As William Michael Albert Broad would put it, “It’s hot in the city…tonight”, and there is little doubt that can have an effect on your listening habits. But it’s not all pinky blue skies and sunshine supermen in terms of what’s made the roundup of the best new music from the last month.
There is a reassuring balance between light and shade, which might lead the naive to believe that these roundups were not just thrown together, but were, in fact carefully planned and curated.
First off we have a strong contender for album of the year. Due to such ephemeral matters as questions of personal taste, it may not be your album of the year, but I can guarantee you that when the nights are fair drawing in it will remain one of mine.
Imagine someone writes a collection of poignant and moving songs, then gets some of your favourite singers to sing them, and what you have is the new R.M. Hubbert album Telling The Trees as mentioned in last month’s roundup. For two such records to come along in consecutive months seems like an over withdrawal in the karma bank (we’ll pay, we’ll pay), but that’s what has happened.
Starless, whose self-titled album is out now, is the latest project from ex-Love and Money man Paul McGeechan and has, among others, The Bathers’ Chris Thomson, The Lotus Project’s Marie Claire Lee, Julie Fowlis and Paul Buchanan singing vocals on various tracks, each one of whom are among my favourite singers.
However, the real treat for me is the overdue return of Gwen Stewart, singer in legendary bands such as Wild River Apples and Sugartown, and who is in possession of one of Scotland’s great voices. She sings on the 2.03 minute ‘Yellow Midnight’ and it’s hugely exciting to have her back, if only for a such a short while. With that line-up, Mr McGeechan is spoiling us, and every one should realise it.
I could have written this month’s roundup on Starless alone, breaking it down track by track, but that’s not what we’re here for, and there is other great music on its way. However, I wanted to get across why this album means so much to me and has touched me so profoundly. It’s not just that as a collection it is reminiscent of Craig Armstrong at his very best. It’s not purely because every track is unforgettable but, when taken together, works towards a much greater whole. It’s not as simple as those singers and the songs, even. It’s because this is the sound of my music – it’s in my bones. Always has been, and always will.
Featuring the heavenly voice of the aforementioned Chris Thomson, this is ‘Misty Nights’, and if it makes you feel as it does me, we’re going to get on just fine:
Another well kent music man from round these parts is David McKellar. A Glasgow musician whose address book rivals that of even Paul McGeechan, he has played with various members of Britpop royalty from the likes of The Verve, The Stone Roses, Audioweb, The Seahorses and Shed Seven as well as playing with his own band, Electric Drugstore.
The influence of that music and time can be heard in his latest single, ‘Heavy Soul’, which features the phenomenal Cairns String Quartet, and which sounds like A Northern Soul crossed with Gene’s Olympian, with McKellar’s plaintive vocals hinting at a soul which may well be heavy, but also at a life lived, loved and now reflected upon:
More often than not the term Super Group has one heading for the hills – (The Power Station, Zwan, Freebass!!) – but wait, come back. Minor Victories may feature Stuart from Mogwai, Rachel from Slowdive and Justin from Editors, but think about it… That’s a great lineup, and their new album of the same name makes good on that promise. It’s dreamy in places, heavy in others, and surprisingly electro-poppy throughout and, yes, I may have glanced at my laces from time to time, but this is a good thing – and Minor Victories is very good thing, every minute of it. Put all thoughts of Velvet Revolver from your mind and embrace one of the most interestingly introspective albums of the year. This is ‘Scattered Ashes (Song for Richard)’:
Scots Whay Hae! have long been admirers of Sacre Noir and their distinctive grimy yet glamorous gothic stylings. Well, they are back with something which is not so much as a step forward as a move in a new and unexpected direction. Their latest EP is a collaboration with Canadian singer/songwriter D Soul the Soulsamurai, and although they retain their ability to unsettle and provoke it sees them in new territory with samples and keyboards more to the fore to create a sort of death disco, and there are hints of P.I.L.’s experimentation on show. This suits them well as each track has something new to offer listeners. My favourite is ‘Knives’, but that’s right here and now. Tomorrow it could be something completely different:
In our eyes, Book Group can do no wrong ever since we first heard their legendary single ‘Victory Lap’, one of Scots Whay Hae!’s songs of the year in 2013. In fact, now I think about it, they can do something wrong and that is to take too long to make their new album The Great Indoors. However, one listen and all is forgiven and you are once more smitten with a band who have pop sensibility to spare. It just feels like they can’t help but make music that is so strewn with hooks you could do yourself an injury. Exhibit A: Single ‘Kickstart’ which is reminiscent of The Wedding Present, Supergrass and the very best in jangle-pop. It’s so joyous you’ll find yourself wanting to stop strangers in the street to tell them about it. Here comes the summer? I should coco…
In a recent podcast we headed to Edinburgh to talk to Sean and Stephen from one of our favourite indie record labels Errant Media on which they put out their own music under various guises. Shards is what they do when they work together, and you can hear them describe how Shards works on the pod, but it’s perhaps easier just to give you an example. And what an example. Below is their latest single ‘If You Wait’, and it is another thing of beauty and a joy forever. Releasing music on a track-by-track basis, each one should be treasured, and ‘If You Wait’ is no exception. Their music has an elegiac quality to it that has the ability to move you, and you’re not entirely sure why. Put simply, and simply put, it is mesmeric. I could listen to their songs day and night and never tire. In fact, it’s not unknown:
Since we may well be out of Europe rather soon, apparently, let’s make the most of it while we can. Not Monsters are a Dublin based band who sent their latest single ‘On Tilt’ our way, and how could we refuse them? It’s beautifully constructed, expertly played and lyrically interesting. If only all bands could take time to do the same. It also shows you just how much you can pack into a 4-5 minute pop song, one where the epic meets the everyday, which is a rare trick to pull off. Cracking video too:
We always love to listen to and feature new to us music on Scots Whay Hae!, and wotjek the bear are more than welcome. There are layers to their sound and lyrics which demand repeated listening and are another fine example of all the parts of a band working in perfect harmony to create something quite magical. If it was as easy as they make it sound on their debut single ‘Dead From The Waist Up’ then everyone would be doing it. But they don’t…because they can’t:
That was the month, that was. But before you go, did I mention Starless…?