August Company: The Month In Music…

August’s best music was that lovely mix of old friends and new. The great James Yorkston had a new record out confirming that he is incapable of creating less than brilliant music. One of my favourite voices from the 90s made a very welcome return in the sound of ex-Superstar Joe McAlinden, and talking of great voices, Karine Polwart released her best record yet which I bought purely on ex-podcast guest Nicola Meighan’s glowing review of the record (see, I practice as well as preach).

New names include Monkeybird, Feldspar, the astonishing Neil Milton, and the report of the best live set I have seen this year from… Well, you’ll have to read to the end to find out.

First is Joe McAlinden, back under the name of Linden, with an album called Bleached Highlights. Superstar were one of those bands who should have been huge, but for whatever reasons weren’t while much lesser bands hit the charts in the last days of Britpop. The reason for their appeal was the blend of melancholy guitar and McAlinden’s world weary vocals. Their 1998 album Palm Tree was one of the best of the decade, and if you are a fan of Teenage Fanclub, and who isn’t, then you’ll become very fond of Bleached Highlights. This is the first track Brown Bird Singing:

As I’ve said before, there’s been a lot of folk round these parts over the past 10 year, and as with any musical movement not all of it’s worthy of your attention, but both James Yorkston and Karine Polwart are too good to be lazily categorised or stereotyped. They are two of the best singer/songwriters we have and I’ll go so far as to lazily categorise them as national treasures. Yorkston’s latest is I Was A Cat From A Book and is another collection of witty, literate and at times heartbreaking songs. This is Border Song:

Karine Polwart has apparently been collaborating with  nearly everyone of interest in Scottish folk music in recent years, but has now released Traces, her first solo album for some time and as I said above I think it’s her best yet. I could go on and on about how gorgeous and moving the record is, but here’s a short promo for the album where Karine explains everything far better than I could:

And now to the new; Monkeybird are a Norwegian duo whose debut single, Born to Roam, is a great example of melodic guitar pop that you don’t hear enough off these days. But don’t take my word for it, here’s the video:

I’m putting this together on Sunday morning, and this is the perfect soundtrack. This is The Rest by Feldspar and it reminds me of Nick Drake or Tim Buckley; pastoral pop music which evokes beautiful sadness, memories of being in the most fantastic place but it meaning nothing as the person you want to share it with is not there. That sort of thing:

I’m going to finish with two of my highlights of the year, one recorded and one live. Neil Milton got in touch from his current home in Warsaw to say some very nice things about Scots Whay Hae! Almost as a ps he said I might like to listen to his music, and I haven’t stopped since. I like a lot of styles, but my love for the ambient/minimalist sounds of David Sylvian, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Susumu Yokota, Craig Armstrong etc is perhaps higher than all others. They are the people I turn too when nothing else will do, they are the people who soothe me. 
This is the company in which I’m placing Neil Milton. He has a double ep Skies/Seas out now, which you can purchase from valentinerecords.bandcamp.comfor as much as you see fit. It is so beautiful to my ears that I almost don’t want to share it for fear that others won’t think as highly of this music as I do. Enough gushing, this is Skies, and I urge you to check out both eps:

http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/v=2/album=1239208661/size=venti/bgcol=FFFFFF/linkcol=4285BB/

And finally, this is a video of the extraordinary Adam Stafford who I think stole the show at Wednesday night’s  (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peacniks, Love & Understanding? show at The Old Hairdressers, and considering the company he was in that is the highest of praise. Why was he so good? Watch this, although the clip doesn’t do full justice to his range of talents. If you get the chance to see him live, take it:

I hope you enjoy these as much as I have. Blimey, there’s some good music around…

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