Phew, 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:
To say we live in strange times is understatement veering towards sarcasm. I don’t wish to appear trite, but in the worst of times, for whatever reasons they may be, music in particular brings me comfort like nothing else can.
Feeling down? Listen to Smokey sing, Johnny play guitar, or Dylan do anything. It never fails me, and it hasn’t this time round. With that in mind, putting together this roundup of the best in new music from the last month has not simply been a pleasure but seriously uplifting. In short – I needed that.
First off, we have what I consider the pop song of the summer. Ette’s album Homemade Lemonade is out on the 22 July – and you really should get your order in now. But you don’t need to take my word for it as listening to ‘The Attack of the Glam Soul Cheerleaders (Parts 1 & 2)‘ will persuade you within the first 10 seconds. This is pop music at its very best, from the opening handclaps and keys, through the guitar riff which drives things alongside Carla J. Easton’s perfect bubblegum vocals, to the false ending and joyous wig-out which follows. It’s a reminder that the best pop music does not need a big production – it can spring from anyone and anywhere when the inspiration strikes. If Phil Spector had lived round our way, this is the sort of wall of sound he’d be making:
Ette headlined the Olive Grove Records Review at Oran Mor last month, which is one of the gigs of the year so far. No real surprise as it also featured Call To Mind, The Moth and The Mirror (and what a set that was) and the debut of The Royal Male, the solo venture from Woodenbox’s Ali Downer. The Royal Male’s album is Plastic Throne and the single is ‘Start When It’s Over’. Both have a wonderful mix of eclectic piano, understated horns, and a liberal sprinkling of whip-smart melodies reminiscent of Neil Hannon and Ben Folds. Having heard the whole album I can confirm it’s an absolute joy. The single alone brings a smile to my face every time I play it, which has been a lot. What say you?:
It 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: