Esoteric way with spelling, esoteric way with tunes; ain’t it always the way?
Thankfully for all that, this is an entirely fruitful marriage of dyslexia and wholly successful discordance.
Coming out of the increasingly interesting Song, By Toad stable, Youngstrr Joey – Cal Donnelly to his mum – flags things up on track three, ‘Listening to Antique Pony Too Much’.
To these ears the Antique Pony effort Unalbum was the best record out of Scotland in 2015; and you can certainly hear the similarities; lo-fi, shonky and wonky, but a damned sight more accomplished than any number of records that have had more money chucked at ’em.
It’s tuneful, guitary, jarring, abstract at points and sounds like it was recorded at three o’clock in the morning, which happily seems to have been the case.
What is does show is a rare talent with melody and home-made production that fully justifies the buzz around Youngstrr Joey; whether a more lavish studio set up would improve what is already a pretty well fully formed flair with both words and sounds – remarkable in a 19 year old – is open to debate, however this is an exciting prospect indeed.
Songs like ‘DNT Change’ have an almost Pixies on the fly aesthetic, but there’s that ever present hint of anarchy about it all; it’s a thrilling melange.
Keep one eye on this chap; here and in the other bands he lurks in – Spinning Coin (recently signed to Domino offshoot Geographic Records in Glasgow), Breakfast Muff, The Sean Armstrong Experience and Passion Pusher.
Keep your other beady eye on the Song, By Toad label as well; exceptional offering from Adam Stafford imminent.
There’s the air of a movement drifting around dank Caledonia at the moment; a free form, punkish and above all exciting group of artists chucking out product at a rare old rate; dive in, the water’s fine… if possibly polluted with a novel array of disorientating stimuli.
A work that possesses both the sincerity and conviction necessary to remind any listener than pop can be more than just clean synths and solid marketing. While it in part feels like the gritty precursor to a potential masterpiece, This House is a vibrant and exciting lesson in punchy, hook-laden art pop. (Michael Mavor)
Memorybox contains a mix of delicate and lively tracks that create a successful taster of Quiet As A Mouse’s potential conveying their ability to create gentle, intricate tracks. They have an album planned for 2016 and, judging by this release it will be something to look out for.
Cheerleader showcases how well Cal Donelly takes to the solo role; it’s full of head sticking choruses, rumbling lo-fi guitars and up tempo, toe-tappers, before closing on the slow gritty ‘I Give Up’. Cheerleader raw and authentic; it’s like one of those Brain Licker sweeties that were popular in primary school – enjoyable and addictive with a sour kick.
17 Finn LeMarinel – Love Is Waves [Electric Honey]
Experimental, beautiful and at times unnervingly personal, Finn LeMarinel’s Love is Waves EP sees the Glasgow singer-songwriter push his creative bounds to excellent effect. Stripped back, evocative vocals meld with myriad instrumental techniques, as LeMarinel frames each track with precisely placed guitar and piano. Simple, yet incongruously intricate, Love is Waves evidences a marked and impressive evolution for the former Trapped in Kansas frontman.
Say It’s True consists of seven songs that are each crafted to complete perfection: from the striking acapella opening of the title track to the vocal leaps that bring the record to a close, the EP in its entirety is a remarkable feat of musicianship. Wilson fuses traditional elements of folk with layers of more contemporary sounds to create something unusual and beautiful. (Ellen Renton)
15 Golden Teacher – Sauchiehall Enthrall
Glasgow six piece Golden Teacher opted to self-release this dubiously named EP and it is yet another solid and at times excellent bit of kit; high quality stuff from a gleefully enthusiastic bunch. Sauchiehall Enthrall is otherworldly and a vivid offering from this unique collective, who incidentally are a formidably high octane live proposition, if clearly mad to a man and woman. Hard funk, groovy, ear-melting drums, ethereal bleeps, banshee yelps and a touch of acid – what’s not to love?
Spinning Coin is the coming of age of a group who combined have been in about a million bands, all of which contributed something to Glasgow. Coin might not have a coin among them, but they have the Mac Demarco guitars, running out of battery sound and the posture of pavement; all without copying! (Paul Choi)
13 The Bellybuttons – PLAY! [FUZZKILL]
Think 90s lo-fi rock but up-cycled. The Bellybuttons deliver a neat set of tracks with all the key ingredients that make it hard not to like. The EP opens the door to a world of skillful pitch bending riffs, before things start to pick up with ‘Hard to Read’, showcasing their ability to bring energy to a track with a little taste of bluegrass thrown in. ‘Solar Envy’ brings you back down to Earth in a soft cloud of husky vocals before playing with your mind in ‘Sad Boys’ with an elongated, suspended and distorted outro leaving you to wonder what the guys will come up with next. (Rachel Cunningham)
12 Sorren Maclean – Way Back Home [Middle of Nowhere]
Way Back Home sees Mull-based songwriter and guitarist Sorren MacLean bring tasteful, strong arrangements, topped by his widescreen, yearning vocal. MacLean is obviously well aware of folk music traditions, but there’s a pop sensibility too that ensures the melodic hooks are strong and memorable and this EP sounds equally good sound tracking a summer’s day as it would a dimly lit folk club.
It must have been a ridiculously busy year for Rachel Aggs, with this EP and releases from other bands Trash Kit and Shopping coming in quick succession, but never have her releases lacked in quality. Add to Aggs’ jaunty, clean wiry guitar tone the up beat snare drum centric beats of Eilidh Rodgers, the duo’s fresh energy and overlapping vocals that give a sense of the free spirit, and you’ve got Six Songs; a playful polyrhythmic EP that is as refresh as a tropical breeze.
Eerie harmonic vocals combine with jangling rhythmic guitar to produce elusive lo-fi sounds in ‘Duke’, arguably the pick of the tracks featured on two wondrous EPs fro Tuff Love in 2015. The lyrics are meshed in amongst distorted melodies, the chorus is catchy, but not so infectious that you won’t want to set your player to repeat. What’s most impressive with Tuff Love is their ability to craft expert musicality and sophistication while sounding like a comforting dream-cloud and ‘Duke’ is prime example of this. (Rachel Cunningham)
19 SACRED PAWS – Vince [Rock Action]
SACRED PAWS deliver short, sharp blows in the offbeat ‘Vince’, which feels a little raw, but this only adds to the band’s charm and personality. The girls mix cross-rhythms and shimmering guitar to create an energetic melody, which they impressively manage to not only keep up with, but also delicately arrange, multi-layered vocals that end in superb harmonies. The track’s post-punk, poly-rhythmic approach to percussion really packs a punch! (Jess Lavin)
The dreamy passages of Louise Connell aka Reverieme’s Or Else The Light EP was a hauntingly wonderful depiction of love and loss and the strummed ukulele of ‘Plankton’ shone out at the release’s standout. You can’t help but be arrested by the expression in Connell’s voice, a heart wrenching juxtaposition of defeat and hope. Her declaration that the song’s afflatus is “…so much like a planktonic woman” is a devastating indictment aimed to show how passivity can be as damaging as jealousy and similar emotions within any relationship.
17 Adam Stafford – Atheist Money [Song, by Toad]
It may have came out early in 2015, but as with the majority of Adam Stafford’s releases ‘Atheist Money’ stayed in the memory well up to the end of the year and will continue this with its feature on 2016 full length Taser Revelations. Stafford is always one for the finer details and this is no different, ‘Atheist Money’ is full of the all the wonder and beauty you’d expect as churning loops build up to spectacular heights and soar back down; powerful, powerful stuff.
The opener and stand out track on Cal Donelly aka Youngstrr Joey’s Cheerleader, release earlier in the year, ‘Michael’ possesses rumbling lo-fi guitars and a chorus that will be stuck in your head for days. It’s not entirely clear who exactly Donelly’s Michael is, but that’s the beauty of it – everyone has their own version of Michael who they want to show them “how to be cool”.
15 Hudson Mohawke – Ryderz [Warp]
It’s no surprise that HudMo’s ended up with two tracks in this list, Lantern was positively hoatching with potential bangers and ‘Ryderz’ could easily be the pick of the bunch, as Birchard builds on a D.J. Rogers soul cut and lets it be, well for a minute or so, before he demonstrates just why he’s one of the best maximalist producers out there right now, bringing out every tool in his electronic box to produce a piece of wonder that drops perfectly out of nowhere and has you screaming “watch out for the ryderz” at the top of your lungs.
14 CARBS – Stick A Flake In Me (I’m Done) [Save As]
Never would I have thought “Mr. Whippy” and “Margaret Thatcher” be paired in a sentence. This is just one of the many elegantly constructed lines in ‘Stick a Flake in Me (I’m Done)’ that has been cased in a re-worked version of an old ice cream van theme tune. The child-like perspective pairs well with the Gameboy-style melody, which is magically presented in a series of syncopated beats and pleasing harmonies. CARBS’ single is a playful gem that will take the edge of any bad day and give you a wee education in ice cream to boot. (Rachel Cunningham)
13 BDY_PRTS – Cold Shoulder
‘Cold Shoulder’ presents a sleek, fresh and futuristic pop sound; essentially the antithesis of most things Scottish. Regardless, Jill and Jenny sing with their accents proudly on show like weird, Caledonian android sisters (despite one of them having a noticeable, yet beautiful American twang). It begins with minimal percussive drum machine elements bouncing around under crunchy power chords before sprawling into a distant and expansive chorus section that conjures the imagine of Neo-Glasgow invented in the mind of a manga artist. While the vocal harmonies are notably affecting and effective, the single’s standout feature is its marriage of raw analog guitars with clean and clinical digital production; this painterly sound choice creates interesting dynamics above the simple song form. BDY_PRTS have a sound unlike any other band this year and ‘Cold Shoulder’ exemplifies this achievement. (Liam Gingell)
At the tail end of 2014 we caught Man of Moon for the first time, playing to a smattering of people as the opening act for Merchandise at Stereo, even then their intelligent slow burning grooves and guarded yet gritty vocals were impressive. This year they seem to have come on leaps and bounds and debut single ‘The Road’ is the jewel in the band’s year, the building instrumentals crash into huge noise, in as catchy and addictive a way as possible and has us eagerly waiting for more in 2016.
11 Dune Witch Trails – Goldenrod Cigar
‘Goldenrod Cigar’ is completely symbolic of what Dune Witch Trails do so well. The loose off kilter guitars lay the foundation for the equally as slack vocal delivery. Clocking in at just over two minutes, it captivates you in its organised mayhem and simplicity. Dune Witch Trails are one of the most exciting guitar bands out at the moment and ‘Goldenrod Cigar’ is the perfect introduction.
Released on cassette by Number4Door Cheerleader is the next addition in what has been a steady stream of releases from Youngstrr Joey over the past six months.
You may know Cal Donelly (the man behind the Pokémon inspired alter-ego) as the bassist in Spinning Coin.
As Youngstrr Joey, he takes to the solo role well and this EP showcases that.
Opener ‘Michael’ sets the tone with rumbling lo-fi guitars and a chorus that will be stuck in your head for days.
It’s not entirely clear who exactly Youngstrr Joey’s Michael is but that’s the beauty of it – everyone has their own version of Michael who they want to show them “how to be cool”.
‘Cheerleaders’ and EP closer ‘Cough’ are more up tempo, toe-tappers and fulfil his goal of being able to write a song you could be able dance along to, while ‘I Give Up’ is more of a slower song that asserts the gritty bitterness that is at the heart of the EP.
Cheerleader is rather mournful lyrically, but its absolute rawness keeps it authentic.
Overall, it’s like one of those Brain Licker sweeties that were popular in Primary School – enjoyable and addictive with a sour kick.
It’s a tale of two power trio’s this evening as Philadelphia’s Purling Hiss and homegrown talents Youngstrr Joey commandeer Broadcast’s subterranean stage for an hour or two of noise laden revelry.
Despite the initial billing of 8pm Youngstrr Joey eventually commence their sonic assault roughly an hour later, offering up a punchy and rapid set comprised mostly of material from their Cheerleader EP.
From the off the band set about kicking some life into this listless Monday evening with their brand of chaotic and heartfelt music, which, despite the shrugged demeanour and proclivity for volume, displays moments of distinct melody and the odd earworm chorus.
Up until a month or so ago, my relationship with Purling Hiss had not progressed further than their seemingly wilfully ramshackle earlier records, wherein I got the impression of a band lacking a clear sense of purpose and direction.
Thankfully those lo-fi tendencies seem all but forgotten now as recent records, such as 2014’s Weirdon and 2013’s Water on Mars (produced by Adam Granduciel of The War on Drugs), now boast material indebted to the classic rock/punk mould.
One thing clearly evident in watching Purling Hiss live is that you don’t have to love guitars to like the band, but it sure helps.
Frontman Mike Polizze’s enthusiasm and command of the guitar is what best characterises their sound and tonight his prodigious solos, arpeggios and slashing chords are generously showcased.
All of which would get old pretty fast were it not for the rhythmic pulse set by Kiel Everett and Ben Leaphart, as their locked down grooves not only afford the material greater depth, but provide much of the thrust and swing that both Polizze and the audience feed off.
With barely half the room filled, tonight’s gig could easily have dulled the spirit’s of all concerned, however I’m glad to report this wasn’t the case as both performers and audience muster enough good vibes to ensure everyone comes away with far more than what they thought they would.