The Glasgow Guardian shines a light on our favourite, often (sadly) forgotten Scottish musical talents – all of which deserve centre stage on your Spotify playlists!
Scotland has produced some of the biggest names in the music industry both in Britain and on the global stage. Taking a look back over the music scene in Glasgow and beyond over the last thirty years, there are plenty of hidden gems, from a variety of genres, who were either under-appreciated at the time of their career or faded in fame in recent years. On top of this, there are numerous current artists who have not yet gained the recognition they deserve. We’ve selected our top fourteen Scottish artists as a recommendation for those looking to delve deeper into Scotland’s underrated talents – old and new.
Admiral Fallow formed in 2007 in Glasgow and have since released three albums, with the most recent being Tiny Rewards, released in 2015. Their sound would be best described as a mix between indie, folk, and pop with a blend of male and female vocals and added woodwind throughout most of their songs. Similar bands include Frightened Rabbit (who they have collaborated with in the past), The Twilight Sad, and Lau. The band will also be playing at this year’s online Celtic Connections festival for keen listeners.
Song recommendation: Squealing Pigs, Boots Met My Face (2015)
Hailing from Kilmarnock, Fatherson are a three-piece indie band who have toured with all sorts of big names in the music industry including Biffy Clyro and Panic! at the Disco. They have a loyal fanbase, having sold out the Barrowland Ballroom in 2018, and have released three full-length albums since they formed around 2010. Best for fans of City and Colour or Biffy Clyro’s more recent albums – Fatherson are one to watch.
Song recommendation: Always, Open Book (2016)
Formerly a duo, Honeyblood is now a solo project by Stina Tweeddale from Edinburgh and combines authentic Scottish charm with clear American influence. The sound could be described as a mix between Joan Jett and the Foo Fighters with the most recent album, In Plain Sight, heralding a heavier grunge style. Honeyblood’s latest album made it onto the longlist for the 2020 SAY Awards, proving Honeyblood to be a hit.
Song recommendation: Sea Hearts, Babes Never Die (2016)
Flood of Red
Previously active members of the Glasgow music scene, Flood of Red have been quiet in recent days. However, in 2019, they embarked on a UK tour to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of their successful first album, Leaving Everything Behind. Flood of Red were most active during the success of a wave of British alternative rock bands and have a similar sound to some big names from the scene, like We Are The Ocean, yet their distinct Scottish accent and atmospheric melancholy set them apart from the crowd.
Song recommendation: Harmony, Leaving Everything Behind (2010)
The XCERTS formed in 2001 in Aberdeen, have released four albums and played festivals up and down the country. Their most recent album (apart from their covers EP, including a cover of Avril Lavigne’s Complicated) In The Cold Wind We Smile is their most accomplished work to date – combining massive pop choruses, catchy vocals and even a saxophone at times. The XCERTS is one to listen to for fans of Twin Atlantic and Feeder.
Song recommendation: Feels Like Falling in Love, Hold on to Your Heart (2018)
Motherwell-founded, rock and hip-hop trio The LaFontaines have been part of the Glasgow music scene for over a decade now combining rock guitar riffs with frontman Kerr Okan’s strong Glaswegian rapping and anthemic choruses. Although it’s difficult to describe their exact sound, as it fuses multiple genres, The LaFontaines are best explained as the love-child of a Scottish Beastie Boys cover band and Franz Ferdinand. This band is definitely at their most impressive live, so keep an eye out when gigs start up again!
Song recommendation: Release the Hounds, Common Problem (2017)
2014 Mercury Prize winners Young Fathers are a pop trio based in Edinburgh. Their sound is influenced by a wide range of musical styles such as hip-hop, soul, Afropop and gospel. This reflects the band’s diverse backgrounds, as their members have Nigerian, Liberian and Scottish roots. Their music is for fans of Everything Everything and Jai Paul, but their blend of influences makes it difficult to draw simple comparisons – so check them out to get a better idea of their unique style.
Song recommendation: In My View, Cocoa Sugar (2018)
VUKOVI are a rock duo from Kilwinning in North Ayrshire who have released two full-length albums, including their self-titled debut album, which earned them a place on the SAY Awards longlist in 2017. They have a high-energy pop-punk sound similar to that of Marmozets and Deaf Havana. Their latest album Fall Better addresses their lead vocalist, Janine’s struggles with mental health and its sound is somehow even more energetic than their first album.
Song recommendation: La Di Da, VUKOVI (2017)
The most chilled entry on this list is up-and-coming Aberdonian singer-songwriter Scarlett Randle. Similar in sound to Phoebe Bridgers, Prides, and Bon Iver, Randle’s earlier singles were mainly stripped back and acoustic-based, but her most recent work has been influenced by electronic music. Randle experiments best with this style in her 2020 single Lately, our recommendation for first-time listeners.
Song recommendation: Lately (2020)
80s indie-pop group The Pastels were a firm favourite of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain during the height of their success in the Glasgow music scene. Often described as “cult heroes” and “virtually unknown outside of the scene”, The Pastels are known for jangly guitar sounds, trippy style and long pauses between albums and tours. Today, fans of Dean Blunt might recognise The Pastels’ 1993 track Over My Shoulder as the backbone/sample in his 2014 hit 100. The Pastels are for fans of experimental soft rock and are similar to The Vaselines, BMX Bandits, and The Field Mice.
Song recommendation: Comin’ Through, Truckload of Trouble (1993)
Lloyd Cole and the Commotions
Lloyd Cole and the Commotions formed while attending the University of Glasgow and were only active between 1984-1989. Despite their short career together, they achieved success in the UK charts multiple times, were played on Radio One and performed on Top of the Pops. They have an unmistakable 80s sound similar to The Waterboys, The Go-Betweens and The Cure. Two years ago, Lloyd Cole brought out a solo album Guesswork, much to the delight of fans of the Commotions.
Song recommendation: Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken, Rattlesnakes (1984)
Another member of the 80s Scottish music scene, Altered Images were a new wave, pop band most active 1981-1983. Although considered underrated both at the time and after their break-up, the band achieved moderate success particularly with their last album Bite, having had multiple UK top 40 singles and appearing on Top of the Pops multiple times. Their sound is a mix of post-punk and new wave, as they combine pop melodies with slightly sadder lyrics, producing a style similar to Blondie, Bow Wow Wow, and fellow Scots, Orange Juice.
Song recommendation: Don’t Talk to Me About Love, Bite (1983)
The Delgados were a 90s indie rock band hailing from Motherwell who were together for 10 years, producing five studio albums, as well as a 29-track album, containing recordings from sessions with Radio One DJ John Peel. Despite frequent tours and prolific songwriting, the band eventually split due to underwhelming commercial success. Their sound mixes clear grunge influence with singer Emma Pollock’s clean, soft vocals. The Delgados are for fans of Pavement and Nirvana.
Song recommendation: All You Need Is Hate, Hate (2002)
Key players in the Scottish New Wave scene, Glasgow duo Rose McDowall and Jill Bryson founded the experimental, poppy Strawberry Switchblade in 1981. Styling large bows (before Jojo made it cool), heavy eyeliner, and donning a plethora of polka-dots – the band quickly became popular overseas, specifically in Japan, partially due to their Boy George-meets-Harajuku-style image, without finding fame closer to home. Yet, underneath their bubblegum-pop image and sound, lurked darker themes of agoraphobia and fears of nuclear war. Before disbanding in 1986, the duo’s unique spin on classics like Velvet Underground’s Sunday Morning and Dolly Parton’s Jolene established them as a Scots duo to be reckoned with.
Song recommendation: Go Away, Strawberry Switchblade (1985)