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Album reviews: Admiral Fallow, Hen Hoose, Annie Booth, Callum Easter

By Stuart McHugh
Friday, 24th December 2021, 1:03 pm
Updated Friday, 24th December 2021, 1:04 pm

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Admiral Fallow - The Idea of You

Not ones for unduly rushing out releases, this Glaswegian collective may have met their match with their first album in six years. Their fourth long-player comes courtesy of the Chemikal Underground imprint - once a prolific label which launched the careers of Mogwai, Arab Strap and bis, it was founded by Mercury nominees The Delgados, but has become less prolific since its owner’s demise.

This album however is well entrenched in all things Scottish indie and Louis Abbot’s ensemble share most with the sounds of their bosses - big, elegiac melodies and widescreen arrangements. ‘Sleepwalking’ is an understated opener: “What would you want with someone who’s only in love with the idea of you?” - while the confessional ‘The Grand National, 1993’ contrasts with ‘Dragonfly’, which bowls along with krautrock rhythms.

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    ‘Tuesday Grey’ is brooding but powerful, while closer ‘Soliton’ has something of a mini rock opera feel, swinging from bombast to quiet reflection, and concluding a release that’s well worth the wait.

    Annie Booth - Lazybody

    Edinburgh songwriter Annie Booth can often be found live in fully acoustic mode, but on record she bolsters her beautiful melodies with full-on instrumental workouts.

    On debut ‘An Unforgiving Light’ she was largely in ‘rock’ mode whereas the sound on this sophomore effort is fuller, with more piano flourishes, while single ‘Cocoon’ sets up the album with its sweeping strings.

    Other highlights (there are many) include the decidedly spooky spoken word ‘Nightvan’ while the confessional ‘Collector’ sees Booth enveloped by her mini-orchestra. The end product rivals contemporaries such as Beth Orton or Phoebe Bridgers, producer Chris McCrory ensuring the perfect sonic backdrop to the combination of Booth’s songwriting and vocals on what is a very special set of songs.

    Callum Easter - System

    While Callum Easter’s debut album was a mix of understated synth-washed pop hooks and skewed DIY blues recorded with the team behind Mercury winners Young Fathers, its follow-up was largely performed on a charity shop accordion.

    So the fact that this third long-player employs ticking rhythm units, dentist drill synths comes as no great surprise.

    Though that is the opener ‘What You Think?”, whereas the album’s title track has the same rhythmic urgency but a Northern Soul feel as Easter celebrates “sweet music everywhere” before stating in no uncertain terms what he would have us to with “the system”.

    ‘Little Honey’ similarly has the ticking percussion and barbed guitar with a choral backing - the choir is by this point ever-present, driven along by a glam rock big beat.

    The final pair of tracks are sub 2 minutes with ‘This Feeling’ a funky workout driven by mouth organ over a hook that may be drawn from 60s hit ‘Iko Iko’ while what sounds like quite the party carries on in the background. With Easter providing the perfect soundtrack.

    Hen Hoose: Equaliser

    DIY releases usually stem from a lack of interest from ‘The Man’, and this compilation does so quite literally.

    The all-female collective, formed in Scotland to ”address the gender imbalance in the music industry”, offer real diversity of content, with musicians of different musical genres mixing and matching to great effect.

    It seems like something unexpected comes with every tune – Admiral Fallow’s Sarah Hayes is the unlikely recipient of an Elisabeth Elektra dance makeover, while Emma Pollock’s duet with folk act Inge Thomson is as good as anything from her considerable canon.

    The release is tinged with sadness as spine-tingling finale ‘Burn It All’ features Beldina Odenyo, who recently passed away, but rounds off an album which acts as a fitting tribute.