“January, sick and tired you’ve been hanging on me”, as Pilot sang back in 1974 – a genius lyric which just about says it all. But never fear as, appropriately, it’s music which is going to chase away the new year funk and January blues.
This year we are spoiled with 432 Presents‘ excellent First Footing Showcases, and, from the 16th Jan – 2nd Feb, Celtic Connections, one of the world’s great music festivals, gets underway with another line-up which mixes and matches the local with the global.
However, and as ever, we’d like to point you in the direction of other gems to be found at the festival. Some of the names below you may well recognise from our regular music reviews and weekly playlists, and they all are deserving of your attention and attendance. Each one promises an unforgettable night, and what more can you ask for in these early days of 2020?
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! preview, (complete with links to further details + tickets). We like to call it ‘the best of the rest of the fest’…
So much great new music, so little time! Over the last few weeks there has been a delightful deluge of damned good tunes in many styles, forms, shapes, and sizes. By the time we hit October you can usually start to tell how a year is going to be judged and 2019, against many odds, is turning out to be a brammer.
This month we have songs from three of the finest albums of the year, one of the most intriguing and important EPs of any year, a new favourite who feels like an old friend, a local-to-SWH! band who may have released one of the best pop songs for ages, an unexpected and fine cover version, and the return of a national treasure with a tune to break your heart. Strap yourself in – it’s going to get emotional…
We have welcomed Broken Chanter to these pages before but make no apologies for doing so once again, especially as the eagerly awaited self-titled album was released last month. It’s quite simply one of the finest collection of songs this year, (or most years), with David McGregor proving that he is a writer of songs which once heard are not easily forgotten. If the name is familiar then that’s because he was integral to Kid Canaveral for many years, but this album takes his music to another level entirely.
If you want a gauge of the standing in which McGregor is held by his peers then you only need to look at those involved with this album. They include Audrey Tait (The Girl Who Cried Wolf, Hector Bizerk), Gav Prentice (ULTRAS), Jill O’Sullivan (Sparrow and the Workshop, bdy_prts, Jill Lorean), Hannah Shepherd (eagleowl, Withered Hand), Emma Kupa (Mammoth Penguins,) & more. But, for all the talent involved this feels like an intensely personal project, songs which are torn from a life lived, and not always easily. At once expansive yet intimate, it’s a record which marries hard-times to hope, and we could all do with some of that. This is ‘Should We Be Dancing’:
Oblivion & Beyond is the new EP from Distant Voices, the musical project created by Vox Liminis, which is an arts and community organisation working with people involved in all parts of the criminal justice system in the Highlands area. Distant Voices sees some of Scotland’s best songwriters collaborating with people who’ve experienced the criminal justice system in one form or another. On Oblivion & Beyond the songs were co-written by musicians Donna Maciocia, Fiskur, Martha Ffion, Raukarna, and Jill Lorean in workshops which took place in communities and prisons.
The tracks, most of which have a tie to Inverness, are about the rather intangible notion of ‘recovery’ and examines just what that means. It’s a record which is as important as it is excellent, which adds to the current discussion about crime and punishment (see also Fergus McNeill’s Pervasive Punishment project), and once again shows how music and art can aid wider discussion and understanding. This is ‘Autopilot’, featuring Jill Lorean & Lee:
Alasdair Roberts has been in a musical vein of form in recent years that few others could boast, with recent releases including What News with Amble Skuse and David McGuinness, his work with Green Ribbons, and with The Furrow Collective. Undoubtedly a proud serial collaborator, his latest release, The Fiery Margin, is a solo affair (albeit made with a one of the finest bands around), and it is arguably his best yet, bringing all his knowledge and understanding of the traditions of folk music to bare on his songs, but lending them a distinctly contemporary feel, something we have come to expect from Roberts. Nobody does it better. This is ‘False Flesh’:
Future Pilot AKA, aka Sushil K Dade, has long been one of the more experimental and interesting musicians around, and a new album from him is always a cause for celebration. So have a shower, and then phone your brother up, as that’s exactly what we have. Like Alasdair Roberts (above), Dade is a man who loves a collaboration, and his latest, Orkestra Digitalis, lets no one down.
Nine years in the making, it’s an album which was not originally destined for wide release, proposed as a one-off edition in the format of a picnic hamper, but luckily it was decided that we all deserved some nourishment. Featuring Emma Pollock, Ron Sexsmith, Robert Wyatt, R.M. Hubbert, Mairi Campbell, and Mulatu Astatke, this is a record which gives up more of its many secrets with each listen, and you’ll want to do so over and over. From it this is ‘The Art Of Good Breathing’:
New favourite band alert!!! Flying Penguins released their latest single ‘Antimony’, from the EP Bodies & Artefacts, and it swiftly became a firm favourite, reminding me of some of SWH!’s best-loved musicians such as King Creosote, Modern Studies, Lomond Campbell, Admiral Fallow, eagleowl – basically those bands who make classy, affecting, and poignant music which puts you in that state of musical melancholia which feels just right.
It’s rare to discover a band who feel like you’ve been listening to them for years when you haven’t, but that’s how I feel about Flying Penguins – as if they were the soundtrack to a better time, and the memory of that has just come back to me. I’m sure there is a word for that feeling, but before we all rush to find out just what that is – sit back, relax, and enjoy ‘Antimony’:
Ian Smith from Last Night From Glasgow got in touch last month to say that Foundlings had a new single coming out and would I like to hear it. Of course the answer was yes, as he knew full well it would be, but he gave me no further clue as to anything else about it. Imagine my surprise and delight to discover an excellent cover of ‘I Love You All’, a track from the Jon Ronson/ Lenny Abrahamson film Frank, inspired by Ronson’s relationship with Frank Sidebottom, and which has Michael Fassbender on vocals.
How do you approach that? Well, if you’re Foundlings you stay faithful to the original and showcase the song to full effect. If the above paragraph means little to you then press play below. I’m not saying all will become clear, but your life will be notably better. In the name of Frank…
I may have mentioned it before, but Scottish pop music is in fine and rude health, and the final two tracks of this review make that point perfectly. First up are Slouch, a Glasgow band whose single ‘Duplicity’ has had a couple of plays on the SWH! show on LP Radio (news of which soon) and it has been as warmly received as anything played on the show so far. It’s a song which gets its hooks into you early doors and refuses to let go. If John Hughes was still making movies this would be solid soundtrack material, most-likely playing over the closing prom scene as the credits start to roll. ‘Duplicity’ is pure pop and it makes me hugely excited about what Slouch do next. Share the anticip…ation…
When we have our regular end-of-year chats at SWH! (which we record as podcasts – doesn’t everyone?) Bossy Love always receive a mention as one of the best bands around, especially when seen live. By doing what they love to do with no apologies – making R&B inflected pop music which takes their influences and make them all their own – they are a band like no other, and it is little wonder that the devotion they inspire is so strong. Their latest single, ‘Me + U‘, is a winning mixture of strength and vulnerability with Amandah Wilkinson’s unmistakeable vocals never better. Imagine a track Prince wrote for TLC then forgot to send, with all the sadness that entails, and you’ll have some idea as to what you are about to listen to. It’s also the perfect end to this review. This is ‘Me + U’:
That’s all for this month but we’ll be back before you know it with another selection of the best new music around. See you back here soon…
For the latest podcast Ali spoke to Lily, Gordon and Dickson from L-space who are, as regular readers of SWH! will know, one of our favourite bands. Their album, Kipple Arcadia (on LNFG – see below) was one of the best debuts of recent times and no discerning home should be without it. The talk moves in many directions, including discussions on expectation versus reality, how their sound and songwriting developed, contrapuntal melodies, the thinking behind the themes explored in the music, all things kipple, and what the future may hold, not just for the band but for all of us.
The sign of a good podcast is that time flies, either when recording or listening, and if this theory holds up then you are in for a treat. There are also fine examples of the music they make with ‘Home Sweet Home’ opening proceedings and the exclusive play of two new tracks, ‘Moving Traffic Overhead’ and ‘Waking Up Bathed In The Light Of Things You Can’t Afford’ bringing things to a fitting conclusion. Quite simply, this is a podcast not to miss.
If you are new round these parts there is quite a substantial back-catalogue of 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…
“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’…
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 →
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 →
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:
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:
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’:
The new music which made its way our way over the last month is as eclectic and unpredictable as the summer itself. There’s classic pop, alt rock, new wave, old faves, and some very welcome “new to SWH!” bands as well. It all adds up to a rather exciting soundtrack, one which will work especially well for those of you tramping up and down the streets of Edinburgh as many do this time of year. If that applies to you then SWH!’s Pick of The Fringe and Pick of The Book Festival may be of interest.
But no matter where you find yourself we hope you enjoy what you’re about to hear. Make sure you stay with it to the bottom of the page for not only one of the best songs of the summer, but a video which is a work of art in its own right.
We begin with Radiophonic Tuckshop, who are perhaps best described as an indie-pop supergroup with members whose roll call of bands includes Ette, The Martial Arts, The Owsley Sunshine, The Fast Camels and more. Their EP Running Commentary is out on Last Night From Glasgow. The title track shows that these are musicians steeped in the history of pop – opening with power chords which immediately give the listener context bringing to mind everyone from The Kinks to The Cars. The song moves on to channel Beatles and Beach Boys, but also classic Stiff Records artists such as Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds and Elvis Costello. Radiophonic Tuckshop take all of their influences to make music which simultaneously sounds classic yet utterly contemporary. This is ‘Running Commentary’: