Gentlemen Jackals – The Open Door Within Your Mind

‘The Open Door Within Your Mind’, the debut EP from Fife band Gentlemen Jackals, is a wonderfully infectious collection of songs. Imagine classic rock with added Indie swagger, seasoned with hints of seventies metal, all underpinned by a captivating rhythmic groove and you will have some idea of what this band sounds like. Their influences may be retro but the five songs here sound fresh and unique.

Opening track ‘Heathens + Broken Hymns’ is a real attention grabber.  There’s no way you can stay still while listening to this slice of superior power pop. This band’s rhythm section are incredibly tight, the strong foundations allowing everything else to flow easily.

‘Preachers Son’ is a driving rocker. Its snappy intro sets the scene nicely for some crashing guitar work and a real singalong vocal.  The fast and furious finale is guaranteed to leave you breathless. Things are slowed down slightly on ‘Out of Reach’, a more jangly indie sound than what has come before. It’s a neat change of pace and further demonstration of this bands awareness of what it takes to keep the listener interested.

‘Wisdom to the Wise’ is another confident indie rocker with several twists and turns packed in to its three minute running time. Things are brought to an end with ‘Waiting for the Day’, a track that begins with echoes of Simple Minds at their best before the band morph in to their own singular sound. It’s a strong finish to what is a solid, bright collection of songs.  There is much promise on show here. On the evidence of this EP it’s odds on that Gentlemen Jackals will continue to deliver.  You can help them to do that by purchasing this EP.

Gentlemen Jackals are Mark Wilson on Guitar and Vocals, Craig McMahon on Lead Guitar,  Scott Thomson on Bass and Backing Vocals and Douglas Harden on Drums.

Find out more by following them on Facebook.

Or catch up with them on Twitter.

Yvonne Lyon – Metanoia

I have to admit that February has taken me by surprise. January has passed so quickly, driven along by the usual contradictory post festive season mix of happiness, melancholy, confidence, self-doubt, gloom and optimism.

Thankfully the current Scottish music scene can only encourage the latter feeling of optimism as musicians of all genres continue to contribute to what feels like something of a cultural high point.  There has been a lot of new music delivered already this year but I make no apologies for breaking my silence in 2018 by taking a look at Yvonne Lyon’s latest work, Metanoia which was released in November of last year. It is an album that I have returned to repeatedly over the past month and it proved to be the perfect antidote to the January blues.

 The album’s title, Metanoia, comes from a Greek word which refers to the process of changing your outlook after a spiritual experience or period of reflection. With its mixture of new songs and older songs revisited Lyon has delivered a coherent collection which provides plenty of surprises as it runs its course.

Opening track ‘Where the Poor Find Gold’ certainly grabs attention with its driving country-folk rhythm. It’s a strong start so it is good to say that what follows is even better. There are moments of reflection on tracks such as ‘Someday.’  The synths and beats of ‘Hope’ provide the perfect backdrop for Lyon’s dreamy vocal and is one of many highlights.  There is real defiance here too on ‘Sweetest Freedom’, a anthem for those who believe the good guys will eventually win, no matter what is thrown at them.

There is a strong case for saying that Yvonne Lyon saved the best for last when listening to closing track ‘Gigha.’  Situated just off the coast of Kintyre, Gigha is one of Scotland’s smaller inhabited Islands.  It’s a place I have been lucky enough to observe many times during the ferry crossing to Islay from Kennacraig.  Its familiar shoreline takes on many different guises depending on the weather, the state of the sea or the season.  Yet  with only piano, fiddle and that remarkable voice Yvonne Lyon manages to conjure up a wonderfully atmospheric picture of just what makes ‘Gods Island’ so special.

 Metanoia is one of those rare albums that rewards repeat listening with something new every time. You really can’t ask for more than that can you?

Learn more by visiting yvonnelyonmusic.com

 

This is Not Another Best of List.

It’s only natural to take a look back over the past twelve months at this time of year so it is gratifying to be able to reflect on what has been a golden year for new Scottish music. Whether it is established artists releasing fresh material or new talent introducing themselves  the Scottish music scene really is in a rude state of health across all genres.

 With ‘Best of 2017’ lists coming out on a daily basis I was briefly tempted to produce my own but given that my favourite album or track of the year changes on a daily basis it would be a pointless task.

So instead here’s a wee look back at some of the music that caught my attention during the past year. If it leads to memories being jogged or curiosity being stirred enough to seek out and buy the music mentioned then so much the better,

The release of Spinning Coins single, ‘Raining on Hope Street’ provided some real cheer during a gloomy February.  They ended this year on a high as well with the release of their debut album ‘Permo’, delivering on the promise shown. It’s heartening to see yet another Scottish band bringing something fresh, new and distinctive to the table.

Dundee’s own Charlotte Brimner, better known as Be Charlotte continued to impress during 2017.  This is a performer that really has to be seen live.  Despite her tender years she has already gigged extensively, something that is reflected in her strong stage presence.  Smart lyrics and heady pop music delivered in a truly distinctive style should see this artist destined for bigger things.

February also saw the release of folk singer Siobhan Miller’s album ‘Strata.’  A beautifully sung collection of songs that have inspired the singers own musical journey, it was a delight from start to finish. Her cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘One too Many Mornings’ was just one highlight amongst many.

Released on her own Ragged Records imprint at the end of March, Adriana Spina’s ‘Let out the Dark’ was a well-crafted album, full of intelligent grown up lyrics.  Her commentary on the refugee crisis, See Another Day’ was raw and emotional.  Don’t Recognise Me’ was a real cry of love for her childhood and she even managed to fit a Christmas song, ‘Sparkle’ , in to the mix.

The soundtrack for April was enhanced by Wojtek the Bear’s EP ‘Second Nature.’ Their brand of indie-pop is quite simply addictive, one listen was never going to be enough. Pick of the tracks was ‘Trivial Pursuit’ with lead singer Tam Killean looking back at his younger self and bemoaning the mistakes he had made. The band also tackled the dysfunctional relationship that we Scots have with alcohol on ‘Badge of Honour.’  The melodic lightness of touch made sure things never got too dark though.

Amy Duncan’s latest offering, Antidote, was delivered in May.  It’s theme of battling with personal adversity seemed to reflect today’s uncertain world. Antidote is one of those albums that just has to be listened to from beginning to end as Duncan took the listener on an intense musical journey.  Emotional and atmospheric throughout, it succeeded in leaving the listener with a sense of hope, a more than welcome gift from the singer

Also in May, Kathy Muir, a Scot based in America, released ‘Pocketful of Sand,’ a song based on a childhood memory. The accompanying video was the result of a collaboration across social media with the Korean sketch artist Jun (Sean) Sung Hyun. It wasn’t to be the last we would hear from Muir this year with a four track EP 2 + 2 = 4 released by the prolific artist in August.  Word is that she will be returning home to Edinburgh permanently early in the New Year.  Hopefully that will mean a chance to catch her live in her homeland.

Good Morning Easter Road, an EP from Leith based Lou Mclean first saw the light of day in June. Warm, witty, feisty and always entertaining it could only leave the listener wanting more.  Lou Mclean’s storytelling skills are remarkable and they were showcased brilliantly on ‘Green Shirt, Blue Eyes.’  The singer was also wonderfully combative on ‘Poets and Flat Caps.’ It’s fair to say that she doesn’t pull her punches as she homes in on her targets.  Quite simply a superb wee collection of songs.

September saw the much awaited debut album from Caithness band Neon Waltz released and it did not disappoint. Strange Hymns  grabbed the listener right from the off, the ten tracks holding you tight until it was time to start all over again. Its hook laden songs revealed more with each subsequent listen and could only be hailed as a triumph.

L-Space released several tracks during the year with ‘Aloe’, a dark tale of someone becoming a giant metal bird released in early September.  A wonderfully menacing track, L-Space are well on the way to creating their own distinctive musical universe.  Recently signed to innovative Glasgow label, Last Night From Glasgow, an album is due next year. From what we have heard so far it’s certainly one to look forward to.

Also in September, Errant Boy gave us their latest skewed take on the world with a taster from a forthcoming album, ‘Means.’  It was three minutes of disorientating madness with a truly unique chorus. Hopefully we don’t have to travel too far in to 2018 before we get to hear the new album.

Findlay Napier released ‘Glasgow’ in September, an evocative tribute to the place he calls home. With its mix of well-chosen covers and image laden original songs Napier more than did justice to the dear green place. The perfect blend of warmth, humour, nostalgia and occasional anger present throughout saw the singer capture the heart and spirit of a great City.

Late October saw Rosie Bans release her superior sophisti-pop album, Identify Yourself.  It’s an outstanding collection of lyrically honest songs with the singer in fine voice throughout, her punchy keyboard style taking her to places you wouldn’t expect. With so many highlights it’s maybe not fair to single one out but on the sitar laden ‘Bloodlines’ you can hear Rosie Bans voice is at its most beautiful.

What’s really remarkable is there is so many more artists I could have mentioned, I really have only scratched the surface here. First Tiger may have released Dedicated in late 2016 but it was one of my most listened to albums of 2017.  Declan Welsh served up a brilliantly furious slice of agitpop with ‘No Pasaran’, his Socialist heart pinned firmly to his sleeve.   Stephen McLaren proved that the protest song is not dead with his Indy anthem ‘No More (Say Yes.) It’s worth noting that some of the most exciting and innovative music came from artists associated with the traditional scene, Ross Ainslie’s album ‘Sanctuary’ being just one example.

All in all it’s been a good musical year, roll on the next one.

 

John R.

Stephen McLaren – Have a Happy Hardcore Christmas

Stephen McLaren has taken all the traditional components of the Christmas single, mixed them up,  added a huge dollop of humour and reassembled them  to produce his own wonderfully skewed  festive song, ‘Have a Happy Hardcore Christmas.’

The accompanying video has to be seen to be believed.  At around the thirty second mark the drugs had obviously kicked in as my sense of wellbeing was topped off by a jaw breaking grin.  After sixty seconds I was singing along and shaking my imaginary Santa hat vigorously. It was also around then that I remembered I hadn’t actually taken any drugs.

Do yourself a favour, check out the video, download the song and Have a Happy Hardcore Christmas.

Follow Stephen McLaren on Twitter for more info.

Or Facebook.

 

Spinning Coin – Permo

Permo, the debut album from Glasgow five piece band Spinning Coin is an album of contrasts as dreamy indie pop songs alternate with spikier more punk like offerings.  It’s an approach that could prove divisive but actually works well here.

Opening track ‘Raining on Hope Street’ appeared as a single back in February.  At the time it was described here as an early contender for single of the year and for me, it’s still right up there.  Melodic and gentle with a reassuring message, it’s followed by ‘Tin,’ an altogether edgier offering which sets the pattern for the rest of the album.

The twin pronged attack is down to the respective styles of the bands two songwriters, Jack Mellin and Sean Armstrong.  Mellin delivers songs that owe more to Seattle than Bellshill whilst Armstrong channels the brighter elements of classic Scottish Indie. Along with Rachel Taylor they also rotate vocal duties. Some of the vocal interplay between Taylor and Mellin in particular carries echoes of the Vaselines at their best.

It would be all too easy to seperate  Mellin as the political one from Armstrong as the more personal one but the band manages to blend both these elements in to one coherently positive message.   If only our politicians could remember that the real focus of their profession should not be on economics or systems of Government or divisive point scoring but on providing a sense of contentment and acceptance for all.  Add that simple message to what are some great tunes and it makes Permo an accomplished debut album.  There’s much more to come from Spinning Coin, that’s for sure.

For more info check out Spinning Coin on Facebook.

Or catch up on with them Twitter.

 

Rosie Bans -Identify Yourself.

If you don’t follow Rosie Bans yet via her social media outlets then you have been missing out.  Follow her on twitter and you are treated to a mixture of informative and sometimes random wee gems, often accompanied by some of the wittiest use of swear words you will ever read.

Her numerous Facebook live gigs quickly become addictive viewing. Ban’s stream of consciousness introductions often last longer than the songs themselves yet they are never less than endearing, frequently very funny, but above all honest.

And it’s her absolute honesty that makes her debut album ‘Identify Yourself’ stand out from the crowd. Delivered over a superior sophisti-pop background  her lyrics are sharp, witty and totally uncompromising.

Rosie Bans demonstrates perfectly that music doesn’t have to be aggressive to be packed full of attitude.  Listen to ‘No Apologies’ and be glad you are not the target of her ire. On ‘I Won’t Fade into the Shade’ she is at her most pugnacious during the quieter passages making her message even more powerful.

What can’t be underestimated as you listen to the eleven tracks here is the power of her voice. She seems to use her punchy keyboard playing to drive herself to sometimes unexpected areas without anything ever feeling forced or over wrought.

There are several twists and turns as you move through the tracks. The sitar laden ‘Bloodlines’ is one of several highlights, the beauty of Ban’s vocals shining brightly.  Album closer ‘Doing it for the Love’ sees Rosie Bans deliver her personal musical manifesto and there really can be no doubting that she is motivated by the love of her craft.  It all comes back to that word, honesty.

‘Identify Yourself’ is a wonderful collection of songs, you should check it out as soon as you can.

For more info visit rosiebans.com

And you really should follow her on Twitter.

And don’t forget Facebook.

 

Catching up with Motion.

Motion released their self-titled EP back in August.  With so much great music of all genres coming out of Scotland just now you may well have missed it. No matter, now is as good a time as ever to catch up with the Edinburgh three piece.

Motion are Paul Band on vocals and guitar, Lee Shand on bass and Robbie Thomson on drums. Their tripped out indie rock is heavily influenced by the classic sounds of Manchester.  When following in the footsteps of giants such as New Order and The Stone Roses it can be hard for a band to get their own distinct musical message across.  Thankfully Motion manage to chuck enough of their own personality in to the mix to make things interesting.

Out of the four tracks ‘Myths’ is probably the highlight, justifying the decision to open with it.  However there’s more than enough going on in the other three tracks to hold your attention. ‘Into the Lense’ sees Paul Band delivering some wonderfully cynical lyrics.

 ‘Who’ slows things down slightly , the repetitive opening riff giving way to a psyched out groove and an echo laden vocal which carries the listener along easily.  ‘Everything’ feels slightly heavier than the preceding three tracks as it brings things to a close.  It’s going to be interesting to see if this band can deliver on their ample potential

Next up for Motion is a gig supporting Noah Noah at Edinburgh’s Mash House on the 24th of November, a date well worth adding to your diary.

For more details visit www.facebook.com/motionmusicHQ

Motion are also on Twitter.

 

Findlay Napier’s Latest Release – Glasgow

Findlay Napier moved from his childhood home of Grantown-on Spey to the city of his birth, twenty years ago.  His latest release, Glasgow, pays tribute to the place which has become home.  With its mix of finely crafted originals and astutely chosen cover songs Napier has managed to capture the timeless essence of one of the world’s great Cities.

The opening track, ‘Young Goths in the Necropolis’ is the perfect introduction to Napier’s slightly skewed storytelling style. Opening with an affectionate nod towards the ‘weirdo’s’ who hang about Glasgow’s own city of the dead, the vivid imagery will stay with you long after the song has ended.

It’s a strong start and what follows does not disappoint. Whether it is tales of the homeless (Wire Burners) or poignant stories of days gone by at the dancing (The Locarno, Sauchiehall Street 1928), Glasgow repeatedly hits the mark.  On ‘There’s More to Building Ships’ Napier reminds us of the human cost behind the romantic images of long gone ships being launched on to the Clyde.  The singers carefully controlled anger makes it all the more powerful.

No album about Glasgow would be complete without a healthy dose of humour and Napier’s cover of Michael Marra’s ‘King Kong’s Visit to Glasgow’ provides plenty. The final track, ‘Blue Lagoon’ is a love song set in the city centre chippy of that name. If you are going to fall in love in Glasgow I really couldn’t think of a more perfect place.

Glasgow is available to buy here and at all the usual outlets.

For more info visit www.findlaynapier.com

Adam Holmes and The Embers – Midnight Milk

Midnight Milk, the third album from Adam Holmes and the Embers, sees the Edinburgh based musician draw on ingredients from around the globe to deliver some wonderfully blended soul infused tunes. There’s no shortage of sunshine throughout this album, whether it comes via the calypso styled ‘No Man is an Island’ or the ska inflected rhythms of ‘Big Blue Sun.’

Opening track ‘When Will I be Free’ starts things of in an unexpected manner with hip hop style scratches and a spoken word vocal. The choir sung chorus provides the necessary balance, setting the scene for what follows.

On ‘Don’t Worry’ an Afro beat  backing proves the perfect accompaniment to the comforting lyrics.  As Adam Holmes sings ‘everything will be OK’ you know it will be as his mellow voice flows from the speakers and wraps you in the warmest of embraces.

There is a constant theme of reassurance throughout Midnight Milk, a welcome reminder that there is plenty to be grateful for in this world.   The instrumental ‘5 Years’ provides a moment of quiet contemplation as its piano based melody unfolds, slowing things down nicely before the final two tracks.

‘Whatever You Do’ is doused with melancholy yet still offers solace in the face of life’s challenges.  The final track ‘Can You Feel the Fire Inside’ is one of the highlights, its spiritual feel providing the natural conclusion to what has come before.

Midnight Milk is a long lazy river of an album.  The warm undercurrents pull you along gently, inducing  what can only be  described as a strong sense of contentment and hope.  It’s a beautiful collection of songs that deserves all the accolades that will surely come its way.

For more info visit adamholmesandtheembers.com

Adam Holmes is on Facebook and Twitter. 

It’s All About That Betty and the Bass

Released on the 15th of September, Bad Magic Tricks Pt 1 is the new EP from Edinburgh trio Betty and the Bass. On their social media pages they describe their sound as country grunge sweetness. That works well as an intro. In order to get the full story though you have to listen to them as they demonstrate themselves to be smarter than the average indie band.

Opening track ‘Another Life’ sees the band get very quickly in to a driving groove which serves as the perfect accompaniment to Lyndsey Craig’s remarkable vocals. You can try and singalong but you are never too sure which direction she is going to head off in. The slower paced ‘EGD’ cements the impression that this band are a force to be reckoned with.  However it is on ‘Bruised Lit a Peach’ that the band shine the brightest.  Inventive and compelling throughout, it’s one of the most satisfying indie-rock tracks of the year.

*Spoiler Alert.* Things are brought to a conclusion with a somewhat demented ‘hidden’ track. I listened to it whilst in a state of confusion caused by severe sleep deprivation and it all made perfect sense. I’m not sure if I should be worried about that or not.

With Bad Magic Tricks Pt 1, Betty and the Bass have certainly served notice that they are one to watch and a band you really should make the effort to catch  live at the earliest opportunity.

Betty and the Bass are on Twitter and Facebook.

Buy Bad Magic Tricks Part 1 here.

Also available to listen to on Spotify.