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.

Laurie Black: Dark Days – SMALL MUSIC SCENE

During the never-ending pain of lockdown, I found myself indulging in a tonne of new acts over that timeframe, and one of them was famed cabaret darling Laurie Black. I was quick to become a fan of both her savvy shade-crafting skills and her infectious music. Not long after, she dropped her latest album – Dark Days – and it looks like I’ll be sticking around as part of the fandom for the foreseeable future.

Cosmic Indifference is a tidy enough intro piece, but things get properly juicy with Buy Or Die, which features some creatively saucy anti-capitalist writing signalled through Laurie’s zesty vocals, carried along by a seriously catchy, bouncing melody.

That buzz springs along into Speciosacrifice and its wild and wacky synths, which are toned down a little for the lucidly flowing Manic Pixel Dream Girl. Laurie again showcases her wonderous lyrical genius with heaps of clever and witty wordplay in Motherboard, with a hint of underlying dread and fear of control subtly sitting underneath.

Otherside is another with a poppy pep, Luck Is For The Weak contains both good hooks and absolutely divine keys, and Psychopomp dashes along to a tenaciously potent beat to match the enforced aggression of the tune’s theme.

The title number is among the most engaging of the bunch with its lyrics that are just as fun and quirky as they are disgustingly relatable and close to home. Cockroach is delivered in the style of a luscious ballad which gives Laurie an excuse to display her harmonic power in full bloom, and the simplistic yet satisfying Blacklight brings us to the finish line.

Dark Days is a joyful selection of songs bleeding with creativity, humour and legitimate musical finesse that proves exactly why Laurie Black has established a positive reputation for herself.

In fact, it’s a record so impressionable that it caused yours truly to return to the field of reviewing after months of drought; if that isn’t evidence of this being a great result, I honestly can’t tell you what is.