Your humble scribe turns 52 years of age today. My body is beginning to get its own back on me for decades of abuse and neglect. My hearing is going, I need glasses to read, my hangovers last a minimum of two days and when I go out to indie-discos or to gigs where I don’t have a seat, my bodyfat, creaking bones and underused muscles prevent me from gyrating in the way my mind believes I still can. Oh and in recent weeks I’ve developed a foot problem near my heel which hurts like hell when I’ve been walking about or merely standing up for a few hours. And yet in my mind I still think I’m 22……
I know some of you may well be tempted to offer birthday wishes via the comments section and I will therefore be so bold as to offer my heartfelt and sincere thanks in advance. But what I’d really like you to do is have a listen to these magnificent seven previously unfeatured acts from Scotland and when you like what you hear – and I can say that with confidence as I know you all have great taste – then please click on the provided links and spend your currency on physical product. Here they are in alphabetical order:-
Turns out that you can’t buy anything by Bastard Mountain, so this post hasn’t gotten off to a good start!! This lot were a sort of one-off supergroup of Scottish indie/folk musicians comprising Pete Harvey & Neil Pennycook from Meursault, Jill O’Sullivan from Sparrow & the Workshop, Rob St. John from eagleowl & Meursault, Rory Sutherland from Broken Records & Reuben Taylor formerly of James Yorkston & the Athletes.
A one-off album, Farewell, Bastard Mountain was recorded in October 2012 featuring a mixture of new songs and new versions of stuff released previously by bands associated with the individual musicians. The idea was to make an ad-hoc largely improvised record on the back of minimal rehearsal and while it may sound like a recipe for an umitigated disaster, the results are stunning and often beautiful.
For one reason or another, it took until May 2014 for the album to be released on Song, By Toad Records, with two live shows to promote it; I was fortunate enough to make it along to the Edinburgh gig and hear the entire record gorgeously and perfectly performed.
mp3 : Bastard Mountain – Meadow Ghosts
This duo may well be all over the newspapers today as last night they were one of the ten acts shortlisted for the Scottish Album of the Year (it’s not a calendar thing – the competition is open to any album that was released in a 12-month period since the 2014 competition long list was announced in April of that year).
Honeyblood came together in late 2012, consisting of Stina Tweeddale (vocals and guitars) and Shona McVicar (drums and vocals) and their blend of low-fi indie rock, heavily influenced by early PJ Harvey, Throwing Muses and The Breeders quickly gained them a fair following across their native land, and just as Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad had done previously they signed to Brighton/Brooklyn-based Fat Cat Records with the label releasing the self-titled debut album in the summer of 2014. Within a matter of months, McVicar decided to quit the band but was replaced seamlessly by Cat Myers.
A review of the band in The Guardian here in the UK said “The lead track on their self-financed and self-recorded debut , ‘No Spare Key’, sounds like Taylor Swift’s ‘We’re Never Getting Back Together’ performed by two Scottish goth-girls doing an impression of the Jesus and Mary Chain in a tomb, or an enervated, dejected Haim in need of a square meal.”
See what you think from this re-recorded version lifted from the debut LP:-
mp3 : Honeyblood – No Spare Key
More details here : http://honeyblood.co.uk/
This is another lot who are on Fat Cat Records and who were also on the shortlist for the Scottish Album of the Year Award, but for their sophomore rather than debut LP.
PAWS are one of the most exciting and lively acts around right now. I was late on picking up on them but became a convert just about a year ago after catching them perform in a tiny pub venue in the east end of Glasgow on the launch night of a cultural festival linked to the staging of the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
They formed in 2010 with a line-up of Phillip Taylor (guitar and vocal), Josh Swinney (drums) and Matt Scott (bass) and by late 2013 had released a number singles as well as debut LP Coke, played every small venue imaginable in Glasgow and Edinburgh and toured extensively, often as the support act, across the UK, Europe and North America. They had also lost a founder member with Matt Scott moving on but again there was a seamless transition with Ryan Drever stepping in.
This time last year their latest LP Youth Culture Forever was released to great critical acclaim and rightly so. Twelve loud indie punk/rock tunes over 42 minutes – the first eleven flash by in just over half an hour before the closing track stretches out to almost twelve minutes. PAWS are a long way removed from the sort of music most normally associated with T(n)VV but I can’t recommend them highly enough to you.
mp3 : PAWS – Tongues
More details here : http://www.wehavepaws.com/
Not to be confused with the previous act….nor with Honeyblood albeit this is another all-female duo with a guitar and drums line-up.
Sacred Paws are a relatively new band in terms of releasing records with their 6-track debut LP, snappily entitled 6 Songs, being released in March 2015 but the two musicians Rachel Aggs (guitar/vocals) and Eilidh Rodgers (drums/vocals) have been part of other bands and their local music scenes respectively in London and Glasgow and their demos have been kicking around on the internet since 2012.
The EP is on Rock Action Records which has been formed by Mogwai. So you might think that Sacred Paws are another duo whose music is heavily influenced by the Glasgow noisters….well think again. It’s more the offspring of Vampire Weekend and Sleater Keaney
mp3 : Sacred Paws – Vince
More details here : http://rockaction.co.uk/releases/4196/6_songs_ep
Enough of these all-female duos….it’s time now for an all-female four-piece.
Teen Canteen, aside from having a tremendous name, make tremendous old-fashioned pop music that makes you want to just dance and sing along. The band consists of Carla Easton (lead vocals/keyboards), Sita Pieracinni (vocals/bass), Amanda Williams (vocals/guitar) and Deborah Smith (vocals/drums). Note right away the emphasis on all four members contributing on vocals as that is central to their sound, not just on record but in the live setting.
My mate Aldo had been raving about Teen Canteen for a while as he had caught them on a number of occasions since 2013 and I got to see them late last year at a gig at a small venue on the south side of Glasgow not too far from my home and I was highly impressed.
You can still pick up copies of their excellent 7″ single You’re Still Mine/Vagabond (on glittery vinyl no less!!) and so rather than offer up one of those songs for your enjoyment I thought I’d offer a recorded as live version of a previous sold-out single :-
mp3 : Teen Canteen – Honey
More details here: www.teencanteen.co.uk/
More female musicians, but this lot also include a boy drummer when they play live. Tuff Love are centred around Julie Eisenstein (guitar/vocals) and Suse Bear (bass/vocals) and specialise in catchy songs of an indie-pop bent that wouldn’t sound out-of-place at a C86 evening albeit there are noticeable influences from later acts such as The Breeders, Elastica and Bikini Kill. They formed in 2012 and are on Lost Map Records for whom there have been two enjoyable 10″EPs over the past year – Junk, on white vinyl, was released in May 2014 while Dross, on pink vinyl, hit the shops and on-line places in February 2015
If I have one criticism of Tuff Love is that they have proven to be inconsistent in the live setting, sometimes even within the same short show! I’ve seen them be the best band of an evening and I’ve seen them be the most disappointing band of an evening, struggling to get the sound right to for the venue and the occasion. But both EPs are well worthy of your attention. The track chosen here is from Dross:-
mp3 : Tuff Love – Slammer
More details here: http://lostmap.com/tuff-love/
Withered Hand is the stage name adopted by singer/songwriter Dan Willson. He’s not Scottish born and bred but has lived in Edinburgh since 1996 and with a Scottish wife and family is very happy to be pigeon-holed as a Scottish act (indeed his latest LP was nominated but not shortlisted for the Scottish Album of the Year.)
Willson came very late to the music industry, initially as part of Edinburgh-based and highly unsuccessful rock bands, but shortly after turning 30 years of age he got an acoustic guitar and tried a whole new direction and in August 2006 he began performing as Withered Hand. He was a total natural with his fragile vocal delivery complimenting perfectly his mature, intelligent, thought-provoking and often amusing lyrics that brought a smile to the face of any listener. A number of low-fi home recordings led to him getting increasingly noticed and in 2009 his debut LP, Good News, was released on SL Records. It seemed to be universally praised and was a real ‘word-of-mouth’ grower with some magazine reviews being some nine months or so after it was first released!
Much was made of the fact that a lot of the songs refered to Willson’s religious upbringing – he is a lapsed Jehovah’s Witness – but there was much to admire in his wry take on life and love from someone whose upbringing and development, even in his 20s and 30s, was more unusual than most.
It took five years for the follow-up album to appear and New Gods, released on Fortuna Pop!, brought Withered Hand a whole lot of new fans. The songs are fleshed out by guest appearances from some of the finest musicians Scotland has produced in recent years including King Creosote, Eugene Kelly of The Vaselines, Stevie Jackson and Chris Geddes of Belle & Sebastian and Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit and the end result is a tremendous blend of indie/pop/folk/acoustic music of what seems like short stories set to memorable tunes. Here’s one of the singles lifted from it:-
mp3 : Withered Hand – Horseshoe
More details here : http://witheredhand.com/
And with that I’m off to see if being 52 is bearable…..