Fresher's Music Guide

Feature by Chris Buckle | 08 Oct 2009

Welcome to higher education. During your degree you’ll probably kip in dusty lectures, choose liquid refreshment over required reading and, considering you’ve chosen to peruse these pages, no doubt see a lot of live music. Some will be awful. So awful you’ll be tempted to begrudgingly surrender to four years soundtracked exclusively by the Baywatch theme, Chesney Hawkes and the braying of the drunk and disorderly.

Please don’t do that. Persevere and discover a new favourite band, DJ or club-night every time you get your glad-rags on. If that seems like hard work, here are some suggestions to get things started. Some you’ll know, some you might not – yet. They range from lone synth-wranglers to folk collectives of vast proportions, as well as guys with guitars making a racket the old-fashioned way. These disparate musos hail from across Scotland, lumped together here in the hope that, wherever you now call home, a selection will play nearby in the next year. But don’t quote us on this, and certainly don’t take our word for it.

Instead, take this list and add to it the countless others squeezed out by word-count-induced Archimedean displacement (who says the Skinny can’t augment yer syllabus, eh?). Then add all those we’ve yet to hear and fall for, and all those that don’t yet exist outside of a drunken conversation or an absent-minded daydream but who’ll be filling our pages in months to come. For now, this lot are humbly presented as well-worth your time and student loans, but they are, let’s be clear, the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Some need no introduction. If Franz Ferdinand, Camera Obscura, Mogwai or a reformed Vaselines come to town, you already know what to do. Others might disappoint by their absence: if Belle and Sebastian remain AWOL, take comfort in Stuart Murdoch’s God Help the Girl project which, fingers crossed, might take a step closer to cinemas sometime soon. If not, Chris Geddes is sure to be mixing tropical-jazz-funk-disco somewhere or other.

When it comes to home-grown legends, a more dependable bet would be Teenage Fanclub or Idlewild, with new albums from both due in coming months. And though there’s no firm date for a This Gift follow-up, an intense gig from Sons and Daughters can’t be far off.

Then there’s those just arriving on the cusp of Barrowland-sized devotion: follow We Were Promised Jetpacks’ upward propulsion, witness The Phantom Band spurn easy categorisation, and bask in the melodrama of Broken Records. The Twilight Sad, meanwhile, should be comfortably nestled in the upper echelons of ‘best-of-year’ lists come December.

Frightened Rabbit have already made that jump, and if you haven’t yet enjoyed their Arab Strap-esque lyricism and anthemic choruses up-close then you’ll want to remedy the situation quick-sharp. Speaking of Arab Strap, Malcolm Middleton and Aidan Moffat and the Best Ofs prove great things can emerge from a beloved act’s demise. (see also: ex-Delgados Lord Cut Glass and Emma Pollack).

Also no stranger is King Creosote and the rest of the Fence Collective ranks, a recommendation trotted out year on year for good reason – even if you don’t catch any of them during term, their annual Anstruther-based Homegame festival is conveniently post-exams – road trip anyone?

Not that Fife has a monopoly on folk-inspired loveliness: Withered Hand’s witty melancholia and Eagleowl’s bittersweet whispers are certain to impress, as are fellow Edinburghers Jesus H. Foxx and the impassioned Meursault. Glasgow answer with the gentle beauty of Sparrow and the Workshop, while also being home to Dundonian Yusuf Azak and his lushly vertiginous folkscapes. A Secondhand Marching Band show, meanwhile, is surely the only place you’ll hear an accordion, flute and ukulele-based rendition of Battles’ Atlas.

Glasgow also houses the Edwyn Collins school of indie-pop, with Wake The President the cream of the new crop. In addition, Butcher Boy and Zoey Van Goey uphold the romantic spirit of NPL, Peter Parker add a dash of riot grrrl, while Inspector Tapehead channel the Beta Band, utilising clocks and stray toys like a three-headed indie-Ray Mears. Speaking of Beta Band (R.I.P.), King Biscuit Time and The Aliens aint too shabby either…

They are, however, tricky to dance to; luckily there are plenty of electro-conjurers providing such a service. Errors you no doubt already know – if not, they’re ace; Gay Against You (and Joe Howe’s side-project Ben Butler and Mousepad) will leave you a sweaty, exhausted mess; chip-tune hypee Unicorn Kid will make younger siblings feel similarly; while Found resemble a proggy Hot Chip before they turned sombre.

Ever wanted to watch a bare-chested, blindfolded man beat himself with torches whilst subjecting his audience to digital noise? Then performance-artist/loud-scary-bloke Kylie Minoise is your man. Also at the decibel-heavy end of the spectrum are nightmare-in-lycra Take A Worm For A Walk Week, knitted gimps Ultimate Thrush, two-man rock-behemoths Bronto Skylift, pig-masked horror show De Salvo, and Titus Gein, who worship the synth and the Grohl simultaneously.  

Back in the realm of indie-rock, Paper Planes create sizable new-wave waves with their surf stylings and Copy Haho retool college-rock alt-forefathers winningly. Now an oh-so-clever riddle: what’s got twelve legs, infinite smiles and, um, four ‘na’s? Dananananaykroyd! If a weird flatmate starts posting passive-aggressive notes about unkempt hallways, a live dose of the sextet’s pandemonium-pop should ease frustrations.

Or you could gather in awed reverence at the loop-station altar of Wounded Knee; chuckle at the antics of Devo-tees We Are The Physics; gawp at Remember Remember’s aural collages; get lost to the dramatic swells of There Will Be Fireworks; enrol in Triple School; cautiously Google Sexy Kids; swoon to Maple Leaves; jump at Dirty Summer’s scuzzy rock-n-roll; get inexplicably choked up by My Kappa Roots; partake of The Foundling Wheel’s ramshackle clatter or sip whiskey to the countrified Wilson Tan. Not to mention Twin Atlantic, Over the Wall, Ross Clark, Dead Boy Robotics, How To Swim, Findo Gask, Vars of Litchi, Gummy Stumps, Vom, Bricolage and… well, you get the idea. Have fun uncovering the rest.