5. Elanor Moss Is A Name To Remember
Back in March, Yorkshire songwriter Elanor Moss came to the world’s attention with her rather excellent debut EP, Citrus, a collection of songs that felt instantly familiar without ever sounding like anyone but Elanor herself. Striking while the iron’s hot, this week Elanor has shared Cosmic Memory, the de facto title track of her second EP, Cosmic, a collection she recorded after decamping to Brooklyn, and which is set for release in February via Blue Raincoat Music.
Described by Elanor as, “a playful reflection on a particularly tough Costa Coffee catch-up with an ex”, Cosmic Memory is a deliciously bittersweet affair as Elanor wonders whether she’s better off without an ex, who just happens to be moving on, “you say, you’re seeing someone new, before I had the chance to see if I still love you I hit back with “I’m basically famous” But really I’m cripplingly lonely”. As the song goes swirling off on warm guitars and flourishing strings like some luxuriant romcom soundtrack, Elanor’s mind seems unsure whether to stick or twist, “my mind glitches out like a rented VHS that someone forgot to rewind. It plays out the scene where Meg Ryan fakes it, in the cafe just like me, stuck in a faded repeat”. This feels like a newly expansive side to Elanor Moss, a songwriter blossoming with confidence, bristling with ambition and ready for whatever adoration comes her way.
4. James Yorkston, Nina Persson and The Second Hand Orchestra Crab Dish A Turn Up For The Books
There can be few busier or more intriguing songwriters in Scotland right now than James Yorkston. Originally a member of the hugely influential Fence Collective, James released his debut album two decades ago and hasn’t really stopped since. Whether it’s solo releases, work with Yorkston/Thorne/Khan or leading his touring club night Tae Sup Wi’ A Fifer, whose guests have included everyone from Phil Jupitus to Philip Selway, as well as lots of people not called Phil. Back in 2020, James first teamed up with Swedish music collective The Second Hand Orchestra, releasing the acclaimed The Wide, Wide River, an album recorded without the orchestra ever having heard the songs they were playing. For their latest collaboration, they took a slightly more conventional approach, James sending a series of ideas over to the band with the aim of doing almost everything differently, including the master stroke of recruiting The Cardigans’ Nina Persson to lend her vocal talents alongside James. The result is their upcoming album, The Great White Sea Eagle, which they previewed this week via its second single, Upturned Crab.
While outwardly a delightful ditty about finding a crab in a rockpool, the song does have a somewhat deeper meaning, reflecting on the sacrifices parents make when their job takes them on the road, regretting missed moments of family life, and the simple thrill of childlike joy. The track is built around an arpeggiated piano line, gradually joined by swirling strings and the unusual vocal combination of a rugged Scotsman and a Swedish chanteuse singing in perfect conjoined harmony. Lyrically, it’s a beautifully sad affair, James and Nina looking in on a child growing up while their backs are turned, “tell me each footstep of your adventures, the small events that changed you, how dare you change without me?” A reminder of the lightness and shade at the heart of everything James Yorkston does, The Great White Sea Eagle already feels like the latest in a long line of musical triumphs, frankly, it’ll be a surprise if he ever makes a bad record.
3. Firestations Will Make A Splash This Winter
One of the darlings of the Walthamstow dream-pop scene (if two bands can be called a scene), Firestations have been keeping busy, following up their break-out 2018 album, The Year Dot, with a trio of intriguing EPs as part of their Automatic Tendencies project (one of which even came with a reusable chip-fork). With the promise of new material, in some form or another, due in 2023, this week the band teamed up with Lost Map to share their new single, Swim Under Winter, just in time for the temperatures to plunge below zero and send the country spiralling off into cupboards wondering where they put their favourite scarf.
While keen to stress they have, “got no desire to be internet-age gurus”, Firestations none-the-less acknowledge a certain self-help quality to Swim Under Winter, as vocalist Mike Cranny explains, “this song is kind of about making a decision to approach a problem from a different angle…staring at long shadows in the afternoon sunlight and accepting the possibility of feeling better and rediscovering simple joys. Winter being as much filled with darkness as it is the promise of light”. Musically, the track is classic Firestations, featuring the perfectly entwined vocals and sun-dappled guitars we know and love, alongside steady rhythms and glitchy synths, before the whole thing explodes to the metronomic stomp of the trance-like outro as they repeat the title on a loop. Pop perfection delivered through a deliciously wonky lens, Firestations are back and just as wonderful as ever.
2. Hamish Hawk Is All About The Money
With his biggest headline shows to date on the way next year, it has been a good few years for Edinburgh’s Hamish Hawk. His breakout album, 2021’s Heavy Elevator had DJs and blogs alike queuing up to sing its praises, and saw him rewarded with a PRS grant which helped him return to the studio with long-term collaborator, Idlewild’s Rod Jones. The result is his upcoming album, Angel Numbers, due out in February via Post-Electric, and this week he premiered the latest single from it, the tongue-in-cheek majesty that is Money.
A track Hamish describes as, “me at my most cynical”, Money is a, “list of cheap shots”, Hamish not pulling his punches as he cuts down everything from long weddings to dull small talk, while his mind keeps drifting to something he’s always, “interminably short on”, money. In a lesser songwriter’s hands, it could easily sound bitter, yet somehow Hamish adds enough wit and knowing winks to keep you firmly on his team, like a plucky underdog lashing out at the flamboyance of those much richer than he, “whose are these ethics? Don’t know whose side I’m on half the time. How are you? Just desperate for money”. While he slips neatly into a lineage from Scott Walker through to Neil Hannon and Meilyr Jones, Hamish Hawk does the whole luxurious modern crooner thing with such aplomb, he’s really just carving out his own lane, and with the right luck and a fair wind he might soon need to find something else to worry about instead of how much cash is in his pocket.
1. Close The Curtains It’s Nighttime
Although she calls upstate New York her home, Eva Louse Goodman, aka Nighttime’s musical DNA is found much closer to home. On her upcoming third album, Keeper In The Heart, Eva is inspired by a distinctly British kind of folk music, from the hazy wistfulness of Pentangle to the melancholy magic of Vashti Bunyan. Ahead of the album’s February release, via the ever-wonderful Ba Da Bing, this week Eva shared the first single from the record, Curtain Is Closing.
With a musical background that takes in a number of years performing with Mutual Benefit, for the latest Nighttime record, Eva decided to stretch herself sonically, embracing the idea of collaboration and aiming to, “achieve the same degree of intimacy with a bigger production”, listening to Curtain Is Closing, it seems she has more than achieved her goal. While nodding back to the influences of the past, it still finds a way to seem modern, recalling contemporaries like Dana Gavanski or Naima Bock, young voices breathing new life into old sound, as beautifully fresh as the first flowers of spring. While driven by layers of intricate, gossamer-like vocals and the steady tick of drums, a closer inspection showcases a truly ambitious production, from the prominent bounce of the bass to intricate swells of guitar and meandering retro-toned keys. Lyrically the track seems to cast Eva as some classic stage actress, putting on a brave face for the audience who never see the person behind the character as she repeats well-trodden lines, “the curtain is closing, the audience has been shown everything –and the roses they are throwing hit the closing curtain and fall down to their end”, before almost sighing, “and the show begins again”. This is a thrilling expansion, an artist pushing their boundaries without forgetting who they are, for Nighttime this might just be the right time to make a real splash.
Header photo is Nighttime by Emma Howcroft.