December has a reputation as not being the best month for new music as it is even harder to be heard against the Best of Captain & Tennille and Now That’s What I Call Music 3,451, but there are always gems to discover, and the following are a few of the best examples. I know, I know – it’s nearly the end of January, but apparently time flies when it gets dark at 4pm. No excuses, just good music.
One of Scots Whay Hae!’s favourite musicians is Richard Haswell, and his album, Asteroids, was one of the best of 2013. A prolific master of experimental pop, I did wonder how his music would translate to being played live. I need wonder no more as he has released a live EP called Live In Kemback, and he pares his music down to an acoustic minimum which lets the songs shine through and his personality come to the fore. What it shows once more is that this is a man who lives and breathes music, and who works hard at making it seem this effortless. You can listen to the whole thing here:
The opening bars of ‘Eleanor’ by Dancing Mice remind me of ‘Since Yesterday’ by Strawberry Switchblade, which is a great thing to be reminded of. It then goes to be a glorious example of the sort of wistful melodic pop music that Scots’ bands seem to do so well. It’s taken from their new album Quiz Culture, which is a great collection of memorable tunes. If you like The Pastels, BMX Bandits and Belle and Sebastian, and I know you do, then you’ll love what Dancing Mice do, and there’s also hints of the more pastoral side of XTC and The Icicle Works. But back to ‘Eleanor’. I’ve been listening to it most days since the first time and it just gets better and better with every listen. It’s a song to fall in love with, and to, if you’re lucky:
Next up is ‘Hand To Heart’ from The Deadly Winters, taken from their album, Away Boys, Away. There’s a line in the song which goes “It creeps under your skin and pulls you in.”, and that’s exactly what the music of The Deadly Winters does, and before you know it you’re going back for another listen. The song is accompanied by footage of them live, and if you get the chance to catch them I highly recommend you do so:
Christmas music is notoriously dodgy territory, but the dying days of December saw an example demanding to be remembered. The always interesting and enigmatic The Bird And The Monkey, (for it was they), released not just one of the best songs of December, but of the whole of 2014. This is ‘A Sonnet For Bella McLay on Christmas Day’, and it’s the perfect song to listen to on a snowy winter morning, as I did more than once in recent weeks. An immediate Christmas classic:
There are lots of eagerly anticipated albums from some of Scotland’s finest heading this way soon, very soon in some cases. One of them is the debut album from Pale Fire, which is long awaited to those of us who are familiar with their anthemic pop, music which is often defined by the driving drums and distinctive vocals which set them apart from many other bands who try this sort of thing, as does their way with a memorable tune. The album, which was recorded with Jamie Savage from Olympic Swimmers, is due to be out in early March, but we are lucky enough to have a preview of what to expect right now. This is the brilliant ‘Paradise’:
Next is ‘Slammer’ by Tuff Love, taken from their Dross EP, and it’s a song which had me at “hello”. There are lots of things it reminds me of, some of the best bands and musicians to ever grace my ears, but rather than list them here I’ll leave you to come up with your own, something which is inevitable as this is simply classic noise/pop that few do as well as this, though many have tried. The rest of the EP is similarly wonderful, and I’m willing to bet that once you have listened you will have a new favourite band. Do I like it? Yes I do:
Unquestionably, Gary Clark is one of Scotland’s great singers. You may remember him from Danny Wilson, or King L. If you don’t, you’ll have heard something which he has been involved in even if you don’t realise it as he has carved out quite a career as a go to producer of quality pop. But it is his voice which is unforgettable, and it was a delightful surprise to hear that he appears on the new The Grand Gestures album, Third. I haven’t managed to hear the whole album as yet, but I certainly intend to as it also features the unforgettable vocals of Jill Sullivan, and a spoken word track featuring Sanjeev Kohli, but it is the appearance of Clark which really piqued my interest, and I have not been let down. This is a wonderful track called ‘The World Will Break Your Heart’, and it is the perfect match of singer and song:
January has already seen new releases from some of Scots Whay Hae!’s favourite musicians, but there’s still space for more, so keep them coming. And thanks, as always, to all of you who sent in or recommended music for inclusion in 2014. Even if it didn’t make the final cut, it was all appreciated and this would be a much shorter roundup without your input.
We love yous all. X