If you click onto the website of Carla J. Easton, the first words that you read are:-
It’s as accurate a description as you could apply to someone who, in recent years, has established herself as something of a national treasure up here in Scotland, a standing that will only increase from the imminent release of her new LP, Weirdo, which is officially set for Friday 28 August but with copies already delivered to those who pre-ordered through her record label.
It’s worth giving a bit of background to anyone who may not be familiar with the name (and apologies to those of you who already know all this!)
Carla has been part of the scene around these parts since 2006, initially as a member of Futuristic Retro Champions, one of those many indie-bands whose activity was mainly around My Space and gigging rather than physical releases. My first encounter with Carla was through the next band she was part of, Teen Canteen, an all-female four-piece whom my mate Aldo had caught very early on in 2013 and raved about to anyone willing to listen. I gave them a couple of mentions previously on TVV, referencing that their indie-pop music was the sort that made you want to just dance and sing along but that they really came to life in the live setting where the shimmering harmonies over a sound that meshed electronica and guitars showed their true individual and collective talents.
Teen Canteen were still going strong when Carla released her debut solo album in July 2016. She took the name Ette for this particular project, teaming up with multi-instrumentalist, arranger and producer Joe Kane for Homemade Lemonade, an album recorded in just five days. I named it as my favourite release of 2016, describing its ten tunes as memorably catchy akin to the girl-groups so beloved of Phil Ramone mixing it up with Clare Grogan, Kate Bush, Kylie, 80s synth bands, bubblegum, rap and the occasional hint of folk-rock that so many bands from Scotland are proving so adept at.
There was a 10″ EP from Teen Canteen in 2017 before seemingly going their separate ways but Carla remained very active on the live scene and in the studio and the following year, using her own name, she released Impossible Stuff, an album recorded in Montreal with the help of producer Howard Bilerman who, among others, had worked previously with Arcade Fire, Leonard Cohen and, closer to home, British Sea Power. It was a fairly radical shift from the previous material and I fell for it, hook, line and sinker. I do have to say, however, that it’s an album that plateaued with me fairly early on and after maybe six months or so I didn’t return to all that much, certainly in comparison to the Ette record.
It’s taken a couple of years for Carla to come up with the twelve new songs for Weirdo and the wait has been more than worth it as this is, easily, her best work yet.
It is a full-on upbeat, joyous and exhilarating, electronic pop record with Carla aided and abetted by a few of her friends from the Scottish music industry including Scott Paterson (ex-Sons and Daughters) who co-wrote and co-produced four of the tracks. Stina Tweeddale of Honeyblood provides a couple of guest vocal contributions, while Solareye, one of Scotland’s best-known and best-loved hip-hop/rap artists duets with Carla on a fabulous track they wrote together.
Maybe it’s the fact that the album arrived in the post the day before the blog was turned over to a lengthy and brilliant guest post about Kylie Minogue, but listening to Weirdo back-to-back for the first, second and third times seemed to be the perfect accompaniment to the long-time princess of pop. It’s a genuinely astounding record, one whose songs wouldn’t sound out of place among the chart-fodder you hear on Radio 1 nor on BBC Radio 6 where the hipsters like to hang around alongside the many presenters who used to make a living writing, recording and performing music, and who tend to know a good thing when they hear it. It’s no real shock to find that Marc Riley has long been a champion of Carla and I’m sure he’ll be among many who will big up this tremendous album.
I’ve read someone else describe the lead-off single, Get Lost, as 3 minutes of deliciously sugary escapism – Carly Rae Jepsen with a dash of New Order. Judge for yourself:-
It’s also the track that opens the album – one of the songs co-written with Scott Paterson – and the pace, quality and energy never lets up over the entire 43minutes.
The follow-up single is one of defiance. It’s one that, dare I say it, wouldn’t sound out of place on a Taylor Swift record
The precarious nature of the music industry, especially in these troubled times when money is at a premium, led to Carla and the great folk who run Olive Grove Records, the label to which she is attached, deciding to restrict the initial print run of Weirdo on the strawberry and cream vinyl pictured above, to just 200 copies. It looks as if a further pressing might be on the cards, such has been the reaction from those of us lucky enough to have got a copy through the pre-order. I hope this is the case as Carla and Olive Grove deserve to have a really big success story on their hands with this.
For now, you can get a hold of Weirdo on CD or as a digital download over here at Bandcamp. You can also enjoy a listen to the track Over You, which just screams to be played full blast over the speakers at the nightclubs/discos whenever they eventually re-open.
Next up for Carla seems to be the release in the next week or so, of a third single from the album, this time the title track. The video seems to be a re-imagination of Thelma and Louise with a Scottish music scene cast. I promise I’ll post a link as when I see it……
In the meantime, I’m away to listen to the album again. It’s been a while since I’ve had something this non-stop on the turntable.