New Musical Success: A Review Of The Best New Music From The Last Month…

unnamed.pngIt’s the time for everyone’s end of year lists, and as SWH! will be posting our own in the coming days and weeks it would be a touch hypocritical to complain, but I do feel for writers, film makers, musicians, etc, who put out something new in November/December as they are often overlooked in the rush to compile and commemorate what’s gone before. Well, not on our watch.

What follows are the best tracks to reach our ears over the last month, including some rocking rockabilly, mind-expanding psychedelia, indie-agitpop, a natural beauty, a multi- genre triumph, and a song which became an anthem for many in 2018. It’s a fine selection which also acts as a neat summary of what was an inventive and eclectic year. More of that very soon, but in the meantime…

We have been fans of The Strange Blue Dreams at SWH! for a long time, (and also of their alter egos The Shiverin’​ Sheiks). Their latest single is ‘Man’s Game’, and it is that rarest of beasts – a good song about football, one packed full of metaphor and meaning, comparing the ups and downs of the beautiful game to the trials and tribulations of life. And if that sounds a bit ‘Thought For The Day’, have no fear – The Strange Blue Dreams deliver a slice of off-kilter rockabilly and skiffle, full of twangy guitar and a snare as tight as a drum, sounding for all the world like the house band in a Coen Brothers’ movie.  Catch them for yourself at Glasgow’s Oran Mor tomorrow night (5/12/18). In the meantime, this is ‘Man’s Game’:

Making a late bid to be included in those Best Albums Of 2018 lists are Strike The Colours with their latest release, Flock. Taking inspiration from the often wild side of the natural world, it’s mood is one which has a touch of Gothic folk while remaining resolutely contemporary, and it feels perfect for this time of year. A winter walk will be greatly enhanced with Flock as your soundtrack.  As you would expect from a record featuring musicians who have, in their time, played with BDY PRTS, Arab Strap, CHVRCHES, Mogwai, A Mote Of Dust, and Idlewild (among others) the record oozes class and quality. Add in guest appearances from Louis Abbot and Emma Pollock and what you are looking at is a sure-thing in terms of great music. If you’re quick you can see them live (supported by Rick Redbeard) at Glasgow’s Hug & Pint on the 16th December. In the meantime this is ‘Final Eyes’:

The announcement of new music from Barrie-James is arguably the most welcome of 2018. You may know him as the front man of Kassidy, cos he was, but he is back with a new solo album Psychedelic Soup which will be with you in 2019. From it is the single, ‘Free Like A Bird’, and it is some classic old-school psychedelic rock that puts you in mind of the 13th Floor Elevators, Pink Fairies and Frank Zappa & The Mothers Of Invention, with James’ unmistakable vocals to the fore. I’ve been lucky enough to see Barrie-James live a couple of times in the last year (as part of the excellent Gigs at Braemar Gallery) and he is mesmeric and magic. You can witness this for yourself on December 7th in Glasgow at The Old Hairdressers. This is ‘Free As A Bird’, and if Syd Barrett was making music today it would go a little something like this:

Considering the potential source material there has been a distinct and surprising lack of musical reaction to the political events of recent times, bar the odd song. Where are today’s Housemartins, Redskins or Half Man Half Biscuit? Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome back to the stage, after too many years away, The Hector Collectors who have a new album Remember the Hector Collectors? .​.​You Won’t Believe What They Sound Like Now!. On it they address the political, social and culture discourse of the last decade and, unsurprisingly, find they have plenty to say. The first single is ‘Edgelords’ which takes on social media and the trolls who reside there. The sound is still that of classic indie pop similar to those names above, and it could just be The Hector Collectors time is now. Take a listen to ‘Edgelords’ and see if you agree:

One of the best albums of 2018 is Be Kind by Starry Skies, a musical collective collected from bands such as Sister John, The Sweetheart Revue, Tenement and Temple, and The Gracious Losers, among others, led by Warren McIntyre, a man who lives and breathes music. It is a wonderful record from start to finish, but one track in particular became an anthem for 2018. The song is the titular ‘Be Kind’ and it now has a video to accompany it. This has been a year where themes of love, peace and harmony, kindness and care – for yourself and others – made a welcome comeback, at least among the beautiful people who listen to the Starry Skies, and those who read and follow SWH!. You want proof? Just look back at the music featured in these reviews over the past year and you’ll see I’m right. Sit back, make yourself comfortable, and listen to ‘Be Kind’. It’s a mantra for a better life:

Straight outta Shetland, and sounding like Ween and They Might Be Giants hanging out with Hall & Oates, Big Time Quell are here to talk about the ‘Midnight Jaguar’ (which, for some reason, sounds filthy). It’s a trip fantastic across the genres with the synths and sounds of dance and disco mixing with face-melting lead guitar, the driving drums and bass of Prog, and a little sax thrown in for good measure. It shouldn’t work, but listen below and you’ll see that, somehow, it does. With an EP, Hardman Ponytail, coming soon this is just the beginning. 2019 could just belong to Bit Time Quell? If it does then it starts here with ‘Midnight Jaguar’:

As any fule kno, the greatest rock bands come in threes – Motorhead, ZZ Top, Nirvana, Cream, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Husker Du, Buffalo Tom, Dinosaur Jr – heck, even The Police, to make a point (and if you can forgive the sins of Sting). Proving me right are Dead Fiction, a band who deal in epic and anthemic rock which will take your head clean off. Their eponymous EP is out now, and it is relentless from start to finish, and will delight fans of The Foo Fighters, Feeder, Faith No More – and that’s just the f’ing Fs. Dead Fiction are clearly a class act and if you are a fan of any of the bands mentioned above then you have to check them out. Do that now as, from the Dead Fiction EP, this is ‘Crushed By The Weight’:

That’s yer whack for this month, but don’t go far – as promised our Tracks Of The Year will be with you very soon…

New Musical Success: A Review Of The Best In New Music…

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The nights may be drawing in but the (in-a-just-&-fair-world-they-would-be) hits keep coming. As we approach the time when, love them or hate them, sites such as this one start to contemplate compiling their end-of-year lists it’s important that the new music released in 2018’s latter months receives proper recognition and its due. It’s not just for Christmas, you know.

With that in mind we have a suitably reflective selection of songs, welcoming back old friends, and more recent ones. In fact everyone mentioned below has appeared in a previous SWH! music review at some point, and we make no apologies for that. A couple made their first appearance just last month, but with others we go back years. It all makes for a fine selection and collection of tunes, some of which will move you, and others which will make you move.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin. The new single from The Eastern Swell has got me reminiscing hard. Look at the cover above. A child dressed as an astronaut, holding a Spacehopper (I believe taken from the cover of Andrew Crumey’s novel Sputnik Caledonia), the clock from Glasgow’s Tron Theatre, The Olympia Theatre in Bridgeton – it couldn’t be more nostalgic for Glaswegians of a certain age, and it gives you an idea of what awaits you when you put the needle on the record, or, in this case, press play.

It’s called ‘Down Again By Blackwaterside’, from the album Hand Rolled Halo, and it’s their take on, and re-imagining of, an often covered trad-folk ballad which influenced musicians from Bert Jansch through Led Zeppelin to Altan. The Eastern Swell’s version moves me for reasons I can’t quite comprehend, speaking to something deep-rooted in my cultural and musical memories. I think it’s to do with the traditional element – music from the land and of the land, story telling and song handed down through generations rather than heard on radio or TV.

Add to that the accompanying video which is reminiscent of, and may even be, an Eastern European children’s animation from my youth, and I get a kick of nostalgia writ large. Whatever the reasons it’s powerful stuff. After my first play I immediately shared the song with my brother. It is like finding an old holiday photo or childhood recording – something which can be enjoyed by everyone, but extra special to those with whom you shared those times. This is ‘Down Again By Blackwaterside’:

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New Musical Success: A Review Of The Best In New Music…

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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… Continue reading

New Musical Success: A Review Of The Best In New Music…

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The evocative seasonal change from summer to autumn needs a suitable soundtrack to match, and I think SWH! can provide just that. It’s another strong selection which once again proves that we are living in good times when it comes to Scottish music. We have the return of old friends under new names, debut appearances, new discoveries, and the reissue of a lost classic. Coming from all over Scotland there’s electronica, indie pop & rock, Americana, country, soul, harmonies and heartbreak, and some of the finest songwriting you’ll find anywhere. If any or all of that appeals to you, read on…

Allan J. Swan has been making music for many years in various shapes and sizes, not least with the mighty, and much missed, YAK. His latest release comes under the wonderfully monikered Bang Bang Cannoli. The album is called Something Better, and this first release, ‘Oblivion Now’, is a taste of what’s to come. An old school electronic track which gently builds, adding strings and drums as it does so, with Swan’s understated and plaintive vocals, it’s where Vangelis meets Aidan Moffat, or if Tangerine Dream were fronted by Stuart Braithwaite. Swan identifies himself as “..one of many bald beardy suicidally depressed men that has blundered about in the Glasgow music scene for the last 20 years.” There may be many, but few make music as good as this. This is ‘Oblivion Now’:

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New Musical Success: A Review Of The Best In New Music…

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This is proving to be a summer of love with a soundtrack to match. With incredible albums already from SWH! favourites Modern Studies, The Scottish Enlightenment, Tracyanne & Danny, Aidan Moffat & RM Hubbert, and Kathryn Joseph (more of which below), and the promise of releases from The Gracious Losers, The Starry Skies, L-Space, and Carla J. Easton this long hot summer is shaping up to be a memorable one in terms of Scottish music. You want proof? Keep on reading and be convinced.

I first heard Lynnie Carson at one of Warren McIntyre’s Seven Song Clubs which are held at Glasgow’s Tron Theatre every month. It was a solo set and I was immediately blown away. Her voice has a warmth which is rare and welcome, and this is to the fore on her latest single ‘Love Is’, which she recorded with her band, the excellently monikered Hawking Gimmicks, made up of some fantastic musicians as was shown with their set at the recent Seven Song Club Weekender where they were a highlight. If you get the chance to see Lynnie, either on her own or with the band, don’t miss it as this is someone with music in her very bones, and the love she has for what she does is infectious. This is ‘Love Is’:

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New Musical Success: A Review Of The Best In New Music…

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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’:

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New Musical Success: A Review Of The Best In New Music…

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Looking for something new to listen to? Well, you have happened upon the right place as the latest music roundup has an eclectic mix of tunes from old friends and new. They are all great songs, and while they are distinctly different to each other, there is more than a little reflection, dissafection, introspection, but also stimulation, invigoration, and songs approaching pop-perfection. All this and a whole lot more before we’re done.

There are few things to brighten a dull, dull day like the recent news from Armellodie Records that The Scottish Enlightenment are back with a new album, Potato Flower. One of the first bands to be reviewed on Scots Whay Hae!, they hold a special place in our hearts. After far too long (since 2010’s St Thomas, if memory serves) they return to fill that Scottish Enlightenment shaped hole in all our lives, which are immediately improved because of it.

In their time away it is clear that life is something which happened between records, and Potato Flower reflects on the highs and lows which are ever-present in the every day. Tackling everything from cradle to grave, these are songs which touch upon love, loss, secrets, lies and some unbearable truths. Taken as a whole, Potato Flower is a thing of fragile beauty, with understated melodies to match David Moyes’ often heartbreaking lyrics. If you’re looking for comparisons, in terms of tone at least, I get American Music Club, Red House Painters, Jason Molina, and even the more reflective work of The Cure.

I was, in a fit of exuberance, going to call it my favourite record of the year so far, then I remembered those from Roberts, Skuse & McGuinness, Modern Studies, Zoe Bestel and Kirsty Law (as well as one mentioned below – no spoilers) and realised that 2018 is shaping up to be one hell of a year for Scottish music. For now, let’s just say, “Potato Flowers by The Scottish Enlightenment – every home should have one”. From it, this is ‘Fingers’:

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New Musical Success: A Review Of The Best In New Music…

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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:

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New Musical Success: A Review Of The Best In New Music…

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Most of our music reviews are a mixed bag when it comes to style and content, but the one you are about to experience definitely has a theme. It features great singers and great songs – deceptively simple yet they are all the more powerful for the manner they are produced and presented. This is music which stays with you longer after the last note sounds. Put simply, all of the people you are about to hear – they mean it, man.

Stay on till the end for a bonus track which is a fitting conclusion to this review. It’s not just thrown together, you know…

Alasdair Roberts has featured on these pages many times before, either for one of his many solo projects or in collaboration with others, such as with Ross Whyte, and The Furrow Collective. The latest of the latter sees him alongside composer Amble Skuse and Concerto Caledonia head-honcho David McGuinness for the album What News which the three played in full at the launch at Glasgow’s Glad Cafe. Roberts is known for staying faithful to the folk traditions, but this latest record, with McGuinness’s wonderful piano and Skuse’s understated electronica, breathes new life into old songs.

To my untutored ear, there is something about the loops of all three which works together beautifully – the structure and format of the ballads enhanced and developed by the new accompaniment, and lending the stories themselves extra strength and vigour. Whatever the reason, the result is a quite remarkable record – one of the best of the year, and one of the best of Roberts’ career to date. I urge you to seek it out, and if you get the chance to see them live then make sure you book your seats in good time. To give you a taste as to what to expect, this is ‘The Fair Flower Of Northumberland’:

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New Musical Success: A Review Of The Best In New Music…

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The hope is always that our monthly music reviews offer something of interest to all, but, without wanting to go overboard (although, “Why stop now?”, you may ask), this has been perhaps the most enjoyable to put together due to so much good music being released in the last month. It may be the multivitamins talking, but it feels like this could be the best New Musical Success…ever!

It’s certainly been difficult to reach a final eight. There’s some great tracks which just missed out, but hopefully that makes the final cut all the better. Featuring firm SWH! favourites, and with the warmest of welcomes to old friends and new, if there is a unifying theme to the music featured it is one of hope in these most difficult of times, and that should gladden your heart. But enough of this preamble – let the hyperbole begin!

Regular readers will know that our love for all things L-Space knows no bounds. They are a band who seem incapable of making anything other than magical music – a place where classic electronic pop meets the future. Their sound is as much influenced by movie soundtracks as other bands, lending it an epic, expansive feel which makes them stand out from the crowd. With each new release they give a glimpse of what is promising to be a wonderful bigger picture in the shape of their first album, due to be released on Last Night From Glasgow later in the year.

The latest single ‘Suneaters’ is the perfect example of this. Sci-fi dream pop at its finest, while it stands alone as a great single, when added to what has gone before, and what is surely to come, it only confirms L-Space as a band to see us through tough times. I’m a believer:

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