These music roundups often seem to throw up themes which are unintentional, but undeniable all the same. This latest batch of songs, when taken together, engender a reflective and almost melancholic mood, something which probably says more about your reviewer than the music itself. Again there is proof that singer/songwriters are in the ascendency, with a few band contributions to balance things out. But whether it’s folk, pop, indie rock, acoustic or electric, all of the following would be at home on an album called Now That’s What I Call Slightly Pensive Yet Still Sanguine…
Zoe Bestel’s album Transcience came out last month on Last Night From Glasgow, and it’s rarely been off the SWH! turntable since. It’s a collection of songs which are aching in their beauty and fragility, yet there is a core strength and assuredness which makes you feel, if just while the record plays, that everything really is for the best in this best of all possible worlds, despite evidence to the contrary.
Musically, there are similarities with Stina Nordenstam, Emiliana Torrini, early Laura Veirs and late period Kate Bush, but Zoe Bestel is as original as they come, and as comfortable in her music as she is breathing. There is no artifice in evidence, just songs where the key is life. From Transcience, this is ‘Grey Skies’, and it makes all the above points, and more, better than I could ever manage:
Talking of people with the music in them, Carla J. Easton has a new single out – always cause for good cheer. ‘Wanting What I Can’t Have’ is a joint release on LNFG and Olive Grove Records and can be found on CD, (very) limited 7” Picture Disk, and Download, including remixes by SWH! favourites L-Space, Sun Rose, Skinny Dipper and Out Of The Swim, amongst others.
It’s another insightful, glorious, pop song musing on the complex and complicated state of mind that is being in love, following in the fine tradition of The Human League’s ‘Don’t You Want Me’, Pet Shop Boys’ ‘Rent’ or One Dove’s ‘White Love’, but in keeping with Easton’s previous solo work, as Ette, and with Teen Canteen. With recent collaborations including people as diverse as Belle & Sebastian and Scottish Opera, Easton is currently one of our most innovative and influential musicians. Talk about pop music? Carla J. Easton should be at the heart of any such conversation:
It’s great to have wotjek the bear back as there are not many bands in recent years who make a noise as joyous as they do. They describe their music as “smart/casual indie pop”, and I’m going to steal that as it sums up their sound perfectly. Previous releases which made their mark were ‘Dead From The Waist Up’, ‘Made Out Of Maps’, and ‘What’s For Ye’. Their latest is ‘Oil & Water’, out on the always reliable Scottish Fiction label. It’s a real leap forward in terms of production and playing, and speaks of a band who are nearing the peak of their powers. If this is a sign of things to come, this could be the Year of the Bear:
There’s something stirring in Perth these days. Perhaps the finest example of this is Elizabeth and her song ‘Beginning’, taken from her EP Blossoms. It’s acoustic, understated, and simply gorgeous, with a vocal which will break your heart. Elizabeth sounds like a young Dolores O’Riordan, Beth Orton or Sarah McLachlan, and that is the finest company to keep. If you like what you hear, I can tell you that the rest of Blossoms is just as strong. No longer someone to watch for in the future, you should sit up and take notice of Elizabeth right now:
Conor Heafey has featured on these pages before, with his excellent EP The Game. He is back with a mini-album, Just One Step Behind and it’s further proof that this is a musician making an indelible mark. Exhibit A is ‘Gone Is The Life’, a wistful and, yes, melancholic tune which puts me in mind of Father John Misty, David Bazan, the mighty Damien Jurado and even, (and I don’t say this lightly), Elliot Smith. Like all of those Heafey manages to squeeze feeling and emotion into his music which can take a few listens to fully comprehend. Have your first listen now, and make it the first of many:
Quiet As A Mouse have been making memorable music for many years, but I feel that they are on the cusp of having a moment if their debut album Is It Funny When It Hurts is anything to go by. The last single ‘Modern Belle’ promised much, and the latest ‘Northern Rain’ is arguably their best yet. It’s a classic example of indie singer/songwriting, reminiscent of some of my all time favourites The Bevis Frond, Franklin Bruno, Robert Wyatt and Vic Chesnutt – the music I listen to when no one else is around. Quiet As A Mouse remind us that often less is more, and ‘Northern Rain’ is a perfect example:
Every now and again we like to catch up with music which has passed us by, and that applies to stock manager and their mini-album blasé. It’s timeless indie-rock, with echoes of American heroes Dinosaur Jr, Afghan Whigs and Buffalo Tom, but there’s also a bit of Stone Roses, Curve and Slowdive in evidence – a fine transatlantic marriage. I’m sure you’ll find your own comparisons, and you can do that by listening to the full album below. That’s what you call value for no money. Trust me, you’ll enjoy this…
That’s it for now, but y’all come back real soon…