This article originally appeared in The Herald newspaper (Scotland).
If the early days of 2015 feel grey and humdrum, it’s little wonder: Back To The Future Part II promised we’d have flying cars and neon hover-boards by now. The 1980s sci-fi escapade also predicted invisible dog-walkers, food hydrators and talking clothes, but thus far, in Stirling, at least, there has been nary a sign of those. There is solace, however – as ever – in Scottish pop, whose 2015 looks magnesium-bright, wildly inventive, and capable of time travel, cosmic voyaging and global adventure.
It bears noting that 2014 made for an excellent springboard: last year was a landmark for Scottish independent music, as local grassroots acts came of age and conquered the UK pop charts. Mogwai bagged their first-ever Top 10 with Rave Tapes; Chvrches’ debut, The Bones Of What You Believe shipped Gold; King Creosote bothered the Top 20; The Twilight Sad threatened the Top 40; and Young Fathers scooped the double, winning both the Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award and then the Mercury Prize. And that’s not to mention excellent, high-charting albums from big-hitters like Deacon Blue and Simple Minds.
This year kicks off with long-awaited returns from indie champions Belle and Sebastian, who release a disco-clad new album, Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance (they play Glasgow Hydro with the Scottish Festival Orchestra on May 22), and the rollicking, soul-fried new long-player from The Waterboys, entitled Modern Blues, which features Muscle Shoals legend David Hood among its stellar cast (they play Aberdeen Music Hall on November 9, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on November 10 and Glasgow Barrowland on November 11).
Alt-rock swashbucklers Idlewild also make a welcome comeback in 2015 with their eighth album, Everything Ever Written, which deftly interweaves Hebridean psychedelia, Scottish folk and Americana, and is released on February 16 (they play Glasgow 02ABC on March 7 and 8). And here’s hoping that rumours of new albums from Franz Ferdinand (in tandem with art-punk dissidents Sparks), Emma Pollock, Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat, FOUND, Trembling Bells, Paul Vickers and the Leg, Kid Canaveral and Teenage Fanclub also come to pass.
We’re set for a thrilling, retro-futurist Spring, thanks to electo-rock leviathans Errors, who’re primed to pull a(nother) blinder with their imminent fourth studio album, Lease of Life. The record’s choral title track, a homage to the arpeggiated synth, is variously embellished with cosmic-ray vibes, baroque chimes and primal / intergalactic beats. Plus, Errors remain the group most likely to perform as holograms: even Marty McFly would be impressed by that. Lease of Life is released in March via Rock Action (they play Aberdeen Lemon Tree on April 10 and Glasgow Art School on April 11), and the band’s label bosses, Mogwai, are set for more undead aural undertakings with Les Revenants’ second coming: following their SAY-nominated original soundtrack, they’re set to compose music for the French zombie TV sequel, due for release later this year.
Cult-pop time-traveller Ela Orleans (pictured above) is a Glasgow-based, Poland-raised tech-noir collagist, who follows up her brilliant, uncanny double-LP, Tumult In Clouds, with Upper Hell – a collaboration with Howie B (Bjork, Tricky, Baaba Maal). The album is based around Dante’s Inferno, features guest vocals from indie champions Stephen and Katrina Pastel, and looks set to further Orleans’ status as one of our most remarkable talents. Upper Hell will be unleashed via Howie B’s HB Recordings on April 17 – and in the meantime, while we wait, there’s always the exquisite sonic limbo of The Twilight Sad’s fourth album, Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave.
That record was released last year, but the band will expose and explore its hidden depths well into 2015, starting with a picture disc (I Could Give You All That You Don’t Want) on February 9, and a record shop in-store tour next month that touches down at Edinburgh’s Vox Box Records on February 14, and Glasgow’s Monorail the following day. The Twilight Sad also play an intimate show at Glasgow King Tut’s on February 6, as part of the legendary venue’s 25th anniversary celebrations, which also include a gig on February 5 from alt-rock tearaways We Were Promised Jetpacks, (whose moniker sounds not unlike yet another Back To The Future Part II let-down).
It may have a dearth of jetpacks and flying cars, but the Scottish pop landscape remains as kaleidoscopic as ever, as testified by forthcoming releases from African disco aficionado Auntie Flo, hip-hop renegades Hector Bizerk (who continue their terrific EP series inspired by Glasgow’s coat of arms) and electro genius Hudson Mohawke (fresh from credits with Mark Ronson and Kanye West). It’s watched over by a Supermoon (the new guise of alt-rock livewire Meursault aka Neil Pennycook, who launches Supermoon at Edinburgh Henry’s Cellar on Jan 23, with an EP to follow), it’s bedecked with various art-rock appendages (Bdy_Prts are set to tour their “big hair and keytars” this Spring), and warmed by the scuzz-pop of Tuff Love (who release their Dross EP on 10-inch pink vinyl on February 9). And it’s soundtracked by The Phantom Band, who release their excellent fourth album, Fears Trending, later this month.
There’s upcoming talent round every corner – Kathryn Joseph, Kloe, Happy Meals, Ultras, Naked, Book Group, White, Monogram, United Fruit, Model Aeroplanes, Ubre Blanca, Prehistoric Friends, Hausfrau, Le Thug, LAW and Garden of Elks among them.
And there are treats abounding from the old guard: goth-pop dreamers Strawberry Switchblade are set to release a rarities retrospective, and electro-pop icon Jimmy Somerville is gearing up to release an album of disco originals – thus bringing two of the 1980s’ most colourful pop acts back to the future.