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  • Alistair Braidwood

May Days: The Best New Music From Last Month…

If there is something which this year’s SAY Awards long list has proved beyond argument, it is not only the incredible breadth but depth in Scottish music at this moment. Every album is a belter, with indie, pop, rock, classical, jazz, dance, and folk all present, and that’s without getting into the crossovers which occur between these genres. Of course, there are the obligatory men with beards, but as a man with a beard I don’t mind that too much.

There has always been good music to be discovered and enjoyed, but it does feel like we are living through one of those periods where the music made is not only impressive on its own, but that the best of those making it are feeding into and influencing each other.

That’s something which I hope this monthly roundup supports and confirms, and if you look through the last year and a half’s posts in particular I think you’ll find a range of styles and a mix of musical genres which reflect that there are many bands and artists willing to work with each other and support one another.

This esprit de corps is one which can be seen across different strands of Scottish culture as writers, musicians, film-makers et al realise that if they don’t support each other then there are few others who are willing. Individuals working together for a better future? That sounds mighty fine to me. Here endeth the heavy handed symbolism. Oh, and it’s The Pastels’ Slow Summits, if you’re interested. At least it is today.

As if to make my point, Stray Light (above) is the new album from Emily Scott with The Fell Down Trio who comprise of musicians who have played with Burntisland, Meursault and The Leg, and which features an appearance from King Creosote to boot. As well as Scott’s haunting vocals, there are strings to die for and there’s a wonderful melancholia, which manages to lift your spirits just when you least expect it, and which runs through the collection making it a coherent whole. This is impeccable music impeccably played, and against the strongest of contenders, is the album of the month. This is ‘Pity Me’:

What makes that last claim fairly extraordinary is that I could have written a whole column about the next album all of its own. I have never made any secret of my admiration for Roddy Frame, whether as Aztec Camera or on his own, and he has never let me down yet. Of all the things I have written online, a post called In Praise of Roddy Frame… over at Dear Scotland is the one which has provoked the most feedback, and it’s all to echo that praise. His latest album is Seven Dials, and as well as continuing to write about love, (lost and found), better than anyone else I can think of, Frame is in reflective mood, particularly on ‘Postcards’, and the exquisite ‘From A Train’. I’ve changed my mind, Seven Dials is the album of the month. Sod it, by a copy of this and Stray Light and have a better life. This is ‘From A Train’:

Some might say we may as well stop there, but we’ve only just begun. Also adding to the general gorgeousness of the music made last month are The Jellyman’s Daughter with their single ‘Honey’, a dark and foreboding piece of acoustic (black) magic which gets under your skin and stays there, and which gets better with every play. Single of the month? Why the hell not; my critical faculties have gone out the window at this point. See what you think:

Frantic Chant bring the noise to this roundup, and do so in a genuinely classy way which recalls the best of The Charlatans, The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, and Primal Scream at their most psychedelic, with rolling rhythms and a hint of sitar to help things along they resurrect the epic single as a force for good. Either Gallagher brother would kill to have been involved in a song as good as this in the last 15 years. The song is ‘The March of The Electric Hands’, it is the first single from their forthcoming album Ride It Like A Shark, and I bet you’ll play this more than once in the coming days. Non-acoustic single of the month:

The Hazey Janes’ Language of Faint Theory is one of those records which also looks back to move things forward. This is classic pop in the tradition of Teenage Fanclub, The Pastels, The La’s, and Gorky’s, and like all of those The Hazey Janes are a band obviously steeped in music, learning the lessons from the past but with enough style and creativity to produce songs which are all their own. If there is such a thing as musical karma (there’s not) they are going to reach many people’s ears. Here’s the sort of thing they’ll hear; this is ‘The Fathom Line’:

Stampede Road have a new EP out called Deer Park, and it’s a warm welcome back to these pages as their last release, White Room, was simply wonderful. Deer Park maintains that quality, with four songs each of which is as fine as the others. This is as good as any of your favourite Americana bands; imagine The Handsome Family and The Decemberists had holidayed in Speyside and were snowed in with only some basic instruments, a bottle of Aberlour and a Pete Seeger cassette for company, and the music they would make would go a little something like this:

To round up, last year a fabulous German musician sent me a link to his EP The Meaning Of It All and it was included in the roundup of last December. His name is Arian Hagen and he’s back with something very special indeed. It’s a full album called Reaching For Happiness, and it is just beautiful; moving and involved, and is a masterclass in making atmospheric ambient music. This is just too good for you not to take very seriously indeed. In fact, all things considered, it could just be the album of the month. Oh, shut yer face…


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