The arrival of the debut solo album from a female singer and musician who’s been at the forefront of a couple of the most adventurous, “out there” and completely uncategorisable bands on the Scottish music scene in the last 15 years, is something you anticipate eagerly.
As it turns out, she’s unleashed five tracks to preview the release, so here’s your starter for ten…..or make that five….. as there are five of Scotland’s finest…….
Miaow McDonald plays, sings and co-produces everything other than the drums on all the tracks. Engineering, production, and other additional instrumentation, by Rob Davidson aka Aged Choir Boy, are credited where due.
Starting with “Ambulance” -– it’s a short burst of cyclical bass guitar that opens the proceedings as this softly hushed whisper of a vocal emanates from a darkness below, quietly emotional, then all of sudden a burst of guitars hit you, only to disappear and more bass and voice. this time, going from soft to emotive then rising into a yearning hook, as she laments a fear of loss and the drumming begins. a burning sea of guitar riffs ignite, each clipped short for maximum impact, and so the verses continue, the rollercoaster of vocal emotion that this song exudes until it comes to an abrupt halt.
“Fire With Fire” starts as a beautifully restrained slice of alt-country balladeering, reminding me of a more haunting, obviously less American, Lucinda Williams, as solid, slow drum beats herald a shimmering desert guitar, a snake slide and above this the vocal wafts like sand across the heat of the landscape; a wordless vocal chorus, adding to the texture, as the slowly unfolding song oozes with feeling and sultry passion, but still holding back as the slide guitar, performed by Aged Choir Boy, becomes Cooder-esque and this magnificent song and instrumental work just gets more and more impassioned as the theme of love hurting like crazy, rolls ever forward in its state of soft anguish.
“Pink Lemonade For A Blue Girl” is a combination of circus pop, indie strength and flowing delicacy. the moods changing from wistfully melancholic as an almost gorgeously purring vocal takes the sultry side of sadness to heartaching proportions as piano chords hang in the air, then suddenly it’s into the jaunty chorus reminding you of the time when the circus leaves town, with accordion performed by CyberneticZ, only then for the mood and time signature to change yet again as a solid guitar riff echoes and the vocal climbs higher.
“A Fucked Up Lovesong”, oddly enough, is pretty well exactly that – starting with softly strummed acoustic guitar, a plaintive vocal at the higher end of the scale kicks in, a beautiful piano melody, the voice descends, a guitar riff suddenly crashes in, the vocal moves to pleading and yearning, full of regret and angst, just as you’d expect. The sudden presence of low register strings just adds a whole new textural dimension of abject sadness and a life utterly bleak, as they all disappear, reappear, extra layers come and go, but the so-sad, heartfelt vocal just flows through it all, as what is a truly stunning song and arrangement, continues to unfold.
Finally, “Sister” washes in on waves of electronics as an echoed drum beat and percussion roll in, Miaow McDonald’s voice strides over it with emotive authority and delivers a song like some lost sixties singer in a timewarp of modern era strength. As the rhythms drive slowly forward, the harmonies and backing vocals are a thing of great wonder, flowing like honey, as patient as a saint, but with an underlying mix of menace and melancholy, as synth comets fly by, a bass resonates, guitar chords fracture – and it’s gone.
Overall, as a hymn to love lost, it’s a writing triumph, a vocal tour-de-force full of sadness and inner strength. it’s magnificent, and as an instrumental lesson in restraint, subtlety and texture, it’s perfect. On this evidence, the album promises to be something special………
Year Zero will be released on all digital platforms later this year. 2021.
Andy Garibaldi, a.k.a. Andy G, Dead Earnest Podcasts, Gee Force (Bridge FM Radio 87.7fm)
By reading this and listening to the tracks in pretty blue hyperlinks, you are supporting new music. Life is strange right now… unprecedented. There has never been a time when music and supporting new music / musicians has been more important. Music is medicine. Music is art. Music is therapy.
ps. you can call me Miaow… just like my cat does.