The Aye Tunes Awards – Debuts (Updated)

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Or a load of random mutterings, prompted by guilt at having almost nothing here in the six months we’ve been up and running. It wasn’t the original intention, but I’ll be breaking this down into parts, since it’s already way overdue and I’d quite like to get something posted before the end of 2009… Over the next few weeks I’ll either give up or post more, one of the two.

For the curious, here’s a list of stuff I liked in 2007. Apparently I couldn’t spell when I wrote that, and I can’t be bothered fixing it now. You are too late to mock me for it now too.

I’ll note right now that when I say “best” in the categories, I by no means mean best, but favourite just doesn’t sound as good. It’s my list, so I make the rules, which are vague, unspecified and subject to change at any point. In some, if not all, categories I’ll be splitting them up into Scottish (since that’s ostensibly the focus of Aye Tunes) and otherwise. Told you my rules were vague.

Without further stalling for time:
Best Debut Album – Scottish
Quite a few contendors for this one actually. Aidan Moffat put out his first solo album, in a way. While there’s a bunch of L. Pierre albums “I Can Hear Your Heart” is the first album Aidan has put out under his own name. It’s an odd duck, part spoken word, part music, with a short story in the packaging too. Great piece of work and gorgeously packaged, but not the best thing this year. Mr Moffat has a new album out on Valentines Day by the way, called How To Get To Heaven From Scotland. A preview copy found it’s way to me just today, so hopefully I’ll give that a listen soon.
Another debut that isn’t would be Colin MacIntyre’s “The Water”. It would be stretching things a bit to call this Colin’s debut album, since other than ditching the Mull Historical Society name there’s no difference from his previous work, so we’ll disqualify it on those grounds. Still had to give it a mention though, since Colin is as good – if not better – a songwriter as ever.
Errors finally stuck out an album – It’s Not Something, But It Is Like Whatever – after a few singles and EPs over the last few years, and it was also really very good.
Glasvegas of course showed up to release their album and torment blog owners by pulling anything with an MP3 attached too. They didn’t lose this category because of that whole thing, the album did that for them, but it certainly didn’t help their cause any.
Laki Mera didn’t just release a great little album (which if you want to get technical snuck out at the end of 2007, but wasn’t available to buy in shops till 2008) but followed it up with a nifty EP later in the year too, both of which are well worth your time if ambient electronica stuff is your bag.
Make Model recorded an album, then misplaced their singer/guitarist and then pretty much vanished. Seems unlikely that the album will ever see the light of day, which is a wee bit of a shame since it wasn’t bad, if a bit like bis but less shouty.
Speaking of bis, Manda Rin put out her first album too. I always roundly mocked bis at any opportunity, only to find a few years later that if I bothered to listen to them a bit more I actually quite liked them… Manda’s album isn’t far off what bis were doing in their later years (which is miles away from Kandy Pop, which I still can’t tolerate) and so also pretty good.

Coming it at a close second for the best Scottish debut album award is Correcto. Their self titled album seems to have been missing from pretty much end of year list I’ve seen, which has taken me by surprise a bit. Easy to dismiss as a side project, given that the band features one of Franz Ferdinand (another band with a new album imminent) and Richard Wright of the now-defunct The Royal We (who have spat out a few other bands now, like Remember Remember and Sexy Kids) but the album is a whole lot better than something knocked out on days off from the “real job”. Especially worth a listen if you like Josef K and the like.

Drumroll please for our winner then….

Popup’s “A Time And A Place” has been quite a while coming – over two years since I picked up their first couple of singles by my count – but just goes to show that taking your time can be worthwhile.
Packed full of killer melodies, smart and witty lyrics, lovely boy/girl harmonies and just all round great tunes it’s a perfectly formed beauty of a debut. My only quibble with it is that of the 13 tracks on it I had six of them from singles already, but that’s only a quibble because I was greedy for more songs.
Not only a fab band but really nice guys too as I found out when having a chatter with them after a challenging gig in Paisley a few months back, where not only did miserable weather mean that the crowd was pretty small, but the band were plagued by technical difficulties throughout, but still managed to send me off home happy.

PopUp – Love Triangle

Outwith the Scottish contenders there were quite a bit fewer stunning debuts in 2008, so it’s a good bit easier to pick my favourite, but I’ll do a quick rundown of stuff I liked anyway.
In no particular order there was good stuff from The Beep Seals (whose album was produced by Norman Blake, which almost qualifies them for the Scottish part of the award, but not quite, and who were also the first band in ages to send me a promo, which I promptly forgot to review. Err, sorry…), Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip showed that there’s life in UK hip-hop yet, and that you can still make intelligent hip-hop too – Thou Shall Always Kill is getting a re release soon and is well worth your time. Saturnalia by The Gutter Twins nicked a Wedding Present album title and was excellent, though not exactly happy easy listening stuff. Not that you’d expect that from Greg Dulli, right enough. Ida Maria, Beth Rowley, Lykke Li, Jenny Lewis and Laura Marling all did decent work, to differing levels of quality, for the girls, while Katy Perry made me want to punch people when I was forced to rely on Radio Clyde for music at work for a while and managed to almost single handedly wipe out any goodwill I had towards anyone at all, but luckily I’m too nice for that. Former Bluetones front man Mark Morriss covered Alcoholiday on his debut album which is splendid, then he put Girls Aloud & Pixies covers on the B-side of his “I’m Sick” single, which put my faith back in humanity nicely. Go grab the single from eMusic, his version of Call The Shots is great. MGMT, Bon Iver, Santogold, She & Him and the like have all had plentiful coverage, so you don’t need me to tell you any more about them, so I’ll skip on ahead and name my winner.

Best Debut Album That Isn’t Scottish

Eureka Machines – Do Or Die
An album that I’m going to guess almost none of you have heard, sadly. If I hadn’t gone to see Ginger earlier in the year I probably wouldn’t have either, but I did. Eureka Machines were the support that night – or more accurately one of them, front man Chris Catalyst, was. Chris did a solo set made up of a bunch of cover versions and his own songs and blew my little tipsy head off with a fantastic performance, which ensured that I’d keep an eye on the band for the rest of the year. I had some demos & acoustic stuff to tide me over till the album came out, which I hammered enough that there was a risk that by the time I got the album I’d be overly familiar with it, but thankfully that wasn’t the case. Like PopUp it’s packed with killer melodies and smart as a whip lyrics, but it’s an entirely different beast to A Time And A Place, and it’s certainly the best power-pop/rock album I’ve heard in, well, ages. Another thing the bands have in common is that they’ve pretty much stuck the albums out on their own, so if you want to hear either of them please do spend money on them rather than nicking them off the internet. Both are available on eMusic, so even if you just get a trial to that for them that would be better than using more illicit means (and yes, given my blogging history I know I’m the last person that should really be talking about paying for what you like, but indulge me…)

Eureka Machines – Scream Eureka (Demo)

That’s the debuts taken care of then. I’ll get on to the best albuums as soon as I can bother myself, then we’ll see about getting some new stuff written about, shall we?

PopUp Myspace
Eureka Machines MySpace

Note: if either PopUp or Eureka Machines want those songs removed, just give me a shout.

Comments

  1. JC says:

    You’re right….Eureka Machines are new to me.

    Good call on Popup.

  2. Jim says:

    If I can get a few people to listen to and like Eureka Machines I’ll be a happy man.
    Trying to get them to do a gig or two up our neck of the woods again sometime soon. the band are very willing, but pretty much everyone i used to know that could book gigs have vanished, so I’m not having much luck on that score.

    Can’t praise PopUp enough really.

  3. Damo says:

    Ace! I run the Eureka Machines website, and the band are very happy for the odd track to get out here and there to spread the word, but like you say, for it to be the odd track rather than the whole record. It’s becoming increasingly unpopular to actually pay for music … I guess it’s very easy to just download whole albums if you’ve never seen the other side of the process, which is the time and effort put into making something that the musicians are proud of. And the small matter of having something in the pot to go and do it all over again. Once you’ve seen that process close-up (and OK, for me that’s a case of having seen others do it rather than having done it myself), suddenly it feels less like “sticking it to the man” and more like robbing from the cornershop.

    So yeah, this is cool. In fact it’s very cool. Thanks! I’ll send the band a link.

  4. Jim says:

    Cheers for dropping by Damo! I figured I’d be safe with one track, especially since it’s not off the album proper, but you can’t be too careful these days. I don’t mind much pissing off bands I don’t like, but wouldn’t want to annoy one that I really enjoy.