As the nights draw in and the heating comes on, it’s a good time to begin to take stock of the year and how it is shaping up for music. Looking back over SWH!’s musical roundups of 2016 to date there is little doubt that it has been one of the most interesting and varied of recent times, and it has no intention of stopping now.
So far the most notable rends have been left-field and/or ambient electronica, the reappearance of the singer/songwriter, the more traditional end of the folk spectrum, (great band name, ahoy!), and lashings of wonderful classic and classy pop music. The following roundup suggests that admittedly simplistic breakdown is not too far from the mark. It is also looking like the year the Scottish independent record label roared, (more of which at a later date), and there is further evidence of this in the music that follows.
First up we have the new album from The Furrow Collective, who set the bar high for contemporary trad/folk music, presenting their often dark material with wonderful understated playing and pin-sharp harmonies. The Collective are Rachel Newton, Emily Portman, Lucy Farell, and Alasdair Roberts (a previous podcast guest), and if you have felt in the past that folk music isn’t for you, and I know there are a few of you out there, then this is the record to change that. You want proof? Of course you do, so here they are with ‘Wild Hog In The Woods’ which also has perhaps the best video of the year:
Now, it’s a very welcome return for Mr Eugene Twist, a man who appeared on the SWH! podcast as far back as October 2012 to talk about his album The Boy Who Had Everything which was one of the best of that year. We haven’t heard from him since, but now he’s back and the world is a better place for it. The new single is ‘Savile Row Gigolo’, and it shows that he has not been squandering his talent or his time. It’s a slice of new-wave pop, with bitterest-sweet lyrics to match, reminiscent of Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, and Matthew Sweet and with guitar riffs so sharp you could do yourself an injury. Talk about whetting the appetite for more – this is a return of both style and substance:
Those good folk at Last Night From Glasgow continue to release nothing but great music. We’ve already had some of the best of the year from them, including Emme Woods, Stephen Solo, Mark W. Georgsson, and Teen Canteen and it continues with the new single from Be Charlotte. It’s called ‘Machines That Breathe’, and it’s the kind of record that makes you want to dance in the street, or, for the more conservative among you, at least it will put a notable spring in your step. And even if you don’t find yourself arm in arm with a stranger on Sauchiehall Street, ‘Machines That Breathe’ will have you in a better place than you were three minutes earlier:
Rick Redbeard‘s last solo album, No Selfish Heart, showed off his skill as a songwriter and singer, something which had perhaps been overlooked in his work with The Phantom Band. His second, Awake Unto, came out earlier this year and simply confirmed the promise of the first. He has a new release from it, ‘The Night Is All Ours’ which can’t help but put you in mind of Nick Cave, Richard Hawley, and Leonard Cohen, and suggests that his voice and his music are just getting better. If Be Charlotte makes you want to dance, ‘The Night Is All Ours’ makes you want to sit perfectly still and think of you and yours, of lives lived and lost. It’s a wonderfully evocative record that demands multiple listenings, and which offers more each time. Sheer class:
Faith Elliot was new to Scots Whay Hae! this autumn, and it was love at first listen. The song that had me hooked is ‘Pyrite Ammonite’ and it sent me back to the early records of Jenny Lewis, Liz Phair and Juliana Hatfield, which in turn sent me back to Faith Eliot once more, for more. It’s taken from Insects which is out now on Song by Toad Records, and you can listen to the whole here and start your own relationship. But before you do, here is ‘Pyrite Ammonite’ which sounds as good today as it did on the first listen. This is no fleeting infatuation – it’s the real thing:
We have already flagged Ette‘s Baby Lemonade album as one of the year’s finest, but to put the tin lid on that claim they are back with a new single and video. It’s called ‘Bonfire’ and it’s another example of a band who are steeped in music and who are determined to bring their influences and their own ideas together to produce something all of their own. If you haven’t heard Baby Lemonade yet then I hope this will persuade you to do so. If it doesn’t, then, in a reverse of the norm; it is you, not me. This is ‘Bonfire’:
As most of you will know, C. Duncan‘s debut album Architect was nominated for 2015’s Mercury Music Prize, something which can be as much a burden as a boon. But there are no such worries here as Duncan returns with a new album, The Midnight Sun which this listener feels eclipses the first. It’s another collection of electronic dreamscapes which, while they work individually, are even better when together, creating a coherent and affecting whole. I’ve been out and about Glasgow listening to The Midnight Sun since its release and it makes for the perfect urban soundtrack. Walk about your city, or any city, with this on your headphones and see if you don’t view it anew:
And finally, every now and again something reaches our ears which, although not Scottish, is too good not to share with you. This applies to the album Cais by Johnny Fox, the name of a collaborative album by Irish musician Johnny Fox and Brazilian artist Samantha Capatti. Johnny and Samantha, who now live by the beach in Wexford, Ireland, previously spent 18 months living together in a one-room flat in Anhangabau, in the centre of São Paulo.
It was here, 16 stories above the chaos and concrete of South America’s largest city, that the seeds were sewn for this record. Samantha wrote words and Johnny wrote music (each quite independently of another) and once back in Ireland, work began to combine the two into something to reflect both sides of the same story.
It’s a beautiful and obviously deeply personal record which I have taken to my heart since the first play, and which I’m convinced will touch yours. It’s music made to soundtrack their lives together, to help remember the important things and make those memories more vivid. I feel it’s a privilege just to be allowed to listen: