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 In New Music…

L-space - Suneaters LQ

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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The Tracks Of My Year: SWH!’s 10 Best Songs Of 2017…

a1260797498_10In this writer’s opinion, 2017 has been a belter for Scottish music with exceptional albums from Mark W. Georgsson, BMX Bandits, Blue Rose Code, Findlay Napier, Stephen McLaren, State Broadcasters, The Miss’s, Annie Booth, Quick, Storm The Palace, The Sweetheart Revue, Best Girl Athlete, Campfires In Winter, Sun Rose, and many more (some of which feature below). Here’s hoping for more of this sort of thing in 2018.

But before we get ahead of ourselves – you’ll more than likely have had yer fill of ‘Best Of The Year’ lists , but if you can fit in one more, 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.

If you aren’t sated by what follows you can discover more of the new music we covered on Scots Whay Hae! by listening to our Best of 2017 Spotify list.

But enough preamble, here’s the countdown listed in chronological order and what we thought about them at the time, with a few relevant updates…

Yakima – Wabi Sabi

There are times, and these are times, when you need a band and a song who will sort things out for you, and, at least for a short while, make everything all right. Yakima are that band, and ‘Wabi Sabi’ is that song, taken from their single Medicine For Family Entertainment. Sounding like the cooler young cousins of The Afghan Whigs, or a less cynical Buffalo Tom, this is a song guaranteed to brighten your day or your money back*. I suspect Yakima have an excellent record collection from which they have learned some important lessons and used them to make something brand spanking new and all of their own:

*(This is clearly not a binding promise – clearly).

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

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This has been a summer of unexpected treats and great new music from the well-kent and the brand new. What you are about to listen to shows this off to full effect, but then we would say that. Suffice to say that it is all killer, no filler, and this list could have been twice the length it is. However, we prefer to keep things short and sweet.

To kick us off, it’s our album of the month, and one of the best of the year. It’s Sister John’s Returned From Sea, and it’s a delight from start to finish – a proper album where each track feeds into and enhances the rest. Comparisons can be made with the albums of Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, but I was also put in mind of Conor Oberst, Micah P Hinson and even Joan Baez. If the music which has become know as Americana is your sort of thing then Sister John are the band for you. But you don’t need to take my word for it as they are undergoing a short tour, with The Braemar Gallery gig promising to be extra special, so get tickets while you can. In the meantime, this is ‘He Came Down’:

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The Tracks Of My Year: SWH!’s 10 Best Songs Of 2016…

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Looking back, as is everyone’s wont at this time of year, two things in particular are striking about 2016 in music. There was the continued rise and success of the independent record label, especially Last Night From Glasgow, Song, by Toad, Olive Grove Records and Errant Media, and it was a year of classic albums, from the triumphant return of Teenage FanclubMogwai, King Creosote and Kid Canaveral, through the mostly excellent SAY Award nominees, to those released by the artists below.

These are our choices for the 10 best songs reviewed on these pages this year. 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.

If you aren’t sated by what follows you can discover more of the new music we covered on Scots Whay Hae! by listening to our Best of 2016 Spotify list.

But enough preamble, here’s the countdown listed in chronological order and what we thought about them at the time, with a few relevant updates…

Errant Boy – Black Dress, Black Cab

Errant Boy are another who have recently featured on those pages. That’s because we like to be surprised and delighted, and it appears that the ability to do both is in Errants Boy’s DNA. This is their latest single, ‘Black Dress, Black Cab’, and it demands repeated listenings as it takes you to different places every time. The song moves from menace to magic and back again in a single line, with layered acoustics and vocals which seem to pull you in opposite directions. It reminds me of The Woodentops in the sense that what you are listening to is way more complex than you initially believe, and that’s a great thing. I feel I could write a short essay on this song. I’ve been listening to it a lot. Can you tell?

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New Musical Success: Summer Special…

a0705982930_10Phew, what a scorcher! Not the weather, obviously, but this summer was a season featuring some fine music of varied shapes and hues. Great pop music lead the way, as it should during these months, but the left-field, the quirky, and just plain classy were also in evidence. Great summers have great soundtracks, and this made 2016 unforgettable.

Aside from those you’re about to hear there has been memorable music, as  previously mentioned, from Ette, Starless, The Royal Male, and the Duke, Detroit, and there were also excellent albums by Teenage Fanclub, The Pictish Trail, Kid Canaveral and King Creosote (and what a night round at Jools’ place that line-up would make), as well as the beautiful Lost Songs Of St Kilda  – but the following are the musicians and songs which have soundtracked and summed up our summer of 2016.

Actually, the first album I’m going to mention came out in March, but didn’t reach Scots Whay Hae! until July. Lizabett Russo is an artist who it is almost impossible to pin down, and those are the people who are the most interesting. At times there is the pared down fragility of Kathryn Joseph, at others the vibrant Eastern European folk similar to that of Lorraine & the Borderlands, but then Russo will lead you down somewhere completely unexpected with dark jazz-tinged ballads which bring to mind the Tindersticks, Nick Cave or later PJ Harvey. The album is called The Burning Mountain, and each one of its 14 tracks is a treasure. If you’re like me then one listen will not be enough, and you’ll go back ago the beginning straight away. This is the title track:

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Errant Souls: The Scots Whay Hae! Podcast Talks Music & More With Errant Media…

Errant Media logoAfter a short break Spring break the Scots Whay Hae! podcast is back for Series 3 with a whole new line-up of guests and themed specials for your pleasure.

This first episode sees Ali head down Leith Walk to talk with Sean Ormsby and Stephen McLaren from Edinburgh record label Errant Media, on which they release as Sean’s Errant Boy, together as Shards, and, in the near future, Stephen’s new solo material.

The two talk about the pleasure of collaboration, the enduring importance of songs, and why melancholy and euphoria are the perfect musical partners. De Rosa, The Divine Comedy, Pony Club and Young Fathers get a lot of love as influences and inspirations are discussed, as is the best, and possibly only, reason for making music in the first place.

In Scots Whay Hae’s opinion, Sean and Stephen have been involved with some of the best music of the last few years, both together and individually, and if the new material is anything to go by that’s not going to change any time soon. If you are interested in the realities and practicalities of not only writing great songs, but getting them released, then this is a must hear podcast. But then we would say that, wouldn’t we?

This Saturday (23/4) sees the launch of Errant Boy’s album A Wayward Mirror, which is, I promise you, one of the best things you’ll here this year.  It’s at new Edinburgh venue Leith Depot, where Sean and Stephen are planning to hold regular musical events, details of which are on the pod. Continue reading

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

avatars-000188524698-ac7rty-t500x500It had to happen some time, and it has. After over four years’ worth of coming up with monthly puns, our irregular music review column has now got a permanent name, New Musical Success.

When you’re spending precious time coming up with post titles rather than listening to the music, something has to change. But not too much. This will still be a mostly monthly look at the best new music of recent times. But enough of this idle banter, here’s just that.

In our still available Best of 2015 podcast, we discussed the fact that last year saw a lot of brand new bands making the best new music as some of the better known names took a back seat. Already it seems that 2016 is going to be different, with a reformed Frightened Rabbit, Primal Scream and Emma Pollock, among others, all with albums out or imminent. That situation is reflected in this first roundup of 2016 as most of those featured have done so before in one shape or another.

First up is the debut single from Modern Studies who feature two of our favourite musicians in Emily Scott and Rob St John, joined by Pete Harvey and Joe Smillie. It’s called ‘Ten White Horses’, and is a taste of their soon to be released album, Swell To Great. As you would expect from a Scott/St John collaboration it is almost heartbreaking in its fragility and beauty. If I was putting together a supergroup of Scottish musicians these two would feature in my earliest picks – if only life was always like this:

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Tunes For June: The Best New Music From Last Month…

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It was always going to be hard to follow last month’s roundup, but I think we’ve just about managed with a selection which is diverse, strong and a wee bit longer than normal as there was such a wide selection of music to choose from. In all honesty it could have been twice the length, but, believe it or not, there is a structure to these roundups and we’re determined to stick to it.

The music which did make it includes some electro-punk, folktronica, alternative rock, classic pop, and one unexpectedly good collaboration. Surely something for everyone? We’ve also put together a Spotify playlist called Scots Whay Hae’s Best of 2015 to which some of these tracks will be added, and which will be updated on a monthly basis.

But first off we have a bit of ska. SWH! were at the inaugural Live At New Lanark Music Festival to listen to the music and talk to the bands. We’ll have a podcast out soon with the results of our recordings, but there was no doubt that one of the highlights was the set by The Begbies, a ska band in the classic tradition of the best of 2-Tone such as The Specials, The Selecter and The Bodysnatchers. The perfect way to prove this point is for you to take a listen to their new single ‘Sleeping Dogs’. There are plenty of bands around who do ska badly, so when you discover one who plays it as it should be, full of attitude, anger and energy married to the classic ska rhythm and brass, it reminds you just what marvellous, infectious music it can be. Clear a space on the floor, and take a listen for yourself:

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