If you’re even the slightest bit active within Glasgow’s music scene, then you will have surely at least heard of the name HYYTS, the collective title of pop duo Adam and Sam who have had a whirlwind of a year, ranging from dishing out a few acclaimed singles, to major support slots with Boy George and the like, and killing it with packed out headline shows of their own.
Now they come to another major milestone of their careers with the long-awaited release of their debut EP, cheekily titled Eepee, and there is nothing to be disappointed about here.
Right off the bat with Bullet, the sound is so pure and rich, totally savoury to the ears, and that element quickly becomes complemented by Adam’s slick, more or less flawless placid vocals. This, in addition to the chilled melody teamed up with a smooth, lo-fi beat, make for a promising opener that has me immediately engaged.
Things only better as they progress into Bridges, which expands the surrounding atmosphere with a couple of extra meaty layers, and delivers a fantastic chorus with a glorious hook that is so hard to rub off from your mind.
And if you were impressed thus far, then you haven’t seen anything yet, because next up is Heaven, where Sam brings his best here in shaping a flat out awesome, plucky dance ballad with an astonishing energy that could easily stimulate any occupied club.
However, DWY is a complete reversal, opting to return to a minimalistic route and giving us a sincere cut which is ripe with emotions that efficiently come through the sweet lyrics and heartfelt harmonies. And keeping within that general area, the boys finish on an ample stripped back rendition of Hungover, highlighted by cool piano keys and basic yet catchy clicks.
It was sensible to expect something of a high calibre here, taking into account their line of achievements and the sheer amount of potential that they hold, and the duo have clearly stepped up to the challenge here and smashed the hype barrier clean off.
HYYTS have readily produced one of the definitive Scottish pop records of 2019, feature five superb tracks that each go in a different direction and stand on their own as unique, fusing together to create a satisfying whole poised by Adam and Sam’s equally incredible performances.
2020 and beyond is going to be a bountiful journey for these two, who now stand tall as leaders of the country’s musical underground, and if you don’t believe that same sentiment after experiencing this, then you might just have a screw loose…
Since re-emerging into the spotlight a couple of years ago, Easterhouse songstress Carly Connor has seen consistent success, earning that through her clear-as-day talents.
Earlier in 2019, we were treated to her debut EP, The Goldie Hawn Stole My Guitar, which was awfully good, but just a mere few months later, she has ceremoniously trumped herself with the follow-up – Always The Bridesmaid, Never The Bride.
Any newcomers to Carly’s work are sure to be hooked in fast by the self-explanatory title track, which is the perfect display of her writing ability as she pens some amusing lyrics that are just screaming with this bitter attitude that a lot of folk can relate to, plus the chorus is really lively and enjoyable.
In contrast, Half Of Me Without You is definitely more loving in tone, with a genuine longing being expressed through the potent vocals, while the song is boosted by a neat, mid-tempo rhythm section.
The music is considerably eased down to an almost completely stripped essence for the emotional Swear Box. With not much more than an acoustic guitar accompanying her, Carly is allowed to go all out alone, on her own terms, and captivate the audience with a sad tale that is utterly gripping.
And while their attention is fixated, she comes through once more for the somewhat standard yet still warm and affectionate Don’t Toss Us Away to bring things to an end.
Carly Connor has undoubtedly elevated her game here, with all of her key tools visibly developing since her previous release, and because of that, we get a wee doozy of a record that has truly confirmed her as one of Scotland’s prime acts in the country division, even more so given the alternative touches and no-nonsense personality that she brings to her music.
Within a mere couple of years, New York trio EXNATIONS have been making waves with their brand of “sad-pop”, hitting new heights with their recently released sophomore EP – Pink Haze – and if this doesn’t convince you of their talents, then nothing will.
An instant aura is sparked as Tether commences, and following on from that, they get the rhythm going with a sweet beat while the audience is indulged by some silky smooth, warm harmonies that fit their style to a tee.
The energy is bumped up with Floating On A Pink Haze, which bursts with this beaming life that becomes rife through the supreme synths, hammering drum shots and an extra effort in the singing.
These factors only continue to make their presence felt in John Hughes Movie Soundtrack, suitably titled given the purely nostalgic 80’s vibes dripping out of this one, particularly during the ravishing chorus, and the lyrics are great here too.
Their latest single Slow Erosion strides at a gentler pace, simultaneously soaking within a thick atmosphere and showcasing more nice writing, but they gradually turn up the dial with top notch guitar work and a sense of passion becoming apparent.
Modern Kids is easily the catchiest of the lot; you’ll find it really difficult to resist dancing along to; and soon they subside again for the enchanting and emotional finale, Dreaming Still.
Hands down one of the most dazzling records to hit the shelves all year that just sucks you in with empathetic content and a marvellously transcendent sound that is beyond infectious, firmly elevated by a high quality, professionally handled production standard.
IN ASSOCIATION WITH VACANCY MEDIA
In 2015, Belgian sludgy doom metal four-piece Throatsnapper first came to prominence with their self-titled debut release, but it wasn’t until their long-awaited follow-up album – About The Dead – that they would truly hit their stride.
A faint 30 second screeching intro explodes into the grimy Another Way, with Jan ploughing through on the kit with an uncompromising force, Jannick and Jens dishing out these daunting riffs and Wouter blasting these sheer vocals, and coming in around the middle are these heaving, stomach-churning drops.
From Wood To Gallows takes it steady, gradually creeping in and setting the mood; Wouter plucking out these thick bass chords as they go; before out of nowhere exploding into the heavy stuff, although this time giving us something a little more melodic and somewhat catchy, but without sacrificing any of the established elements that make their sound work.
Main single Why follows the pattern made routine by this point, but they are coming off louder and larger than ever before, with none of the members holding back whatsoever in their fields, and they only escalate as they head towards the finish line. Emerging fresh off that, Wintermoon is where they finally break from the formula and fire straight into the hefty, gut-punching material with awesome guitar progressions galore.
We get a reprieve as they kick off To Hades, but of course that doesn’t last long, returning to their regular scheduled content in no time flat. A fine number but probably the most standard of the bunch. However, they make up for that with the climatic Dodenmars, with the bass tones especially reaching murkier, ear-piercing limits and the vocals hitting their optimum level.
Despite representing a genre that’s not always the best when it comes to variety, Throatsnapper – through their commanding performances and shattering instrumentations – manage to deliver a product with diversity between the brutal, thumping tracks and a persistently engaging hook to keep listeners immersed.
Easily one of the most promising young metal acts I’ve come across from the continent as of late, and definitely deserving of more widespread attention.
MARTHA BEAN – Here Comes The Snowstorm
Now this isn’t meant as a putdown for anybody following his path, but it’s common knowledge that the acoustic/singer-songwriter field is very packed and competitive, and also one with a limited toolset to hand where you have to bring something worthwhile to make even the slightest impact.
Only a miniscule handful make it through, and similarly, not that many leave much of a lasting impression to begin with, but Martha Bean from Leicester is a different story, having created a special result with her new EP – Here Comes The Snowstorm.
Exhibited quickly in Slippers To A Wedding are Martha’s enchanting harmonies, which are soft and super sleek, which in turn makes her very welcoming and you find yourself captivated and giving your utmost attention to the charming lyrics of this song.
Another aspect that is vividly present is this beautiful sense of atmosphere, becoming more prominent in Beneath The Shadows, which in addition to the vocals are formed from her delicately polished strumming and the marvellous accompanying string section, and together they blend impeccably.
The lead single Along The Lonely is another strong cut thanks to a lovely melody, a cool and collected drum beat and the interesting writing which dives into what is means to have a so-called “happy” relationship.
Circles continues to imprint with a light, chilling tone and magnetic words, before she closes out with perhaps the most touching of the lot, When I Hold You In My Arms, an emotionally-flowing love letter from mother to child that will tug the heartstrings of anybody, parent or not.
Martha Bean has done an absolutely fantastic job here. Not only is she a great performer, but much more importantly, she is real, genuine and down-to-earth; a vital benefit here because instead of producing standard, bland material that music of this sort can easily fall into the trap of, she has crafted tunes that are from-the-heart as it gets and able to make a deep, personal connection with the audience.
One of the most positive, true-to life-listening experiences that I’ve had the grateful pleasure of indulging in this entire year, and funnily enough, given the title, I can’t help but feel this is a quintessentially warm record to get all cosied up to as a distraction from the cold, harsh winter weather.
***AVAILABLE ON FRIDAY 15TH NOVEMBER***
IN ASSOCIATION WITH LOST IN THE MANOR
Since bearing witness to him play Glasgow alongside close buddy Marc Halls in 2017, I’ve been a keen follower of Jakob Oelofse, aka We Are All Fossils. Last year, he delivered a great album in the form of The Optimist, and he’s back to entertain further with his next compilation – Song For Strangers.
Merry Go Round is a pleasing opener with a warm sound that is strengthened by the accompanying pianos and strings, after which Just A Little Spark picks up the pace a little as it rides along a chipper melody to tap your foot to and striking lyrics that seamlessly grab your attention.
We All Know That is a significant highlight, the first half almost haunting in tone and the detailed writing entrancing the listener, eventually leading into a grander, still magnetic second half that lights up the senses.
The minimal, prominently chord-driven My Long Lost Friend is dripping with this terrific celtic-folk vibe, and the double dose of When You’re The Rut and Bad Dreams keep things remaining simple with more tender harmonies and light acoustics. Finally is Winter Sun, perhaps the best written of the bunch, and it makes for a wonderful closing track.
Songs For Strangers is another welcome, well-executed addition to Jakob’s illustrious library, but honestly, I wouldn’t have expected anything less from this chap.
Glasgow chap Craig-Russell Horne is a face that I’ve been following closely since The 21st State ceased to be and he dived into the world of electronic music. His mainstream-focused debut Robotz & Machinez EP was a solid first impression, but it was with his dark, offbeat album Into The Absence Of Light that he truly crafted an identity for himself.
He recently revisited the more traditional pop sound, and successfully so, with his Sleepwalking and This Ain’t Love singles, but being him, he’s decided to divert from the beaten path with another intriguing concept record completed within the space of 67 hours – Yamantaka – exploring the Buddhist faith through the 7 chapter story of, what else, Yamantaka.
With Transcendence, it becomes clear quite fast that Craig is entering house territory this time around. There are some nice harmony samples dotted about until midway through where a thumping bass beat is thrown into the mix, with more juicy flavour added on as it progresses.
Yama’s Warning is enriched by an almost haunting atmosphere, emphasised in particular by the eerily creepy enhanced vocals, and the song melody-wise harkens back to Terrifying off the previous album, which actually sorts of fits here.
The Battle Of Yamantaka & Yama is resolute and in your face, an ideal reflection of the tune’s theme, and the predictably minimal Meditative is carried by the good, albeit overly autotuned singing.
However, Enlightened is a complete flip-around as it goes in a stimulating dance direction, although at points it does seem a little too similar to the earlier Yama’s Warming.
Dukkha is a candidate for top highlight here, bringing forth some legitimate emotions seeping through the interesting lyrics being sung. And that also rings true for the sweet final offering, Samsara Is Broken.
In spots, it doesn’t quite hit the mark that I hoped for, and it’s probably not going to have the same long-term impact that Into The Absence Of Light made, but saying that, this is a compelling piece of work touching upon curious ideas while branching out into and experimenting with a range of different styles, both achieved pretty well.
When I ordered a physical copy of Queequeg’s Coffin EP from Make-That-A-Take Records, it came accompanied with another record from the label that was released earlier this year – Holy Snakes’ Be Kind.
The Dundee trio self-described themselves as “garage soul”. I wasn’t entirely sure what that entailed but given that these guys had slipped my radar for a while now, I was willingly eager to give them a bash here.
Well, they certainly deliver on the soul front from the get-go with the slow-grooving God Bless You, Mr Rosewater, which blissfully feasts the eardrums with an enticing bass line throughout.
The rawness of the production takes a little time to get used to, but it proves to be effective in Welcome To The Neighbourhood, helping to boost the damn nice riffs that gives the music an appealing, encompassing blues vibe, and it caps off with a stirring climax.
That same energy crosses over into the boogieing Applause Sign, bringing an extra level of excitement via the rad rhythm driven by fervent drumming, especially in the later half.
Train Song lies on the opposite end of the spectrum, bringing the pace back down again for another cool, easy-going number where the vocals are at their best, and they finish stylishly on the solid, lengthy Feels Fine.
As an introductory piece, Be Kind makes for a handy showcase that succeeds in showcasing the talents for Holy Snakes, thanks to a neat bunch of songs that each provide their own individual treats to keep folk amused.
And I’m also appreciative of the different offering from the usually punk-focused MTAT team, because good music isn’t limited to just the one genre.
IN ASSOCIATION WITH MAKE-THAT-A-TAKE RECORDS
2019 has seen me being showered with an endless stream of cracking punk bands residing in the USA, and here’s another hailing from Virginia – Like No Tomorrow – who just recently came out with a new EP titled No Self Control.
Grand Delusion is a belter of an opener, the four guys wasting little breath in delivering a hard-hitting track with full-frontal vocals, a good guitar solo from Kevin and a blinding chorus.
Eviction Notice starts fine but begins to fall apart as it goes along, with everything going out of time and getting messy, ultimately leaving a bad taste in the mouth. Although they do begin to recover with All My Friends Are Dead; not totally tightened up but definitely better, plus it has a great hook to it and Matt’s deliveries are on point.
They’ve more or less properly found their stride again with the title number, pushed by a hardy rhythm produced from Ray’s rugged bass lines and Art’s catchy drum beats, and those same elements carry over into the fiercely energetic Skate Rat’s Revenge.
The performance are again a little iffy in the verses of Emotional Vomit, but this is made up for by the raunchy lyrics and another stand-out chorus. The writing continues to be a highlight with the riff-loaded Thank Yer Mom, and they close things out with the fast and furious Shoulda Been Eddie.
Undoubtedly, there are a few kinks that the quartet could have easily fixed up and made more coherent, but thankfully this is only a glaring issue in brief waves, because otherwise Like No Tomorrow come through with a rampant, balls-to-the-wall record that is insanely entertaining. Flawed? Yes. Worth the price? Hell yeah.
South Korean rock duo Oh Chill first became known to me under their original name, 57, back two years ago, and then they disappeared off my radar since, only just recently coming back into my attention with their current guise and a debut album to go along with it – Oh Two Animals.
Love Me More makes for a promising start, getting an energy going and setting these grungy overtones that come to life through Jun’s solid guitar work. The pair only step up their game twofold with the dynamic title track, where the dual rowdy vocals mesh together quite nicely.
The mixing’s a little off on Do Not Run, but Snow still breaks through to deliver some real blistering drum beats, and the intensity only builds up and up towards the finish.
Road Kill is a slow-running instrumental that makes for a pleasant change of pace, serving as a good pause before getting back to business with Should Be Better, coming equipped with a banging chorus and prime riffs; the short and snappy The Message similarly swaying myself with a juicy rhythm.
밤 unfortunately doesn’t make much of an impression, but You And I sure as hell does; an off-the-chain belter where both members lunge in full force and tear it up.
And after dicing out one loud and wild track after another, they give us something more mature and even fairly emotional with the finale, On And On, highlighted by these passionately hollered harmonies.
The production isn’t the cleanest and it could have done with a little spot of polishing up, but otherwise the newly-christened Oh Chill have went and made a statement, making their talents known with a really fun, rousing record that certainly should not be taken for granted.
If given the opportunity to try out Oh Two Animals, whatever you do, don’t pass up on it.
Halloween is awesome, but how do you make it even more awesome? Being treated to the perfect soundtrack for the season, and luckily, the world was bestowed that by Californian goth-ska outfit Grave Danger who, for the second year in a row, released a spooky EP by the beautifully cheesy title of Tomb It May Concern.
Shredding riffs make for a rocking intro to the energetic Give Up The Ghost, getting the audience in a state of buzz via a tubular wave of brass and spirited vocals, also entertaining with some fun, alternatively romantic lyrics along the way.
The fun times extensively roll on throughout Bigfoot Beach, where the rhythm section really show off their wherewithal. Cemetarrarium is mentally wild, to say the least, plus the writing is amusing, the theremin adds a suitably ghostly essence and the chorus is such a blast.
They then tackle the Misfits classic Halloween in their likeable style, in the process pulling off quite the charming rendition, after which they culminate on the raving Undead End Job, again featuring a tonne of character, especially taking into account the almost deranged singing here, and engaging lyrical content.
A slightly odd nitpick for a light-hearted record of this nature, but the gothic element is a little lacking in big chunks, which is only a complaint given how much they promote themselves as such, but taking that out the equation, Grave Danger’s sophomore record is a devilish magnificent party that could honestly be enjoyed 365 days a year, never mind exclusively around October.
IN ASSOCIATION WITH EARSHOT MEDIA
A few months ago, Manchester drummer Milhouse Van Halen embarked on an project to release a series of 12 acoustic EP’s spanning across an entire year. As of now, he’s reached number 4, offering a pair of nihilistic punk tracks.
The first, Romance, is a brutally honest dive into a relationship that is empty and totally drained of love, cleverly working in how that is displayed in simple events such as watching a film or eating dinner together.
The second, Divorce, is more harsh in tone, and effectively so, with the artist not holding back as he details a break-up through the ruthless lyrics and his sharp vocal delivery.
It may be short, but Milhouse Van Halen makes a swift impact through these two songs with no false emotions or strings attached. This has made me a fan personally, and I’m looking forward to what he has in store for us next for the remainder of this venture.
IN ASSOCIATION WITH HORN & HOOF RECORDS