The intro track sets the scene very nicely, with Bemz making it clear that he has all the confidence in the world and will not hold back flashing his successes and his fellow teammates that stand loyally by his side.

Then with the M4 Freestyle, he kicks it into second gear with swift and snappy lyrics alongside the immensely talented X while the slick production matches the fiery pace.

The brisk tempo is maintained with Trappin, where Bemz and Just Easy are flat out spitting their intense breakneck verses deflecting the folk doing whatever they can to mess them about, with little respect for their honest grafting and grinding, and there’s an undeniable boosted layer of aggression with Know No Better.

In My Feelings is the most candid cut yet, with Bemz in tow with Washington being truthful about the different kind of person he becomes when stuck down the path of drugs and booze, and how he’s making the effort to avoid that in order to stay on the straight and narrow and achieve his goals.

On that note, His Story dives more into that absolute need to break the habit and be laser-sharp focused on breaking the glass ceiling, with Bemz making the most of the little he has available.

But with all the negativity tackled throughout this EP, he wraps up on a positive light via 26, reflecting on how far he has come, how grateful he is for the blessed life he has been guided to, and how he’s pushing himself to go all in for the sake for his family; his greatest priority.

Bemz made a definitive impact with Saint Of Lost Causes last year, showing off plenty of potential, but he has indisputably taken it to the next level with this record. Lyrically personal, emotionally deep and sonically ace, M4 is from bell to bell a superior product. Bemz is unmistakably right up there among the hip hop elite in Scotland as we speak, and things are only going to elevate from here on out for the chosen one.

Hamish Hawk: Heavy Elevator – SMALL MUSIC SCENE

Once every so often, an artist will come along and make one hell of a lasting impression with a record that they’ve unleashed to the world; sometimes doing such a good job that you’re happy to declare it one of the year’s finest long before it even comes to an end. Case in point: Hamish Hawk, and the spectacular Heavy Elevator.

Vivian Comma establishes early on that Hamish bolsters a rich, baritone voice which by itself is a major drawing element, and it blends impeccably with the quiet, atmospheric environment. Needs Improvements expands on the sound, namely giving us a more involved and melodic touch as well as Hamish’s vocals increasing in range, and the lyrics are simply wonderful and imaginative.

The latter are especially prominent and on full display to witness in Mauritian Badminton Doubles Champion, and it’s by this point where you are indisputably hooked by this album with no such desire to switch it off, then the personality continues to primely flow through in Bakerloo, Unbecoming, accompanied by a catchy beat and rushing guitars.

Your Ceremony is almost hypnotic in style, particularly with the additional gentle harmonies making their presence felt in the background, but in contrast, Caterpillar is viciously, addictively bouncy, with much owed to the freaking contagious bassline carrying the whole song along, and it only gets more mental as it proceeds, with Hamish going all out on the mic to some manic, off-the-wall proportions.

There’s no doubt that Daggers is considerably more reserved in nature and is another effectively written tune. Heavy Elevator itself is stripped down further still and manages to garner a few chills. Calls To Tiree is structurally simple but sticks with you with its memorable strumming chords, and last but certainly not least, we get the scopic and conclusive New Rhododendrons.

Heavy Elevator can be described in a variety of words: creative, smart, elegant, exciting, quiet, loud, and above all else, unforgettable. It’s not been until now where I’ve been truly appreciative of Hamish Hawk and his awesome talent.

Very few records in recent memory have blown me away to this degree, but he’s delivered that exact rare feat, and I hope a wider audience can experience that same remarkable sensation which I felt here.

Nicol & Elliott: Broken Eyes – SMALL MUSIC SCENE

When the duo of Nicol & Elliott stepped out with their debuting My Heart Will Wait, I claimed that they were “one of the most notable newcomers to the Scottish americana/country sphere”. They proved it then, they proved it again with The Storm, and now the third time’s the charm in a big way with Broken Eyes.

The title tune immediately seals the deal with it’s immensely infectious, grooving blues feel where the guitar chords are naturally cool and the strings just blend in seamlessly. The buzz continues along with Fade Away, which has a plucky, toe-tapping tempo, a bright, flowing melody, and fantastically engaged vocals.

Hard To Breathe is a little bit more reeled back but still just as wistful, with the instrumental performances and the writing checking off real nicely, and the smashing Going Down takes us home with a strong and memorable chorus on hand.

The initial two records from Nicol & Elliott, I really enjoyed, but in the case of Broken Eyes, this is the first of their releases which I can confidently say that I adore from top to bottom, where every song just fits tightly into piece and impresses with various qualities. The self-proclaimed folk-noir pair just keep getting better and better, and I’d like to think a full-length album is next on the horizon…

Life Model: Lost On Weekdays, Lonely By Sunday – SMALL MUSIC SCENE

I’ve been following Glasgow dream poppers Life Model for a good 6 or 7 years, but I feel like I’ve never given them enough of a spotlight in that timeframe, which is a travesty given their talents. Thankfully, with the recent drop of their latest effort Lost On Weekdays, Lonely By Sunday, I have the perfect excuse.

The early goings are quite strong as they play their way through Sit Still, with its enjoyable melody, nifty guitar chords and lovely vocals on hand to accommodate the listeners. Edith is laidback and whimsically misty in tone; the sound where Life Model shine their best; while also being accompanied by an utterly addictive chorus which will guarantee the words “backseat driver” won’t leave your head for days. The mood remains in a similar vein with Saskia, and the lyrics nail the emotional investment.

Walking Backwards is beyond lucid and luminous to begin with, donning such a fixating, velvety atmosphere which is only strengthened by the fantastic harmonies, then it transforms into something harder and ruggeder in the closing moments with a wave of distorted riffs, and they deliver one last dose of beauty with the tender and luring Blue.

Life Model’s newest record is undeniably their best work to date. Just about every element clicks here, and it’s so effective in whisking you away into a better place for its entire duration, bringing you back in a better and more comfortable state of mind.

Saving Jackie: It’s Critical – SMALL MUSIC SCENE

Since making their grand slam return in 2019, Texas rap-rock veterans Saving Jackie have had measurable success re-emerging into the spotlight and drawing new fans while maintaining the long-time supporters, and their greatest triumph yet following their homecoming has undoubtedly come in the form of their latest album, It’s Critical.

The title track is a bopping opener that kickstarts the energy to thrilling levels as soon as possible. It helps that Jenny is passionately feisty on the mic, and the chorus is a solid and catchy one.

Breaking Doors has a rougher and extra aggressive touch to it thanks to the rumbling bass tones and considerably more callow guitar riffs, and the highly devoted lyrics match up equally well.

Outlet, in the midst of some rad solos, emphasises the importance of trying that safe space to cleanse your bottled up negativity, and the tasty hook-riddled Sureness inspires to persevere in the face of doubt and other opposing influences.

The theme of holding true to your beliefs has been majorly recurring throughout this record, and it’s no more relevant than with My Faith Is Larger, where Jenny makes it crystal clear she is proud of the person she is.

And lastly, the coupling My Everything and Silence The Storm are decent cuts with sweet beats that do their best to carry forth the buzz right up to the end.

A great result from the group with a batch of heavy bangers featuring engaging content that you don’t even need to be a person from a religious background to necessarily enjoy, as the messages are still positive, and besides, you get plenty of sick grooves to keep you entertained anyway.

Sound-wise, it can be limiting, and it does begin to run a little out of steam in the later moments, but the faults aren’t that big of a deal, for the album as a whole is a mighty fine listen.

AiiTee: Better Days – SMALL MUSIC SCENE

At the time of writing this, AiiTee is fresh off cracking the longlist for the 2021 SAY award with her 2020 album Love Don’t Fall, but interestingly, my introduction to the stunning Scottish Nigerian artist came mere days beforehand with her most recent release: the Better Days EP, which in of itself deserves similar praise and attention.

Within a few seconds of proceeding into On My Way, AiiTee fires off with some spectacularly forceful and impassioned harmonies which couldn’t possibly not wow you and keep you sat down with laser-eyed focus, and also helping matters is the excellent beat and the great liberating lyrics.

Rip is a pleasantly chilled interlude with Omo Dada adding a solid contribution through his interesting verses, and while the autotune is a little too emphasised, Let Go is nevertheless a fresh and melodic RnB cut.

To Better Days steps it up yet another gear with such an infectiously catchy rhythm, on top of the positive vibes floating around in the air that work their way into your senses during the song’s trip back to fond, nostalgic memories.

Afterwards, the pace is settled tremendously for the gorgeous Ain’t Too Far which is emotionally binding and features some of the best and most motivating writing, with the line touching upon the sky not being the limit while there are footprints on the moon ranking as the highlight.

And finally we cap off on a bewitching high note with Heavy Shakara, defined by an elating energy, amazing hooks, good instrumentation, and Chef’s memorable guest spot.

Better Days is simply wonderful and enchanting, proving that AiiTee is more than capable of carving a place for herself in the mainstream charts should the opportunity arise. Here’s hoping that her SAY award nomination is only the beginning…

Dominicide: The Architecture Of Oppression – SMALL MUSIC SCENE

Fresh out of lockdown, a tonne of acts have made their way back into the radar in glorious fashion with so much to prove. Glaswegian deathly thrashers Dominicide are no different, and they’ve cranked out a belter of an EP with The Architecture Of Oppression.

Before they even give you a chance to bloody get comfortable in your seat, they rip apart your eardrums with a hefty wave of noise, kicking off The Enpowered, and just about everything clicks here: the vocals are stout as hell, the rhythm sections are mental, the guitars are deliciously chaotic, and the writing is on top form.

Following on from a neat choral introduction, the boys move onto The Orchestraitors (ha!), and the immense strength of their united performances remain strong; in fact, you could argue they are even better, with an added stark viciousness to the singing in particular, the riff solos batted out with such an unbridled insanity, and the general scope being elevated to an ooft-worthy degree.

Theocracy frequently switches the dial between blistering high-tempo sequences and brute marching sections rattling with a thick intensity, while the lyrics do enough to grab your attention in amongst the unfolding madness, and Reincarnate makes for a staggering climax that races to the finish in epic style.

If you’re in the market for something that’s heavy as f*ck, Dominicide are definitely your ticket, because this EP is a heck of a gut-punching rush.

Swim School: Making Sense Of It All – SMALL MUSIC SCENE

Swim School were introduced to me via a support slot at a King Tuts show a few years back. I hadn’t heard of them beforehand – in fact, they were still pretty fresh onto the scene, if memory serves me right – but I would really dig them and take note that a strong potential future was theirs for the taking. In the present day, that certainly rings true, and nothing showcases just how fantastic they are more so than the Making Sense Of It All EP.

Let Me Inside Your Head makes for one of the most red-hot openers in all of 2021, kicking arse with its ravishing melody, bloody awesome chorus, and overall mind-blowing scope. Anyway is astonishingly catchy as all hell with its amazing lyrical hooks, while Alice’s superb singing makes a tight imprint.

Everything You Wanted has a majestically stunning, stripped back air which encapsulates your ears, with the nice writing seeping through in the process. The initial energy returns to the fray in an electrifying fashion with the cosmically rhythmic, hard-beating See Red, with Outside afterwards blowing you away with dazzling guitar riffs and such to send you home happy.

Not only is this one of the most stellar and satisfying debut records of the year, it’s also handily ranks among the best Scottish releases in recent memory. Every song is unforgettable with a blinding punch to them all, the performances are next level, and it’s registered by a marvellously spotless production.

Edinburgh is home to some smashing acts, but Swim School are fast emerging as candidates for the best of the capital right now, and if more content like this is on the way, then their destinies are more or less set in stone.

Post Coal Prom Queen: Music For Hypercapitalists – SMALL MUSIC SCENE

I know it’s my job to be as objective as possible and be critical where necessary, but with Post Coal Prom Queen, that continues to prove a difficult task. The duo just have an extraordinary talent for evolving their content all the time in a way that no other Scottish act can possibly match; the concept album Music For Hypercapitalists is no exception.

We’re regaled with a series of surreally out-of-this-world tracks blending the band’s signature electronic dream-pop sound with that of the styles of the various collaborating hip hop artists’ efforts, each separated by satirical interluding pieces which are both humorous and unsettling.

In Familiar Foreword, Jackal Trades takes a hefty stab at how capitalism is breaking the human race and the planet as a whole to pieces, Texture in the pulsing Fractured Prism similarly echoes the hardships of merely living in the modern world, and Conscious Route leads the effectively penetrant cut Dragon’s Jaw, standing up to the war against, among other things, the creative arts.

Puddles Of Mercury is the most artistic and freakish of the lot, headed by Somnia’s insanely colourful performance, Empress conveys the strife of negative mental mind games in Nefertem Flex, and the last of the collection The Horrible Odyssey lives up to its namesake with its dark and warped atmosphere which is the ideal backdrop to the sharp words of Miles Better.

Yet another phenomenal, awe-inspiring and scarily relevant record from Lily, Gordon and the variety of excellent people who hitched along for the ride which is highly successful in its dive into the experimental rabbit hole.

Again, it has to be said that Post Coal Prom Queen are the Scottish scene leaders in terms of a unique, forever-changing and majorly provoking output that is on another level entirely.

Erin Vivers Ferguson: Who Are You To Tell Me – SMALL MUSIC SCENE

Falkirk artist Erin Vivers Ferguson is somebody I’ve admired for a few years now since she impressed me at King Tuts one sunny afternoon, and I feel like she doesn’t get the spotlight that she deserves, but with the release of her new EP – Who Are You To Tell Me – I have the ideal justification to glorify her and give her that extra bit of attention.

The title tune kicks things off on a buzzing note, serving as a bright and inspiring pop rock ballad that can spark a fire within even the most cynical of folks. Choked has its qualities but struggles from the mixing, with the melody and the rhythm not matching up well altogether. Thankfully, that’s a brief bump on the road as things get back on track with The Call, an elegantly flowing piece with nice lyrics, neat guitar chords and fine synths on hand.

And then we get the indisputable highlight of the record – Hug – a beautifully wholesome and heart-warming but also emotional and eye-welling number bringing to the forefront the all-too-relatable need for a helping hand in the dreariest and most uncertain of times.

But with the dark comes the light, and as such, the tide turns and the music switches up to a positive and inspiring tone for the wonderful finale, Everything, leaving you with a newfound sense of aspiration and motivation.

Not surprisingly, Erin has come out with a successful result right here; granted, it has one or two minor flaws, but they’re not worth dwelling over when she’s batting out with a series of memorable, long-staying songs.