Dear Listener: an open letter

As an artist, you just never know where inspiration will come from next… it can be unpredictable. a bolt from the blue, or a muse whispering in your ear…

but mostly it comes from within. from the subconscious, or, triggered by life’s rich pageant of experiences – good or bad.

i have, for the past two and a bit years, been locked away. some of it through my own free will and some of it, sadly, by Government imposition, i.e. lockdown. i have taken time to learn and grow as a musician and songwriter.

i have been writing and recording a handful of songs that had been inhabiting my headspace for some time and i now have fifteen songs, from inside me.

i’m not gonna lie, it’s been a steep learning curve – teaching myself the rudiments of music theory, how to play the piano, bass guitar and reaquainting myself with my guitar, which up until recently i hadn’t really played much.

so, with rusty fingers, a head full of tumbling thoughts and a heart bursting with raw emotion, i began on this journey, with the vehement encouragement of my partner, <<AGED CHOIR BOY>>.

two and a bit years later and i have completed my debut solo album, of which i am extremely proud. i did it, despite frequent bouts of imposter syndrome… but i did it.

and i could not have done it without my partner’s assistance. terms such as ‘DAW’ and ‘sine wave’ were a complete mystery to me two years ago, but i am learning… every day is a school day!

i wrote these songs, initially as form of therapy, if you like… a means of turning a negative, and often traumatic, experience into something positive that perhaps anyone who stumbles upon my music can maybe relate to in some way.

have i tickled your curiosity enough to make you want to listen? if so, you can listen <<here>>

so why this open letter….?

i know that time is a precious commodity these days so when people tell me that they’ve listened to my album, taken time from their busy lives to listen to my music, i feel humbled and truly grateful… because that’s why we artists create isn’t it? to share our creations with others… so that means a lot to me.

so, with that said, thank you… to all of you who have shown your support over the two and a bit years. my heart is yours… x

sincerely,
Kat, but you can call me Miaow, like my cat does…

ps. i have added, in the caption/description, a little bit about each song’s origin and/or what inspired me to give each song its unique voice. i hope they resonate with you….

Miaow McDonald – Scotland

Soundcloud Stories

Miaow McDonald was one of my earlier finds on Soundcloud – she has a fantastic indie pop style which suits her cool chanteuse / noir-ish voice really well. All of her songs are excellently produced and well worth your listening time.

How did you get into music?

I grew up in a house full of music, all my family are musicians and so it was a natural part of my childhood development. we had an old piano in our home, lots of guitars and a huge collection of vinyl. i would listen to everything from Pink Floyd to Beethoven… from Johnny Cash to David Bowie… from Bach to Blondie. my main influences are Patti Smith, Thom Yorke, David Bowie, Joni Mitchell and Miles Davis. i admire their fearlessness, their theatre and their genius.

my brother bought me my first guitar, the same year my dad died. i was 13 and ‘Julio’…

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windows

a baby’s shoe on the window sill… a plastic vase full of pink plastic roses… closed blinds… wooden blinds… window sill stained with coffee rings… blue blinds… a blue giraffe… an array of pottery mushrooms that look like a row of tiny penises… all shapes and sizes… a stained glass window, very William Morris… grubby curtains, closed… a vase of daffodils… pro SNP stickers: “Scotland’s future is stronger” – i doubt that… a jar full of incense… more yellow SNP stickers… aluminium blinds… wooden blinds…. narrow slats, broad slats, broken slats… a dirty window… a grease-smeared window… a steamy window… a host of birthday cards, lots of hearts and flowers… an empty pint glass, adorned with a red lipstick smear… a black and white cat, licking his paw and washing his face in the sunshine… a vase of pink and yellow flowers… a statue of a dragon… broken blinds… a stained-glass window, a pastoral scene, cornflower blue sky, golden sun and rolling green hills in all shades of green… caged windows… bars on windows… a mobile of stuffed birds, i would rather see these birds alive in flight, not strung up on a piece of cord with their dead eyes and limp wings… pink plastic flowers in a pink plastic tub… four empty champagne bottles… a little wooden sign that spells ‘happiness’… a boarded up window… a ‘bag for life’ – contents unknown… wooden blinds… torn curtains… an assortment of seedlings in colourful little pots, soaking up the sun… plastic gnomes, one with a broken nose, looking out and longing for the garden… nicotine stained net curtains… an empty can of some high energy drink… pink orchids, are they real? two silver stars… a hanged leprechaun – did someone not enjoy St Patrick’s Day? plastic plants, faded by the sun… rainbows and wind chimes… a black ornament that looks remarkably like a butt plug… maybe it is… frosted glass, i can’t see inside but their garden looks really pretty… a vase full of dead flowers… bird shit on the window… baby’s shoe on the window sill…. come full circle…

this is a casual observation into the lives of strangers, made on my walk to and from work… i do not judge. i just say what i see… through the windows of peoples’ homes, their lives…

the somnambulist

hello….
as some of you may already know, i write, i take photographs and i make music. i am a creative little sprite… most of you won’t know this as i don’t really have much of an online presence with regards to social media. i have an instagram page – mainly for my photography work; i have wordpress sites for my writing outlet and i have soundcloud and bandcamp as my main musical platforms – although i am also on Spotify, iTunes, Applemusic, Deezer, Googleplay etc etc etc… i also have a YouTube channel that i currently under-utilise. i have no facebook or twitter or tiktok or whatsapp etc. i ditched facebook and twitter a year or so ago. i found them toxic and discriminatory. i found them to be a viperpit of hate, and full of fakery. i have tried to delete my instagram account but it’s like the Hotel California… i can never leave, it seems. despite me writing a stiff letter to them on numerous occasions, begging them to delete me.

so… i, being who i am, felt compelled to write a song about all the fakery of social media and all that that festers… it is a song called The Somnambulist. it is about the toxicity of social media (hence the blue tongue) and the fakery and virtue signalling going on in there….

when i was writing the song, i could hear trumpet blaring…. i wanted the lead instrument (aside from my voice) to be loud, brash, rude and direct… mocking, if you may. the trumpet would be perfect for that, so i sent a rough mix of the song to my friend, Cameron Jay, one of Edinburgh’s finest jazz musicians and asked if he would like to play some trumpet on a song on my forthcoming album. he did. he recorded several takes and myself and my producer, Aged Choir Boy, edited the takes here and there to use the trumpet’s brash voice for emphatic effect.

if you’re at all curious, here is a link to go listen…. LISTEN TO ‘THE SOMNAMBULIST’ HERE and for those of you who want to DOWNLOAD it, here’s a link to do that DOWNLOAD ‘THE SOMNAMBULIST’ HERE.

thank you for your time…. and thank you for listening.

it’s important to support new artists. we’re always the most appreciative. xx

Promenade


image (c) Miaow McDonald Photography 2021


today i took a walk along Kirkcaldy Promenade. it was a cold day, but the sea was a flat calm. like a black mirror.

promenade also means “to take a leisurely public walk, ride, or drive so as to meet or be seen by others…”. i found this interesting and relevant, given the amount of people walking the same walk as myself. i was walking to work but, ahead of schedule, i paused to watch the world go by. the Promenade was a busy place today. lots of people. everywhere. despite the brisk breeze blowing in from the open sea.

the tide was in. the sky was grey. the clouds hung out like giant ink blots. grey sky, grey sea, grey road, grey sea wall… a new sea wall… the result of more money invested in re-vamping this once thriving seaside town.

looking out at the murky horizon, i could barely make out the distinctive shape of the Bass Rock.

two oil platforms and one, two, three, four ships on the water. one of which looks like a cargo boat, with lots of colourful boxes stacked on top.

i giggle to myself as a Yorkshire terrier runs past me and stops to smell another dog’s puddle of piss.

a cyclist in pink trainers, sporting a pink water bottle and a pink face free-wheels past me.

it’s a busy place today.

a small child cries out for his mother. he has a runny nose.

today, there are lots of couples out for a stroll along the Esplanade. a promenade. they stop and chat briefly with other couples.

at the start of the Promenade there is a chequered line and a sign that says “Welcome to your Kirkcaldy Mile” – or words to that effect… i am guessing there must be another chequered line at the other end, to mark out that ‘Kirkcaldy Mile’. i don’t think i have ever walked that far along. maybe i have… i can’t recall. or maybe it’s just one of those things i never thought to look for as i have walked along this Esplanade many, many times… on an almost daily basis… and i have never noticed that sign until today!

another elderly couple walk past. the man is incredibly tall, rakish. they both look fit for their age… which i am guessing late 60s. they are holding hands. it’s lovely to see that they are still very much in love.

there is still a lot of construction and deconstruction work being carried out along the Prom as efforts are made to rejuvenate this strip and make it more attractive. a cold grey Riviera. new little car parks are appearing on the inland side. another revenue stream for the Council. more new blocks of flats spliced in between beautiful old buildings, although there are some architectural monstrosities… like the old multi-storey car park, built in the 70s. its then modern style has not aged well. it looks like it has been uprooted from war-torn Damask and dropped into place here. a carbuncle on the backside of Fife Council’s portfolio of architecture. i hope they pull it down.

i look out to see the sea. are they fracking the seabed out there? fuck knows.

a young woman in a black quilted coat has just walked past me, her mobile phone tucked under her chin as she tries to open a tin of Diet Coke with ridiculous long orange pointy nails. i smile to her but she does not return the smile. she has her hair scraped back from her face. she reeks of perfume. she has thick legs and her feet look like they have been shoe-horned into her black patent leather moccasins that seem to be two sizes too small for her.

a boy and his dog walk past and all i can think about is how they say that we, on a subconscious level, choose pets that look like us… i think that that is particularly true of dogs. i don’t think it’s true of cats. i don’t think that is possible. the boy and his dog could be brothers. they have the same squashed faces, squat build and short legs.

the cyclist with the pink trainers, pink water bottle and pink face pushes on past me in the opposite direction from before. she is pedalling hard this time. good for her. keeping herself fit!

a group of people approach me from my left. they have a huge Siberian husky with them, with a neckerchief around its neck. what a handsome dog, with his blue eyes. he, too, stops briefly to sniff the puddle of dog piss to my left.

i watch a seagull soar above my head. such a beautiful bird. i know some people regard them as a nuisance but i love them. to me, watching them glide on the thermals, they epitomise freedom.

all these changes must be affecting them too. more boats and ships in their sea. more pollution. more people on beaches. more pollution. more plastic. less fish. more rubbish and litter. why are seagulls pilfering kebabs and pizza?

so… if ‘promenade’ means a public walk way, to be seen or to meet… what about the collision of nature with man, or man with nature?

it’s all very well tarting up the Promenade to attract prospect and opportunity for economic growth, but at what cost to the wild:urban interface?

i will just leave you with that thought… i will leave it hanging there, like one of the dirty clouds now amassing overhead.

a dead high street

Kirkcaldy High Street was once a thriving, bustling thoroughfare. now all i see is decline and decay. empty shop units, their windows smeared in white grease… or boarded up with panels of damp and dank chipboard. if you stop and peer into these vacant lots you will see the past. you will see remnants of better days. you will see broken mannequins, standing like ghosts in the empty space… piles of junk mail in disarray behind boarded up doors… dirty floors, littered with broken fittings and redundant fixtures… discarded signs and price tags… abandoned cans of coke, pens and perhaps the odd glove or mask… or shoe. feathers from the units’ new residents – pigeons, who have found a way in, seeking refuge from the bitter cold winds that funnel up the many vennels from the Esplanade. sadly, you may also see a dead bird. the unlucky bird that could not find its way out again, lying rotting upon the floor.

now pedestrianised, i remember a time when this High Street was once choking with cars and leaded petrol fumes. a time when parking places were as rare as hens’ teeth. now it is empty. occasionally, cars creep along its length – seeking a short cut, or to drop off hugely optimistic shoppers.

the Mercat indoor shopping arcade still exists. its doors are still open but it is a gloomy and artificially lit space. there are no plants to offer a hint of cheer. the only signs of life are the people who venture in there to peruse the remaining shops. they shuffle around, like zombies, unsmiling. or they congregate on the seats by the bin stores, chatting or solemnly, phone in hand, chomping on their sausage rolls from Greggs the bakery. the air smells stale. the people look stale… beaten and depressed.

outside, on the High Street, the homeless huddle beneath their threadbare blankets holding out their dirty paper cups (from their last cup of take out coffee) hoping someone will kindly drop a couple of quid in there so that they can buy another cuppa to warm their hands, their hearts and perhaps, for just a moment, have their faith restored in humanity and the system. or perhaps it will afford them their great escape… a baggie of tobacco, speed or heroin. there is one homeless boy that i talk to frequently. he’s a cheeky chappie with an infectious laugh and toothless grin. he almost always has a smile to give. sometimes i buy him a cup of tea – 3 sugars and lots of milk. i don’t know his name. i asked him once and he said “what does it matter?”. the system is broken.

soon, Fife Council will be decorating the High Street with Christmas lights. a lame, vain attempt to make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear. the reality of economic decline in Kirkcaldy is incredibly sad. heart-breaking. the High Street is lined with many beautiful old buildings, each with unique facades. angels and gryffons gaze down on the street below. beautiful ornate chimney pots that once flew flags of smoke from warm hearths are now home to nesting gulls.

the gulls have moved inland. they have evolved. undeniably, they are intrinsically beautiful birds but are perceived, by many, to be a nuisance as they swoop down and aggressively steal food from the hands of unsuspecting shoppers, often children. to some, this must be terrifying. but we have been instrumental in creating these ‘monsters’… these ‘winged terrorists’. they have no desire or need to scavenge the nearby beach for a morsel of crab, or worms, when they can artfully snag a sausage roll or bag of crisps from the hands of passersby. they have no need to fish in the sea when they can have what’s left of a late night reveller’s kebab or fish supper – dumped on the street – despite the numerous bins provided by the Council. with a smörgåsbord of greasy junk food readily available, why would they exert themselves finding food elsewhere?

and speaking of fish… you can smell a queer and pungent fishy smell as you walk past the fish merchants. the stench heralds your arrival at this store front. my grandparents had a fish shop and i was always told that fresh fish has no smell so, with that said, why oh why does the air outside, on this stretch of road past this shop, reek of rotting fish? rotting fish? it is nauseating, particularly in the hot summer months.

this stench is only challenged in its potency by the smell of blood emanating from the buffalo farm butchers outlet a little further down the road.

pawn shops, phone shops, gift card shops and charity shops are the main staple on Kirkcaldy High Street these days, peppered with take-out joints and the odd and seemingly ‘out of place’ boutique or ‘specialist’ retailer.

the High Street runs parallel to The Esplanade, which has had a surreal amount of money invested in its regeneration. a face-lift… a lamented attempt to prettify, or gentrify, to kick-start the failing heart of the ‘Lang Toun’. new ‘luxury’ waterfront apartments, over-priced and overlooking the grim cold sea, are bolted onto the seaside strip in a prime location next to crumbling and derelict multi-storey car parking facilities. i find this sad, considering less than 500 yards away from these over-priced glass cubes are some of Kirkcaldy’s most beautiful and architecturally interesting old buildings, lying empty and in various states of decay. these mansions, with all their quirks and characterful stonemasonry, that could be even more beautiful with investment of time, money and imagination. but they lie cold and vacant, neglected, sad and forlorn. much like the homeless people huddled in vennels and bus shelters. and yet, these buildings – with their thick stoic walls and gracious ballustrades – remain beautiful. a beautiful reminder of better days. angels and lions look down on the empty street below with a sense of unshakeable pride. oh if only these mansions could talk…

but it is the people that break my heart every day. even before the ‘pandemic’ hit like a tsunami, the people looked sad. i see it in their eyes. i see their sadness, their fear, their frustration. they look beaten… ill… pale, unsmiling and (to use a good old-fashioned Scottish word) totally ‘scunnered’.

a walk along Kirkcaldy High Street is now, for me, a depressing shopping experience despite recent efforts to try resusitate it with pop-up markets on Fridays and Saturdays where stall-holders sell everything from bagels to beard oil… from tray bakes to trout… from artisan candles and quirky jewellery to second-hand vinyl records, knitted goods, wood carvings and printed t-shirts… despite all of this, the dark aura remains.

all the Big Retailers have, one by one, moved out to the retail parks where shoppers can park for FREE and not have to pay the £1.10 for one hour, as they do in the car parks serving the dying High Street. Marks & Spencers, BHS, Tesco, NEXT and Debenhams have all gone.

all that’s left are ghosts. ghosts in empty shops, in empty spaces, in the faces of those i pass by. ghost cars drive right through me as i walk up the middle of the High Street of my memory lane. a High Street that was once very much alive.


(c) Kat McDonald 2021
image (c) Miaow McDonald Photography 2021

Day One Hundred & Sixty: D is for Debris

on Monday 7th June, it would have been my mother’s 95th birthday. i wrote this… for her. i miss her, but i can still feel her warmth, her fire, when i think about her.

A is for Addict

d is for debris

there once was a fire.
a fire that warmed the heart.
a fire that kept us together.
a fire that gave protection.
a fire that welcomed kind strangers.

this fire burned bright,
even on days starved
of oxygen she burned as bright
as she could.
she was beautiful.

all that remains now is debris. memories.

all that remains now are ashes and echoes.
echoes of songs, of laughter and mirth.
ashes scattered on graves,
the graves of my father,
my brother,
her mother and father.
ashes upon ashes of the fires
that died before her.

only a small amount remain.
all that is left, of that beautiful fire, is
debris…
fragmented memories and near forgotten
smells and images…
old photographs and hairbrushes…
a favourite scarf, and letters.
tattered old postcards, lockets and other
empty shells…

proof of life, scattered, like debris
in the hearts and minds…

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Year Zero: Review of Forthcoming Debut Album by Miaow McDonald

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 Firestarts 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, Sisterwashes 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.

Aye yours,
Kat x

ps. you can call me Miaow… just like my cat does.

sister

LISTEN HERE…..

i have a lot of female friends. beautiful women. strong and intelligent women. i love them all dearly.
they all have their struggles and face them bravely, like lionesses… warriors.
we share a lot… as women, we talk about how we feel. but it’s not always easy…

these strong women in my life are my ‘sisters’… i am grateful for all that they are, and how they’ve ‘listened’ to me throughout my life… and i mean really listened. they have really cared.

women, as a sisterhood, have a supernatural bond… even their menstual cycles synchronise… isn’t that magical?
women give birth to new life… isn’t that something that is beyond beautiful?

and so, i wrote a song about women… it’s called ‘Sister’ and it’s a celebration of what it means to be ‘woman’, being someone’s mother, sister… or lover… or friend.

<< LISTEN HERE >>

“Sister” is the 5th of 13 or so songs from my forthcoming debut solo album, Year Zero.

“Sister” is also available on all other digital platforms to download and/or stream… iTunes, Spotify, Napster, Deezer, GooglePlay, AppleMusic, TikTok, YouTube etc etc etc…

(c)(p) written & performed by Miaow McDonald

lyrics:

hey… my sister
won’t you come to me
we can walk on the wet sand
and cry in the sea
hey… my sister
won’t you come to me
i’ll brush your hair
until you fall asleep…….

hey… my sister
i’ll be home soon
we can sing in the kitchen
and howl at the moon
hey… my sister
i’ll be home soon
and we’ll dance in the forest
and sleep until noon…

and sleep until noon…

credits:

released March 12, 2021

Engineered/co-produced by Robert Davidson, the ‘Aged Choir Boy‘.

Miaow McDonald: Vocals, Bass, Guitars, Synths, Tambourine Tickles & Scratches

Additional Musicians:

Robert Davidson: Drums, Additional Bass

my reboot: the online journal of my journey inward: day 73

u is for ursa major it will be four years, this July, since my mother left this world…. there’s not a single day that passes where i don’t miss her… where i don’t long to hold her close and smell her hair… where i don’t miss hearing her say my name… where i don’t think […]

Day Seventy-Three: U is for Ursa Major — A is for Addict