“January, month of empty pockets! Let us endure this evil month…”, to quote the French writer Sidonie Gabrielle Colette (currently appearing at a cinema near you). This may be a touch dramatic, but you know what she’s getting at. For me, a year doesn’t get going properly til Celtic Connections begins. A festival that never fails to deliver, and which continues to grow in terms of number of gigs, breadth of music, and stature.
However, and as ever, we’d like to point you in the direction of lesser known gems which can be found at the festival. Some of the names below you may recognise from our regular music reviews, and they all are deserving of your attention. Each one promises an unforgettable night, and what more can you ask for in these early days of 2019?
You can peruse the full programme at your leisure at Celtic Connections, and receive all the up-to-date news by following the festival on Twitter, and Facebook. But before you rush away here is the Scots Whay Hae! guide, (complete with links to further details + tickets). We’re calling it ‘the best of the rest of the fest’…
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…
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 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:
As well as explaining the Canadian roots of the record, and how time spent in residency there changed her life, she also talks about the importance of home, her many collaborations, her musical history, Teen Canteen (right), Ette, and the documentary she is working on with Blair Young about women pioneers of Scottish pop.
Carla is one of the most innovative and interesting musicians working today and it was a pleasure to talk to her and get a better understanding of how and why she does what she does. If you love music you just have to take a listen, but it’s also a fascinating insight as to what is involved in the artistic process. Continue reading →
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’:
For many of us August means Edinburgh and its attendant festivals. As ever, the Fringe in particular has so much on offer that it can be tough to see past the big names, sort through the plethora of posters, and separate the wheat from the cultural chaff. To help you do so here are Scots Whay Hae!’s Top Ten picks of the Fringe. There’s comedy, poetry, theatre, music and more – hopefully, something for everyone.
This Script and Other Drafts (Jenny Lindsay), Aug 13-14, 21-22 – Scottish Storytelling Centre
At a time of schisms within feminism, ongoing revelations of #MeToo, endless discussions about womanhood, and sirens being the soundtrack to our newsfeeds, Jenny Lindsay found herself getting a bit angry in 2017… Putting that anger to work she wrote a series of univocal poems, invented a superhero on her period, explored the rifts within feminism, set up a date with capitalism and penned some poems based on comments on PornHub videos. Amongst other drafts… Come join an award-winning poet for an evening exploring sex, gender and feminism. Can she rewrite this script? Can you? Continue reading →
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 Transciencecame 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:
Welcome one and all to the first New Musical Success of 2018, the SWH! regular review of the best new music to have found its way to our ears in recent times. As January is the month of Celtic Connections in Glasgow there is an understandable folk-ish hue to the following selection. But if your musical tastes lie in other directions have no fear as we believe there to be something to interest everyone, and we might just surprise you.
We’re going to kick off with a musician who has appeared on these pages many times before, whether as a member of Teen Canteen or with the moniker of Ette. She is Carla J. Easton and she is now making music under her own name. However, no matter what the name it is business as usual as Easton continues to prove she is incapable of making music which is anything other than magical. Her latest single 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:
“January, sick and tired you’ve been hanging on me”, sang Edinburgh’s Pilot in 1975 and even if you’re not quite sure what it means, you get the gist. For me, a year doesn’t get going properly til Celtic Connections begins. A festival which never fails to deliver, and which continues to grow in terms of number of gigs, breadth of music, and international stature – deep, and wide and tall.
This year is the 25th anniversary, which is worth celebrating in itself, but which would mean little if the quality wasn’t maintained. Have no fear as Celtic Connections shows no signs of slowing down.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year From Scots Whay Hae!
In this, Part II of our end of year podcast Ali, Chris and Wesley concentrate on the best music of 2016, both recorded and live. Even our sound-guru, Ian, chips in. It’s been a cracking year for new music. As you may suspect, we start with the best from Scotland before beginning a wide-ranging discussion as to what has been on offer from elsewhere.
If you aren’t yet a subscriber to the SWH! podcast you can do so, (or simply listen) at iTunes or by RSS. You can also download it 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…
And that’s all from us in terms of podcasts for the year, although we are crossing the ‘t’s and dotting the ‘i’s on a few exciting ones for the new year. Before then there will be our alternative Hogmanay Hootenanny which will offer something different from the usual TV fare. All the best from Ian, Ali, Chris & Wesley. God bless us, everyone…