Scottish New Music Round-up: January 2022
January can often be a barren wasteland in terms of releases, but there’s new music this month from Niteworks, Goodnight Louisa, Kathryn Joseph and more
Following a handful of performances with the Tinderbox Orchestra at the likes of Hidden Door and the Pianodrome, the inimitable Kathryn Joseph has been working with 30 musicians from the collective to deliver orchestral versions of three of her songs – The Weary and The Blood from SAY Award winning album Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I’ve Spilled, and Weight taken from her second album From When I Wake the Want Is.
Set for a digital-only release via Bandcamp on 29 January, the resulting three-track EP, aptly titled The Blood, The Weight, The Weary, takes Joseph’s compositions and songwriting to new heights; careful not to lose the feel of the originals, it’s almost as if they’ve been coloured in here – keeping inside the lines – and given a new lease of life. In short, it’s quite something.
A little earlier in the month, on 14 January Randolph’s Leap frontman Adam Ross releases his debut solo album Staring At Mountains via Olive Grove Records. Stepping away from the indie-folk collective he’s worked with for over a decade, Staring At Mountains sees Ross working with external musicians for the first time, with stunning violin accompaniment from Pedro Cameron (Man of the Minch) and gorgeous backing vocals from Jenny Sturgeon.
Although it’s a much more sombre affair than what we’re used to from Randolph’s Leap, Ross’s storytelling and songwriting is still second to none here, and his unique sense of humour and delightful rhyming couplets can still be found on tracks like Alice & Christine: ‘Alice lived in Berwick / Upon Tweed with her dad Derek / While Christine lived in Lerwick / Way Up in the Shetland Isles / They kept in touch by letter / Christine said the day she met her / She would send a Fair Isle sweater’. Across the record there’s an effortless warmth in the stripped-back nature of the compositions made up of just acoustic guitar, violin and vocals, and it just sounds undeniably Scottish and like a big warm hug.
There’s more exceptional songwriting from East Kilbride singer-songwriter Michael Timmons this month too as he releases his second album, The Lightness of the Dread, on 28 January via Gargleblast Records. Produced by Andy Miller (Mogwai, Songs: Ohia, Life Without Buildings) and with input from The Twilight Sad’s Andy MacFarlane, The Lightness of Dread beautifully explores the grief Timmons experienced following the death of his father, and trying to find the light in dark times – something many can relate to. Instrumentally, the album is clean and uncluttered with additional flourishes here and there, only when absolutely necessary. Timmons’ voice is the true star here; full of so much delicate and heartfelt emotion, it’s hard not to get lost in.
Not long after the breakup of Edinburgh band SKJØR, 2019 saw lead singer Louise McCraw launch her solo project Goodnight Louisa, with the super catchy Hollow God marking a decidedly darker, more synth-led electronic direction for McCraw. On 21 January more of those lovely warm electronics, synth-pop and exceptional vocals can be heard across her debut album, Human Danger. “Each of the songs is about a different aspect of human danger,” McCraw explains, “of how dangerous the world has become when we disregard others so easily, and put our own desires ahead of them.”
The album tackles subjects from women’s safety (‘Fuck the dark / I’m sick of being scared / Of all that lurks behind my shoulders / When I walk alone / My keys between my fingers’ she sings on Only a Matter of Time, while she later pleads 'Get your hands off my girlfriend' on a track of the same name) to myths around female perfection which she tackles on Diana, an unsettling tale of a dream she had about Princess Diana when she was ill, resulting in Diana telling McCraw: ‘Gotta save the world, even if it kills you’. Human Danger is an exceptional debut, its 11 gleaming tracks as heavily indebted to 80s synth-pop as they are to the likes of Daughter.
Following a SAY Award longlist nomination for their second album Air Fàir An Là in 2019, Isle of Skye electro-trad fusion outfit Niteworks return this month with their third record, A ‘Ghrian. Due on 14 January, A ‘Ghrian is a grand affair, featuring more of what we’ve come to love about the band; pulsing dance grooves effortlessly and uniquely melded together with traditional Celtic sounds. As well as the Gaelic language being celebrated once more, for the first time the four-piece have incorporated English folk and Scots songs into their music to stunning effect.
“With this album we’ve sought to create a more expansive sound that’s cinematic in its nature,” drummer Ruairidh Graham says of the record. “We were partly inspired by our work writing the music for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Fare Well film that reflected on what 2020 had been like for many during the pandemic. The nature of the project required broad expansive sounds, and that led to us going further in that direction through the writing and recording of the album.” While this fusion of sound might sound jarring and perhaps not be for everyone, dance music fans and trad aficionados will definitely find something here to like.
Elsewhere, Glasgow band Twin Atlantic, now a duo, release new album Transparency (7 Jan), John Wills and Pinkie Maclure, aka Pumajaw, release their latest album Scapa Foolscap (21 Jan); Beerjacket releases his latest album Handstands (28 Jan), and Glasgow post-punks VLURE release their debut EP Euphoria (14 Jan). There’s a smattering of singles due this month too, with Edinburgh duo Slim Wrist, fka Super Inuit, releasing the atmospheric Shone (28 Jan), the second single under their new name; Lou McLean and Berta Kennedy release their debut collaborative effort, Shelf Life (24 Jan) and Jill Lorean releases Mothers (26 Jan).