That Was The Year That Was: It’s The Best Of 2018 Podcasts – Part 1 (Books)…

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For our Review of the year in Scottish writing and all things bookish Ali was once again joined by Booky Vikki herself, Publishing Scotland’s Vikki Reilly, to discuss their favourite books of the year and the state of Scottish writing and publishing. While doing so they try to identify the themes and trends of the last 12 months, look into what’s coming in the new year, forget the names of things (mostly Ali, to be fair), talk music, “Mayhem”, and explain why 2018 belonged to Muriel. It was quite the year and hopefully we go some way to summing it up and rounding it off for you.

The podcast is the perfect companion piece to our earlier post ‘The Good Word: Scots Whay Hae!’s 10 Best Books Of 2018 (+1)…’ (see right), where you’ll be able to link to reviews of many of the books and writers that Vikki and Ali discuss. There’s a lot of love for writers and publishers alike, and although we didn’t manage to cover it all, we hope you’ll find something to pique your interest. Continue reading

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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LP Records & Radio Days: The Scots Whay Podcast Talks To Lorenzo Pacitti…

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Lorenzo outside LP Records (image LP Records/Facebook)

For the latest podcast Ali visited LP Records in Glasgow’s West End to talk to LP himself, Lorenzo Pacitti. The two talk about the history of his LP Record store, the move into becoming a label, (releasing music from Wesley A. Chung, American Clay, and Codist), and his plans to start LP Radio, a station which will be based in the store.

There are also tales of Nicki Minaj, the vital role of darts in the LP story, time spent in Texas and Seattle, the pros and cons of the vinyl resurrection, and his vision of the perfect radio station. For anyone interested in the record business – the records and/or the business – it’s a must listen.

To keep up with all things LP you can follow on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram. Continue reading

The Good Word: Scots Whay Hae!’s 10 Best Books Of 2018 (+1)…

DSC_0809 2.jpgI know you’re bombarded with ‘Books Of The Year’ lists around this time, but we like to think that Scots Whay Hae!’s selection is one for the more discerning book lover. It’s a good old-fashioned Top-Ten, but, as with Nigel Tufnel’s amp, this one goes to 11. Which is one better…

These are the publications which stood out against the stiffest competition in 2018, consisting of four new novels, three short fiction collections, the conclusion of a soul music and civil rights trilogy, a book of spell poetry, a history of Scottish pop, plus our bonus entry – a re-issue of a modern Scottish classic.

They will transport you to Harlem, Lewis, Bangour, and post-war America, with detours to Orkney, the Scottish Borders, Edinburgh, Paris, Moscow past and present, and through the looking-glass, along the way. Taken as a whole they are a testament to the artistic diversity and cultural imagination at large in Scotland today and proof that Scottish writing is in fine fettle indeed. Need further convincing? Here’s what we thought at the time:

Olga Wotjas – Miss Blaine’s Prefect And The Golden Samovar

37795464Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar is a crime novel for those people who think they don’t like crime novels. It is also a novel of manners, a comedy, a romance, (although not necessarily a romantic-comedy), and a work of science fiction. With so many influences at work, and genres juggled, it really shouldn’t work but it never falls down and Olga Wojtas should be praised for pulling such a feat off. I’m pretty sure I won’t read anything like it this year, unless it is ‘Miss Blaine’s Prefect’s’ next mission impossible, and I’m hoping that we won’t have to wait too long for that.

Miss Blaine’s Prefect And The Golden Samovar is published on the Contraband imprint of Saraband Books Continue reading

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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Lessons From History: The SWH! Podcast Talks To Donald S. Murray…

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For the latest podcast Ali met up with poet and writer Donald S. Murray in Waterstone’s on Sauchiehall Street before the Glasgow launch of As The Women Lay Dreaming (Saraband Books), his novel which examines the Iolaire disaster of 1919 and the impact it has had on a community through the generations.

The two discuss the book (right) in detail and why this story of one of the worst peacetime maritime Dk4Wu2BXsAA3yAwdisasters remains largely unknown outside of the Highlands & Islands. They also examine the way Murray uses it as the starting point to say much about Scotland as a whole, covering themes which include language, religion, class, art, guilt, and family.

Donald also talks of the importance of the memory of the senses when it comes to recalling the past on the page, the crucial role of an editor, and others, in helping to see your own work more clearly, his struggles with structure, and the current healthy state of writing in and from the Highlands & Islands. Continue reading

Three Is The Magic Number: A Review Of Stuart Cosgrove’s Harlem ’69: The Future Of Soul…

 

46523465_252474145447194_8238799154168463360_n.jpgAll good things must come to an end, and this is sadly true for Stuart Cosgrove’s epic and engaging soul and civil rights trilogy. What began with Detroit ’67: The Year That Changed Soul, and moved to Memphis ’68: The Tragedy Of Southern Soul, ends with Harlem ’69: The Future Of Soul, and while it is a crying shame that, for the moment at least, we won’t find out more of what happens next (although, as suggested in the title, Cosgrove does touch upon the future), as James Brown knew, when you depart the stage do it in style and leave them wanting more. Cosgrove is leaving us in the finest style, job done.

Anyone who has read the previous books will know what to expect in terms of form. Cosgrove takes us through the year of 1969 chronologically, month by month, and looks at events which may have begun in Harlem but which had ramifications way beyond the neighbourhood boundaries. His cast of characters are a Venn diagram of the well-known, the lesser-known, the expected, and the unexpected. For every Curtis Mayfield, James Brown, Gil Scott-Heron, and Donny Hathaway, there’s someone such as Fat Jack Taylor, Betty Mabry, Arthur Conley, and Afeni Shakur (born Alice Faye Williams) whose stories are vital – indeed they, and others like them, are the spine of Harlem ’69. Continue reading

Tales Of The Unexpected: A Review Of Andrew Crumey’s The Great Chain of Unbeing…

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When is a book of short stories not a book of short stories? When it is written by Andrew Crumey. As those who have read his previous work, (which includes Sputnik Caledonia, Pfitz, and The Secret Knowledge), will know he is a writer who appears to derive great delight in the undertaking of writing and the possibilities it offers, and also in playing with the expectations of readers. He unashamedly embraces ideas and examines them with a forensic, yet playful, eye. This has never been shown to better effect than with his latest book The Great Chain Of Unbeing  – a collection of stories which are bound intrinsically, yet almost imperceptibly, by interrelated situations and characters. Just who, how, why, where and when – these are all for you to uncover and unpick.

It begins at the ‘Unbeginning’ and ends with an ‘Unending’. Between the two are the stories which make ‘The Great Chain Of Unbeing’, a title which hints at the connections which run through these tales, and which asks questions about what we can claim as real. “Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream?”. Crumey tackles that question, but not head on – more a tackle from the side. These connections are not linear, they are a network with strands leading you in unexpected directions. Continue reading

Personal Space: The SWH! Podcast Talks To Vive-La-Rose’s David Luximon-Herbert…

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For the latest podcast Ali went through to Cabaret Voltaire in Edinburgh to talk to musician David Luximon-Herbert, better known as Vive-La-Rose, about his latest album For She Who Hangs The Moon, which is destined to be one of the best of 2018.

0013949348_10The two talk about the making of the record, influences, themes, tone, space, the expectations David has, and the critical reaction so far. Soulful, bittersweet, fragile, yet with a power that is undeniable – it’s an album which is clearly intensely personal yet also universal, reflecting on life, love, and regret, but with an eye to the hope the future holds.

In a recent review of the latest double A-side single ‘The Watchmaker’ and ‘Interior Rules’ SWH! said,  “For She Who Hangs The Moon is the perfect soundtrack for the wee small hours of the morning, when thoughts turn to times past, both good and bad.” Couldn’t have put it better myself. Continue reading

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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