Monthly Archives: April 2009

Zoey Van Goey – The Cage Was Unlocked All Along

Glasgow-based three-piece Zoey van Goey seem to have been about forever (that’s not a name you’re likely to forget), yet their recordings have been minimal. While ‘hotly anticipated’ might be a slightly hyperbolic term to describe this album, the band held their own with a packed tent as REM headlined T in the Park’s main stage last summer; they’ve certainly set tongues wagging. Happily, The Cage Was Unlocked All Along doesn’t disappoint. This is intelligent, humorous, pleasant twee-pop that, from the well-crafted song structures to the wonderful cover art, possesses the warmth and attention to detail of an authentic indie collector’s item. A history of involvement with Stuart Murdoch is reflected in a palpable B&S influence, but rather than being mere pastiche, ZvG have a pronounced sound of their own. Lead single We Don’t Have That Kind of Bread stands out on an excellent album that could ably soundtrack any (admittedly rare) sunny day in Glasgow.


The Maccabees – Wall of Sound Album Review

I first encountered The Maccabees a few years back at Leeds Festival. They had been about for a while, but had flown below my radar. The situation was quite surreal: they were participating in a Q & A session with some fans. They made up the panel, whilst the audience and in particular those posing the questions, were mostly teenage girls.
Lead singer Orlando Weeks fielded most of the interrogation, which covered little ground between: “Do you have a girlfriend?” and: “Why did you get your hair cut?” Normally, I would’ve upped and left, dismayed, as I was, at this debacle of Bay City Rollers sized proportions. Alas, after a hard weekend’s festivalry my back was sore and I had managed to come by a relatively comfortable position. So I stayed to see the band play. I’m glad I did.


They seemed at odds with their status: Weeks had been greeted like a fifth Beatle by his adoring fanbase, but he seemed ill-at-ease. He gave one word answers and seemed embarrassed. When they took the stage, though, things changed. Their music was intelligent and tuneful, if slightly whimsical. I made a mental note to get a copy of Colour It In, their debut album.
Listening to the debut two years on, it has aged well. It’s a grower, for sure, but it still feels like something’s missing. The quality of the singles, especially Toothpaste Kisses, isn’t replicated throughout, and this is a point their second album actively seeks to address. Resultantly, it’s a rounder, more substantial record and sounds excitingly like a band fulfilling its sizeable potential.
From start to finish, Wall of Arms is an intense listen – on the marauding pre-emptive strike on hacks and naysayers No Kind Words, it’s even confrontational – but there’s not a dud track to be found. With Markus Dravs on production duties, some likeness with Arcade Fire may have been expected, but the extent to which Orlando Weeks’ vocals mimic those of Win Butler is at times uncanny. Lead single Love You Better jostles with Kiss and Resolve and the aforementioned No Kind Words for pride of place on what is a tremendous sophomore effort.
Video: The Maccabees – Love You Better
* This review is published in much more efficient style here: The Skinny

Music To Grow Wise To

I started purposely avoiding anything dubbed “chillout music” a few years ago. The genre, so to speak, had become big business and at once became lost, diluted and utterly boring at the timid hands of such miscreants as Morcheeba and Zero 7. Anything that could be marketed to a backdrop of palm trees and pina coladas qualified and inevitably wound up on the latest Café Del Mar compilation.

Of course, as with everyone, I’ve still always had music that I enjoy chilling out to and since going back to college, the music has become more important. Trying to hammer out lines of Teeline shorthand or trawling through McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists (19th Edition) with LCD Soundsystem blaring out the stereo, sadly isn’t an option. I’ve had to, gulp, seek out new, improved chillout music. Let’s call it study music…

Here is my Top 3:

Stars of the Lid – And Their Refinement of the Decline

I’ve had this for a while and played it sparingly. I was a bit hesitant when I first read the words ‘drone music’; it just doesn’t sound very, y’know, welcoming. This album is the antithesis of that though: warm and soothing, this stuff’s like a nice sonic cup of tea.

Essential Track: Apreludes (in C Sharp Major)

Low – Things We Lost In the Fire

Low are a band I always thought I would like but kind of missed the boat on. I had a few bits and pieces, but this album is breathtaking. The songs are all incredibly simple and formulaic: hushed vocals, perfect harmonies and softly strummed guitars, but it’s a model that works amazingly well. Some of it is pretty dark stuff, but at just the right level, is a great accompaniment.

Essential Track – Sunflower

Yann Tiersen – Black Sessions

I could just as easily have included the Amelie OST or the Goodbye Lenin OST. Maybe not as laid back as, say, Steve Reich or Philip Glass, Yann Tiersen’s stuff is arguably more enjoyable. There are a couple of great covers on this one, particularly the essential track. It’s a live performance, but as long as you don’t mind the odd round of applause, this comes highly recommended.

Essential Track – Life on Mars (feat Neil Hannon)

Nacional: Bright Young Things

They haven’t even released their debut album yet, but have been garnering praise from Mercury Prize winner Guy Garvey. Finbarr Bermingham spoke to Nacional to find out what the fuss is all about.

Written for The Skinny
Glasgow based indie outfit Nacional have played Glastonbury and SxSW, and received admiring glances from such luminaries as Guy Garvey and, eh, Sean Hughes. Not bad for a band supposed to be “cutting their teeth”. The Skinny decided it was high time to find out what the fuss is all about.
Who are Nacional? 

Hailing from disparate parts of the UK, the band’s members first came to each others’ attentions in Glasgow, formed together and started playing music at the end of 2006. That all sounds very simple, so we asked frontman Rob Armstrong to put some meat on the bones. “It built on from those hours spent in freezing rehearsal rooms,” he reflects. “Then we started to fall in love with what we were doing. A non-for-profit label from down south called art/goes/pop contacted us about releasing a couple of our records and we put out our double a-side Telephone/Yorkshire a few months back. I suppose 2008 was all about us cutting our teeth but we still got a buzz doing stuff like Glastonbury, releasing our first record and playing some cool gigs closer to home.”

Each of the band undoubtedly brings something different to the equation, although Armstrong admits he is not sure it is because of their contrasting hometowns. Their current abode, however, is intrinsic to who they are as a band. “Glasgow’s definitely got a hold on us; I’ve personally lived here for 8 years now and matured as a songwriter during that time. I love how it’s straight-to-the-point and there’s no bullshit about it. I suppose that’s kind of mirrored by our music to an extent.”
The band have yet to release an album, although it is “ready” and awaiting recording.
Who do they sound like and where do they fit in? 

The early signs are promising: comparisons to the likes of The Smiths and The Wedding Present are unlikely to do any up and coming band much harm and whilst admitting such links are flattering, Armstrong is confident “that Nacional is doing its own thing and there are no rules.”
Nacional’s members forged musical bonds over a love of “guitar bands that created a sort of tension and energy when they played”. It’s a theme they’ve incorporated into their own sound, giving them a definite sense of vitality and urgency. Influence wise, the lead singer finds it hard to pinpoint, but politely nods to Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine and The National as three acts currently floating his boat.

What is Nacional’s assessment of the ‘local scene’?
Like most of the bands we speak to, Nacional are pleased that Scottish music is in safe hands, at least in terms of the bands. “You need to know where to look as, there’s too much going on!” offers Armstrong. Special mentions ensue for the likes of Woodenbox & a Fistful of Fivers, The Skinny’s cover stars The Phantom Band and Twilight Sad, Diamond Sea and Roscoe Vacant. Despite the presence of such luminaries, there is plenty of room for improvement.
Given the means, Nacional would “try and bring more credibility back to venues this city used to be proud of and get them pushing the brightest bands in the city.” According to Armstrong, pay-to-play “scams” should be scrapped, whilst initiatives like the one going on at Stow College are only to be encouraged. The band have gotten where they are through hard work and their own initiative. Little outside help has been offered and this is an area Nacional would like to see addressed.


How did a band without even an album get to play such high profile slots?
No sooner had the ink on the band’s tour van dried than they were being asked to shuttle it down south for a slot at Glastonbury. It’s the sort of exposure most bands only dream of. The people at Concrete Records in Manchester set the ball rolling by offering them a set at the festival. Guitarist Colin Healy takes up the story:
“They’re quite friendly with Guy Garvey, who must have been checking out bands they chose to play and he came to see us. We’ve never met him or spoke to him or anything but he’s come out and given us some cool compliments since. We were getting phone calls from our mates in the morning saying… ‘I’ve just heard the guy from Elbow banging out about you on the radio!’ As for other encounters, Sean Hughes bought me a pint after coming to see us play.”
Nothing says bigtime like a beer from a falling star. All joking aside, Nacional have certainly been setting tongues wagging on both sides of the border. In a year’s time, they hope to be relentlessly touring their debut album having become ingrained in our collective consciousness. Why not come along for the ride?
Check the excellent Nacional out at