Ten acts to watch in 2011
Thursday, 06 January 2011
Uncovering the best new and unsigned music in Scotland is this site's whole raison d'etre. While most mainstream media publications often only concern themselves with grassroots talent on any meaningful scale in turn-of-the-year 'tips season', it's something that we try to do day in, day out from January to December.
However, through force of habit and brazen bandwagon-jumping, back in December I asked the Radar writers to choose one act who they would tip for success in 2011 - and not one of the 164 already profiled in our Artists section. In truth, we could have compiled a longlist of dozens of contenders, but the limitation forced each of us to think hard and consult our own differing tastes.
So here are ten acts we think are worth watching this year, chosen by ten writers. It's not definitive or exhaustive, but hopefully you'll discover something you like.
(We'll have more tips next week... and the week after ... and the week after that...)
Tipster: Chris Cope
There’s been a fair amount of female singer-songwriters making an impact on the mainstream music landscape over the past few years, but it’s a genre saddled with a paper-thin fine line between the excellent and the mediocre. What propels a YouTube singer, acoustic guitar in hand, from the bedroom to the big league? It’s hard to tell, but it seems like this magic dust has certainly been sprinkled on Highland singer Rachel Sermanni.
Sermanni is fairly well established in Scottish music circles already but it’s with her 2011 itinerary that local notoriety is eschewed and national/international fame is slowly being realised. There are dates planned for example at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, London’s Next Big Thing Festival and SXSW - the jewel in the crown, perhaps.
Her brand of kooky acoustic folk-pop has won some esteemed fans, including Mumford & Sons, and her smoothed-out voice can also be heard on Tommy Reilly’s 2010 single ‘Make The Bed’. She missed out on an award at the Scottish Traditional Music awards at the tail end of the year, but greater prizes surely lie in wait.
Tipster: Lauren Mayberry
Happy Particles are full of shimmer and the sense of a diamond in the rough. You get the impression that all these men like to go to the pub and talk about football (disclaimer: this may not be true; it is just a loosely cast aspersion by somebody who knows nothing about the band members personally) but can still make intricate, well-orchestrated moments of melancholy on-stage.
Formed by members of Remember Remember, the band have expanded to a seven-piece over the past year, adding depth and weight to their sound, comprising minimal vocals, washes of noise and waves of melody.
Having come on such leaps and bounds since their debut in 2009 (at the Nice ‘n’ Sleazy resident night of now defunct Radar faves, Findo Gask, no less), the band ended 2010 with a gig with RM Hubbert at the Captain’s Rest and will surely have more treats in store for the new year.
Tipster: Euan Robertson
The first time I heard this band I fell in love. The emotion and sincerity in the delivery and performance really impacted on me in a way very few bands have in the past. To then find out that the culprit, angel voiced Ross Leighton, was a mere 17 years of age was baffling.
Having just announced a new name for their attack on the masses, Fatherson (formerly Energy!) have built steadily on the warm reception to debut EP ‘Where The Water Meets the Land’. Since that first occasion, I’ve been lucky enough to see the band several times in both full band mode and also a quieter but equally intense stripped back acoustic setting. Each listen has warmed my heart more to the cause, and the track 'Gone Fission' has been a consistent soundtrack to my last few months.
Having been handpicked by the mighty Idlewild as sole support for their recent 100 Broken Windows anniversary tour, they were exposed to a lot of people who I hope will agree that these guys deserve to be heard.
Tipster: Stevie Kearney
As some of you keen people will no doubt recall, earlier this year Radar ran a demo competition to find the best unsigned acts in Scotland. My personal favourite was the track 'The Loneliest Man in Paris' by The Wristcutters - who were a band I knew absolutely nothing about.
Turns out, there was nothing much to know. There was no MySpace page and Google only seemed to know about the film of the same name (starring Tom Waits) and some other sites which we won't discuss.
Unwilling to admit defeat in the age of infinite information, I pushed on. Thankfully, they contacted me in the end and sent a few more tracks they were working on, which also caught my ear. I admit I like the mystery - it is always satisfying to find something that nobody else seems to know about - but the quality of what they have produced so far suggests there is sackloads of potential here.
So, for the satisfaction of my own starved ego, and because these guys have talent, I tip The Wristcutters for success in 2011.
Tipster: Ryan Drever
There are far too many bands to mention here that, if fate will have it, look destined for 'great things' - whatever that means. Still, it would be pretty hard not to get a little excited about United Fruit.
For the past couple of years the Glasgow group have been hammering out mighty slabs of screeching and discordant rock, not entirely dissimilar to the many dirge-y US exports punted our way over the 80s and 90s. After self-releasing an EP, 'Mistress Reptile Mistress', alongside a couple of singles, the band holed themselves up to started working on an album and what has since emerged over a few scattered live appearances are signs of a pretty interesting twist, in terms of the band's direction.
It's hardly pop as such, but there is definitely an increased focus on melody and quite ridiculous hooks - when you're humming the riffs for hours afterwards it's obviously a good sign. It's a much fuller and intense sound that brings to mind the sprawling energy of ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, but one that still manages to fit well alongside their earlier, heavier material. There's no release date penned as yet, but theirs is an album worth keeping tabs on.
Tipster: Stuart Lewis
My tip for 2011 is The Son(s). ‘Who they?’ I hear you ask? Granted, it’s a pretty terrible name for a band but the open/close bracket isn’t the only thing that sets them apart from standard ‘the’ band fare. The punctuation has meaning too, as it highlights the fact that, while notionally a three-piece, they’ve currently only a single active member.
The man in question calls himself Karl and appears to be based somewhere ‘up north’. They released a sparse, wintry-feeling EP in the autumn by the name of Radar (by title alone, surely deserving of kudos from this site!), which caused a ripple of interest and an album is planned for the New Year.
Hopefully the three band members will reconvene properly in 2011 and get a few shows in the diary. This is a band that sounds as if they could be at their best when heard live.
I Build Collapsible Mountains
Tipster: Elaine Liddle
Sometimes a song just sticks. You know the way, when you find yourself half-remembering a part of it and feeling compelled to listen to it again. And again. Such was the way with 'Rails', the song I Build Collapsible Mountains - also known as Luke Joyce - submitted to the Scotsman Radar prize earlier this year. It's what you'd call a slow burner, but it is, in its own quiet, twinkly way, captivating. Which is no doubt why, in the same competition, IBCM appeared in our "best of the rest" section.
The album, A Month of Lost Memories, has also led to repeat listenings to an almost irritating degree. There are sad and wistful stories, and tales of the ocean which gently wind into your head, make you feel like you're walking along some deserted stretch of sand, staring out into the deep blue (which is apparently what Joyce did a lot of while writing the album so it should make sense).
I have few doubts in Joyce's ability to quietly creep up on other listeners and look forward, with excitement, to whatever else he has up his sleeve.
Prairie Rose and The Wildwoods
Tipster: Stephen Donkin
This is perhaps more of a wish than a tip, but this Edinburgh three-piece deserve to come to much greater attention in 2011. Their specific brand of melancholy Americana comes straight from the Patsy Cline school of songwriting, right in the middle of Lonesome Town. The gentle interplay of the two guitars and occasional ukulele is a perfectly melodic backdrop for singer Arpita Shah’s naïve and striking melodies.
While every song sounds as innocent as you can imagine, the lyrics are shot through with loss, heartbreak and revenge. There is real depth beyond the immediately accessible sweetness, and genre trappings that should see them break out of their niche audience to one of wider acclaim.
They have just recorded their debut EP with Edinburgh’s King of Vintage, Angus McPake, which should see release sometime in early 2011.
Tipster: Billy Hamilton
They’ve only just started pummelling local punters with their pneumatic math-rock, but in 2011 Lady North’s noggin-crunching sonics will stretch way beyond the central belt. It’s been too long since an Auld Reekie outfit has crafted such a ferocious entanglement of guitar, bass and drum, but the wait, which has dragged on through myriad drab alt-folk combos, has been worth it.
Think Don Caballero gyrating against Foals’ triangular, floor-filling rhythms like a hyper-sexed teenager and you’re only half way there. It’s more than that. Much, much more.
So far, a trickling of online cuts has only hinted at the band’s muscle. But live, well, Lady North is a seething, stomach acid-frothing ogre of sound that rams its fist into your face again, and again, and again.
Riding on the kind of apoplectic percussion that signatures Battles’ more barbarian efforts, swathes of matadorial guitar expulse with such brutal urgency it induces lashings of cold, stinking sweat: part in fear, part in utter exhilaration. Believe me, no matter who you are, you need this band in 2011.
NB: They're so new we couldn't find a band photo. That's the best we could do.
Tipster: Nick Mitchell
I'll be the first to admit it. I broke my own rule by picking Miaoux Miaoux. He is most definitely my tip for 2011, but he has been consistently name-checked on Radar. So apologies to the other writers for my absent-minded breach, but, putting that to one side, here is quite simply one of the most exciting musical alchemists in Scotland right now.
As a producer for several unsigned bands Julian Corrie is already earning a solid reputation for his studio talents, and as a member of The Maple Leaves he has traversed the indie-folk scene with aplomb. But it's as Miaoux Miaoux that the 25-year-old has made his most exciting advances.
After a prolonged hiatus, Corrie revived his electro-fuelled solo guise with the magnificent Blooms EP in March last year. This led to a string of live dates, including an impressively assured set at the first ever Radar gig night in June. Every track to surface since then, including charity single 'Knitted' and the Gerry Loves-released 'Emitter', has showcased his scarpel-sharp compositions and highly-evolved ear for a harmony.
It's this apparently effortless combo of technology and musicality that sets Miaoux Miaoux apart as an obvious contender for wider success in 2011, and if I ran a record label he'd be the first name on my wishlist.
Here's Julian's own take on the past, present and future of Miaoux Miaoux:
"It seems strange to think that the Blooms EP only came out in March, and it's been a bit of a rollercoaster since then - teaming up with Murray Easton at Everything Flows management, releasing another single, all the remixes, all the gigs around Scotland and London, and of course all the lovely press coverage.
"It's great to be recognised and supported for what you do and Glasgow is a brilliant place for that to happen. There's a long way for me to go still, and so much more that I want to do. For now though I've got another album to write...busy busy!"
What do you think of our selections? Who are you keeping an eye on this year? Let us know...
Posted by Nick Mitchell