Tag Archives: December ’91

December ’91 – Starin’ at the Freaks [GoldMold]

December ‘91– who, by the way, has one of the most compelling solo acoustic guitar acts I’ve seen – has a new album called Starin’ at the Freaks.

There are a few things that I have come to expect from the artist; a warm and traditionally “folky” (whatever that means) sound, a dark and subtle back hand that creeps around a lot of the songs, and some embarrassingly if not upsettingly frank lyrics (seriously though, there’s such a juxtaposition between nice wee boy playing nice wee songs and bad wee boy singing bad wee songs, it’s ridiculous).

These aspects of December ‘91’s music are delivered in droves, but so are influences from eighties pop music and some excellent production, which I wasn’t given to expect.

That said, there is a little less crude lyricism in this release, so the listening experience is less wrought with spilled beverages, shoogly heads and tutting noises.

All told, this is a really competent and enjoyable release – definitely the artists best so far.

December ‘91’s music has a distinctive darkness to it, despite this offering being much lighter seeming in tone than previous albums.

There is candidness to the music that borders on the unsettling at times.

The type of music in question often lacks the edge that December 91 injects.

Often the lyrics are light but the music is dark or vice versa, it is quite subversive and certainly unpredictable.

This album seems like a step in a more commercially viable direction for the artist, but thankfully this comes without a sacrifice of quality and integrity, it comes with a better scope in terms of production and the intelligent and tasteful inclusion of a variety of instruments and influences.

Being the most professional sounding release so far, it is the one that highlights most so the variability, enduringness and appeal of the artist.

Tracks like ‘Starin’ at the Freaks’ and ‘Time on my Hands’ have an element of class that is difficult to fake, while ‘All Night (Alone in This World)’ and ‘Leanin’ on my Shoulder’ counterbalance some of the more uppity tracks with an honest clarity that inhibit the album from being like much else out right now.

Some of the vocals are imperfect, although it doesn’t seem as if this was unintentional; it seems as though this is in contribution to the honest and forthcoming nature of the music.

The album seems to do what one might expect from a folk-rock album produced by someone in their twenties in the city of Glasgow.

There are meaningful twangs of Americana, a well-balanced mixture of classical and contemporary elements and a lack of seriousness – with some swearing, morbidity and crassness thrown in for good measure.

This album seems likely to endure.

Words: Paul Aitken

Tracks of 2017 (40-31)

40. Marble Gods – ‘Washing Machine’

“a song about finding your feet and washing your socks”, it couldn’t have been put any better. Marble Gods are a band that exude joy, and ‘Washing Machine’ is the perfect example of that with its delightful lo-fi indie pop jangle, sugar coated C86 vocal displays and whimsical lyrics.

39. L-space – ‘Aloe’

‘Aloe’ is about someone being turned into a giant metal bird, need we say more. It’s also a dark, sinister yet dreamy piece of pop that stood out as the best work of an exciting band to emerge in 2017. L-space released a couple of promising EPs this year but it was this single released towards the end the calendar that caught our attention the most as it built from atmospheric beginnings to a ominous climax and left us wanting more.

38. Dama Scout – ‘Suzie Wong’ [Father/Daughter]

‘Suzie Wong’ was just one example of the creative and unpredictable charm of Dama Scout in 2017, and the track centred around a recording of a child’s guitar the band found while on holiday in Portugal is a delightful effort. Another modern pop number that takes in warm and classic indie influences while maintaining a truly fascinating sound, while sugar-coated, dreamlike vocals and and buzzing off-kilter melodies make it one that we’ll keep coming back to.

37. Walt Disco – ‘Jackets’

Walt Disco emerged this year with a shimmering, flamboyant talent and their debut single ‘Jackets’ gave us a taster of what to expect in the near future. The young five-piece here have meshed a charismatic lead falsetto with dynamic guitars and synths to great a sound no doubt indebted to a time before these guys were born, while feeling refreshingly current and exciting.

36. The Vegan Leather – ‘Shake It’

Instantaneously the massive, dirty electronics kick ‘Shake It’ into life, with the boy/girl trade-off between vocalists Marie Collins and Gianluca Bernacchi. Around two and a half minutes in, ‘Shake It’ essentially stops before becoming a different beast altogether. An instrumental seemingly custom-made for big dancefloors reverberates before the chanting finale of “SHAKE! SHAKE IT! SHAKE IT OUT!” Despite still being in their relative infancy, The Vegan Leather already now have an absolute banger, which sets them in good stead for fulfilling their definite potential.

35. And Yet It Moves – ‘Second Earth Song’

Free Pass To The Future was such an intense and genre spanning album that selecting a song wasn’t easy, we’ve gone for ‘Second Earth Song’ though, It’s a bit discordant but you can see the lineage to Glasgow bands of the early ’80s though naturally some of the vocals are then fed through a vocoder and things get rather raucous. It may be nuts, it may be yelling, “Fuck you”, all over the place but it has a joyousness about it, a celebration of itself.

34. Sister John – ‘Sweetest Moment’ [Last Night From Glasgow]

Meeting through the Parsonage Choir, Glasgow’s Sister John make beautiful lo-fi pop with a touch of Americana to their lush, warm harmonies. It’s startling just how assured the songwriting feels right off the bat on ‘Sweetest Moment’, from the conversational opening bars to the beautifully simple refrain “I’ll take it, break it and just before it cracks, it’s the sweetest moment,” it’s one of the most charming and effortlessly melodic tracks of the year. Keening fiddle adds a touch of Gillian Welch, while the gentle backing vocals lend a Laurel Canyon lushness to a track that floats past like a hazy evening breeze.

33. CHUMP – ‘At Least We Got A Song Out Of It’ [Gerry Loves]

‘At Least We Got a Song Out of It’ is rhythmically hypnotic and oozes professionalism and poise as well as laid-back resignation; it’s vocally endearing and musically explorative, well engineered and beautifully recorded. The wash of the cymbals is well placed and overlays the other instruments with a sense of distance. CHUMP do a good job of embracing and balancing the sound of its global and local acoustic elements.

32. December ’91 – ‘Starin’ At The Freaks’ [GoldMold]

We’ve been used to dark, misery drenched sometimes beautiful, sometimes frantic lo-fi punk come alt-rock from Stirling resident Craig Ferrie, aka December ’91. With ‘Starin’ At The Freaks’ is noticeably less lo-fi, with a lively optimistic sounding constantly driving backdrop that comes with an addictive vocal line that recalls the likes of Kurt Vile’s drawl delivery. A bright bit of alternative pop that brings in all the sunshine of the boat journey captured in the track’s video and brings a welcome upbeat addition to the ever growing December ’91 catalogue.

31. Emme Woods – ‘I’ve Been Running’ [Last Night From Glasgow]

Emme Woods is an act that has been rather underlooked by us over the past year, so much so that this single completely bypassed us when it came out, ‘I’ve Been Running’ is a dark contemplative track that perfectly shows Woods’ unique and impressive vocal stylings along with her unquestionable songwriting ability.

Albums of 2017 (30-21)

Albums 30-21 – 20-11 – 10-1 EPs 30-2120-1110-1

30. ULTRAS – ULTRAS [Hello Thor]

The brain child of Over The Wall’s Wav Prentice ULTRAS’ debut record caught our ears through its wide ranging influences, colourful tones and Prentice’s ever enthusiastic impassioned delivery.

29. Sun Rose – The Essential Luxury [Last Night From Glasgow]

The band formerly known as Nevada Base finally got round to putting out an album in 2018 and it’s one that was worth waiting for, it’s an emphatic display electronic pop music that shines with a vital energy that we have now come to expect from LNFG releases.

28. December ‘91 – Starin’ At The Freaks

We’ve come to accept December ’91 as a warm and traditionally folky artist, with a dark and subtle back hand that creeps around a lot of the songs, and some embarrassingly if not upsettingly frank lyrics. Starin’ At The Freaks is much lighter in tone than his previous releases and has a little less crude lyricism, delivering the artist’s best work to date This album seems like a step in a more commercially viable direction for the artist, but this comes without a sacrifice of quality and integrity. There are meaningful twangs of Americana, a well balanced mixture of classical and contemporary elements and a lack of seriousness – with some swearing, morbidity and crassness thrown in for good measure.

27. State Broadcasters – A Different Past [Olive Grove]

Glasgow’s State Broadcasters third record, A Different Past is a record that tries on everyone’s clothes from Teenage Fanclub’s buttoned down power-pop shirt to King Creosote’s rain-lashed greatcoat to the glossy sheen of Dear Catastrophe Waitress era Belle and Sebastian. There’s the sense that each track is part of a wider project, serving to highlight a different facet of the whole, that despite their disparate styles and influences there’s a sense of a common project here and it lends the record a thoughtful feel despite its more outré stylings. A Different Past comes with a manifesto: “embrace the world we live in today rather than revisiting and revising memories of our youth and trying to convince ourselves it really was all great fun,” with State Broadcasters, at least you’ll know there is always something fresh and new around the corner.

26. Washington Irving – August 1914

Folk rockers Washington Irving returned with another album of emotional highs and lows, this time delving into the bloody battles of WWI as inspiration for a set of songs that seek to catalogue love, misery and dread. Having played with Glasgow’s kings of anthemic melancholy Frightened Rabbit as well as the likes of Titus Andronicus and Wintersleep, the gang know how to match their miserabilism to rollocking tunes and August 1914 is certainly their heaviest and least folk-inflected set to date. Appropriately given the newly beefed up sound, August 1914 may well also be the group’s darkest set of material so far, from shout along first single ‘We Are All Going to Die’ to the stormy ‘Petrograd’, and when the tracks spark to life there’s a fiery intensity that few current Scottish bands can match, most notably on the brilliant and righteously angry ‘Faslane Forever’. To make August 1914, Washington Irving travelled to New York seeking new horizons; we’re lucky to have them back.

25. Siobhan Wilson – There Are No Saints [Song, by Toad]

Siobhan Wilson’s There Are No Saints starts off with its titular track, a saintly track that sets the scene beautifully and topically for a particularly nuanced, bold, intelligent and endearing album. What it does extremely well is meld contemporary and classical elements with respect, restraint and understanding; delivering one of the best debut albums we’ve heard recently. For such a highly artistic album, it is not alienating or difficult to engage with; there is no sense of snobbery here. There is nothing about this album that occurs in a particularly linear, predictable or boring way, it is exceptionally progressive and evolving.

24. Campfires In Winter – Ischaemia [Olive Grove]

Campfires In Winter debut album took some time in coming, as such it came at a time when the Croy four-piece are familiar faces on the Glasgow indie rock scene. Ischaemia, the follow up to a multitude of singles and EPs over the past few years, is an interesting synthesis of the sounds they have tried on over the last half a decade. Campfires have built a reputation for emotional live performances that blur the line between windswept folk rock and soaring shoegaze, on Ischaemia they brush up against these constraints with a record that pushes their sound in some more experimental directions, in a record that thrives on brains and a dark humoured outlook on the world.

23. Blue Rose Code – The Water of Leith [Navigator]

We were late to the game for Ross Wilson, aka Blue Rose Code’s acclaimed new album, and as a result maybe it wasn’t given a fair roll of the dice. Still, on the short time we had to spin in was an enchanting experience as Wilson sheds his past and looks to the future in true beautiful terms.

22. Fuzzystar – Telegraphing [Satelite Sounds]

Fuzzystar is the moniker of Andy Thomson and friends, an Edinburgh based gang trafficking in buzzy indie pop; Telegraphing is their debut record and it’s a ten track, tune packed blast that delivers reverb stricken off-kilter  indie pop at it’s best. At points the guitar is big and crunchy at others it’s sleek, while Thomson’s weary vocals lead the way, Telegraphing is a layered, fuzz  packed beauty that will have your heart captured in no time.

21. Best Girl Athlete – Best Girl Athlete [Fitlike]

Katie Buchan, aka Best Girl Athlete, followed up 2015’s Carve Every Word with her new self-titled album, which includes an eclectic mix of tracks displaying her strength in producing a strong and diverse range of music displaying real growth both musically, and lyrically. The album is stronger and sounds a great deal more confident as Buchan plays around with an interesting mix of genres and styles. Best Girl Athlete has moved into a more mature and complete space, through her alluring vocals and striking lyrics that shape each track and with this exceptionally well shaped album shows Buchan’s growing strength as an independent artist, promising impressive things to come in the future. 

Albums 30-21 – 20-11 – 10-1

Premiere: December ’91 – ‘Starin’ At The Freaks’ [Gold Mold]

We’ve been used to dark, misery drenched sometimes beautiful, sometimes frantic lo-fi punk come alt-rock from Stirling resident Craig Ferrie, aka December ’91.

His new single, the first of two from an upcoming album due December time via Gold Mold Records, ‘Starin’ At The Freaks’ is noticeably less lo-fi, with a lively optimistic sounding constantly driving backdrop that comes with an addictive vocal line that recalls the likes of Kurt Vile’s drawl delivery.

Coming off the back of touring through Canada, and a tour of France and Germany with friend Kenny Bates, aka lefthand, and it’s a bright bit of alternative pop that brings in all the sunshine of the boat journey captured in the video and brings a welcome upbeat addition to the ever growing December ’91 catalogue.

You can catch December ’91 live at any of the below shows:
28/10 Common Records Halloween Show (Glasgow) w/ Chrissy Barnacle, Milktoast, Lovers Turn to Monsters (solo show)
3/11 Flying Duck w/ Jack Butler, The Insomniac Project (full band show)
10/11 Tolbooth (Stirling) w/ Walt Disco, Pillow Talk, The Step (full band show)
28/11 Bar Bloc w/ Graham Costello’s STRATA (solo show)

Swamp Day Compilation [Death Collective]

Comprising a record with an apparently unintentional emphasis on death, Death Collective’s compilation Swamp Day was recorded by Kieran Hughes at his home studio at the Tollbooth in Stirling.

Truly an achievement, the album brings together a range of artists from across the country to revel in collective creativity.

Over the course of a week off, twenty or so artists passed through the studio, collaborating to create the album, which hangs together with the remarkable consistency that only a spontaneous, semi-improvised cooperative between such artists could.

A lot of compilation albums lack the thread to sew together the various and eclectic elements, but that is not the case here – perhaps on account of the fact that the various recording artists helped each other out and featured on each others tracks.

Without wishing to go on about it, I find it exceptionally encouraging that Death Collective were able to put together something so unique, professional and persistently enjoyable over such a short space of time; and that so many talented artists – whom you could potentially be browsing the reduced section of the supermarket with and not realise – can work together in such close collaboration.

There is a tangible sense of comfort and friendship echoing through the album, as if all of the contributors are saying the same words in different voices, getting at the same problems in different ways.

Track by track, we start with Gilleon Blamford singing “Separate Ways”; a harmonious and simple track adorned with licks of maraca.

The song is short, sweet and full of love.

The track has a lazy feel to it, but the good kind of lazy that you feel on a sunny afternoon rather than when you’re still in bed at four in the afternoon.

This is followed by Lefthand, whose profound understanding of the guitar is self-evident.

The restrained vocals, the well-placed wind instrumentals and the aforementioned guitar work culminates in an emotional and powerful track.

Clarinet plays over the top towards the end, adding a little seasoning to this already tasty tune.

Brazil Exists lay easily apprehended and poetic lyrics over an elegant instrumental structure to maximise the effect of ‘Victorian Values’, a romantic and endearing ballad.

It presents information in a unique way, I’m curious to hear more from this artist.

That leads us into December 91’s ‘Death Song’, which is replete with the frank lyrics, crafted musicianship and well placed harmonics that the artist is coming to be known for.

Death Bed takes things to a darker place than the collection has gone so far, thankfully, they do this in a very meaningful way.

The baritone vocal work, discomforting lyrics, sublime musicality and unusual structure of this track make it memorable and respectable to a high degree.

The artist tells me how grateful he is that Peter Russell happened to be there with his clarinet on the day, and that the track wouldn’t be what it is without it, I don’t know about that, but the clarinet is certainly sublime.

Thrumpy’s ‘Drunken Adventures’ raises the mood and the bar as the album moves into its second act.

Certainly the most active song on the collection, ‘Drunken Adventures’ utilises a creative and unusual blend of styles to make something truly wonderful.

Kieran Hughes – the engineer – offers us ‘First Time That You Die’, and avoids the temptation to make his own tune sound better than everyone else’s.

That’s not to say that it sounds worse because it definitely doesn’t, the track stays classy and old-timey whilst injecting a sense of modernity into its structure.

In a sense it captures the heart of the collection, a light hearted and welcoming exploration of death – with some more of that wonderful clarinet music.

The only purely instrumental track on the album – and a fine, well placed and heartening one at that – Scott William Urquhart’s ‘Wren (Part 2)’ fills the listener again with the sense of community and openness that it seems this album is based around.

Employing guitar only, there isn’t much to say about this track except that it makes for a lovely listen.

Jason Riddell’s ‘Had Enough of That, Baby (early version)’ begins and ends with studio chatter – this fact, and the fact that the track is listed with an un-capitalised (early version) speaks of the perfectionism that this artist strives for.

The vocal and instrumental tracks are on different paths, but meanderingly intersect often; this opposition and unification of elements keep the track interesting and endearing from start to finish, it is structurally unique with a lot going on, particularly for an (early version).

Next up is, ‘A Story About A Band Called Nirvana’ by The Narcissist Cookbook.

It seems to me rare to find a song that makes you laugh out loud whilst simultaneously taking you aback with its structure and melodies.

It’s an idiots guide to paranoid nihilism in the guise of a great acoustic sing-a-long; I don’t think I’ve heard anything quite like it before.

Jamie Flynn manages to follow this up with ‘Live. Die Young’, an airy and introspective song with emotionally powerful harmonies and some beautifully effected music.

This is one of the sadder tracks on the album and is therefore well placed.

As the album progresses, it does a good job of moving subtly between emotions, tones and atmospheres.

I can imagine that working on this release must have been very memorable.

Next up is Norrie McCulloch – the most Scottish sounding artist by far – whose offering is a slow, poignant track underpinned by a nuanced but familiar sounding voice.

It is structurally predictable and repetitive, but it isn’t trying to be anything but.

The song boasts a certain Americana that seems so prevalent in Scottish music these days.

It works very well on its own and in the context of the album.

Niamh Baker’s ‘Sailor’ is a particularly subtle, organic sounding and beautiful song; it is unpredictable and unusual, going in strange directions without losing its integrity or sense of purpose.

With a variety of aspects and approaches involved, this is truly an excellent piece of music.

Trenchfoot’s haunting ‘Little Drones’ follows it up, showing the darker side of death that the compilation has thus far managed to avoid.

Unsettling, disturbing, thought-provoking, well put together and evocative, this cautionary track sings songs of desolation; it’s some laugh.

This wonderful album is wrapped up in style by Constant Follower’s ‘On Old Shorelines’ an evolving, abstract effort that wraps powerful vocal work around some exquisite guitar work.

It really invokes an image of sea-faring with the wallowing waves of reverb and the gentle kindling of percussion – this is all strung together through the hook of a repetitive acoustic element.

I caught up with Hughes, he said that maybe the death stuff arose unconsciously out of a discomfort with writing love songs this weather, claiming there to be no intentional theme of death.

The process sounds stressful, not only did Hughes need to maintain and run the studio for a litany of different artists, but – since it was his home – he felt responsible for keeping it together and entertaining the musicians not in recording.

A particular highlight for Hughes was The Narcissist Cookbook’s performance, which was recorded in a single take, with none of the present party having heard the artist’s solo work before.

They were left flabbergasted – as was I when I listened to it.

As far as the importance of the project, Hughes could only speak personally, saying that it satisfied some artistic impulses of his – it’s great that recording artists out there feel compelled to create beyond their own limitations.

Having really enjoyed the whole process – which included a number of meals being made and interesting conversations being had – I can only hope that this isn’t the last we hear from the Death Collective.

I think this is a great record, and what is more it is a milestone and fine historical record of the burgeoning music scene here in Scotland.

The music is fine, polished, sensitive, professionally produced and thoughtful, it should be held in high regard for a number of reasons.

Words: Paul Aitken

Strange Behaviours at Tolbooth, 25-26/11/16

Tolbooth’s Strange Behaviours has two-day festival returns to Stirling for a third triumphant year.

With 18 acts to choose from, the event is a musical smorgasbord with a genre to please even the pickiest of music fans.

Living up to the events name, this year’s chosen aesthetics are just that – strange; broken and decorated mannequins are placed around the venue – some splashed with paint and one covered entirely in multi-coloured feathers.

A projector had also been set up in the Attic Stage showing scenes from Charlie Brown as well as footage of cakes being iced on a loop and other random background imagery.

Stock Manager kick off proceedings in the Attic Stage – having the most daunting slot on the bill being responsible for setting the tone for the rest of the night.

And they didn’t disappoint, they’re just a proper good rock band – complete with the behaviour (no pun intended) to match the sound.

Whether it be rocking out on the floor, knee slides as they jam together or knocking over parts of their set (sometimes accidently –but we’ll pretend it’s all part of their plan), the rock band persona oozes out of them.

Their music is complete with heavy riffs drops that are worthy of a good head-bang.

A new element has been added to the acts playing in the venue’s Gallery Stage this year – a versus battle but not like you know it.
First to put it to the test on Friday night is Chrissy Barnacle and December ’91.

Barnacle provides us with brutally honest tales of her own love life, filling the gaps between songs with quirky anecdotes and the history behind her tracks.

The personality that poured from her makes her entirely relatable – with a very 21st century view of love and relationships it is almost empowering to hear someone talk so openly about it and put it so eloquently to beautiful acoustic music.

Plus, anyone who can use a Tina Turner reference – “what’s love got to do with it?” – so effortlessly in her set is a hero in my eyes.

Once Barnacle had finished playing a few tracks, the audience had to shuffle through to the adjoining room – where Craig Ferrie aka December ’91 is set up with his guitar. Admitting that he’s not as good with the chat in between songs, he simply lets his music do the talking.

His songs run through a similar theme to Barnacle’s, with love and relationships being the key topic to both acts’ music.

Be Charlotte is up next on the Auditorium Stage – making the wee town of Stirling the last stop on her recent tour around South Asia.

A vision of the 90s in her sheer fluorescent top, oversized glasses and topknot bun, she showcases brand new unnamed material as well as live set staples such as ‘Machines That Breathe’.

Her flawless vocals flow effortlessly from rapping to singing without any backing music – stunning her audience into silence.

Don’t be fooled by her petite appearance, her vocals can encapsulate an entire room and she’s not afraid to call you out for talking through her performance either!

The band I have been looking forward to seeing on the Friday night are The Pale Kids and their set is filled with banter, with frontman Josh declaring “that’s close enough” whilst tuning his guitar for their performance.

Their angsty lyrics and heavy distorted guitars engulf the intimate room; The Pale Kids are definitely a band made for a big stage, it’s impossible not to want mosh along to their music – you should come out of their gig with a headache.

A good headache, like getting brain freeze from eating ice cream.

Closing Friday night’s event is critically renowned guitarist (and occasional singer) RM Hubbert.

The Auditorium Stage becomes a calm haven with Hubby up on the stage sat on a chair with just his guitar and the audience mirror his set up by taking a seat on the floor to enjoy his performance as he captures their imagination with his heartfelt and soulful lyricism.

Never afraid to touch on dark taboo topics like suicide, the sometimes melancholic music contrasts with his personality as he chats openly and honestly with his audience between tracks therefore stopping his performance from getting too heavy – it is a Friday night after all.

Eugene Twist kicks off Saturday night on the Auditorium Stage, bringing his jazzy alt-rock to Stirling.

Twist is regularly compared to the likes of Bob Dylan for his vocal talent (I must admit, his appearance is slightly Dylan-esque as well), however he’s definitely a musician in his own right as he packs his songs with sophisticated lyrics and smooth melodies.

He treats his audience to a special stripped down version of ‘Halloween Drama Queen’ as well as new material to be featured on his upcoming album due in January.

Saturday night sees another versus set take place in the Gallery Stage, this time round it is C R P N T R and The Narcissist Cookbook.

At first look, you’d maybe be confused as to why these two acts had been paired together, but after a few tracks, it’s clear to see that they share a common theme.

As well as both being Stirling locals, their music shows them both to be lyrical wordsmiths.

If you squint a little and ignore the Scottish accent, you could mistake The Narcissist Cookbook for Ed Sheeran; either way, he’s definitely got the same level of talent.

At times, he resembled a one-man-band alternating between guitar and tambourine, whilst using the loop pedal to create a vocal backing track.

Although I can’t empathise with his feelings of distain towards coffee (portrayed through track ‘Sugar In My Coffee’), I have to admit I did find myself singing along to it days after the gig; he just makes damn good catchy music.

Moving through to the next room to watch C R P N T R’s (aka. Owen Sutcliffe) counter-performance, we are greeted by Sutcliffe and his companion donning a walrus mask.

An entirely bizarre set up, but Sutcliffe choses not to be restricted by his stage set up and brings his performance into the crowd as he energetically stomps around the room whilst professing about conundrums surrounding Tesco chicken Caesar wraps.

Sutcliffe creates an entirely immersive performance showing he won’t be kept back by boundaries – both literally and creatively.

Alt-folk musician and visual artist Sarah J. Stanley – playing under alias HQFU – brings the party vibes to the Attic Stage on Saturday night, bringing an end to the acts playing in the intimate stage at the top of the Tolbooth.

Stanley fuses her alt-folk roots with electro pop to create hazy, grungy dance music that’s perfect for a Saturday slot, a home-grown Alice Glass meets Jamie XX – Stanley is definitely one to look up if you like your electronic synth-heavy music.

The Tolbooth never fails to highlight the best Scotland has to offer and they do it best with their Strange Behaviours festival.

If you don’t leave after the two nights with a list of some new favourite artists then you haven’t taken full advantage of the great acts on offer to you.

After three successful years, Strange Behaviours doesn’t show any signs of slowing.

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Words: Laura Imrie

Doune the Rabbit Hole, 19-21/8/16

Doune the Rabbit Hole is now been pretty high our list of summer events, the family friendly vibe, typically diverse and entertaining line up and an array of delightful food, plus the influx of dogs make it one of the most delightful festivals of the summer.

Sadly my experience this year is smattered with illness and severely cuts short my festival experience, illness coupled with the rain drenched conditions weren’t the best pairing, but that’s no disrespect to the festival just an unfortunate scenario.

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My weekend begins on relatively well footing at the Jabberwocky Stage with Glasgow favourites Babe, after a long and painful, but completely necessary set up, get people moving from the off with glitchy synths that twinkle above the soggy field.

Still it’s rewarding stuff as Gerard Black, kitted out in green trackies and umbro training top, lets his soft yet high-pitched tones drift and sooth, never failing to put a smile on your face.

The band is joined later on by the delightful Rozi Plain who brings an extra touch of charm to set simply oozes it.

Hoping for a bit more glitchy brilliance we head over to the Parabola Stage to catch a bit of HQFU, sadly the stage suffers from a host of sound difficulties and the set’s low volume becomes somewhat lost in rain and chatter.

It’s a shame as Sarah J Stanley’s performance at its peak is an infectious experience, sadly this isn’t quite the ideal setting and the tunes simply meld into the surroundings.

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12-piece Scots-Irish folk super group, Treacherous Orchestra fill up the Jabberwocky Stage as they treat the crowd to an engaging, high-energy musical showcase which encompasses bagpipes, guitars, whistles, fiddles, double bass, banjo and drums alongside many others.

Their cabaret style set-up complete with outfits that could stand up to the likes of My Chemical Romance creates a truly entertaining performance, which encourages not only foot tapping from the crowd, but also some full on ceilidh dancing.

Both Treacherous Orchestra’s style and sound is the perfect fit for the eccentric Doune The Rabbit Hole and just what is needed to get you in the mood to dance the night away.

We’re in high-sprits as we make our way back to the Parabola to catch personal favourites Bossy Love.

At first I’m worried Bossy Love’s huge sound will suffer the fate as HQFU did earlier in by appearing on this smaller wooden stage, however Amandah Wilkinson’s sweet, thick vocals and catchy chants power through showcasing her true talent.

Per usual Wilkinson holds an enormous presence on the stage encouraging the audience to dance their hearts out as she leaps off the stage to join the in the crowd.

Bossy Love possess everything you could possibly want from a RnB/pop duo as both Wilkinson and her partner John Baillie Jnr.’s immense energy, catchy melodies and defining facial expressions create a highly entertaining performance.

By the time Blanck Mass takes to the Baino Stage it’s getting a bit late, but such is Benjamin John Power’s mastery of this drone-y experimental dance sound that it’s something that keeps you dancing to entrancing end.

Every part of the set seems to fall into the right place without ever needing to hint a big drop; it’s expressive, glowing and immersive stuff and the perfect end to an evening before things take a downward turn that sees me spending most of Saturday in the medical tent.

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Leaving Iain behind to get some much-needed rest I head to the arena in time to catch some of Admiral Fallow‘s uplifting set.

The Scottish folk ensemble treats the crowd to tracks both old and new as their soaring guitars, tender harmonies and atmospheric melodies feel perfectly at home.

The highlight of their set comes in the form of personal favourite ‘Guest of the Government’ as even those not familiar to the band can not help but move to its catchy beats.

With a temporary change in lineup Polarnecks are the next on tonight’s list, providing a darker emotive sound than tonight’s previous performances, the trio act as a refreshing change to the festival’s scene.

Combining gloomy melodies, thundering guitars and echoing vocals with a touch of unnerving distortion Polarnecks live show truly showcases their strong musicianship, which, alongside thought-provoking lyrics, create an overall a distinctive sound.

Having only recently arrived back in the country after some months away in Thailand I am excited to see the effects travelling have had on December ’91‘s sound.

Playing solo tonight doesn’t hush frontman Craig Ferrie’s booming vocals as he gives a truly heartfelt and powerful performance.

Ferrie’s onstage presence is as endearing as always, as he continually cracks jokes with his intimate audience.

Even though smaller than most crowds this weekend, its size works in Ferrie’s favour allowing him to deliver a set more than capable of sending shivers down your spine.

By the time I make it to along to Whistleblower Stage for Shopping‘s set the night is beginning to become quite blurry, however the trio still manage to make quite a memorable impact as they bounce around the stage and encourage the crowd to do the same.

Combining lo-fi guitars, angular riffs and yelping vocals Shopping treat their audience to a variety of catchy upbeat tunes from a mix of their albums, which truly showcase both their showmanship and musical skill; a wonderful end to an excellent evening of live music.

Sadly the aforementioned illness means we only make it along to one of Sunday’s performances, however we have saved the best to last as the incredible TeenCanteen serve as the highlight of the weekend.

Covered in glitter and dressed like they’ve just come from a fairy themed-fancy dress party, TeenCanteen’s aesthetics perfectly match their sound as they deliver a set packed full of catchy beats, heartfelt lyrics and elegant harmonies from the band’s three frontwoman.

Their sickly-sweet indie-pop melodies are the perfect soundtrack to this afternoon’s sunshine, and being able to sit on the grass by the Jackerwocky Stage brings back good memories of last year’s better health and weather.

More Photos

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Words: Iain Dawson / Jess Lavin
Photos: Leif Nicholi Alexander Langvand

Gold Mold presents December ’91 (album launch), Polarnecks, Wullie Mammoth at 13th Note, 28/2/16

On a particularly packed Sunday night of live music in Glasgow I chose the 13th Note for the album launch of an act who’s been one of the most interesting yet prolific acts in the city over then last year.

This the full album launch following on from a successful soft launch a few weeks prior in, the man behind the December ’91 moniker, Craig Ferrie’s own flat.

Proceedings are opened by Wull Swailes, playing under his Wullie Mammoth alias, and he quickly get the crowd on his side with some charmingly delivered lo-fi pop.

Wull may have not yet have put any of his solo material to record, but he certainly proves himself an accomplished enough songwriter, both tonight and in previous acts, that should those recordings come they will be well worth checking out.

Polarnecks are up next and the alt rock trio notch the volume up considerably producing the kind of loud, powerful performance that this basement has thrived on over the years.

The band who recently put out a stripped back set of demos, before their Gold Mold released EP comes out mid March, don’t touch upon those quieter recording, instead blasting the audience with a potent show that draws from some classic 90s American alt indie influences; definitely a band worth checking out.

December ’91 as a live experience has been growing steadily in presence since his Quebec album came to our awareness last year and his heart-on-sleeve lyrics and performances give him quite the compelling aura.

Backed by bass and drums, Ferrie, himself on electro acoustic guitar, delivers charming insights into his life via music that channels the likes of Neutral Milk Hotel in the most DIY punk ethos possible.

Despite the personal and often dark tones to Ferrie’s lyrics he manages to maintain a chirpy presence in a live setting, and while song’s like ‘Mindrot’ cause odd stirs in the audience to the line “I escape into another man’s penis”, the set flows in captivating fashion.

The three piece are joined by, another engaging DIY songwriter, Jason Riddell on keys towards the end of the set, adding a new dimension to the band’s sound, and as Ferrie closes the set solo we get to experience the raw brilliance that is December ’91 at its essence.

A truly engaging performance from an act I like more and more every time I see him play.

Words: Iain Dawson

Albums of 2015 (20-11)

20-11  –  10-1  –  Tracks & EPs

20 December ’91 - Quebec20 December ’91 – Quebec [Gold Mold]

Probably the only album to make this year’s lists recorded on a mobile phone, Quebec showcases both December ’91’s musicianship and originality. Raw, simple but excellently put together December 91’s music clearly serves as an outlet for his emotions as it touches on a number of personal matters, which are delivered in an equally heartfelt manner. (Jess Lavin)

19 Antique Pony - unalbum19 Antique Pony – unalbum

Completely unique and utterly, strangely, bewitchingly triumphant; unalbum features vocoders, discordant melodies, funk, surf guitar, jarring and angular riffs… and yet it all flows. They may as well be called Unique Pony because there’s bugger all else out there quite like this, not capable of producing such a cohesive blend from wildly divergent ingredients anyway.

18 Idlewild - Everything Ever Written18 Idlewild – Everything Ever Written [Empty Words]

Everything Ever Written encapsulates Idlewild in 2015, the Fugazi fuelled alt rock angst of 100 Broken Windows may be missing, but it more than makes up for it in melodic depth. A surprising, poetic, folk tinged collection of songs that are so well rounded it’s hard to pick a favourite. Idlewild have matured at the same rate as their fans and this record satisfies the huge Scottish rock/pop void left since Readers & Writers. (Andy McGonigle)

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17 Admiral Fallow - Tiny Rewards17 Admiral Fallow – Tiny Rewards [Nettwerk]

Admiral Fallow’s third album Tiny Rewards, is quite simply brilliant. Released three years after their second album, this new collection of songs unravels a band that has come of age. Tiny Rewards is an epiphanic record that fills you with joy; it is also tender, contemplative and intelligent. (Tina Koenig)

16 Lovers Turn To Monsters - Hard To Be Around16 Lovers Turn To Monsters – Hard To Be Around

Fresh and eccentric, delicate and intimate, Hard To Be Around works as a sneak peek into Kyle Wood’s psyche. The album is an obscure trip down the singer’s brightest and darkest sides, mystically keeping you on the edge of your seat after every track. An absolute delight if your mainstream conscious is switched off; a rare piece of raw music, which will provoke emotions in whoever dares to listen.

15 Pinact - Stand Still and Rot15 Pinact – Stand Still and Rot [Kanine]

With their debut LP Pinact have produced a piece of work that fully realises their significant talents. Stand Still and Rot is full of bluster and grace, exploring notions of uncertainty, joy and boredom, spiked with corrosive volume and sweetened with heartening melodies. The album is full of instantly likeable and catchy moments, loads of classy touches and tons more, including more hooks and big choruses than you can shake a stick at.

14 Young Fathers - White Men Are Black Men Too14 Young Fathers – White Men Are Black Men Too [Big Dada]

After winning the Mercury Prize for their 2014 album Dead, Young Fathers immediately travelled to Berlin to finish recording its follow up: White Men Are Black Men Too. The difference in the two albums is night and day. Whilst Dead was polished and gleamed with pop sensibility, WMABMT features lo-fi, raw production that makes use of rattling drum machines and scratchy, hollering vocals. Young Fathers may be the most innovative music group in Scotland, and go about it in a damn cool way. (Greg Murray)

13 Apostille - Powerless13 Apostille – Powerless [Night School]

Powerless. Horrible. Dark. Depressing. Makes you want to kill yourself, but that is the point. Everything is fucked so why not listen to this as you stare at the clock, waiting for it to end… (Paul Choi)

12 Rustie - EVENIFUDONTBELIEVE12 Rustie – EVENIFUDONTBELIEVE [Warp]

It could be said that 2015 was a rough year for Russell Whyte, aka Rustie, with the producer announcing a break from live shows due to “addition and mental health problems”, however one particular high point was the release of EVENIFUDONTBELIEVE; an album that saw him head back his raw beginnings. The album saw Rustie take full creative control, and when we say full we mean FULL; everything here was done by Rustie from the beats to the production to the vocal samples! It may not be the adrenaline pumping club effort many wanted, but it is a highly detailed maximalist release that demonstrates the producer’s prowess. Hopefully he’s not off too long.

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11 Kathryn Joseph - Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I’ve Spilled11 Kathryn Joseph – Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I’ve Spilled [Hits The Fan]

Kathryn Joseph was undoubtedly one of 2015’s greatest success stories, with the release of Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I Have Spilled propelling her to the forefront of the Scottish scene. Produced with simplicity, honesty and an instantly recognisable vocal, this album served as a perfect introduction to an artist who we are most definitely going to be hearing a lot more from in times to come. (Ellen Renton)

20-11  –  10-1  –  Tracks & EPs