Yesterday, Saturday the 5th of November, saw yet another ~Streetlamp~ expedition to Scotland's REAL capital, Glasgow. We found ourselves skittering about in the East End this time, walking around the People's Palace, an extraordinary building on Glasgow Green, right in the shadow of The Gorbals (where my Grandfather was born and raised!). After that it was visit to Trongate 103 for another viewing of Griff's favourite, the Sharmanka Theatre (see previous blog). Then it was the customary Guinness and spicy chips in the 13th Note, and it was as we left there and made our way back along London Road, against the flow of people heading towards the Green for the fireworks display, that we really noticed that Winter is "Icumen In".
The thin hazy sunlight of earlier was now replaced with that icy crystal clear blackness, plumes of breath filling the air like a freezing fog....
And it was as we felt Winter take its first grip that I pondered on the music of Winter, and how there weren't that many artists whose music seems to capture the very essence of that season. Of course Summer has it's minstrels in abundance from the Beach Boys to virtually any happy-clappy rave tune that holidaymakers adopt when visiting sunnier climes. And it could be argued that artists such as Simon & Garfunkel or The Mamas & Papas had an Autumnal quality, but no one really seems to capture that pure embodiment of the Winter months...
Except maybe Laura Watling!
It may seem odd that someone who hails from the sunbaked swelter of South California could ever encapsulate the coldest season, but take a listen, for starters, to 'Barney & Me' below....
Well? Did you hear it? Doesn't it have a Winter vibe? Couldn't you hear the snow falling, or the trudge of boots on compacted ice? Not only does the music have a chilly vibe to it, but Laura's voice just has such an icy resonance to it. Whether it's intentional or not, I really don't know, but I can think of no other artist whose music captures such a frosty feel without sounding Christmassy.
Laura's musical career started back in 1996 when she was part of So Cal's Indiepop cult legends The Autocollants who specialised in an American take on Sarah Records blueprint with some considerable artistic success. The band only lasted a little over a year, releasing a handful of fine EPs, some tracks of which can be downloaded for free at their Last.fm page.
The Autocollants music may have a slightly warmer vibe to their sound, but you can already hear a 'sweet but distant' tone in Laura's vocals.
It was around the year 2000 that Laura first began releasing her own solo recordings through the wonderful Shelflife Records, home of such ~Streetlamp~ favourites as Evening Lights, Days, The Proctors and A Smile And A Ribbon.
I find her songs so uplifting, yet in a strange way so detached. Her songs sound like what I hoped to hear every time I bought a new Sarah release, or whenever I purchased a 7" single in a wrap-around sleeve from the records shops on the Byres Road in Glasgow.
Perhaps the best example of Laura's 'Wintry' music is her mini album '25', which unfortunately I cannot bring you any examples of tonight as none appear to be available in either video or Soundcloud form, but which you can download here.
I find this album to be the pinnacle of her solo songwriting; the glacial sound of 'Under The Ice' capturing a frozen white vista in it purest form; the almost too aching melancholy of 'Cleaning', tambourine tinkling like snowdrops; the spectral ambiance of 'This River Will Never Run Dry' wrapping you up like a warm jumper and a mug of hot soup. Of course all of this is meaningless if you haven't heard the songs, so I urge you to download the album and give it a listen.
Here's a couple of others just to give you a taster.
Laura Watling - One More Way To Amuse Myself by Sebastian Johann
You can also download her 'When You Didn't Come' EP here
And if you visit her Last.fm page there are some full tracks to listen to, and a couple of Free Downloads as well.
So, with meteorologists predicting a 'Siberian Winter' hitting Scotland in a couple of weeks, I guess the best thing we can do is snuggle up with Laura Watling!
Well, we can but dream!