I’m a bit of a Song By Toad fan and have been haunting its pages since the beginning of It All Started. Not only is Matthew’s writing funny, irreverant and informative, his taste in music is excellent and I’ve come across quite a few gems through my daily visits to Toad Hall.

In addition to the blog, Matthew has spent the last year or so developing his own record label, mainly releasing the records of Scottish bands, particularly those from Edinburgh, but he’s recently expanded to international acts with the UK release of a split 12” record featuring several songs from Portland bands Loch Lomond and The Builders & The Butchers. Only available on vinyl, each order will be shipped with a CD-R version of the tracks as well.

So, onto the music. It took me a little while to warm to Loch Lomond, not for any particular reason really, but it wasn’t an instant connection. They are definitely a band that are worth persisting with though, and with continued listens I really started to appreciate their intricate and often haunting songs. There are subtle undercurrents scattered throughout each track – a quick little pluck of a string at an otherwise quiet moment, a drum beat that begins so softly that you don’t notice it until suddenly it’s all you can hear. Oh, and there are strings. Lots and lots of strings.

Highlights from their contribution to the record include ‘Elephants and Little Girls’ and ‘Field Report’, which features a gorgeous melody played out on strings, and repeated again on chimes. It’s all really quite lovely.

Loch Lomond also have a new EP out called Night Bats – I’ve not heard the whole EP yet, but I have checked out ‘Wax and Wire’ and I love it. More chimey accents and a waltz beat punctuated by beautiful strings.

Field Report – Loch Lomond

Wax And Wire – Loch Lomond

The Builders And The Butchers are also pretty fantastic, with ‘When It Rains’ and ‘Vampire Lake’ being my favourite tracks from the record. These guys are folky Americana I suppose and I can’t help but think of the words ‘barn stormer’ when I listen to them. Don’t ask me why, they are not words that are usually a part of my vocabulary, but it just has that feeling of being the kind of music played on a rickety wooden platform in an old barn that people would thump and dance about to. This is a compliment, by the way – each track has this dark undercurrent beneath it, but enough fire and movement to make it a really fun listen.

Vampire Lake – The Builders And The Butchers

Want to find out more about Song By Toad Records? Head here, and if you haven’t already, make sure you check out Meursault’s Nothing Broke EP, also out on Toad’s label. It’s one of my favourite releases of 2009.