It had to happen some time, and it has. After over four years’ worth of coming up with monthly puns, our irregular music review column has now got a permanent name, New Musical Success.
When you’re spending precious time coming up with post titles rather than listening to the music, something has to change. But not too much. This will still be a mostly monthly look at the best new music of recent times. But enough of this idle banter, here’s just that.
In our still available Best of 2015 podcast, we discussed the fact that last year saw a lot of brand new bands making the best new music as some of the better known names took a back seat. Already it seems that 2016 is going to be different, with a reformed Frightened Rabbit, Primal Scream and Emma Pollock, among others, all with albums out or imminent. That situation is reflected in this first roundup of 2016 as most of those featured have done so before in one shape or another.
First up is the debut single from Modern Studies who feature two of our favourite musicians in Emily Scott and Rob St John, joined by Pete Harvey and Joe Smillie. It’s called ‘Ten White Horses’, and is a taste of their soon to be released album, Swell To Great. As you would expect from a Scott/St John collaboration it is almost heartbreaking in its fragility and beauty. If I was putting together a supergroup of Scottish musicians these two would feature in my earliest picks – if only life was always like this:
As I said earlier, and will no doubt again later, 2016 is a year for welcoming back old friends. While you could hardly claim that Martin John Henry has been quiet in recent times, producing great work as a solo artist and as one half of Henry – Fleetwood, it’s good to have De Rosa back, possibly one of the most influential bands on the current Scottish music scene. The new album is Weem, and it finds them in reflective mood. This is more than amply shown in the first single, ‘Spectres’, which is a reminder of John Henry’s skill as a songwriter, and that this is a band who have been missed:
How much do we love A Band Called Quinn? I could count the ways, but let’s just say it’s a lot. A genuine art/pop band who manage that balance beautifully – a rare thing. New single ‘From The Gutter’ comes from the Soundtrack to Biding Time (Remix) and it’s a great pop song, with Louise Quinn’s effortless vocal stylings matched to an understated electronic track. It once more proves that there are few who make this sort of music as well as A Band Called Quinn. If you haven’t yet spent time in their company, have a word with yourself:
Few bands seem to split opinion as Travis do. Here’s the Scots Whay Hae! view. Their first album, Good Feeling, is a cracking debut, bursting with ideas as any decent debut should, and it’s regularly played round our way still. They became huge just as Britpop was beginning to fail and fall, and they took the blame from some quarters for the worst of what followed, just as they were writing some of their best songs to date and learning to play together. They are not responsible for Coldplay. Their last two albums, (Where You Stand and Ode To J Smith) are both underrated records which show a band comfortable in their own skin, and with each other. Fran Healy has become one of the best songwriters around. There are few who do personal, without falling into mawkishness, as well as he now does. They have a new album, Everything At Once, from which this rather excellent single is taken. This is ‘3 Miles High’, and I feel I don’t need to say anything else about it as, either way, you’ve probably made your mind up already. But if you haven’t heard them for a while, go on. What have you got to lose?:
Errant Boy are another who have recently featured on those pages. That’s because we like to be surprised and delighted, and it appears that the ability to do both is in Errants Boy’s DNA. This is their latest single, ‘Black Dress, Black Cab’, and it demands repeated listenings as it takes you to different places every time. The song moves from menace to magic and back again in a single line, with layered acoustics and vocals which seem to pull you in opposite directions. It reminds me of The Woodentops in the sense that what you are listening to is way more complex than you initially believe, and that’s a great thing. I feel I could write a short essay on this song. I’ve been listening to it a lot. Can you tell?:
The way things are going for Vukovi, they need little help from SWH! in terms of promotion as they seem set to break huge and conquer the world. This makes me stupidly happy as Vukovi appear to not take too seriously something they probably take very seriously indeed. As with the best bands, you can’t shake the feeling that they just love doing what they do. The latest single is ‘Bouncy Castle’, but then you probably know that, and the video captures just why you should see them live if you get the chance. To quote Yazz and The Plastic Population, as I am wont to do, “The only way is up”, so sit back and enjoy the ride:
“Steve Mason is back with an essential record”, could be the least surprising sentence you read this year. We know he makes interesting and memorable music, but he has also become one of my favourite and most reassuring singers, with his soft, melancholy vocals matching the lyrics and music perfectly. I’m working real hard not to gush here as it would be embarrassing for me, for him, & let’s be honest, a little bit for everyone. Suffice to say, after listening to the album Meet The Humans solidly for the last week, if there is a more enjoyable collection of songs released this year, I will be ecstatic. And if there’s not, I’ll still be ecstatic, I just won’t be surprised. This is ‘Planet Sizes’:
This month’s review has had a lot of looking back and putting the past into context, so it’s entirely appropriate that we finish with C Duncan‘s cover of The Cocteau Twins ‘Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops’ which can be found on his new EP. If anyone’s going to judge such an undertaking harshly it’s me as the 12″ copy of the original is one of my most treasured possessions. This was never going to match the majesty of that, and it doesn’t try to, but it’s a wonderful tribute not just to the song, but the band. Duncan is a brave man and I like him all the more for it, and after falling for his 2015 SAY nominated album Architect, I liked him a lot already:
I’m calling that the prefect ending to a pretty perfect bunch of songs. New Musical Success? I should coco…