Monday, 25 May 2009

Review of the SPL season 2008/09

The Celtic midfielder Scott Brown was named Player of the Year at PFA Scotland's annual awards dinner in Glasgow tonight... Brown's first nomination was recognition for a series of dynamic displays that have helped propel Celtic to the top of the Scottish Premier League and win the Co-operative Insurance Cup. [The Guardian]

One glance at the Glasgow duo's respective squads leads to the conclusion that Celtic have the superior resources, available ones that is, as they enter the final furlong. Rangers will keep up the chase, but Gordon Strachan's team will be celebrating another title come 24 May.
[The Guardian]

The Celtic manager Gordon Strachan landed the Manager of the Year prize for the second time.[The Guardian]

Celtic defender Gary Caldwell has been named the Clydesdale Bank Scottish Premier League player of the season. The 27-year-old, who was also named the Scottish Football Writers' Player of the Year, said winning the SPL title would make it a memorable campaign. "It's always nice to get awards," said the Scotland international. [BBC]

Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor's careers at Rangers and Scotland are finished. The Ibrox club are today expected to impose a maximum two-week suspension and fine on both players after the manager, Walter Smith, sent them home from the club's training ground this morning. [The Herald]

Pedro Mendes isn't half the player Rangers fans think he is. Kyle Lafferty is way out of his depth... Do I really need to go on? Four-in-a-row is in the bag for Celtic. It's over now. Finished. [John Hartson]

Celtic striker Georgios Samaras claims Rangers will be undeserving champions if they win at Dundee United on Sunday. "Like last year, they were seven points clear and we won the title and I said that we were the better team," he said. "Now it's the opposite. But, if they are going to win it, I don't think they deserve it. I think we are better. If they are going to win it then fair play - but it's our mistakes (that let them) and I think we are a better team than Rangers." [BBC]

Monday, 18 May 2009

God Help The Girl (Stuart Murdoch)

God Help The Girl - God Help The Girl (***)
album review for the skinny

God Help The Girl is a new project from Belle & Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch, a proposed musical film whose soundtrack features guest vocals from The Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon, Asya from American teen group Smoosh, and a clutch of debutante female vocalists including ex-Belle & Seb artwork model Catherine Ireton. To be frank, there's potentially a lot of scope for a Belle & Seb-related musical to be objectionable, especially if you're sensible enough to dislike musicals generally. But God Help The Girl avoids being too cloying, even if it doesn't particularly add much to the Belle & Seb canon.

Ireton's character is an imaginative and idealistic young girl who prefers prayers to parties. "There is no way I'm looking for a boyfriend," she sings on the title track, after revealing that "the bible's my tool" in opening track Act of the Apostle, a song borrowed from Belle & Seb's latest album The Life Pursuit. She's "a literate girl" who makes "daisy chains from phrase, verse and punctuation", buys The Independent to look smart although she clearly actually is, and regularly has to fend off interested boys because they don't meet her impossible standards. In other words, she's Murdoch's favourite kind of girl to invent, and her character is painted vividly here. But when Murdoch himself takes lead vocals, or Hannon or Asya, these characters aren't so clearly drawn; also, it's hard to divine a clear storyline from beginning to end. Presumably the film will help here, if it's ever made, meaning God Help The Girl can only currently be taken as a stand-alone album.

On that basis, God Help The Girl is for Belle & Seb anoraks only. The carefully located arrangements verge on sterility at times, and Ireton's tone of voice is exposed as bland by Asya's toothy, minty vocals on I Just Want Your Jeans. The standout is probably Musician, Please Take Heed, thanks to its melodramatic strings, straight out of a Phil Spector-produced girl group; and backing vocals from a similar heritage give Hannon's Perfection As A Hipster some flavour. But it's hard to get excited about much of God Help The Girl, which suffers from professing to have a theme but being too coy to reveal it.

Friday, 15 May 2009

St. Vincent - Actor

St. Vincent - Actor
album review for clash magazine

Oklahoman Annie Clark is onto her second album as St. Vincent, after a previous life playing with Sufjan Stevens and The Polyphonic Spree. The former seems like a more direct influence, but St. Vincent works with a more modest pallette - her voice and guitar, and a bagful of production tricks to add muscle and intrigue. Stripped back, she's a psych folk singer, with a charming kookiness eliciting lines like "I can't see the future but I know it's watching me". On top she layers suffocating overdrive fuzz, distant canon shots, and countless other unidentifiable ornaments with a compelling sense of flair. Actor isn't quite a great record, but she has one in her. 7.5/10

Get 3 songs: The Neighbors, Actor Out Of Work, The Party

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Holy Fuck @ Oran Mor, 11 May

Holy Fuck @ Oran Mor, Glasgow, 11/5/08 (****)
live review for the skinny

With a drummer and a bassist, Holy Fuck are half an indie-rock band - but the other two members create such a spectral swirling racket with knobs, buttons and a vintage 35mm film synchronizer (as bloody usual) that it's impossible to reduce them to anything so straightforward. From the back of Òran Mór's hall, it's not hard to pick faults -- when you want them to go all-out Ulrich Schnauss and Can crossover, they lapse into a louche funk breakdown that loses the momentum -- but from near the stage, the gig experience is transformed. Lesson learned: proximity to the stage at a Holy Fuck gig is crucially important. At the front it's impossible not to become immersed in the maelstrom, transfixed by the lights and strange instruments, exhilarated by the visceral thrill of the coruscating textures of noise. Hence the liturgical profanities emanating from all around.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Junior Boys - Hazel / Begone Dull Care

Junior Boys - Hazel (*****)
single review for the skinny

Hazel, the first single from Junior Boys' upcoming third album Begone Dull Care is the best thing they've ever done, repudiating all the fair criticisms that can be levelled at the Canadian electropop duo. If they can at times give off an air of reserved tastefulness, it's because they don't do beats as funky as this often enough, or vocals as heartfelt about stories so illuminating. The breakdown is glorious, all pulsing silver bursts and soulful howls at the moon, but it's the slow unfurling of the lovesick story towards a climactic last line that'll send you head over heels...

Junior Boys - Begone Dull Care (***)
album review for the skinny

On their third album, Canadian electropop duo Junior Boys still can't shake off the nagging criticisms that have followed them since day one. Last Exit and So This Is Goodbye were beautiful-sounding but largely forgettable, because the pristine coolness of their production aesthetic meant little without great melodies. As expected, Begone Dull Care sounds gorgeous in headphones, especially moments like the intro of Dull To Pause, where a Spanish guitar trill is decayed until it sounds like electric raindrops. It's lovely, but the song winds down into nothing about halfway through, because Junior Boys are too cautious to take any risks. The brilliant next song Hazel steps forward with energy and feeling, yet its passion highlights their aloofness elsewhere. Like wallflowers, Junior Boys are easy to like but difficult to love, and unless they learn to loosen up a little they'll forever be stuck in the friend zone.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Diplo, Morrissey & Holy Fuck in Scotland this month

previews for The Skinny

Morrissey @ Barrowlands, 7 May

We've long given up hope of a Smiths reunion, but any chance to see Morrissey with his current band of choice is a chance worth taking. New album Years Of Refusal adds another few crackers to the Moz solo canon, such as the Latin-tinged When I Last Spoke To Carol, and first single I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris. Best of all could be album closer I'm OK By Myself, which builds to a raucous climax that promises to be exhilirating live. Oh, and he might do one or two old songs too.

Holy Fuck @ Oran Mor, 11 May

There's a reason they're called Holy Fuck, and it's not just to be nakedly controversial. When The Skinny saw these guys on the tiny Relentless stage at last year's T In The Park, those were the words grabbed from everyone's throats by the sheer force of the music. No-one quite knew what was going on, only that a bunch of Canadians were making some kind of transcendental, spectral racket, and that it was moving, in a very physical way. It was arm-raising, eye-watering stuff. If you're not one for drugs, try Holy Fuck instead.

Diplo @ Cabaret Voltaire, 21 May

The reason everyone compares M.I.A. and Santigold (nee Santogold) is Wesley Pentz, aka Diplo, producer and one-time beau of the former, producer and remixer of the latter. He's an unstoppable record collector, a musical anthropologist who knows everything worth knowing about dub, reggae, hip-hop and electro, and has no qualms about moving between the genres at pace. Even better than Santogold's debut album was Diplo's mixtape with her, Top Ranking, which you can and should download for free if you've any doubts about the prospective merits of this night - and check out that bargain ticket price too (£5).

where's my photo of Diplo? Here. All the photos.