A recent visit to the National Museum of Scotland’s Rip It Up: The Story Of Scottish Pop exhibition was a reminder, as if one were needed, that Scotland’s pop music heritage is deep and wide and tall. It’s a must visit for anyone interested in music, and it is also the place where you can pick up a copy of Vic Galloway’s book of the same name (a review of which will appear on these pages shortly).
But, as nice as it is to look back, these reviews are all about the here and now – and what, and who, you are about to hear prove that while the past may be memorable, the present is pretty darn good as well. We start with bands new to Scots Whay Hae! before the return of some firm favourites, and finish with a new release from one of the best records of 2018. It’s a summer soundtrack which is lazy, hazy, and little bit crazy, but, hey, don’t we all just love that?
The music man himself, Warren McIntyre of Starry Skies fame, asked SWH! to host one of his legendary Seven Song Club nights at The Tron Theatre last month. It was an honour to do so, and as usual it proved to be a memorable occasion with singer/songwriter Lynnie Carson, the fabulous Xan Tyler, and an acoustic set from The Whispering Pines. The latter have just released their album, A Reminder. It’s an impressive and assured record made by muscians who know what they’re doing, boasting a mix of styles while always remaining distinctly original.
There are beautiful harmonies and melodies, some lovely drumming, and good old-fashioned lead guitar – unfairly maligned these days. Moving from the quietly contemplative to epic and back again, it’s the sound of a band who don’t just love playing together, but who love playing together well, with Barrie Neilson’s plaintive, almost world-weary, vocals lifting the music to another level. If you’re looking for comparisons, I’ll give you The Bible, The Bathers, Grant Lee Buffalo, and Matthew Sweet to start – the classiest of company I think you’ll agree. From A Reminder, this is ‘Snow’:
Cloth are a recent signing to Last Night From Glasgow, and, as any fule kno, that’s quickly become a guarantee of quality. ‘Demo Love’ is their debut single and boy, is it a touch of class. From the opening bass (which can’t help but put you in mind of The Pixies’ ‘Debaser’), there are ethereal vocals, chiming guitars, riffs which reminded me of Johnny before he went electronic, and a quiet/loud dynamic perfect for a shoegaze shuffle. This is indie music for the ages, evoking, among others, Cocteau Twins, Slowdive, Mazzy Star and The Sundays. You’ll find your own touchpoints, but if you, like me, think there are few finer things in life than a great indie-pop record then ‘Demo Love’ could just be your song of the summer.
Those lovely people at Fitlike Records sent SWH! a selection of their recent releases, and among them was C.S. Buchan & Friends. If you can judge a person by the company he keeps then Charley Buchan must be among the finest of men as the record features many of the best musicians around today. These include SWH! favourites Lizabett Russo, Iona Fyfe, Pete Harvey from Modern Studies, and The Little Kicks‘ Steven Milne, as well as Buchan’s daughter, Kate, who you are more likely to know as Best Girl Athlete, and whose self-titled album was one of the best of last year.
It‘s a wonderfully eclectic mix of songs which are reflective, meditative, even introspective, but avoids falling into melancholy through a mix of wry wit, melody, and more than a little help from his friends. It’s reminiscent of fellow musicians of a certain age (no offence!) Malcolm Middleton, King Creosote, James Yorkston, Aidan Moffat, and particularly the recent recordings from Steve Mason. Buchan more than holds his own in such company, and if you own music by those mentioned then do yourself a favour and get your hands on a copy of C.S. Buchan & Friends. It’ll do you the world of good to spend time in their company. This is ‘Home From The Sea’ (featuring Alexander Ironside), but it really only tells a small part of a compelling story:
Megan Airlie’s debut single ‘After River’ appeared in our March review, and it suggested the arrival of a huge talent. Her latest, ‘Honey’, proves that was nae fluke. Once again it boasts a subtle and understated production so as best to showcase Airlie’s incredible voice. While it remains the star of the show – think Billie Holiday meets Portishead’s Beth Orton – the music is a lovely slice of jazz-tinged folk, leading with acoustic guitar and piano before building to a surprisingly emotional end. Megan Airlie is clearly in it for the long run, and that’s good news for us all. This is ‘Honey’:
Sacre Noir have regularly featured on the pages of SWH! over the years, making innovative and interesting music which made them stand apart. Alexis and Carrie from the band have a new project, Macon Heights, (presumably named after the village in the Philip K. Dick short story ‘The Commuter’). Their single ‘The Line’ is out now, and it could be described as old-school synthpop, reminiscent of early Depeche Mode, Visage and Gary Numan, but you can also detect the influence of French house and techno, such as Daft Punk and Miss Kittin. But it is Carrie Beattie’s unmistakable vocals, never sounding better, which make this a more soulful and emotional experience than you might expect. On this evidence this could be the start of something very special indeed. This is ‘The Line’:
While we’re at the electronics – L-Space will be releasing their eagerly awaited debut album on the aforementioned Last Night From Glasgow later this year. In the meantime they have a new single for your pleasure, ‘Backup Baby’. It’s arguably their most commercial song to date, showing a real pop-sensibility while retaining the dreamscape and sci-fi feel which we have come to know and love, and with a dystopian twist in the tale. Old Philip K. Dick once again comes to mind. The song is also an undeniable earworm – you just can’t get it out of your head. It proves once more that L-Space are one of the finest bands around and that their album can’t come quickly enough. Until then, this is ‘Backup Baby’:
We’re going to end with a record you probably already own. We have already mentioned Tracyanne & Danny’s self-titled album in a previous review, but the song which is their latest release from that record, ‘It Can’t Be Love Unless It Hurts’, is just too good not to acknowledge. It would be remiss. Reminiscent of the best of Camera Obscura, and with a cracking video to boot, this is a favourite track on an album chock full of great ones. If by some chance you haven’t yet acquainted yourself with Tracyanne & Danny then may I suggest you do so at the earliest possible convenience – it’ll improve your life beyond measure. But if you don’t believe me perhaps this’ll convince you:
That’s all for now, folks. See you around these parts soon…