So that’s one sixth of the year gone already and another month of listening Scottishly behind me.
For the benefit of those of you who have not been following every post on Facebook, waiting eagerly for each successive day’s slice of Scottish pop heaven, here’s February’s list:
1 Danny Wilson Davy
2 Aztec Camera Stray
3 Twin Atlantic Brothers And Sisters
4 King Creosote You’ve No Clue Do You?
5 Idlewild Love Steals Us From Loneliness
6 Del Amitri Heard Through A Wall
7 The Blue Nile Downtown Lights
8 Altered Images Love To Stay
9 Belle & Sebastian The Boys Are Back In Town (Live)
10 Trashcan Sinatras White Horses
11 Camera Obscura Modern Girl
12 Aztec Camera Jump
13 God Help The Girl Funny Little Frog
14 Orange Juice L.O.V.E. Love
15 Teenage Fanclub Here Comes Your Man
16 Close Lobsters I Kiss The Flower In Bloom
17 Ballboy Donald In The Bushes With A Bag Of Glue
18 Franz Ferdinand Darts Of Pleasure
19 Cocteau Twins Musette And Drums
20 Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan Come Undone
21 Eurythmics There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart)
22 The Pastels Up For A Bit
23 Trashcan Sinatras Weightlifting
24 Peatbog Faeries The Naughty Step
25 Roddy Frame English Garden
26 Big Country In A Big Country
27 Mogwai This Messiah Needs Watching
28 Belle & Sebastian Fox In The Snow
I particularly enjoyed ‘covers’ week which presented me with an additional challenge and led me to the discovery of Teenage Fanclub’s excellent version of The Pixies’ Here Comes Your Man – further themed weeks are in the pipeline.
It’s certainly no struggle finding suitable material and while of course the list is inevitably going to be skewed in favour of my own 1980s, indie-pop leanings, I’ve been trying to mix it up a bit, dipping my toe into the murky waters of folk music for example, and I intend to continue to push the boundaries of my comfort zone as the year progresses. I’m grateful for any suggestions (I’m not taking requests as such – yet!) but please don’t ask for any Nazareth as a Glesga’ Kiss offends…
One thing that’s become very apparent is the dearth of suitable Scottish music dating from before the mid-to-late 1970s and it raises an interesting question. Why did the 1960s pop revolution (apparently) not take hold in Scotland? Both Glasgow and Edinburgh (and Aberdeen and Dundee for that matter) seem like perfect breeding grounds for the sort of guitar-based rhythm and blues/pop bands which sprung up in their hundreds south of the border, but I’m struggling to find anything worthy of inclusion. It’s almost as if the entire nation spent twenty years listening to what was going on elsewhere, taking it all in and quietly, secretively perfecting its pop sensibilities, before handing Edwyn Collins a guitar and a microphone and saying, ‘Go on. You know what to do…’
Of course I may be wrong and there may be some excellent 1960s/early 70s material waiting to be discovered. But that’s for another month.
Meanwhile, here are a couple of highlights from February’s posts…
Last week I had a research paper/book chapter thing to write, so I took the week off work, set up a desk by the window in the warmest room in the house overlooking the garden, and settled down to work. For someone like me who spends most of the day out of the house, has a young family and a partner not terribly au fait with the concept of compromise (not to mention taste in music on the slightly noisy side) this opportunity to be by myself and listen to whatever the hell I wanted to all day for a week was a very rare and precious thing indeed.
Over the course of the week I listened to about 50 of my own records and despite the mental taxations of the task in hand had one of the most enjoyable weeks in a long long time.
Finding even more time to myself to put it all together to make a podcast was pretty impossible, so I enlisted Panthercub as my official selector and made a fun game of it on a rainy afternoon. It ended up completely different to what I had in mind (I was thinking more noise and less electronica), but there you go, it was out of my hands!
ALL NEW PODCAST – Enjoy!
New household member and French princess Seraphine says she only listens to old school jungle and sometime glitch-step. I don’t quite believe her silky continental sophistications as I’ve seen her secret stash of Serge Gainsbourg, rare groove and booty bass LPs.
2. “Annabel Dream Reader” – The Wytches
I’m a 90s kid through and through. Cut me and I bleed jangly indie, shoegaze and pre-major-label grunge (when it was called alt. rock). I’m pop but Sub Pop. I’m sub Sub pop Pop. Pop.
Some folk might think that the terms wretched, noisy & abrasive are negative words to describe music with. I think things went bad when the only audible influence bands took from Nirvana ended up being Nickleback, Puddle Of Mudd, Creed, et al. There are so many bands influenced by Kurt, Thurston, J Mascis whose music sounds nothing like them, but it was Bleach or Nevermind that made them pick up a guitar.
Rarely a band dares to occupy a space made sacred by Saint Cobain over twenty years ago. Rarer still is a band with the ideas or the chops or the tunes to pull off anything worthwhile.
Filtered through a sixties freakbeat awareness, pre-nevermind rhythm section and a throat shredding south coast accent, The Wytches scream their fucking heads off in memorable pop tunes as distortion reigns supreme. From the fuzz comes transcendence. Touch me; I’m quick.
1. “Soft Friday” – Coves
Noise ridden wall of sound pop melodies fuzzy skygaze shoegaze hazy days; the (beautifully sub-40 minutes 10 tracker) Coves record has myriad sparkling & eclectic psyche pop delights that I haven’t stopped listening to since April.
I just love it so much.
4. “United Ghosts” – United Ghosts
Poppy hooky shoegaze with dual male/female vocals. There needs to be some sort of internet widget where this stuff gets posted straight to my door without me even hearing it first.
joint 3rd. “New Gods” – Withered Hand
Dan’s long awaited follow up to Good News (his first record which was my favourite of 2009) was a worryingly together effort with a backing cast of Scots indie royalty behind him (King Creosote, Eugene Kelly, Frightened Rabbit to mention a few). The old bumbling charm has diminished a bit, the songs are bigger and looking out rather than in. I think the album just lacked a “No Cigarettes” or “Love In The Time Of Ecstasy” and time had increased my expectations to silly levels. It’s a great record, don’t get me wrong.
joint 3rd. “St Vincent” – St Vincent
I like my pop music like I like my coffee: bonkers & unpredictable, taut & skewed, arty & twisted (never ask me to make coffee). It’s Madonna brought up on Talking Heads rather than disco. An incredible record from an incredible talent, and had I picked it up earlier in the year it may well have been higher up the list.
Mewsli finds it hard to choose too. Here’s the next three best LPs of 2014.
7. “Ganglion Reef” – Wand
I like my 60s inflected psychedelic pop music COVERED IN RIFFS AND NOISE AND MENTALISM. Thanks Wand!
8. “Sun Structures / Sun Restructured” – Temples
I like my 60s inflected psychedelic pop music incredibly authentic sounding. Thanks Temples!
This record was so 60s beat pastiche that I initially dismissed it but I’m very glad I went back to it as it’s chock full of fab songs. The remix album that is now bundled with it is the whole record taken apart by acid drenched wizards (actual wizards! Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve to be precise) in a fevered high and put back together all wonky and could well be better than the original. Excellent value for money for sure.
6. “Days Of Abandon” – The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
The growing Pains continue. The first LP noise-twee made way for LP2’s angry teen stompbox (my fave LP of 2011) and now their third sees them getting Jen from Fear Of Men to sing half the songs in a polished 80s Smithsian fashion. Jangle and sparkle and huge pop songs – not indie pop – just POP. Fit to burst exuberance and sky grazing ballads.
End of year lists for a music geek like me are the equivalent of the “hurts in good way” duality of S&M, right ‘Spillers? Right? No, come back! Um…anyway my list goes up to 11, mainly because of the first choice.
11. “Everything Will Be Alright In The End” – Weezer
My secret weapons at “work” over the last year or so have been coffee and perky helpings of Weezer’s dumbest big rockest tunes, and their latest album was a return to form with some ridiculously huge unapologetic bangers on it and a three part rock ‘suite” to finish the LP.
10. “Burn Your FIre For No Witness” – Angel Olsen
Angel turned out a record that stylistically was all over the place but held together by a distinct voice.
9. “God’s Dream” – Ringo Deathstarr
This was an EP really, unless you count the extra tracks that Japan got, but acted as a good signpost towards the LP I hope they make next of big-thinking-stadium-shoegaze-1992-pumpkins-rock. The dude from Swervedriver popped up, and a non-classic Pumpkin too.
8. “From Scotland With Love” – King Creosote
Specially written to soundtrack a lovely film made from archive footage of Scotland, this was prime Kenny through & through.
It’s not them, it’s me. If DsD is falling for sappy ballads in his dotage, i seem to be going for feelgood pop in mine. I really wanted to be hooked on droney stuff, like the Swans and Temple and Parquet Courts. Or grab my pipe and slippers and hang out with Beck, or stare out the window at the dismal weather with the War On Drugs, or brood with Bonnie Prince Billy. But seems that most of what i found this year that hit the spot is a spectrum of pop.