A Wee Chat with…Velveteen Riot

As they prepare themselves for a tour that will take them all over the prime cities to play in Scotland, there’s never a better time to sit down with Velveteen Riot than right now.

They’ve undoubtedly become more prominent over the past year, in no small part to them being brought on to support Wolf Alice in 2017 and following that up with a sturdy new EP. So before they set off to Perth in a fortnight’s time, let’s see what the band have to say as liam menzies (@blinkclyro) asks them about their career so far, what makes them stand out and much, much more.

 

photos fae Mairi McAnena (FB)

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TRANSISTOR: Your EP ‘She Rains Over Me’ dropped last month – how have you guys felt since putting it out into public? Is there anything you’ve learned from any of the feedback received?

Velveteen Riot: We were really excited with how much of a response we got with it. It got way more attention than we anticipated and people were reacting really well to it. It’s definitely the work we’re proudest of so far.

T: In your view, what makes Velveteen Riot stand out as a band?

VR: I think what makes us stand out is that we’re basically the ABBA of shoegaze. Though joking aside, we’re not trying to stand out, we’re just making music for ourselves. We started out as four strangers who met online that wanted to play music but as times gone on it’s been out friendship that has driven the band forward. We’ve become really close, Velveteen Riot wouldn’t work without all of us – we’ve not had any lineup changes because to do that would be to change the entire dynamic of us as a band. I think this is what grabs people’s attention as we’re just trying to be ourselves rather than trying to emulate anyone else.

T: In addition, what’s your general view of the Scottish music scene, specifically Glasgow?

VR: Glasgow has such a rich music scene with so many great bands and venues. Although, there can be a very cliquey nature to some of it and a lot of smaller scenes have formed within it that can be quite hard to get into if you don’t know the right people. It’s a bit like high school in a way – if you get in with the designated cool kids you’re able to get much more attention than the bands that are still starting out, or running their own gigs.

That being said, we’ve had such a great experience playing in Glasgow and have gotten to play with some great bands. We’ve all grown up listening to Glasgow bands and are incredibly proud to be one ourselves and to be a part of such an amazing music scene.

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T: You got to support Wolf Alice – what was that like? Are there any other bands you guys would be keen on supporting in the near future?

VR: Wolf Alice was surreal. It’s been a year and none of us really believe it happened. They were some of the nicest people we’ve ever played with and that gig was one of the moments that made us think, “huh, people actually really like what we do”. It was a big confidence boost for us going forward and it’s given us a real determination to keep developing our sound.

The list of bands we’d love to support is endless really, of course, there’s Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine. We’re also all big fans of Sunflower Bean. Additionally, it’d be very cool to support some of the Scottish bands we grew up loving such as Franz Ferdinand, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and The Pastels.

T: Speaking of gigs, how has your experience playing live turned out? What makes a Velveteen Riot show?

VR: Lots of fun and lots of mistakes. Playing gigs is one of our favourite parts of being in a band. What makes a Velveteen Riot show for us is having a lot of fun and not taking ourselves or the show too seriously. Our confidence playing live is constantly evolving, none of us are very extroverted so it has taken some time to find our feet on stage. We aim to produce the best sound we possibly can and just enjoy ourselves. Overall, I think our authenticity and pure passion for the music is what makes a Velveteen Riot show.

T: Lastly, is there much in the way of plans for the rest of 2018?

VR: We’re planning a mini-tour in Autumn with a couple of our friends’ bands which we’re very hyped about, details on that will be announced very soon! We’re also are planning on recording more music and getting as much stuff out as we can before the year ends.

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stream velveteen riot’s she rains over me here

catch velveteen riot on tour:

18th October – Green Room, Perth

19th October – 13th Note, Glasgow

20th October – Secret Set, Dundee

21st October – The Cellar, Aberdeen

SWAY: Standing Out and Speaking Up

words fae liam menzies (@blinkclyro), photos courtesy of Daniel Blake (FB)

In a year that has seen both great things occur, such as bands like The Vegan Leather landing a tasty spot on the Electric Fields billing, as well as harrowing events, the loss of the O2 ABC being a prime one, the music scene in Glasgow is certainly one thing and that’s active.

The same can’t be said about Paisley based rock outfit Sway: thankfully the shoegazey foursome haven’t split up but this year has been a relatively quiet one which mostly comes down to some hapless occurrences. “We sadly didn’t hit the ground running this year due to some unfortunate circumstances outwith our hands,” tells frontman Craig, the details of which are unclear but regardless, it’s not all doom and gloom. “We took it slow for the first half of 2018, but for these last few months of the year? You’re gonna be hearing a lot more from us” adamantly states Matt, the band promising not only new material but branching out with their gigging by hitting some other locations across the UK they haven’t yet played.

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If you so happen to find yourself nearby a venue SWAY is playing at though, why should you bother to fork out and go along? JonJoe doesn’t mince words when declaring what makes the band stand out, the group priding themselves on “the darker topics we explore through our music and our different perspectives, as well as our interests, bleed into that“. This isn’t just a bit of PR fluff either – To Be A Man saw SWAY take aim at a toxic relationship bubbling over with manipulation, all juxtaposed with poppy sensibilities that no doubt take influence from the bleaker state of rock during the 80’s. Not only that but their latest single Another Lover sees the bass agonising over a fittingly desperate set of lyrics that pack in equal parts heartbreak and determination.

While the boys are no doubt focussed on their newest material, Matt is sure to use their time to sing the praises of other acts that are often overlooked. “There’s a fair amount of people who I’d say don’t get enough praise, but personally I’d say Lizzie Reid definitely doesn’t. Lizzie is an incredible singer/songwriter who’s been playing in and around Glasgow for some time now. I saw her at the Old Hairdresser’s not that long ago and was stunned at how moving her performance was.

You may be wondering where cool as a cucumber David DIV Roberts is through all this but don’t worry, he didn’t keep hush through this entire interview as he chimed in to talk about one of his favourite releases of the year. “For me, Shredd’s EP is astounding,” he says, Jonjoe concurring, before going on to reminisce about The Walkmen record The Rat which fills in whatever other time he has left. 

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All those days spent writing and gigging must take a toll on you but it seems SWAY have a pretty healthy coping mechanism in the form of, well, each other. “Personally writer’s block has been a constant problem,” Craig says “that I’ve had to deal with since I started to write music especially with outside factors over the past few years that suck your motivation and drive out of you. Luckily enough I’ve always been able to bounce off the rest of the boys and get back into it when going through a slump.

As the photos included throughout show, SWAY are a wholesome bunch of boys who aren’t afraid to dabble in some fun as well as some sombre topics. The fluidity and brotherhood displayed between them all, while often seen, is refreshing in the scene considering how they channel it into their music as well as their live shows. The band are very much that in general: refreshing, like a nice cold glass of water, though with probably a tear or two in there.

stream sway’s new single Another Lover here

Vistas: Touring, Tuts, and Teasing

words fae liam menzies (@blnkclyr)

It’s a sunburn inducingly warm day in Glasgow and already you’re probably asking yourself “is this interview lying before it’s even started” but no, it really was one of those special afternoons where the weather wasn’t as bleak as most of the general public were. Sitting (well standing, the tables turned and I was put in the hot seat) out behind the rubble littered back streets behind the iconic King Tuts venue, Prentice (vocals + guitar), Jamie (bass) and Dylan (guitar) of Vistas all crowd around the touring minivan, their soon to be humble abode when the boys set off a UK tour later this year. 

The prospect of a UK tour probably seemed like a faint glimmer in the band’s eye when things started off back in 2016 but two years later and the Edinburgh based band have found themselves excessively trailing over the country, accumulating millions of streams on Spotify and rubbing shoulders with inspirations like Circa Waves and The Magic Gang. Their brand of indie pop tunes, having started off more in the rock side of things, has obviously struck a chord with fans who have stood by them as they’ve further tinkered with it. According to Prentice, fans can expect a new EP in “September, October-ish” which they feel will be more of a new chapter for the band compared to their first one Medicine.

When it comes to prodding about the long-anticipated debut record, the answer is a bit murkier, Prentice simply saying that the band doesn’t want to force things out until they feel more comfortable. “We’re a very cautious band and we don’t want to do too much too soon before we’re ready and we get asked quite a lot when that album is coming out but admittedly we’re not prepared to do it“, going on to say how excessive touring can throw a further spanner in the works.

On that touring note, the boys aren’t taking things lightly; “We’re set to do around about 24 shows in the space of 30 days, give or take” Jamie states, teasing that there are quite a few to be announced though goes on to clarify how fatigued the experience can be. “When we did our first UK tour with touts, we were away from home for a month and looking back it wasn’t all that bad. Compared to our last two shows in London, we were absolutely done in from it” though Prentice builds on that by saying the horrible heat hasn’t helped matters which is probably for the best considering the energy of a Vistas show is a huge drawing in factor, both in the fans’ view and the band’s.

We’ve come on quite a bit the past six months but I think the fact we care so much gives us that edge, especially when we’re aware that people are spending £8-10 that they could spend elsewhere” Prentice chimes. Dylan chips in to say that while there is definitely that element to it, the band themselves have so much that they make the trip that people venture on to see them worth it, Jamie mentioning how many are off to see them tonight from Edinburgh where that journey can last twice as long as their set.

As the interview draws to a close, and Graham (drums) appears, no doubt from the drawn-out soundcheck that had happened prior to this, I wish the band luck on their performance tonight though I could have done the complete opposite and they would still have a successful night: photos from the Tuts gig flood into my social media feeds, the venue looks packed to the brim as the gratitude of the members are unashamedly painted on their faces. It’s easy to fawn over the popularity of Vistas but what’s worth mentioning is the sheer down to earth attitude that only goes to add to their likability: millions of listeners could easily fill up an ego but all that extra air has gone straight to their lungs so they can keep that consistent quality more than steady. 

 

 

5 TRANSISTOR Writers On Their Favourite Music Videos

thumbnail and intro fae liam menzies (@blinkclyro)

While music is *shock* for your ears to enjoy, it was only a matter of time before it branched into a medium that could stimulate most, though maybe not all of your senses (only Spy Kids 4D can offer you that).

It’s been almost four decades since the first music video aired on MTV in 1979, aptly titled Video Killed The Radio Star by The Buggles, but since then, we’ve been blessed with experimental, haunting and evoking pieces of visual spectacle that have only gone to add to our enjoyment of certain music. Here are just five of these pieces, chose by none other than the writers of this very site – enjoy.


Isabella McHardy (@izzmchardy): Oblivion by Grimes

Oblivion is pretty simple in comparison to Grimes’ other more theatrical, character-based music videos. But somehow delivers the strongest message. Grimes puts herself in male-dominated spaces, reclaiming her body after sexual assault. Although such an intense topic, she manages to bridge the gap between her and the men in the video.

She breaks down the intimidating reputation sports arenas and male locker rooms have, as well as flipping the male-gaze on its head. The start shows her cautiously navigating unfamiliar places but the video ends with her standing tall amongst her male counterparts.


Gregor Farquharson (@grgratlntc): Lost Little Boys by Fatherson

The way this video follows two best friends dealing with the loss of one of their wives is beautiful – it shows the fun the three always had and the heartache of the man who’s lost his lover.

The feeling when we find out the best friend had an affair with the wife tears apart the viewer but when the two come together at the end and makeup, the emotion felt is unreal. Put together with a strong song, this music video is a real treat to watch.


Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro): Come To Daddy by Aphex Twin

While the videos so far have been about evoking empowerment or sadness, there’s one feeling we haven’t quick chatted about yet.

Seeing as it’s appeared on various “100 Scariest Moments of TV” lists, it should be no surprise that this one is a bit creepy. Filmed in the same estate that Stanley Kubrick’s classic A Clockwork Orange was, the video includes a gang of small children with Richard D James’ face wreaking havoc while an evil spirit emerges who’s face is very much nightmare worthy. Watch this one with the lights off.


Ewan Blacklaw (@Ewanblacklaw): Sabotage by Beastie Boys

The video for one of the NYC trio’s biggest hits really speaks for itself. The Beastie Boys took a much different approach to their videos in comparison to some of the more glamorous productions that became popular in the 90s. With that being said, the videos of the Beastie Boys were often just as extravagant, but took a less serious approach and implemented their unique style just as they had done with their music.

The video sees basically comes off as an 80s-cop movie, with plenty of moustaches and bad special effects. As their popularity increased, their music video budget seemed to stay the same as the video for Sabotage looks like a video made by the class clowns of a film class. This all plays into the Beastie Boys charm and makes for one of the funniest and most memorable music videos from the 90s.


Will Sexton (@willshesleeps): Sweetheart What Have You Done To Us by Keaton Henson

Keaton’s haunting musicianship alone is always enough to bring you to tears but the sheer vulnerability and simplicity of this music video bring it to a new level. The spacey guitar and vocals compliment the image of the open sea and staring straight into Henson’s eyes aren’t easy considering the pain and anguish expressed in the lyrics.

However, the climax of the song where it physically gets too much for the musician and he walks off set is hard to watch without feeling something at the very least. Whether it was scripted or not (knowing about his chronic stage fright and anxiety issues we would presume not) it doesn’t matter as the closing scene of him crying offset breaks your heart.

TRANSISTOR’S Record Store Day 2018 Picks

photo fae Nikki A. Rae at Record Store Day 2016

For those amongst us who enjoy the sound, smell, sight and sheer eye-watering expense of vinyl, Record Store Day is pretty much our musical Christmas, not least because vast sums of money will be spent on gifts, all of them for ourselves. However, with the sheer volume of releases, re-releases and special editions on offer, it’s hard to see the wood for the trees, so we’ve assembled some of our finest vinyl collectors to give you their hot picks for RSD ’18.

Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

Twin Peaks – Music From The Limited Event Series

Not to be confused with the indie-pop outfit that share the same name, Twin Peaks is easily one of the finest pieces of entertainment to grace us and while it may have changed over the past couple of decades, its quality is consistent. This includes its score and soundtrack which range from flourishes of cheesy soap opera romance to borderline nightmarish remixes of classic tracks, all adding to the formula that makes Twin Peaks such a stunning piece of art.

Sufjan Stevens – Mystery of Love EP

While its title song may have been “done dirty” at the Oscars according to some people, there’s no denying Sufjan Stevens crafted one of 2017’s most beautiful songs for an equally mesmerising film. Call Me By Your Name wasn’t a film that relied on its soundtrack but it was one that was vastly improved by its gorgeous music which all comes to the tracks featured on this EP. If you’re maybe in the mood for something a bit different from your usual rock affair then this will be right up your street.

Jake Cordiner (@jjjjaketh)

Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy (Mirror to Mirror)

The original version of one of 2018’s best albums (so far), the 2011 version of Will “Massive Furry” Toledo’s best album is a brilliant insight into how a songwriters’ style can change as they do as people. Some of the lyrics are different, some of the breakdowns are different, the whole mood of the album has changed in 7 years, and I just think it’ll be cool to hear the original on a beautiful, heavy piece of vinyl mate, ok?

 

Will Sexton (@WillSheSleeps)

Florence + The Machine – “Sky Full of Song”/”New York Poem (for Polly)”

Really hope someone will be able to pick up this gorgeous new single from Florence + The Machine (AS I’M WORKING THE WHOLE WEEKEND NOO!)*. Lovely new art-pop single from Florence and co. Love the ethereal, stripped back sound and it’s nice to hear something fresh from the band, being the first piece of music in 2 years since the gorgeous How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. What is more interesting is the new single is backed by Florence’s first recorded poem! Coming from her first book Useless Magic (released 5th of July), New York Poem (for Polly) will be a very interesting listen!

*Prizes for anyone who sorts oor Will out

Josh Adams (@jxshadams)

The National – Boxer (Live from Brussels)

What’s not to love about one of contemporary rock’s greatest bands releasing a Record Store Day exclusive vinyl, documenting their 2017 performance of arguably their most important album front to back?

Anyone who’s managed to catch The National performing tracks from Boxer live, either in concert or on YouTube, will know not only the added energy they bring to certain songs – such as Squalor Victoria or mistaken for strangers – but the deft touch of dynamics and tension the group tweak for some of their biggest numbers (see: Fake Empire and Slow Show). Also, it has a cool as shit reworking of the original album’s cover art. Gimme… NOW.

Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Motorhead – Death or Glory

In a move that’ll shock absolutely no one, my hot pick for RSD ’18 is a reissue of Motorhead’s 1993 album Bastards under the guise of Death or Glory. If anyone’s interested, which they’re not, ‘Head were, as ‘Head do, having some trouble with their record company, and the family-friendly titled album was only largely released in Germany, and in the rest of the world, you couldn’t even steal it. A real shame considering it was one of the best, if not the best, albums they’ve ever produced.

Sure you’ve got Motorhead by numbers tracks like Burner and Born to Raise Hell, but Bastards had a wider range and more emotional depth with songs like Lost in the Ozone and Don’t Let Daddy Kiss Me, a harrowing song about the horrors of child abuse. A must listen for the most seasons of Motorhead fans, or for anyone who wants a crash course in the band’s range & depth.

Motorhead – Heroes

Heroes was something that came out of the blue, more than a year after Lemmy’s tragic passing. The final word had been growled; no new Motorhead or “lost” recordings. Then seemingly out of nowhere came this emotional, expertly done cover of Bowie’s Heroes. Not too detached from the original that it’s a hatchet job, but retains that Motorhead magic. It then formed part of a covers album, which featured the band covering some of their favourite songs, including a, dare I say it, better than original cover of Metallica’s Whiplash.

Side B features a “live” version of Heroes, featuring the most angelic of voices, the Wacken Open Air Festival choir. Lovely stuff.

An Ayr Rise Festival 2018 Review…

words fae liam menzies (@blnkclyr)

It’s not often mentioned but the state of music festivals in Scotland is rather depressing. Sure, TRNSMT is doing awfully gid for something that just began last year but when you look at some of the countries heavy hitters, you’ll come to the startling realisation that the days of Rockness and Wickerman Festival are far behind us with most being sadly cancelled. Hell, even TRNSMT itself is the continuation of an annual festival that sadly dipped in quality before reaching its anti-climatic end.

That being said, we’re beginning to see a rise (no pun intended) in smaller festivals that relish in giving smaller acts a chance to show off and bring their sound to an audience that may have previously passed them by. It makes total sense considering that the likes of Tenement Trail use established venues in order to host the acts, meaning the razzle-dazzle of your usual festival is left to the wayside in order for the music to be the real selling point and with tons on offer, and plenty to drink, it’s an ideal situation.

Ayr Rise definitely seems keen on bringing this to an area that, while rife with talent, often doesn’t generate a blip on the musical radar due to its location. Taking place in local nightclub Furys, a venue which is often the go-to for local gigs, it was an event that was not only important for those involved but one that would ultimately serve as a determining factor for whether or not something of this magnitude could work.

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Things were off to a promising start with Molly Eliza taking to the stage. While she may have been filling in the slot left vacant by Atlas Run, it ultimately gave Ayr Rise some variety which benefited it greatly: she may reference the likes of Nina Nesbitt as an influence but you wouldn’t be mistaken for noticing hints of Sophie Allison or even a vocal resemblance to pop heavy hitter Lorde. Her music wasn’t only just pleasant to listen to but also offered some interesting insight lyrically, meaning she could end up joining the ranks of Young Fathers in politically aware Scottish music. Some songs may have been screaming for some backup, specifically some drums, but the minimal performance from Molly left a good taste in the mouth – keep this one on your radar.

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Keeping the momentum going were Ayr-based rock outfit Anna Conda and right off the bat, we were hit with remnants of what could easily be mistaken as demos from the fictional Scott Pilgrim band Sex Bob Omb (a high bit of praise fae us). As the act continued on, the band’s influences became increasingly obvious (someone or all involved in the act definitely has a soft spot for The White Stripes as shown by their Fell In Love With A Girl cover) but it by no means detracted from the enjoyment Anna Conda provided: infectious harmonies rolling over some octane performing culminated in what was easily a hugely entertaining set from the boys who we’re sure we’ll see more of in the future.

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A band still very much in their infancy, only emerging at the tail end of 2017, Honours. were up next. In terms of stage presence, it was a little lacking (which may be totally down to either nerves or the sheer variety of chords that they’ve bolstered in promotion) but there was definite moments that showed they’ve got the foundations laid to make some really interesting alt-rock.

27545489_381304295674464_7592854196806952831_n.jpgThere would be no prizes for guessing what acts have paved the way for the sound ZANG are going for but oh lordy, did they put on a show. Frontman Bunny Wood channelled that rock and roll frontman attitude both in his vocals, that were reminiscent of another funky, bluesy rock and roller Robert Plant, and the mannerisms he showed off on stage. The argument could be made that the band weren’t quite as varied as we would have liked them to be but for what they’re going for, and for how they managed to keep our attention, ZANG did exactly what they needed to do and then some.

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Positioning themselves as an alt-rock riff machine, Zola didn’t disappoint with a rip-roaring good rock time. While the audience at Rise were rather timid (myself included), this didn’t stop the band from interacting with the crowd and trying to get everyone right into the gigging spirit. There were a fair few moments where I found myself reminded of Queens of the Stone Age, a comparison I may throw around a bit frequently but the layered performances and the synergy between and the vocals means I feel justified in that bit of acclaim. Showing off their latest single to finish things off, Zola are certainly going places and we’re looking forward to seeing how they evolve.

21949833_822681854604537_7924578189341822206_o.jpgOur last act of the night (family ting), The Mawb are an act we’ve discussed a fair bit over the past year and a bit but for good reasons. Front-man Ewan McCulloch was the head honcho of tonight’s operation so the fact he had the energy to balance both organisation and performing all on the same day has to be commended. On the related note of said performance, The Mawb were the best they have been yet and hit me with that familiar feeling of pride, not only for the fact they’re an Ayrshire based act doing it proud but for constantly shifting their sound.

Everyone in the act was on phenomenal form, Callum McIlwaine being the devilish chap on guitar we’re all used to and incorporated a wireless device so he could prance about the club while playing, picking up a pint in the process. The aforementioned Ewan continues to impress with those pipes of his and bassist Harry Mawb still radiates that effortlessly cool as a cucumber attitude about him without breaking a sweat. Drummer Paul Nally seems to have totally come out of his shell at this point and it definitely added it all, his commentary during the break between each track adding a certain charm to it and by the closing track, he was clobbering away at his set with the energy of a man who had just went through a botched exorcism. To put it simply, it was a bloody great end to our night.

So Ayr Rise was an overall success, showing that a local festival can definitely work when the right management and acts are brought in. If there’s any feedback we could give, it would be that next year’s event (which we hope is on the cards) tries to shake up the genres on offer: every festival has their strong point but we’d love to see some more bands that don’t fit into the alt-rock mould. From an optimistic perspective, money permitting, it would be exciting to see Ayr Rise branch out amongst some other venues in the town: West of the Moon may no longer be with us but places such as Soundmagic would serve as a nice alternative stage and Big Sparra Vinyl potentially acting as an acoustic one for some stripped back sessions. Of course, this is pure speculation but Ayr Rise, much like the acts playing it, is brimming with potential and we’re crossing our fingers that we get to see it return in 2019 and beyond.

Sobriety get moody and murky on ‘Ronnie’s Song’

words fae liam menzies (@blnkclyr)

Having gigged away for the past year, brushing shoulders with some prominent bands in the Scottish DIY scene in the process, alt-rock outfit Sobriety are hitting out with their debut single and if Ronnie’s Song is any indication as to what the band are capable of, they’ve got an exciting future ahead of them.

While their approach to music would be enough to make them stand out from their up and coming contemporaries alone, shifting away from the pop/ indie rock sensibilities that are rife at the moment, there’s an emo vibe that radiates from this track which is certainly welcome: there are moments of immediacy for sure but Sobriety are more than capable of weaving a moody atmosphere, especially when they tell tales of narcotics and desire. It all culminates in a robust climax, the hazy vocals being overpowered by the backing instrumentals which take center stage. Right off the bat, Sobriety are aiming to be more than your usual rock band and with the potential on show here, it’s difficult to not see them achieving that.

Sobriety: Facebook 

The Gid Time Gig Guide: March 2018

If you didn’t already know, us folk here at BLINKCLYRO love gigs and, considering you’re reading this, we’re sure you do too. Having compiled concert listings for The Student Advertiser, which often tallies up over 200+ gigs in Glasgow & Edinburgh alone, we thought that to help you guys decide, as well as inform you of events taking part in other areas, we’d come up with this handy wee guide that’ll shine a light on events that you’ll be wanting to end up at barrier for.

Note: We don’t take requests for this series so don’t get in touch regarding this.

SAMAs Paisley Takeover @ Paisley Arts Centre, Paisley – 2-3/3/18

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A jam-packed double event, the Scottish Alternative Music Awards (SAMAs) aren’t just organising some great panels and workshops but also making sure they don’t slack in the gig department: it wouldn’t be a definitive Paisley gig without disco rockers The Vegan Leather and shoegazers SWAY playing who will no doubt provide some stunning sets, in addition to Glasgow’s very own Pronto Mama making this takeover too tempting to turn down.

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CLUB DECODE PRESENTS: PINK @ Nice N Sleazy, Glasgow – 5/3/18

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It’s always exciting to see fellow up and coming sites make the jump into the live music realm and CLUB DECODE are doing that again, after more than a year of waiting, with two events in March: GLITTER will take place on the 22nd but for chronological order’s sake we’re focussing on PINK here though both nights are set to put the spotlight on some of Scotland’s finest indie music. It’ll be a night that will stand out, not just for how bright and glittery the encouraged attire will be.

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Ayr Rise Festival @ Fury’s, Ayr – 24/3/1827540207_105050713635574_4334396787991975203_n.jpg

We’ve been holding out for a local music festival to come around and help the Ayrshire music scene. Welcome to the stage Ayr Rise Festival, a new (hopefully annual) event that will be showcasing some promising talent, some of which we’ve already covered such as The Mawb and Atlas Run. Running from 3-10pm, it’ll be a tight day that we hope will stay around for years to come.

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Young Fathers @ Barrowlands, Glasgow – 24/3/18

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If for some reason you can’t make it to Ayr on the 24th (who can blame with you how horrible the weather is) then Young Fathers sold-out show should be your next priority if you can manage to find someone that isn’t a tout selling a ticket. This unique hip-hop, pop outfit is, for this site’s money anyway, the best band Scotland has to offer at the moment and with their third LP building up to be their magnum opus, you owe it to yourself to get your arse to this show. 

SOLD OUT

Phoenix w/ The Vegan Leather @ Barrowlands – 26/3/18

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Before the support was announced for this gig, we were already pretty hyped for it: despite not covering their latest album, we can confirm that Phoenix are even better than they were back in their popularity boom back in 2009. With The Vegan Leather (oh hi again) brought along to get the crowd hyped, this will no doubt be a gig that you can undoubtedly enjoy but where, in a year or so, you can say you saw the Paisley act really breakout. 

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Every Kendrick Lamar Album, Ranked From Worst To Best

While there’s more music than ever available only a tap of an overpriced smartphone away, more than to know what to do with it, if you’ve gone the past few years without listening, or even hearing, of Kendrick Lamar then you must either be a granny or Amish. Sure, Drake is bigger but in terms of critically acclaimed artists with the notability to sell out arenas and win multiple awards, you’ll be hard found to seek out a rapper as loved by fans and music snobs quite like Kung Fu Kenny.

Despite Good Kid, m.A.A.d City being his first big bit of public attention, Kendrick has been grinding away for over a decade with some successful efforts and some not as much. We’d be here all day if we discussed his mixtapes and soundtracks he’s been behind so we’ll take the smart route and chat about studio albums ONLY (yes, a compilation album does count). So without further ado, let Ryan (@ryanmartin182), Jake (@jjjjaketh), Liam (@blnkclyr), Charlie (@yungbuchan) and Ross (@rossm98) definitively rank the Compton kingpin’s discography – sit down, be humble patient…

Quick disclaimer: This is, like, our opinion or whatever, dude. Disagree? The comments down below will house whatever rage you’re feeling.


5. Section 80 (2011)

Ryan [5th]: The first taste most of the world had from Kung Fu Kenny, Section 80 really doesn’t deserve any hate despite being constantly overlooked compared to Lamar’s more recent outputs. The reason being this is Kendrick is always evolving, changing, and coming more into his own with every release. He is always developing his sound and Section 80 simply shows him in the spotlight as an underdeveloped star. 

Section 80 is without doubt a solid hip-hop debut that sounds very in its time, being released at the turn of the decade in 2011. It wasn’t until GKMC that Kendrick began to stand out more as the artist he is rather than a simply skilled rapper.

Jake [5th]: Jake was going to do a write up for this album but when I looked through his final piece, it was near illegible rambling about Tony Hawk Pro Skater lore and something to do with chumbawumba (Ed).

Liam [5th]: Unlike some artists that get covered in this manner (*cough* Radiohead), Kendrick’s weakest effort is by no means a bad album. With the power of hindsight, it’s easy to see that Section 80 contains a lot of ideas and elements that Kendrick would eventually perfect on future efforts. There are some moments on here that have not aged well at all: Tammy’s Song (Her Evils) is an interesting concept but it ultimately becomes repetitive in addition to coming off as pretty naive and I don’t think No Make-Up (Her Vice) has ever been considered good by anyone with ears.

We talk about an artist maturing a lot in the music review community and while this differs from act to act, Tyler The Creator‘s maturation is far noticeable than someone like Modern Baseball, and with Kendrick it’s clear that while this record was immature for his standards, it still holds some highlights and acts as a bucketload of potential that was ultimately realised.

Charlie [5th]: Putting this album here might annoy some people, but this is music criticism, it’s just opinion (this writer is now preparing for a barrage of hate). Section 80. feels like a very refined and more complete version of Overly Dedicated, though (in this writer’s opinion), nothing more. Most definitely a pop rap album (like it’s predecessor), Section 80. is an album that is not bad in any way what so ever, and for many might be their personal favourite for Lamar.

For this writer, however, this is not overly attention-grabbing or affecting in Lamar’s whole discography. There must be a special shout out however for Rigamortus, a song that is an excellent example of Lamar’s rapping skill.

Ross [4th]: This project was Kendrick‘s first full-length album and was just the beginning of the hype for the artist. It seems that Kenny was a bit more confident in what he was writing now that he had a vastly growing fanbase and more importantly – an audience. Compared to Overly Dedicated his lyrics have a lot more substance and character that were true to him and what he felt.

He went against an older style of rap to release beats that most artists in that genre would find too soft or melodic. His new style pairs beautifully with the production in this album. Despite this new-found sense of confidence and personality I still feel his enthusiasm in his tone creates a bit of a barrier between his feelings and the listener.


4. Untitled Unmastered (2016)

Jake [4th]: untitled unmastered was surprise released about a year after To Pimp A Butterfly. It’s comprised of songs that, for one reason or another (these reasons range from samples not getting cleared to Kenny thinking the songs weren’t good enough) were left off of TPAB. There are 8 tracks, and they’re all good as hell. They pull you right back into the headspace that engrossed so many on To Pimp a Butterfly, that sexy, jazzy, uber-politically charged hip-hop that K Dot has perfected, and it’s well worth a listen if the stylings of TPAB tickled your fancy in any way, shape of form. Kenny’s album offcuts are better than yr fave artists actual albums.

Liam [4th]: Untitled unmastered is a tricky one to discuss. While it should be judged on its own merits, it’s nearly impossible not to consider what came before it which not only comes from the similar themes and sound but also how this album came out nearly a year after TPAB. It may seem like following up what is regarded as Kendrick’s magnum opus would reflect badly upon yourself but in fact, it does the opposite as untitled unmastered is what it is.

It is an extension of one of the greatest albums of this century, like a well-crafted piece of DLC after you’ve finished your favourite video game or an after credits scene after a surprisingly good movie. It knows this and has fun while doing so, just like the listener will when giving this a spin.

Charlie [4th]: When it came right down to the wire, untitled unmastered and DAMN. were very hotly contested. untitled unmastered, though essentially a b-sides album, has some of Lamar’s most left-field work. Being an album consisting of songs from the recording of To Pimp A Butterfly, a lot of these off-shoots are quite ethereal, and most definitely experimental in nature. What probably does hold this back from being any higher up the list is the nature of the project itself.

As some of Lamar’s best albums are cohesive pieces that flow from beginning to end, untitled unmastered’s scattered structure (on both a macro and micro scale) is somewhat of a negative on the whole experience. In addition, it has to be said that the three-minute outtake about “head being the way” on the penultimate track is not Lamar at his best.

Ross [5th]: At this point in K Dot’s career, he had little to prove of himself. The album presented us with raw music. No titles to give context to the tracks that follow. This project is the leftovers from the dug’s dinner (TPAB) – the low-end funky production and knotted rhymes surface in tracks like Untitled 05, 07 and 08. This album is simply an add-on to TPAB, a follow-up statement but an intriguing one at that.

Ryan [4th]: Untitled sounds more or less as a continuation of TPAB. It doesn’t stick as well as the LP but is an extremely solid and consistent listen throughout the 8 tracks. There aren’t much filler tracks and the momentum doesn’t necessarily reach a high but stays at an even pace until the frantic Levitate kicks in. Untitled feels like a bonus release of a legend in his prime. It consecutively built hype for his next studio album while reassuring his fan base of his undeniable talent.


3. DAMN. (2017)

Liam [3rd]: OMG IT’S A 7/10 HAHA LOL EPIC!!! Now that we’ve got that tired meme out of the way, we can finally give DAMN. the critical RANKED treatment and definitively agree that it’s…good. In fact, it’s very good. Sure, there’s some slumps throughout this, which mostly stem from Kendrick’s ambitions to find influence from others as opposed to reinventing the wheel a la his previous work, but the good undoubtedly outweighs the bad on here.

For one, Kendrick, whether inadvertently or not, managed to give hip hop the chart redemption it needed last year an onslaught of repetitive, formulaic trap nonsense: HUMBLE is a behemoth with a piano riff that just won’t quit and Kendrick spitting out line after line chock full of character and appeal. Other cuts such as DNA and ELEMENT only went to further establish Kendrick as one of the best in the bloody game. 

Charlie [3rd]: DAMN. is a great rap album, and arguably doesn’t need to be anymore. Having some of the best rap singles released in the latter period of this decade – see DNA and ELEMENT – Lamar again hit gold with his latest (of time of writing) album. This album, in many respects, sees him become a chameleon. Taking many flows and from many of his contemporaries (LOVE would not be out of place on a Drake “playlist”), Lamar uses DAMN. to place himself in the consciousness of the average music listener for years to come.

Yet, this is an album that is very much Lamar. From the bombastic bangers to the more thoughtful and politicised songs (though let’s not talk about some of the questionable views within some songs), this is Lamar’s contemporary rap album, and in that essence, it’s an excellent achievement.

Ross [3rd]: For me, this album is storytelling at its finest. It dips in and out of the perspective of Kendrick’s younger self, struggling to resist getting involved in the dark side of Compton. This project was his most intriguing to date, delivering a series of tracks that are chaotic, layered and deeply conflicted. DAMN. This is the Kendrick album I was waiting for – raw, gritty, stripped back and aggressive.

My only problems with this album are that it seems a little inconsistent to me and the themes seems a bit too spotty for me to truly understand the project fully. But hey, he made Bono and Hip-Hop work – what the fuck.

Ryan [3rd]: DAMN. arguably has the hardest hitting moments of Kendrick’s discography but it also has the poppiest as well. While GKMC was a perfect balance of pop-rap and bangers, DAMN. feels slightly more uneven. The bangers hit a little harder, but the pop tracks drag a lot more. Particularly LoveLoyalty and Humble all feel as if they’ve overstayed their welcome by the end. While tracks like DNAXXX, and Element all built momentum that isn’t carried well throughout the entire album.

Jake [3rd]: DAMN. is a flawed record. It’s a bit front-loaded, it seemed to concentrate a bit too much on its (admittedly brilliant) singles, and Kendrick’s bars seemed to lack a bit of the venom seen in his previous albums. It is, however, still a truly great record. DNA., HUMBLE., FEAR. and ELEMENT. are all top tier Kendrick Klassicks (patent pending on that one), and the production throughout is as slick as you’d expect from a Kendrick Lamar release. There is, however, one glaring flaw in the albums very marrows, something simply unforgivable… there’s a RAT BOY sample on it. And I simply cannot stand idly by and not call it out.


2. Good Kid, m.A.A.d City (2012)

Charlie [2nd]: good kid, m,A,A,d city (GKMC) is a concept album that is full of lyrical prowess and lavish instrumentals. Listening to this album is akin to putting yourself straight in the shoes of the “main character”. Lamar’s lyrics are near masterful on this album; he paints a picture of Compton that is of microscopic details.

What makes this album an even more impressive feat is that some of Lamar’s most recognisable singles that announced him to the world come on this album, yet this is not a typical pop-rap album. On GKMC, Lamar managed to stamp his authority on mainstream music with a high-concept rap album. Not many can say they’ve done that.

Ross [2nd]: This for me was the album that announced Kendrick as one of the great artists of the decade. At this point, he doesn’t feel pressure from the expectation following Section 80. It is intense, insightful, and thought-provoking. A clear distinction in Kenny’s ability and talent in writing can be made from GKMC and Overly Dedicated. The album is straight to the point in its theme but diverse and intricate technically.

Kendrick establishes himself as Compton’s flag bearer, and on giving his take on such a harsh issue – growing up in an oppressive society you’d think the demographic would be slim. However, King Kenny seems to touch the thinnest slice of mass appeal and mass respect.

Ryan [1st]: In terms of production, storytelling, and lyricism, GKMC is one of, if not the best hip-hop album of all time. GKMC gets personal, thoughtful, and emotional without losing momentum. It plays through with every track setting the tone for the next one. It’s a remarkably impressive debut and Dr. Dre’s contributions to the album helped build Kendrick from a marvelously impressive lyricist to a rapper capable of handling tracks that can fill arenas, which he then demonstrated as the opening act for Kanye’s Yeezus tour, right after the album’s release.

One of the most impressive aspects about GKMC though is it’s mainstream appeal while also satisfying hardcore hip-hop heads. It was the perfect debut that cemented Kendrick Lamar as not only a future star but as a revolutionary artist.

Jake [2nd]: A surreal, oftentimes nightmarish peek into Lamar’s experiences as a teenager dealing with Compton’s rampant gang culture, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City was Kendrick’s statement of intent in many ways. He knew he was the best in the game, and he was determined to prove that beyond a shadow of a doubt on this album. And prove it he did. A staggering amount of bops are on display here: Swimming Pools (Drank), Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe, Money Trees, Poetic Justice, Sing About Me I’m Dying of Thirst and fucking M.A.A.D City itself. I could have listed any song from the album’s almost pitch perfect runtime and no one could argue that it was a certified tune. No one could touch Kendrick after this, and rightfully so.

Liam [2nd]: This was a really difficult choice for me, especially because this was the first Kendrick album I experienced. While I don’t believe it’s his best, I do think what Good Kid, m.A.A.d city had to say, and most importantly how he says it, makes it easily the most vital record Kendrick has made. As pointed out by Jake, Kendrick makes the brave move of calling out the problems ripe in his hometown’s community, something that paved the way for his role in discussing racial politics in future endeavors. 

It’s as close to cinematic as an album this decade has ever been, which makes it not that surprising that he eventually got to make a soundtrack for a Holywood blockbuster, but the aspect that generates the most admiration from me is how natural Kendrick is on this record. Before this release, he wanted to really appeal to that pop rap crowd and while there are plenty of songs on here that do just that, there’s a clear focus and intent that makes this feel like a true, fully realised piece of fucking beauty.


1. To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)

Ross [1st]: You know he had to do it to y’all. This album is nothing but pleasure. It goes past being insightful, its educates – containing a densely packed, dizzying rush of unfiltered rage and unapologetic romanticism, blunted-swing sophistication, scathing self-critique and rap-quotable riot acts. To the average listener who enjoyed the more commercial tracks of M.A.A.D City, they might have taken a listen to TPAB and turned their noses up.

To those who listen in depth they would hear the expression of anger towards oppression and the institutions in America that conduct it. To Pimp a Butterfly is truly the greatest Hip-Hop album I have ever listened to, and I feel that it is the most important album released in the last 20 years. It is a masterpiece.

Ryan [2nd]: To Pimp a Butterfly, sounds like Kendrick’s masterpiece. While I may be the only contributor that voted TPAB Kendrick’s second best, is based mostly on my personal relationship with the album. I’ve never had a serious connection to TPAB but completely understand the love behind the album. I feel that I’ve never truly digested TPAB to enjoy it to its full potential, but the tastes I’ve gotten over the years have been sweet enough to draw me back to it now and again.

Its sound is unlike any other that can be heard on a modern hip-hop record, and truly sounds like a love letter to Kendrick’s heritage as well as hip-hop and spoken word.

Jake [1st]: To Pimp a Butterfly is one of those once in a lifetime albums that each genre seems to have. It blends jazz and hip-hop so effortlessly it’s almost criminal. There is absolutely no filler on this record, back to back to back bangers. From the ferocious The Blacker the Berry, to the joyous and impossibly catchy King Kunta, not a second is wasted, each bar, each lyric is treated as an equal. The word masterpiece is thrown around with reckless abandon in recent times, but there truly isn’t another word to describe this album. Without a doubt Kendrick Lamar’s magnum opus.

Liam [1st]: For a lot of people this is miles ahead of anything Kendrick has ever made and despite the fact that I think GKMC isn’t too far behind it, I can’t argue with the fact To Pimp A Butterfly is the best thing he’s done thus far (and most likely the best thing he ever will do). It’s odd to recount the time when many, including myself, assumed this album was doomed due to the first single feeling a tad underwhelming and while I still dig the more polished studio version, using a live rendition of it was a move that could have been easily scoffed at but is just one of various highlights to be found here.

Of course, TPAB has some fire singles on it, King Kunta will never fail to make an appearance at a hip-hop themed night and for good reason, but much like GKMC, Kendrick’s best record benefits from an interweaving narrative that goes down a more poetic route this time round. It was jarring at first to hear Kendrick repeat an ever-growing verse at the end of nearly every song but on repeated listens, it goes to show what this record really is: art.

Charlie [1st]: Making hip-hop albums can be compared to the making of a film, where the MC (or director) helps coordinate producers and other musicians (actors, set design, cinematographer etc.) to create a vision for their singular piece. To Pimp A Butterfly is an example of when a film wins twelve Oscars. This album sees Lamar become the perfect director, creating a hip-hop masterpiece. Taking many stylistic trademarks from genres such as funk, jazz and soul, To Pimp A Butterfly is a truly transformative experience.

At times inspiring on tracks like Alright – a song that became both the soundtrack for many civil rights marches and the soundtrack of angry, mouth-foaming racists on Fox News – and at times heart-wrenching, like on the massively underrated U, To Pimp A Butterfly will go down as one of the best hip-hop albums ever created.

Gig Review: ALVVAYS @ O2 ABC, Glasgow

photos + words by liam menzies (@blnkclyr)

When praise is given in a gig review, more often than not there’s a huge focus on energy exerted by both the act and the audience which is fair enough as, after all, a rock or hip-hop show tends to only be as strong as its riffs and beats respectively. This made ALVVAYS a nice change of pace before they had even played a single note: the Canadian dream-pop act has been around for a few years now but 2017 saw the band rise to prominence thanks in no small part to how well Antisocialites meshed with fans both old and new and the chill vibe it rocked.

Of course, once they did start playing they managed to win over the audience without a moment’s hesitation. After showcasing the new album to a busy St Luke’s last year, prior to its release, it’s had time for those in attendance at the ABC tonight to grow attached to certain tracks and witness them being performed in the band’s biggest Glasgow show to date. It was undeniably obvious which one reacted the best with the crowd: as soon as the opening lo-fi keyboard of In Undertow filled up the room, bits of the crowd flooded to the front to lap up every single word and note that the band politely served them.

img_3807-1Usually, if you’ve got your heart set on a Glasgow venue for production value then ABC usually finds itself placed in the middle of the rankings but ALVVAYS managed to subvert this expectation; much like some of their instrumentals, there was a hazy aesthetic splashed on the scenery behind the act, often times taking on the form of TV static, giving the stage a retro feel which went to prove that you don’t have to go overboard with design to leave an impression.

Speaking of retro, well as retro as you can be for an album released four years ago, tracks from the band’s eponymous debut album weren’t left outside in the baltic Scottish weather, especially Adult Diversion whose jangle pop essence resonated well and showcased the band’s weaving instrumentals which they made look almost effortless.

Actually, while we’re on the topic, the whole band has to be praised for the show they put on last night; of course, Molly Rankin (vocals + rhythm guitar) was on spectacular form as always, even getting an “I love you Molly” from the passionate crowd, but Kerri (keyboards), Alec (lead guitar), Brian (bass guitar) and Sheridan (drums) all did a wonderful job in making the transition between record and stage feel utterly seamless.

Throughout last night’s show, there were a few humourous exchanges, such as Molly’s tangents about her mishap with thinking pants meant the same thing here as they did back home and the pronunciation of Sauchiehall street. While this is a staple of nearly every gig, it went a long way to evoke how humble the act really are: touring isn’t a new thing to them and they’d have every right to possess some sort of ego with all the critical acclaim they’ve accumulated but on stage, what we saw were an act who are going with the flow and giving their all every single time.

After all, in their own words, there’s no turning back after what’s transpired.