A student's introduction to the indie music scene of Edinburgh and Glasgow
Some of the best new pop and indie music from Scotland
Scottish students are spoilt for quality music. Nina Glencross plugs into some of the best local bands currently serenading Edinburgh and Glasgow
Scotland’s central belt boasts a ridiculously vast amount of music, and while some acts are so good they’ll change your life forever, others may make you want to rip off your own ears. The idea of trudging through this vast sea of noise before discovering something you actually like can seem daunting, but that’s where we come in. We’ve taken the liberty of rummaging around reams of SoundCloud and Bandcamp sites and, after some severe filtering, we bring you the best acts that Glasgow and Edinburgh currently have to offer. It wasn’t an easy task, but this lot are definitely worth checking out.
So let’s begin with some electro, shall we? And who better to start with than the increasingly popular Chvrches (pictured, above). This Glasgow-based electro pop trio features members of Aereogramme, The Unwinding Hours and Blue Sky Archives. After a recent appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, then a European tour with synth veterans Depeche Mode, their debut album, The Bones of What You Believe, is released in late September. (They play 02 ABC, Glasgow, 10–11 Oct.)
Chvrches’ synth man Martin Doherty was also a touring member of The Twilight Sad, who just so happen to be the next act on our list. Nominated for this year’s Scottish Album of the Year award with No One Can Ever Know, this Kilsyth band create intense post-punk with dark synths and guitar, and even darker lyrics. Check out ‘Another Bed’ and ‘I Became a Prostitute’ to get a good sense of their sound.
If you enjoy dark and moody but fancy a more folky twist, then check out The Twilight Sad’s fellow SAY Award nominees Admiral Fallow. (Both bands play Paisley Abbey, with the RSNO, 14 Oct). Scotland’s scene is rich with folk music, with the likes of Frightened Rabbit, Meursault and King Creosote flying the flag and achieving worldwide fame. However, with songs like ‘Squealing Pigs’ and ‘Guest of the Government’, this charming quintet are definitely one of Glasgow’s proudest exports.
Originating from Tain in the Highlands, Glasgow-based PAWS are a trio of scuzzy surf punks who like to play happy pop songs shrouded in distortion. Their debut album Cokefloat! received acres of praise and also made the recent SAY award longlist. This year alone, the band have scored support slots with The Breeders, We Are Scientists and The Cribs. It’s fair to say this noisy trio have a bright future ahead of them. (PAWS Halloween Ball, Garnethill Multicultural Centre, Glasgow, 1 Nov).
If techno and house are more your thing, seek out Golden Teacher. Described as ‘hypno-psych voodoo groove’, this project started out as a studio collaboration between Glasgow noise punk trio Ultimate Thrush and all-analogue house duo Silk Cut. With JD Twitch now a fan, you can enjoy the fruits of their labour through the Optimo Music record label.
OK, that’s enough from Glasgow. Time for a look at the music offerings from the capital. Lo-fi outfit eagleowl have folk primarily at the roots of their music, while giving it a wholly contemporary, yet almost timeless feel. Having released their long-awaited debut album This Silent Year in May through Fence Records, the band currently have their fingers in many pies, not least composing music for Edinburgh Art Festival exhibitions and starting a Grandaddy tribute band. (Catch them at the Grand Ole Opry, Glasgow, 8 Sep; and Mono, Glasgow, 3 Oct.)
Dan Willson, aka Withered Hand, is another indie folk act who has turned a few heads recently. Since making the news in 2011 with an online campaign to help him attend SXSW (the annual music and film mega-conference in Texas) after US immigration officials denied him a visa, Withered Hand cemented his cult status. As well as running his own DIY label, Brother & Dad, he’s played the likes of Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall alongside The Vaselines’ Eugene Kelly and is currently recording a second studio album.
The next act on our list defies easy categorisation – which makes her all the more exciting – so pay close attention. Law takes her reggae, African and Caribbean roots and brings them bang up to date with futuristic beats and vocals so deep and alluring that she’ll have you under her spell in no time. (See Law’s Sade-echoing, dubby video for her debut single, ‘Hustle’ on YouTube.) Having moved from the English Midlands to Edinburgh, Law found instant friends in Edinburgh’s rising hip-hop stars Young Fathers. These three lads create a huge sound, blending remixed African and Middle Eastern-inspired samples with hard-hitting lyrics dealing with politics and society. Such is their increasing popularity, their music recently featured on a late night short film on Channel 4.
Last, but not least, is River of Slime. As the electronic master, Gameboy twiddler and keyboardist in Edinburgh art collective FOUND, Kev Sim amassed quite a bit of solo material over the years. Under his new pseudonym, Sim has released the first volume of his glitchy beats through Glasgow label Phuturelabs, with cosmic sound effects thrown in for good measure. (Hear more at phuturelabs.com, and look out for an LP with fellow FOUNDer Lomond Campbell at the end of the year.) Now put down those lecture notes and get your headphones on.