AnneMarie wrote about love songs this week. I’m going to write about the vote on Scottish independence. It’s just the way I roll. Now, I have never been to Scotland: I have always considered it something akin to beyond the Wall in The Game of Thrones, I did not enjoy Braveheart, Kilts look ridiculous in wedding photos, and I could not give two hoots about Andy Murray and a slightly diminishing ‘Team GB’ (sick) medal count, but despite all of this – IT CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO HAPPEN. Because if it does I would not be able to write about Scottish bands as part of ‘Britain’ on this here blog. And if there is one thing that Scotland has given me since the mid-nineties (after a respect and fear of the powers of Heroin and deep fried Mars Bars) it’s music.
In 2009 an album appeared out of nowhere by a band called There Will Be Fireworks. Combining the grand folk orchestration of My Latest Novel, the sharp song writing of Frightened Rabbit and the post rock intensity of The Twilight Sad with those beautiful, dulcet Scottish tones – surely the finest accent in the whole of music, There Will Be Fireworks was an under-the-radar masterpiece. And then without notice they seemingly disappeared from whence they came, and largely from my consciousness. So it was with surprise that from out of nowhere again, this week – four and a bit years later – has appeared a second album, The Dark, Dark Bright. I haven’t heard it yet, as it is not available on vinyl or to stream anywhere, but the few songs floating around suggest it may be another belter. Elder and Oak is marked by those soaring vocals over a lazy, meandering piano piece which soothes and serenades quietly before it transforms into a searing 45 seconds of intensity that blows away what has come before.
The Scottish accent underpinning Pinact’s Brew is far less pronounced and audible, but the vocals submerged within these two minutes and seventeen seconds of pure fuzzy heaven strike the heart strings in a peculiar way. The ghost of Jeff Mangnum pervades throughout the wailing aahs that masquerade as a chorus and hint at a human spirit and empathy that many words simply couldn’t. It’s simple music at its finest and can’t help but bring a smile to my face.
Moving down south to the relative warmth and safety of England, Warm Brains are due to release the EP Happy Accidents on the 16th December and the title track is an upbeat and altogether jolly affair. There is a hint of Britpop in the guitar hook, the upbeat, summery vocals and lyrics that celebrate the mundane. There is something strangely reassuring about this portrait of family life, as though it gives meaning to our own idiosyncratic family rituals and the importance of a happy music for an ordinary life.
It would not be a Week That Was if I did not mention someone from Brighton. Supporting Traams this Thursday is Theo Verney, who has just released his debut EP Heavy Sunn. The lead track mixes the psychedelic crunch of guitar noise with a Thee-Oh-Sees-esque west coast sugary punk. It’s not something you want to listen to on a full stomach, as it distorts and distends sound and time, but the mixture of heavy and light means it is never a trudge.
To the west, Canada’s Valleys have been on heavy rotation this week, 2013 LP Are You Going to Stand There and Talk Weird All Night is fast shooting its way up this heady fool’s Album if The Year List. Yesterday we bought you the stunning album closer, Undream a Year, today it is the turn of the opener – Micromoving. Combining an 80s sensibility with dance beats, baritone vocals that hint at a sadness uncontained and that wonderful ability to write music that understands human feeling and pervades heartbreak. It’s a beautiful, beguiling mix, that is as at home on the dance floor as it is slumped over the living room chair, crying into a glass of whiskey.
Another album that will be up there in the 2013 best is The Courtneys self-titled number. All the songs have an effortless charm, perfect for dancing around in your bedroom just because. We have music for all aspects of the human condition and The Courtneys bring unrestrained fun and youthful abandon to the table in spades. Social Anxiety is a hark back to 90s riot grrrl, with vocals that scream Le Tigre and a verve that is as exhausting as it is unrelenting.
I think it’s fair to say that Italy is not the first place you’d necessarily look to for dreamy post-punk, but Be Forest, who have just dropped Captured Heart, the lead single for new 2014 album, Earthbeat. Captured Heart is simply stunning, with a driving beat and buckets of atmosphere, jangly, wild west guitars that loop in and out alongside ethereal instrumentation. With each listen something new comes out in the melody and if Be Forest wanted to capture the mythical sense of the forest; all fairies, enchantment and mystery – this is a perfect effort.