2017 has produced great music of all shapes, sizes and sounds, but the singer/songwriter has had a particularly fine year. Albums by Mark W Georgsson, Siobhan Wilson, Annie Booth, Stephen McLaren, and Blue Rose Code (ne: Ross Wilson) have proved to be among the better records of the year, and the recent Autumnal releases have continued this trend. So much so that this latest review is a bit of a singer/songwriter special, with a couple of bands sneaking in at the end for balance.
Glasgow is the latest album from Findlay Napier, whose work I hope is familiar to most readers, but if it isn’t then Glasgow is the perfect place to start. Known as one of the finest folk writers and musicians around, this is a record which seems more personal than previous work, and is all the more powerful for it. It’s a place where folk meets indie in a mood of celebration and reflection, and aside from his original compositions there are covers of two Glaswegian classics – Hamish Imlach’s ‘Cod Liver Oil & The Orange Juice’, and The Blue Nile’s ‘A Walk Across The Rooftops’. It’s as if someone had told him what I want for Christmas.
With references to the Necropolis, shipbuilding, The Locarno, ‘Wire Burners’, and even a paen to The Blue Lagoon, this is a love-letter to Glasgow to rival Raintown, The Great Eastern, Tigermilk and the aforementioned A Walk Across The Rooftops, putting it in the finest company possible. Beautifully sung and played, (and produced by the god-like Boo Hewerdine), Glasgow already sounds like it’s been a favourite record for years. Here’s Findlay with ‘Young Goths In The Necropolis’, in session for Year One Music:
One of the best things about getting music sent to SWH! (and we appreciate everyone who does) is discovering someone new to us who makes our world a better place. Step forward Barbe Rousse with his song ‘Elephants Don’t Suddenly Disappear’, taken from his album Misc. Muses. It’s an uplifting piece of pop music which demands repeat playing, with a video to match (especially if you’re a “fan” of the elephant). It also features an unexpected guitar solo – not the only one to appear in this roundup. If you’re feeling blue then this is bound to bring joy, like sunshine on a rainy day. So that’s what Zoe was on about:
In September SWH! went through to Leith Depot for the launch of Stephen McLaren’s excellent album We Used To Go Raving. As well as the mighty Errant Boy opening, Stephen was supported by Brave Little Note who was just sensational. The alter-ego of multi-instrumentalist and singer Jack Irvine, the music is enthralling and unforgettable. Luckily for us all there is a new track posted on her Soundcloud page, ‘Only Constant’ which bears the label”(Rough Mix)” but which is too good not to mention here, and which will give you a taste of what Brave Little Note is all about. Comparisons will rightly be made to St Vincent and Feist, not least by me just there, but I’m also reminded of Jens Lekman and Joan As Policewoman. However, have a listen for yourself and come up with your own points of references. We can’t do all the work for you:
Greg C. Clark released his latest album What Everone Wants (further Glasgow nostalgia ahoy!) back in January, but it only came to SWH!’s attention when we heard the remix of the track ‘Birdsoaring’. Album duly bought and listened to, I can tell you it’s a really strong selection of classic new wave songs which touch on Lloyd Cole, the popper side of The Cure, and “Bens” Lee, Kweller and Folds Five. I was going to post the remix of ‘Birdsoaring’, but decided to go with the original album version:
Jaz Coleman, bless him, once sang that he was “Living in the eighties” which, to be fair, he was at the time. However, there is no doubt that the ’80s are having their nostalgic moment once more as books, film, TV and music wear the influences from that decade proudly on their sleeves. From La La Land and IT, through the TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, Stranger Things, Hadley Freeman’s retrospective Life Moves Pretty Fast, and Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang’s comic book series Paper Girls – at times it feels like I’ve been cryogenically frozen for the last 30 years, and that’s before we talk about the music of The 1975.
But, on the whole, I’m all for it and surfing the ’80s wave like few others is Glasgwegian Michael Oakley, with his new single ‘Turn Back Time’ taken from the EP California. So ’80s it’ll remove your socks, pierce your ear and put highlights in your hair before you know it. It’s also reminiscent of Boy Meets Girl’s ‘Waiting For A Star to Fall‘ which, we can all admit, is one of the greatest records ever made. Mylo knew it, and so do you. Anyway, strap on your Ray Bans and enjoy:
Jumpers For Goalposts have just released their eponymous debut EP on the fabulous Fox Star Records, (who are also responsible for the recent release by The Sweetheart Revue which featured in last month’s roundup). Their sound is reminiscent of Del Amitri and Hothouse Flowers, marrying Celtic rock/folk and Americana to great effect. The first track is ‘The Boxer Benny Lynch‘, a fantastic tribute to arguably Glasgow’s greatest ever sportsman, but I’m going to post ‘Per Lachaise’ as it’s my favourite of the EP’s three tracks. A beautiful song about life, love and art, it promises great things for their future. Watch this space:
Straight out of Ru’glen, Harry and the Hendersons have been rightly lauded and talked about for some time, and this month saw the release of their highly anticipated debut album Method of the Matchstick Men. If Michael Oakley takes you back to the ’80s, then Harry and the Hendersons set their time machine to a decade earlier making epic, classic, rock music reminiscent of early Fleetwood Mac, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, The Byrds and even a hint of Creedence. The Dude would approve. But there are also echoes of ’70s English folk rock bands such as The Trees and Spirogyra. It’s an album to get lost in – turn on, tune in, drop out. This is the title track:
We are going to end where we began, in Glasgow’s Necropolis, the setting for the video for Tenement and Temple’s single ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow.‘ They are Monica Queen and Johnny Smillie, and they continue to make beautiful music together, just as they have since their days in Thrum. In this reviewer’s opinion, Monica is quite simply the finest singer around, and every home should own her solo records Ten Sorrowful Mysteries and Return of the Sacred Heart (produced by one J. Smillie). ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow‘ is further evidence of this, and it is launched at The Tron Theatre in Glasgow on the 24th November in collaboration with the aforementioned Fox Star Records. I could tell you how beautiful it is, probably using words like “ethereal”, “dreamlike” and maybe even “hypnagogic” if I’ve had a glass of wine or two, but instead you can listen for yourself right here and now:
The next music review will be our Tracks Of The Year for 2017, for which there is going to be stiff competition…