Scottish new music round-up: April 2021
This month's Scottish music round-up highlights new music from Stanley Odd, Post Coal Prom Queen and James Lindsay, plus an exciting experimental project from Edinburgh label Blackford Hill
Spring is here, hope dangling before us like a slightly past-its-best carrot on the end of a very long stick. Vaccinations are being rolled out, restrictions are starting to ease and a whole host of music festivals have started announcing actual plans for this year. Amid all this, new music is still coming thick and fast, so we’ve done our best to highlight some of the Scottish releases we’re most excited about this month.
Following on from releases from Mogwai and Arab Strap, this month is the turn of another of Scotland’s most-loved alt-rock bands, Teenage Fanclub, who release their eleventh album, Endless Arcade, via their own PeMa label on 30 April. “The unofficial King of Scotland”, according to Huw Stephens anyway, Pictish Trail releases his brand new Dream Wall EP on 1 April (read this month's interview with Johnny Lynch here), and Glasgow songwriting project Ensemble, who work with young people in social care, release their debut collaborative effort, No Place Like It (more about that in our April issue; find a copy here).
On FUWSH (Fuck You We’re Still Here), the opening track of STAY ODD (12 Apr), Scottish hip-hop mainstays Stanley Odd don't care what you think. In his charismatic signature lilt, frontman Dave Hook delivers lines like ‘Music that makes me contemplate cutting off ma ears’ and ‘In a Scottish accent? How can ah unhear this’ with conviction. It’s a funny, confident, middle-finger-up at the haters, from a band who are just doing what they love, doing it well and doing it on their own terms. The song perfectly concludes with: ‘It’s as if they wanted to get dropped by their label, but they’re not even on one’, and a hearty chuckle from vocalist Veronica Electronica.
On STAY ODD, their first album in over six years, Stanley Odd have levelled up. The dry wit, expertly delivered social commentary and playful cap tips at pop culture are all there, and the music bounces. Just try to refrain from turning the volume up on tracks like Bill Oddy or on midpoint banger Undo Redo; even slower cuts like Exciting Lives warrant a head bob.
As well as the music, STAY ODD comes with a lovely wee A5 accompanying ‘Oddio’ book of poetry and song lyrics. Titled The magic of everyday things (A music book), it’s exactly what you’d expect from a book by the band: it’s bold and vibrant, it’s 56-pages filled with graffiti-inspired illustrations, playfully annotated throughout with scribbled handwriting of processes and lyrics. A lovely addition to the old Billy bookcase.
Blackford Hill, James Lindsay, Post Coal Prom Queen
Curated by Simon Lewin, with help from co-curator Tommy Perman, one of the most tantalising offerings this month comes in the form of Blackford Hill’s Transmissions Vol. 1 (16 Apr). An evocative collection of 31 tracks across two CDs, its unique throughline of experimental noises, found sounds and sounds in nature, with the collective penchant for musical exploration, help to cohesively bring this project together despite there being many artists involved.
Across its two-hour runtime, standouts come thick and fast on this record of exceptional intricacies. Perman’s remix of Andrew Wasylyk’s Adrift Amid a Constellation feels of another world; the propulsive beat of Lomond Campbell’s Piano Stutter is a rush; Jake Tilson’s New York 18/11/95 – Harmonica, E Train 8th Ave Local is transportative; WOLF’s Churchbells (Tideout) is eerily atmospheric; and Hanna Tuulikki’s By the Shoreline (Away from the Birds) is alluring and meditative. Transmissions Vol. 1 is a beautiful record from an exceptional cast of musicians and noise-makers.
On 23 April James Lindsay releases Torus, his cross-genre, rhythm-hopping album which expertly combines different facets of jazz, trad and experimental rock. While at some points you find yourself questioning whether or not it actually works, it's never long before you're sucked back into its plentiful charms. Listening to this record while staring out the window watching day turn to night, as clouds roll gently by is a strangely satisfying and wildly calming experience. You should try it.
Formerly making lovely noises together under the moniker L-space, as Post Coal Prom Queen Lily Higham and Gordon Johnstone sound revitalised. The duo release their debut EP, PCPQ, on 29 April, and to be quite frank, they’ve never sounded better. Instrumentally, the music on PCPQ sounds richer than on their previous work as L-space, and in its tightly-packed four songs it overflows with delightful sounds, textures and tempos. But it’s Higham’s delicate, breathy and feather-light vocals that are the real standout here as they seem to effortlessly bring the whole thing together, Higham sounding more confident and assured than we’ve heard before.
Elsewhere, inspired by the conversations she’s had with women about their experiences of impostor syndrome and the negative impact social media can have on their mental health, Jen Athan releases her new EP I Love Me, I Love Me Not (2 Apr). On 30 April, the yellow-loving Colonel Mustard and the Dijon 5 release The Difficult Number 2, and Glasgow three-piece Baby Strange release their high-octane Land of Nothing EP featuring the infectious indie-disco cut Club Sabbath.
March releases you may have missed...
On top of what we already mentioned in last month’s round-up, March continued to get chunkier by the day. Sister duo Jo and Nicky D’arc of The Twistettes released Mirrored Moon (21 Mar), their debut album as Minerva Wakes. A heady mix of electronica, industrial, trip-hop, dubstep and spoken word, it’s an exciting introduction to the pair. Josephine Sillars released her long-awaited, politically-charged Desperate Characters EP (26 Mar), and Vicky Gray released Atlaness (26 Mar), her debut EP inspired by the fiddle music of her late grandfather.
There were also an abundance of tip-top singles to be found across a variety of genres. On 12 March, Edinburgh-based British/Iranian musician Pegah Meridies released Soul Market, while Scottish/Costa Rican singer-songwriter and musician Probably Finlay released the sumptuous The Unquiet Grave.
A week later, on 19 March Dumfries’s Franky’s Evil Party released One Big Family, Glasgow’s Triptych released not one, but two emo-tinged alt-rock singles (I Made Too Much Pasta and Dying Alone), and Glassmasterer released the blissed-out doubler of Trouvaille and Twenty Red Kites.
Glaswegian sextet Kaputt released the feral Movement Now on 24 March, Gunke released Football the following day, while a day later Perth’s Rosalie. released Lost. And right at the end of the month, Molly Linen – the latest signing to Lost Map – released the delicate and beguiling A Lot To Give (31 Mar).
The real surprise highlight last month, though, came from Johnny McFadzean under his The Woods moniker. Taking on a cover of the MASSIVE I’d Rather Go Blind by Etta James, a thought most would involuntarily wince at, McFadzean has completely reworked the single to the point that the original is almost unrecognisable here. The instrumentation is spacious, slick and sultry, leaving plenty of room for McFadzean's Jeff Buckley-channeling vocals to really shine. This cover is next level and we honestly cannot stop thinking about it.