SMS #4 | GRAVELLE – Obsessions

You know, it’s just occurred to me that 2018 was a pivotal year of discovery for myself. Looking back, I seemed to have uncovered so many of my favourites around that period, and Livingston post-punk duo GRAVELLE fall into that pool.

Their debut Liquid Skin EP really caught my attention, and I would spread the word about them any chance I could, seeing the potential that they held, and now 2 years later, following a slow and steady rise, they’ve upped their games in a noteworthy fashion with the much anticipated follow-up – Obsessions.

They don’t spare any expense, sparking a fiery energy straight from the offset with Disappear, bursting through with a radical buzz that consists of a thrashing of sharp effects and shrieking chords while Kyle takes the lead with some fine singing.

But things only get real tasty with the first of the singles, Shedding Skin, and to get straight to the point, this is their best track to date, featuring a deviously dark and brooding atmosphere lingering throughout with their trademark gothic vibe, magnetic lyrics, an exuberantly slick beat, great riffs, and Monique delivering the most chillingly irresistible vocal performance imaginable.

The excitement is launched back to thrilling levels with The Worst, erupting in a freakishly stimulating barrage that shakes the senses, the main element in achieving that being the wild and ferocious guitars, and all the while you’re pulled in to the effectively unsettling writing.

And capping it off is the other single, Waste Your Time, another wonderfully ruminating track which contains a catchy chorus and does damn well in getting you suckered in, highlighted by Kyle’s legitimately spine-tingling whispers that just seep into your eardrums in an unnerving manner.

GRAVELLE have continuously impressed me as they improve with each passing day, and Obsessions has not only certified their development, but surpassed expectations and proved that the pairing are indeed special. Whether you fancy content that is raw and electric, or ambiently captivating, they are evidently capable of pretty much anything your heart desires by this point.


SMS #3 | KLEOPATRA – Machina

The music industry doesn’t have enough androids involved, does it? In light of this, Glasgow artist KLEOPATRA has made a mark and stamped herself as one of the Scottish scene’s most intriguing commodities.

2020 has not only been a year where, despite the global chaos, she has truly strived and garnered a tonne of attention, but it’s also where I came to be aware of her; initially being drawn in by her terrifically gorgeous single Ukiyo; and she’s retained me as a loving fan with her brand new EP – Machina.

We’re hit with a series of effects and samples as Pretty Bones kicks off, before Emma makes her presence felt with seductively sleek vocals that pull you in while you’re treated to some interesting lyrics and a ravishingly catchy beat. Xanax simmers the buzz down a touch to present a track that is calmer and keeps you engaged with a distinctly more emotional, sombre tone of sorts.

In contrast, the groovy title number is a lot more harsh and in your face with its style, switching between this alienating, out-of-this-world vibe and a sudden barrage of rugged screeches, and the finale Generic isn’t too different in that regard, although being extra melodic with Emma reeling it forward with her usual display of tender, luscious singing, and the chorus is left ringing in your head afterwards.

All in all, Machina is a fabulous work of art that has firmly established KLEOPATRA as one of the most valuable electronic/dark pop artists that Scotland has the pleasure of calling their own.

Technically, Emma has been around the block for a while now, but there’s no shadow of a doubt that 2020 is her year, and the beginning of greater things that lie beyond the horizon.


SMS #2 | Zoe Graham – Gradual Move

There are way too many good singer-songwriters in the Scottish scene to count, but Zoe Graham certainly ranks among the finest that the country has on offer.

My introduction to her come through the 2018 Scottish Alternative Music Awards when she was nominated for Best Newcomer. From there, I checked out her Hacket & Knackered record which was awfully good. Ultimately she didn’t win, but she rightfully got her recognition the following year when she nabbed the Best Acoustic award.

A lot of buzz has surrounded Zoe as of late, with a lot of attention and praise being thrown her way, and this in turn meant hot anticipation for her new EP – Gradual Move – and as soon as it landed, it became clear that all the hype was in fact justified.

The title number is up to begin with, sauntering at a pleasingly easy-going speed, reeling you in and having you happily sway back and forth calmly. Meanwhile, Zoe displays her first round of vocal chops, and her voice is equally as fresh as it is captivating, cinching your full upright attention as you take in the emotional weight of her words.

A similar vibe is present in Sleep Talking, oozing with this warm and pretty atmosphere elicited from not only, again, Zoe’s beautiful harmonies, but the pleasant piano work and the stylish production.

Following that is Know By Now, perhaps the highlight of the lot. It’s just such a perfect song, with an enjoyably flowing melody, a tight beat, and an absolutely fantastic chorus with a heck of a strong hook, and Zoe’s singing hits an excellent, well-versed peak here. To put it short, if this doesn’t convince you, then I couldn’t think what would.

And finally is Fault Lines, which has the most distinctively peppy kick to it, and as such, it makes for a fun and jaunty conclusion with its merry rhythm intertwined with the great lyrics.

It was a long and tricky process putting it all together and eventually releasing it to the world, but Zoe Graham’s patience and perseverance has paid off. Gradual Move is a beautiful assortment of effectively inspiring tracks constructed meticulously with various layers that, as a whole, make a firm and lasting impact on the listening audience.


SMS #1 | Carla J Easton – WEIRDO

2018. Lloyd of Olive Grove Records gives me a sneak peek of the forthcoming Impossible Stuff album from Carluke pop artist Carla J Easton. It was there and then that I fell insanely in love with Carla’s immaculate talents, with the record ultimately becoming my top pick of the year, beating out some hefty competition in order to gain that notion.

2020. Carla starts hitting out with some feelers to the public; tunes that would help make up her eventual follow-up – WEIRDO. Much was promised from this new album, including a vastly different direction in style compared to her previous release, and after months of patient hype, the results were not so surprisingly stellar.

She comes bursting out in a dazzling array of bright auditory colours with the first of the singles, Get Lost, a jubilantly extraordinary number that is loud and large in scale, and festively cheerful in it’s synth-bridled glory, hitting its peak in the midst of an awesome chorus.

Without breaking the momentum, Carla leaps immediately into the next catchy offering, Heart So Hard, where the pace picks up to an even more sprightly bounce that has you prancing in an uncontrollable swell of happiness. Spun Out settles things down to a slower tempo, yet maintains this surreal, spellbinding edge that is a little oft-kilter and unusual sound-wise, but is captivating nonetheless.

Waves That Fall is a stand out piece, not only defined by a chilled beat, subtly cool riffs lingering in the background and Carla’s as-per delightful voice, but is elevated by famed Scottish rapper Solareye’s excellent contribution; just one example of Carla branching out the diversity in her music in order to expand upon what she started in Impossible Stuff.

The second single Never Knew You is next, another banging entry guaranteed to have you grinning like a chump with its elating tone, smoothly layered verses, and an utterly infectious hook, then the chills come storming through the body with the beautifully radiant, lyrically engaging Signing It In Blood.

And it doesn’t stop there, oh goodness no, because we then get the charming Beautiful Boy, complete with the most perfect, hypnotically fresh electronics my ears have graced in the longest time, but then one switch of the dial later, and you get something spectacular like Over You, which has a tasty dance anthem vibe to it, particular with the hot, flourishing rhythm driving it.

The title track keeps that feeling riding high, with Carla being helped out by fellow Scottish scene queen Stina of Honeyblood fame; the duo’s combined efforts making for a holy rollicking blast.

Sparkly bells, elegant keys and an addictive melody are the main elements of the wonderful Catch Me If I Fall, then the dark and semi-haunting Coming Up Daisies makes a mark with both stunning lyrics and a tingling atmosphere in equal amounts, and the same can be said for the super sweet closer, Thorns.

Carla Easton is a rare breed. It takes an unreal level of talent to come along and make a huge impression with one album, but to do it again with another can only come from somebody special. Carla fits into that very exclusive category.

WEIRDO has a little slice of everything: stunning singing throughout, a diverse range of styles and sounds all well executed, excellent writing, a uniquely definable identity to every song, and just an overall overwhelming passion that rings in full bloom from the moment it starts to when it inevitably finishes.

On top of being an ideally hopeful distraction in these dark, uncertain times, WEIRDO is further proof that Carla is one of the most versatile and gifted musicians that Scotland has, whose skills demand a mainstream presence.