Every summer needs a great soundtrack, and this year’s starts right here and now. The following review is an eclectic mix which includes the welcome return of the firmest of favourites when it comes to indie-pop, melancholic electronic beauty, harmonies to die for, potential global pop/rock anthems, singer/songwriting at its very finest, and some intriguing spoken word from one of Scotland’s best writers. If you don’t find something for you then you might just be in the wrong place, but trust me…you will.
We are going to start with the welcome return of BMX Bandits with their album Forever. For the last 30 years their music has been, in this ever-changin’ world in which we live in, one of the few things on which you can rely. The BMX Bandits have been responsible for so many great songs and records that some may be in danger of taking them for granted. Let’s not, as this is music which is timeless and to be treasured.
From the opener ‘My Girl Midge’ we are back in Duglas T. Stewart’s world where love is looked at from all angles – on-high, down-low, and everywhere in-between. It’s where hopeless romantics have their hearts mended, broken, and mended once more to a soundtrack with melodies which Bacharach and David would die for, and with Chloe Philip’s vocals and keyboards adding another dimension to make the music even richer. Other highlights are ‘Love Me ‘Til My Heart Stops’, ‘How Not To Care’, a wonderful version of ‘Somewhere’ from West Side Story, and the beautiful ‘That Lonely Feeling’ which you can hear right here and now. Out now, BMX Bandits’ Forever is already one of the albums of the year. Don’t miss out:
The best things in life are worth the wait, and that is certainly true of music from Shards. They are Errant Media‘s Sean Ormsby and Stephen McLaren, (whose ‘We Used To Go Raving’ appeared in February’s round-up). Last year we spoke to them both on the SWH! podcast about the label and their music. Their individual projects are always memorable, but together as Shards they never fail to produce something special. Playing their own brand of ‘melancholitronica’, the latest release is ‘Headland’, and it’s just gorgeous – slowly building from relatively simple electronic loops to become something verging on the elegiac by the time it ends. It’s a song which sends you straight back to the beginning to listen all over again. More of this sort of thing, I say:
We are currently blessed in this country with great singer/songwriters. Rachel Sermanni, Mark W Georgsson, Michael Cassidy, and Conor Heafey to name just a very few. Siobhan Wilson deserves her place at the top of any such list. Her latest single ‘Whatever Helps’ hints at even greater things to come. Reminiscent of some of my favourite singers – Kristen Hersh, Liz Phair, Natalie Merchant, and Louise Quinn – the music is indie-power pop at its finest. While ‘Whatever Helps’ is without question a fantastic track it is only part of the story, as anyone who has seen Wilson play live will attest. If you haven’t then you’ll get the chance when she plays Glasgow’s Glad Cafe on Jun 30th, supported by The Great Albatross’s A. Wesley Chung. It will give you proof, if my word isn’t good enough, that Siobhan Wilson is proving to be one of the most interesting musicians around:
Talking of The Great Albatross, sometimes you come across a band and their music reminds you why it is important to always search for something new (which I hope we help you do). You may think you’ve heard it all, but then something will come your way which will unexpectedly and violently remove your hosiery. Such a record is their album Asleep In The Kaatskills. It immediately sounds like a release from one of your favourite bands, then you realise you now have a new one of those. It’s got an Americana feel, as the name suggests, similar to the music of Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, Richard Buckner, and even Howe Gelb in places, and you’ll rarely hear me give higher praise than that. I love this record so much it almost hurts me to share it in case it doesn’t mean as much to you. But I have faith:
For all I am a fan of the understated, it’s rare and refreshing to discover a band who are unashamedly grand in their ambitions and sound. Medicine Men are one such band – energetic, angry and in your face, but obviously in love with the music they make. If the world was fair they should be huge as they remain just unusual and experimental enough to make them stand out from the crowd and keep things interesting for everyone. They remind me of Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings Call era Simple Minds, which is a very good thing in case you were in any doubt. But hear for yourself, and you can catch them live at Glasgow’s Nice N Sleazys on 27th May when they launch their album Into The Light. This is ‘Out Of The Light’:
I mentioned The Miss’s in March’s musical review, but I make no excuses for doing so again. Their album Crash is full of great songs played by people who have put their heart and soul into them. Exhibit B, so to speak, is ‘I Am’, an irresistable piece of music with a strength of message and purpose which is visceral. Surely I’ve made it clear – Crash is an album you’ll cherish long after other records from 2017 have long since slipped your mind.
Andrew Greig is best known to Scots Whay Hae! as a poet and author, whose novel Fair Helen was one of the best of 2014. He is also involved in making music, and the album Clean By Rain is a musical and spoken word travelogue of Scotland, but is as much a comment on the state of the nation as it is geographical guide. The link below is for the track ‘Shetland – If’, but you really need to listen to the whole thing to get the big picture.
The music is by Brian Michie, and it is reminiscent in places of early Brian Eno and Harold Budd, but with more acoustic instruments and folk, prog, and even easy-listening influences in evidence. Listened to in one sitting, as it should be, Clean By Rain becomes hypnotic and dream-like as Greig weaves his tales of everyday life into this rich and emotive musical backdrop:
Andrew Greig & Brian Michie – Shetland – If
That’s all for now. I told you there would be something for you.