Scottish music is brilliant. I know that, you know that, we both know that. Right now, Calvin Harris is busy taking over the world, Paolo Nutini is making your mum swoon with his old-timey crooning, Biffy Clyro are redefining what a guitar band can achieve in the 2010s, CHVRCHES have fought their way to the very top of the indie-pop pyramid, and Frightened Rabbit are boosting the sale of brogues and waistcoats nationwide (they are Mumford and Sons without the banjos or the public school education). In the past, we have had Primal Scream blurring the lines between dance and indie, Travis headlining Glastonbury (somehow). Before there was Paolo, your mum spent her teenage years jumping up and down to Simple Minds. But as ground-breaking, enjoyable and genuinely fantastic as these artists are, there is more to Scottish pop music than this. Here are 9 other Scottish artists you should absolutely be listening to (from both the past and present). But none of them are The Proclaimers. The Proclaimers can f*ck off.
1) Arab Strap
Falkirk born duo Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton first found success in Glasgow in the late 90s as Arab Strap. Moffat’s poetic, spoken word lyrics about the mundanity and hopelessness of growing up in post-Thatcher Scotland, as well as his many failed romances and (many, many, and often sordid and explicit) sexual fantasies, combined with Middleton’s sparse but diverse and punky instrumentals, make Arab Strap a definitive band in the Scottish music scene. Both partners have gone on to solo success post-Strap, especially Moffat, who won the inaugural Scottish Album of the Year award in 2012 for Everything’s Getting Older, his collaboration with jazz musician Bill Wells.
2) Boards of Canada
Another duo, Boards of Canada are two Edinburgh brothers with a penchant for mystery who have been turning out ambient, downtempo electronic music since the mid-1990s. Their 2013 album Tomorrow’s Harvest was announced through a series of codes hidden across the world. Full of 70s analogue samples, warm, nostalgic atmospheric beats and field recordings, Boards of Canada’s work is as intriguing as it is mysterious, and twice as beautiful.
3) Camera Obscura
Glasgow indie-poppers Camera Obscura came together in the mid-90s and released their debut album, Biggest Blueist Hi Fi in 2001, produced by Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastien, whose grown up, intelligent pop is a huge influence on Camera. Their earlier work is more acoustic than the upbeat pop they have been releasing from the second half of the decade onwards. Tragically, keyboardist and singer Carey Lander lost her four year battle with cancer in 2015.
4) Edwyn Collins
Edwyn Collins first came to fame in the early 80s with new wave outfit Orange Juice, of whom he was the creative heart. Their greatest success came in 1983, when the synth indebted ‘Rip it Up’ reached number 8 in the charts. After Orange Juice split in 1985, Collins embarked on a successful solo career, the highlight of which was probably 1994s Gorgeous George. Collins suffered a severe cerebral haemorrhage in 2005, which left him unable to move, and barely able to speak. Despite this, he recovered and has released several albums since then.
5) The Blue Nile
Childhood friends Paul Buchanan and Robert Bell formed The Blue Nile after graduating from Glasgow Uni. Their experimentation with sound effects and unconventional instruments (bicycle wheels, serving trays), plus their sparse piano based soundscapes, combined with soulful, powerful singing creates achingly beautiful songs stretched taut with emotion. Their painstaking work ethic and occasional feuding has resulted in just four albums in 30 years, but the first two, A Walk Across the Rooftops and Hats, are nothing short of masterpieces.
To find out more Scottish artists to listen to, here is Part 2.