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.

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