Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Battle Of The Bands: Round 8

It's a week and a day later than first billed, but here's the round-up of Round 8.  Going into this latest musical melee, it's been level pegging with 3 wins apiece ever since that opening round draw.  Last time out, Neil (the nemesis) from Scottish Fiction drew the series level with some help from the crème de la Croy... Campfires In Winter, who toyed with my Edinburgh trio Toy Machene.  The ball's back in my court this time, and I've got an Aberdonian ace up my sleeve...

...for joining Team Kowalskiy this round is the mighty IndianRedLopez.   Another favourite around these parts, and some impressive stats to boot!  I went into our latest bout confident I'd regain the lead once again.  Unbeknownst to me, I was doing battle with another favourite of mine... the prolific Lovers Turn To Monsters a.k.a. Kyle Wood. 

Before I give a blow-by-blow account of what happened, here's a quick recap of the rules for those who, after 8 rounds, still don't have a clue what's going on.  You can read them in full over here.  This round, it's my turn to pick the three attributes we're playing with.  For each of the three, the person with the highest value gets one point, with both getting a half-point in the event of a draw.  Losers... don't get a thing!   I banked on my guys' Band Name Scrabble Score (they have a Z!),  their Twitter Follow Ratio (anything bigger than 1 is impressive in my book), and I also played the age card and went for Average Age.  Disclaimer time... all stats were correct at the time of battle.

Right, here's the all-important stats.  Ding ding, Round 8...


Oh yasss!  That 'Z' came in very, very handy as I took a 1-0 lead after the first attribute.  Next up, was the Twitter factor, and my boys narrowly pipped it... and I mean narrowly!  A 5-second purge of who he follows and Kyle would have levelled the round.  But, as it stood, Team Kowalskiy took an insurmountable 2-0 lead.  I didn't even have to play the age card, but I thought it best to give you plenty of time to look for five 30th birthday presents for my boys.  That completed a Round 8 whitewash, and edged me out in front AGAIN in the series. 

Once again, he who is in charge of the attributes, wins!  I've got 2 weeks to find a band to help me buck that trend in Round 9. 

As much as I enjoy these little triumphs in this yo-yoing duel, it's all about the music!  So I'll start off the plugging with the victors IndianRedLopez.   Their debut album Empty Your Lungs And Breathe was undoubtedly one of last year's highlights, and if their new track Break Us Both is anything to go by, the follow-up may just be better still! You can watch the video for it here, or listen to it below... and no doubt they'll be playing it at The Arches in Glasgow on the 16th November (get tickets here). They then head down to London for two nights at Surya (21st) and Proud Camden (22nd).



And now, onto the man who's very much more of a lover than a fighter, it's Lovers Turn To Monsters.  It's difficult to know what to plug since Kyle always seems to have something new out!  In August he released his own take on Withered Hand's entire Good News album, and good it is too.  You can get that here.  But as it's his latest offering, and 'cos it's Halloween, I'll pop up a track from This Horror Movie is a Metaphor for Puberty... which you can pay-what-you-want for here.


So that's it for another fortnight! Until then, I'll quietly bask in my one point lead in the series...

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Coastal Skid Spy Wok v23.0

The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted that these at-one-time-weekly round-ups of what's been taking my SoundCloud fancy have been getting increasing less frequent.  To be honest, with the exception of my free monthly EPs and my bi-weekly duel with a certain Mr. Fiction (Round 8 on Tuesday by the way!), there's not much time these days to blog.  So you're gonna have to make do with a threadbare Kowalskiy for the time being. 

With all that in mind, I've been neglecting more bands than usual recently.  It's not intentional folks... honest.  So what better way to say a big "SORRY" than to give a bunch of them a well-deserved plug!  First up, is a man you may know better as Gav Prentice from Over The Wall... it's Gav Prentice.  His debut solo album The Invisible Hand came out on the 15th.  You can snap it up over here, but first... my favourite track from it.

How's about that then??  Next up, and staying in Glasgow, here's Two Wings with the title track from their debut album.  They've recently made a video for it too, which you can watch over here.  Prepare to be taken on a slightly weird, but wonderful musical journey!

Two down, three more to go!  I've been aware of this band for some time, but never actually gotten around to having a listen.  In my defence, there's sadly just not enough hours in a part-time blogger's day to listen to everything that's sent.  Anyhoo, I've been hearing some very good things about Vukovi's upcoming Sweet Swears EP (listen/buy it here) so I had a listen.  Ooft... she can sing!  All SoundCloud have of it, is an acoustic version of the opening track... so here it is!

The penultimate, neglected band is none other than ol' favourites Trapped Mice.  It pains me I'm not able to give their debut album Winter Sun the attention it deserves.  So far, it's on a 5 album shortlist for the coveted 'Kowalskiy Album Of The Year' award.  It's that good!  So much so, look... I bolded the 'that'.  It's actually not officially out until the 5th of November, but you can pre-order it here.  Let this whet your appetite!

Last of all, it's a first-time appearance for Vasa on Kowalskiy.  Chances are it won't be the last going by their debut Never Have Dreams EP.  It's out soon, but the lovely folk over at Overlook Records are giving away the lead track Cynthia for FREE.  Here it is.  Enjoy!

Monday, 22 October 2012

K&A with Thank You So Nice

Photo by Anna Drobczynska
Regular readers of this blog should be well aware of this well-mannered Edinburgh-dwelling trio.   So far, Thank You So Nice have already bared their lonely, "socially-awkward" souls to me in their pursuit of their musical other half, and revealed their geeky admiration for a certain French philosopher when they kindly donated their album track Foucault to KEP#24 a few months ago.  Socially-awkward geeks... is it any wonder why I feel such an affinity with their debut album!   

Make Friends, Not Money was released last week on a very special day for the band.  Well... two thirds of them, as I found out when I asked them a few questions.  Here's what they had to say, plus a few of my favourite musical interludes from their brilliant debut.         

Kowalskiy:  Who are Thank You So Nice?
Rea: Three stage awkward people.

Kowalskiy:  Let's get the expected ones out of the way first... how would you describe 'your sound'?
Alex: Indie rock with krautrock aspirations/pretentions, depends how you look at it I suppose.

Kowalskiy:  And I'm sorry... but I'm curious... what's the story behind the name? Are you just that polite and appreciative?
Rea: As well as being very nice people we are pretty big geeks, primarily when it comes to history and video games. The name comes from the new Nintendo DS Super Mario Brothers. When Mario finishes a level and has pirouetted off the flagpole, it’s what he says, or should I say what we think he says, either way we like it although increasingly we're going by the acronym TYSN so we don't get sued.
Alex: It has been described as "the worst band name in Edinburgh". When I read that half of me wanted to, yes, evolve to the acronym, but the other half of me thought, well, if we achieve nothing, at least there'll be that.

Kowalskiy:  You've just released your debut album Make Friends, Not Money featuring previous single Let's Make Money... mixed signals folks!! So what's the deal?
Rea: Mixed message indeed, but Let's Make Money is more ironic criticism while Make Friends, Not Money is more sincere message.
Alex: I wouldn't take either of them at face value. I know it's a cop out, but I prefer to let the listener find their own meanings, if they really want to. We actually recorded a title track for the album but it didn't make the final cut. It probably would have made the whole thing make more sense.


Kowalskiy:  The album came out on Monday there, the same day as Michel Foucault's birthday... him from Foucault surprisingly.  Remind us who he is again, and what inspired you to write a song about him?  
Rea: I let the boys geek out about that, despite being half-French. 

Niall: Michel Foucault was a French postmodernist theorist who dealt with ideas of power and hegemony. While it's sort of grown that I am greatly acquainted with Foucaut's theories, my main admiration of him is that he was prepared to change his mind over almost anything, which is extremely unusual for an academic.  
Alex: What Niall, the Quiet Man of the group says. Foucault is an in house TYSN hero though. Whenever we rehearse or play live we put up a portrait of him on the bass amp. In a metaphysical sense.


Kowalskiy:  Other than that, what else can you tell us about the album?
Alex: We wanted to make something that was short, sharp, guitar based, and hopefully fun to listen to, with strange references if you really want to go looking for them. I find a lot of current bands, particularly in Edinburgh, po-faced and frankly dull (isn't pop music meant to be enjoyable?), so I wanted to do something that you don't have to take so....fucking....seriously.

Kowalskiy:  Are there plans afoot to tour the album?
Rea: We'd like to do a mini tour of Scotland, the smaller and intimate the venue the better.  
Alex: We'd like to tour the new towns of Britain. Playing outside of Edinburgh would be good... Our next gig is in Leith, so that's a start.  

Kowalskiy:  What would be your ideal gig?  
Rea: Ideal gig to watch would be somewhere where it's still warm at night and you can get close enough to the front but not be crush and have a good jump about with your friends into the wee hours of the night. I got pretty close to this when I went to Prima Vera Sound Festival in Barcelona years ago. But if I was performing, I'd want a small intimate venue, packed with friends and great fans; with them being as much as part of the performance as us and then we all go eat cheesy chips together afterwards.  
Niall: To watch? One of the 1979 Fabrizio De Andre concerts with PFM as the backing band. To play, I'd love to play any gig in Italy, either something huge like the Circus Maximus in Rome, or some little venue packed out.  
Alex: I'd like to play in Outer Mongolia c1200. If they didn't like you, you'd be in trouble though. I reckon they might be into Schlager so we'd probably do an hour long version of that. The roadies would take care of themselves and the rider would probably include some kind of highly alcoholic fermented milk drink.  

Kowalskiy:  Who's this Katie?  
Rea: I'll defer this answer to Alex  
Alex: Ah, Katie, a chance encounter on a London to Glasgow train over a decade ago. I thought she'd be a good subject for a public transport themed song with a semi-ironic ska bit. Her name wasn't Katie.
 

Kowalskiy:  Last one... what can we expect from TYSN in the future?  
Rea: More stickers.  
Niall: A constant experimentation of sounds, directions and a willingness to repeat things if necessary.  
Alex: More repetition, more references to obscure leaders of the opposition, and a krautrock album.

I for one, can't wait!  Their music may be fun, but despite what Alex said, they are very much a band to be taken very seriously indeed.  Make Friends, Not Money is out now on a name-your-price download over here, with CD copies available from Elvis Shakespeare, Avalanche Records and their own website.  All that's left for me to say is Thank You TYSN!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Kowalskiy's Free Monthly 5-track Scottish EP #28

See... told you this EP would be on time!  This month's offering sees another five of the finest artists and bands in this wonderful country side-by-side in musical harmony.  And that sentence is why I never send out any PR about these EPs.  Anyhoo, here's the five artists in question, and what they each had to say about their track... apart from one shy lot for whom I've been at my paraphrasing best!

1.  Plastic Animals - Waking Hours (Rescued from the cutting room floor, this little beauty is from Edinburgh's Plastic Animals Automaton EP recording sessions.  The EP will be re-released soon on the Strange Fish Records label.)

"The track is called "Waking Hours" and it's from the cutting room floor of the recording session we did for our most recent EP "Automaton". It's a bit more synth-y and "space pop"-y than our usual stuff but hopefully you'll like it ok! Cheers." - Dave Wark (Plastic Animals)

2.  Poor Things - Pat Nevin Indie Disco (A cracking homage to their hometown... and a nod to Scotland's favourite, music-loving, diminutive No. 11.)

"This song is basically a homage to our hometown Perth, and to friends we've lost touch with. It's semi-fictional; I've been dabbling in short-stories (they're really hard) and I'd written this brief tale about a teenage guy who starts hanging out with 'a new crowd', (mostly out of inevitable sexual curiosity) but in doing so he ditches this girl who he's been friends with for years. So when I say 'semi-fictional', I had a friend like that who I don't see any more, and I started thinking about it recently and what a shame it is.   I played around with it a lot, and compressed it into this song - through the reference to Cocteau Twins I thought it would be funny to call it after Pat Nevin who famously got permission to leave a pre-season friendly at half time to go and see some Cherry Coloured Funk. What a bro." - Craig Angus (Poor Things)

3.  Kitty The Lion - Duck! (Goose!  This fun-filled gem was your for free earlier this year for a retweet or a 'Like'.  Now, it's yours for even less than that.  It's also proof that my paraphrasing is crap!)

"We've just found out we've got funding to record our album!! Yayyy! Also planning a wee winter tour. Why don't we just put Duck! on it?" - Kitty The Lion

4.  yaya club - The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (Recorded just last night in his converted-wardrobe-vocals-studio, here's yaya club's cover of The Band's Americana classic.  Get Darren's latest double A-side here for free!)

"I'm a big fan of The Band.  Levon Helm is my beard idol, and my favourite ever farmer." - Darren Vincent a.k.a. yaya club

5.  Eugene Twist - Halloween Drama Queen (Acoustic Demo) (A brand, spanking acoustic newbie from Mr. Twist.  'Tis fairly awesome if you ask me!  As is his debut album...)

"Mid - October hopefully validates this unleashing of new song 'Halloween Drama Queen'. Acoustic demo recorded at the Old Hairdressers, Glasgow. Dedicated to the unfortunate thousands each year who find themselves at the mercy of a strange and growing phenomenon - getting dumped on Halloween." - Eugene Twist

And with that, I'm done for another month.  A huge thanks to each of the artists involved in this month's EP.  I hope you all enjoy it!  All you have to do to get your FREE copy is to click the artwork above, or here if you can't be arsed scrolling back up.  While you're there, there's another 27 there crying out to be downloaded for FREE.

Now to get cracking on November's EP.   If you fancy making my life that wee bit easier, and contributing a track to one of these, then send me a wee email (kowalskiy2@gmail.com) and we'll see what we can do!  

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Kowalskiy Singles Club #18

Time for me to play matchmaker and try to set you up with another handful of hopeless romantics.  If you like the sound of any of them, then click on the artwork and let the good times rock 'n' roll.  Two puns is plenty this time 'round!  Here you go...

The Spook School - Here We Go/Cameraman
Here We Go/Cameraman by The Spook School
"Lonely band of mixed heights seek tolerant individuals for unexpected nudity. Must have been naked at least once before in life. Holding hands is optional and back rubs will be expected. Must have own car or at least a young person's railcard. However, we are prepared to settle for second best." - The Spook School
The Spook School have a new single out!!!  Today in fact.  Happy days!  You can get your download by clicking the artwork, or buy the 7" vinyl over on Cloudberry Records.

Yaya Club - Sometimes/These Eyes Of Mine
Sometimes/These Eyes Of Mine by Yaya Club
"Do you sometimes find yourself reminiscing in front of an open hearth with a teary eye and a fistful of single malt?  And have you ever climbed a hill in the pouring rain, just because the view helps you remember?  Then look no further:  Old-fashioned country gent seeks old-fashioned country lady for long talks and even longer walks.  Must look good in denim dungarees and a straw hat." - Darren Vincent a.k.a. Yaya Club
Can't say I've ever found myself doing any of those.  I do however, look dashing in a pair of dungarees if I don't say so myself.  This is one of those pay-what-you-like efforts from Yaya Club, and a great one at that!   

Lux Lisbon - Get Some Scars
Get Some Scars by Lux Lisbon
"Melancholic, wistful, see-saw swaying melody stuck in the past SEEKS - 4 sad souls joined in emphatic harmony to sing it's uplifting affecting refrain, and dance to it's serious yet elusive groove. MUST BE - big hearted without being loud, simple without being insipid. MUST LIKE - protests against a musical age known for robotic technological banality and pretending that, yes, it's all going to be alright after all. Oh, and the ill-fated middle Lisbon sister from the 1999 Sofia Copolla film 'Virgin Suicides'." - Lux Lisbon
Lux Lisbon aren't strictly Scottish... in fact, they're not Scottish at all.  But when someone emails you saying they were put onto you by their friend scrawling "Kowalskiy" onto a beer mat one night, how could you not have a wee listen?!  Thankfully I did, cos this is great... FREE too!

Arran Arctic - Covers
Covers by Arran Arctic
"Misery guts seeks tortured soul mate to share king-sized double (mustn't hog the covers!). Enjoys wistfully caressing harps and pretending to be Joanna Newsom... and playing with torches in dark rooms. Call me! www.arranarctic.com" - Arran Southall
Arran Arctic is back!  It's been a while ol' chum.  This is Covers, the first single from his new, upcoming album Like Lovers.  Ooh, that rhymes!  He's a clever man that Arran, even if he is a misery guts!

We Are The Physics - Napoleon Loves Josephine
Napoleon Loves Josephine by We Are The Physics
"Four lonely sociopaths seek new host for parasitic lifestyle. Must be willing to alter name, appearance and gender as required. Good sense of humour unnecessary. Must enjoy long walks on the beach, movies, mutual manipulation and the ability to administer and receive emotional abuse over a period of many years. Bearded, lion-esque light entertainment TV presenters need not apply." - We Are The Physics
My rekindled love affair with We Are The Physics continues.  This is the third single to be taken from the four lonely sociopath's second album Your Friend, The Atom. With any luck, we'll be hearing a bit more from them about that album soon... I've said too much!

How To Swim - It Doesn't Even Have To Be You
It Doesn't Even Have To Be You by How To Swim
"Fun-loving miseryguts WLTM similar, different, or anything for protracted period of co-existence." - Gregor Barclay (How To Swim)
Completing the lonely-hearted half-dozen are another firm favourite of mine, How To Swim.  Short but sweet from our second misery guts of the day.  It's the lead single from new album Niagarama and is yours to download on a name-your-price by clicking the artwork.

Battle Of The Bands: Round 7

So we have arrived, at last, at the great battle of our time... well Round 7 of it anyway!  A fortnight ago, this musical battle between myself and Neil from Scottish Fiction tipped back into Team Kowalskiy's favour with my narrow victory over Stanley Odd courtesy of Skye's finest The Dead Man's Waltz.  You can read the blow-by-blow account of that duel over here.  For this round though, it's the Fiction camp's turn to choose which of the vital stats we'll be slugging it out over.  But I've got an ace up my sleeve...

Joining Team Kowalskiy this time 'round is Edinburgh trio Toy Machene.  They're no strangers to the blog, and with their strong SoundCloud presence (including their entire debut album) and dare-I-say advancing years (as someone who's only 2 years off it, 30 is the new 20 though!), I was confident we'd have a fighting chance against whoever Neil had picked.  Little did I know he'd picked the crème de la Croy, Campfires In Winter

Here's a quick recap of the rules for those who don't have a clue what's going on.  You can read them in full over here.  This round, it was Neil's turn to choose which of the three attributes we'd be dueling with.  For each of the three, the person with the highest value gets one point, with both getting a half-point in the event of a draw.  Losers... get a big, fat ZERO!   In the end, Neil went for Years Since Formation, Twitter Follow Ratio and Band Name Scrabble Score.  As ever, all stats were correct at the time of battle, and were totted up before a last minute Twitter clean-up from those dedicated Toy Machene chaps.

Here's how they shaped up.  Ding ding, Round 7...


And the winner of Round 7, and fair play to them, is... Team Scottish Fiction.  It got off to a honking start for me given Toy Machene's new-kids-on-the-block status compared with Campfires In Winter's impressive 8 active years.  And to be honest, it just got worse from then on.  We were pipped on the Twitter Follow Ratio and Band Name Scrabble Score by pretty slim, but decisive all-the-same, margins.

So, by 3 points to 0, Team Kowalskiy go home with their tails between their legs, and Scottish Fiction have drawn the series yet again at 3 wins apiece... and one draw.

As is always the case, even more-so when I get beat, this isn't about me or Neil... it's all about the bands!  So I'll start off with my boys.   Like I said above, their debut album Welcome To Toyland is up on SoundCloud for your listening pleasure... and it is an absolute pleasure.  In fact, I challenge you to name a funner, or more fun, album released this year.  Their ode to Mr. Cruise in particular is top-notch!


And now, onto the victors.  To think Campfires In Winter were firm favourites of mine... well, they still are actually. Earlier this year they let slip a trio of demos from their long-awaited debut album. It's only been 8 years in the making!