Scottish Music in December

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Michael Jackson can’t compete. Neither can the iconic Elvis Presley, even 40 years after (officially?) leaving the building. Even The Beatles – the best-selling musicians since records began – cannot contend with this prolific and world-revered melody-maker.

It might not be instantly obvious, but the song most rumbling through vocals chords on a single night this year was not penned by the hands of a modern-day world-renowned artist, nor one whose YouTube videos has more views than some countries’ GDPs.

They were, in fact, first jotted down by a lowly Scottish man from the tiny, humble village of Alloway in South Ayshire.

Admittedly, he’s had a head-start of a few hundred years against his 20th Century lyric-scribbling brethren, but on the hinge of this year, Robert Burns’ Auld Lang Syne will echo out across the globe; transcending generations, borders, language and probably understanding as to what the song’s original lyrics actually mean.

Yet come the debut minute of 2014, you’ll no doubt be arms-linked – land-locked from the bar – rambling out a weakened version of the melody under your breath like you’ve drunkenly decided to forge out your own unique language.

But before you delve deep into the swarming vat of merriment and music on Hogmanay, why not dip your toes into the rest of the month first? The majority of December might be a bit less potent than its higher-strength tail-end, but there’s certainly enough happening to ease you into crying on the puff pastry of your New Year’s Day steak pie.

At Broadcast (Sat 7 Dec), city denizens Chris Devotion & the Expectations will prop up Portland divorcees Quasi, which seems quite fitting if you’re looking for a quasi-american adrenaline shot of weird punk blended in with some humorous Scottish self-deprecation.

Far south of the grid-locked streets of Glasgow on the same night – in the tiny town of Strathaven – three of Scotland’s best purveyors of rousing reverb will descend on the town’s Old Mill Studios, to play a one-off show. Both Friends In America and The Youth and Young have enjoyed a fantastic year, with plaudits wading in for their respective debut album and EP (both of which the Old Mill’s stalwart Marshall Craigmyle had a hand in).

Their sets will underpin There Will Be Fireworks, who recently unleashed the Craigmyle-produced The Dark, Dark Bright, a simply stunning second offering that manages to encapsulate the irreversible ebbing of adolescence through a powerful assimilation of memories, literary and musical influences and polysemic lyrics.

Two days before, Glasgow will see a divergence. Those looking for an engrossing chimera of musical genres will descend on Nice ‘n’ Sleazys for Pronto Mama’s headline slot (5 Dec), whereas others looking for unplugged noodlings will venture to Mono to see bloggers Scottish Fiction host their own festivities: the Beerjacket & Friends Christmas Show.

Fiction’s event has the supremely undervalued Beerjacket hand-pick some wonderfully soothing support in the name of Michael Cassidy and Julia & the Doogans. Anticipate bauble hats, mulled wine and melodies more warming than both.

Speaking of baubles, over in Edinburgh on the 14th the newly-formed Lost Map Records will present Kid Canaveral’s Xmas Baubles IV,  an all-day music featuring Edwyn Collins and the skittish, jovial indie-pop riffs of Kid Canaveral themselves. With tickets sold-out (before the rest of the line-up has even had the chance of being announced), we’ll hazard a guess and say you’ll be taking a trip to eBay before you head to Portabello’s Town Hall.

Back across the Central Belt on the same night, there’s a triad of diversity awaiting at The Roxy, The Glad Cafe and Kinning Park. Lighter, wispy numbers will harbour woolgathering heads at Jo Mango, Call To Mind and Behold The Old Bear’s Glad Cafe appearance, while The Roxy will succumb to a syllable syllabus through label Black Lantern Music.

Rappers Gasp, Louie X (frontman of Hector Bizerk) and the post-apocalyptic cyber-punk ciphers of Texture will all be in attendance, presumably all with the anticipated high-grade review reports a day later.

If you’d be prefer to be dragged through mud rather than folk music or the future, then fang over to see Domino Records’ new boys The Amazing Snakeheads at the Kinning Park Complex. The group’s name’s apt: they’re just as good as they claim, and they’re as lethal as venom to boot. (GRNR, The Rosy Crucifixion and the excellent punk blast of Future Glue are supporting.)

Venturing up to the Granite City, Aberdeen’s The Lemon Tree will host Young Fathers on Mon 16 Dec (Also Art School, Glasgow Wed 18 Dec). Signed to prestigious American label Anticon, the intriguing home-grown trio of Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and Graham Hastings will allow you to catch material from new album Dead before it flies off-shelves/into hard-drives by its droves next February.

Having a glance at future material is unquestionably exciting, but a retrospective look is arguably more powerful, and who better than The Twilight Sad? Incredibly, it’s been over six years since they released debut Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters, which The Skinny lauded as No. 2 in their Best Scottish Albums of the Decade chart, and Fri 20 and Sat 21 Dec will see them howl its sheer enormity out in the rebounding confines of the King Tuts. A weekend event, quite simply put, unmissable.

And thus, we return, to the as-of-yet bolted door of the New Year; one you’ll inevitably burst through in a babbling, drunken frenzy instead of carefully entering after a polite knock.

So Hogmanany… Crivens! Where to even begin? Femme-led promoters MILK have one of Scotland’s most underrated talents Hector Bizerk in residence, who’ve just released their brilliant second album Nobody Seen Nothing for you to chow down on. Along with Pronto Mama, S.T.A.R and the usual dairy-related gifts, the MILK girls are also offering the promise of the “first breakfast of the New Year”.

If that doesn’t tickle your Scottish-talent tastebuds, Rhythmnreel will forge their Celtic rock in Inverness’ Ironworks, Big Country will see in the (church) bells at Glasgow’s Oran Mor, and Golden Teacher will try their hardest to help Optimo melt the clocks at the Art School with their surrealist dream-like, digital voodoo dance.

We also heard there’s also some big bash happening over in Auld Reekie, but we’re not sure?

Hogmanany Street Party headliners The Pet Shop Boys may be the main attraction, but thankfully there’s a lot more than just the Bard’s melody to ensure Scottish song-writing will ring on throughout the wee small hours.

A full platoon of Scottish artists will take to the cobbled streets of Edinburgh, including CHVRCHES, King Creosote, FOUND, RM Hubbert, Lau, Django Django (ahem, kinda Scottish), Karine Polwart, The Rezillos and The Treacherous Orchestra, to name but a few. Need any more convincing?

Oh, and irrespective of “for old’s time sake”, please be careful with the amount of your tipples. It’s the end of the year – not the end of your days – and the last way any sane soul would want to spend the start of 2014 would be on Princes Street floor as a human baked potato (wrapped in tinfoil).

And whatever you do, on New Year’s morning make sure you ‘tak of cup o’ mouthwash’ instead of accidentally reaching for the Absynthe. If you don’t, then January 1st will indeed see you end up with Burns on your vocal chords.

They just won’t be the burns you expected.

Harris Brine
National Collective

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About Harris Brine

Harris is a Glasgow-based freelance writer who's had articles published in major media publications, although he's yet not sure how or why. He's also terrified of losing his British passport, having done so twice before in taxis, but hopes next year will welcome the old idiom of 'third time lucky'.

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