Posted in SHOFT on Tuesday 6th March 2012 at 8:03am

As 2012 finally starts to hit its stride musically, there are suddenly lots of singles around providing previews of delights to come. After glibly proclaiming the old-fashioned single largely dead sometime earlier in my musings here, I'm suddenly finding lots of bands using just one or two tracks to tease in the weeks up to an album or EP release. What's interesting too is how bands who have perhaps an EP or two under their belts are marking these releases as their 'debut single'. For me this is all good - the idea of new music from an artist you love being something of an event, along with the anticipation it builds can only be a positive thing. So here, hot on the heels of my last round-up of single releases is another one. There is lots to listen to here, and even stuff to see linked below - and you get much less rambling from me in each case too, which can only be a bonus...

Lonely Tourist - I Live Where You Are

Lonely Tourist - I Live Where You AreOne of the highlights of 2011 was getting to hear Lonely Tourist for the first time, and realising with forehead-slapping dismay that while I'd been haring up and down the country seeking interesting new music, here was someone who had been busily hawking his unusual mix of modern-day folk tales, scratchy ballads and wryly observed lyrics not more than a few miles from home. With a self-released album recorded in Glasgow, and some high-profile support slots alongside the regular touring of Bristol pubs Paul Tierney ought to be a much bigger name by now. However, as a second album approaches perhaps things are about to turn his way?

Setting off at his now traditional breakneck pace, on "I Live Where You Are" Lonely Tourist invokes the spirit of Johnny Cash early on with a wonderfully twangy solo guitar. Recording with a full band on this first brand new material for a year, once again this bursts energetically with a tumble of rapid-fire lyrics and half-revealed dramas. The scratchy, skiffly acoustic guitar style fits surprisingly well into this setting and the whole thing cannons along at a satisfyingly breathless tilt. Touching on home with his description of a mood "as black as a winter Glasgow morning", Tierney brings the classic folk song theme of the itinerant hobo right up to date, rattling through a litany of couches, tenements and the vagaries of the rental housing market. Despite it's life-affirmingly singable refrain, this is all about uncertainty - and clinging on to the few solid things in life. Slowing to a pensive halt in the middle, the song builds to a note-bending, spirited wild-west style conclusion. If you're not singing along by now, then I despair of you.

There is an album coming along soon, and Lonely Tourist will undoubtedly bring his humbly simple live show to somewhere near you very soon. You really need to hear this, and whatever comes next...

Lonely Tourist - I Live Where You Are

Lonely Tourist has provided early access to "I Live Where You Are" via a pay-what-you-like deal at Bandcamp..

Where We Lay Our Heads - Bury You

Where We Lay Our HeadsIt's hard to tell if Wull Swales is the luckiest or unluckiest musician in Glasgow just now. Having assembled the first incarnation of Where We Lay Our Heads in 2011 and begun to see some genuine success with an EP and some high-profile support slots, things came to an abrupt personnel-related halt at the end of last year. However, picked up and dusted off in the best tradition of impossible-to-repress Scottish bands, the new incarnation of WWLOH has pretty speedily worked it's way to this debut single. Now a four-piece centred on the writing talents of Swales, the band appear to have undergone something of a transformation from the primarily acoustic tracks I've heard previously, and "Bury You" is the first fruit of this new approach.

Opening quietly enough, focusing on Wull's engaging vocals which proudly sport their Caledonian heritage, things take a surprisingly rocking turn as a solid rhythm section kicks in and guitars chug. This is a slow-burning, pensive piece which showcases Alison Cochrane's violin, winding in and out of the song, marking out the rhythm in the verses and soaring dizzily into the choruses. Meanwhile the vocals strike a note just between desperation and sinister obsession, working things up to a crashing ending where a tangle of edgy guitar noise gives way to allow Wull the last word. A masterpiece of dynamics, there are satisfying noisy moments coupled with dramatic silences here, which all fit surprisingly well into the heartachingly desperate minor-key epic. There's no doubting a lightness of songwriting touch here on Swales part, and coupled with a band which seems to understand perfectly how to interpret these songs I've no doubt that this new incarnation of WWLOH has the potential to surpass their previous efforts. And given the speed with which they're operating just now I'm sure they're not going to be standing still, so it's probably wise to catch them in tiny venues while you can.

Where We Lay Our Heads - Bury You

Where We Lay Our Heads release "Bury You" on 19th March, via their Bandcamp and will be taking it on a short Scottish tour with LETTERS, kicking off at The Captains Rest in Glasgow on 22nd March and proceeding to Inverness, Thurso and Skye before heading through to Edinburgh's Wee Red Bar.

Quickbeam - Seven Hundred Birds

Quickbeam - Seven Hundred BirdsQuickbeam were one of a slew of bands I discovered a little while back via by virtue of the ever-surprising Glasgow PodcART just at the right momemnt. On a train trip through bright, wintry countryside this beautifully simple mix of alluring vocals and melancholy traditional instrumentation clicked into place and sent me scurrying off to find out what I could. Apparently named for one of the ponderous, wise old Ents in 'The Lord of The Rings', any sense of whimsy ends there. But the slowed, gentle approach this suggests is an appropriate one - Quickbeam's music is glacial and graceful as much as it is dark and mysterious.

Previewed by a rather special video being promoted with unashamed excitement by Glasgow's emerging Comets and Cartwheels project, "Seven Hundred Birds" is the first single as such from Quickbeam despite a couple of collections of demos which have circulated among those deeply smitten by the band for a while. A plangent bass drum beats the rhythm while a harmonium moans amid spirals of wonderously mournful violin courtesy of recent new member Nichola Kerr. Monika Gromek's vocals are sparing, giving the music room to breathe - but when she sings in her wonderfully understated and gentle way, the atmosphere deepens and the tone darkens. The production and recording of "Seven Hundred Birds" is a triumph too - every gasp from the harmonium captured, silences and spaces preserved to provide a sense of depth and distance - like you're hearing something ancient and reverent. There is a line here where Gromek sings of "a painting that's escaped the frame" - and perhaps that is the best description for Quickbeam? A moment of beauty, briefly and gloriously animated.

Quickbeam - Seven Hundred Birds

You can see the video for "Seven Hundred Birds" here on Vimeo. The single is released via Comets and Cartwheels on 9th April. You can also find the recent teaser "Tide" for download at Bandcamp.

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I've had a home on the web for more years than I care to remember, and a few kind souls persuade me it's worth persisting with keeping it updated. This current incarnation of the site is centred around the blog posts which began back in 1999 as 'the daylog' and continued through my travels and tribulations during the following years.

I don't get out and about nearly as much these days, but I do try to record significant events and trips for posterity. You may also have arrived here by following the trail to my former music blog Songs Heard On Fast Trains. That content is preserved here too.

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