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  • Scottish Music? What a joke!

    31 Jul 2009, 21:56

    I certainly used to think so.

    If you'd told me 5 years ago that by mid 2009 my favourite albums of the year would be from Scottish bands and many of my favourite groups were Scottish I would have laughed and dismissed it.

    Sure, I knew of plenty of Scottish bands but all thoughts routinely fell back to jokes about how bad The Proclaimers were (still not a fan) or how Teenage Fanclub (ditto) were dadrock - something I still get chewed out over. I also knew of, but had never investigated, several groups that now form staples of my listening - The Beta Band, Arab Strap and Mogwai foremost here.

    I think the only Scottish artist I loved back then was James Yorkston (technically with the Athletes); I forget why I picked up Moving Up Country - I think it was an Amazon recommendation, but I've no clue what it was supposed based on - but it slowly worked its way into my list of all-time favourites.

    From that root, the friendship forged through the web with the Scot who today I would call my best mate, and LastFM, grew an appreciation of Scottish music and musicianship.

    From Yorkston, it was no big jump to Fence records and KC - King Creosote, whom I now cannot imagine being overtaken as my most listened, but it went via the slight detour of Mogwai and The Beta Band - albums (Happy Songs for Happy People and Heroes To Zeroes resepctively) picked up when visiting the aforementioned friend for the first time back in 2005.

    The Betas were an interesting case in point - I'd loved what I'd heard back when The Three EPs was released, but at that stage I wasn't flush nor a particularly vivacious consumer of music. No surprise then that when interest was re-kindled by a third party, me now older, wiser and compelled to chuck money at almost anything musical on the offchance of finding a gem, they still struck a chord.

    Getting home, and some years later, LastFM came into play. When I actually started using the service in 2008, rather than simply having signed up and not returned for 9 months, I plugged in people like Yorkston as radio stations and from there opened the world...

    Lots of KC, lots of Arab Strap, lots of Fence artists listed as "similar" if not played - and the ethos of Fence interested me even if I couldn't hear much beyond the King himself - a focus truly north of the border. From there I started buying... all the above-mentioned artists and more - I would list them all but I'd be here too long; ever since I've been buying music I've had an impulsive streak that makes it hard for me to control my purchasing if I happen to have spare cash.

    I don't regret it - I have never regretted it, though individual purchases fail the quality test.

    And with this, the focus of my aural pleasures shifted north of the border rather rapidly. It's not that there isn't good stuff produced elsewhere, but the concentration of *interesting* music coming from Scotland is disproportionately high. And I don't count dross like Franz Ferdinand in that.

    My two best albums of 2009 thus far? They're both Scottish - Prevention by De Rosa (sadly no more) and Checkmate Sauvage by The Phantom Band. Yeah, no place for KC's Flick The V's or Malcolm Middleton's Waxing Gibbous (amongst others, naturally).

    As I said - I'd have laughed; but no longer. It's no joke now, just look at the numbers - I'm virtually Scottish.

    And that's a scary thought!
  • Cute girl was cute, is gone.

    28 Jul 2009, 21:46

    Just got back from a weekend at a music festival, the first one of them I've been to in 11 years. Much good about the experience, some bad too - mostly related to my state of being, my mind, and prinicpally the weather.

    These things happen - glorious warm sun one day, pissing rain and biting wind the next. Just as the bands on show varied from fun to fabulous (especially Gordon MacIntyre playing Ballboy tunes), to "fuck-I-want-to-deafen-myself-just-to-not-hear-you". All to be expected.

    I should also have expected to feel lots of "alone in the crowd" moments; I don't know why I don't engage. It may have something to do with how I appreciate music - a very individual and powerful sensation - but I suspect it is more wide ranging than that as I've had such moments in crowds for other things too. And it isn't indicative, necessarily, of being there on my own; nor is it a slight on people I might actually be with.

    I can't explain it, though I reckon its all tied in with my not being outgoing and finding reaching out to people - or accepting them in, though that is easier - difficult. As such I end up spending a lot of time beating myself up internally and this weekend was no different, especially when the folks I was with are able to just approach anyone and everyone, even to mug band members for hairy coo photies.

    And so people pass me by. Cute girl was cute, is gone.