To those who bewail the demise of pop: guess what?
Our music's up too loud to hear you. 2012's prevailing mood was grim as record and ticket sales dwindled, but Scottish pop's myriad scenes and sounds pulled an absolute blinder in the face of adversity. The inaugural Scottish Album of the Year Award (bagged by Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat) cast a celebratory backdrop, and this sense of optimistic resolve was echoed by beloved emporia Monorail, Coda and Rubadub, who celebrated their 10th, 15th and 20th birthdays respectively. Eclectic imprints such as Olive Grove, LuckyMe, Armellodie and Fence joined forces for Scottish Independent Label Fairs, while promoters like Tracer Trails, Numbers and Cry Parrot merged kaleidoscopic grassroots and global talent.
And the bands? They played to the brilliant tune of a renaissance in independent music with excellent, divergent voices – including Django Django's psychedelic collage-rock on their Mercury-shortlisted self-titled debut (Because), Karine Polwart's exquisite folk landmark Traces (Hegri), Errors' interstellar electro on Have Some Faith In Magic (Rock Action), MC Profisee's gleaming beats and rhymes on From All Angles (Cloak X Dagger), Meursault's elegiac battle-cries on Something For The Weakened (Song, By Toad), Wounded Knee's husker-dubh on Secret Museum Of Kind Man (Krapp Tapes), James Yorkston's visceral, jazz-nuanced psalms on I Was A Cat From A Book (Domino) and Finn LeMarinel's gossamer hymns on Violence, released by Ubisano – a DIY ethical label helmed by flamenco-punk heartbreaker RM Hubbert.
Loading article content
Hubbert dexterously expressed Scotland's genre-hopping, collaborative spirit on Thirteen Lost and Found (Chemikal Underground), which featured contributions from Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos, Alasdair Roberts, Aidan Moffat and Emma Pollock, and retraced 20 years of Glasgow counter-culture. Our here-and-now was exposed via Whatever Gets You Through The Night (exploring contemporary Scotland at 4am) and Some Songs Side-By-Side (spotlighting Glasgow's underground via ace cult-pop renegades like Sacred Paws and Palms).
Stanley Odd's pop-rap manifesto Reject (Circular) was similarly rooted in place and time – Scotland, 2012 – and their ousting of hip-hop stereotypes resonated with duo Hector Bizerk on the stark and remarkable Drums Rap Yes (self-release).
Reinvention bore glorious fruit: Mogwai (Rock Action) and The Twilight Sad (Fat Cat) issued entrancing remix albums; Teenage Fanclub's Gerry Love launched radiant new venture Lightships (Geographic); Bill Wells'
National Jazz Trio of Scotland re-imagined carols for a swoon-inducing Christmas Album (Karaoke Kalk). And there were warm returns from The Blue Nile's Paul Buchanan with Mid Air (Newsroom), Love and Money's Devil's Debt (Vertical), and Deacon Blue's The Hipsters (Edsel) which was produced by Paul Savage.
Savage also bestowed pop alchemy upon electro-livewire Miaoux Miaoux's Light Of The North (Chemikal Underground), Malcolm Middleton's widescreen-opus Human Don't Be Angry (Chemikal Underground), and the latest masterstroke from King Creosote (Domino): a three-part vinyl EP series with an outstanding album as its punch-line (I Learned From The Gaels / To Deal With Things / It Turned Out For The Best: That Might Well Be It, Darling).
King Creosote further advanced his militant, ingenious crusade to challenge (and reassert) the value of records by reprising his live-only Nth Bits Of Strange LP: its 2012 incarnation was backed by fellow art-pop brainiacs FOUND. A ludicrously inventive trio, FOUND also questioned the permanence of recorded music, and the impact of audience / environment on art, through their interactive sound installation with Aidan Moffat, #UNRAVEL.
Many of this year's short-form releases were loaded with long-term promise, including wondrous singles/EPs from Withered Hand, Adam Stafford, Rick Redbeard, Kid Canaveral, Frightened Rabbit, S-Type, Randolph's Leap, Conquering Animal Sound, The Pictish Trail and The Son(s). As for that debut ten-inch from CHVRCHES? Let us give thanks.
And turn up the volume.