Album Review: Owen McAulay


Owen McAulay-‘Time.’ (sans-culottes)

There is a peculiarly Scottish melancholy that I have tuned into over the course of eleven years of living here. I hear it in the music of eagleowl, Meursault, Idlewild, Arab Strap (and their associated projects), and perhaps most of all, Mogwai. As an outsider who has come to call Scotland home, I wonder if it is to do with the weather as much as the way Calvinism slips into the water like a particularly vicious form of something (something that has nowt to do with religion, God or society and everything to do with the need to feel bad about yourself, I find myself thinking in my darker moments).

And I hear this melancholy in this solo work of Smackvan’s Owen McAulay. It is a thing of beauty, not a thing of wallowing in it. A beautifully stripped down work, performed almost entirely by the man himself. It hangs together as a very coherent body of work (no mean feat considering it came together between 2005 and 2012). For much of the album I had a lump in my throat – so sad, yet so utterly compelling a piece of work.

And there’s lyrics that in the hands of so many would seem utterly trite, for example on ‘All Is Fine’ we hear:
‘My daughter has a child
I have a grandson and I’m happy
He looks at me and smiles’

In the context of this album, it offers a glimmer of home, of hope, and is genuinely warm, something few could actually pull off.

I can’t claim to know much of his work before, but on the strength of this amazing record I want to get my hands on everything he’s done.

A contender for album of the year, out of over 200 I have heard so far in 2012. Beg, steal or borrow a copy, but I really think you should buy it. And listen to it. Lots. Lots and lots…


Time is out now on sans-culottes

Stream at CD Baby.

You can buy it from there, and you should also check your local independent record store if you live in Scotland for it

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