Monday, 28 February 2011

Arran Arctic - In My Hands

It's not a coincidence that when I start a new feature on Kowalskiy, there's one person I turn to and try to rope into road-testing the idea.  Thankfully, he seems to always say "yes". This, not fussy/overly trusting/easily swayed [delete as appropriate] guy is, of course, my favourite Edinburgh-dwelling Northern Irishman, Arran Arctic.  OK, so he's the only one I know, but that doesn't stop him from being one of my favourite singer-songwriters around just now.  Plus, he's a true gent to boot!

Odds are, if you're no stranger to these parts, you'll have heard of him.  Ever since he sent me a copy of his last album The Boy In Brown, I've been a fan.   So much so, I pinched one of his earlier tracks for Kowalskiy EP #1.  Since then, Arran's fair been dishing out the freebies himself with the first three singles (Interrupt Me, The Door and All That I Can Do) from his new release, his 5th album, In My Hands, all being given away.

The new album came out yesterday, and as per usual, Arran has served up a treat.  Compared to his last offering, it sees a different side to him.  Gone is the haunting D.I.Y. folk, replaced by some beautifully-crafted electro-dreampop, if such a genre exists.  Kinda like The Radio Dept. in their early days complimented by Arran's natural Irish charm and soothing tones.  The whole package is pretty damn good!  The three freebies Arran led with were a great introduction to the album and got me a wee bit excited in the run up to its release.  It's the stunning penultimate track The Wire though, that has had me reaching for the repeat button.  Give it a whirl...

It's an album to stick on and as the ol' cliché goes, lose yourself in.  Just be careful you're able to find your way back out of its clutches.  At the risk of offending Arran (and countless others out there)... it's a craic-er!

You can get your hands on the album over here as a name-your-price download or you can bag yourself a hand-packaged CD.  Here's what the man himself had to say:

"I’m really glad to have this record out of my system. It’s been a tough few years, but the reward is more than worth it; to have my work out in the world, out of my head and into people’s hearts and minds... And now I sleep".

It's definitely been worth it mate.  Now, quit slacking and get back to work!

K&A with Laurence & the Slab Boys

So it turns out my first K&A session of 2011 has been doing the rounds a lot recently.  Let's see if this one can stir up some hype for my latest victims, Laurence & the Slab Boys.  The 'Laurence' in question (that rather sultry looking chap to the left) may already be familiar to some of you as the guitarist in one of my all-time favourite Scottish bands, The Cinematics.  Having relocated to Berlin with the rest of the band, Larry Reid has decided to start this new project with bandmate and bassist Adam Goemans.  With tracks now appearing online and an album in the pipeline, I thought I'd ask Larry a few questions... again.  Here's what he had to say about the band, the other band, and what we can all expect from him and The Slab Boys...

Kowalskiy:  Who are Laurence & the Slab Boys?
Larry:  At our live shows we are myself, Adam and a couple of friends we met in Berlin, Max and Tim. There have also been quite a few other musicians who have played different instruments on our recordings. I suppose, in many ways, it’s really more of a collective than a band.

Kowalskiy:  What's the story behind the name?
Larry:  The Slab Boys is a trilogy of plays by John Byrne, set in Paisley. I was born in Paisley and I’ve always wanted to name a band after the plays, but other band-members have vetoed it in the past. This time around I think I’ve just been more headstrong, and then we added the “Laurence and...” part to make it an even more unlikely-sounding band name. My parents think it’s a stupid name, which is usually a good sign. I’m sure people will just shorten it to The Slab Boys but I might threaten to sue any promoter that doesn’t use our proper name, Mohammed Ali-style.

Kowalskiy:  So, how did The Slab Boys get together?
Larry:  Adam and I were in Berlin with our other band, recording an album. The recording ground to a bit of a halt three-quarters of the way through and we decided to take a break from it. I’ve always been quite active in writing and recording songs so I decided to put something else together in the meantime, and it seemed natural to work with Adam on it. Ross from the Cinematics played drums on a lot of the recordings, also, as he’s a bit of a genius-machine in the studio. When it came to consider playing live we roped-in some of our Berlin friends. Max and Tim play in another band, Johan Van Der Smüt, and are great musicians.

Kowalskiy:  Many will know you from your other band, The Cinematics.  How do The Slab Boys differ?
Larry:  I think it’s really quite a different sound. You could call it shoe-gaze, but it’s also pretty folksy and has some dirty rock n’ roll riffs thrown in at times.  I could be wrong, and I might be foolishly writing-off a potential ready-made fan base here, but I don’t think many Cinematics fans will even be into this band. Perhaps music-listeners that got into the band through Love and Terror or the Silent Scream EP will dig it and will be savvy to the progression, but anyone looking for something that sounds like Strange Education will wonder what on earth is coming out of their speakers if they hear it.

Kowalskiy:  Who are your main influences?
Larry:  All of the music I’ve been listening to since I was a teenager. Dylan, the Velvet Underground, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Neu!, Radiohead, The Smiths, My Bloody Valentine, Bowie, Primal Scream, Ride, Tom Waits, Felt, Momus... most of the Creation stuff, actually.  Some of the influences will be obvious in the sound, and others are probably just a figment of my imagination.

Kowalskiy:  What are you and the Slab Boys up to at the moment? Any plans for releasing some material or gigging?
Larry:  We’re still working on an album. We might put it out through some conventional channels, or we might just give it away on Bandcamp and then tour it for a bit. If we thought a particular label would actually bring something to the party then we’d talk to them, but I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that established record labels are the worst people in the world to trust to put out your music.  We have some shows lined-up. We’re supporting Pains of Being Pure at Heart, who are one of my favourite bands of the last couple of years. We’re also supposed to be playing with Glasvegas and touring with Wild Beasts, and there is talk of some festivals in the summer. We have a date pencilled in for London and I hope to play in Glasgow at some point. That’s tricky as although I’m based between Glasgow and Berlin, most of band is based only in Berlin, so we’ll have to look at getting the boys over and show them around Glasgow.

Kowalskiy:  What would be your ideal gig?
Larry:  All of the artists I listed as influences. Perhaps minus Dylan, as I’ve already seen him once in my life and he was great, and I’ve heard that his standards vary from magnificent to murderous, so I wouldn’t want to tarnish the memory.  It could be like some kind of travelling mini-festival, playing all my favourite European music cities, a different one each night for a week: Paris, Rotterdam, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Bologna and then finally at the Barrowlands in Glasgow.  If I was curating it then I’d stick some of my friends’ bands on to make up the numbers and then get my brother to MC it, as he’s an old-style comedy genius.

Kowalskiy:  What does your new project mean for the future of The Cinematics? Is this Robbie and Take That all over again?
Larry:  I think it would be a shame if the Cinematics never made another record. I personally feel that creatively the band were coming to a peak. Those guys are the most talented musicians I’ve met. We toured pretty solid for more than two years, which is a long time to spend sitting in the back of tour-buses, dressing-rooms and hotels, and then decamped to Berlin to record during the hottest summer and coldest winter that anyone there can remember, so it was always going to be very physically and mentally draining.

If it was up to me- and this is not a criticism of anyone else, as they’re all good guys and everyone is entitled to do as they please- then we wouldn’t be having any break at all. We can take it easy when we’re forty and I think that it’s very hard to come back after a period out. In this day and age, where people consume music like any other disposable thing, a fan base will just move on and I don’t know how it will pan out for the Cinematics. There may be a new album out in the medium-term, or it may be lost forever to the ether.

It would be a pity, that’s all I’ll say, but at the very least it has granted me the freedom to write and record the music that I want to, without the restrictive expectations of an American or European fan base.

Kowalskiy:  Guess we'll just need to wait and see what happens then.  Anyway, as a Scot living in Germany, do you keep up to speed on what's happening musically in Scotland? What Scottish bands are you listening to, and are any beginning to make waves over in Germany?
Larry:  I’m not really able to keep track of what’s emerging, as such. My pal put out The Scottish Enlightenment on his label a few months back. I like them a lot. Also, Angus from Capitals knows the other Cinematics members from way back, and his band sound really good. I’ve yet to see them live, but their recordings are great.  Scottish bands are actually something of a vogue again in Europe. I meet lots of people who want to talk to me just because I play in a Scottish band. I’m sure they’d rather be talking to someone from Mogwai or Franz or something, I grant you, but in their absence I’m Scottish enough for people to be interested.  As uncool and unfeeling as it sounds, “Scotland” is a strong brand and people want part of it. That fact can be used for good by great bands, like Twilight Sad or the Phantom Band, who get a fair amount of attention on the continent, or for evil by the countless other Scottish acts who sin in our name.

Kowalskiy:  What can we expect from Laurence & the Slab Boys in the rest of 2011?
Larry:  There will be an album, for sure, before summer, and possibly an EP later on, as we’re bound to write loads more songs. Hopefully there will also be some great gigs.

Kowalskiy:  Anything else you'd like to add??
Larry:  Yes. If you like the sound of all this then look us up on Soundcloud, Facebook, etc etc... if you don’t like it then you can just stop listening.

   Space Dream #2 by Laurence & the Slab Boys

If like me, you do like it though, then there's more tracks to hear on their shiny, new Soundcloud page, and keep an eye out for details of the album and any future Scottish gigs.  I've got a feeling we'll be hearing a lot more from them this year!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011


(Photo by Peter Holliday)

Those four fresh-faced guys above are Lanarkshire's epic rockers 4dayweekend.  At the beginning of the year they released their cracking 6-track Urban Lies & Rural Skies EP, and it is very impressive indeed.  I asked guitarist Darren a few questions about the band, and what we can expect from them this year.  Take it away Darren...

Kowalskiy:  Who are 4dayweekend?
Darren:  4dayweekend are a rock pop quartet from Motherwell consisting of Grant Carrol: vocals and piano, Darren Hay: Guitar and vocals, Scott Hayes: Drums, guitar and vocals, Scott Macfarlane: Bass and vocals

Kowalskiy:  How would you describe 'your sound'?
Darren:  We write Melodic rock with big gang vocals and hard hitting choruses.

Kowalskiy:  What can we expect from you in 2011?
Darren:  Plenty of gigs both local and across the UK touring our Urban Lies & Rural Skies EP. We also have some new tracks in the works which will hopefully become available in the not to distant future. In addition, we are supporting Toploader in the King Tuts in March, and we also hope to be playing some of the Scottish Festivals this year so keep an eye out.

So Toploader are still going then... who knew?!  Anyway, as Darren said, their rather good Urban Lies & Rural Skies EP is out now.  You can get your hands on a download from iTunes.  If you're not convinced yet, then here's the pick of the tracks, the rousing anthem When I Go.  This oughta do it!

   When I Go by 4dayweekend

Upcoming Gigs
16th Mar - King Tuts, Glasgow
26th Mar - The Venue, Sheffield
30th Apr - Newarthill Club, Newarthill 

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Come On Gang! - Strike A Match

So that's that then.  Another great Scottish band have gone the way of the dodo.  Although, after being with us for three years, they've left us a wee memento to remember them by... and it's an outstanding one at that!  It must be said, I jumped on the Come On Gang! bandwagon pretty late on.   By which time they had just released their third, finest, and ultimately, last, single Fortune Favours The Brave.  So their goodbyes have all come a bit too soon for my liking, especially given the affect their album Strike A Match has had on me. 

Most of my listening these days is done in the car on my way to work.  So given the driving hoodoo behind their debut single Wheels that guitarist Mikey Morrison recently revealed, and my own slightly superstitious OCD tendencies, it took me a while to pluck up the courage to listen to the album in its entirety.   Since then, not much else has gotten a look in.   It is an absolute belter of an album, and without question, one of the most instantly enjoyable of recent years.  One of those rare albums without a single duff note, just track after track of perfect post-punky pop. 

It's virtually impossible to single out my favourite track, but if pressed, Fortune Favours The Brave might just edge it for its sharp hooks and insanely catchy doo-doo-doo's which set the tone for all that follows.  As for Wheels and 'those accidents', it's no coincidence.  I defy anyone to listen to it and not lose all control over their limbs, head and vocal cords.  

They say they set out to make music we could all dance to, and to say they've achieved that is an understatement.  Throughout, the unique vocals of singer (and drummer) Sarah Tanat-Jones are stunning, no more so than the goosebumpy closing stages of To The Morning

The pace throughout the album is relentless, only letting up a bit on closing track Start The Sound, a fitting goodbye if ever there was one.  It's clear the band have put their all into this album.  It really is remarkable.  You'd be mad not to buy it.

I can just imagine in a few years time, hearing one of the tracks somewhere and going home and listening to the album again non-stop for a while.  It's possibly the best Scottish debut since Tigermilk in my opinion and if there's any smidgen of justice in the world, it''ll be seen that way long after they've said their fond farewell.  Sarah, Mikey, Rob, Trev, thank you!  All the very best...

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Kowalskiy's Free Monthly 5-track Scottish EP #8

You know the deal by now... another month, another five great, rare-ish tracks from five of the best up-and-coming Scottish bands.   So, here's Kowalskiy's Free Monthly 5-track Scottish EP #8 and the five acts that have each contributed a song.  Take it away folks...

1. Wrongnote - Devil Give Misdirection (from their debut album Reach Out, Disconnect)

"The song has been around since we formed Wrongnote and it’s one that we always play live. I like the recording. The riff sounds filthy and menacing while the drums, bass and rhythm guitar bite away at it. Exactly the sort of cheap thrill we were looking for to be the second track on the album." - Callum Smith (Wrongnote)

2. The Son(s) - The Moon & The Stars In The Sky (a brilliant rare track from The Son)

"This is a song from long ago, it's was recorded a bit quick and dirtily onto an old 4 track tape recorder, the only thing I had to hand at the time. I think that tape sound is a large part of any charm it possesses." - The Son(s)

3. I See Horses - Amerika (a track from the Oslo-based bands new EP)

"Amerika is an imperialistic love song. The old weep and the youth dance; perhaps for a hopeless cause" - David Coyle (I See Horses)

4. Call To Mind  - Sometimes Up, Sometimes Down (a track recorded live during their EP sessions)

"It's a live track, taken from a session we did as part of demos for our EP in 2010. We're currently writing some new things for what will hopefully be our album debut out later this year." - Jamie Ross (Call To Mind)

5. Josef Llama - Loser On The Run (an unreleased track from Glasgow's 'dark troubadour'.)

"I wrote this song last Summer, probably in anger, with Cameron and Clegg getting into power, I think I was also expressing disgust and fury at the amount of lenient sentences, for knife crime offences, I daresay there were other things going on that were bugging me. I seem to remember a bottle of Jack Daniels, playing a part in the writing session." - Josef Llama

The EP is now up for free download over on my bandcamp page, along with those that have gone before it.  Enjoy!

EP #9 which will be out on 16th March.   If there's any bands out there who fancy making my life that wee bit easier and want to volunteer a track for one of these EPs, then send me a wee email.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Sneak @ Pivo Pivo

Gig-goers of Scotland.. the good folk at Pivo Pivo in Glasgow cordially invite you to Sneak, their new monthly night of live music with a wee bit of a twist.  Well, three twists actually, or as they say, a "trio of delectable musical treats".  In the run-up to the night, each of the three bands on the bill will pop into Pivo Pivo and record a stripped-back performance which will appear online to whet your appetite.  Then, at the gig, the venue will be redecorated to the headliners exacting demands... "props, projections, backdrops, The Chippendales, wharrrrrevaah!".  To cap things off, as well as that, each gig will be filmed, the headline act interviewed and a wee documentary will be made and given to the bands to do with however they see fit.  Oh, and photos and a live audio recording of their set too... I think that's covered it all.

It all kicks off at the end of the month with the first headline act Le Reno Amps.  For a 'sneak' preview keep an eye out over here!

Upcoming Gigs
24th Feb - Le Reno Amps with support from Male Pattern Band and Rose Parade
31st Mar - Pensioner
28th Apr - Weather Barn

Monday, 7 February 2011

...Tanera Heights!

Time to introduce yet another great up-and-coming Scottish band.  This time, it's the turn of Tanera Heights.  With their impressive debut Cannons and Drums EP released today, I asked them a few wee questions.  Here's what they had to say for themselves...

Kowalskiy:  Who are Tanera Heights?
Colin:  We're a three piece originally from Strathpeffer (North of Inverness) and are currently based in Glasgow and Edinburgh.  Myself (Colin) and Alasdair are brothers and have been making music together since we could make noise (loose definition of 'music' for the early years). Tom joined the band to form the current lineup in 2006, although it is only recently we've started to gig regularly.

Kowalskiy:  How would you describe 'your sound'?
Colin:  We combine piano, synths, studio electronics, electric violin, harmonies, guitar and drums with influences such as Pink Floyd, Sigur Ros, King Crimson, Radiohead, David Bowie and the Flaming Lips.

Kowalskiy:  What can we expect from you in 2011?
Colin:  Our first E.P Cannons and Drums is due to be released on February 7th. We’re planning on playing as much as we can get away with between Glasgow and Edinburgh to promote the E.P and may even organize a Scottish tour. We have our eyes on a few festivals (T in the Park, Rockness, Loopallu, Belladrum, Wickerman) but lineups are yet to be announced. All going well we will also start to think about our next release.

My Fictional Fortress

If you like that, then the EP is out now on iTunes and the guys will be doing a few shows in Glasgow over the next few months...

Upcoming Gigs
11th Feb - King Tuts, Glasgow (with 6 Day Riot)
19th Mar - Nice 'N Sleazys, Glasgow

Friday, 4 February 2011

K&A with Come On Gang!

For the last three years, Come On Gang! have been one of the shining lights in the Edinburgh music scene.  But, as you'll no doubt already know, the 3-piece have decided to call it a day next week... after one final hurrah that is.  Well, two really.  They'll release their debut album Strike A Match on February 12th, the same night as they bid us farewell with their final gig at Pilrig St. Paul's on Leith Walk.  I've had the album on repeat for the last week or so, and as swansongs go, this one is pretty spectacular!   There'll be a proper review in due course, but for now, just trust me, it's a belter.  They will be sorely missed! 

Anyway, here's Sarah and Mikey to talk you through the life of Come On Gang!  Hankies at the ready...

Kowalskiy:  Who are Come on Gang!?
Sarah: Well, we were a bunch of chancers from various different towns over the UK and Ireland, who congregated in Edinburgh, played a lot of gigs, made an album, and left it on a high note.
Mikey: That is pretty much it actually.

Kowalskiy:  How did you all get together, and what’s the story behind the name?
Sarah: We met when I put up a sign at the Art College in Edinburgh looking for musicians. Trev, the bassist, gave me a call, as he was also looking for musicians to jam with. We'd both only just moved to Edinburgh. We met up a few days later at a rehearsal studio. It sounds mad, but things were fairly cemented from there. The fickle hand of fate! We met Mikey soon after. After a couple of years, Trev, who's Irish, felt the keening sound of his homeland calling him back, so we got Rob in to play instead. The name came from a complete lack of agreement over what to call this band we'd created. Mikey said, 'Come on gang, let's go and get come coffee and think about it later' and I thought that sounded a bit catchy, so it stayed.
Mikey: They went through literally dozens of guitarist auditions before they found me. Even though I wasn’t new to the city, I definitely saw a similarity in the 3 of us as we all knew we wanted to play great music, but we had very little (or no) knowledge of how a band works. Six months later we all felt like old pros! Bands, like chefs, have always had a bit of pirate look about them to me. We’d cemented together so quickly that we soon were a wee gang of our own, so the name stuck.

Kowalskiy:  Let's cut to the chase... after the release of your debut album Strike A Match, you'll be calling it all day. How would you describe your album? Is it true it’s something of a health risk for motorists?
Sarah: Yes, we advise you not to drive or operate heavy machinery whilst listening to this album. No, in fact being on the road is a major source of inspiration for some of the lyrics. I'd describe the album as the summary of everything we worked for and believed in over the life of the band. We always wanted to make a pop record, to make music fairly free of any genre or style restrictions - we just wanted to have fun and encourage everyone who was listening to have fun too. It's big on rhythm, tunefulness, chirpy guitar... I'm proud of it!
Mikey: Two or three people have indeed crashed their car whilst listening to our first single, that’s a true story. However the rest of the album isn’t tarnished with that particular curse. I agree with Sarah. It’s the perfect summary of the band and everything we have done. We’ve never really cared about genres and always focussed on good tunes, so inevitably it falls under the three letters of ‘pop’. I think it has quite a timeless sound and Paul really brought the most out of each part of each song. Though parts of it might surprise some ‘fans’, I would hopefully say that if you liked our shows, you’ll certainly like the album.

Kowalskiy:  So, are you happy to tell us why the band have decided to go their separate ways after all those happy years together?
Sarah: Well, we just felt we'd achieved most of the things we wanted to achieve in Come On Gang!. It felt like the right time to lay it to rest, with the album as a great way to finish.
Mikey: Absolutely. We’ve cut our teeth and earned our stripes in this band, had a ridiculously fun few years, and now it’s time to start something else. The album really is us in a nutshell, so there’s no need to make a second.

Kowalskiy:  Your album launch night will be your last time performing together. What is a typical Come On Gang! gig like? Do you have anything special in store for the final gig?
Sarah: A typical gig - how can you describe that? We've played everything from a packed arena to an empty pub in Perth. From a personal point of view, I always get really nervous, always worry that my mind will go blank, but it rarely does. I always have a great time because playing music live is just the best thing ever. The final COG! gig will be great because the album will be for sale, and it'll have a sense of finality, I guess, so it will be one of a kind. It's not every day a band plays their last gig - and when we do, I hope people who've cared about the band will be there to witness it.
Mikey: Our gigs has always been the most enjoyable part of being in the band. We’ve played quite a diverse range of gigs, but a typical one always makes me sweat a lot. I guess live we take our nice little songs and give them more balls, probably reverting back a little bit to the punkier stuff of when we first formed. The final show will be fantastic though. We have one or two things up our sleeve and perhaps even a couple of ‘new’ songs. We really can’t wait to send the band off!

Kowalskiy:  Do you anticipate any tears? And if so, who's most likely to bubble?
Sarah: Mikey'll cry, he's always crying. He cries about twice a day. When he runs out of toothpaste, when he misses the bus.. anything. So after this gig, you'll probably have to swim to the exit.
Mikey: Almost certainly me.

Kowalskiy:  What's been your highlights of being in the band?
Sarah: Going to America twice - Texas and Washington. Meeting all the people we've met. The thrill of some of the gigs we've played, getting good reactions and stuff. Recording the album with Paul Savage who was a real gent. Arriving in new cities. Playing festivals. It has been loads of fun.
Mikey: Like above, the new experiences are always so exciting. I never would’ve went to Washington DC in my entire life otherwise! Apart from working with Paul though, the highlight for me has really been just gaining that wee bit of success with the songs we wrote. We knew pop music wasn’t cool and we didn’t fit into anybody else’s gang, but no one ever really had a bad word to say about us; so it was a pleasure to know that we hopefully managed to maintain some credibility whilst unashamedly having a great time. Maybe it even rubbed off on other people?

Kowalskiy:  Any low points, regrets, or things you wish you'd done differently?
Sarah: That's a tough one, because hindsight is always 20:20, isn't it? It would have been good to tour more, for example, but being low on cash pretty much constantly, we were variously students, or 9-5ers, it was difficult at times. Being in a band is really expensive. But I've learnt a lot, and I grew up with this band to an extent. There'd be no point desiring to change things, because it was an organic process, and we all learnt loads of things. About life, about music, about ourselves. At this point, poignant music has started playing and the credits are rolling.
Mikey: Sarah’s right. I grew up a lot in this band too, and made loads of great friends through it, so it would be naive to wish to change anything without changing any of the consequences. There were very few lows as the 3 of us had all agreed at the start that the absolute priority was to have a good time. The only lows we had were when we took our eyes off of why we were doing it all. I wouldn’t recommend anyone be in a band for any other reason than the enjoyment of music.

Kowalskiy:  Can we expect a Take That style comeback in 10 years time?
Sarah: When we're all wearing 'mature but funky' knitwear? Mikey's got designer stubble, we're looking weathered but not without a semblance of our former beauty? Definitely! Just make sure there are no blue m&ms in the bowl please.
Mikey: Ten years? I was hoping to play the next Away Game. Fuck. Aye, once the alcoholism kicks in and our talents become shadows of their former selves, we’d happily shuffle back on stage for the right money. Might even convince Trev to fly over from Ireland for the occasion. Seriously though, we’re available for weddings, bar mitzvahs….

Kowalskiy:  What are each of your plans for afterwards? Do you all plan to stay in music?
Sarah: Hell yes. I'm already quite busy sorting out the next step, but I'll let you know about that in the future.
Mikey: It’s not something you can switch off too easily. Same goes, already quietly working on the next step and looking forward to where it may go. For now though, seeing off Come On Gang! Is the main thing.

Kowalskiy:  Lastly, looking back over your time together, how would you sum it all up?
Sarah: ... oh god. Big question! It was a rarefied few years. It was great.
Mikey: Wow! Easily the best 3 years of my life. Nothing compares to meeting people in the street on the other side of the world who know the words to your songs better than you do. I would do it all again tomorrow if I could; being able to write and play music, and share amazing experiences with two of your best mates is not something I really expected to ever happen to me. It’s like the best drug in the world!

Kowalskiy:  Any famous last words?
Sarah: Famous last words? Listen to the album, whether the words in that achieve the realm of fame remains to be seen!
Mikey: Listen to the album. How it starts, where it goes, and how it ends are all you really need to know about Come On Gang! It’s been an absolute pleasure, thank you.

The pleasure has been all ours.  Thanks folks and all the very best for the future!

Come On Gang!'s final gig will be on 12th February in Pilrig St. Paul's church on Leith Walk, Edinburgh with support from Over The Wall and Cancel The Astronauts, plus some special guests.  The occasion aside, that line-up would make for a pretty special gig.  Tickets can be bought from We Got Tickets and Avalanche Records.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Kowalskiy Singles Club #1

You may have noticed that I've never really featured singles or one-off tracks on Kowalskiy... I guess I prefer to review and plug EPs and albums, though I barely find time to do that.  This year though, as a mini-resolution, I've decided to try and give the singles out there the love and attention they so desperately desire.  Already this year, and at the tail-end of 2010, there's been some cracking examples released that deserve a wee bit of your time.  Whatever your musical tastes, I think I've found a track just for you.  One you'll wanna take home with you.  So, without much further ado, welcome to the first gathering of the Kowalskiy Singles Club.  Here's the first batch of singles looking to win a place in your hearts (and mp3 players) this month.  If you like the look of them, and what they have to say for themselves, then click on the cover art and get "downloading"...

The Son(s) - Radar
Radar by The Son(s)
"Film lover, GSOH, GCH, DG. Broad minded & compassionate, loyal & strong-willed Northern lass seeks partner in crime for lots of laughs. Responses to PO BOX Kowalskiy Singles Club." - A Son
Turns out someone in The Son(s) is up on his lonely hearts lingo!  Radar came out on Jan 17th on Eli and Oz Records with their self-titled debut set for a March release through Olive Grove Records.

Dear Mountaineer - The Hare Versus The BearThe Hare Versus The Bear by Dear Mountaineer
"Age: Two months
Occupation: Digital music track
Area: Glasgow
Looking for: Friends for a long-term relationship
In his/her own words: "Mixed gender indie pop with eight arms seeks like minded male and females for twee orgies in sweaty basement venues.“
- Jonathan McGourlay (Dear Mountaineer)
The single will be released this month over on their bandcamp. It's worth saying, that in Digital-music-track-years, two months is perfectly legal for twee orgies.

Fiction Faction - Apparitions
Apparitions by Fiction Faction
"Ghostly tale looking for indie/electronic loving listener" - Dave Richards (Fiction Faction)
Fiction Faction's debut single Apparitions, codename (17SEC25) is released on 17 Seconds Records on 31th Jan with a Nevada Base remix of A Fair Escape as B-side. Until then, you can hear it over on their SoundCloud.

Rose Parade - The Radio Plays For Me
The Radio Plays For Me by Rose Parade
"I am very easy to pick up! Listen to me and spread the word... like I spread my STDs" - Rose Parade
Soooo, I guess you could say it's very catchy in a few senses of the word!  If that kinda thing appeals to you, and to be honest, a track this good should, then the single can be streamed over on SoundCloud and is the opening track to their Grace EP.  

Braindead Collective + Rob St. John - The Whites Of Our Eyes
The Whites Of Our Eyes by Braindead Collective feat. Rob St. John
"The Whites Of Our Eyes is an atmospheric, plain chant multi guitar drone hymnal recorded in the oldest church in Oxford on the coldest day of the year, with mics and amps strewn strategically throughout the pews. We've poured our love and our time into trying to make something worth hearing and every penny goes to homeless charity Shelter. Give it a listen, and if you like it throw a few digital coins in our software begging bowl." - Seb Reynolds (Braindead Collective)
Released on 13th Dec, all proceeds from this great 7-minute collaboration go to a very worthy cause.  Can't recommend highly enough that you give this charitable wee soul a home.

Arran Arctic - All That I Can Do
All That I Can Do - Arran Arctic
"Lonely local discothèque moper seeks object to admire from afar.  Enjoys jangly guitar pop (The Smiths) and shimmering pop noisescapes (Asobi Seksu). For 5 minutes and 14 seconds of free aural pleasure, contact via Warning, hearts may be bruised." - Arran Southall (Arran Arctic)
Tugs at the heartstrings doesn't it?  This is the third free single from Arran's upcoming album In My Hands, set for release at the end of the month.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Kowalskiy Belated Review #6

Amid Concrete & Callousness - Sounds Of A Starlit City
So who have I been neglecting recently?  Well, first up, and at least 2 months overdue (though the postie at work is to blame for just under half that) is Livingston's electropowerpopping sextet Amid Concrete & Callousness.  As a whole, their sophomore EP shows a real flair for the kinda wasn't-this-once-called-emo? pop that isn't often pulled off this well by bands outwith the U. S. of A.  The kind that gets your head nodding long after its burrowed its way into it.  So onto the songs... Opener Hailey's Comment is probably the pick of the bunch with its synthed-up vocals, catchy riffs, chants and instantly memorable chorus.  The Big Win (feat. Voice of the Balls, Alan Dedicoat), carries on in the same vein, with a great piano line throughout it complimenting the big, synthy guitars.  The vocals then switch from boy to girl to boy, then back again for the final track, the rather contradictorily-named, Opening Lines -FUTURE ECHOES- which is a bit too trancey in places, and 'a bit Slipknotty' in others, for my liking.  Proof, if proof were needed, that an EP should stop at 5 tracks.  If that were the case, I'd be hard pushed to say a bad word about it!  Off now, to track down their freshman release

Trapped Mice - Portrait of the Great Father EP
Anyone who cites cult bands like Neutral Milk Hotel and Okkervil River among their influences is almost guaranteed a mention on Kowalskiy.  So it's no surprise that Edinburgh's Trapped Mice wound up being one of my Eleven for 2011.  A few months ago, they talked me through their first collection of tracks that found their way onto bandcamp.  Since then, they've released their debut Portrait Of The Great Father EP featuring a couple of these, plus three more great songs.  The whole thing kicks off with the two familiar tracks Secret Letters and The Priest And The Boy, the former a gorgeous piece of orchestral folk which sets the tone for the rest of the EP, and in some style too.   The stripped-back Caveman highlights the obvious Okkervil River influence with singer Ian Tilling's style mimicking that of the Texans' frontman Will Sheff.  All this is centred around the epic 10-minute long Beauty And The Beast, a modern-day alt-folk Bohemian Rhapsody with its shifting tempo and sudden style changes.  One point, reminiscent of The Smiths at their most sinister sounding, and another, like the R.E.M. of old, then reverting back to the now-familiar Okkervil sound before finishing up with some raucous, but rightly approving crowd cheer.   It really is a fantastic debut, so you'd best get used to the name Trapped Mice.  It's one you'll be hearing a lot of this year!

Steven Milne - Chasing Phantoms
Sometimes I thoroughly appall myself by my lateness in reviewing albums.  What makes this one worse is that the good folk over at Bedford Records even went to the bother of sending me this CD way before Christmas.  So, before I start, apologies for the delay.  Anyway, this is the gorgeous debut solo album from The Little Kicks' frontman Steven Milne.  Three of the four tracks from his Best Of Times EP make the cut here, with only his take on Orange Juice's iconic hit, Rip It Up missing out.  You can read my thoughts on these here.  Things begin and end with the slightly unorthodox musical bookends Scribble One and Scribble Two, a pair of uplifting tunes full of oohs, aahs and as the names suggest, even some background pencil scribbles.  In between, things are consistently, nothing-short-of-stunning from the standout, sublime ballad Keeping Busy Letting Go to Falling, the sole moment of electrodisco on here, and the perfect contrast to the gentle beauty of the rest of the album.  If his EP was further evidence that Steven is one of the most exciting songwriters in Scotland, then Chasing Phantoms has set it firmly in stone.  This boy from The Granite City is a class act!