Kevin Buckle: Scots acts make hay while the sun shines
There used to be a rule in the music industry that bands shouldn't release their albums during the summer when folk went on holiday and this basically stretched from the middle of July to the last week of September when there would suddenly be a rush of albums geared towards all the students either starting or returning to university and college.
The summer was for dance singles and that was just about the way things worked. However, nothing is the same any more and many sales are garnered these days months before the actual release on pre-sell so the actual release date is not so much of a consideration now.
This year sees several Scottish artists with albums out in this summer window and leading the way on the August 10 is Kathryn Joseph with From When I Wake The Want Is on Rock Action. Kathryn of course was the Scottish Album of the Year award winner in 2015 and has already released the very well received single Tell My Lover from the new album. Haunting is a word often used in relation to Kathryn’s work and certainly this album has atmosphere in spades.
Out on the same day on vinyl are five Teenage Fanclub albums from their time on Creation Records/Sony and all come with a bonus seven inch. Bandwagonesque and Grand Prix were Avalanche’s biggest sellers of the five but all are popular with fans and will severely dent a few pockets, I imagine.
SAY award winner in 2016 Anna Meredith has her new album Anno released on August 17 on Moshi Moshi. Described as “a boundary-pushing collaboration with the Scottish Ensemble, in which original pieces of work by the classical-electronic composer are intertwined with Vivaldi’s Four Season” Anna’s genre jumping from popular to classical to experimental gathers new fans all the time.
Billed as Mogwai’s first venture into the world of the feature film soundtrack, Kin is released on August 31. Directed by the producers that brought you Stranger Things and Arrival, Jonathan and Josh Baker, Kin will also be in cinemas from the same day. Look out for a limited red vinyl version in independent shops only.
Brighton’s Fat Cat Records has done much for Scottish bands over the years, first of all with Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad, then signing We Were Promised Jetpacks and more recently releasing albums by PAWS and Honeyblood. Along with Domino Records they have done so much for Scottish music I have trouble finding any worth in the recent moves to work more towards a Scottish infrastructure.
Anyway, We Were Promised Jetpacks have now signed to another English label, Big Scary Monsters in Oxford, and their new album The More I Sleep The Less I Dream is out on September 14 followed by an extensive European and North American tour. Thankfully, while some bands try for a major change with their fourth album the band if anything have returned to the roots of their first.
Last but certainly not least and also on September 14 Paul Haig releases his new solo album The Wood. Paul won’t mind being called the elder statesman of the artists I’ve mentioned, having started out as the singer in post punk legends Josef K and then going on to a successful solo career influencing no less than New Order in their early years.
I briefly mentioned the very limited wooden box set being released by long-time collaborators Les Disques du Crépuscule in another column but the album will also be available on the more traditional vinyl and CD. Paul is rarely seen in public these days but there are rumours of an appearance to coincide with the album so his many fans will be keeping fingers crossed.
All in all for what used to be a quiet time for new releases there is now something for everybody and no doubt there are others too not yet on my radar.
Sad reflection on changing times
There was great excitement recently when The Twilight Sad made the first track from their new album available. I/m Not Here [missing face] was received to universal acclaim by fans and the media alike and following on from their world tour with The Cure expectations are high for the album, which so far has no official release date.
A European and North American tour was announced for later this year. Edinburgh, along with many other dates, has sold out already.
Nurtured by Fat Cat for the last ten years, I think the concern these days is whether there are any independent labels left outside of a few big names that could afford to support a band the size of The Twilight Sad for as long as they did.
Similarly, bands nowadays seem reluctant to stick at it long enough, often reinventing themselves in new bands or with singers that have solo project alongside the band.
When James Graham of the Twilight Sad did the Out Lines album with Kathryn Joseph you felt he had paid his dues and any offshoot was just that. But these days the constant flitting from band name to band name and even genre to genre just smacks of a desperation to be successful rather than any belief in the music.
The Mercury is falling
With the Mercury Prize nominees being announced this week – to the expected comments that the Mercury has both lost its way and indeed maybe is redundant – there were also claims that the soon-to-be-announced Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) award nominees would be a better bunch.
Truth be told it will be the usual list of big names who won’t win or even make the shortlist, bands representing different genres that aren’t very popular, a couple of not very good but well connected bands and then a few decent credible albums.
While the winners are always good albums they would struggle to be called the best and again, like the Mercury, the criteria for their selection is never clear despite the usual judges’ statement.
Scotland does indie guitar bands very well and yet not one has never been successful, with many feeling a certain amount of box ticking picks the winner.
Sales aren’t great either for any of those involved and while I’ve always pointed out winners as I did above it carries little weight outside of Scotland.
The Mercury does look on its last legs, though I suspect it could be revamped rather than ditched. Also fair play to the SAY award as there is no fee to enter, unlike the Mercury. The foundations of the SAY award were well laid but it may just be it is an idea that has had its day.