Monday, 24 November 2014

EP Review - Medals - Dancer

Originally conceived whilst JP Reid; front man of Sucioperro; was on a break from touring, Medals has proven to be a way of expanding and developing JP’s art of mixing and producing great music, with the band now extended out to include Marieanne Fraser, David Aird, Mike Logg and Fergus Munro.

The new EP Dancer  has a little something for everyone on it.  First track I Used to be a Dancer  has a very pop-electronic feel to it.  The harmonies on this track are excellent and the bass line has a real kick to it, which combined with the drums is a touch of genius.

The second track on the EP, Sing on the Same Day Parade,  has some tremendous synths and beautiful guitar parts.  The harmonies again on this track are incredible and the song just continues to build and build into a brilliant breakdown, which is quite stripped back with just guitar and vocals before it all kicks back in. This track is a particular highlight on the EP.

Fingers  is slightly more stripped back than the first two tracks with the main focus more chilled out acoustic guitar and piano.  It is a really relaxing and soothing song with the vocals on this track really making for something special.

Closer I’m Ready For My Close Up  is more along the same lines as the first two tracks. Upbeat and with some brilliant percussion sections and a killer bass line the song features the same chorus line as I Used to be a Dancer  however has a totally different feel to it.

This is a tremendous EP and a great one to wrap your ears around.

- Martina Salveta

Medals - Dancer  is out now via Medas For Everyone and can be downloaded via iTunes.

Album Review - Turning Plates - The Shouting Cave

or children born today, or indeed within the last 15 years, the world in which they will grow up in is incredibly connected, instant and open.  Through the evolution of the Internet, information can be obtained freely at the touch of a finger, and shared with fellow humans on the other side of the world with ease, however obtusely secrecy is swiftly becoming a concept of the past.  In terms of day to day life it is undeniable the Internet has enriched human society, but in terms of our evolution as a species, the web is in it's infancy and no one can really know what this man-made behemoth has done, or will do, to human beings long term.

In the words of Turning Plates, "the Internet is the purest reflection of humanity, a world built entirely of our own thoughts, emotions and desire".  The concept forms the basis of their debut album This Shouting Cave,  the title itself perhaps a nod to the concept of social media where users shout into the vast emptiness of the Internet in the hope of being 'Liked', 'Retweeted' or 'Blogged'.

Opening with the appropriately named Avatar  the band begin on the journey of telling individual stories within this grander scheme.  The track gently meanders along until the three minute mark where with a few strums of the acoustic guitar it bursts into life.  Havoc  opens with vigorous plucking which soon are keeping time with piano and trombone in a wonderfully orchestrated piece.  There are hints of Danish alt-rock band Mew at play in this track, particularly in lead singer Duncan Sutherland's vocals.  "They came guns a-blazing" he sings, aptly describing the effect this track has two songs into the album.

Things take a different turn into A Hymn For Our Quickening,  a clarinet led track which soon layers and evolves into a aural extravaganza.  The depth and complexity of the music is no surprise, with no fewer than five music degrees between the band and strong roots in classical music.  Contemporary links are not buried beneath this though, with influences such as Sigur Ros, Radiohead and Mogwai all fleeting in and out of the music.  Next track Animals  opens a darker vein with a sulking feel thanks to the drum beat and reticent bass line.  "Ideas are soft, and we are coarse, we are just animals" yells Sutherland, reminding us not to elevate ourselves too high, before a truly stunning violin laden outro, leads into the first single Falling LivesFalling Lives  continues with a darker mood, thanks to the echoing drum beat and the uneasy static beneath the track throughout.  The influence of Mogwai can be felt here, with the band allowing the song to continue with patience, not rushing or allowing the momentum to wilt.

Wild Roots  acts as a natural break in the album's flow, allowing the solemness of Falling Lives  to wash away before the more fast paced Evil Man  takes over.   Witches  follows, and again to my ear reminds me of Mew.  The track evokes notions of Macbeth style 'hubble bubble' with it's eerie piano.  The album, as discussed already, is interconnected and thematic but each track on it is capable of standing on it's own.  However, taken individually Evil Man  and Witches  are the weakest of the tracks out of the eleven.

Rare Air  picks up the baton with emphatic effect.  A spirit lifting, rousing, heart swell kind of track; the cello and violin joining in harmony amidst the many climaxes on offer here.  The track is a real highlight, showcasing exactly why Turning Plates were granted money from Creative Scotland to release this album.  This is music that NEEDS to be heard.

Penultimate track The Human Isle  seems to describe the interconnected nature of human beings via the Internet, joined across networks, a sea of ideas and dreams.  The mood of the track however, with it's dark cello and piano, suggest that this is not necessarily a good thing and invites us to ponder just what The Human Isle is, before leading out to the sound of lapping waves.  The waves are joined by a forceful gale and foreboding piano as album closer Things Grow  draws a line under the bands musing on our online world.  "Things grow legs and run wild" chants Sutherland, over and over before the track explodes into the kind of multi-instrument jam one imagines orchestras must have when the conductor isn't looking. 

Things do indeed grow legs, and with the intense quality on offer over the course of The Shouting Cave  one can only hope that Turning Plates are one of those things.  Their music deserves to run wild.

- Neil Wilson

Turning Plates - The Shouting Cave  is out now an available on CD here.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Single Review - Felix Champion - These Four Walls

Felix Champion are a post-hardcore and alternative-rock band following the same pattern of collective geniuses such as We Are the Ocean.  Armed with both a fiery temperament and well-written lyrics, combined with a dynamic rhythm, they are on their way to conquer the post-hardcore forefront.

And with a track like These Four Walls, a well thought out succession of rumbling riffs and rocking vocals, it’s no wonder.  They casually alternate between hardcore and pop-rock with ease.  It is a heartfelt tune which was brilliantly put together and magnified, thanks to the band's wild chemistry.  It is an electrifying anthem to push to high volume and even to wake up the neighbours to. 

Far from being repetitive, Felix Champion managed to be both audacious and persuasive, in addition to be lively yet personal.  A song like These Four Walls demonstrates once again the potential of their craft and their sincere originality.  Their live performances, which are truly pandemonium, are a must-see and their music undeniably screams talent.

If Felix Champion continue to impress and to make people talk about them, four walls will definitely not be enough to contain their talent... and we thank them for that.

Alexandra Andréoli

Felix Champion - These Four Walls is out now via Bloc+Music and is available on download here.
Their debut album, This Lateral Life will be out on Monday 24th November 24th.

Single Review - Prehistoric Friends - Wisdom Tooth

Prehistoric Friends are a brilliant collective who can fill anyone - even the coldest heart of stone - with enthusiasm thanks to their dreamy melodic sense.  Thus, their second single Wisdom Tooth is an authentic and genuine ditty and a perfect foretaste for their forthcoming debut album.

Wisdom Tooth is both a sweet and lively taste of pop-alternative music.  It all begins with a flavoursome introduction, an intriguing and melodious tune, then, as the vocal softly appears, it takes us to a trip in the atmosphere.  As the song evolves, a multitude of feelings are expressed until it dazzlingly climaxes and by the end, all that’s left is a certain kind of hope.

The bona fide vocal gives the song its full scope and the feeling of unity is magnified thanks to the multi-instrumental cohesion.  Thus, the synthesised rhythm is enchanting and displays an honest ensemble.  In that sense, Wisdom Tooth is undeniably an uplifting and mature masterpiece concerned with tradition.

Prehistoric Friends tug at heart-strings but with a pleasant delicacy and a subtle charm.

Alexandra Andréoli

Prehistoric Friends – Wisdom Tooth is out now via Yetts Yeti and is available on download via Soundcloud.

The band recently did a live session for Scottish Fiction.  Check out their performance of the new single below:

EP Review - in:tides - Yours Is The Earth

Yours Is The Earth is the atmospheric debut EP of post-rock band in:tides.  This four members collective, originally from Glasgow, are full of promises and their tunes offer breathing space, a pure moment of mind-blowing instrumental music.

The EP is composed of four epic songs and starts with A Moment of Clarity, a harmonious track, both beguiling and calm.  The soft pace, clean drums and guitars, embellish the song and make it an authentic track, a peaceful melody and a transparent story.

Porcelain Waves is a stroke of genius, a truly inspiring post-rock track which carefully and genuinely matures.  It is longer, louder, even heavier, yet, because the guitar and the drums are in symbiosis, the song is a fulfilling experience.

Yellow Leaves From Maple Trees is full of colour and imagery, thus, it makes it possible to picture the leaves gently falling off the trees.  Thanks to this melody, the band captured the perfect moment when time stops - and it truly works like magic.

Title track Yours Is The Earth is a blazing experience, a fascinating taste of rock experimental.  It is hard to believe that it is already the last song of this astonishing EP but it is a flawless finish with both the right notes and the perfect rhythm.

in:tides produces the type of ambient melodies which will make you feel infinite.

Alexandra Andréoli

in:tides - Yours is the Earth is out now and is available on download Bandcamp.  The record recently won Post-Rock Album of the Week on Reddit.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Single Review - Copper Lungs - Cloud Nine

After the release of their admirable debut record last April, Copper Lungs are back on track with a fresher and louder single.  Originally from Dundee, the four members of the band have a positive energy which can be found in their music and which spreads quickly to fill the hearts of their listeners with a pleasant thrill.

Cloud Nine has a brilliant vivacity, the rhythm is catchy, the voice is easy-going and the lyrics are inspiring.  Thus, it has all the necessary ingredients to become a pop-rock anthem, and it even has a small pinch of indie music, which definitely brings out an unrivalled and spicy flavour.  It is a well-prepared recipe and a pleasure to music lovers' ears.

The song has a changing pace but it manages to be coherent, since it has been carefully structured, and the combination of drums and guitar is undoubtedly well-mastered.  The band have a rather basic set of instruments, two guitars, a bass and drums, yet, each member is unique and indispensable to create this blazing harmony of sounds.

Copper Lungs definitely have an impeccable chemistry that will leave you breathless.

Alexandra Andréoli

Copper Lungs - Cloud Nine is out now via Thin Hippo Records and is available on download via Soundcloud.

EP Review - Poor Frisco - Ghosts

Ghosts is the new five track EP from the spontaneous band Poor Frisco.  It is a lively acoustic mix of alternative-rock indie songs which feature heavily in their live sets.  Their lyrics and sounds offer a taste of candour which, after a while, turns into a certain bitterness and expresses a much darker side.

The opening title track sets the mood of the EP - it’s rhythmic, punchy and straight to the point.  The series of succinct lyrics and the sudden ending make it both convincing and well-structured.  In the same pattern, Brothers Grimm, is a rather simple, yet, effective song.

Carry On and Change Your Name, are two dark ballads, in fact, do not be fooled by the cheerful rhythm and the sweet voice because, behind them, two tragic stories are hidden.  Those two songs perfectly display Poor Frisco's talent to portray emotions.

Riot Police starts slowly and, while listening to it, we are living the sombre short story told by the lyrics.  Although it lasts approximatively one minute, it remains loud and sincere.

For all that, Ghosts is a collection of memories, of experiences and feelings, of people who used to mean something.

Alexandra Andréoli

Poor Frisco - Ghosts is out now and is available to stream/download for free or pay-what-you-want at

Album Review - Suspire - Suspire

Originally from Glasgow, Suspire are a half-pop, half-rock synth band producing incredible vibes to portray both an enchanted and disillusioned world.  The four members are truly unique, and include Brian Cunningham, Chris Kelly and Clare and Paul Duffin.  This talented team just released their creative self-titled debut album, a perfect combination of electro, pop and rock sounds.

Sleep is an electronic lullaby made of candid rhythms.  The melodious chant and powerful lyrics take us on a magnetic journey, for our own enjoyment.

On A Clear Day has a faster pace and a heavier vibe with lingering voices coming from everywhere.  It resonates like an echo in your head and displays both a peaceful and atmospheric feel.

Moonshine is a lot more electronic, reminding us of MGMT, with its mix of melodious and raw sounds.  It is an “earful” of colours, another dimension with no such things as time or pessimistic feelings.

Salvation Sister is a darker and slower track, a lot more similar to the alternative band Pixies.  It brings out the rock side of the group; we find the sweet picking of guitars again combined with hushed echoes and a more expressive voice.

Yes! has a positive rhythm, a communicative energy.  It is a successful mix of genres thanks to the electronic synthesiser, rocking guitars and pop undertones.

Hold On and Catalyst are the quietest songs of the album.  They are both calm and subtle melodies with just the necessary amount of guitar, drums and synthesiser.  They have the bare minimum, yet, they are perfect as they are and the brilliant solos of distorted guitar amplify the magic.

The main qualities of Abigail are the clean guitar, the melodious sounds and the syrupy voice with enchanting back-ups.  A wonderful track to listen to.

Little Kid Strange is made of candid and harmonious backing vocals in addition to naïve electronic sounds, yet, it is a mature track, brilliantly representing the band's strengths.

Dodos has a rocker tone, a bit darker and perhaps less innocent than the other songs of the album. Still, the electronic undertones bring out a joyful side.  It is a brilliant finish to a sweet and sour album and another reason why Suspire are unique.

- Alexandra Andréoli

Suspire - Suspire is out now, self-released by the band via Pledge Music, and is available on limited edition CD here and download via iTunes.

The band will be live on STV Glasgow on Friday 21st November and on BBC Radio Scotland Friday 28th November.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Single Review - Vukovi - So Long Gone

Ayrshire four piece Vukovi return with another slice of rock-pop with their new single So Long Gone  and it's not for the faint hearted.

The band are certainly on their way up as each new release just seems to get better and better.  The latest single So Long Gone  is already receiving a lot of love and deservedly so.  Being featured on the TV programme Made In Chelsea will have helped spread the word about the band and their music to people who may not have come across it before.

The track itself if packed full of great guitar licks accompanied by a tremendous bass line which really drives the track forward.  The intricate drum sections really add to the overall feel of the song, beefing it up out and providing the punch.  Janine Shilstone's vocals provide that signature Vukovi sound and tie the whole thing together.  

So Long Gone  is definitely worth a listen, and if you weren’t a Vukovi fan before you certainly will be after hearing it.  Watch out 2015, Vukovi are coming!

- Martina Salveta

Vukovi - So Long Gone  is out now via 23rd Precinct Music and is available to download via iTunes.

Single Review - Beard Of Truth - Bad Kids

Beard of Truth is an offshoot of Edinburgh band The Last Battle, allowing lead singer Scott Longmuir to air his solo stuff, and the debut single Bad Kids  is simply beautiful.  This is the first single from forthcoming EP A New Light  although promises of an album on it's way have also been made.

The stripped back sound with only a guitar and quiet drums suits Longmuir’s vocals perfectly and allow the story of the song to take centre stage.  The track is coloured with nostalgia; harking back to the days where the band could be ‘Bad Kids once again’.  The recording setting may have influenced this theme as some of the EP was recorded in Longmuir’s childhood bedroom.

This may only be a side project to The Last Battle however if this single is a sign of things to come from Beard of Truth then the project will definitely be able to shine in its own right.

- Stuart Thompson

Beard Of Truth - Bad Kids  is available for free download from Beard Of Truth's Soundcloud page.

Prehistoric Friends - Scottish Fiction Sessions Videos

Prehistoric Friends is the project of multi instrumentalist Liam Chapman, which draws influence from the likes of Beach House and Death Cab For Cutie, to create layered and soundscaped music.  Liam joined me in the studio with bandmate Nichola Kerr to chat about their upcoming single Wisdom Tooth  and play three tracks for us.

Below are videos for the tracks Bermuda TriangleVanished  and new single Wisdom Tooth  which were recorded at Pulse 98.4 FM as part of Prehistoric Friends' Scottish Fiction Session.  To hear the full show, including interview, check out the Scottish Fiction Podcast for 17th November 2014.

And check out this EXCLUSIVE video of I Cant' See A Thing  recorded for the Scottish Fiction blog.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Scottish Fiction Podcast - 17th November 2014

Joining me on the show this week were Liam Chapman and Nichola Kerr from Prehistoric Friends.  Ahead of their second single Wisdom Tooth  being released on Tuesday 18th November, the band kindly popped by to play us some spine-chilling live songs as well as chat about their single and plans for the future.

Their session tracks and interview is intersected with great new music from CHVRCHES, Belle and Sebastian, Idlewild, Wozniak and heaps more.  There's also a great 'Re-Mixing It Up' track courtesy of Battery Face via Errors, as well as another 'Cover Lover' track, this time from Aidan Moffat.  Get stuck in.

The Twilight Sad - It Was Never The Same
United Fruit - Open Your Eyes
Memory Man - Felix Baumgartner
Prehistoric Friends - Bermuda Triange - Live in Pulse 98.4 Studio
Catholic Action - Lost and Found
COVER LOVER - Aidan Moffat - I Got You Babe
Fat Suit - The First Man On The Sun
Prehistoric Friends - Vanished - Live In Pulse 98.4 Studio
Michael McDonald - What A Fool Believes - As chosen by Prehistoric Friends
Machines In Heaven - Hindu Milk
Wozniak - Five Star
Stanley Odd - Her Name Was Hip-Hop
Prehistoric Friends - Wisdom Tooth - Live in Pulse 98.4 Studio
Wojtek - Pivot
Felix Champion - Snow Graves
RE-MIXING IT UP - Battery Face - Cider Says (Errors Remix)
Belle and Sebastian - The Party Line
Idlewild - Collect Yourself

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EXCLUSIVE - Prehistoric Friends - I Can't See A Thing - Scottish Fiction Session Track

Prehistoric Friends is the project of multi instrumentalist Liam Chapman, which draws influence from the likes of Beach House and Death Cab For Cutie, to create layered and soundscaped music.  Liam joined me in the studio with bandmate Nichola Kerr to chat about their upcoming single 'Wisdom Tooth' and play three tracks for us.

This track, I Can't See A Thing  was recorded at Pulse 98.4 FM exclusively for the Scottish Fiction blog.  To hear further session tracks and an interview listen into the full show here.


Saturday, 15 November 2014

Gig Review - CHVRCHES - Barrowlands, 4th November 2014

Since the release of The Bones Of What You Believe,  in September 2013, CHRVCHES have been on a whirlwind and non-stop journey, touring across the world, appearing on radio and TV everywhere and will have racked up an incredible 134 gigs before 2014 is out.  It's perhaps no surprise then that Iain Cook, Martin Doherty, and Lauren Mayberry are delighted to be here, their home city of Glasgow, performing in a venue that holds massive significance to Glaswegian music fans.

Tonight is the second night in the Barrowlands as part of their UK tour, and the trio's third time in the legendary ballroom this year, having stopped off in March during their last UK tour.  Since then the band have stayed firmly in the public's consciousness with contributions to a re-scored Drive  soundtrack and the new Hunger Games  soundtrack.

Opening for CHRVCHES tonight is Minneapolis alt-rapper Lizzo, who cuts a confident figure onstage armed with good ol' US sass and party vibes.  Hip-hop, soul, R'n'B and pop are all mixed in the pot to produce a set which seems to resonate and go down well with the Glasgow crowd.  The general rule of thumb for out of town support acts is if you can keep the crowd away from the bar to watch your set, then job done.  Lizzo more than fills out the Barrowlands ballroom floor, even bringing one fan on stage for some twerking.

The cutting intro of We Sink  announces CHRVCHES arrival as a rapturous crowd explode partly drowning out Mayberry's opening vocals.  With singles Lies  and Gun  also aired in the opening batch of songs, CHVRCHES waste no time in setting out their stall.

The power and intensity of Cook and Doherty's synths are matched only by the euphoria inducing light show.  With military precision multi-coloured lazers cut across the stage and the band, perfectly complimenting the music.  Watching Mayberry and her band mates cutting shapes through the beams as they perform, it's like watching the band navigate the motion detectors as they attempt to rob a bank.

Last time I saw CHVRCHES play in Glasgow (10th October 2013, O2 ABC) there were small tell tale signs that the band hadn't quite got to grips with their meteoric rise.  A year on and any such suggestions can be quashed as Mayberry chats to the eager hometown audience with ease, almost forgetting at one point they are hear to play songs.  "Okay we should play some songs" she remembers following a long 'in-between' chat about McCormicks Music, the merits of a good curry, and Tuesday night student drinking. 

The band's set comprises of 14 tracks, drawn from their debut album and peppered with a few new ones, including Dead Air.  Highlights include Science/Visions,  which combines high tempo synths with Tron-like lazers to create a out of this world effect, and Under The Tide,  where Doherty gets his chance to go tonto on vocals. Saving the best till last, The Mother We Share  brings the curtain down on another fantastic show from CHVRCHES, before a two track encore ends the show officially with the tender and haunting By The Throat

A year on from the debut album release, and tracks from The Bones Of What You Believe  still sound fresh, inspired and vibrant.  CHVRCHES next trick will be to follow that album, but for now, it's clear they've made a lasting impact, and have earned their Barrowlands stripes.

- Neil Wilson

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Now Wakes The Sea - Scottish Fiction Session Videos

Alan McCormack is better known; or at least he should be better known; as the man behind lo-fi, experimental pop band Now Wakes The Sea.  Taking steer from '50's pop, and applying the freedom of imagination, Now Wakes The Sea's 2014 album Bildungsroman  is as fine an album you'll hear this year.

Below are videos for the tracks Scottish Blood ReversalOriginal Bone  and The Shore & The Coastline  which were recorded at Pulse 98.4 FM as part of Now Wakes The Sea's Scottish Fiction Session.  To hear the full show, including interview, check out the Scottish Fiction Podcast for 20th October 2014.

And check out this EXCLUSIVE video of In Time  recorded for the Scottish Fiction blog.

Album Review - The Twilight Sad - Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave

Unsure and quite frankly unnerved by other reviews and discussion, I teetered on the edge until I was securely past the initial twenty seconds of the opening track to The Twilight Sad’s fourth album Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave.  As it happens There’s a Girl In The Corner  slams open the doors to the album, presenting The Twilight Sad in their current glory. 

The track swings out with swerving guitar strings, concentrated doses of loud and beautiful drums and, all throughout, keys building up a glorious little crescendo of their own; a small yet clever touch which animates the whole track.  It’s the opening track and with The Twilight Sad’s reputation, I’m expecting something.  So I wait.  It takes until 2 minutes and 35 seconds in but, it was worth it.  Hand in hand with the creeping keys, the drums expel with splashing cymbals and a flood of wondrously loud and hazed guitar strings.  Good start, eh?

Struck by whips of drums and punching guitar notes Last January  delivers upbeat melodies with more energy and more optimism than the previous track.  I Could Give You All That You Don’t Want  provides the album with a lighter, uplifting sound while maintaining their sedated guitar rifts.  Weaved with tones of sadness It Was Never The Same  is matched equally by its grave and cryptic lyrics; "We tried to save them all… you didn’t have to kill them all."

As each track evolves and contrasts from the other, none does so quite like Drown So I Can Watch.  Revealing moments of experimental and quirky arrangements, it is the shortest song on the album and possibly a contender for the most diverse track.  In Nowheres  follows closely with heaving tones of distortion and chimes of promise.

Racing and buzzing guitar accompanies Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave  alongside James Graham's instinctively haunting vocals.  The instrumental alone allows you to think the song is building to a point, a break in consistency or even an almighty crashing chorus.  But you’re left floating.  The entire track carries you along on top of the guitar lines and smashing cymbals, and all of a sudden, it's over.  It's the song that makes you want more.  Taken aback, I’m comforted by the dulcet and synthetically swaying tones of Leave The House,  and as the tempo softens I become aware we are about to enter the final stages of the album.  Not quite yet though, in what has been the true fashion of this album, The Twilight Sad hide a trickling rupture amidst this peacefully undisturbed, and restful song creating the greatest of surprises and an explosion of trembles.

Abandoning the setup that fell before it, Sometimes I Wished I Could Fall Asleep  peels away the outer layers of The Twilight Sad, leaving them feeling exposed without their armour of thrashing drums and clashing guitar notes.  Reeling in the raw nature this track has brought them to, The Twilight Sad for once sound vulnerable, with James Graham’s vocals breeding a more honest and candid sound.

- Melanie McKinlay

The Twilight Sad - Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave  is out now via FatCat Records and available from all good record shops and online music retailers.

Single Review - Brownbear - Dead Or Alive

Dead or Alive  is the storming single from Brownbear.  Formerly Brownbear and the Bandits, the Ayrshrie foursome have knocked up an acoustic driven groove wagon of a track.

Sounding like a more polished Razorlight, Brownbear certainly encapsulate all that is good with the Scottish music scene at present.  Frontman Matt Hickman's husky vocals combined with funky lead guitar and fast paced percussion provides an alternative indie-pop record that takes bands years to master, but which this quartet have taken just over a year to perfect their sound.  It's won them stage slots along side The Libertines, The Bluebells, Babyshambles and Pigeon Detectives, as well as festivals such as Wickerman and T in the Park. 

Brownbear are a group on the up, and Dead or Alive  is a signal of real intent.  Remember the name.

- Dominic Hewitson

Brownbear - Dead or Alive  is out now via Clydebuilt Records and can be downloaded via iTunes.

We're Only Here For The Banter - Sharptooth

Sharptooth are one of those bands that creep up on you fully formed and ready for you to gush about.  Comprising of sisters Nico and Kate Miller, along with Jess Gunn and Lauren Campbell, the Glasgow four-piece brood and sulk (in a musical sense of course) with an assured confidence in their own ability and a healthy respect for their post-punk / alt-rock influences.

Hello!  How the devil are you?

We are still recovering from Halloween, we played a gig in The Flying Duck and dressed up as the Addams family, lots of fun was had!

It's the question everyone hates, but could illuminate our readers with a little bit about your music and your influences?

We've often been described as dark and haunting which is probably true, we've tried to write happy songs but it never seems to work.  Our biggest influences are PJ Harvey, Hole and The Breeders.  We like women with guitars.

What's your song-writing / creative process like?

Either Nico or Jess (both guitar/vocals) will come up with a demo, they live in separate flats in the same building so will usually work on songs together first and then we'll all get together and Lauren (bass) and Kate (drums) will add their bits themselves.  We finish each others songs, they rarely end up the same as the way they started it's very much a group effort.  And luckily most of the time we're on the same page with where we want a song to go so that helps!

What could we expect to see from a live show?

It can vary but generally you'll see some girls drinking cava, having fun and making some noise.

Tell us about your latest single Sister.

Sister  is a song that Nico wrote originally about her sister who happens to be our drummer Kate.  Once we all started working on it together it became about all our experiences with our sisters.  Musically it's (of course) quite dark and hypnotic, it kind of has a rap in it as well so there's really something for everyone!  We recorded it with Chris McCory at Shady Lane Studios.  We loved recording with him as he completely understood the sound we were going for and we had a great time working with him.  So much so that we're doing some more recording with him next week!

What else have you got planned for the rest of 2014?

For the rest of 2014 we'll be doing some recording, we have an exciting support slot coming up first with The Coathangers in Broadcast which we are especially excited about as we are big fans of theirs.  We also have another release planned that will hopefully happen in the next couple of months, we're really looking forward to that as well.

What are you listening to at the moment?

At the moment we are listening to Scout Niblett, Brian Eno, The War On Drugs, Speedy Ortiz and Siouxsie and the Banshees.

Thanks for speaking with us, would you care to share a joke with us?

Two cows are standing in a field, how can you tell which one is on holiday?

It's the one with the wee calf.

Check out more from Sharptooth

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Monday, 10 November 2014

Album Review - The Last September - Volcano

The third album by The Last September is remarkably smooth, not only in its instrumentation and production, but the way it delivers to the listener; you feel almost as if there is something larger going on with Volcano,  a more intimate setting then what they have to offer that is only felt by sitting down with this record.

What The Last September bring to this album, amongst other things, is their use of space and subtlety.  The band know how to set a scene and deliver not only the aural setting, but a visual one as well, as the lyrics are beautifully coupled with the underlying melodies brought forth by lush guitar tones and an ever present, but never dominating rhythm line.  The vocals are strong and varied; showing the incredible range that lead vocalist Pete Deane brings to the table.  He can lull you in to a false sense of security, and then bring you right out of it in to a huge climax of harmony.  The backing vocals provided by Craig Nicholson only strengthen the vocal sound scape and highlight the many dynamics incorporated in to Volcano.

The third track, Hold Me Down,  is a great example of how The Last September can create a track that feels subdued, but has embedded longing in the undertones; it is a straightforward track with some excellent layering and songwriting ability in its depths.   Take a listen to the instrumental bridge at the end of Cinders  and you will find not only an excellent reprise/outro, but a calculated awareness of vision when it comes to extra-sensory listening.

To me, the production choices on this album are everything you ever wanted on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, just as dusk approaches.  The way they build their melodies over the course of each song, matched with strong lyricism to exemplify deep emotion, gives you a clear insight in to how The Last September is developing in to a great alternative rock band.  Each chorus is catchy, and though the arrangement for each song may seem direct, it is the combination of each element and sound that brings out the best in every song.  If you need further proof of this, listen to the driving distorted guitar line in All Along the A7  and how they pair it with an ambient, wandering guitar line for a cinematic effect worthy of the Old West.  Everything is much more then it seems to be with The Last September.

“You came to see the fireworks as you were slipping out the door; of the town that held you captive, as the sparks fell on the shore”.  The opening lyrics of Light up the Clyde  perfectly capture what The Last September are trying to express on this album, both a deep connection with people and places, but the longing to get out in this world and explore.  The addition of keyboards and accordion by Archie MacFarlane intensify this feeling, by giving each track a soft, yet ambient touch.  Exploiting those long spaces with ambience, huge ring outs and layered melodies only make the listener want to leave their existence and experience something truly profound.  Have you ever been comfortable stuck where you are?  No?  Well from the sounds of Volcano,  neither have The Last September.

This is a mix of everything on this album for the stubborn listener out there.  Cool, swaying instrumentals; driving distortion; interesting and elaborate arrangements; compelling voice overs. like that on Climbing,  and of course several ways to connect with almost any part of the music.  I would definitely recommend this album for anyone who wants to get in on the ground floor of a rising, talented band that will not only provide a great soundtrack to whatever activity you may be doing, but in some instances, set the precedent for the activity you should be doing.

- Michael Greenwood

The Last September - Volcano  is out now via Fountanhill Records on CD and digital download and can be purchased here.

EP Review - Chrissy Barnacle - To Speak

Glasgow gal Chrissy Barnacle’s new EP is a sweet amalgamation of tenderly plucked guitar with bold, open vocals and lyrics loaded with sassy truth.  The singer-songwriter showcases her range and appeal over the four short songs that make up To Speak.

First track, Fawn Heart,  sets the drama in motion with momentous guitar and smooth violin.  Then fast, honest vocals are like muttered inner thoughts, beautifully overheard.  This seems to me like rather fearless music making, and my suspicions are proved correct with the following tracks.

Nightride  makes me appreciate the joy of simple music – a guitar, a violin, a voice.  It’s bare and fun and fresh.  Barnacle manages to convey her fleeting thoughts and deep feelings seamlessly in this swift and pretty song.

There is a lovely feeling of isolation that pervades the beginning of Alright. Enough.  Barnacle’s quiet voice and lightly played guitar seem to emit a universal loneliness, and leads to a beautiful thought about how we’re all made of stars – a nice lyric to have around when you’re feeling out of touch with the universe.  The fuller sound that accompanies this sentiment is withdrawn by the end of the song, and we are left once again with a hauntingly good solo.

Just in case you hadn’t realised the talent of Barnacle by this point, the final track makes it abundantly clear.  Ghosts and Cigarettes  builds up quietly and with some melancholy to a bigger, more bustling sound than we’ve heard before – closing the EP with just as much pace and anticipation as it started with.

To Speak  is a stunningly concise entrée into Barnacle’s mind and musical style.  I don’t mind being in Chrissy’s clutches, and eagerly wait to be caught up again in whatever’s next for this exciting new artist.

- Maura Keane

Chrissy Barnacle - To Speak  is out now on CD and digital downloand and is available via Chrissy Barnacle's Bandcamp.

Album Review - Jonnie Common - Trapped In Amber

Jonnie Common’s latest offering Trapped in Amber  on Song, by Toad Records is an electronic Liquorice
Allsorts of an album.  I have in the past lain in bed at night wondering what Ivor Cutler’s version of 3 Feet High and Rising  would have sounded like.  Now I know.

Jonnie Common will be a national treasure too one day.  With the ability to make the complex sound simple and the simple sound sublime, this collection of enthralling songs and stories is as refreshing as it is engaging and it is unsurprising that he is now receiving critical acclaim outside Scotland.

Savvy listeners were given a sneak preview of what was to come on volume three of the Song, by Toad split 12” series released earlier this year with sneak previews of three tracks from Jonnie Common.  Two of which: the tragically beautiful So and So  and the leading single Shark,  both feature on this new album.

Unable to sit still for a moment, the mix of electronica, humour, out-takes, dubs and melodies is no accident of form, being structured to fit the album format and making this collection of songs a true journey.  The stark comedic sound bites of Guesty  and EDC  punctuate the start of the two 'sides' of the album, whilst Legal Tender  is pure De La Soul.  Just Because  pushes the commercial button but is no less inventive for it and ODB  has a hook line to die for in amongst some fabulous percussion.

To single out any track is to do a disservice to the others.  Go and listen to all of them as Trapped In Amber  is an album in the truest sense of the word, and once which you will be listening to it for a long time.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.

- Bobby Motherwell

Jonnie Common - Trapped In Amber  is out now via Song, By Toad Records and is available on CD, vinyl and download here.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Gig Review - The LaFontaines - O2 ABC, 31st October 2014

It’s Halloween, and Glasgow's 02 ABC is about to hold host to the biggest party in the City – the 'Big Font Night Out' where Motherwell's finest The LaFontaines are about to play their largest headline show to date.  With very limited door tickets left for the show, two things are certain.  The queue for the bar will be massive and the ABC is already filled to the brim with 'Fonts fans eager and ready to party.

First on stage is Gerry Cinnamon, the Glasgow based singer-songwriter who has seen his fan base rise exponentially in the wake of the referendum after uploading his song Hope Over Fear  to Facebook.  The single then went on to reach number five in the iTunes singles chart, leading the singer down a rabbit hole that seen him play to 15,000 people at George Square, bagging his own King Tut’s headline show on December 6th, and tonight opening the show for The LaFontaines.  Cinnamon's material walks that self aware singer songwriter path trod by the likes of Bob Dylan, but with a good modern Scottish twist.  It’s definitely worth listening to.

Next up are Vukovi from Troon.  Coming on stage dressed as skeletons it's evident the tone for their set is going to be somewhat darker.  Opening with Thick Skinned,  they take things up a gear.  Unfortunately due to some difficulties with the sound it took a little longer for things to take off, however once the sound picked up and they found their feet, the ball kept rolling.  Three songs in Vukovi hit out with their latest single So Long Gone  which has just been released on First Run Records and has been getting regular air-time on KerrangTV.  Their interesting use of rhythms make each and every song recognisable at an instant and yet somehow distinctive and, better still, standalone in their own right.  Vukovi have found a great blend when it comes to finding the middle ground between writing something angsty and penning a great pop song.  All in all a great performance, as their energy on stage is hard to rival.

Whilst the crowd gears up for The LaFontaines a large white sheet covers the stage adding a sense of foreboding mysticism to the evening.  As the lights drop, a video is projected across the screen which shows a zombie infested, apocalyptic Scotland in meltdown very cleverly put together with shots of familiar places and faces including a press release with David Cameron.  It then ends with the band running up the stairs to play their ABC headline because, let's face it, Glasgow doesn't let anything stand in the way of a good night out!

The LaFontaines are at home tonight and from the very first beat the band have the undivided attention of the packed out crowd.  Picking from songs such as All She Knows,  their latest single Under The Storm  and older fan favourites like Shark In The Water,  tonight's show sees the airing of a good mix of oldies and new tracks from their upcoming debut album, which, according to frontman Kerr Okan, has just been finished.  Exuding confidence, and rightly so, Okan teases, "See you all at the Barrowlands", showing that this is a mere stopping point on where the band's sights are set next.

The LaFontaines are well known for their energetic live shows, their dedication, the hard work they put into every show as well as everything they do, and for their undeniably unique image, sound and personality.  Tonight's show is no exception, and The Fonts live up to their reputation and then some.  Their set ends in the only way it possibly could; a wall of sound, smoke cannons and a barrage of confetti. 

With talks of their debut album floating around, these are exciting times for the Motherwell outfit and it looks like 2015 is already shaping up to be a bigger year for them than 2014.  Keep your ears to the ground for the waves The LaFontaines are about to make.

- Shaun McCluskey

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Single Review - Nieves - Straight Line

Straight Line  is the first track available to download from Glasgow newcomers Nieves.  A beautiful song which draws heavily upon the Scottish indie/folk tradition and tips a nod to the established hierarchy therein but still retaining that bright spark of originality and form which bodes well for this duo.

Brendan’s vocals narrate a tale of hope in adversity with a flitting combination of raw emotion and anxious desperation over Herre’s stark and engaging piano accompaniment before guitar and back beat move in and signal a moving on.

This is a fine song and a finely crafted first offering and a delivery which has us all waiting eagerly for more from Nieves. Their self titled debut EP is due for release this month and if you can't wait then you can catch them on Saturday 8th November at The Record Factory in Glasgow as part of This Feeling in association with XFM.

- Bobby Motherwell

Nieves - Straight Line  is available to download for free via Nieves' Soundcloud and from the below embed.

We're Only Here For The Banter - Poor Frisco

Whether it's dressing up or stuffing your face with sweets, Halloween is a fun time of year.  Today's 'We're Only Here For The Banter' guests certainly agree, having released a brand new acoustic EP Ghosts  on Halloween to celebrate.  I caught up with Callum from East Kilbride five piece Poor Frisco to delve deeper.

Hello! How the devil are you?

Hi Neil, I’m great, thanks!  And cheers for playing us on the radio!

It's the question everyone hates, but could illuminate our readers with a little bit about your music and your influences?

We usually describe ourselves somewhat vaguely as either alt-rock or indie, depending on the amount of plaid being worn at the time.  A few influences are Pixies, Modest Mouse, The Shins, and being from East Kilbride it would be remiss to not add The Jesus and Mary Chain.

What's your song-writing / creative process like?

Usually I’ll write a song - lyrics and at least one guitar part - and bring it to rehearsal where Scott (guitar), Fleck (bass) and David (drums) jam along to it until they come up with something they’re happy with.  David acts as editor, he likes the tracks to be as lean as possible.  He’s cut many a bridge, pre-chorus and noodly intro/outro.  I like to be quite spare with the lyrics too, which is either minimalism or laziness depending on your sympathies.  David also writes himself occasionally, you can hear one of his excellent songs, Brothers Grimm,  on the new EP for the first time.

What could we expect to see from a live show?

Bang for your buck!  A song over three minutes is an epic for us, and we’re strangely proud of being able to rattle through twice as many songs in a half hour set than most other bands.  We like to think we put on an energetic show although we seem to be a bit disaster prone with a history of opening track string breakages, amps falling off stands and, most recently, a rogue smoke machine that gassed us offstage at the end of a set at Sleazy’s.

Tell us about your new EP Ghosts.

Ghosts  is a five-track acoustic EP which we recorded ourselves one afternoon at Scott’s.  We’re releasing it especially as a Halloween treat so it will be free to download from the 31st October.  All the tracks are stripped back versions of songs we play live regularly.

What else have you got planned for the rest of 2014?

We're releasing a new single towards the end of the year (going up against X Factor for the Christmas number one), getting loud again, and will hopefully be doing some more gigs.

What are you listening to at the moment?

I recently arrived at The Eels pretty late in the game and have been working my way through their back catalogue, and Honeyblood’s album has been on a lot too.  Fleck has been bingeing on Villagers and Beulah.

Thanks for speaking with us, would you care to share a joke with us?

You can’t tell jokes to kleptomaniacs – they take everything literally.

Check out more from Poor Frisco

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Album Review - blood blood - sunday/worship

Layers amongst layers; sunday/worship  by blood blood, the solo effort by Davey Gwynne (who is one thirds of the collective Machines in Heaven) can be listened to anywhere on anything, but to get the full effect of his vision and what Davey is trying to achieve, headphones are definitely recommended for an experience like none other.  If deep space needed a soundtrack, Gwynne would be the first one aboard the shuttle to the studio.

The various ambient layers, created by huge sounding productions and vocals that occasionally drift in and out, create an orchestrated thunderstorm.  Image the scene from The Never Ending Story  when The Nothing wipes away the universe.  This album should be the soundtrack to that; a delicate, serene aftermath but somewhat dark and mysterious.

With most songs clocking in at an average of four minutes or more, sunday/worship  should be appreciated for its time and its ability to go the distance.  Gwynne didn’t want to create something using only a small amount of his talent; just by taking a short listen, it is evident he wanted to jump in to the deep end, feet first, and the way this album unfolds, proves he most certainly did.  Listen to each track carefully and don’t expect everything, but be on the lookout for anything.

One of the best tracks on the album, tribe-hell,  give the listener a glimpse in to what is in store for everyone. Pounding drums and a huge arena sound, this is a track meant to be played when the festival is coming to a close and everyone in the audience has time to reflect on what they just experienced.  Massive synth sounds and a climax that may or may not come give the listener a perfect aural setting for self-reflection and to make themselves aware of their surroundings.  For those who doubt an album isn’t complete without lyrics, listen to this whole song, and as it comes to a brilliant end. it will make you a believer.

leeloo  on the other hand, gives you a completely different side to Gwynne's sound production and thought process.  The hi-hat presence gives this track an airy, lighthearted vibe, coupled of course with the angelic vibes from the keyboard/synth provide almost a pop value.  It reminds me of those emotional video game moments; where Link and Zelda meet for example; but there is still this underlying sense it could all change, all be over in the blink of an eye.  Music can imitate life, but have you ever thought that life can imitate music?

With all the prettiness aside, the use of various sounds and tones give this album a somewhat creepy vibe, as the various vocal samples, synths, drum machines and bass rhythms come together to form an idea of a deep, dark cave, but with a light coming from the distance, ushering you to walk through the darkness to try and find its source.  The vocals, which are scattered throughout the album, follow suit with the music; ambient, layered, perfectly placed but haunting; as if he is deliberately telling the listener that the lyrics and vocals don’t really matter much, they are just their to heighten the overall aural experience.  Lyrics can sometimes be a distraction in some cases, so for this instance, why not let the music do the talking?

Throughout the album there is a great percussive presence; sounds and beats come together to create something much more then just drums, a pattern if you will.  But it is the underlying synth that takes centre stage.  Synths that just seem to tear you apart at the seams; the low end that makes you uncomfortable, but strangely attracted to what he has to offer; this is the definition of sunday/worship,  getting out of your comfort zone to experience something quite powerful and beautiful.

Gywnne knows how to properly layer sounds so that the deep, low bass is effective throughout and doesn’t drown out every other magical sound he creates.  Synths can be overused, and in a lot of cases they are, but with this album, they are utilised to perfection; to create an atmosphere in your mind only top professionals at NASA and CERN can conceive of, but now you can as well.  An outer world vibe brought home; now we can all feel how astronauts felt not only when they saw the Earth from above for the first time, but when they are sent back home for a safe landing.

- Mike Greenwood

blood blood - sunday/worship  is available as a free download here.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Chrissy Barnacle - Scottish Fiction Session Videos

Folk punk songstress Chrissy Barnacle has a unique way with lyrics, weaving what can appear on the surface whimsical stores, but which when scratched beneath tell tales of love, loss, life, relationships and everything in between.  Chrissy joined me on Scottish Fiction to chat about her music, influences, and play us some live music.

Below are videos for the tracks HazelnutsCharmed  and Bag of Bones  which were recorded at Pulse 98.4 FM as part of Chrissy Barnacle's Scottish Fiction Session.  To hear the full show, including interview, check out the Scottish Fiction Podcast for 20th October 2014.

And check out this EXCLUSIVE video of Nightride  recorded for the Scottish Fiction blog.

Single Review - The Last September - This Train Remains

The first thing you hear when listening the latest single, This Train Remains,  from Edinburgh based group The Last September is their use of rhythm and space, provided in most part by Simon Usher on drums and Archie MacFarlane on keyboards and accordion; not to mention their soft touches of melody and ambient layering echoing throughout the track.

Layers of instruments slowly come and go, painting an aural picture of a journey, whether or not it be on an actual train.  Lush guitar tones and somewhat ambient riffs, coupled with underlying driving rhythms and the always present drum line, give the track a sense of great anticipation; you almost can't wait to hear where this song is going, until it kicks in to a fantastic reprise/bridge putting to rest all your doubts about this journey and making you want to enjoy the adventure even more.

Strong vocals by Pete Deane and Craig Nicholson give the perfect amount of harmonies to take us on this trip and lull us into a sense of false security, while hinting that the band are ready to lay their soul out on to this track for all to hear.  Lyrical content about being on this ambiguous trip, mixed with strong, reflective emotions really help the music hit home and give a nice contrast to this seemingly innocent song.  There is an edge in the music, you just need to listen to the lyrics and truly understand what Pete and Craig are trying to communicate to the listener.

- Mike Greenwood

The Last September - This Train Remains  is out now via Fountainhall Records and is available to download from the band's Bandcamp page on a 'name your price' basis.

Scottish Fiction Podcast - 3rd November 2014

After a few weeks of live sessions, it's just me on my tod this week.  And of course you joining me to listen to some of the best new tracks about at the moment.  Which is pretty much what this week's podcast is all about with new tracks from Machines In Heaven, Prehistoric Friends, Bellow Below, C Duncan and a whole heap more.  Slàinte!

Copper Lungs - Cloud Nine
The Twilight Sad - Last January
Bellow Below - Adult Vegans
Young Fathers - Low
Jonnie Common - Crumbs
Machines In Heaven - Feel Slow
CLASSIC TRACK - Malcolm Middleton - The Loneliest Night of my Life Came Calling
Prehistoric Friends - Wisdom Tooth
C Duncan - For
Tuff Love - Slammer
The Xcerts - Pop Song
Atom Tree - Hearts

Subscribe/listen to the podcast via iTunes.

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