with the crowd. AND, capital and for a reason as this is a real stand out for me, they have a cello. That would be the lady. Essentially a rock band with a cello. Much of the time it’s augmenty for the mellow bits lovely cello, but a few times it’s ROCK CELLO. Brilliant.

Rock Cello!

There’s also some keys in there too which is nice. So I guess they could be tinged with folk, but they aren’t really. Truly alternative rock if you ask me. Alternative meaning different from the norm and not just different from mainstream rock bands (that would be indie in my books but what do I know). It was an admittedly modest crowd, dodgy weather probably being a factor but I heard more singing along at this gig than pretty much any other I’ve seen at the Ironworks. That says something. Dedicated fans, well earned if you ask me, for a band that will pretty much certainly go on to quite large things. An album is in the works, some time next year probably but they aren’t ones to rush things. If you missed this gig that’s you stuffed for the year. But next year if you see the name Fatherson on a poster somewhere walk up to the ticket booth and tell them to shut up and take your money. You won’t regret it.

This gentleman also plays keys/with his laptop

The Battle of the Bands: The Final review

And so the three mighty bands did meet on the field of battle. Axes in hand, some only armed with sticks or battle cries. And lo, did the reviewer stop writing like this as it’s confusing.

Yup, 3 bands. No Ragazzi, not sure why. Axes would be guitars, sticks were drum sticks, the lassie from Thousand Stars doesn’t play an instrument. Makes sense now eh?

The birthday boy

The night was three things. Organiser/compare Graeme Gilchrist’s birthday (happy birthday!), the final of the battle with that all important 3 days of recording up for grabs and the re-opening of The Eagle upstairs after a very long period of being shut. A fair few of the more experienced crowd members commented on how glad they were that it was back. The refurbished venue is very nice too. Roughly Market Bar sized for the crowd, bigger stage so a band can fit, toilets that aren’t Hobbit sized. Nice place all round. Wee bar in the corner, windows make a good back drop for the stage, comfy sofas to incentivise turning up early so you get one. The sound is good too. Check it out when you get a chance.

Not to put The Market Bar down any, love the place.

But this isn’t a venue review now is it? I had a vote in the outcome of this, yet no one who was playing bribed me. Poor show bands. Archie from the Oxides offered me a quid, as did Ryan Golder. PROFESSIONALS!

First up were Searching for Donkeys. They were Switzerland, non combatants and didn’t vote on the outcome. I only caught the end of the set as I had to jump over to The Market Bar for a bit and I wouldn’t review them in this instance anyway. I will say that they are a nice, mellow rock band and leave it at that for now. Proper review down the road no doubt.

And then came the first group of warriors. Lionel, only their second gig. The first one being the heat to get here. There appears to have been a decent amount of rehearsing in between as they sounded tighter than they did the first time. They have a retro sound with some great bass hooks and twangy/twiddly guitar solos. Each instrument, drums included, brings with it some variety over the bands regular sound to keep things interesting. They also showed a lack of fear by playing not one but two new tunes (though to be fair, second gig means they are all new to most of us. PLAYING new is a different matter though). The first new track fits in with their other stuff, the second is a fair bit darker and deeper. Like Lionel’s evil twin. To start with I thought this brought with it a bit of a weakness vocally but as the song went on my opinion changed. Could have just been down to nerves or it being new. Overall it was a blistering set from a band who sound more experienced than they are. A few more gigs under their belt and I could see them doing rather well. Keep at it boys.

76 Knots, catching flies

Next up were 76 Knots, another relatively new band really but slightly less so than Lionel. In the heat review I also highlighted a bit of vocal weakness at times and thought the same to start with this time around. As the set progressed I changed my opinion on that though. Now and again a bit patchy, generally spot on. Particularly for the genre of music they play and especially when it’s full on punky singing. I call it California Punk, or Skater punk. Loud, fast, high energy. There is nothing to fault musically here at all. I’ve referred to Andy as the second best bassist in Inverness BUT after a second visit….it so bloody close I can’t chose between him and Archie. And I’ve got a feeling that each of them would point to the other one as the best, which is nice. All round they brought fun, good music from all three guys and vocally they have a bit of an Offspring thing going on really. Though better. Uber bassist Andy provides backing and lead vocals on one track and when he’s doing the lead it gets very Offspringish. Though better. I LIKE the Offspring but don’t love em, just using it as an example for your ears. I’ve seen these guys twice now, they keep getting better, the crowd loved them though I think it was weighted in their direction anyway. Cracking.

This picture is full of stars, a Thousand of them.

And finally, Thousand Stars who keep things in a California vein but a more mellow one. They aren’t goths, but I think of the sound as gothy indie rock. Like stuff you’d get on The Craft or Charmed soundtrack. They have a very passionate singer and lyrically I think they may be spot on for the genre though I need to listen to things a few times to pick up on that kind of thing. They could probably do with cutting back on the harmonised parts on some songs though as it doesn’t always gel. They are a much mellower band than 76 Knots so placement may have damaged them a little bit. In fact at times, mainly while playing, they looked a bit disheartened. If that is the case then fair play to them as they did as good, if not a bit better, a set as I’ve seen them play and they brought banter in between the songs to have some crowd interaction (something that was scored on). A solid set from a solid band who I’m not sure are QUITE there yet but are certainly on the right track.

And that was it. Scores were scribbled on bits of paper and handed in to the hosts, totting up was done, milling about for 5 minutes happened and then results were announced. And the winner was…..

76 Knots! Which is fitting really as on the night they played the best set. Not to put the others down by any means. So at some point I’ll have a 76 Knots EP to play on the radio, along with the Thousand Stars one and hopefully Lionel at some point. The winner were extremely happy, grateful for the opportunity and respectful to their opponents. Their opponents didn’t have a problem with who won though obviously there was probably a bit of disappointed. No hard feelings though. Yes it was a competition, but not a nasty one. Very good to see, don’t want a divided scene. Throughout everyone had a good time, we got to see some good gigs and the upstairs bit of the Eagle has made a blistering return to the Inverness scene. Expect more music up there, expect to see me now and again hopefully, and expect that EP in…oh could well be a couple of months really.

Thanks to The Eagle, the Searching for Donkey’s boys for organising it and to EVERYONE who played (even though I missed heat 4). Wonder if they’ll do it again next year…. And a special thanks to photographer extraordinaire Adrian Young for taking all of the pretty pictures used in these reviews. Great work man.

Galipaygos Win You Over LP review

First off, sorry this took so long guys. Had the album sitting there for 3 weeks now. Been a BUSY three weeks though and I like to give things a few listens before reviewing them.

Anyway, The Galipaygos. They’re a rather surprisingly diverse sounding band, I only say surprisingly down to their generally mellow sound. Bit blues, bit folk, bit country, bit indie, bit everything but metal really. And they’ve been around for DONKEYS for a band. I have the first two albums sitting a few feet away from me. The first, Trucker Chic, came out in 2005! So if you haven’t heard them before now I’ll be pretty amazed. Unless you aren’t from around the Inverness area of course.

Win You Over may seem like a bit of a strange title then. If they haven’t already it’s not likely they would now really is it? And it’s hard to believe anyone wouldn’t like them at least a bit as they’re so darned nice. Well, that’s the easiest description I can think of for the music anyway. It’s nice. And varied.

The album opens with a bit of a country vibe, I think half of the country sound to them is down to the fiddle. Or violin. Will get to that in a minute. Don’t Go features some male harmonising as well as a bit of an indie love song vibe to it. I’ve seen them live a few times now and lead, well most of the time, singer Andrew is pretty passionate. Really throws himself behind the singing and it comes across in the sound here. This one got stuck in my head REALLY quickly btw so it’s a strong way to open. Solid violin hook reflected and flourished on in a guitar solo. Second up, A Fiddle and A Violin, as I mentioned at the start of the paragraph they’re the same damned thing. Don’t know why, as listening closely it’s not a funny tune in the least, but the main chorus line made me chuckle.

Honest George is about….someone, no idea who, that’s obviously helped the band out a lot over the years. It has some fantastic mandolin work in it and brought to mind The Waterboys for me. With Honours Even the country vibe is completely dropped, pure and quite simple sounding rock. Middlin’ Ground sits in the south of the states but couldn’t really say that it’s gone back to country. Quite bluesy, falsetto singing, kind of like a jug band tune without the jug if you know what I mean. Certainly a toe tapper. Part of that variety I mentioned earlier. Never Away is a blues rock number with what I call a travelling blues beat. You know the kind of thing that fits with a trains rhythm? That. Which fits as the lyrics are about returning home. Nice solos and a wanderlusty vibe.

Same Voice is a light rock anti-love song. Sounds like a love song on the surface, if you listen closely it isn’t really. Rather sad really. Nothing on Sweet Relief though which see’s a return of the country vibe. It’s about someone dying a lengthy death, not sure if there’s a story behind that. Very well written song and I understand the feelings behind it. Melancholy music break in it too. Not a feel good song, but really well done. The Ocean doesn’t quite lift you out of the sad hole really but it’s a very nice tune. Folky stuff, harmonised singing and light guitar and bass backing. Accordian solo. Light, gentle, sounds great.

The One That Got Away brings back The Waterboys vibe for me a bit, think it’s just the mandolin as it’s not like I’m overly familiar with their music. Similar tone to The Ocean but with a couple of wry smile moments. It’s another one that stuck around with me after a couple of listens. Could certainly see me singing along a bit sometime after midnight in the Market Bar. Though if I’m there that late I’ve missed my bus! Who’s Counting is a light indie rock tune, the guitar and keyboard backing is a bit like a slowed down Mr Blue Sky, and lyrically it’s probably the most romantic tune on here unless I haven’t been paying attention. Towards the end it has a bit of a late Beatles vibe to it. And the whole thing is rounded out with title track Win You Over. Bit country, good partner tune for The One That Got Away and could probably be a bit of a theme for some friends I have in the city.

SO a bit country at times, a bit bluesy at times, bit indie rock at times with some folk thrown in. You won’t walk away from a Galipaygos gig with ringing ears any time soon, no one will be moshing away either. Sometimes melancholy, sometimes toe tappy. The album will stir various emotions in a listener who listens carefully and if you aren’t giving it your whole attention it’s some nice, relaxing background stuff. You should pay attention a bit though or you’ll be missing out.

And if my nonsense words above didn’t sell you on it you can have a listen here on soundcloud. Try before you buy and all that. Sure there’ll be physical copies knocking about soon but for now you can pick it up on itunes. I’ve never been all that quiet on my dislike of that particular service but that’s down to not having any iDevices. I’d expect it’ll be available elsewheres soon enough if you are in the same boat.