SMS #37 | Renovations – Break The Frame


La Radio is a banging first track, pacing through with a swiftly snappy rhythm and centred around such a simple yet awesome lead hook, and a similar situation comes about with the rad Hey You. Women follows the standard of what makes a rock banger, from the juicy riffs, to the fiery buzz of energy.

Goodbye is a simple entry but still solid enough, however Mine undeniably has a stronger kick behind it and the writing focused on that desperate struggle for attention when you need it most is great. Ragged is characterised by a surreal yet highly entertaining vibe, and the singing has more personality and pomp behind it than ever before, while Dirty Nails is pegged with a gritty feel.

Down The Road is an essential highlight as it resonates with the most palpable emotion up to this point, and the brief Relapse is another track that is weirdly but enjoyably trippy by design. At its peak, Tell Me comes through with a sharp force as well as a stellar blaze of synths, and lastly is the awfully good and eponymous Renovations itself.

The Edinburgh based multi-national trio have done an altogether effective job with their debut album here. While there are a few moments that don’t totally gel and work as a whole, there’s too much here to admire that it doesn’t matter, from the capable performances, to the mixing and variation of approaches, to the pure fun that hits you when the music reaches its optimum level.

SMS #36 | St Dukes – St Dukes


The lead single Animal Glue welcomes the audience into the album in an appealing manner, serving as a nice and gliding tune that is loose, easy, and led on by a pair of sweet harmonies. Take What You Want has a perkier vibe to it and is knotted up by a cool guitar solo and such a fun and memorable chorus, and the buzz is further elevated in a major way with the blusteringly high-spirited Tell Me.

Soft Play makes quite a captivating impression on the lyrical front in regard to the complications of relationships, and the singing shines very strongly once again. Overgrown is divinely wavy in style, and the fresh guitar chords distinctly stick out, then Ours dissects the unpleasant realisation when it becomes clear that you and your partner aren’t thinking and working together on the same wavelength anymore and what can be done to amend the problem.

To Be Home glimmers positively with its wistful words and delivery, and the catchy Modern Culture explores the media’s damaging effects of exploiting and taking advantage of those with outdated viewpoints to maintain control and stamp out anybody of a more progressive echelon that they consider to be a threat.

BPM is a highlight instrumentally speaking, being beyond radiant and sublime, while All See Sense dons such infectious vocal hooks. Corner Cutter is one of the most low-key and gentle numbers of the record and it reels you with its solid drawing power; likewise with the prettily performed and emotionally ringing finale, Don’t Recognise Mine.

After so many years shaping their craft in the Scottish scene, St Dukes have made their most impressive impact to date with a wonderful and endearing debut album that is at one moment plenty relaxing, then the next bursting with a dose of energy, but no matter how they achieve results, it’s always done successfully, and the writing never fails to capture your attention.

SMS #35 | Scruffy Bear – Face The Rain


It takes just a solitary second for Stories Of Strange Women to get the listener infused as we are immediately greeted with a blast of bloody superb vocals, and that fire remains constant throughout the rest of the track, topped by a rad chorus and great lyrics celebrating cool feminine icons who broke the boundaries and didn’t care for the negative backlash that came with it. Slick basslines and drumming make up the infectiously grooving rhythm of Magic At Our Fingertips that has your body shifting along, and there’s some poignant words about how fertile our planet is and how we all have the duty to preserve it because, you know, it’s our home and that.

It’s difficult to resist banging your head along to the rugged and edgy Blackmoss, which covers being caught in a seemingly never-ending spiral of negativity and anguish and that longing to finally breaking out of it, and it comes to a head with a short but cracking guitar solo. Solace is handily the most chilled of the lot, sonically taking it easy but still with bursts of oomph and power, mainly through the once again awesome singing, swelling beats and solid riffs.

The Northern blues-rock group have been gaining plenty of momentum in recent months, and rightfully so, given that their material is just flat out entertaining while also effectively focusing on important themes as they go. A great effort from a great band who are on the road to even greater things.

SMS #34 | Pulse Park – Phonac Music


Antibody is a smashing choice for an opener, spouting out a lot of energy with this lively vibe that gets you stimulated with ease. The catchy lead single Sine Wave is similarly proficient for that matter, featuring a strong combo of lyrics, singing and a fun rhythm which all work well together in unison.

Icaric ups the power game a bit with its persistently thumping drum beats, and the writing is the key element of Strange Matter, discussing that sense of feeling stuck in a looping life seemingly without any alternatives to pursue which would definitely be a better path to follow.

Apollonian Herat moves to a nicely swaying guitar melody and even throws in a bright and buzzing solo, then the guys go all-out for their most staggering and energised cut yet in the form of Aspairt, and that pulse (no pun intended) remains very much alive and spirited in the equally infectious Factory Fire.

The Equidistance dials it down a little for something of a slightly darker shade of sorts, as demonstrated in the soft, reserved harmonies and the emphasised bass tones, but still not without its vivid bursts as per the exciting riff displays. Realtime is chilled and sublime, and is another song that delivers from a lyrical standpoint, about just taking a moment to observe and appreciate what you have surrounding you, and in a stylishly smooth fashion, A Constant plays us out.

After a couple of decently fruitful years, the German-Canadian hodgepodge have raised the bar with this vibrant debut album, where they effortlessly mesh together the kinetic kick of alternative rock with the dreamy waves of shoegaze.

SMS #33 | The DT’s – You With Me


White T-Shirt is easy-going to start with, especially with the relatively smooth guitar chords on hand. The chorus hooks you in, and the writing focusing on the uncertain anxieties behind maintaining a relationship makes a snappy impression, then the title track sees a boot up in the overall energy and the vocals displaying more pep and moxie than before.

The intro of Need You goes into a laidback acoustic direction, but the duo pick it up as they progress along with neat electric riffs and firm beats entering the fray and building layer upon layer, and Tina is a nicely glowing, dainty and catchy song that rounds up the record on a very positive high note.

The New Jersey pop-rock pairing have pulled through with quite the solid debut EP featuring tunes that are bright in tone, performed sufficiently, and headed by charmingly romantic lyrics across the board that leave you gleaming with a grin on your face.

SMS #32 | Kathryn Joseph – For You Who Are The Wronged


Within moments of What Is Keeping You Alive commencing, the indescribably rich atmosphere completely enwraps around you, and that’s you fixated; Kathryn entering the picture shortly after with her trademark angelic voice, softly confiding the lyrics which loop and spin inside your head. The Burning Of Us All is so cold and chilling in every respect, sinking deep as it reflects on the disgusting gaslighting and exploitation that certain men use to control vulnerable women while also getting away scot-free with those actions.

The quietness that defines Only The Sound Of The Sea has you still and engrossed while Kathryn divulges into how much she desperately wants to see loved ones find a ray of hope that can change their lives for the better. There are multiple layers to the instrumentation of How Well You Are which creates a broad sonic sensation that has you practically feeling afloat, almost lifting you off your chair.

The chorus of Until The Truth Of You rings so empathically, primarily due to Kathryn pushing her stupendous vocal chops to the absolute limit, then in The Harmed, we witness her plead to everybody struggling with mental health issues, trauma or anything similar to speak up and let their voice be heard, in order to seek help and support from those willing, and not instead be dragged down the hole any further which could lead to fatal consequences, and Kathryn in fact appoints herself as such an abettor in the back-to-back pieces Your Open Wounds and Flesh And Blood, striving to strip away from victims everything that has caused them pain.

Of All The Broken features a memorable melody and a vivid burst of life while again Kathryn broadcasts her concern and sympathy for the hurt, and in the following title track, Kathryn wants to make it abundantly clear to those survivors that everything that they have endured, it is not their fault and they shouldn’t feel guilty about the events which transpired out of their hands, and afterwards we finish off with the wonderfully luminous and stellular Long Gone.

What truly can we said about the 2015 SAY Award winner that the rest of the world hasn’t already proclaimed by this point? Kathryn Joseph can’t be justice through simple words, she’s consistently released material that is beyond amazing, yet somehow with For You Who Are The Wrong, she’s excelled past her already superlative previous works, it’s a tour de force.

Sonically, the music seems to exist on this astral plane in an alternative dimension that exists outwith our own, which very few other artists in the Scottish scene can recreate, with such rare examples including Cloth, Elisabeth Elektra and our recently fallen and very much missed friend Heir Of The Cursed.

Lyrically, it’s some of the most powerful stuff I’ve ever heard in my entire life; no exaggeration; with Kathryn putting her heart and inner emotions on the line, exclaiming how much of an unfair world this is where those of pure soul are allowed to be battered and beaten, often without a just resolution, and that fact is quick to set in and makes me want to cry.

Kathryn Joseph is a one of a kind special artist, and very much like a surrogate mother to us all who need that sense of warmth and comfort.

SMS #31 | Anna Sage – Anna Sage


After sucking you in with faint, uncomfortable horror noises, the band catch you right off guard with a deafening assault in the form of The Holy Mice, an aggressive and harsh opener that sets up the entire vibe for the album ahead, both on a sonic and lyrical degree. The fury is no less abundant moving onto Sinner Ablaze, where you get to hear some of the most acutely all-in and bombastic vocal work from any metal act residing in the entire continent.

The perpetually breath-wrenching blitz continues with the bone-crushing The Deadly Mess Of A Dying Head. They do provide a respite in the first moments of Loveless, but it proves to only be a brief one as the action is under way again soon enough, albeit at a creeping pace this time with a solid rhythm to boot. The first half of V is completely instrumental and is coated in this gritty broodiness, from which they escalate into a predictably rocking second half. Hostile Cage is the most memorable exciting highlight for sure, chock full of deliciously wild shreds and forcibly rapid drum beats from wire to wire, it’s just pure intoxicating stuff.

Lost In A Frame switches gears back and forth between the group’s trademark deranged insanity and cool, darkly ambient sections, but Double Bind definitely doesn’t slam down the breaks at any given moment, keeping the rage boiling and running nonstop. Walls Of Hate is one of the notable picks writing-wise, assertively decrying and condemning the powers that be who try to crush and push aside others they determine to be unworthy and beneath them.

One final interlude with Silence and it’s a charging exit with The Serpents to close off the latest album from the French alt-hardcore quartet which is not always exactly pretty and far from the most sophisticated of releases, but damn is it a hell of a ride that is chaotic bedlam sure to ignite and satisfying your inner mosher for the entire shebang.

SMS #30 | Signs Of Progress – The Static Hero


Count The Bruises makes for a bright and gleeful first entry, where the multiple harmonies are on great form, the verses are darted through at a fast and fun clip leading into an elating chorus, and the lyrics are positively inspiring and encourage you to not look back and push on forward.

The guitars are given more focus on the second cut, Black And White, with the hardened riffs being the driving force behind the active melody, and the singing efforts are doubled here, with an extra dosage of passion clear for all to see that only kicks up the investment level.

And capping off the treble of tunes is Gossip, which retains a similar sense of excitement as before, and the writing hits the mark effectively enough, touching upon other people’s insecurities and desperate attempts to bring down others through childish chatter and the like.

This EP from the Florida pop punk posse has turned out fab results. Now granted, I’d be hard-pressed to call it the most original release you’ll encounter in the genre, but that doesn’t matter a bit because the band’s dedicated devotion amps up their music with such life and energy that it makes this an undisputed must-listen.

SMS #29 | Book Klub – When The Water Comes I Want To Sink


Fluorescent bell and string noises ring in the air to signal the beginning of The Moon, The Moon, which is hauntingly and beautifully ambient throughout, and then the boys kick it up in Life Of Me, with a vibrant melody, dashing chorus and polished vocals boosting their music with an enjoyably resonant pulse.

A mysterious semblance is generated as they proceed onto Siren Song, which is at first a spellbinding low-key number before they crank it up so suddenly with a whole new fiery edge that only amps up the attraction, and lastly is Pines, again utterly compelling with its entrancing vibes, especially in the lyrics, then making that transformation into rousingly bustling territory to culminate on a rushing high.

Scotland is absolutely choc-a-bloc with a tonne of talent in the post-punk/new wave department, and Book Klub have proven themselves to belong with the best of the best courtesy of this ravishing debut EP that hopefully indicates bigger and better things for the group beyond the horizon.

SMS #28 | The 121s – Wired To The Moon


Curiosity stirs highly as the titular number begins with an unbelievably infectious rhythm made of rumbling bass tones and thick drum beats that are built upon, leading to what is ultimately a great opener, but the guitars properly get to break out of their shells in stylish fashion in the next entry, Hola Hello, where the highlight is the smashing and unforgettable chorus that you’ll be trying so hard to resist just belting out along to.

My Beautiful Mind has a perky tone to it which ideally links up to the positive lyrics that are animated through frontman Nick’s hearty performance ringing with full-blown love and legitimacy; Green leaves an impression in the same vein, while Nature’s Callings swells along with a slower and steadier melody mixing electric and acoustic riffs as the emotions continue to push through to the forefront.

Fashion satisfies big time with its exotically groovy chords that are present non-stop from beginning to end; a trend that recurs moving into The Invention Of God, where the lyrics strike with its focus on faith and how people let their actions and overall lives be defined by their beliefs before considering simple common sense.

Reloveution In Our Head resonates with warmth, and Your Eminence is another notably strong-written cut about wanting to support and improve the life of another. A New Decade is pretty simple but is quite catchy all the same, and to finish us off is With Life There’s Hope which leaves you with a much needed reminder that with all the negativity on this planet, no matter how bad it gets, there’s always the littlest ray of hope immersed in there somewhere that we should strive to follow.

Naturally, given the ever-growing audience and hype surrounding The 121s, expectations were high for this album but the Dundee indie-Mod trio have impeccably knocked it out of the park, presenting an undoubtedly passionate record that is lyrically profound and sonically adept, altogether making for one of the definitive Scottish releases of 2022.