With And Yet It Moves you never knew what to expect, from jaw dropping experimental jam-like frenzies to full on aural assaults they are the ever encapsulating live band led by a frontman in Dale Barclay that you just can’t take your eyes off. On record that don’t quite carry that same presence, but is Free Pass To The Future they channel their all encompassing live show as best to can on record, giving touches of every genre you can imagine with a raw energy that explodes him intense bursts of power.
The postman from sunny Govan returned with the excellent Full Day, Cool Times, that through a number of ups and downs, show a real insight into the mind of this exciting MC. MC Almond Milk mixes wittily crafted lyrics, cheekily Scottish references with at times dreamy at others full on party beats. Lyrically Full Day, Cool Times sees the Glasgow MC take a sardonic look at youth culture, go on a nostalgic journey through his past, as we see him try to make sense of culture and himself. It’s a joyous listen from a very funny yet also very socially aware individual and is well worth delving into.
Whether crashing tides of art-rock drums over scintillating melodies on ‘Brain Sweeties’, or returning to the familiar slow build of a classic Mogwai anthem on ‘Coolverine’, this record solidifies a leanness of sound that sometimes bursts into reflective expanse. The nebulous haze of intense guitars recedes in gentler clefts of quiet chorale (‘1000 Foot Face’), while tracks like ‘Don’t Believe the Fife’ pound through the sublime intensity that Mogwai do best.
The Cosmic Dead’s sixth slab of music in recent years opens with a meditative trance, a wash of modulating drone pushed alone with a jarring sparse bass groove bringing to mind the brittle dry tones of Slint’s Spiderland. This is on top of waves and gargles of synth mixed with the effected guitars, the tropical watery arpeggios bring the refreshment to the scene created. This pleasance this comes to an end as the temperature rises to that of a burning comet heading straight for the listener’s temples. Links to their live set can be heard in the closer ‘#FW’, where after the howl of what sounds like “fuck Westminster” the headbanger material comes out; the riff gather a playful side as a bit crushed hooks is typed out as the record draws to a close.
Recorded over four years in various bedrooms in Scotland and California Asleep in the Kaatskills by The Great Albatross is a tremendously coherent and enjoyable album, worth more than the sum of its parts, failing at no point to impress, falling at no point into a pigeonhole and feeling at all times extremely professional. Despite embracing a number of popular sounds and dimensions, the album has a lot of originality, it is experimental without sacrificing its cohesiveness or purpose. Neither too light nor too dark, not too happy or sad, neither too serious nor too jovial, too simple or too complex, the catchy parts aren’t too sickly and the record has popular appeal without sacrificing an ounce of integrity; it is highly emotional but not sappy; combined, the balance of these aspects makes an exceptional debut, incorporating a wide variety of instruments in sensational harmony.
Catholic Action built a stellar reputation over a few years and their debut LP demonstrates their knack for killer choruses, it’s a remarkably well put together collection, with crisp, bright production and a multitude of hooks ringing out like church bells. At their best Catholic Action channel both the humour and the classic power pop songwriting of bands like Cheap Trick or The Cars and it’s when Catholic Action compress themselves into these compact forms that the best moments on In Memory Of arise. It might not be the most coherent album you’ll hear but it full of such joy enthused tracks that it has to be considered one of Scotland’s best in 2017.
Edinburgh based artist Annie Booth has received critical acclaim and continued to impress in her new release An Unforgiving Light. Booth is on point with not only her song writing, but her capacity to communicate many deep sentiments through her work. An Unforgiving Light will at points send shivers down your spine with beautifully concocted mellow numbers, but Booth shows mastery in her capacity for crossing many plains of musical forms using punchy lyrics, calypso like guitar at points to keep the piece both catchy and addictively pleasing to the ear, all the while Booth’s voice is showcased in her ability to move seamlessly across octaves while maintaining accuracy in pitch and harmony. An Unforgiving Light is the perfect combination of musicianship, meaningful lyrics and originality while still being comforting.
Sister John has spend the last year meticulously constructing a grown up record that touches on pastoral folk to put together a beautiful record with conscientious craftsmanship. Even when the arrangements are sparse, light and airy, they are impeccably constructed; layered up and mixed together. The promotional material for the record makes the bold claim that this is a record that would sit comfortably alongside such classics as Neil Young’s Harvest, The Band’s Music From Big Pink, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours or Leonard Cohen’s Songs of Love and Hate; the highest compliment you can pay Returned From Sea is that after a few listens this comparison no longer seems so far-fetched.
Killmens was another record that maybe hasn’t quite had the chance to settle in before putting this list together, such was the proportions of John B McKenna’s double record opeth that it was huge listen that just gets better on further listens. Monoganon has always been an exciting artist, but with Killmens it appears McKenna has hit real odyssey territory as he breaks down and blows apart basic masculinity and leaves us with an expansive psych pop gem that we won’t stop playing for some time to come.
Banana Oil were an expected yet absolutely intoxicating surprise for 2018, the trio of Joe Howe (Ben Butler & Mousepad), Niall Morris (Sham Gate, LYLO) and Laurie Pitt (Golden Teacher, The Modern Institute) brought about a jazz fuelled post punk explosion, full of entrancing grooves and a raw unpolished edge.