It’s been a hell of a year for Scottish music so far, with many, many great albums (from the likes of Zoe Bestel, Roberts/Skuse/McGuinness, Modern Studies, The Scottish Enlightenment, Kathryn Joseph, L-Space, The Gracious Losers, Carla J. Easton, Starry Skies, & I could go on) and with the promise of more on the way. There’s also been a fantastic SAY Awards, all of the incarnations of Rip It Up: The Story Of Scottish Pop (exhibition, book, radio, TV and podcast), and then there’s the recent announcement of the nominees for the SAMA Awards, which again show the depth and breadth of talent around.
Add to that some amazing live gigs and we can only reach the conclusion that we are in something of a Golden Age. The music you’re about to hear only makes that argument stronger. It’s a mixture of the new to SWH! and the welcome return of old favourites, just as it should be. There is diversity, style and craft on show – and an unshakeable sense that for most of them they are only just getting started. This is the story…
We’re going to open with Hairband. If they are not the best live band in Scotland at the moment, then they are so close as to require a photo finish. With their self-titled debut EP out on Monorail Records they prove that their inimitable sound works just as well recorded. It is a sublime record – funky indie-pop which is tight yet loose, and harmonious in every sense of the word. This is clearly a band having the time of their lives playing together. Put simply, Hairband make the world a better place to be, and don’t we all need that right now? From Hairband, this is ‘Flying’:
Every so often a record arrives which takes your breath away, and that was the case with Vive La Rose‘s album For She Who Hangs The Moon – so much so that I got in touch with David Luximon-Herbert (for it is he) to arrange to record a podcast as I want to discuss this beautiful music that he has made. If something can be said to be an instant classic then For She Who Hangs The Moon is exactly that.
Soulful, bittersweet, fragile, yet with a power that is undeniable – it’s similar in tone to the music of Blue Rose Code, Boo Hewerdine, and even Martin Stephenson (with or without the Daintees). As I said at the top of the page, this has been an incredible year for Scottish music, and albums in particular, but this may just be the best of the bunch. From For She Who Hangs The Moon this is ‘Schiehallion’, but believe me – it is only a small, if perfectly formed, part of the bigger story:
There are few people’s musical opinions who I respect more than Podcart’s Halina Rafai, so when she suggested I listen to OK Button‘s debut single ‘The Message’ there was no fear at all that it was going to be anything other than excellent. It’s ethereal electropop with a sting in the tale, and reminds me of some of my favourite records of the ’90s and ’00s. There’s some Morcheeba, a little Zero 7, early Goldfrapp, & Nightmares on Wax, but it’s fresh as an April morning. One listen will not be enough, trust me. I’m well into double figures, and it’s not going to stop there.
Sometimes you hear one song from a band and you just know that we are in for something very special indeed. In recent times that has happened with SWH! favourites L-Space and Half Formed Things, and was proved right with both. I feel exactly the same way about ‘The Message’ and OK Button. But listen for yourself and you’ll see I’m no’ havering:
Next up are Pelts and their double A-Side single ‘Who Could Love Me Now?/Another Place’, two great tracks which show that this is a band who understand exactly who they are, and what they do. And they do it so well. There’s the classic Glasgow indie dream pop of Camera Obscura, The Pastels, The Gentle Waves, but also wider influences such as Trembling Blue Stars, Tallulah Gosh and Mojave 3. Look at those names – I don’t use them lightly, but it proves that Pelts are doing something very special indeed. This is ‘Who Could Love Me Now?’, but please go and listen to ‘Another Place’ as well. Don’t miss out:
Returning to these pages after too long away, Gary Stewart is back with a new album Oh My Weary World. As he proved previously with Mr.Gary Stewart & The Tin Foil Collective he is one of the finest singer-songwriters around, with a classic style reminiscent of Paul Simon, James Taylor, Neil Young, Jackson Browne – only the very best.
The title track, ‘Oh My Weary World’ is out now, and it gives you a taste of the rest of the record which is just packed with great songs, each one as good as the next. For those of you as yet unfamiliar with Gary Stewart’s work, this could just be the start of a beautiful relationship. This is ‘Oh My Weary World’:
One of the best gigs of last month was one of Last Night From Glasgow’s now legendary evenings. They put on three of their acts at Glasgow’s Old Hairdressers as part of the ‘3 Bands Tour‘ to promote single releases from the aforementioned L-Space, the equally fabulous Cloth, and in between the two were Domiciles, one of the latest LNFG signings (although it’s not easy to keep up with that situation at the moment!). It was a phenomenal night, with very different bands complementing each other perfectly.
Around a year ago SWH!’s Braemar branch got in touch to say we had to listen to Domiciles as they were the best new band they had heard in ages. They were right. Their sound plays with loops, effects and rhythms (they have the best drummer I have seen in some time), and they bring to mind early Verve, Chapterhouse, and the mighty Ride, sending me back to listen to all three. This is music to lose yourself in, and here’s ‘Only You‘ to prove it. Great music will always win out, and that’s what Domiciles are all about:
Raise your glasses and let the sky be black with hats for Beerjacket has returned, and the fact that he is releasing his latest album Silver Cords on Scottish Fiction as a CD, but also with an accompanying book, (right) – well, nothing makes us happier. The first song released from it is ‘Cord‘ and from the opening familiar guitar sound and Peter Kelly’s unmistakable vocals it’s like he has never been away.
As you’ll have seen already we like to offer musical comparisons to give you an idea as to what a song or band sound like. Well ‘Cord’ sounds like no one else but Beerjacket, so the simplest thing to do is listen for yourself and find out just what that means. This is ‘Cord’:
You can contact SWH! in a multitude of ways to tell us about your music, most of which are listed somewhere to the right of this review. I promise we will always get back to you, even if it takes a while. Blaire Mackenzie did just that on Facebook. He’s the drummer with Gordon James and The Power and he thought we might like their new single ‘In Beauty & Form’. He was right, and so will you.
It’s a heartbreaking song which more than matches its enigmatic title. With harmonies, wonderful acoustics and precision playing all round, it sounds at once timeless but unlike what anyone else is doing at the moment, and that’s a very good thing. It’s also the perfect place to end such a varied and righteous music review as it will send you on your way with a skip in your step and a song in your heart. This song, to be precise – this is ‘In Beauty & Form’ and it’s gorgeous:
That’s yer whack for this month, but come back soon when more new music will be waiting for you…