If you’re reading this, it means that Chris hasn’t yet fired me, and is instead allowing me to do my whole “music-on-a-soccer-blog” thing again, contrary to his better judgment. A quick word of warning before we jump in: it’s about to get pretty dang Scottish up in here.
Best New Music
I had originally intended to reserve this space for new albums only, but this is a special occasion. At a London benefit for charity War Child, two members of of Britpop legends Blur (a close second for my favorite band ever), singer Damon Albarn (you may know his other project Gorillaz) and Guitarist Graham Coxon, debuted “Under The Westway,” their second new song since 2003′s Think Tank, their final album before a long and frustrating hiatus (2009-2010 saw a mini-reunion tour and a limited edition charity single).
The band is recording new material now for their first album to truly feature all the members of the band since 1999′s 13 (Coxon, the band’s resident lo-fi rock aficionado, was barely involved with the final album, and the results show it; the record, with its diverse influences and heavy use of sampling and electronic sound, is possibly closer to a Gorillaz album than Blur’s earlier work). Blur will also be the headline act at the closing ceremonies of this summer’s London Olympics.
Honorable Mention: No One Can Ever Know, by Scottish outfit The Twilight Sad. I was initially feeling guilty about relegating this album to honorable mention status, but then they cancelled a show tonight that I had bought tickets for, and even though it’s not their fault, they couldn’t get a visa from the US government, I don’t feel quite as bad now. The album has a darker, more sinister feel than its two predecessors (and like seemingly every other indie band these days, more keyboard and less guitar), but it’s still an eminently enjoyable bit of work.
The release of the new Twilight Sad album is a perfect excuse to explore some of the other fantastic Scottish indie bands working today. One of my favorites is Kilmarnock’s Biffy Clyro. Starting out as a punk-driven post-hardcore band in the 90s, they finally found broader success with their two most recent albums, marrying that heavy sound with a more mainstream aesthetic. I, for one, eagerly await their forthcoming double album due this summer, almost as much as the accompanying tour, as they are a really fantastic live act.
Another Scottish band whose summer tour has been on my calendar for some time now are We Were Promised Jetpacks out of Edinburgh. They released their second album, In The Pit Of The Stomach, this past October, a worthy follow-up to 2009′s acclaimed debut These Four Walls. I saw the band just after the second album was released, and apart from the annoying high-school age wannabe-hipster kids there for the opening act, it was an excellent show.
The final Scottish band I’ve seen live and are now telling you about because they’re really good are the Glasgow-by-way-of-Selkirk indie rock group Frightened Rabbit. Creators of three fantastic albums, their most recent effort, 2010′s The Winter of Mixed Drinks managed to chart in the US, hitting the lofty heights of #84 on the Billboard 200. Their as of yet unnamed fourth album is due later this summer.
Because I’ve devoted so much of this post to modern, somewhat esoteric UK indie bands, I’m going to go the complete opposite of that for the classic track. Undoubtedly legendary, unmistakably American, and quite possibly the most influential rock musician of all time, Chuck Berry can take much of the credit for creating the distinct style and sound of rock and roll.
By the time this London concert was recorded in 1972, Berry was already an oldies artist, playing songs he had made famous years before, but the technical ability, charismatic showmanship, and infectious catchiness of the music are all plainly evident.