I know everyone’s talking about end of year lists and the best of 2014 at this time of year, and we’re not adverse to such useless tomfoolery on these pages as you are about to find out in the coming days, but let’s not forget November, a month where some of the best music of the year appeared. See, I can’t help myself.
What follows are seven examples of the new music that caught our attention and became the soundtrack to Scots Whay Hae! last month, and it just so happens to feature some of our favourite bands and musicians of recent times, plus one for the ages.
First off is the long awaited Light In The Darkest Corners from Lorraine McCauley & The Borderlands. They have featured here before, so regular readers will be aware of what to expect, but in this case such familiarity breeds stronger feelings of admiration and heightened listening pleasure. They have quickly moved from being an interesting new band to become one of those bands you simply have to listen to. I adore their sound. This is folk music at its very best; strange, beguiling, sometimes unsettling, but ultimately moving and unforgettable. I have listened to this most days since getting my copy, and that doesn’t look like stopping any time soon. From the album, this is Final Call:
Another Scots Whay Hae! favourite is singer/songwriter Owen McAulay who has a wonderful collection of songs out in the form of the album The Line. You may already be aware of McAulay through his time with Smackvan, or from his previous 2012 solo album Time which was deservedly one of the Sunday Herald’s Scottish albums of the Year. The Line is a terrific collection of songs which could be described as kitchen sink vignettes, backed by an acoustic sound which is as surprising as it is welcome; just when you think you can relax his words and music come together to take you in an unexpected and moving direction. As a taster, this is the title track, The Line:
As we may have mentioned before, Olive Grove Records have had a hell of a year, from their triumphant showcase at Celtic Connections back in January, through releasing some of the best records of the 2014, and there is a pleasing circle of life vibe to what’s going on as the year draws to a close, with a new record promised from I Build Collapsible Mountains (who I believe were Lloyd’s first release as record mogul). November saw new material from another long term Olive Grove alumni, The Son(s). I first heard of The Son(s) through a Peenko recommendation, and immediately I was on board. The new album The Things I Love Are Not At Home is just wonderful; dark, melancholic…and there does seem to a musical theme developing through this roundup. Perhaps it’s my SAD kicking in. Reminding me of American Music Club in places, Bon Iver in others, and even a little Jeff Buckley, the album gets better with every listen, and may just turn out to be Scots Whay Hae!’s album of the year. Take a listen to this 3 track taster and make your own mind up:
While we’re talking about small but beautifully formed record companies, Scotland’s music scene would be far poorer without Permwhale Records. Their roster includes Collar Up, Flooze, The Duke, Detroit and Night Noise Team, whose album Rever Electrique is another of the best of the year (more of which in The Tracks Of My Year, coming to these pages soon). Permwhale’s latest release is a fantastic slice of classy indie of the type The Tindersticks might release, with military drums, meandering piano, and a moody video to match. This is The Night Dilates, and I like it a lot:
Next we have Sound of Yell, who could be described as an instrumental indie/alternative folk supergroup… Wait, come back! It centres around sometime El Hombre Trajeado, Stevie Jones, but also features Alasdair Roberts, Alex from Trembling Bells, Belle and Seb’s Stevie Jackson, and Teenage Fannie, Norman Blake. That, as I’m sure you will agree, is one hell of a session, and the album, Broken Spectre, is a delight from start to finish, and has enough variety of feel, tone and style to keep things interesting. This is Caiman, which features a lovely minimalist vocal from Kim Moore:
I have a real soft spot for dark, gothic, electronic music. From Bauhaus, late period Depeche, Alien Sex Fiend and the brilliant Sex Gang Children, through My Life With Thrill Kill Kult, to more recent examples such as our very own The Bird And The Monkey, it’s a genre which, when it is done well, is cinematic in its appeal and challenging in its subject matter. A band who deserve to be listened to along with the above are Sacre Noir, whose latest single It’s Too Late Now is taken from their album Sinking Into Darkness, and it is as unsettling as you would wish for. Here it is, but don’t have nightmares:
Scottish music has only a few JFK moments. The sensational Alex Harvey on Old Grey Whistle Test, The Associates doing Party Fears Two on Top of the Pops, and Travis bringing the rain at Glastonbury in ’99 are three which spring to mind, but one which will be fondly remembered by music fans of a certain vintage will be Bis performing Kandy Pop on TOTP in the mid ’90s, being sold as the first unsigned band to do so. No matter the reality of this claim, it was just fabulous to see a Glasgow indie band playing their pure pop on prime time TV, and they went on to be one of the most beloved and influential Scottish bands of the 1990s. They now have an anthology out celebrating ‘20 years of Antiseptic Poetry’, and it contains all the classics with new songs and previously unreleased material thrown in. If you have a pop music fan in your family then this is the perfect Christmas present. Let’s go back, and this is Sweet Shop Avengerz:
That was November, and it was good…