Now & Then: An A-Z of Scottish Music

Consider this your Scottish music crib sheet – our A to Z guide to some of the finest minds in Scottish music. As ever, Wet Wet Wet fans should prepare for disappointment.

Feature by Darren Carle | 01 Oct 2013

Admiral Fallow

Indie folk sextet Admiral Fallow have been furrowing away since 2007 under the guidance of singer-songwriter Louis Abbott. His heart-on-sleeve confessionals formed the basis of debut album Boots Met My Face, which, in turn, met with considerable acclaim including an album of the year plaudit from venerable Scottish music blog The Pop Cop. A is also for Arab Strap, Annie Christian, Alamos, The Associates, Aereogramme

Boards of Canada

Almost certainly the most elusive and singular act on this list, Boards of Canada have stoked a following that borders on the cult-like. Their stunning debut, 1998’s Music Has The Right To Children, set their inimitable template of woozy field recordings, sampled film-stock vignettes and analogue electro that still resonates to this day. An essential starting point. B is also for: The Blue Nile, Belle and Sebastian, Bis, BMX Bandits, Black Sun, Biffy Clyro, Battery Face, Broken Records, Butcher Boy


This Glasgow trio showcased a master-class in hype last year on the back of debut single Lies. The resultant hoopla caused by three minutes of glam electro pop was fairly astounding but the three-piece have delivered more goods with this years’ Recover E.P. and are just dropped debut album The Bones of What You Believe. C is also for: Cocteau Twins, Conquering Animal Sound, Casual Sex, Camera Obscura, Isobel Campbell

CHVRCHES play Glasgow's O2ABC on 11-12 Oct

Django Django

We named Django Django’s eponymous debut as the second best album of 2012 and we’ll stand by that today. Taking the baton from fellow wonk-pop exponents The Beta Band, the Edinburgh-formed quartet crafted a glorious work of day glo, dustbowl anthemia that’s been lending a sparkle to all manner of televisual fodder ever since. Detach yourself though and you’ll find one of the most playful and satisfying albums in some time. D is also for: De Rosa, Divorce, The Delgados, Dead or American, Die Hard, Dananananaykroyd, Degrassi, Dead Fly Buchowski


Given that they took some eight years to deliver debut album This Silent Year, it’d be rude not to single out Edinburgh trio eagleowl in our rundown of who’s who. Having been tided over with a couple of equally great EPs, their long-awaited debut cemented the sleepy folk outfit as one of Auld Reekie’s understated musical treasures. E is also for: Errors, The Exploited, El Hombre Trajeado

Frightened Rabbit

With their 2008 heartbreak album The Midnight Organ Fight, we fell in love with Frightened Rabbit. Since then, the rest of the world has been muscling in on our affair as the folk-rock outfit have steadily risen in popularity. Latter albums have bolstered their stadium sheen but we’re sticking with the more rustic and bare Organ Fight as your best route in. F is also for: The Fire Engines, FOUND, Franz Ferdinand, Fat Goth, Findo Gask

Frightened Rabbit play Glasgow's O2 Academy on 16 Nov

Guthrie, Robin

Along with vocalist Elizabeth Fraser, Robin Guthrie formed the core of the hugely influential Cocteau Twins. Within Guthrie’s effects-heavy guitar work and Fraser’s immediately distinctive ethereal vocals, embryonic traces of shoe-gaze can be gleaned whilst Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine has admitted the group's influence on his own work. Both Guthrie and Fraser continue to record separately but it’s together you’ll find their best work. There’s no generally accepted entry point into the Cocteau’s nine album catalogue, so we’ll recommend 1983’s Head Over Heels purely as our personal favourite. G is also for: Gay Against You, The Grand Gestures, Galchen

(RM) Hubbert

Robert McArthur Hubbert has been part of the underground Scottish music scene for over two decades now. Previous to this solo venture he was best known as part of post-rock group El Hombre Trajeado. That’s certainly changed now though as Hubby’s second solo album Thirteen Lost & Found picked up this year's Scottish Album of the Year Award. A slow-burning success then, much like the man’s own flamenco-infused, sombre output. H is also for: Happy Particles, Hey Enemy, Hudson Mohawke, Honeyblood, Hidden Orchestra, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band


Though they remain on hiatus since 2009, a swift reunion would see Edinburgh quintet Idlewild greeted with open arms by well-rounded music lovers. Having operated outwith any particular scene, they flourished from noisy garage punk into folk-tinged indie during the last decade and were all the better for it. Second album 100 Broken Windows should form a bed-rock of any discerning indie collection. I is also for: The Incredible String Band

The Jesus and Mary Chain

They may not have released a new album since 1998, but even if they had broken up after hugely influential 1985 debut Psychocandy, The Jesus and Mary Chain would undoubtedly still hit this list. Bobby Gillespie was on drumming duties at the time before quitting to form Primal Scream, lending the album an even greater Scottish resonance. Subsequent albums fared well enough but Psychocandy remains their finest moment. J is also for: Josef K, The John Knox Sex Club

King Creosote

The nom de plume of Fife singer-songwriter Kenny Anderson, King Creosote has been a huge influence on many layers of the Scottish music scene. From an exhaustive list of his own self-released albums to setting up the much-loved Fence Records, along with a couple of brushes with mainstream appeal, it’s difficult to think of another figure so entrenched in the Scottish music scene as ol’ Kenny. Try 2007’s Bombshell as an excellent all-round introduction to his oeuvre. K is also for: The KLF, Kaisers, Kid Canaveral 

Lord Cut-Glass

Though Lord Cut-Glass’ 2009 eponymous debut was a fine slice of Scots baroque grandeur, we’re really celebrating the man behind the Napoleonic cosplay here. Alun Woodward was not only a member of much-loved lush indie popstrels The Delgados, he, along with the band, also formed Chemikal Underground Records. Without such we may never have known the likes of Arab Strap, Mogwai, The Phantom Band and many others. Alun, in line with your preferred style of dress-up, we salute you. L is also for: Laeto, Lady North, Lapsus Linguae

Mason, Steve

As founder and lead-singer of The Beta Band, Steve Mason had already left his mark on Scottish music when that band disbanded in 2004. Mason began steadily releasing music under the pseudonym King Biscuit Time but has been finding wider acclaim since putting down the bourbons, releasing the highly acclaimed albums Boys Outside and this years’ Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time under his own name. M is also for: Macrocosmica, Malcolm Middleton, Meursault, Mogwai

Steve Mason plays Edinburgh's Liquid Room on 26 Oct and Glasgow's O2ABC on 27 Oct

Nina Nesbitt

We’re not averse to a nice bit of pop here at The Skinny (unless it's Wet Wet Wet), and rising Edinburgh star Nina Nesbitt is certainly that. Breakthrough single Stay Out has been accosting daytime radio playlists and follow-up release Way In The World seems likely to follow suit with, we presume, a debut album in the pipeline. N is also for Nazareth

Orange Juice

OK, so we’re cheating to include Edwyn Collins here rather than his long-defunct guitar pop band Orange Juice, but that’s just a measure of the man’s influence. Collins’ well-documented health problems may have refocused attentions but obvious cuts like Rip It Up or globe-straddling solo pop hit A Girl Like You remain timeless and belie a rich back catalogue worth investigation. Try 2003’s A Casual Introduction for starters. O is also for: Over the Wall, One Dove

The Phantom Band

Fittingly for their name, Glasgow sextet The Phantom Band appeared seemingly from nowhere with their blind-siding debut Checkmate Savage in 2009. A year later saw follow-up The Wants manage to better it, so The Skinny is getting all frothy for a potential third album (c’mon guys). In the meantime, frontman Rick Redbeard’s stripped-back folk album No Selfish Heart is an excellent curveball. P is also for: PAWS, The Pictish Trail, Primal Scream, The Pastels, Emma Pollock

Queen, Monica

Admittedly not one of the most current names on this roster, Monica Queen was nonetheless lead vocalist with indie rockers Thrum back in the early nineties. After disbanding, Queen stepped into the limelight again, providing vocals to Belle and Sebastian’s single Lazy Line Painter Jane before moving onto a solo career. Since then, Thrum have reunited, releasing second album Elletorama in 2011. Q is also for: Q without U

Remember Remember

The one time solo endeavour of Graeme Ronald, Remember Remember have gradually evolved into an amorphous troupe of multi-instrumentalists. 2008’s eponymous debut set their blueprint of gentle, looped guitar lines and cyclical woodwind trimmings bolstered by deft, glitch electronic. 2011’s The Quickening upped their game considerably, leading to local DJ Vic Galloway crowning it his album of the year. R is also for: Rick Redbeard, The Rezillos, The Reindeer Section

Stafford, Adam

Despite critical acclaim, Falkirk band Y’all Is Fantasy Island endured ten years of miniscule commercial success before disbanding in 2011. Thankfully, lead singer and guitarist Adam Stafford hasn’t completely thrown in the towel, releasing his latest solo effort Imaginary Walls Collapse earlier this year. It’s also shaping up to be Stafford’s highest profile release yet. Not a moment too soon say we. S is also for: Strike the Colours, Sparrow and the Workshop, Strawberry Switchblade, Sons & Daughters, Stapleton, Shitdisco, The Scottish Enlightenment, Super Adventure Club, Swimmer One, Sluts of Trust

The Twilight Sad

Back in 2007 we anointed The Twilight Sad’s debut Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters as our album of the year. Combining singer James Graham’s dense Scottish brogue with layers of shoegaze guitar noise, there’s been little like if before or since. Third album No One Can Ever Know was a return to a very different form, opting for cold, towering synths but with equally splendid results. T is also for: Teenage Fanclub, Trembling Bells, There Will Be Fireworks, Tut Vu Vu

The Twilight Sad play Edinburgh's Liquid Room on 14 Dec

United Fruit

Unlike the former banana traders they’ve named themselves after, United Fruit have built up something of a positive reputation both live and on record. Despite their heritage, the quartet sound a world away from their Glasgow hometown, with 2011 debut album Fault Lines using the hardcore template of ...Trail of Dead and At The Drive-In as a jumping off point for their own incisive and guitar-driven white noise. U is also for: The Unwinding Hours, Uncle John and Whitelock, Urusei Yatsura

The Vaselines

Yes, the leg-up afforded to The Vaselines by Kurt Cobain will forever be associated with them, but the core duo’s original output, encapsulated nicely with 2009 retrospective Enter The Vaselines, is cause enough for them be included here. Still going strong after 2010 comeback Sex with an X, The Vaselines remain relevant to this day. V is also for: VCheka, VASQUEZ

We Were Promised Jetpacks

We first saw We Were Promised Jetpacks supporting Frightened Rabbit at the diminutive Caves venue in their Edinburgh hometown back in 2008. Last month, the young quartet supported Bon Jovi at Hampden Park. But don’t let association with the perma-mulleted rock gods put you off; WWPJ deserve every bit of that mercurial rise. Debut album These Four Walls marks a promising start but 2011’s In the Pit of the Stomach is where The Jetpacks really start to, ahem, lift off. W is also for: Siobhan Wilson, Withered Hand, The Wildebeests, The Waterboys, We Are the Physics, Bill Wells

The Xcerts

Aberdonian trio The Xcerts have been slowly burning on the music scene for over a decade now, finally releasing debut album In the Cold Wind We Smile in 2009 and quickly following it with 2010’s more confident sounding Scatterbrain. A scrapped support slot with Guns N’ Roses last year may have been a disappointment for the lads but we’ll wager the young chaps will bounce back soon enough with a new album. X is also for X-Lion Tamer

Yorkston, James 

Like fellow Fife-resident King Creosote, James Yorkston has cultivated quite a reach across the underground Scottish music scene. His 2011 book It's Lovely to be Here: The Touring Diaries of a Scottish Gent says it all in the title and is worthy of a read whatever you make of his music. Any of Yorkston’s ‘main’ releases on Domino are worthy starting points. We’ll opt for 2006’s The Year of the Leopard. Y is also for: The Yawns, The Yummy Fur, Y'all is Fantasy Island, Young Fathers

Zoey Van Goey

As a quartet they may be of mixed nationalities, but having formed in Glasgow in 2006 and being signed to Chemikal Underground, we’re going to stake fey indie popsters Zoey Van Goey as our own. By encasing their sometimes big subject matter within twee, playful folk gems they’ve managed to eke out their own path. 2009’s debut album The Cage Was Unlocked All Along is a sensible first stop here. Z is also for: The Zephyrs