West End Girl: Pat’s Guide To Glasgow West End Is 20…

This week sees Glasgow’s OB (Original Blogger) Pat Byrne’s Guide To Glasgow West End celebrate its 20th anniversary. When it comes to supporting the arts & culture in Glasgow few have shown the passion, commitment, and enthusiasm that Pat has and to keep that burning for two decades means that this is a significant, and inspirational, milestone – one which should not go without comment.

The stats (right) speak for themselves, but it is the joy, warmth, and breadth of knowledge that Pat brings to her role as THE premier champion and chronicler of all things West End that makes her stand apart. Her editorial stance is to share, celebrate, and enjoy the things she is passionate about – one which chimes closely with SWH!

Although being a regular reader for years, I only really got to know Pat and her husband Jim when they asked me to get involved with the Ten Writers Telling Lies project, which married short stories and poetry to Jim’s songs. Since then they have become firm friends, and I always know I’m at a good event when I see Pat’s smiling face in the room. I for one will be raising a glass in her honour and I’ll hope you’ll join me. Here’s to many more.

For a great overview of the previous 20 years I recommend reading this interview Pat gave to Ian Marland for Glasgow WE recently – Guiding Star

And here is the podcast with Pat, Jim, and Samina Chaudry which Ali recorded in 2017 where they talk all about Ten Writers Telling Lies.

The Scottish Opera Interviews #6: Staff Director, Roxana Haines

Roxana Haines. © Julie Broadfoot – http://www.juliebee.co.uk

For the sixth in our series of podcasts in conjunction with Scottish Opera Ali spoke to Staff Director, Roxana Haines. It’s a fascinating and informative discussion with someone whose job brings her into contact and collaboration with most areas of the company.

Roxana explains her professional journey, her training in theatre and how that translates to the specific demands of opera, her role in terms of productions and the challenges that different ones bring – with particular reference to the current ‘Opera Highlights Tour‘ and the opera for young children ‘Fox-tot!‘ – and a lot more.

Through it all her enthusiasm and love for what she does shines through, and we hope you enjoy listening to the conversation as much as we did recording it.

Roxana with the cast of Fox-tot!

These podcasts attempt to give greater understanding into the workings of Scottish Opera and the different roles of those involved, lending a rare and engaging appreciation of Scotland’s largest national arts company.

If you are new round these parts there is quite a substantial back-catalogue of podcasts for you to discover. If you aren’t yet a subscriber you can do so, (or simply listen) at iTunes, on Podbean, with Spotify, or by RSS (but you’ll need to have an RSS reader to do so). 

You can also download the podcast by clicking on the relevant link to the right of this post, or, if you want it right here, right now, you can listen on SoundCloud

..or on YouTube:

The next Scottish Opera Interview will with you in November.
In the meantime you can find all The Scottish Opera Podcasts in one handy place.

The Alternative View: The Scots Whay Hae! Podcast Talks To Richy Muirhead…

For the latest podcast Ali caught up with Richy Muirhead, the founder and creative director of the Scottish Alternative Music Awards (SAMAs) which is celebrating its 10th year. It’s a timely conversation as this year’s nominees have just been announced, and Richy reveals who they are and what awards they are up for.

What follows is a fascinating chat which covers the origins and history of the SAMAs, an explanation of the criteria, the categories, this year’s nominees, notable previous winners, building partnerships, the importance of the live show (this year on October 25th, St Luke’s, Glasgow), and lots more.

There are also 5 tracks from some of last year’s winners, including Declan West and the Decadent West (Rock/Alternative), Lylo (Live Act), The Dunts (Newcomer), Solareye (Hip Hop), and Megan Airlie (Acoustic). Ali also offers the point of view from a SAMAs nominator, so hopefully you’ll end up with a better understanding not only of how the awards work, but also the aims and ideology behind them.

If you are new round these parts there is quite a substantial back-catalogue of podcasts for you to discover. If you aren’t yet a subscriber you can do so, (or simply listen) at iTunes, on Podbean, with Spotify, or by RSS (but you’ll need to have an RSS reader to do so). 

You can also download the podcast by clicking on the relevant link to the right of this post, or, if you want it right here, right now, you can listen on SoundCloud

..or on YouTube:

The next podcast will be with you very soon, but in the meantime you can also check out our series of Scottish Opera Podcasts.

New Musical Success: The Best New Music From The Last Month…

They say the best things in life are worth waiting for and, although this review is a tad tardy, we hope you’ll find plenty to please you. It’s been a great summer of music and what you are about to hear shows that quality was maintained right up until the turning of the leaves.

There’s the long-awaited return of an old favourite, two great EPs for the price of one, a couple of bands releasing their best songs to date, brand new artists to us, well-kent friends in new guises, and even more ranging across a number of genres and styles. While there may not be something for absolutely everyone, we can guarantee there’s something for you…

Beginning with Dumb Instrument and their new album Doubt – and I think we’ve proved our point already. Dumb Instrument may be best known for their 2014 track ‘Suffering From Scottishness’, an alternative national anthem which seemed to capture a time, a place, and the feelings of many. Just this year it was appropriated by recent podcast guest Kevin P. Gilday as the title of his Edinburgh Fringe show. When you take into consideration other fan favourites such as ‘Jaffa Baws’, ‘Buckfast vs. Hash (The Battle Continues)…’, and ‘Missing Grannies, you’ll begin to realise that this is a Scottish band who are determined to define what that means on their own terms.

But even if you only know them from that one song then you know enough to recognise the poignant, tongue-in-cheek, and often laugh-out-loud lyrics which make them stand apart. The songs on Doubt strengthen that reputation and make clear that this is a band like no other. There is a strong whiff of nostalgia on tracks such as ‘High Jumper’, ‘That Stupid Wee Lassie From Elderslie’, ‘Venus In A Cardigan’ and ‘Drunk In The Playground’, but they never stray into the territory of the maudlin or mawkish. Rather Dumb Instrument play with the past, and the Scottish tendency to mythologise it. It’s what they do best, and it’s great to have them back. No ifs, buts, or doubts. This is ‘High Jumper’:

As regular readers will know, our admiration for Olive Grove Records knows no bounds. The simple reason is that they only release music of the highest quality. The artists they have worked with have impeccable musical credentials making their back catalogue a thing of beauty, and Olive Grove something of a national treasure. To that we can now add The Archipelago EPs 1&2 – Vol 1 from Jared Celosse and Vol 2 from Chrissy Barnacle (with further volumes to follow).

Jared Celosse has appeared on these pages before with his beautifully understated melancholic songs, and his EP shows what many of us have known for some time – that he is one of the finest songwriters around. When you marry these songs to increasingly interesting and intricate production and instrumentation, as happens on Archipelago Vol 1, it makes that point better than ever. From it this is ‘Wave’:

Chrissy Barnacle is another singular talent who once heard is never forgotten. She rightly has garnered a reputation as an artist who holds audiences in the palm of her hand with vivd and personal stories told through song, accompanied suitably by her physical yet intricate style of playing guitar. Great live performers can be difficult to capture on record but Archipelago Vol 2 shows exactly what makes Chrissy Barnacle so special. Her music is an attempt to reconcile conflicting feelings of hope and despair and few do so in such a magical and memorable manner. This is ‘Witches’:

Dundonian duo ST.MARTiiNS have been making classy and canorous pop for a number of years and a new release from them is always a reason for cheer. Their most recent single ‘My Girl‘ is, to these ears, their best yet capturing the essence of their music which has always married melancholy to melody. It has the feel of reverie – with Katy Lynch’s effortless and understated vocals perfectly capturing and enhancing the mood. The song is a celebration of friendship, but there’s also an underlying sadness that such friendships are increasingly rare as time passes. Or maybe I’m just feeling wistful. That’s how good ST.MARTiiNS are – able to effect your mood in just two minutes. Now that’s what I call music… This is ‘My Girl’:

But just when you thought our golden summer of pop was over, CAFOLLA turns up to postpone any thoughts of hibernation or slumber with the single 1985, rightly identifying it as a year when many things began to head south. It’s a belter of a track, like being slapped around the head with a Cameo album. There may be some poetic licence involved lyrically (my milk was snatched many years before) but you get the point clearly, and when it is made in such a catchy and infectious manner then who cares? CAFOLLA offer us a ‘Sign Of The Times’ for our times, and if we ever needed someone to bring the funk it’s now. Send the children and pets from the room, turn on, tune in, and dance as if no one is watching:

Beginning life as the outlet for the music of Ryan Buchanan, Ryan & The Limbs are a breath of fresh air to the Scottish music scene. Having witnessed them live as well as listening regularly to their self-titled EP I can promise you they offer something new, yet reassuringly familiar. Musically they are differently diverse with the influence of indie, jazz, rock, and even classical in evidence, all coming together to make a memorable whole.

Let’s take the song ‘Axis and Atlas’ (below) as a prime example. There’s guitar reminiscent of Vini Reilly one moment, Jonny Greenwood the next, there’s the most wonderful rhythm section featuring drumming to die for, and the vocals are understated and mournful in the manner of Mark Eitzel or Elliot Smith. One of the best things about writing these reviews is discovering a new favourite band, and Ryan & The Limbs are the latest to join that club. You’re welcome.

One of the most creatively active groups around are L-Space, not only releasing new music under that name regularly (and you can hear the latest example in next month’s review), but also involving themselves in other projects. Gordon Johnstone has recently made Habitus One as Emi James, Stephen Solo’s third album was released earlier this year, and now bassist Dickson Telfer is involved with a new band, Vulture Party. Remember when Duran Duran split into Arcadia, Power Station and The Devils…actually, probably best not.

But everything the members of L-Space touch at the moment is proving to be memorable, and long may this golden streak of creativity continue. Certainly Vulture Party are well-worth your attention based on the release of their single ‘New Humans’. It’s an atmospheric song which is reminiscent of the great dark-pop bands of the ’80s – early Human League, All About Eve, The Psychedelic Furs, even touching goth with echoes of Bauhaus. Downbeat and dark, and with an excellent, and suitably eerie, video from Adam Stafford, you have a feeling that Vulture Party are one to watch. This is ‘New Humans’.

And finally, Man of the Minch, aka Pedro Cameron, who recently released two singles simultaneously, ‘Undertow’ (below) and ‘Better Off Alone‘. When taken together they make the best music he has made so far, and that is saying something when you consider his album Helping Hands was one of the best of 2017. ‘Better Off Alone’ is indie-folk at its finest – a barnstorming track with melodies, hooks, and riffs all combining and building to a quite stunning crescendo. This is music to keep you warm as the nights draw in.

‘Undertow’ shows the other side of Man of the Minch – the one which doesn’t just break your heart, but rips it out before handing it to you with a sincere apology. There are few musicians who manage to convey the highs and lows of relationships as Man of the Minch can, and there are even fewer who can move me as this Man and his songs. I think this is just gorgeous, and the perfect place to end this review. This is ‘Undertow’:

There goes the summer! But before you know it there’ll be another review along soon.

While you wait, remember that SWH! now has a regular radio show on LP Radio on Tuesday nights, 7-9pm, where you can hear Ali play 2 hours of the best Scottish music around.

You can catch up with the previous shows, along with all the other fantastic LP Radio shows, by following the relevant links in the sidebar.

SWH! Is 10…

Today (25/08/2019) marks the 10th anniversary of Scots Whay Hae!, making it the perfect time to thank all those who have supported and helped along the way.

So – with a sharp intake of breath – thanks to every writer, poet, and publisher, who has shared their words, wit and wisdom with us. The same goes to all the bands, musicians, record labels and promoters who have sent us music and songs to listen to and review. Similarly, those artists, filmmakers, theatre companies, comedians, and festivals, who have invited us to view their previews and shows. We know your art and work is something which is vital and central to who you are and we appreciate you choosing to share it with us. It’s a privilege to be able to write, review, discuss, and celebrate it, and it’s a responsibility that SWH! takes seriously.

Huge thanks to all our podcast guests, some of whom you can see in the pictures at the top of the page (as well as some ever-evolving facial hair). The first was recorded in July 2011 and we are at 122 and counting. Number 123 is with American writer Elle Nash and will be with you soon.

If you have missed any you can find them here – SWH! Podcasts.
When taken together we like to think they are an informative and entertaining record of a contemporary Scottish culture which is thrilling, thriving, and diverse.

Ian Gregson

Special thanks must go to our sound guru Ian Gregson (right), without whom there would only be silence, and Sarah Jane Gregson for her undying support and advice. Also to our regular end of year reviewers Chris Ward, Vikki Reilly, and Wesley Shearer, and our resident ‘Dr Books’ Ronnie Young, all of whose expertise has been essential.

We are grateful to, and thankful for, our various partners over the years, including Dear Scotland, ASLS, Scottish Opera, LP Radio, and Braemar Gallery. If I have forgotten to mention others then please remind me and I will add them to this list, with sincere apologies for a memory failing.

Also kudos to the bloggers, podcasters, critics, journalists, broadcasters, and other cultural contributors, who have inspired and supported SWH! over the years. It means more than you could possible know and I hope that you feel the support and appreciation is mutual.

But most of all thanks to you, Dear Reader and Listener, as it would be fairly pointless doing this without you (although we probably still would). We value and treasure each and every one of you.

Before moving on, it’s worthwhile reflecting on the very first post which set out the aims and ideas behind Scots Whay Hae!’s inception. It’s encouraging to find that it is as relevant now as it was a decade ago, and hasn’t really changed at any time. Here it is in full so you can decide for yourself. In the meantime, ‘Cheers!’ & here’s to 10 more…

Why Hae?

swhfavicon

This is a little mission statement as to the reason for creating this website. Contemporary writing and commentary that deals with Scottish art and culture often obsess over questions of inclusion and exclusion, questions that usually arise from the thorny issue of nation. This blog aims to, if not ignore such questions, demote them to the sidelines as all aspects of art and culture are discussed and dissected.

I cannot deny that I am Scots, writing in Scotland, and will concentrate (although not exclusively) on Scottish writers, poets, music, films, TV, art, comedy etc, but ‘where and when’ is of far less importance to me than ‘what and why’. Discussions can be had elsewhere as to what is or is not Scots and often they become a barrier to the enjoyment of that which is under discussion.

And that is what this blog is really for, to celebrate, debate and enjoy art in its widest sense. To deal with the art itself, and allow discussion and comment that looks at the old and new anew. To not take too seriously something which I take very seriously indeed. We have an ongoing relationship with our respective cultures throughout our lives and it is important to remember the relationship as it was when first consummated. The joy, wonder and the reason we fell in love in with bands, films, poems and books. Like all relationships it changes, becomes more ‘serious’ as time goes by, and although I cannot pretend that a wary, weary and cynical side will be suppressed fully, (nor would I wish it so – where is the fun in that?) I want to focus on my belief that art in all its forms can give us a reason for living better lives.

The first post proper are thoughts on John Byrne’s Tutti Frutti. What struck me is the way that Byrne created a thoroughly Scottish drama, one that wears its roots and knowledge easily, giving reference to outside cultural influence without apology, and does so with a light touch and a self-mocking sense of humour.

It is in this spirit that I write this blog. Of course this may change at any time, but until it does please excuse the indulgence and read on…

Alistair Braidwood 25/08/2009.

New Musical Success: The Best New Music From The Last Month…

Summer 2019 continues to provide a memorable soundtrack with something for everyone’s taste, and this month’s review makes that point categorical and concisely – well, fairly concisely.

It’s a pleasing balance of old friends and new, with an album for the ages, the latest in a run of great singles, potential pop greatness, roots revival from the very best, indie with a twist, and some of the most atmospheric ambience of recent times. When brought together you have a selection of songs for most occasions.

Let’s begin. Tenement and Temple have featured on these pages before, but it would be remiss not to mention that their self-titled album is now with us as it is a thing of rare beauty – a perfect balance of strength and fragility. For those unaware Tenement and Temple are Monica Queen and Johnny Smillie, who you may know from Thrum, Monica’s solo work, and numerous collaborations with others, including currently as members of The Gracious Losers.

But it is when together that their music is taken to another level, with Smillie’s understated yet insistent guitar underpinning Queen’s unmistakable vocals. What makes this such a special recording is that it’s an album which is clearly made for and about each other. When you look back at their musical careers you can see that’s what they have always done. Thrum buzzed with the fire of youth, a band discovering their sound and themselves, full of energy and enthusiasm. Now they are making music which makes perfect sense for them in the here and now.

Tenement & Temple the album is reflective, thoughtful, soulful and sublime and could only have been made by Tenement & Temple the duo. It is the perfect example of people working together to make something greater and more meaningful than they could ever do alone, and there is a lesson there for all of us. In a world going crazy Tenement & Temple offer peace, love and understanding, and we could all do with some more of that in our lives. From the album, this is ‘Loving Arms’.

‘a long wait for bad news’ is the latest single released by wojtek the bear and proves that, without fuss or furore, they have become one of those rare bands who have found their own sound and style, and combine them to give us great songs both musically and lyrically, each feeding into the other. I don’t say that lightly, so let’s look at the evidence. ‘dead from the waist up’, ‘oil & water’, ‘trivial pursuit’, ‘tonic youth’, and now ‘a long wait for bad news’ – that’s a hell of a run of form – one that anyone would, and should, be proud of. wojtek the bear are in it for the long haul. This is ‘a long wait for bad news’.

Sometimes a song finds it’s way to SWH! and blows us out of the water. That’s what happened with Galileo’s Fan and the title track of their forthcoming album I Won’t Be Found. It’s new music with an old soul – a song which lulls you into a false sense of perception, at once epic yet understated, with the vocals and music working together to offer a dreamy sound not unlike SWH! favourites L-Space and OK Button. It promises great things from Galileo’s Fan and I’m already eager to hear what they offer next. Play it once, play it again, and I’ll guarantee you’ll agree.

Another band new to SWH! is One Nine, who have just released their single ‘Difficult Days’. Up front and in yer face, yet laid back enough to stay the right side of anthemic, it’s a track bound to appeal to music lovers – immediate, memorable, and as hooky as that ‘Roll-ex’ you bought on holiday, all in under three-minutes. That’s how you do it – arrive, make your mark, and leave before people know what hit them. You get the feeling One Nine are only getting started. The future is bright.

Not just one of the songs of the last month, but with one of the most memorable videos of the year, Awkward Family Portraits‘ latest single ‘Ring Ring Angus!’ shows once more that they are one of the preeminent bands around, keeping the rock ‘n’ roll and roots tradition alive and thriving. Their album is out later in the year, and it is among the most eagerly awaited of 2019. Few bands live and breathe their music as Awkward Family Portraits do, and that is palpable whether recorded, or on stage. If you get the chance to see them play live then for goodness sake grab it as there are few finer, but in the meantime this is ‘Ring Ring Angus!’.

It’s been a summer of perfect pop, and Quiche‘s new single ‘Grey Matter’ adds to that list. It’s a mod-inflected psychedelic song reminiscent of The Kinks or The Zombies, but also the music of Matthew Sweet, Evan Dando, and Buffalo Tom. What comes over immediately is that this is a band who love playing music whether you like it or not, which, as is often the case, only makes you like them more. What’s that all about? While you ponder I suggest you listen to ‘Grey Matter’ and make time for Quiche. You may not know it yet, but it will all make sense in the end.

SWH! regulars L-Space’s last album Music For Megastructures was described as “a score for a city which does net exist yet”. It’s a fantastic record which I urge you to seek out, but it seems that band member Gordon Johnstone has even more urban landscapes and spaces to soundtrack. Under the name Emi James he has released Social Capital, an EP which works perfectly as an accompaniment to Music For Megastructures, and more. Possibly inspired by Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music For Airports, it makes you think about how music is used, could be used, and why.

I’m going to suggest what you are about to hear is the perfect end to any review. As Emi James, L-Space, Youth Team, Richard Luke, and others are proving, there is some incredible instrumental and ambient music being made in, and about, Scotland at the moment, and stanleystanley (Jordan Russell-Hall) further makes that case with his album beside myself.

It’s a wonderful marriage of electronic sounds and more conventional instruments which, echoing a point made in the review at the top of the page, sounds both intensely personal, timeless, yet perfect right now. It’s not a record to stick on in the background while you go about your day. It works best as an interactive album, one in which to lose yourself, but you have to want it. Put that down and pay attention at the back – this is stanleystanley and ‘palace of steam’.

That’s yer whack for this month – meet you here in September for more of the best in new Scottish music. 

But while you wait, remember that SWH! now has a regular radio show on LP Radio on Monday nights, 7-9pm. 

You can catch up with the previous shows, along with all the other fantastic LP Radio shows, by following the relevant links in the sidebar.

The Scottish Opera Interviews #3: Programme Editor, David Kettle

For the third of our series of podcasts with members of Scottish Opera we spoke to the Programme Editor, David Kettle about his role and what it entails. He explains how he came to the job, the approach to writing a programme, the balance required between information and other articles and content, the collaboration required with the rest of the company, and much more.

If you have ever wondered, or even if you haven’t, how Scottish Opera’s beautiful programmes are put together then your questions are answered here. Below are just three examples that David has been involved with.

These podcasts attempt to give greater understanding into the workings of Scottish Opera and the different roles of those involved, lending a rare and engaging appreciation of Scotland’s largest national arts company.

If you are new round these parts there is quite a substantial back-catalogue of podcasts for you to discover. If you aren’t yet a subscriber you can do so, (or simply listen) at iTunes, on Podbean, or by RSS (but you’ll need to have an RSS reader to do so). 

You can also download the podcast by clicking on the relevant link to the right of this post, or, if you want it right here, right now, you can listen on SoundCloud

..or on YouTube:

The next Scottish Opera Interview will be out in late August.

You can find all The Scottish Opera Podcasts in one handy place.

Melody Makers: The SWH! Podcast Talks To Half Formed Things…

Cover for ‘To Live In The Flicker’, credit – Louise McLachlan

For the latest podcast Ali went to Edinburgh to talk to Edwin McLachlan and Morgan Hosking, two members of Half Formed Things (unapologetically one of SWH!’s favourite bands). They talk about their astonishing album To Live In The Flicker, the origins of the band, what it’s like to work with close friends and family, the importance or otherwise of place, their shared philosophy, themes, influences, and a whole lot more.

Half Formed Things – (l-r, Morgan, Matthew, Nici, Edwin), credit – Louise McLachlan

You’ll also get two tracks from the album which will give you a clear idea as to just how good it is. And if the other two members of the band, Nici Hosking and Matthew Bakewell, disagree with any of what was said we are more than willing to record a follow up to give their side of the story! If you are interested in making music, or in how music is made, then this is a must listen, and one of the most in-depth and interesting podcasts to date.

If you are new round these parts there is quite a substantial back-catalogue of podcasts for you to discover. If you aren’t yet a subscriber you can do so, (or simply listen) at iTunes, on Podbean, or by RSS (but you’ll need to have an RSS reader to do so). 

You can also download the podcast by clicking on the relevant link to the right of this post, or, if you want it right here, right now, you can listen on SoundCloud

..or on YouTube:

Here’s an extract from SWH!’s review of To Live In The Flicker,
“From the opening ‘Flicker’ to the closing ‘The Calm’ you are taken to another place by a soundtrack which makes your head swim – with instruments being used for different purposes – drums and cymbals take the lead, piano riffs keep the rhythm, and harmonies (oh, the harmonies!) becoming an instrument all of their own.”
And you can read the full review here.

The next podcast will be with you very soon, but in the meantime you can also check out our series of Scottish Opera Podcasts.

Man O’ Pairts: The Scots Whay Hae! Podcast Talks To Kevin P. Gilday…

For the latest podcast Ali headed to Glasgow’s Tron Theatre to talk to poet and polymath Kevin P. Gilday about his Edinburgh Fringe show ‘Suffering From Scottishness‘, his new collection of poetry ‘Sad Songs For White Boys‘ (right), his work with Cat Hepburn as the instigators and organisers of spoken word house party Sonnet Youth, his band Kevin P. Gilday & the Glasgow Cross, and a whole lot more.

It’s a fascinating chat, one which, when taken as a whole, is an instructive insight into what it takes to make your living as an artist today. All that and Kevin reads his poetry as well – we always aim to please!

If you are new round these parts there is quite a substantial back-catalogue of podcasts for you to discover. If you aren’t yet a subscriber you can do so, (or simply listen) at iTunes, on Podbean, or by RSS (but you’ll need to have an RSS reader to do so). 

You can also download the podcast by clicking on the relevant link to the right of this post, or, if you want it right here, right now, you can listen on SoundCloud

..or on YouTube:

The next podcast will be with you very soon, but in the meantime you can also check out our series of Scottish Opera Podcasts.

New Musical Success: The Best New Music From The Last Month…

We try and make these reviews as varied and diverse as possible to showcase the full range of the music on offer. However, you can’t force these things and often certain themes, styles and genres dominate, and if we want to point you in the direction of the best music – and we do – then you have to face facts, and the facts are the following…

This month’s review is bookended by two of the best, and most thought provoking, albums of the year so far. Between them you will find a righteous celebration of great pop music, songs that will go some way to soundtracking your summer. When taken together you have a perfect balance of light and shade, yin & yang, upstairs for thinking, downstairs for dancing, and…well, you get the idea with that. What we always aim to give you is the best new music to reach us over the last month.

First off we have the double-album Crow Hill from Meursault, which is so much more than a collection of songs. The titular ‘Crow Hill’ is a town full of interesting characters whose stories need to be told, with each track doing just that. It’s dark, disturbing, and completely absorbing. It’s an album to get lost in as it demands your attention and time. You can’t just decide to sit down and listen to track 2, side 3. This has be listened from start to finish as it has a narrative throughline to follow.

The music can be delicate and harmonious, then moves to discord, storm and stress, and at one point almost primal scream (but not Primal Scream). If you want a comparison then I could suggest early-mid period Nick Cave, but not just his music – I would also ask you to consider his novel And The Ass Saw The Angel. But have no doubt – Crow Hill is a singular vision unlike any other. Some may call it a concept album, but that description sells it seriously short. It’s fiction, musical theatre, poetry, graphic novel, and more. Put simply, it’s art – using the personal to make comment on the universal. I recommend you invest, make yourself comfortable, dim the lights, put your headphones on, and take a trip to Crow Hill. And it is a trip.

If ever anyone deserves praise for their name alone it is surely Edwin Organ, a Glasgow-based producer and songwriter about whom little is known. Or, to put it another way, about whom I know little. But as TV detectives tell us you begin with the clues in front of you, and exhibit A is his single ‘Gabriel’. On first listen it’s a catchy bittersweet indie pop song in the vein of Tracey Thorn, Aberfeldy, Camera Obscura, or the Magnetic Fields. But after spending time with it, and absorbing his lyrics, you soon realise that Organ is looking at modern masculinity and wider societal considerations, all through the prism of exquisite and unusual music. This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship – No shit, Sherlock.

Those of you who know me well will know that there are few things I treasure more in life than a great pop song, and that’s just what you are about to hear. It is Anna Sweeney‘s latest single ‘Way Back When’ and it is one of those tracks which could come to define a summer – revelling in nostalgia for better, simpler, days in a manner similar to classics of the genre such as ‘The Boys Of Summer’ or ‘Summertime’ (or ‘Summertime’) the slick pop production carrying more than a hint of melancholy. It’s where the Jackson 5 meets Haim and they both ‘Want You Back’. Play it once, play it again – play it all summer long – ‘Way Back When’ is a song which once it has its hooks in you will not let go. Sit back, relax, and surrender.

We all love a good comeback. Be it Elvis in a leather suit, or Robert Downey Jr in an iron one, there is something to be celebrated when the good and the great return to us once more. Which brings me to The Martial Arts who are back for the first time in a long time with a new EP, the aptly titled ‘I Used To Be The Martial Arts’.

The ‘I’ in that title is Paul Kelly, well-known to many Scottish music lovers having played with, and continue to play with, the likes of BMX Bandits, Ette and Carla J Easton, Radiophonic Tuckshop and many more. If a great pop record has been made in Scotland in the last 10 years or so there’s a good chance that Paul Kelly has been involved. I Used To Be The Martial Arts is a distillation of all the music he has played on and listened to – in that sense it’s essential, and evidence of a musician with a pure pop sensibility. From it this is ‘New Performance’.

New music from Emme Woods is always worth raising a glass to. Whether with full band or solo (or any incarnation in-between) she is one of those musicians you never want to miss live if you can help it as she is one of the most charismatic and commanding stage presences around. Arguably previous recordings have not quite captured the magic of the live experience, but it if her latest releases are anything to go by that is about to change.

Recently she gave us ‘Kill Yer Darlin’ and now we have ‘It’s Ma Party’ both of which pare the production down so that Woods’ unmistakable – unforgettable – vocals are rightly to the fore. The latter in-particular is a song to take to your heart and cherish, with grungey guitar and driving drums building to a crescendo. Both tracks are co-written with another SWH! favourite, Barrie James O’Neill, and that is a musical marriage made in heaven. This is ‘It’s Ma Party’.

Once a member of the SWH! family you are never let go – a bit like the Cosa Nostra. So it was with great excitement that we received the news that Arran Artic, a podcast guest from many years ago, and once regularly reviewed on these pages, was back making music with a new band, The Map Dept. They released a new single last month called ‘Carousel’ and while Arran’s vocals are unmistakable, this is a full band collaboration with everyone playing their part.

And that playing is exquisite, as can only be done by musicians who know exactly what they are doing. The sound is clever, ethereal electronic pop music, not unlike Tears For Fears or China Crisis, or, (taking my faded ’80s t-shirt off for a moment), Empire Of The Sun or Phoenix. If this is the shape of things to come then we are all in for future treats.

I’ve been waiting for this for a while. St Christopher Medal’s 2017 single ‘Wayne, Moon Pilot’, (complete with a reading of Hugh MacDiarmid’s ‘Bonnie Broukit Bairn’) was one of those songs which have come to shape SWH!’s musical identity, one we regularly recommend when people ask, or even when they don’t. There is now an album, Hoof!, which is a collection of carefully crafted and lyrically interesting songs (Including ‘WMP”) of the kind which are all too rare.

They include the latest single ‘Fallen Angel’ which is an excellent introduction. There’s unmistakably a Neil Young feel about it, in a similar manner to The Replacments, Wilco, or Ian McNabb’s solo albums. It is said that the best things come to those who wait, and if you, like me, have been awaiting Hoof! for a long time then I am here to tell you it was well worth it. Be prepared to make way in the ‘most played’ section of your record collection for St Christopher Medal and Hoof!.

We started this review with an intensely personal and individual collection of songs, and we are going to end in similar fashion. I bought Harry Harris’ latest album after just one listen to the title track ‘I Feel Drunk All The Time’ – sometimes you just know. The album is “a guide on how to stay cool when the world is ending”, and it has the feel of a man trying to make sense of a world in turmoil. And aren’t we all? Harris’ songs are searching, heart-breaking and thought provoking. And what thoughts. Like Crow Hill it’s an album for our times, and when you consider those times then both are appropriate and considered responses.

Perhaps it’s unsurprising that I made such a connection with this record when you find out who appears on it. Harris has put together a supergroup of musicians who include Martha Ffion, Rosie Bans, Pedro Cameron (Man of the Minch) and Angus Munro (among others) – favourites of SWH! one and all. It’s an indication not only of Harry Harris’ impeccable credentials, but also how seriously his peers take his music, and so should we. I Feel Drunk All The Time is the sound of a man literally fiddling (or at least having a literal fiddler) while the world burns. It just so happens that sound is spellbinding.

That’s yer whack for this month – meet you here in August for more of the best in new Scottish music.

But while you wait, remember that SWH! now has a regular radio show on LP Radio on Monday nights, 7-9pm.

You can catch up with the previous shows, along with all the other fantastic LP Radio shows, by following the relevant links in the sidebar.