A belated Happy New Year from me! I’m looking forward to lots of new music. Let’s start with WOLF, a Scottish artist I saw and loved last year at Summerhall. Her Black Rabbit split single was released yesterday and it is lovely.
For no particular reason I missed Young Fathers. I knew they were from Edinburgh, I also knew they had won the Mercury Prize. Both of those things haven’t really gone together before. For some reason I still just didn’t listen to them. That changed yesterday when my wonderful friend sent me loads of new music. I have now decided they are rather awesome.
Check out the KEXP session below, it’s a fine afternoon for it.
I saw the beautiful Anais Mitchell live at Summerhall, Edinburgh. She played beautiful songs you can sink right into. I also her love her image – effortlessly cool 90s grunge. Listen to this one from her new album Xoa. It sends shivers.
I also recommend Why We Build the Wall
With the catchy, winter appropriate alias of Arran Arctic ‘D.I.Y. pop, folk and electronica’ musician Arran Southall is a man who hails from Northern Ireland and now lives in Edinburgh. He contacted me with his new album, titled Like Lovers, a lovely collection of delicate, experimental tracks often with an orchestral depth, which will capture your attention.
You can stream it in full the bottom of this post, first he’ll tell you about a classic influence and a little piece of musical history…
The Artist: Buffy Sainte-Marie
The Album: Illuminations
I first came across Buffy Sainte-Marie and her album Illuminations on Stuart Maconie’s great BBC 6 Music Show The Freak Show (the best weird and wonderful music you’ll find on a weekly basis) and I was blown away by her cover of Leonard Cohen’s God Is Alive, Magic Is Afoot. I got my spade out and dug a little deeper into her history and back catalogue. And she’s just amazing! Her career spans 5 decades, she’s won an Oscar and she even appeared on Sesame Street for a while!
Illuminations is a departure from her usual folk, soul and rock output and actually alienated a number of her fans when it came out in 1969. The record sees Sainte-Marie electronically manipulating both her guitar and vocals to create a sparsely populated eerie landscape.
But there are also a number of rocky foot stampers such as ‘He’s a Keeper of the Fire‘, which have caused some to retrospectively christen the album the first “goth” record!
I just love this album and have championed it before on the excellent blog Scots Whay Hae!. It’s appeal is not only because of the fantastic tunes but also because of the balls it must have taken to make and put out there. Everyone needs a bit of Buffy Sainte-Marie in their lives.
Arran’s album Like Lovers can be streamed and purchased on his bandcamp, his personable and playful website – from which I pinched the above illustration – is also well worth checking out. Choral title track ‘Like Lovers’ is a highlight, fusing a boy/girl vocal with an almost cinematic soundscape, there’s lots of tinkling goodness in the fleeting ‘Wound’ and climatic lullaby ‘Slumber’.
A low key, monochromatic video for bewitching earworm ‘Covers’….
Sometimes you get sent something at the exact right time: last week an email entitled ‘Human Pyramids!’ landed with me, literally at the moment I was looking for something new to listen to.
Described by it’s composer and creator Paul Russell as ‘joyous post-rock’ the three song demo is a spirited instrumental business, written in scores and purveying jubilant choral remnants, akin to the likes of The Polyphonic Spree.
Here we go below with the Human Pyramids suggestion, experimental Icelandic band Múm and their 2012 release, Early Birds.
All About Múm
Múm have released 3 albums since then and I have been buying them on the day of release every time. The release of “Early Birds” in June was no different. But wait, its no longer released through Fat-Cat, and its a collection of “lost songs” from 1998-2000? When I hear phrases like “lost songs” I get scared. I imagine its the kind of thing bands use to pad out ropey box sets. Why did they get lost? If they were so good why didn’t they come out at the time? Its obviously filler. But I bought it anyway and I was wrong, very wrong.
These 15 songs show a band experimenting, with potential and most importantly, a band having fun. There is an naïvety and excitement that Arab Strap touched upon in they’re poppier moments. There is the vastness that matches Sigur Rós or Mogwai, and most importantly, there is no filler. It might even be my favourite Mum album.”
This is a sampler of the 15 tracks, they are pretty enthralling…
Human Pyramids! was a move for West Lothian based Russell from writing electronic music:“I wanted to create an album with no electronic sounds. No samples. No cheating. To stop reaching for the drum machines and instead pipe up on a floor tom or a bin lid. I walked around with a handheld recorder for a while. I enlisted the help of flat mates, band mates and friends to play things I couldn’t. I wrote scores for the first time since I left Uni.” .
It caught my attention quickly, what good instrumental should – distinctive, uplifting and likeable, plus the songs tell stories. Stream the first fruits of the project below – on bandcamp for a pay what you will download.
There are a couple of reasons I started blogging about music in particular, one of the biggest ones is my little sister Lynn. I share great musical things with her that she ends up loving and might not have found otherwise. I thought if I could do that for more people – help aid brilliant discoveries – it would be pretty good use of time.
We’ve been to see a lot of music together and she has just moved to Glasgow, so I’m sure there will be plenty more gigs a-comin. She loves Scottish singer Nina Nesbitt…here’s why.
It’s kind of a funny one as last year I was reviewing a band, Dead Man’s Waltz for The List, at Henry’s Cellar Bar in Edinburgh and got chatting to a photographer who was raving about this girl. Enjoy!
Coming in the not too distant future, for which band my big sister uttered the words “I haven’t loved a band this much since Boyzone.”
I discovered Edinburgh band Kid Canaveral later than most folk, actually not through music but because I met one of them (*ref the smiley chap below). I do however believe them to be on the cusp of greatness, the more I listen to their album Shouting and Wildlife the more I like it – in three words it’s bouncy, summery and undeniably Scottish. I put ‘You Only Went Out To Get Drunk Last Night’ whenever I have that lurching morning-after-a-few-too-many feeling: it always makes me smile.
KC’s David McGregor talks through his musical picks (yeah tried to reel him in – but he just kept throwing songs out there!)
I couldn’t decide. So, I did a short playlist. Not for Spotify, though. That is the devil.
St Patrick – James Yorkston and the Athletes
James Yorkston’s debut album, Moving Up Country, is being re-released in a deluxe double disc edition to mark its 10th Anniversary. It never goes unlistened to for long, but I put it on recently whilst driving through the Highlands, taking it in from start to finish, having been prompted by the news that it was a decade old. It is a flawless record. There isn’t a part of it I would change, and St Patrick is an incredible composition that is entirely typical of the record. It has a subtle, yet devastating lyric and a pop hook that any chart hit would regard jealously. If I ever write anything with half as much heart or wit as JY, I’ll give up music, a satisfied man.
Early That Night – Standard Fare
Standard Fare are my favourite pop band. They released their second album, Out of Sight, Out of Town, a few months ago and this song is one of the quieter moments from it. Emma Kupa has a way with words, and a way with their delivery. This, combined with the dreamy reverb of Dan Howe’s guitar, may make this an atypical representation of the band’s usual high energy indiepop bent, but it is a beautiful inclusion as the penultimate track on the record. You should buy it. And their first one.
Birdhouse in your Soul – They Might Be Giants
This is the best song ever written. You can try and argue with me, but you’d only be woefully incorrect.
Bloodless – Fever Fever
I first heard Fever Fever in the car park of Waterloo Cycles in Austin, Texas (ClassicI’m-a-total-wank, opening anecdote). We’d just played in the sweltering heat and I was trying to find shelter and water after three outdoor, daytime shows taking their toll on my shite Scottish complexion. Then Fever Fever came on and snapped me out of my sunstroke. They’re from Norwich and they’re fucking loud. They’re also really, really good. It was a genuine pleasure to watch Rosie play her guitar by standing on it. I managed to see them in London last week and it was even better than before. So, have this – the title track from their Bloodless EP. It’s a belter.
Birdhouse in Your Soul reminds me of being really little, eating an ice lolly in drizzly Scottish rain.
As I up so ridiculously early for Saturday here’s an appropriate number from Kid Canaveral, Good Morning – a Peenko Session!
Check out more at http://www.kidcanaveral.co.uk a second album is in the pipeline *Excited Face*
Edinburgh’s The Last Battle arrived on my musical radar last year with ‘365 days’, one of the only original New Year songs I could find from a Scottish band (yes folks, they all went for Christmas). The band have a new album coming out later this year, and have just announced the single ‘Hope is Gold’ will be released on June 18th, with at launch night at Pilrig Church.
Singer and guitarist Scott Longmuir talks about a discovery of last year (deftly drawn and modelled by his wee son Oskar)
John Knox Sex Club, Kiss The Dirt
From their album Raise Ravens
I started seeing JKSC’s name getting knocked around on blogs and gig listings well over a year ago. Shamefully I paid them no attention, and rather stupidly it was because of their name; I instantly assumed they were some kind of Glaswegian trendy ironic joke band, so, like a fool, ignored them. (I will never do this again).
In September last year a friend of mine directed me to the opening song on their album ‘Raise Ravens’. He told me I had to listen to it. At 12 minutes long. I thought there was no way I was going to listen to it all the way to the end, but I did, and every minute of it drew me in and thrilled me to bits. It reminds me of early Danananankroyd (who I used to love) only with folk sensibilities and manic violin. It’s equally bonkers & amp; brilliant.
The Last Battle enlisted a violinist (the lovely Jon) into the band around about the same time I heard JKSC, but I can’t say for sure if it was before or after my ears met them.At Christmas we all made ‘secret santa’ mix cd’s for each other and I had to make one for Jon. ‘Kiss The Dirt’ was the closing song and the only one Jon enquired about weeks later. I also bought the album for our bassist Paul’s birthday, and reluctantly handed it over as I wanted to keep it for myself!
Some of us finally got to see them live not too long ago. They opened with ‘Kiss The Dirt’ and blew me away. They were brilliant that night.
Anyway, all I can say is go go buy their album from their band camp page or local record store; it comes in a lovely handmade sleeve, and it’s brilliant, worth the money for ‘Kiss The Dirt’ alone.
I was in two minds on including what is quite a plug there, but I have to say I agree.
Listen to The Last Battle’s Springwell EP here, it’s also brilliant. If you don’t live in Edinburgh, all I can say is think about coming for the music, there are some great things happening…