> SNACK Bits (February 2024) – Scotland's Essential New Music Guide - SNACK: Music, film, arts and culture magazine for Scotland

SNACK Bits (February 2024) – Scotland’s Essential New Music Guide

Now we’re up and running. Celtic Connections is over, Dry January is in the bin, there’s a touch more daylight to enjoy, and whether you love, loathe or avoid Valentine’s Day, you’ve got an opinion on it. It’s February, and SNACK Bits is coming alive for 2024.

And to ensure we steer clear of the cliché of love this month, we’ll start with an evil track. ‘Evil’ by Fright Years has split opinion amongst the SNACK writers, but if the people who aren’t fans of it want to make their thoughts heard, they should write this column. They don’t, which means the track receives a public endorsement from us.

The Edinburgh act have always had a glacial touch to their tunes, but here there’s an added level of menace to the juddering rhythm at the start before we reach the spirited push to the end. Singer Jules Kelly leads the way, shifting us from eerily hushed vocals to that emphatic end, and it’s a song that could soundtrack a whole host of shows and emotions.

Silvi is also back with a menacing number, with ‘Visions’ carrying a dark side. As you’d expect, it’s a great showcase for her impressive vocal range, and even though the track moves at a modest pace, there’s enough twists to leave you in a sense of dread.

Pre save: linktr.ee/silvimusichq

The same vibe and tone is offered by SALT on ‘Roly Moes’. There’s clearly something in the water, or maybe the whisky, that sees so many acts delivering tracks brimming with suspicion. With this track, it veers into something more traditional, especially with the chorus, making for a simple yet intriguing number.

Dragged Up are building to their High On Ripple album, due out in April, with ‘Missing Person’, which should be with you by the time this magazine is out. There’s a punkish feel, but in a restrained way, and the spiky yet poppy guitar lines and chorus should be up the street of people old enough to know better, and those who wish they were. It’s a cliché, but it has the hallmarks of a song that will go down well live.

‘Facelift’ by Dutch Wine is another dark number, but with big guitars and a tempo you can swing to. This is quite a captivating tune that should appeal to those who like to rock out, and sets the tone for an EP that will be popping up on the horizon.

Speaking of EPs, but changing musical style, we have Randan. The name suggests we’re in line for a rollicking good time, and while it takes a bit of time to swing into action, opener ‘Whisper’ from the Silence Breaks Through release offers just that. It’s an acoustic collection, but there’s plenty of up-tempo moments and the solos or flourishes add something to spice things up. It feels very Scottish in tone, so if you’re feeling patriotic, this could be ideal.

Then again, sometimes an EP doesn’t scratch the itch: you need something more. If quirky, cool electro appeals (which it should), Aurora Engine has a Secret Knock you should check out. ‘Ice Pop Shop’ is the lead single, wrapping itself around you with a mix of drama, theatre and off-kilter hooks. The artist has picked up plenty of airplay: it’s the sort of thing that cuts through the airwaves leaving listeners going: who, or what, was that? If you fancy seeing and hearing it all live, The Wee Red Bar on 16th February is the place to be.

You probably don’t need us to tell you Arab Strap are back, and let’s leave the editors the task of worrying about how they’ll present their album title. As it is, comeback single ‘Bliss’ is danceable, threatening, and enlightening. That’s all you need for a great night out, and we’ll join the throng looking forward to the rest of the new material.

Walt Disco are also back, and ‘Pearl’ is a rather unique number that glides by smoothly. It’s got the feel of a song that would be more at home on a beach, but it’s Scotland and February. This means it’s chilled and slightly blue, even if it’s sashaying with all its heart. Hopefully, this song is a taster of a bit more to come from these charming outsiders in the Scottish scene.

One of the best things about bands from Glasgow (and Lanarkshire, let’s not claim everyone lives under the one roof) is how much they love sunshine bands from America, and who can blame them? One of the greatest Alasdair Gray lines (and it’s from Lanark, but it’s been referenced a lot recently in relation to Poor Things) is ‘If a city hasn’t been used by an artist, not even the inhabitants live there imaginatively’, and while that’s kind of true, why wouldn’t you want to replicate the sound of joy and hope that comes from not having to wear a parka coat to school in the middle of summer? Give us chiming melodies, sun-kissed lyrics about cars, waves and the giddy smell of suncream and ambition, not horizontal rain, grey days and Vicks.

As a quick aside, this column hasn’t seen Poor Things yet, not because we’re outraged about Glasgow not featuring in it, but because steampunk aesthetics are a lot of bollocks, and shouldn’t be encouraged. Best to watch that in the house when snide remarks about the style won’t place me at risk of a punch to the back of the head.

Anyways, returning to Scottish bands capturing the hope and happiness associated with sunnier climes, The Plastic Youth give us ‘Frankie’, with winsome vocals, pleasant builds and a sense of wonder we hope they never lose. If social media chat is anything to go by, The Tyde are gearing up to release new material in 2024, which is brilliant news. More surf, more sunshine, fewer cares and worries. The Plastic Youth are in that ballpark (skatepark) and while the chilly start-of-year vibes are making that such an enticing prospect, it’ll likely feel as good when that day of sunshine joins us.

Then again, that’s in the future, and we’re here in the now, so it’s good that Naafi brings us all indoors and invites us onto the dance floor. ‘Magnolia’ is a tingly and tinkling number, one for soft lights and sharp moves, with a hint of a pressing tempo that needs to take care of business. The vocals supplement without overwhelming the musical backing, and it’s easy to see why so many people are getting excited about it. At just shy of three minutes, this track leaves you wanting more, and all indications are there’s plenty more on offer from Naafi. This is one of the great things about this time of year: it’s positively brimming with possibilities and plans.

Leif Coffield keeps us on the dance floor, but the kicks are harder, the temperature is hotter, and the 80s vibe is doubling down. It’s exactly what you want from a song called ‘Fire It Up’, and the slick production makes it a very pleasant listen.

We’re taking you on a musical journey here, and neverfine have an ideal track to transition from the dance floor to the couch or kitchen. ‘Colours’ is mostly laid back, with a few kicks and bites to ensure you don’t nod off. The vocals are lovely without demanding attention, marking this act out as one that is well worth paying attention to.

The neverfine track is the sort of thing Susan Bear used to serve up regularly, but now she’s dishing out something far more energetic with a rave-computer style vibe. When you get your second wind, or want to liven up proceedings, ‘Shake (Say Yes)’ has all the attributes you need to power up and push on.

Hopefully there’s a lot more of this to come from this artist as you feel as though there’s a lot more to explore here, especially across the galloping final minute. And talking of the galloping final minute, we’re almost at the finishing line.

The Zebecks fire up the indie dance floor with ‘Medicate’, complete with fuelled-up verses and singalong chorus. On the surface, it’s a blast, and sure to perk up ears when played on the radio or even in a club, but delving into the lyrics sees the band tackle toxic masculinity and male entitlement. It’s never a bad time to have a think about this, and whether it’s yourself or someone you’re close to who displays these traits, dropping this song might start a conversation that makes a change. We all want music to soundtrack our fun times, but it might also be the catalyst for improvement that really makes a difference.

Listen/pre-save: linktr.ee/thezebecks

And that seems like a good way to wrap things up for this month. February is a short one, so why not try and do something for yourself over its length? If it sticks and becomes a good habit, you’ll reap the benefits for years to come. Or whatever: this is just a music column.There’s better places to find life advice!

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