THE BEST SCOTTISH ALBUMS OF 2015.

THE BEST SCOTTISH ALBUMS OF 2015.

It’s at this time of the year, I usually look back at the previous year. 2015 is no different.  So over the last few weeks, I’ve immersed myself in the music of 2015. Somehow, I’ve managed to listen to, and remind myself of, the music I’ve reviewed during the past twelve months. I had planned to do this earlier, but there were some late entrants. They were well worth waiting for. So without any further ado, I’ll start my review of 2015. Given where I’m based, it’s seems fitting that I start with the best Scottish albums of 2015. 

I’ve narrowed the best Scottish albums of 2015 down to 15. They’re mostly new albums, with one Scottish classic album that deserves a mention. Some of the artists will be familiar to most people, while others will be new to you. So without further ado, in A-Z order, I’ll briefly tell you about each release.

ADMIRAL FALLOW-TINY REWARDS.

Admiral Fallow were formed in 2007, by Glasgow based singer-songwriter Louis Abbott. They released their debut album Boots Met My Face in June 2009. Nearly three years later, Admiral Fallow released their sophomore album Tree Bursts In Snow in May 2012. Since then, it’s all been quiet on the album front.

That was until Admiral Fallow returned with Tiny Rewards in May 2015. It was released on the Canadian label Nettwerk. Tiny Rewards marked a welcome return from Admiral Fallow. It’s a truly captivating and eclectic, career defining album from Admiral Fallow.

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ASTRID WILLIAMSON-WE GO TO DREAM.

Despite just releasing her sixth album, We Go To Dream, Astrid Williamson is still one of music’s best kept secrets. That’s despite a career that’s spanned three decades. Sadly, widespread commercial success that Astrid Williamson deserves has so far, eluded her. That’s why Astrid Williamson decided to reinvent herself.

The reinvention ofAstrid Williamson  began on Pulse, which was released in 2011. Astrid Williamson continues to reinvent herself on We Go To Dream. It’s without doubt, the most eclectic album of Astrid Williamson’s career.

So much so, that We Go To Dream is a magical mystery tour through musical genres. Seamlessly, Astrid Williamson flits between and fuses disparate musical genres on We Go To Dream. Effortlessly, Shetland born chanteuse  Astrid Williamson squares the musical circle on We Go To Dream, which features something for everyone. 

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BELLE AND SEBASTIAN-GIRLS IN PEACETIME WANT TO DANCE.

Purveyors of perfect indie pop, Belle and Sebastian are almost veterans of the Scottish music industry. Their Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance, was released back in January 2015. It was recorded in Atlanta, and was the third album to be produced by Ben H. Allen III. The result was an ambitious album.

With Ben H. Allen III’s help, Belle and Sebastian, not for the first time, reinvented themselves again. Some would have as believe that  Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance it seems, is the musical equivalent of a midlife crisis. That’s far from the truth. Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance was an ambitious album where Belle and Sebastian were taken out of their comfort zone. The result was a first for Belle and Sebastian, a dance album. Now as the Belle and Sebastian’s twentieth anniversary fast approaches, it’s now time to move on. Maybe, that’ll mean a return of Tony Doogan as producer, who was responsible for some of return of some of Belle and Sebastian’s finest albums.

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BILL WELLS AND AIDAN MOFFAT-THE MOST IMPORTANT PLACE IN THE WORLD.   

Four years after the last musical sojourn, Scotland’s musical odd couple of Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat return with their long awaited sophomore album The Most Important Place In The World. It’s the followup to Bill and Aidan’s 2011 debut album, Everything’s Getting Older. It was received to widespread critical acclaim back in 2011. Since then, music lovers have been awaiting the return of the unlikeliest musical yin and yang, Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat. The Most Important Place In The World has been worth the four year wait.

On The Most Important Place In The World, Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat have returned with a dozen songs about Scotland’s dark underbelly. They’re songs that deserved to be turned into a short film. No wonder. The characters and scenarios are very realistic Macho men, drinkers rub shoulders with dancers, chancers and romancers. They’re responsible for fleeting fumblings, illicit romances and tales of love gone wrong. Even the loves songs have a twist in the tale.

There’s a reason for this. Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat keep it real. They write about what they know, what they’ve seen and experienced. That makes a difference. Far too many songwriters try and write about things they’ve neither experienced nor witnessed. Not Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat. Drawing upon their experiences, they combine caustic wit, cynicism and social comment with tragicomedy. Other times their lyrics are tinged with sadness, hurt and heartbreak as The Most Important Place In The World takes on a late-night sound. Other times, the music is joyous and uplifting, as seamlessly, the flit between musical genres. This they do throughout The Most Important Place In The World, which is without doubt, a fitting followup to Everything’s Getting Older.

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CHVRCHES-EVERY OPEN EYE.

Earlier this year, Chvrches returned returned with their sophomore album Every Open Eye. It’s the follow up to their million selling 2013 debut album The Bones Of What You Believe.  Chvrches pickup where they left off on The Bones Of What You Believe.

Every Open Eye, an album full of dance-floor fillers, anthems and beautiful ballads. The five months Chvrcges spent recording Every Open Eye was five months well spent. Every Open Eye is a stunning album, and almost flawless album.

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DAVID KNOWLES-FOOTSTEPS.

David Knowles will be a new name to many people. However, it’s nearly twenty years since singer-songwriter he first picked up a guitar. Since then, David Knowles has been dreaming about releasing an album. That dream came true earlier this year, when  he released Footsteps his long-awaited debut album. 

Footsteps, which is the perfect introduction to one of music’s rising stars, David combines old, new and blues’ songs. There’s seven new songs from the pen of David Knowles sit side-by-side with covers of Ain’t No Sunshine and Hey Joe. Then there’s Satisfy My Soul, where David pays homage to his blues roots. This combination of old, new and blues on Footsteps, proves a introduction to one of music’s rising stars, David Knowles who hopefully, we’ll be hearing much more of.

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ERRORS-LEASE OF LIFE.

Errors have come a long way since they were formed in Glasgow, in 2004, by Simon Ward, Greg Paterson and Stephen Livingstone. Back then, Errors’ makeshift studio was a bedroom. That was the Glasgow based musical alchemists laboratory. Through experimentation and innovation, Errors sound began to evolve, and earlier this year, released their fifth album Lease Of Life, on Mogwai’s Rock Action Records.     

On Lease Of Life, Errors paint pictures with your music. Sometimes, they toy with your emotions on tracks like New Winged Fire and Early Nights. For much of the time, it’s as if Errors are providing the soundtrack to a series of short films. You can’t help let your imagination run riot. Before your eyes, plots and scenarios unfold. It’s an intriguing and captivating listen. Maybe Errors will follow in Mogwai’s footsteps and start making soundtracks? They certainly have the ability to do so.Then other times, Errors head for the dance-floor.

Somehow, Errors have managed to make an album that will appeal to everyone. Whether it’s the slower cinematic tracks, or the hands in the air anthems, there’s something for everyone on Lease Of Life. It features comeback Kings  Errors making return to form with what’s undoubtably a career defining album.

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KATHRYN JOSEPH-BONES YOU HAVE THROWN ME AND BLOOD I’VE SPILLED. 

In the history of the Scottish Album Of The Year Award, Kathryn Joseph recently became the first artist to win Scotland’s most prestigious music award with a debut album. That debut album is Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I’ve Spilled, which was released back in January 2015, on Hits The Fan Records. 

That was until Kathryn Joseph triumphed with Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I’ve Spilled. Winning Scotland’s most prestigious music award was a game-changer for Kathryn Joseph. Suddenly, her music was being heard by a much wider audience. Now she has just embarked upon a European tour, where Kathryn Joseph is sure to win over the hearts and minds of music lovers.

Especially given Kathryn Joseph’s vocal. It’s variously ethereal, haunting, heartfelt, melancholy and otherworldly. On each of the ten tracks on Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I’ve Spilled, Kathryn Joseph lyrics come to life. That’s down to Kathryn. She’s part singer, part storyteller. Each of her vocals are captivating. Partly, that’s because she tailors her vocal to suit the song. Sonically and stylistically, her vocal is unique. Especially, when she transforms her vocal into another instrument. This adds an extra dimension to the award winning Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I’ve Spilled. It’s a truly enchanting album.

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LAU-THE BELL THAT NEVER RANG.

Ever since the release of their 2007 debut album. Lightweights and Gentlemen, Lau have been variously described as “adventurous,” and “modern folk’s most innovative band.” That’s no exaggeration. Lau are, without doubt, one of the most exciting and ambitious folk bands of their generation. That’s why Kris Drever, Martin Green and Aidan O’Rourke have been winning awards, praise and plaudits ever since. This includes winning the BBC Folk Award for the best group four times in six years. That takes some doing. However, Lau are no ordinary band. They’re pioneers and perfectionists.

Proof of that is The Bell That Never Rang, which feature the Edinburgh based band at their innovative best. Lau seamlessly combine disparate musical genres. Everything from  Celtic, electronica, electro, folk, indie rock and rock is thrown into Lau’s melting pot. Producer Joan Wasser sprinkles some sonic magic and then gives this musical melting pot a stir. Only then is this musical treat ready to serve. And what a dish it is. It’s one fit for a king or queen. Lau have surpassed their previous efforts with The Bell That Never Rang. It marks a triumphant return from Lau with their genre defying Magnus Opus, The Bell That Never Rang.

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MIAOUX MIAOUX-SCHOOL OF VELOCITY.

Although it’s been three years since Miaoux Miaoux released their debut album Light Of The North in June 2012, it’s just that the man behind Miaoux Miaoux, Julian Corrie has been one of the hardest working men in Scottish music. He’s been playing live and much in demand as a remixer. So, it’s taken three years for Miaoux Miaoux to release their much anticipated sophomore album School Of Velocity. Just like Light Of The North, it was released on Glasgow’s premier label Chemikal Underground. School Of Velocity is the latest chapter in Miaoux Miaoux story. 

School of Velocity oozes quality. Miaoux Miaoux’s long awaited sophomore album, which was released by Chemikal Records, was part of the soundtrack to the sumner of 2015. Especially the hook-laden anthems. They’re plentiful, and went sure to go down a storm with DJs. Similarly, the anthems were festival favourites when Miaoux Miaoux plays live. The ballads show another side to Miaoux Miaoux. A reflective, rueful and sometimes hopeful and needy Julian Corrie lays bare his soul. This means there’s something for everything on School of Velocity. Whether it’s indie pop or dance music that’s your bag, then there’s something for everyone on School of Velocity, Miaoux Miaoux’s magical, musical merry-go-round that you’re sure not to want to get off.

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MOGWAI-CENTRAL BELTERS.

2015 finds post rock pioneers Mogwai celebrating their twentieth anniversary. A lot has happened in that twenty year period. Mogwai have released eight studio albums and three soundtracks. These albums have been critical acclaimed and commercially successful not just in Britain, but in America. That’s why nowadays, Mogwai are regarded as Scottish music’s elder statesmen. So it was fitting when Mogwai released a three disc retrospective box set, Central Belters, on Rock Action Records. Central Belters tells the story of twenty years of Mogwai.

For the last twenty years, Mogwai’s music has been ambitious, bold, challenging, influential and innovative music. It’s full of nuances, subtleties and surprises as Mogwai seamlessly combine musical genres. They fuse ambient, avant garde, classic rock, electronica, experimental, indie rock, psychedelia and Krautrock, to create their unique post rock sound. All the time, Mogwai continue to push musical boundaries to their limits and even sometimes, way beyond. Mogwai have never been willing to stand still. The Mogwai Young Team’s music has continued to evolve, and doubtless will continue to do so.

Glasgow’s famous five are due a new musical adventure. It’s nearly two years since the release of Rave Tapes. Hopefully, Mogwai are hard at work in their Castle Of Doom studios on their next adventure. This isn’t the type of adventure Enid Blyton’s Famous Five once enjoyed. There’s no picnics, lemonade and bicycle trips. Instead, it’s a bit more edgy and gritty.That’s the case with Central Belters Mogwai’s career retrospective.

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THE PHANTOM BAND-FEARS TRENDING.

Ever since 2002, The Phantom Band have been making music. They released their fourth album Fears Trending back in January 2015, on Glasgow’s premier label Chemikal Underground. Fears Trending  was recorded at the same time as The Phantom Band’s previous album  Strange Friend. However, Fears Trending is a very different album.    

The songs on Fears Treading are longer, darker and filled with drama. Some of the songs have a much more experimental sound. Bursts of futuristic, sci-fi, shimmering synths augment the fusion of art rock, folk rock, indie rock, post rock and psychedelia on Fears Treading. It’s an eclectic and ambitious combination of influences. However, it’s a combination that works. 

Although Strange Friend and Fears Trending are very different albums, they’re both are captivating and groundbreaking albums from one of Scotland’s top bands, The Phantom Band, who for thirteen years, have been pushing musical boundaries to their boundaries, and sometimes, beyond.

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RACHEL SERMANNI-TIED TO THE MOON. 

Three years have passed since Rachel Sermanni released her debut album Under Mountains in 2012. It reached number twenty-six in Scotland, and number twenty-three on the British Indie charts. Considering Rachel wasn’t signed to one of the bigger indie labels, this was a successful debut album. Her debut album was heard far and wide. Since then, the followup to Under Mountains has been eagerly awaited. The wait was over when Rachel Sermani released Tied To The Moon earlier this year.

At last, Scotland’s Queen of Nu Folk was back. She was joined by a talented band and Colin McLeod of Mull Historical Society. He produced Tied To The Moon and brings out the best in Rachel. Colin frame’s Rachel’s vocals with arrangements that veer between country, folk, pop and rock. Often, there’s a twist in the tale or a surprise in store. None more so, than on Tractor, which has single written all over it. Other times, Rachel seems to have been inspired by everyone from Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and Van Morrison, right through to Eva Cassidy, Joni Mitchell, Suzanne Vega, Bjork and P.J. Harvey. Their influence can be heard throughout Tied To The Moon. So can the traditional Scottish music Rachel Sermanni grew up listening to. It has influenced and shaped Rachel Sermanni as a singer and songwriter, as she makes the next step on what will surely be the road to stardom on Tied To The Moon. 

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SIMPLE MINDS-SPARKLE IN THE RAIN-DELUXE EDITION.

I can hear the cry already. Sparkle In The Rain isn’t a new album. It’s not, but in Scotland, it’s a classic album from Jim Kerr and Co. Sparkle In The Rain was reissued by Universal earlier this year. This was thirty-one years after Sparkle In The Rain was released in February 1984. It became Simple Mind’s most successful album, and reinvented the Glasgow band.

Eventually, Sparkle In The Rain was certified platinum in reached number sixty-four Britain. That wasn’t surprising. Sparkle In The Rain was peppered with hits, including Up On The Catwalk, Book Of Brilliant Things, Speed Your Love To Me and Waterfront. These tracks played their part in the reinvention of Simple Minds. 

They left their electronic and new wave roots behind. Now, Simple Minds were well on their way to superstardom. The album that started this off was their Glasgow album. It’s bold, stylistic and full of confidence. Simple Minds are almost gallus as they strut their way across Sparkle In The Rain, en route for stadium rocking, superstardom.

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SWEETHEARTS OF THE PRISON RODEO-PIGS IN THE BULL RING [HUMANS LIKE BEASTS].

Pigs In The Bull Ring [Humans Like Beasts] was released on the Wiseblood Industries label, and is the followup to Sweethearts Of The Prison Rodeo’s 2013 album, On The Desolate Hillside. It introduced listeners to Falkirk’s very own purveyors of freak-country-folk, the Sweethearts Of The Prison Rodeo. Their raison d’être is to release cerebral music with a social conscience.

The Sweethearts Of The Prison Rodeo don’t make things easy for themselves. Writing and recording a concept album wasn’t going to be easiest way to followup their debut album. Especially when it’s told by the ghost of Mussolini. This makes Pigs In The Bull Ring [Humans Like Beasts] sound like an album that harks back to the classic concept album of the seventies. 

Pigs In The Bull Ring [Humans Like Beasts] doesn’t come courtesy of Pink Floyd, E.L.P. or Yes. Instead, it come from David King and his Falkirk collective, Sweethearts Of The Prison. They’re not progressive rockers. Far from it. Sweethearts Of The Prison Rodeo described themselves as a freak-country-folk combo. That’s almost selling themselves short. They combine everything from blues, country, folk, indie rock and indie rock. Musical genres combine and collide seamlessly on Pigs In The Bull Ring [Humans Like Beasts]. To this musical hotpot, Sweethearts Of The Prison Rodeo combine, melodies and subtle hooks and social comment.

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That’s what I regard as the fifteen best Scottish albums of 2015. Many people will expect to see Belle and Sebastian, Mogwai, Chvrches, Errors, Lau The Phantom Band, Admiral Fallow and Miaoux Miaoux feature. Some of the other names on the list, most people won’t be so familiar with. 

This includes Scotland’s musical odd couple Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat. Their contribution, The Most Important Place In The World is excellent late night-listening. Think Leonard Cohen meets Tom Waits’ Gutter Trilogy, and you get the right idea of what you’re missing. With Rachel Sermanni, those who have yet to discover her music, are missing Scotland’s Queen of Nu Folk. Then there’s Shetland born chanteuse Astrid Williamson, who if talented equated to commercial success would have a gold discs a plenty. Then there’s David Knowles, whose at the very start of his career. Finally, Sweethearts Of The Prison Rodeo’s concept album combines melodies and subtle hooks and social comment. It’s a captivating combination.

Captivating. That describes the fifteen albums on the list of The Best 15 Scottish Albums of 2015. They represent an eclectic selection of music that’s been released by Scottish artists and bands during 2015. There’s everything from electro, and indie pop, to post rock and Nu-Folk through perfect pop to some good old fashioned, harding rocking music. Then there’s anthems and hook-laden songs to ballads, cover versions  and groundbreaking, genre-melting soundscapes. Essentially, there’s something for everyone, regardless of your musical taste. I can wholeheartedly recommend each and every one of these albums, that are a tantalising taste of the music released by Scottish bands and artists during 2015.

THE BEST SCOTTISH ALBUMS OF 2015.

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