Thursday, 29 May 2014

The SAY Award - Shortlist Announced

Announced at a star-studded ceremony tonight at Glasgow' Centre of Contemporary Arts, The Scottish Album of the Year Awards judges unveiled the short list of ten albums, who will go on to compete for the titled of Scottish Album of the Year 2013 and a £20,000 prize.  Here's who made it:

RM Hubbert - 'Breaks & Bone'
CHVRCHES - 'The Bones Of What You Believe'
Steve Mason - 'Monkey's Mind In The Devil's Time'
Young Fathers - 'Tape Two'
Mogwai - 'Les Revenants'
The Pastels - 'Slow Summits'
Boards Of Canada - 'Tomorrow's Harvest'
Edwyn Collins - 'Understated'
Hector Bizerk - 'Nobody Seen Nothing'

And Biffy Clyro - 'Opposites' take the last place as winners of the public vote.

Congratulations to each of the shortlisted artists and all the best of luck for the final.  The winner will be announced on Thursday 19th June at an awards ceremony at The Barrowlands.

Commiserations to the other ten long listed artists who all produced worthy albums in their own rights.  The ten other long listed artists were, Kid Canveral, Adam Stafford, Adam Holmes & The Embers, Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire, Frightened Rabbit, Rick Redbeard, Camera Obscura, Dunedin Consort, Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Scottish Fiction Podcast - 28th May 2014

Free from the hell that is college graded unit work, Scottish Fiction is back with another hour of freshly squeezed new Scottish music.  With enough variety to tantalize all tastes, there's full blown grunge from Algernon Doll, along with chat about Radio 1's Big Weekend, dark electro pop by way of Eilidh Hadden and Atom Tree, and a blistering track off the new Broken Records album.  Grab a glass and pour, it's Scottish Fiction your one stop shop for the best new Scottish music.

Kid Canaveral - Skeleton
Now Wakes The Sea - Original Bone
Eilidh Hadden - Close To Home
Atom Tree - See The Light
The Dirty Lies - Shallow Grave
Collar Up - I Wanted To Hurt You
The Phantom Band - The Wind That Cried The World
So Many Animal Calls - Stories
Great Cop - Vacancy
Deathcats - Danny Dyer
Algernon Doll - Suicide
Chris Devotion & The Expectations - Don't You Call On Me
Broken Records - Winterless Son
Matt Norris & The Moon - The Anchor

Subscribe/listen to the podcast via iTunes.

Friday, 23 May 2014

T Break - Line Up Announcement

onsistently offering opportunities for smaller Scottish artists to get on the T In The Park bill, develop their onstage performance, and get festival experience under their belt, the T-Break stage has announced the 16 acts playing at this year's T In The Park.

It's one of the best line up's for a few years on the T-Break stage.  Our personal picks include Atom Tree, Birdhead, Blood Relatives, Deathcats, Fat Goth, NAKED, Secret Motorbikes, TeenCanteen, Tuff Love and We Came From Wolves.

Congratualations to all the acts playing, and if you are heading up to Balado on the weekend of 11th, 12th and 13th July, then be sure to check out as many of them as possible.  There's also a free track from each artist available via the T-Break website.

Atom Tree
Blood Relatives
Fat Goth
Medicine Men
Model Aeroplanes
Scary People
Secret Motorbikes
The Moon Kids
Tuff Love
We Came From Wolves

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Algernon Doll - Suicide

Things are on the up and up for Algernon Doll.  Ahead of opening up the BBC Introducing stage at BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend this Sunday, Ewan Grant and his band have served up another cut from the forthcoming album Omphalic.

Suicide is the latest single from Algernon Doll, and is accompanied by a kick ass, out of control video.  Filmed in the basement of Plan B books in Glasgow, it's a visual reperesentation of everything that the band's sound has evolved into.  DIY punk dipped in grunge, but with an edge that's sharp enough to not sound tired or repeated. 

Algernon Doll releases Omphalic via Struggletown Records in July with preorders available here.  The band play a number of gigs over the summer, with a launch gig for the new record planned for 21st June at Broadcast

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Owl John - Hate Music

rightened Rabbit lead singer Scott Hutchison, is a busy man so it seems.  Not content with last year's smash Frabbit album Pedestrian Verse he is gearing up for a solo album release later this year.  The project, named Owl John, takes Hutchison down a corridor marked WILD WEST.  Hate Music, quite aptly named, is the first bit at the cherry for fans.  The vocals are instantly recognisable, but amidst the dark, dusty and stompy guitars and drums there'd be no other way of pairing this up with Frightened Rabbit.

Hate Music is an interesting track, but I'll not be alone in waiting for more from Owl John, before judging where it sits within the fabled Frabbit stable.  For now though, pull those cowboy boots on and pour another bourbon.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Scottish Fiction Podcast - 14th May 2014

Would all passengers please note that this podcast is now ready for departure and to keep arms, legs and heads inside the at all times.  Your stops today include the outrageous alt-pop of United Fruit, the face melting garage rock of Poor Things, and the intriguing outdoor sounds of Dan Lyth and The Euphrates.  Keep an eye out the window as we go for all the best new sounds in Scottish music right now.  It's Scottish Fiction, your one stop shop for the best new Scottish music.

Prides - Messiah
Model Aeroplanes - Electricity
Adam Stafford - Sound of Fear Evaporating
Song Of Return - The First Stone
Ace City Racers - 21 Sea Sides
Hello Creepy Spider - I Don't Want To Die In A Fire
Poor Things - Master of Arts
Bastard Mountain - Swam Like Sharks
Dan Lyth and The Euphrates - Earth Broke It's Vow
The Amazing Snakeheads - Here It Comes Again
United Fruit - How Long (Change You Into Something Better)
Ex Wives - Hoors
andtheywilldeceiveus - Brave New World

Subscribe/listen to the podcast via iTunes.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

United Fruit - How Long (Change Into Something Better)

Back with their latest material since 2011's well received Fault Lines, Glasgow four piece United Fruit unleashed this tasty little morsel on Monday (12th May 2014).  It's the first taste of their new material and first sound of forthcoming album, due later this year.

The track is called How Long (Change Into Something Better), and screams out of a band who have been tucked away developing their sound.  With sounds of Weezer in their heads, the band have tightened, cleaned up and brought melody to the front, replacing the scuzz and fuzz of previous album Fault Lines.

Whether this is representative of the full album remains to be seen, however given that the tracks has been on repeat since dropping into my inbox, I'd take that as a pretty good sign.  Catchy, simple, emotive.  Job done.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Flying The Flag For Scotland

I saw something on Facebook this week which got me thinking.  Thinking enough to actually sit down and write about it, which is something that I've not done in a while anyway.  It was a conversation which popped up on fellow blogger Halina Rifai Podcart's page, and related to a tweet that Podcart received and replied to.  For ease here's the conversation below, and you can read the full Facebook conversation here.

Now firstly let me just point out that the following is my thoughts, and my thoughts alone, and in no way is meant to criticise anyone else involved or otherwise in these events.  In fact the only reason I reference the conversation that happened on Podcart's Twitter/Facebook is because that's what kicked the whole thing off in my head.

Essentially the band (Once) We Were Kings requested a retweet to help them publicise their involvement in the Hard Rock Rising competition which relied on votes to help them progress to the next stage.  Podcart did not retweet, but replied that the band's music was not to their taste and wished them luck.  This resulted in the ensuing back and forth, and eventually ended with the band's Twitter account apologising for the way they spoke to Podcart.

Now there's a couple of points to address before I get to my actual reason for posting.  Firstly, the band were tweeting the hell out of this link.  Some might call it spamming, which I would probably agree with.  Now whether you feel that's a bad thing, or a useful marketing ploy probably depends a lot on how much spam you receive yourself.  Scottish Fiction gets a fair amount of Facebook/Twitter/email spam, Podcart being a bigger blog than us, I imagine gets a whole lot more.  Public figures like Jim Gellatly, Ally McCrae and Gary Barlow (yes they tweeted Gary flipping Barlow) get a shit-ton of these messages every day, and will ignore nearly 99% of them.  You could argue though that the tactic worked as the band made it to the next stage of the competition.  I'm sure that's how they will see it at least.

Secondly, Scottish Fiction received the same message on Twitter that Podcart did.  I retweeted it, as did lots of others.  If I'm perfectly honest with you, I can't tell you why.  I didn't follow the link and listen to the track, but I retweeted the link anyway.  Is that wrong?  Possibly.

Thirdly, having now listened to the track in question, I would agree with Podcart, that it's not my type of music.  It's not something I would feature on the blog, or play on the radio show or podcast.  That of course is my prerogative, and the simple fact of the matter is that bands have to be prepared for rejection and the fact that some people won't like their music.

My actual point relates to what (Once) We Were Kings claim that "Would've been nice for you to support your fellow Scots / City regardless..."

This for me raises an interesting question as what the purpose of local music blogs/zines/podcasts/etc actually is?  Should they on one hand support all music from their local area regardless of personal tastes or should they act upon personal tastes thereby denying some music a place at their table?  Is nationalism in music a bad thing?

That's a dangerous question for a blog/radio show specifically called Scottish Fiction to be asking.  I actively promote this blog/radio show as featuring only Scottish music.  Others don't have the caveat, but will naturally be immersed within the local music scene thereby being heavily skewed towards it.  It got me thinking; why did I retweet (Once) We Were Kings tweet at all?

The answer I suppose is that there needs to be healthy mix of both support for local (whatever that boundary may be) music and a filter of not just personal taste, but of overall quality.  The filters have to be applied for two reasons.

Firstly personal taste is impossible to avoid.  Music is, despite whatever argument you can present, purely 100% subjective.  I don't like One Direction.  My 11 year old niece does.  We are both right, and both wrong.  Personal tastes dictates what you are passionate about, and that passion will result in you caring enough to write about that music, play it on your podcast, or whatever in the first place.  Music journalism or radio presenting without that passion is dull, lifeless and limp.  I don't mind admitting that I have in the past featured or played artists that I was not 100% behind, and it was the wrong thing to do.  I've learned that along the way, and I'm glad I have.  I will never, and have not for a long time, write about or play a track from an artist that I do not like or enjoy.  Of course there will be varying levels of enjoyment, some tracks will go on to become staple favourites, others fleeting moments of enjoyment, but the basic principle must be on the first play; do I like this?

Secondly a blog, radio show, podcast, music website or journalist must apply filters to ensure the quality of their output is maintained.  Remember that when you contact anyone in the music industry and ask them to endorse your music, they have a following who trust their judgement.  While I'm not deluded about the scale, I know that people who listen to my show - thanks Mum! - trust me to provide them with good music and good tips on new artists.  They expect a certain level of quality control.  That means that I won't play everything that is submitted just because it is Scottish.  Aside from personal taste, I also have to ask; is this good enough?  Will other people like this?  Any of course I'll get it wrong from time to time, as will any DJ, journo or blogger.  People who hold John Peel in high esteem are often guilty of forgetting that he played some amount of shit records in his time.  But I won't feature an artist on either the blog or show if I don't think they are good enough.  And that could be that their material isn't quite ready yet, or that they are simply imitating other successful bands (take note 100's of Frabbit, Biffy, CHVRCHES wannabes).

Support for local music takes many forms.  Ultimately most of those forms can benefit a local music community.  Even if my own personal taste is not for, let's say Kasabian style 'lad-rock', I realise that others may enjoy this music, and the knock on effects of a healthy community, of whatever genre, is good for the overall music community.  For example; venues get paying punters through the doors, shops may sell CD's or merch, studios will be used for practising and recording, artists can collaborate, share, develop and build contacts between each other, and a whole myriad of other things.  Equally I realise that there will be plenty of people who don't appreciate the drone ambient music that I may promote, but again, the overall aim should be to promote and help local artists. 

With the current independence referendum in full swing we are seeing both the positive and negative sides of nationalism.  Music, indeed any art, should be able to transcend these labels, but when radio play, newspaper inches, and ultimately funding come down to what postcode an artist is from, then it's hard not to sometimes feel the need to champion and promote your own.  I've been on record saying that Scotland punches above it's weight in terms of music many times, and I truly believe that.  And for the cream of our musicians to get the recognition they deserve, there will be several layers underneath them all angling for a piece of the pie too.  If a band like (Once) We Were Kings make it through to a national final, gain some fans, and ultimately do their bit to bring money and interest into the Scottish music community, then is that all that bad?  And if, along the way, I as a Scottish music blog give them a little bit of support, even if I don't like their music, is that not ultimately worth it?

Of course the real answer is that there is no answer to these questions.  Like music itself, a lot of this is subjective and will be flavoured by your own views and experiences.  One thing I think that should be clear, is that music if often about more than just the music.  Perhaps that is where a lot of the problems lie.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Campfires In Winter - We'll Exist

Continuing to build their growth in a similar way to their soaring layered instrumentals, Croy's Campfires In Winter ratchet things up another notch with their next single We'll Exist.  Things all seem to be falling into place for the band, who excel in loud-quiet-loud songs, with their recent live exploits taking them to Liverpool Sound City for their first gig over the border, and up to Brew At The Bog.  Which is all very well timed to coincide with Monday's release of their brand new single.

We'll Exist has cropped up in the bands live sets for a while, so it's great to see the track get a release.  Boab's guarded lyrics hint at self doubt and uncertainty; "If I could swallow all this pride, I'd let you see these eyes", before the chorus explodes.  It's the kind of shadowy song writing which one might expect from James Graham, The Twilight Sad of course not a million miles away in terms of influences.

The video for the single is online now, and features BAFTA award winning actress Daniela Nardini.  The single itself is out on Monday and can be pre-ordered now on iTunes.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Poor Things - Poor Things - Track by Track Review

Poor Things are a band that are blessed with the perfect mix of youthful exuberance and real world savvy.  Their self titled début, Poor Things, seethes with the kind of infectious raw energy that empowers 12 year olds to pick up a guitar; pretty much how I imagine the trio began, listening to the likes of Nirvana, and Smashing Pumpkins.  Yet the record is more than skin-deep, with it's observational qualities documenting the well worn path of growing up, leaving home, and wondering what your place and worth in the world is.

But don't just take my word for it.  I managed to catch up with Craig and Richard from the band who have been kind enough to espouse on just how Poor Things came together through influences, writing and recording. 

1) For Edwin Morgan

Richard Stratton (bass, vocals): This song was on our EP, Hurricane Poor Things.  We thought it was a welcoming aural door for the listener to step into.  We feel that the last track, Master of Arts, is a suitable ejector seat.

Craig Angus (guitar, vocals): It was originally written with the role of ‘first track on the album’ but in 2012 we were nowhere near writing an album…  It’s a homage to a really gifted guy.  I was finishing up at University and studying Morgan left right and centre, there was one poem called The Second Life that opened, “but does every man feel like this at forty?”  So I rewrote it with the famous 21st year in mind.  I think being in your early twenties is meant to be quite liberating but to be brutally honest I’ve just felt more and more anxious since then about anything and everything.  FEELINGS.

2) Halcyon Days!

C: A nostalgic number about the simplicity of youth.  The character in the song who is told to ‘go and be a doctor or lawyer’ is based on a real figure who we were at school with.  The sort of kid who was one of the brightest in school but still set the desk on fire in English as a glorious act of rebellion.  I guess it’s about living your own life without succumbing to the pressure people put on you.  When we were recording, Gav (drums) was most worried about this one, due to it being by far the fastest track on the record, he was giving it all “when I’m in the zone I’ll tell you and we’ll record it quickly before I lose the vibe”.  Basically he gave the signal and we did it live in one take.  I think it’s my favourite song of ours for that reason, it’s more unhinged than anything else.  There’s loads of gang vocals hidden there.  Matt Scott, who recorded the album, made us do fist-pumps during the takes.  Great guy.  Innovator.

3) Life One Part Two

R: I love the rhythm on this track.  The guitar stabs are intentionally stripped back to let the lead lines rip when required.  The reference point for this was Anna, Go to Him from the first Beatles album – for whatever reason, it was one of the first songs of theirs I learnt and there are echoes of it in this track.  The lines about moving back in with parents and leaving the house without a sense of time and space are from personal experience…  Aaand moving on!

4) 1998

C: Another nostalgia trip.  I demo’ed it in my bedroom last summer and recorded the lyrics in one go without really writing them down, they ended up staying.  If Halcyon Days covers adolescence then 1998 covers that super innocent phase of youth where things happen all around you and it barely sinks in.  You just keep living in that strange world that kids live in where the imagination runs wild.

5) Yes

R: This and Halcyon Days are the only tracks where all three instruments were recorded at the same time.  When I wrote the guitar part, I thought it sounded like The Cribs but that doesn’t really jump out in the recording.  The lyrics aren’t so important, it’s mostly about chasing a feeling.  I like how it has the same chords and words throughout, but feels like it has a fuckton of momentum.

6) Freezing

R: I’ve got a 4-track recording app on my phone which I use to make very rough demos.  I played the demo of this to Gav and Craig and they both really liked it.  I didn’t think it would become a Poor Things song, because it’s so sparse.  For the album version, the basic track is me and acoustic guitar and two microphones in the warehouse where we recorded the album.  It was late at night and was indeed freezing.  The ambient sounds at the beginning and end are the traffic noises picked up on the basic track.

7) A Drunk Man Considers The Royal Wedding At Kelvingrove Park

C: I had this idea kicking about in my head for ages about having a song with this title.  I tried writing it a few times and it just never felt right.  The day it fell into place I was out and the words started popping into my head so I got home as quickly as possible and got it all down before I lost the vibe.

R: This song is really sassy.  I just remember we all found it hilarious recording backing vocals for this and Life One Part Two.  Recording backing vocals, hand claps, tambourines, and shakers is the most fun we ever have as a band.

C: A few people have suggested this song is a particularly ‘anti-royal’ song.  I’m not so sure…  I remember when the wedding happened, it was sweltering and people were getting wrecked due to the bank-holiday status - as is common practice here.  Glasgow is in certain places a desperately poor place, a desperately neglected place and the Drunk Man of the song doesn’t see why he should celebrate when he was born into such an unequal society where Iain Duncan Smith comes to the east-end and only cries for the cameras.  He definitely sympathises with the the newly-weds though, I think secretly he’d like to have a Pimms and lemonade with the Middletons and talk about Aston Villa and types of crisps, and the invasive journo-vultures sicken him.  This song also features the use of the word ‘croissants’.  Another box ticked.

8) Anaconda Man

C: My flatmate Marc, who did the artwork for the album, leaves surreal pictures around the house.  You’d go to the toilet and there would be a huge sign saying “I BELIEVE IN U” or something.  There was one last year with this freaky snake/man that just said “Anaconda Man”.  I adopted him as an alter-ego.  It’s an anthem for inadequacy.  I played it to my girlfriend, Claire, and she sang the “you look so good standing next to me” part, and we went from there.

9) New Best Friends

R: I wrote this when I was 18, in halls of residence at Glasgow Uni.  I still have about four demos I made between 2009 and 2013 of it.  I think we were mucking about at rehearsals playing some very old songs we’d written, and this turned out amazingly well.  All the rest of the songs are only about a year-and-a-half old, maximum.

10) Work

R: I was having a bit of a panic attack before going into the studio because, although I loved the music, the lyrics I was churning out for this song kept making my toes curl.  The pressure of having to record definitely helped with that.

C: He came in with the lyrics and when he first sang the “I don’t have a job/I don’t have a clue/I don’t have a scooby dooby doo” part I started pissing myself.  I think it’s fucking genius.  We really wanted that self-deprecating sense of humour to translate onto the album and I think this is the best example.

11) Master of Arts

C: A week before the last recording session I freaked out because the songs we were initially going to close the album with didn’t really offer a sense of closure.  I’m really into endings.  Not necessarily conventional endings but endings nonetheless.  We wrote this one in a day, with the pressure of needing that final track to round things off fuelling it.  It’s 5 years in one song, the time between moving to Glasgow as a wide-eyed 17 year old and being a ruthlessly flung into the jaws of the UK in 2014 and chewed up.  The negativity is a little bit exaggerated but I think it works well as a companion piece to Morgan.

R: I will never get tired of playing the end of this song.  I feel like I’m in Mogwai or something whenever we play it.

Poor Things - Poor Things is out now via Saraseto Records.  You can buy/ listen to the album in full via the below widget or direct from here.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Andrew Pearson & Lovers Turn To Monsters - Juan Antonio

"It's a song about a lovely moment I had whilst swimming in the sea last year.  Feeling that there was no one else in the world except me and my girlfriend and thinking we'd be fine if we just floated away together."

That's how young Kyle Wood, a.k.a. Lovers Turn To Monsters, describes his brand new single Juan Antonio.  The West Lothian singer-songwriter has teamed up with Common Records pal (and boss!) Andrew Pearson for a forthcoming album Everything We Miss, which comes out on tasty vinyl on 11th August, and this track is the first taste of what to expect from the pair.

Wood's introverted lyrics, yearning for a moment in time to be elongated, are front and centre in this track, against a melodic and subtle guitar arrangement provided by Pearson.  The feeings of contentment swell and unleash at the end.

I'm forever singing Lovers Turn To Monsters praises, and here in tow with Andrew Pearson, I think it's easily visible why.  Together the pair represent two of Scotland's best lo-fi singer-songwriters, able to draw master the art of simple and endearing melodies and to engulf listeners with their malleable use of words and metaphors.

Andrew Pearson & Lovers Turn To Monsters - Juan Antonio is available to download FREE now from Common Records.  Get it here, or from the widget below.

There is also a launch gig happening on Wednesday 28th May at The 13th Note in Glasgow with support from Lidh, adullboy and From Paris To Prison.  Tickets are £5 and available to order here.  See you down the front with my lighter haudin' back the tears.