Looking for something new to listen to? Well, you have happened upon the right place as the latest music roundup has an eclectic mix of tunes from old friends and new. They are all great songs, and while they are distinctly different to each other, there is more than a little reflection, dissafection, introspection, but also stimulation, invigoration, and songs approaching pop-perfection. All this and a whole lot more before we’re done.
There are few things to brighten a dull, dull day like the recent news from Armellodie Records that The Scottish Enlightenment are back with a new album, Potato Flower. One of the first bands to be reviewed on Scots Whay Hae!, they hold a special place in our hearts. After far too long (since 2010’s St Thomas, if memory serves) they return to fill that Scottish Enlightenment shaped hole in all our lives, which are immediately improved because of it.
In their time away it is clear that life is something which happened between records, and Potato Flower reflects on the highs and lows which are ever-present in the every day. Tackling everything from cradle to grave, these are songs which touch upon love, loss, secrets, lies and some unbearable truths. Taken as a whole, Potato Flower is a thing of fragile beauty, with understated melodies to match David Moyes’ often heartbreaking lyrics. If you’re looking for comparisons, in terms of tone at least, I get American Music Club, Red House Painters, Jason Molina, and even the more reflective work of The Cure.
I was, in a fit of exuberance, going to call it my favourite record of the year so far, then I remembered those from Roberts, Skuse & McGuinness, Modern Studies, Zoe Bestel and Kirsty Law (as well as one mentioned below – no spoilers) and realised that 2018 is shaping up to be one hell of a year for Scottish music. For now, let’s just say, “Potato Flowers by The Scottish Enlightenment – every home should have one”. From it, this is ‘Fingers’:
While we’re talking old friends and favourites, Marie Claire Lee has long been one of Scotland’s finest singers, with the excellent The Lotus Project, as part of Paul McGeechan’s collaborative Starless album, or on her own. You could argue that she is one of Scotland’s best-kept secrets, but it looks like that is about to change as she returns under the moniker Seil Lien. Her single ‘A Little While More’ has been chosen for No7’s ‘Inspiring Women’ ad campaign, and it’s taken from an EP of the same name. It’s down and dirty swamp rock that’s a little bit Bad Seeds, a little bit White Stripes, and should be on a David Lynch movie soundtrack sometime soon if there’s any sense to the world. It’s also proof, if some were needed, that the first sentence of this paragraph is undoubtedly true. This is ‘A Little While More’:
At SWH! we always try to educate as well as entertain, and did you know that The Men of the Minch are mermaid like creatures that inhabit the stretch of water between the Outer Hebrides and the mainland of Scotland, often luring sailors to their doom? Well, now you do, and it explains the name Man of the Minch which is the alias of singer songwriter Pedro Cameron, formerly the fiddle player in the The Dirty Beggars.
As Man of the Minch, Cameron has released his first EP Helping Hands. It’s a fantastic, and moving, collection of songs about his life, loves, and growing up gay, and is an eclectic mix of traditional, electronica and pop. Featuring some astonishing fiddle playing from Laura Wilkie (Shooglenifty and Bothy Culture), and an appearance from poet Sam Small, it’s a real collaborative work while always remaining personal to Cameron.
He is also involved with Bogh-fhrois (Rainbow), the LGBT + Folk Musicians Project, and I’ll let the man himself explain the aims of the project,
“The project is aimed at LGBT folk musicians in Scotland. The idea at the moment is to gather LGBT folk musicians from all over the country to write, collaborate on and perform songs in the folk tradition, which tell stories about life as a member of the LGBT community – with the ultimate aim being a record release and a series of shows, which help to open up a link between the Scottish folk tradition and 21st century issues and values.”
If you would like to more about Bogh-fhrois, then you can get in touch with Pedro by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and he’ll give you all the relevant info. In the meantime, this is ‘Ordinary’, from Helping Hands:
Warren McIntyre is man who lives and breathes music. The host of the monthly Seven Song Clubs at the Tron Theatre, he has worked with too many muscians to mention here, and has welcomed to the stage many, many more. His latest project is fronting Starry Skies, who will be releasing their album Be Kind later this year.
SWH! were lucky enough to have had a preview of Be Kind, and a it’s a record packed with pop songs in the classic tradition – music to uplift while making you think, and with more than a hint of ‘60s psychedelia sprinkled throughout. We’re surely well overdue another summer of love and Starry Skies could provide the perfect soundtrack. The single ‘Starry Skies’ is released on 27th July:
New to SWH! – the music of Peter Cat, and if it’s the same for you you’re in for a treat. Making irreverent and smart pop music in the mold of Neil Hannon, Jarvis Cocker, Luke Haines, with a sprinkling of Scott Walker, Cat casts a wry eye over the world and is then moved to make music to match. Regular readers will also be reminded of the work of Eugene Twist, and even Franz Ferdinand. With a riff running through it that could have come from The Sweet, and that Noel Gallagher is almost bound to steal, the single ‘Hand Through Hair‘ is a delight from start to finish. Let’s hope there is plenty more to come from Peter Cat as on this evidence it’s going to be quite the ride:
I mentioned at the top of the page that there was another contender in this month’s roundup for album of the year, and that is Aidan Moffat & R.M. Hubbert’s Here Lies The Body. As you would expect, theirs is a marriage heaven-sent with Moffat’s mournful vocals backed by the always astonishing virtuoso guitar of Hubbert. Put simply, Here Lies The Body sees two of the finest musicians at work today at the very top of their game, pushing each other to new heights. It may just be the best thing either have been involved in.
The album also features Rachel Grimes on piano, John Burgess on saxophone and clarinet, and, regular on these pages, Siobhan Wilson who plays cello but also sings – her lilting vocals softening Moffat’s gruff delivery to great effect. This is never shown more clearly than on the single ‘Cockcrow’, which you can marvel at yourself right now:
And finally… Let’s end as we began, with a band signed to Armellodie Records. This time it’s Cuddly Shark and their latest single ‘La Barba‘. Reminiscent of SWH! favourites Dumb Instrument, and the legendary Ween, it’s a cracking song which clearly doesn’t take itself too seriously. With horns, Spanish guitar, and a smattering of castanets, it’s an uplifting, and surprisingly faithful, slice of Latin influenced pop which is just perfect as you make your way through the streets of your town. Perhaps the most joyous and infectious song of the summer, ‘La Barba’ will make your day:
That’s all folks, I’m off to grab a fancy beer and a tequila…