THE BEST SCOTTISH ALBUMS OF 2013-PART 2.

THE BEST SCOTTISH ALBUMS OF 2013-PART 2.

QUEENS OF THE PRISON RODEO-ON THE DESOLATE HILLSIDE.

Queens Of The Prison Rodeo are no ordinary band. Far from it. The Falkirk based Queens Of The Prison Rodeo describe the music on their debut album, On The Desolate Hillside, as freak-country-folk. Released recently on Adam Stafford’s Glasgow label Wiseblood Industries, On The Desolate Hillside showcases a cerebral band. After all, not many bands record songs about regression, greedy bankers burning in hell and pollen distribution. The Queens Of The Prison Rodeo do and that’s why On The Desolate Hillside is a truly compelling debut album from the Falkirk collective.

On The Desolate Hillside is very different to most debut albums I’ve come across. There’s an almost punk attitude to the Sweethearts Of The Prison Rodeo. It’s as if they’re doing things their way, or no way. That’s a very Scottish trait. We do things our way, or not at all. The same can be said of the Sweethearts Of The Prison Rodeo. After all, tales of regression, murder, bankers burning in hell, fashionistas and ghosts finding murder victims on hillsides isn’t what you’d expect on a debut album. What you find on the Sweethearts Of The Prison Rodeo’s debut album On The Desolate Hillside, is a fusion of musical genres and influences.

Described freak-country-folk, I’d add to that indie, new wave, soul and punk. Influences include everyone from the usual Lou Reed, David Bowie and New York Dolls, through to the Ennio Morricone, Sensational Alex Harvey Band, The Proclaimers, Arab Strap and R.M. Hubbert. This eclectic mix of influences combined with the cerebral, articulate, sometimes surreal and mystical lyrics of D. King are a potent combination. Full of searing social comment, anger and frustration, he articulates the anger many people feel at the corruption in society. So, D. King’s lyrics on On The Desolate Hillside voice our concerns, frustrations and anger. He’s our conscience and voice, one that’s articulate and cerebral. For that we should be grateful. We should also be grateful for On The Desolate Hillside, the Sweethearts Of The Prison Rodeo’s debut album.

Hand-crafted, and the result of a cottage-industry of musicians, illustrators and producers, On The Desolate Hillside is more that what the Sweethearts Of The Prison Rodeo call: “a panoply of music and song, poetry and pictures for your enjoyment.”  Far from it. Impassioned, angry, articulate, cerebral and speaking for those who can’t speak for themselves, describes On The Desolate Hillside, a searing, impassioned, rant from the Sweethearts Of The Prison Rodeo. Let’s hope On The Desolate Hillside is the first of many from Sweethearts Of The Prison Rodeo.

THE BETA BAND-THE REGAL YEARS 1997-2004.

Although The Beta Band were only together eight years, their music made a huge impact on music. Formed in 1996, The Beta Band split-up in 2004. In the intervening eight years, they’d released a trio of E.P.s and albums. The music on these E.P.s and albums influenced a generation of musicians. Innovative, influential and groundbreaking describes The Beta Band’s music. It’s best described as a fusion of influences and genres. The Beta Band fused everything from electronic, experimental, folk, trip hop and rock. This musical melange was known as folktronica, and saw The Beta Band achieve cult status in the UK, Europe and US. 

Soon, commercial success and critical acclaim came The Beta Band’s way. Hailed as one of the best bands of their generation, a great future was forecast for The Beta Band. Sadly, after the release of their third album 2004s Heroes To Zeroes, The Beta Band split-up. It was a case of what might have been.  Listening to the recently released the six disc box set, The Beta Band-The Regal Years 1997-2004, which was recently released by Regal Records, only reinforces that. Who knows what heights The Beta Band might have reached if they’d stayed together. Would they have reached the heights groups like Radiohead, Arcade Fire and Flaming Lips reached? We’ll never know. What I do know, is that The Beta Band have left behind a rich musical legacy, which is documented on The Beta Band-The Regal Years 1997-2004.

For seven years, The Beta Band released a series of groundbreaking recordings. This included three E.P.s and a trio of albums. They all feature on The Beta Band-The Regal Years 1997-2004, a six disc box set. Throughout the six discs, innovative, influential and groundbreaking describes The Beta Band’s music. It’s best described as a fusion of influences and genres. Everything from electronic, experimental, folk, trip hop and rock melts into one. Here’s music that’s totally different from everything else being released. It’s exciting, bold, ambitious and totally unique. That’s why this musical melange was known as folktronica. After all, no existing musical genre could describe The Beta Band’s music? So their music was christened folktronica, a fusion of disparate influences. 

From their debut 1998 E.P. Champion Versions, right through to their third album 2004s Heroes To Zeroes, The Beta Band’s raison d’etre was creating music that was ambitious, bold, challenging, influential and innovative. It was music that was ahead of its time. By the time other bands cottoned on to what The Beta Band were doing, their music was evolving again. Their music was a living, breathing thing. To breath, it had to change direction. Standing still wasn’t an option. No way. If The Beta Band stood still, they’d lose their edge and advantage. That wasn’t going to happen. The Beta Band prided themselves on being innovators.  

Pioneering and revolutionary describes The Beta Band’s music perfectly. They became know for creating cutting-edge, swashbuckling music. That’s why The Beta Band enjoyed commercial success, critical acclaim and cult status. Each E.P. and album was a musical tapestry. Full of nuances and subtleties, The Beta Band created exciting, inventive and genre-melting music. The Beta Band took listeners on a musical journey that challenging and exciting them with music that was way ahead of the competition. Sadly, after the release of their third album 2004s Heroes To Zeroes, The Beta Band split-up. It was a case of what might have been. Who knows what heights The Beta Band might have reached if they’d stayed together. Would they have reached the heights groups like Radiohead, Arcade Fire and Flaming Lips reached? That might have been the case. However, we’ll never know. What we do know, is that The Beta Band’s influence is still being felt nine years after they split-up. Who knows when we’ll see their likes again?

THE PASTELS-SLOW SUMMITS.

Since forming in 1981, The Pastels have only released five albums. Their latest album is Slow Summits, which was recently released on Domino. Slow Summits is the first studio album The Pastels have released since 1997s Illumination. They did provide the soundtrack to John McEntire’s The Last Great Wilderness in 2003. However, since then, things have been quiet on The Pastels’ front. Dedicated followers of The Pastels wondered if we’d ever hear from the group again? Then earlier this year, came Slow Summit, The Pastels fifth album in the group’s thirty-two year career and last since 1997. 

So where have they been since 1997? What have then been doing? All we can say with certainty, is that they’re back, older, wiser and more experienced on Slow Summits. Sometimes The Pastels sound worldweary and rueful, especially when Stephen takes charge of the lead vocal. Like those of a certain age, we realize our youth is but a distant memory. Sometimes, he sounds rueful as if unsure he’s done the right thing. Deep down I wonder if he’s wondering whether five albums in thirty-two years does The Pastels justice As for Karina’s vocal, they’re ethereal, veering between wistful, melancholy, hopeful and needy. Her vocals breath life, meaning and emotion into lyrics. She sounds as she’s lived, experienced and survived the lyrics. Maybe she too, realises they could’ve and should’ve been one of Scotland’s biggest bands. 

No wonder. The Pastels are a a band full of talented musicians and songwriters. They’re not content to replicate previous albums. Instead, they innovate, and move their music forward. That’s to their credit. After all, they’ve been making music since 1981. Eclectic music at that. On Slow Summits, everything from indie rock, pop, sixties girl groups, doo wop, garage is thrown into The Pastels mixing bowl. It’s stirred by producer John McEntire and The Pastels. The nine tracks are a compelling musical journey, where not once, do The Pastels take a wrong turn. Far from it. The Pastels haven’t just made a comeback on Slow Summit, but are back and are better than ever. Indeed, The Pastels have reached slowly and somewhat belatedly reached the summit with Slow Summits.

THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT-THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT.

Many bands are touted as the future of rock ‘n’ roll. Mostly it’s either record company hype or wishful thinking. The Temperance Movement are different. They’re the real thing. They epitomize rock ‘n’ roll. Formed in 2011, they’ve come a long way in two years. They’ve conquered Britain, Europe and America with their unique fusion of rock ‘n’ roll, blues, country and soul. Somehow, whilst conquering much of the Western world, The Temperance Movement have found time to record and release their eponymous debut album.

What became The Temperance Movement, was recorded before the group signed to Earache Records earlier this summer. Earache Records were presented with the finished article. All that was left was to promote and release The Temperance Movement. It was released in September 2013, and strutted its way to number twelve in the UK. This is just the start of what should be a long and successful album for The Temperance Movement, whose career started in 2011. 

Although The Temperance Movement were only formed in 2011, the five members of the band have a wealth of experience. Glasgow-born lead vocalist, Phil Campbell, has released a string of solo albums. This includes 2008s After The Garden, 2009s Daddy’s Table and 2010s Saviour’s Song. As for the guitarists, Paul Sayer and Luke Potashnick, Luke is a former member of Rooster and Ben’s Brother. Bassist Nick Fyffe was in Jamiroquai’s band, while Australian-born drummer Damon Wilson counts Feeder, The Waterboy’s and Ray Davies as former employers. These five experienced and talented musicians joined forces to form The Temperance Movement.

Their experience shines through. The Temperance Movement are an old school rock ‘n’ roll band. They reference everyone from AC/DC, Bad Company, Free, Primal Scream, Joe Cocker, Led Zeppelin, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band and The Rolling Stones. Add to that The Eagles, The Jayhawks and Wilco. Then there’s The New York Dolls, MC5, Iggy and The Stooges. All these groups have played their part in influencing The Temperance Movement, whose eponymous debut album reached number twelve in the UK. That’s just the start. There’s only one place The Temperance Movement are going…to the top.

No wonder. The Temperance Movement keep it real. Here’s an old school rock ‘n’ roll band. It sounds as if rather than nursery rhymes, The Temperance Movement were weened on classic rock ‘n’ roll. That’s worked out well. Drawing inspiration from the music of the past, The Temperance Movement have produced the music of the future. Fusing blues, country and blistering, old-school rock ‘n’ roll, The Temperance Movement’s eponymous debut album is flawless. Whether it’s ballads or when they kick loose, The Temperance Movement live up to their reputation as the future of rock ‘n’ roll. 

Many bands have been touted as the savior of rock ‘n’ roll. In their hands, the future of rock ‘n’ roll has been placed. Over the years, I’ve watched the contenders come and go. Some have sunk without trace, becoming the musical equivalent of the Titanic. As for the grand old men of rock ‘n’ roll, groups like The Who and the Rolling Stones they’re yesterdays men, living off their past glories. Thankfully, rock ‘n’ roll has found its saviour. The future of rock ‘n’ roll is safe, the future of rock ‘n’ roll is The Temperance Movement.

THE WYNNTOWN MARSHALS-LONG HAUL.

Ever since 2007, a little corner of Edinburgh has resembled Nashville, Tennessee. 2007 was The Wynntown Marshals, Scotland’s most practiced purveyors of country rock were formed. Since then, The Wynntown Marshals, have been fusing poppy hooks and a pedal steel to create their own unique brand of swaggering country rock. Influenced by Gram Parsons, Neil Young, The Jayhawks, Wilco and Glasgow’s very own Teenage Fanclub, The Wynntown Marshals draw inspiration from the past and present. That’s apparent on their sophomore album Long Haul, which was recently released on Wynntown Recordings.

Three years after the release of their debut album Westerner, The Wynntown Marshals are back and better than ever. During the last three years, they’ve honed their sound within an inch of perfection. They’re tighter than ever before, playing with confidence and often, a gallus swagger. That makes them unmistakably Scottish. In some ways, that’s the only Scottish thing about The Wynntown Marshals.

They don’t sound like a band from Edinburgh, a city that’s hardly famous for its musical heritage. No. For its size, Edinburgh has underperformed. It hasn’t produced as many big bands as it should. Granted there’s The Proclaimers and some years ago, The Fire Engines, but that’s it. Maybe that’s about to change. The Wynntown Marshals are leading the charge for Edinburgh bands, while The Holy Ghosts are following in their footsteps.

Ironically, The Wynntown Marshals music has more in common with America. It’s almost an accident of birth that The Wynntown Marshals are an Edinburgh band. They sound as if they’re Nashville born and bred. Other times, they sound not unlike Neil Young and Crazy Horse in their prime. Even lead vocalist Keith Benzie’s doesn’t sound Scottish. The same was said of Teenage Fanclub in the nineties and noughties. So this isn’t a new phenomenon. Let’s just hope The Wynntown Marshals enjoy the same success as Teenage Fanclub enjoyed.

With their slick, poppy hooks and unique brand of swaggering country rock, The Wynntown Marshals look to be on the right road. No ifs and no buts. They’re in it for The Long Haul, and since 2007, have been Scotland’s most practiced purveyors of country rock. These last six years have been time well spend for The Wynntown Marshals, whose gallus, swaggering brand of country rock is guaranteed to find favour with fans of Americana far and wide. 

THIS SILENT FOREST-INDIVISION.

This Silent Forest aren’t like most bands. No. They’re almost like two bands rolled into one. As a four piece, their music is best described as post-rock. Then when This Silent Forest becomes a sextet, they’re transformed. Harmonies and strings add an ethereal beauty to This Silent Forest’s music, That’s why for the last few years, This Silent Forest have been winning friends and influencing people. This includes music lovers and critics. They’ve watched as This Silent Forest have developed into one of Scotland’s hottest band. Only one thing was missing from This Silent Forest’s CV, an album. Not any more. 

This omission has been rectified with the recent release of Indivision, This Silent Forest’s debut album. Released to critical acclaim, it’s obvious that the last four years have been well spent. These four yours have seen This Silent Forest striving to perfect and hone their sound. Listening to Indivision, this has been time well spent. Indivision features a tight, talented band, who seamlessly fuse indie rock and folk. Hooks and anthems haven’t been rationed on the Indivision’s eight tracks. Far from There’s a cornucopia of hooks on Indivision, which showcases This Silent Forest.

Indivision is an old school debut album from This Silent Forrest. Just eight songs lasting forty-six minutes long, Indivision is album that’s reminiscent of the golden age of rock. Back then, before the birth of the CD, albums featured just eight to ten songs and were restricted by the amount of music a vinyl album could hold. Now with the advent of the CD, albums are sprawling affairs, with bands feeling obliged to fill the disc’s eighty minutes. Usually that’s a mistake. After all, how many bands have eighty minutes of quality music? Not many. Thankfully, bands like This Silent Forrest are realizing that. Nowadays, they’re only putting their best music on a disc. If that means the whole disc isn’t used, so be it. That seems to be This Silent Forrest’s attitude. Good for them.

That’s why Indivision is all killer and no filler. Each of the eight songs have one thing in common…quality. Over Indivision’s eight tracks, This Silent Forrest fuse indie power rock, folk and country. Anthems and hooks certainly haven’t been rationed. No. This Silent Forrest are practiced purveyors of anthems. They’re just as good at the more introspective songs. That’s why, in many ways, This Silent Forrest are two bands rolled into one. 

Whether it’s indie power rock or understated, introspective ethereal beauty you’re after, This Silent Forrest deliver it in spades and having being for several years. Indeed, since they released their debut E.P. the Lighter Side, This Silent Forrest have been a band with a big future. This Silent Forrest have fulfilled their potential on Indivision, their anthemic, introspective and hook-laden debut album.

WASHINGTON IRVING-PALOMIDES VOLUME 1.

Visitors to Washington Irving’s website are greeted with what could be their musical manifesto, “We Are Electric Folk and Like To Play Loudly.” That’s no idle boast. Far from it. Washington Irving can walk the walk. Unlike many bands, Washington Irving let their music do the talking. Washington Irving don’t do hype or posturing. Instead, they win people over with their music. Recently, Washington Irving have won over plenty of people. They’ve opened for Frightened Rabbit, become festival favourites and released their debut album Palomides Volume 1, which was released in conjunction with Creative Scotland. 

Palomides Volume 1 is no ordinary album. No. It’s half on album. Washington Irving decided to release their debut album in two parts. That’s the relevance of Volume 1. These five tracks are just a tantalizing taste of Washington Irving’s music. The music on Palomides Volume 1 is best described as a anthemic fusion of folk and rock. This is the music that’s won over audiences all over Britain. All this has seen Washington Irving become one of Scotland’s most popular bands. 

Although just five songs and twenty-two minutes long, Washington Irving’s debut album Palomides Volume 1 it’s a delicious taste of what’s to come. They’re an experienced band whose decision to concentrate on touring and building a following has paid off. By the time Washington Irving headed into the studio, they were a tight and talented band. Seamlessly, the fuse folk, rock and blues. In doing so, they follow in the footsteps of two successful Scottish bands Big Country and Runrig. Washington Irving pick up the baton from Big Country and Runrig. Other influences include Arcade Fire, The Pogues and The Proclaimers. All these influences play their part in one of Scotland’s best up-and-coming bands.

Just now, there are so many promising and successful Scottish bands. That’s been the case since the late-seventies. Sadly, many of these bands neither enjoyed the commercial success nor critical acclaim they deserved. Washington Irving should. They’re the latest up-and-coming Scottish band who look like enjoying a successful career. If Palomides Volume 2 which will be out at the start of November 2013, is as good as Palomides Volume 1, then the next step for Washington Irving should be signing for a label. Their unique fusion of fold, rock and blues deserves a much wider audience, far from Scotland’s shores. I’m sure Scottish expats everywhere will be won over by Washington Irving’s debut album Palomides Volume 1. I certainly was. Washington Irving’s debut album Palomides Volume 1 might only be five songs long and last twenty-two minutes, but it’s a the first step in what should a long and successful career for Washington Irving.

WOODENBOX-END GAME.

Fueled by the sound of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band and Kayne West, Glasgow-based Woodenbox, set about recording their sophomore album End Game at Chem 19 recording studio in Hamilton. Given Woodenbox’s somewhat eclectic soundtrack, it’s no surprise that End Game is a similarly eclectic album. Best described as genre-sprawling, the Glasgow-based folk sextet had come a long way since their 2010 debut album Home and The Wildhunt. Released to critical acclaim, Home and The Wildhunt was one the best Scottish albums of 2010. Fast forward a year, to September 2011, and recording of their sophomore album End Game, which was released in March 2013, was underway. 

The venue was Chem 19 recording studios in Hamilton. Woodenbox were joined by producer Paul Savage. Previously, Paul had produced Arab Strap, Franz Ferdinand and The Phantom Band. His job was to harness Woodenbox’s fusion of folk and horn-driven psychedelic blues, with the melodic sound that featured on Home and The Wildhunt. For the sessions, ten new tracks had been written by Woodenbox. They were recorded at Chem 19 on 19th August 2011 and during October 2012. Everyone Has A Price was chosen as the lead single from what became End Game. It was released in March 2012, to coincide with Woodenbox’s first US tour. Woodenbox had come a long way since they were formed in 2008.

Just five years after they were founded, Woodenbox released their sophomore album End Game. It’s a slick, accomplished and genre-melting album. Indeed, it’s so polished you forget that Woodenbox are a relatively new band. While that’s the case, they’re certainly not lacking experience. Their years of constant touring have helped them hone their sound. Over the past few years, as Woodenbox toured the length and breadth of Scotland, and later further afield, they’d become festival favorites. That’s no surprise, given their music is anthemic and hook-laden. Many of the ten tracks of End Game would be festival favorites. Indeed, I’m sure King’s Liar, Beautiful Terrible, Easy Life and Race To The Flood would go down a storm at festivals this summer. They’re just four of the tracks from End Game, which is a fusion of musical genres. 

Everything from folk, jazz, pop, psychedelia, rock and ska are combined by the Glasgow-based folk sextet on End Game. The ten tracks were written by Woodenbox and became End Game. These tracks contain lyrics that are intelligent, witty, surreal and cynical. End Game’s lyrics were brought to life by a tight, talented and accomplished group of musicians. As for vocalist Ali Downer, he breathes life, meaning and emotion into them. Then there’s the production. 

End Game was produced by Paul Savage. He played an important part in the End Game’s success. Paul’s experience allows his to structure the songs in such a way that they’re most effective. His production style allows you to hear the different layers of music. Brought together, these layers of music veer between dramatic, edgy, ethereal, anthemic and hook-laden. Having worked with successful groups before, Paul knows what makes a successful album. Paul played an important part in the success of End Game, an album whose songs are anthemic, dark, dramatic, hook-laden, intelligent and introspective. That’s the perfect way to describe Woodenbox’s genre-sprawling, sophomore album End Game, which is the perfect introduction to one of Scotland’s best bands.

So, that’s the story of Scottish music during 2013. There’s been albums released by old favourites like Camera Obscura, Pete McLeod, Roddy Woomble, The Pastels and R.M. Hubbert. There’s also be retrospectives from old friends like The Beta Band and Belle and Sebastian. However, there’s more to Scottish music than albums from familiar faces.

During 2013 there’s been debuts album from Scottish pop sensation Chvrches. They’ve taken the world by storm. However, they’re not the only new name to release an albums during 2013. What about Quickbeam, Rick Redbeard, This Silent Forest and Washington Irving? These are just a few of the the artists who have released new albums during 2013. Then there’s other artists we’ve heard from who’ve yet to release an album,

Among them are Jo Mango, End Of Neil, The Holy Ghosts and Shooting Stansfield. I’ve written about them during 2013. Just like all the artists on my list of The Best Scottish Albums Of 2013, these artists are hugely talented. Who knows, maybe by the end of 2014, we’ll be mentioning them when we look back on 2014.

What I do know, is that 2013, has been a vintage year for Scottish music. Scottish bands have released an eclectic selection of albums. Many of these albums have been eclectic, where bands fuse a diverse range of musical influences and genres. These albums have contained everything from Americana, ambient, country, folk, pop, indie rock, electronica, rock and soul. Each of these albums have showcased the best Scottish music has to offer. As Scotland enters the most important year since 1979, let’s hope that 2014 is just a successful year for Scotland and Scottish music. 

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