Welcome one and all to the first New Musical Success of 2018, the SWH! regular review of the best new music to have found its way to our ears in recent times. As January is the month of Celtic Connections in Glasgow there is an understandable folk-ish hue to the following selection. But if your musical tastes lie in other directions have no fear as we believe there to be something to interest everyone, and we might just surprise you.
We’re going to kick off with a musician who has appeared on these pages many times before, whether as a member of Teen Canteen or with the moniker of Ette. She is Carla J. Easton and she is now making music under her own name. However, no matter what the name it is business as usual as Easton continues to prove she is incapable of making music which is anything other than magical. Her latest single is ‘Lights In The Dark’, and it is a moody and mature slice of electro pop which shows others just how this sort of thing should be done. Carla J. Easton deserves to reach the widest audience possible and this could be the song to do just that. Take a listen and see if you agree:
Salt House are Ewan MacPherson, Jenny Sturgeon and Lauren MacColl, three fine musicians who aren’t afraid of a collaboration or in bringing something new to folk music. This song, ‘Charmer’, is taken from their latest album Undersong and it is a great example of just that. It’s fresh and utterly contemporary, with a hypnotic and emotional quality in evidence, yet there is something from the ages as well – an understanding of and respect for the tradition in which they play and to which they belong. One listen will not be nearly enough, and you’ll soon find that theirs is music which stays with you:
While we are talking about new takes on the traditional, few do so with such interesting results as Kirsty Law. Steeped in the Scottish ballad and folk tradition, she works in different musical and artistic mediums, collaborating with other like-minded souls to produce music which is unlike anyone else. If you can catch her live then you should do just that, and a date for your diaries is 16/6/18 when she will be appearing at The Braemar Gallery as part of this year’s Gigs At The Gallery season (familial plug – tick). Her latest album project is Young Night Thought (which you can pre-order here) and she has released a few “Song Sketches” to give a flavour as to what to expect. Here is the latest, featuring the unmistakable voice of Karine Polwart. It’s called ‘Underneath The Sycamore’, and it promises great, great things:
Collaboration seems to be the order of the day, and next we have a single from a veritable super group of Scottish musicians. The Gracious Losers is their name, and they include members of Sister John, Tenement And Temple/Thrum, and the legendary Parsonage Choir. Such undertakings can be unwieldy (Praxis, anyone?) but if the first single, ‘Where The River Meets The Sea’, is any indication then we are in the safest of hands. With influences in evidence such as The Allman Brothers, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Little Feat, as well as their Celtic cousins The Waterboys and Van Morrison, The Gracious Losers take the expansive country rock and soul rooted in North American mythology along the highways and B-roads of Scotland. Deep and wide and tall – ‘Where The River Meets The Sea’ is all of those while remaining intensely personal. Fingers crossed there is an album to follow:
Sometime matters can be summed up simply, and simply speaking Alessi’s Ark make impeccable pop music. The latest single ‘DLD (Door Light Dream)’ confirms that statement to be true, combining the folk/pop of Beth Orton and Tracy Thorn with more experimental musicians such as Lou Rhodes and Laura Veirs. Taken from the excellent album Love Is The Currency, ‘DLD’ is a free-and-easy sunny afternoon in the shape of a 3-minute pop song, one to lift you up and keep you there. It proves that Alessi is one of the most interesting musicians around today. More of this sort of thing, please, 2018:
‘Are You Free Now’ is the first single from Jamie Sutherland‘s debut album Bruise, another must-have record coming our way soon. Sutherland’s laid-back style matches the music which is understated but always interesting, gently building to an emotional ending which catches you unaware. There is something of The Blue Nile’s Paul Buchanan in Sutherland’s voice, a comparison I do not make lightly (in fact I may never have done so before). The more you listen to ‘Are You Free Now’ the better it gets, offering up something new each time – or perhaps just inviting you to listen closer. Every song featured in this review is special, but if I made music this is the sort of music I would want to make. But I don’t, so repeated listens will have to do. As compromises go, it’s one of the best:
One of SWH!’s favourite albums of last year was Stephen McClaren‘s debut solo album We Used To Go Raving (Errant Media). The latest single taken from it is ‘Yet Again, I Have Offended Everyone’, and if you haven’t already bought We Used To Go Raving this may be the song to persuade you. From the opening piano refrain and sparing electronica it’s unmistakably McLaren, with his plaintive, doleful, yet soulful, vocals working beautifully against that brittle soundtrack. His music has an unerring ability to break your heart yet leave you uplifted at the same time, and I must admit I’m not entirely sure how he does it. Then again, if everything could be explained what a dull world it would be. Just settle back and accept. There’s a lovely video by Jordan Yorkston as well:
What this roundup proves is that there is a lot of great brand-new music out there. Another debut album to seek out is Courage Reels by Wozniak. Described as “Edinburgh shoegazers”, there’s a lot more going on than that description may suggest. There are echoes of the black metal of Black Sabbath and the unsettling psychedelic folk of Trembling Bells. Mesmeric and unsettling, if this is dream pop it’s moving towards the nightmare end of that spectrum. If there is a folk-horror revival, and films such as Ben Wheatley’s Kill List and A Field in England, as well as Andrew Michael Hurley’s The Loney suggest that there may be, then Wozniak supply the perfect soundtrack. If you’re going to make some noise, you may as well do it with as much class as you can muster, and Wozniak are sheer class:
That’s your lot for this month, and apologies if your band or song didn’t feature. We very much appreciate everyone who gets in touch and sends us music to consider, and everything is listened to carefully. If you want to do just that then you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.