While putting together the SWH! Tracks Of The Year Spotify playlist for 2018 it became clear that it had been a hell of a year for music with each month bringing new and exciting tunes. It might be a new year but the great music keeps coming and the first review of 2019 more than makes that point.
It sees the return of some SWH! favourites as well as others new to these pages. There’s Americana, rock ‘n’ roll, psychedelic pop, indie-folk, lo-fi funk, beautiful balladry, and more. No matter what your taste we are sure you’ll find something which suits you. Celebrate good times, come on!
We are going to kick off with the return of Sister John. Their debut release Returned From Sea was one of the finest albums of 2017, introducing a band who arrived fully-formed and who have music in their very souls. Their latest album, also called Sister John, is released on the 25th January on Last Night From Glasgow, but from it the song ‘I’m The One’ is out now and it’s a doozy. There’s a distinct CBGB’s/Bowery vibe going on – imagine The Velvet Underground’s ‘Rock & Roll’ sung by a chilled-out Patti Smith and you’ll have some idea. With understated rhythm and twangy guitar backing Amanda McKeown’s soulful vocals it’s a lesson that when it comes to music to move you less is almost always more. The accompanying video is a thing of joy as well. This is ‘I’m The One’ – Let’s dance!:
We featured Gordon James And The Power in the SWH! music review for October last year, and they are following that up, appropriately enough, with ‘Follow Me‘ which cements those first impressions that this is a very special band indeed, writing power-pop songs which demand repeat listening. They are in the classic American tradition of The Dave Matthews Band, Don Henley, Tom Petty, and I could go on. Gordon James And The Power sound like many of your favourite records yet like no-one else but themselves. I feel like I’ve been listening to them my whole life, yet have only heard two tracks. Roll on the summer as they are surely going to provide a soundtrack to remember. While we wait, this is ‘Follow Me’:
It’s all happening in Braemar, believe me. You’ll likely already know about the Gigs at Braemar Gallery, which this year promises visits from Mt Doubt and Carla J. Easton among others, and which in the last few years has established itself as one of the best small venues in the country. Now we have the emergence of Youth Team, otherwise known as Angus Upton, who makes music not unlike a present-day John Carpenter, creating electronic soundscapes which you could lose yourself in. Other comparisons are with u-Ziq, Murcoff and Four Tet – in fact the album sent me back to those electronica records which I hadn’t listened to in years and it proved Youth Team deserves to be in such company. Rightly chosen as one of Vic Galloway’s 25 Scottish Artists to Watch in 2019, the future looks bright and this is the perfect soundtrack. From the album Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape this is ‘Glisten’:
When it comes to Scottish psychedelic and ’60 inflected pop we are very well served at the moment with the promise of a long-awaited Barrie-James album coming soon, and the numerous collaborations between the musicians who play with Stilton, Lavinia Blackwall, and The Wellgreen particularly notable, all of whom you should investigate as they are currently making some of the best and most interesting music around. The Wellgreen have recently released a double A-side single, ‘Take What You Get’ and ‘Cynthia Rhymes’, the latter of which is a gorgeous slice of summery pop packed with hooks and harmonies, reminiscent of The Hollies and Manfred Mann. Guaranteed to brighten your day, this is ‘Cynthia Rhymes’:
And so to Fat Cops, whose members include Bobby Bluebell, Al Murray and Chris Deerin, a perhaps surprising mix of songwriter, comedian, and journalist. This may sound like a vanity project writ-large, but don’t be fooled – on the evidence of ‘Hands Up! Get Down!‘, from their forthcoming album of the same name, they are serious enough to ensure that good times are guaranteed. The music is loose and laid-back funk reminiscent of The Fun Loving Criminals, Black Grape, The Soup Dragons, and, more recently, Edinburgh’s own James Brown Is Annie. With the promise of special guests coming and going along the way (that’s a McCluskey Brother on moothie) they may just be the breakout stars of 2019. Call the cops!:
As regulars will know much of the music which features on SWH! comes courtesy of the fine indie record labels who shape much of what people are listening to right now. One of the very best to emerge in recent years is Iffy Folk, the home to, among others, Pelts, Kevin P. Gilday & the Glasgow Cross, Indigoguy, and Syvdoh. If some, or all, of those names are new to you then Iffy Folk have just released a fantastic sampler album which showcases the best of what they do. Go on, support your local indie – they make the world a much better place:
We premiered Hugh Kearns’ EP Inside Looking Out in April last year, which came out on the consistently excellent, or, if you prefer, the excellently consistent, Holy Smokes Records. Well they are at it again in the shape of Kearns’ latest release ‘Goodbye Marie’, and it’s a song which oozes class, from Kearns’ mournful vocals, the understated piano and guitar, the effortless elegance of the harmonies, all building to a wonderful finish. It’s quite simply one of the classiest things you’ll hear this year and Hugh Kearns is proving to be a musician who it’s impossible to ignore. Take a listen and see if you agree:
Sarah Hayes has appeared more than a few times on these pages, either with her beautiful solo records or with Admiral Fallow. She is an incredible multi-instrumentalist who just happens to have a beautiful voice as well. The latter is to the fore on her latest collaboration You Tell Me, which she has formed with Field Music’s Peter Brewis. Their debut album is out on the 11th January, but you can have a taste right here and now with the song ‘Clarion Call’. Like many of the tracks featured in this review it takes influences from the past and adds a modern sensibility and production to make something brand new. In this case there’s a ’70s feel, where folk meets pop in the manner of early Kate Bush, Nick Drake, or more recently Bon Iver and Laura Marling. But the only thing which matters is that it is utterly gorgeous and promises great things for You Tell Me and for the rest of us. This is ‘Clarion Call’:
That’s us done for the first review of the year. If you have music which you think deserves to feature on SWH! then you can contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also get in touch on Twitter or Facebook. We listen to everything which comes our way and very much appreciate it when people get in touch. We couldn’t do it otherwise. See you back here soon…