CDs reviews: Broken Records, Wreckless Eric, Candythief, Michael Timmons, Paper Rifles, Bill Wells, Flux Velociraptor

Michael Timmons - Bone Coloured

It’s not the most upbeat of releases, but Michael Timmons isn’t here to offer cheer. Not that the lyrics on his 10-track debut are particularly ‘down’, they’re instead rather obtuse, which means that the mood is set by the sparse acoustics. Producer Andy Miller is best-known for work with Mogwai and The Delgados, bands who demand a full-on sound. Timmons, by contrast, offers a stark sonic outlook, his guitar chiming through the silence - ‘Fall Back’ recalls the Blue Nile at their most sparse, while Timmons’ falsetto occasionally soars into Thom Yorke territory. There’s occasional virtuoso guitar work as on ‘In Frame’ but in fact, the real strength of this album is its downbeat darkness. One to wallow in. (SMcH) ***

Candythief - Imaginary Medals

Rather than stealing sweets, could it be that Diana de Cabarrus is more of a musical magpie. This, her fourth album, is a grab-bag of influences which contains ‘something for everyone’. Having served her apprenticeship with Fife’s Fence Collective, there’s inevitably folk here in the deathly ‘Rosemary Lane’, contrasting with ‘Today’, a jaunty piece that knocks the likes of Lily Allen into a Cockney hat. Recorded by Pumajaw / Loop soundsmith John Wills, it’s surprising quite how ‘pop’ it is - the klezmer-y title track comes with a ska offbeat and there’s ‘Sand on the Hill’s dreamy waltz. The one sore thumb is the unnecessary jazz standard of ‘St James Infirmary’. Why bother when your own songs are this good? (SMcH) ***

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Broken Records - What We Might Know

Big and bold, that’s criminally underrated Edinburgh ensemble Broken Records, who have never sounded better than on this freewheeling fourth album. The aim was to write a collection to be enjoyed on the open road, and they waste no time hitting the accelerator with They Won’t Ever Leave Us Alone and Let The Right One In, two pumping, propulsive, rootsy pop/rock numbers suffused with the spirit of Springsteen and The E Street Band. Elsewhere on What We Might Know, thanks to frontman Jamie Sutherland’s sturdy, soulful vocals, they sound like a full throttle Keane or The Killers, but are just as strong on the occasional slower number such as soaring rock torch song So Free. **** (FS)

Various Artists - Glasgow Nights

With free music available web-wide as download and stream, compilation albums need a pretty good reason to exist. Happily, this 14-track collection is in aid of charity Money Advice Scotland, and draws together tunes from Scottish scene stalwarts like The Pastels and RM Hubbert, with lesser names like Sacred Paws and Marnie plus brand new acts Out Lines and Spinning Coin also donating their efforts to a worthy cause. There’s even the themes to two screen classics, ‘Taggart’ (with Maggie Bell) and ‘Gregory’s Girl’. And the big hitters chip in as well - Franz Ferdinand offer ‘Lazy Boy’, a standout track from their new album, while the feedback-drenched punk rock of Mogwai’s ‘Eternal Panther’ is worth it for the suggested fiver donation alone. (SMcH) ****

Wreckless Eric - Construction Time & Demolition

“Much loved and often underestimated” punk bard Wreckless Eric is on confident form, opening his latest album with ‘Gateway to Europe’, an expansive soul number with gospel backing vocals, transcendent brass section and his idiosyncratic musings on the building of the Humber Bridge (“connecting nowhere in particular with where no one wants to go”). In keeping with the album’s titular theme, he builds himself up to knock himself down with knowing self-deprecation on ‘Wow & Flutter’, a low-slung fuzz rock conversation with a fan/stalker, featuring the internal rhyme, “here comes the bit that’s going to stop this becoming a hit”. He may be cult but he’s also a hero. (FS) ****

Flux Velociraptor - Velociraptor Attractor

In a musical world swamped with TV karaoke contest runners-up, surely there’s a space for a comeback of instrumentals? This West Lothian trio are brimming with ideas - ’Evolutionists’ kicks off with chattering airwaves like a distant civilisation trying to contact us via the medium of post rock. A mix of clever, repetitive guitar hooks, and full-on riffs with proggy overtones they somehow bridge a gap between the more hairy rock’n’roll of ‘true’ metal and the introspective math rock of the US (and parts of Glasgow).‘Billy Everteen’ is more understated and the best tune here, its repetitive head-nodding riff a hypnotic ear worm. The sludgey ‘They Do Move In Herds is riff-heavy, with shifting time signatures redolent of the Scottish post rock scene a decade ago. Closer ‘Retronaut’ is a full-on wig out capturing the essence of their live shows and definitely leading calls for an encore. (SMcH) ****

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Paper Rifles - The State Of It All

It's strange that in these politically-charged, pre-Armageddon days, protest pop starts and stops with Taylor Swift settling scores with her exes.Billy Bragg, Green Day and Frank Turner all offer intelligent informed punk rock, plus the odd history lesson. Add to that the throaty yowl of Jon Dick, previously of Edinburgh emo outfit Curators, one of the most underrated bands to come out of Scotland in recent years. His new band takes that blueprint and gives it a barbed edge. Originally a solo project, Paper Rifles has expanded into a noisy, furiously angry quartet who combine polemic and pop into 14 sub-three-minute anthems to have you singing all the way to the barricades. (SMcH) *****

The National Jazz Trio of Scotland - Standards Vol IV

They’re not a trio, but the leader of the (yes) Scottish ensemble is famed for his brand of outsider jazz. However, the element of surprise for leader Bill Wells is lessened nowadays, his under-the-radar reputation ruined due to his winning the Scottish Album of the Year award with Aidan Moffat. This new collection of simple, lullaby-like tunes is a little removed from that landmark release, lead vocalist Annie Sugden’s gentle vocals delivered atop a sparse backing of vibes and bossa nova guitar - as well as a big band-sampling rework of Moffat’s ‘A Quiet Life’. ‘Tinnitus Lullaby’ is the short and bittersweet standout - “distant sounds inside your head” - but there are surely far worse earworms to endure. (SMcH) ****

Reviews by Fiona Shepherd and Stuart McHugh