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

In most cities January is a month where people take things easy, but not in Glasgow where Celtic Connections looms large and there are still loads of other nights out to consider. It’s as if the city says, “New year, is it? Bring it on!”. So last month was packed with great gigs including the launch of Sister John’s new album at SWG3, an Olive Grove Records Showcase, a rare and righteous live sighting of The Sweetheart Revue, Broken Chanter playing with a full band, and all our yesterdays with Goosebumps: Marina Records 25th Anniversary Concert.

But that didn’t stop the new music getting through, and there are some very special treats awaiting you below, including at least two year defining records with which we have fallen head-over-heels in love There’s unforgettable ambient, classic power pop, the return of musical superheroes, the continued form of future superstars, two of the finest singers around, and even more. We are sure you’ll find something to please you. Starting with this…

One of the finest show of this year’s Celtic Connections was Andrew Wasylyk and full band (and what a band!) at Glasgow’s Blue Arrow. They were there to play songs from his latest album The Paralian, which is the result of Wasylyk’s time as an artist-in-residence at Hospitalfield, an arts centre and historic house in Arbroath. What started out as an idea to write music for a restored 19th century harp blossomed into a full set of songs with horns, strings, synthesizers, and piano.

The resulting record is quite astonishing. You could describe it as a concept album, taking it’s influences from the land and the sea (a paralian being someone who lives by the sea). You can certainly hear echoes of the ambient works of, among others, Brian and Roger Eno, Harold Budd, and Robert Wyatt, but The Paralian is very specific to place while feeling timeless. What I can say is that it is one of the finest records I have heard this year, and in many a year, and I can’t see you disagreeing with that conclusion any time soon. From it this is ‘Mariner’s Hymn’:

You wait a while for one beautiful album which makes the world a better place and then two come along at once. Blair Coron’s On The Nature Of Things is not so much a recording, more an artistic declaration of a personal philosophy, a musical thesis on a life lived and lessons learned. That is shown in the care and attention which Coron has given to the presentation and packaging of the album which is an extension of the record itself. Go and order a copy if you want to know what I mean. His heart and soul is in these songs. On The Nature Of Things is incredibly personal, and clearly means the world to him.

I’m delighted to say it also means the world to me, and it will to you. It’s the most intimate and exquisite music. The title track alone, all 20 minutes of it, is just sublime. Music this special doesn’t come along that often, despite the review of The Paralian above. The fact that the first records to feature this month are destined to be personal favourites is not the norm. It just so happens that in January of 2019 two albums have been released which deserve, no demand, your attention and devotion. We are living in special times so grab them while you can. From On The Nature If Things this is ‘Olives & Marzipan’:


Later this month in Glasgow, then Edinburgh and Dundee, The Dark Carnival comes to town. It’s the name of a new show from Vanishing Point and A New International theatre companies, and it promises “A music and theatre spectacle, The Dark Carnival features sixteen performers and musicians. They tell the story of newcomers to the afterlife who discover that death is not actually the end. Incredulous at their continuity, they form their own necropolitan community where every night is party night: songs get sung, love gets made and whisky flows.” Now, that sounds like a SWH! night out. From it this is ‘Necropolitan’, and it is reminiscent of Brecht, Weill, and even the sainted Tiger Lillies. Embrace the dark side and we’ll see you in the cheap seats:

We try to be optimistic on these pages but that’s not always an easy stance to take. A spring in your step and a smile on your face can be hard to maintain in times such as these. Desperate measures are required and it’s the perfect time to send the call out to Bis. Pop music may not be able to save us but it certainly makes things a whole lot better. One of the most influential Scottish bands of the last 30 years, they have a new album, Slight Disconnects, released on Last Night From Glasgow and I can tell you it’s reassuringly braw and brilliant. Throw your hats in the air cos Bis are back. From the album, this is ‘Sound Of A Heartbreak’:

In what seems like no time at all OK Button are already on to their third single. It’s called ‘Flesh & Blood’ and it continues their flawless run of singles. It also helps to build a fuller picture of who they are as a band, and what’s emerging is one who refuse to be ignored, who resolutely tackle the personal and the political in their music, and for whom what they do is integral to who they are. If there is any justice in this world OK Button are going to be huge in 2019. In fact, even though justice may be thin on the ground I would still bet on that happening. Classy and classic from head to toe, but with a sting in the tale, this is ‘Flesh & Blood’:

An interesting development over the last couple of years is record labels collaborating on releases. In Scotland this seems to be driven by our good friends and regulars on these pages Last Night from Glasgow who have been working with other labels to make sure releases happen. Annie Booth’s An Unforgiving Light was on LNFG & Scottish Fiction, and later this year they & Olive Grove Records will release the debut Broken Chanter album (an early version of which I have heard and it’s just phenomenal).

LNFG have now got together with Little Tiger to release Fenella’s album A Gift From Midnight which, although it’s not out till March, you can pre-order here. I was lucky enough to see them as support to the previously mentioned Marina Records 25th Anniversary show at Celtic Connections and it was a great introduction to a band who make music unlike anyone else in Scotland at the moment. What hits you first, and what stays with you, is the voice, but there’s a hell of a lot more going on. This is an artist to get excited about as you can’t be sure just what is going to happen next. But you don’t have to worry about that for now, enjoy the here and now. From the album, this is ‘I Will Not Win’:

I hope you’re in the mood for some classic power pop – the kind that Scottish bands seem to do particularly well. Think Teenage Fanclub, BMX Bandits, Eugenius, The Pearlfishers, and so on. Attic Lights deserve their place in that pantheon, and the new album, the excellently titled Love In The Time Of Shark Attacks, proves this. It’s a record with so many hooks you could do yourself an injury, with every track pulling its weight to make a memorable whole. If what you are looking for is an album of timeless, classic, pop songs then this is the record for you. From it, this is ‘Come Back To Me’:

I’m going to end with the sublime sound of singer songwriter Cara Rose. The song is ‘In My Head’, recorded live at The Mitchell Library in Glasgow, and it shows clearly what makes Cara so special. Hers is a voice which is a thing of beauty, an instrument in itself, and having it accompanied simply by piano shows this clearly and to full effect. When you are this good, when you sound this good, that’s all you need. This is a track which you can’t just listen to once – it will stay with you. Try it and see if I’m not right. This is Cara Rose and ‘In My Head’:


That’s all for this month, but if you enjoy these reviews Ali now has a weekly radio show on LP Radio where he plays two hours of the best Scottish music every Monday night. You can find out how to listen here…

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

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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!:

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That Was The Year That Was: It’s The Best Of 2018 Podcasts – Part 3 (Music)…

For our final Best Of 2018 podcast Ali, Chris Ward, Wesley Shearer, accompanied by our very own Young Father, Ian, discuss their favourite records of the year, and the best gigs of 2018. What do they choose? Well you’ll just have to listen to find out (although the tags at the bottom of this page give some clues), but we can say that there are a hell of a lot of winners, and nary a loser in sight as they decide that the year in music was a rather fine one.

You can still listen to our review of the best books of the year, with Vikki Reilly, and the review of the year in film, also with Chris & Wesley. And in the new year we can promise you even more special guests and discussion about all things cultural which are happening in and around Scotland, starting with the muscian and writer Beerjacket, (also sometimes known as Peter Kelly).

If you are new round these parts there is also quite a substantial number of previous SWH! 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:

That’s yer whack of podcast fun for 2018, but we’ll be back in the new year with new guests to inform, entertain, and delight you.

The Tracks Of My Year: SWH!’s 10 Best Songs Of 2018…

a4136536009_101Without a doubt 2018 was a year of exceptional albums from start to finish, from such as The Gracious Losers, Starry Skies, Modern Studies, The Scottish Enlightenment, Carla J. Easton, L-Space, Kirsty Law, C.S. Buchan & Friends, Roberts/Skuse/McGuinness, Zoe Bestel, Kathryn Joseph, Aidan Moffat and R.M Hubbert, Vive La Rose, Errant Boy, and many more (some of which have tracks which feature below). Here’s hoping for a similar high quality return in 2019.

But before we get ahead of ourselves – if you can fit in one more ‘Best Of The Year’ list, small but perfectly formed, this is our annual choice of the 10 best songs reviewed on these pages over the last 12 months. As ever, it’s a list which focuses on individual tracks, but if you like what you hear you should investigate further as most of them are to be found on equally awesome albums or EPs.

That’s enough preamble – here’s the countdown, listed in order of their date of release, and what we thought about them at the time, with a few relevant updates…

Carla J. Easton – Lights In The Dark

Carla J. Easton has made music as a member of Teen Canteen, under the name of Ette, and on multiple other collaborations. In 2018 she released the album Impossible Stuff under her own name which made it clear that no matter the moniker it is business as usual as Easton continues to prove she is incapable of making music which is anything other than magical. Exhibit A is ‘Lights In The Dark’, and it is a moody and mature slice of electro pop which shows others just how this sort of thing should be done. Carla J. Easton deserves to reach the widest audience possible and this could be the song to do just that. Take a listen and see if you agree:

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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’:

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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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