I’ve been thinking about this for a while, ever since we’ve been doing the Picks of the Years thing. What got me really started on this was the way that the 1980s divides people. For some, it is the Decade That Taste Forgot and for others it is Pop Heaven. Personally, I reckon that the 80s were like all the other decades, there was good and bad.
One thing that is very 1980s is a kind of glossy slickness, perfect production and a big, wide-screen sound, but never fear, you won’t be hearing anything from the artists in the picture above.
Of course, there are other sides to ’80s music but it is the songwriting, production and general “bigness” of the whole thing that I have been thinking about. Even the intimate and emotionally-charged songs seem to have a sense of epic scale about them. OK, so sometimes it ends up being a musical equivalent of Top Gun, but that just screams out “1980s” anyway.
So, here is a playlist that showcases the glossy sound, the production, the soulful flourishes (without being soul music) and the all-round epic qualities. All of the artists are British, some are bigger names than others, one or two are probably not as well-known as they should be but all of the tracks I’ve picked show up at least one facet of what I’ve been rambling on about.
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 WilsonDavy
2 Aztec CameraStray
3 Twin AtlanticBrothers And Sisters
4 King CreosoteYou’ve No Clue Do You?
5 IdlewildLove Steals Us From Loneliness
6 Del AmitriHeard Through A Wall
7 The Blue NileDowntown Lights
8 Altered ImagesLove To Stay
9 Belle & SebastianThe Boys Are Back In Town (Live)
10 Trashcan SinatrasWhite Horses
11 Camera ObscuraModern Girl
12 Aztec CameraJump
13 God Help The GirlFunny Little Frog
14 Orange JuiceL.O.V.E. Love
15 Teenage FanclubHere Comes Your Man
16 Close LobstersI Kiss The Flower In Bloom
17 BallboyDonald In The Bushes With A Bag Of Glue
18 Franz FerdinandDarts Of Pleasure
19 Cocteau TwinsMusette And Drums
20 Isobel Campbell & Mark LaneganCome Undone
21 EurythmicsThere Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart)
22 The PastelsUp For A Bit
23 Trashcan SinatrasWeightlifting
24 Peatbog FaeriesThe Naughty Step
25 Roddy FrameEnglish Garden
26 Big CountryIn A Big Country
27 MogwaiThis Messiah Needs Watching
28 Belle & SebastianFox 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…
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.
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.
The East Neuk of Fife, down the coast from where I live, is a funny old place. Everything is tiny and the rappers are eggs or potatoes if you squint; living in a dolls’ house means less time spent cleaning. The name slaters for woodlice travelled to Australia too. Put another twig on the fire, the nights are fair drawing in.
Some of you may know that I help put on gigs in our village’s community centre, so I thought I would share some of the homegrown talents of Newport-on-Tay.
First of all is Sonny Carntyne who are an echo-rock 4/5 piece who make great songs in the vein of The National or Interpol with a deep musical intensity & evocative lyrics.
Their “Retreat” EP is up on band camp for a pay-what-you-like arrangement here
Then there is St Kilda Mailboat, who have been wowing crowds with post apocalyptic skiffle songs about David Niven, Heebie-geebies, cats called Michael Stipe, and a tune called Mini Wham Bar Rampage where they pelt the unsuspecting audience with mini Wham Bars.
And thirdly we have Seven Sons who play americana tinged folk with lovely harmonies & are very engaging live to boot!
So, open up your village hall, be merry & please share in the comments what’s going on in your neck o’ the woods!