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  • Alistair Braidwood

The Tracks of My Year: The Best Songs From 2013…

It’s time for the tracks of my year, and this has taken me some time to compile. Firstly, the terms and conditions; these are my favourite ten songs of 2013 as I finally write this on the 28th December, and I can say no more than that.

Some happen to be from great albums, but most are stand alone singles or from EP’s. What’s very pleasing is they are all by bands who have sent in their music or have been recommended to Scots Whay Hae! over the last 12 months. That’s not to discount the great music this year from the likes of The Boards of Canada, Primal Scream, Alasdair Roberts, Lloyd Cole, Kid Canaveral and so on, but they get quite a bit of coverage as it is.

I should also mention some of the fantastic albums from the year which featured on these pages from Woodenbox, Jack James, Attic Lights, Sparrow and the Workshop, Mr Gary Stewart and the Tinfoil Collective, and Cfit, amongst others, all of which contain too much good music just to pick one track, and all of which you can sample by going to the music roundups of each month.

But I haven’t even started and I’m apologising for the music not included, and that’s not in the intended spirit, but is purely a sign of how much good music I have sampled in 2013. The following are a terrific representation of what was on offer. Following the structure of the Scots Whay Hae! Top Five novels of 2013 list, these are the tracks and their original reviews, and if you click on the month in question you’ll find out what else was on offer. So, in chronological order, we’re off:

Brown Bear and the Bandits – Olive Tree (Feb)

…now we have not only one of my favourite songs of last month, but I can almost guarantee it will still be being played at the end of the year. And you can pull me up on that. The best thing to leave Largs since Jimmy Johnstone fancied a wee row, this is Brown Bear and the Bandits with Olive Tree; it’s a cracking pop song, and this is a cracking video as well:

Blue Rose Code – Julie (Mar)

I was recommended Blue Rose Code by someone who thought that my love of beards and beautiful music meant I would find them irresistible, and of course they were right. Some of you know me too well. They touch upon some of my favourite music, a little Bonnie Prince Billie here, a touch of Richard Buckner there, perhaps just a splash of Iron and Wine. From their album North Ten this is Julie, and it is absolutely gorgeous:

Blood Relatives – Dead Hip (May)

…I’m going to finish with my favourite song of the month, as I want to leave you with a smile on your face, a spring in your step, and your hat on the side of your head. This does that for me. It’s catchy as ought and once heard cannot be forgotten. It’s Dead Hip from Blood Relatives, and it is simply marvellous:

A Fight You Can’t Win – Burning Sky (Jun)

…a fantastic slice of noise. It does seem to be that there are some very impressive Scottish rock bands about at the moment, such as PAWS and Fat Goth, and A Fight You Can’t Win are up there with them on this evidence. For all the gorgeous melodies and atmospherics from many of the bands featured this month, this is the track I have been playing most often. This is Burning Sky and if you like your rock n’ roll loud but classy then this is most definitely for you:

Richard Haswell – The Distance Between You And I (Jun)

Now for some wonderfully inventive and anthemic pop music of the kind few even try to make any more. Richard Haswell’s album Asteroids is like a journey through a peculiarly personal, and tasteful, history of great indie/pop/rock of the last 40 odd years. There are touches of Bowie, Gabriel, Eno, Tim Buckley, The Smashing Pumpkins, Detroit House, Sigur Ros, New Order and Talk Talk. If it wasn’t for The Boards of Canada, Asteroids would be the best thing I heard last month, and is one of the best of the year. Richard Haswell is a man to sit up and take notice of. This is one my favourite track, but they’re all worthy of your attention. This is The Distance Between You And I:

Stampede Road – White Rooms (Jul)

…this a rather beautiful EP by Edinburgh’s Stampede Road, led by singer/songwriter Graeme Duncan. It’s called White Rooms, and this is the title track, which is a wonderfully evocative song, full of yearning and memory. It reminds me of Stephen Stills, Townes Van Zandt or, for a more recent reference, Clem Snide. But it is quite lovely in its own right, and sets the highest of standards for what is to follow. Have a listen:

Lorraine McCauley and the Borderlands (Aug)

Let’s not mess about, the next song and video are two of my favourite things of the year so far. Lorraine McCauley and The Borderlands are just too good for you not to know about. The music and melodies remind me of the more acoustic moments of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, and my praise rarely reaches such heights. Melancholic and yet uplifting, this is What If?, and I’ve been playing this most mornings since the first listen:

Scarlet Shift (Feat Janine Shilstone) – Clouds (Sept)

More pop now from Scarlet Shift, with a single which sees Vukovi’s Janine Shilstone guesting. The single is Clouds, it’s from their debut album Found, has the best video from the last month, and when you put all of that together, it makes the world a better place. If this doesn’t make you smile then we may have to have words. This is Clouds:

Chris Flew – Summer Stole The Girl (Oct)

White Notes on Minor 9ths sounds as though it’s been written specifically to cater for my musical tastes. It comes from the beautiful mind of Chris Flew, and it has the feel of Elliot Smith, Craig Armstrong and The Blue Nile, and I would never type those words without thinking very carefully about it first.

With husky vocals, sparse piano, horns and just the suggestion of a string section, and featuring members of two of my favourite bands (The Seventeenth Century and Olympic Swimmers if you’re interested) this is singing, songwriting and playing of pure understated class. I know I have a tendency for hyperbole, but trust me on this one. Put aside some time to listen to the following and your life will be all the better for it. From the album this is Summer Stole The Girl:

Jo Mango – When We Lived In The Crook Of A Tree (Nov)

Jo Mango has released a mesmeric new EP, When We Lived In The Crook Of A Tree, on Olive Grove Records, another example of her mastery of music, and the confidence she has in who she is and what she plays; the two are inseparable. Regular readers will know by now, I am a fan. Put simply, this is music I listen to as it brings warmth and comfort. But enough of that, here’s the video for the title track:

Book Group – Victory Lap (Nov)

I saw saw The Bad Books, as they were then, as part of an excellent line-up put together by the legendary Peenko and Aye Tunes. They are now Book Group and they make creating memorable songs appear effortless. To prove it this is their new single, Victory Lap. This is cracking stuff, with a great video to boot:

And that’s yer lot. Those with a keen brain will note that my Top Ten is actually 11, but that’s because I was taking ages deliberating over the final two when I suddenly realised I could include them both if I wanted. And I do. So I did. If I’m honest, this could easily have been a top 20 or more, but we’ve all got homes to go to, so it’s hard luck to bands such as Campfires In Winter, The Deadline Shakes, Oak Hero, Lost Ghosts, Fatherson, Fat Goth and Emma’s Imagination who were all on the long list.

2014 promises to be a historic year, and if it has a soundtrack as good as 2013’s we’ll all be the better for it…


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