Scottish new music round-up: March 2021

We take a look at some of the more under the radar musical offerings coming out of Scotland this month including Youth Team, Rachel Jack, Lou Mclean and OVER / AT

Feature by Tallah Brash | 04 Mar 2021
  • Lou Mclean

As we wrote this month’s round-up, Glasgow’s Mogwai were in the running to score a number one album in the UK charts with their tenth record As the Love Continues. Thanks to their fans, and support from famous fans like The Cure’s Robert Smith and Lord of the Rings actor Elijah Wood, the band grabbed their first number one. Scotland well and truly got itself on the musical map last month, and this month is likely to be no different as Arab Strap release As Days Get Dark on 5 March, their first album in over 15 years, via Mogwai’s Rock Action label. Read our interview with Aidan Moffat here, and check out our review of the record.

After making the news last month during the cold snap for recording a temperature of -23 degrees centigrade, Braemar actually has something happening this month that’s worth getting excited about. Thanks to the impeccable taste of Edinburgh label Gerry Loves Records, they’ve decided it’s about time that Braemar producer and musician Angus Upton – who performs under the moniker Youth Team – got a physical release, and so the gorgeous I Have Heard the Signal, I Am Waiting for the Call is coming out on 26 March. For the most part instrumental, I Have Heard the Signal... is a potent mix of ambient and hypnotic, pounding and futuristic, where fuzzy guitars collide with jaunty pianos, and squelchy wubs dance playfully with twinkling electronics.

Staying north, on 18 March Aberdeen’s Rachel Jack releases her Magazine Girls EP, the much more pop-centric follow-up to her debut, The Calgary Tapes. Working this time with Dunt (Stanley Odd, Solareye, SHEARS) who she met while completing a Paolo Nutini songwriting scholarship at the University of the West Scotland, on Magazine Girls Jack tackles the dark side of the music industry as she takes a closer look at its unrealistic beauty standards, squares up to bullying and harassment, and harnesses strength from past difficult situations, all with the most glorious of pop sheens.

Edinburgh singer-songwriter Lou Mclean is also releasing a new EP this month. Locked Down in Leith is set for release on 8 March, and in Mclean’s own words, it “charts my experiences through lockdown. Each song is personal but the emotion explored in them is universal." As she bids farewell to the summer on opening track Goodbye, Mclean sings: ‘We’re walking on the tightrope of a fucked up circus show, where the grand finale ends in a crashing fatal blow’, while she later asks: ‘Can I turn this crisis into a bangin’ song?’ and the answer is, well, yes. Later, on the aptly-named The World Is On Fire she sings: ‘The world is on fire and I just want to feel alive’. It’s a neat collection of five guitar-led songs that really let McLean's relatable storytelling shine through.

Lovingly curated and produced by Rufus Isabel Elliot, we’re also really excited this month about the release of the FOLKS’ SONGS EP on 26 March. As part of the wider OVER / AT project – 'a new concert series and trans music-making world' – which launched a year ago this month at The Glad Cafe, FOLKS’ SONGS is a challenging but ultimately rewarding listen. With contributions from multi-instrumentalist, composer and pipe maker from the Highlands, Malin Lewis, visual and sound artist, freelance photographer and DJ Matthew Arthur Williams and writer and performer Harry Josephine Giles, amongst others, the EP was mixed and mastered by Kay Logan who also mixed Comfort’s 2020 SAY Award-shortlisted album Not Passing. Produced as part of Sound and Music’s Composer-Curator programme, and in partnership with Birmingham’s experimental Supersonic Festival, FOLKS’ SONGS has been made entirely by a team of trans, non-binary and gender-minority people, and shines a light on the different ways they use their voices to tell their stories. 

Elsewhere, two compilation albums – Pianodrome Mixtape Vol. 2 and Cover to Cover – come out in time for Bandcamp Friday on 5 March; the former is raising funds for Edinburgh's unique Pianodrome venue and features songs from This Is the Kit's Kate Stables, and Amanda Palmer, while the latter is an all-female/non-binary affair fundraising for the charity SWIM (Scottish Women Inventing Music). Brand new Edinburgh micro label New Teeth put out two more singles this month – User Error by Astroturf Inspector (5 Mar) and Be Gone With You by EARfATHER featuring Alex Auld Smith (26 Mar). On 12 March Stirlingshire’s Moth Traps releases his quirky debut album Truth Maps, Fife-based queer producer Ben Seal releases their brand new high energy single I Want, and Aberdeen singer-songwriter Katie Mackie releases the beautiful blissed-out Terricot Town, while on the following Friday (19 Mar) be prepared to fall down an early 00s pop-punk rabbit hole thanks to Glasgow band DETER's new single Underneath.

February releases you may have missed...

As we said last month, February was a stuffed affair and that became even more apparent as the month zipped past. Some stuff that caught our attention long after the February issue of the magazine was sent to the printers included Fizzy Milk (28 Feb), the hard-hitting record from rapper, poet and producer Tzusan. On the same day, at the other end of the musical spectrum, Lomond Campbell’s ethereal LŪP got a physical release on cassette tape via label The Dark Outside. Singles also came in thick and fast last month with new music from Rianne Downey (Fuel to the Flame), Post Coal Prom Queen (Wait, Wait! Dig!), NOVA (GTG/24), Pictish Trail (Dream Wall), wojtek the bear (ferme la bouche) and Redolent (Tabula Rasa), while Zoe Graham featured on Nicky Murray’s delightfully wubby single It Is So.