Tag Archives: Scottish Music

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.

Antidote by Amy Duncan, An album for our times.

Sometimes an album appears at just the right time. Antidote, the sixth album from Amy Duncan is just such a collection. Primarily a group of songs about a personal battle with adversity, the lyrics here contain metaphors and images which chime perfectly with the fears and anxieties that today’s increasingly uncertain world generates in us all.

‘Steady the Bow’ sets the tone perfectly for what is to follow, Amy Duncan’s voice appears immediately, the accompanying instruments perfectly reflecting the mood of the lyrics as the song ebbs and flows.  ‘The Journey’ is mesmerising, from the opening sound of birdsong until the singer alights from her journey, voice and instruments blending flawlessly. Sounds recorded on the streets of Edinburgh are used throughout the album and the effects are startling, the sonic landscape being increased exponentially.  If the opening line on ‘Severed Head’ seems childlike, the grisly follow up will certainly grab your attention.  It’s something that happens frequently, you never really know just where Amy Duncan is going to take us.

There is darkness but it is more than countered by the frequent signposts towards the light and this is what makes this such a satisfying album to listen to.  It ends with the title track and it leaves you in no doubt that there is always hope, the vivid image of green pushing up through the gaps in the concrete sure to linger long in the mind.

The honesty of the lyrics and the accomplished delivery of the songs marks this album out as something rather special. The beautifully ethereal atmosphere wraps around you like a comfort blanket as Amy Duncan tackles universal real world emotional issues.   The perfect Antidote? It’s certainly close.

You can buy Antidote here.

To find out more visit Amy Duncan’s website here.

Or visit her Facebook page.

Or if Twitter is your thing click here. 

Wotjek the Bear – New EP Second Nature

It would be hard not to fall in love with Glasgow four piece Wojtek the Bear after listening to their recently released EP Second Nature. Named after the famous World War 2 soldier bear there is nothing grizzly about this band. Their melodic shimmering sound coupled with some wonderfully perceptive lyrics makes for an instantly addictive indie-pop cocktail.

The opening track ‘Trivial Pursuit’ is the pick of this strong quartet of songs. As lead singer Tam Killean bemoans the mistakes made by his younger self against a jangly musical backdrop many listeners  will recognise the sense of regret that can strike us all as we realise that at some point we really do have to grow up.  Second track, ‘Badge of Honour’ makes some telling points about the peculiar relationship that we Scots have with alcohol. We knows it’s not big and it’s not clever yet when it comes to booze there is barely concealed admiration for the last man standing.  There is a nice lightness of touch about things here though. On ‘Bookcase’ we’re told that the singer’s heart is in the right place, ‘just to the left behind my ribs.’

Second Nature’s mix of witty, often wistful lyrics and mood capturing melodies offers a welcome chance to enjoy the warmth of shared experiences.  It really is too good an offer to refuse.

Second Nature is available now on itunes, Deezer and Spotify.

You can like the band a lot on Facebook.

Follow their twittery updates here.

And watch the rather superb video for Trivial Pursuit below.