Album Review: Withered Hand

Withered Hand New Gods

Withered Hand -‘New Gods’ (FortunaPOP!)

Nearly twenty years ago, around the time of the release of Blur’s The Great Escape and Oasis’ (What’s The Story?) Morning Glory‘ either the NME or (the now-defunct) Melody Maker carried an advert that suggested those responsible for it more than knew their market. ‘Granny’ll buy you Blur and Oasis for Christmas,’ read the advert. ‘Buy Garbage now.’ And many people did buy that debut Garbage album.

I bring this seemingly trivial anecdote up because there’s three albums coming out that I think you should own, each of them brilliant and very different. One is Beck’s Morning Phase, another is Pharrell Williams’ G I R L and the third is Withered Hand’s New Gods. Like the other two albums, it has been a bit of a wait for Dan Willson’s sophomore album (don’t leave off the second ‘l’!), five years since his debut Good News.

And it’s been worth the wait. This is a more than worthy successor to Good News, and the gap was bridged by the release of two very fine EPs in 2012, Heart Heart and Inbetweens. It’s more of an upbeat sounding record, and the two opening tracks ‘Horseshoe’ and ‘Black Tambourine’ give a flavour of what to expect, with a song as evocative of the West Coast of America as it is of DiY jangle-pop.

Make no mistake, it’s still Dan Willson and he’s still got a way with a tune and as fine a lyricist as the Isles have produced in many a year. Even with the impressive list of people who he’s played with and those who collaborate on the record (members of eagleowl, Belle & Sebastian, Frightened Rabbit and The Vaselines, amongst many others), it’s a record of someone who’s travelled the world playing his songs and that’s seeped into the greater confidence on display here. Perhaps the standout track is ‘King of Hollywood’ about a night out in LA with his friend and mentor King Creosote.

No doubt there’ll have to be some idiot who’ll grumble about Mr. Willson and his fine supporting case stepping into a proper studio for the first time, with noted producer Tony Doogan at the helm. These people should keep their opinions to themselves. It’s an accomplished and polished album, and all the better for it.

I’m sure you can get Pharrell or Beck later on. Buy Withered Hand now.


New Gods is released on March 10 on FortunaPOP!

The long-awaited sophomore album from Withered Hand

Withered Hand New Gods

It seems like it’s been a long time coming, but the long-awaited sophomore album from Dan Willson AKA Withered Hand will be released on March 10 via Fortuna POP! in Europe and Slumberland in North America.

New Gods is the follow-up to 2009’s Good News and the list of who is involved includes a veritable who’s who of the Scottish indie scene of the last 25 years. That’s people like King Creosote, The Vaselines’ Eugene Kelly, Belle & Sebastian’s Stevie Jackson and Chris Geddes,and Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison. Not only that, but the album was produced by Tony Doogan, who’s helmed records by Teenage Fanclub, Belle & Sebastian and Mogwai.

The tracklisting for the album is as follows:

1. Horseshoe
2. Black Tambourine
3. Love Over Desire
4. King Of Hollywood
5. California
6. Fall Apart
7. Between True Love And Ruin
8. Life Of Doubt
9. New Gods
10. Heart Heart
11. Not Alone

‘Black Tambourine’ was in my Festive Fifty last year and ‘Horseshoe’ is the new single. Get your ears round these. The album has just arrived at 17 Seconds Towers today and I’m one very happy bunny. It sounds awesome so far!

Happy New Year!


Hey folks.

Happy New Year and hope you had a good one. I’d not intended to take such a long break from the blog, but I hope you had a good time.

It’s fair to say that 2013 was a pretty great year for music, and there was no shortage of releases for people to get excited about. It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that it’s becoming increasingly common for albums to appear with little or no fanfare. Three cases from the year that spring to mind are the surprise announcement of David Bowie’s first album in a decade, The Next Day on his 66th Birthday on January 8. Towards the end of the year, a matter of days after Beyonce’s label chief had told the world that her fifth solo album would be out at some point in 2014, it was released overnight via iTunes. And after a gap that made The Stone Roses and Guns ’n’ Roses seems slight by comparison, My Bloody Valentine suddenly stuck their head up above the parapet and announced that their twenty years in the making m b v would be available in a matter of hours – and it was.

Of course, these were surprises for different reasons, with the big deal with Bowie being that it was assumed he had quietly retired. But as far as we know, this is what to expect in 2014 (NB dates are for the UK).

Even January looks like being not as dead as you might expect. January 6 sees Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks release the sixth Malkmus solo album Wig Out At Jagbags. The same day will also see the release of Plagues of Babylon by Iced Earth, Nina Persson Animal Heart and Patterns Waking Lines. A week later, January 13, the day of the latest Bruce Springsteen album High Hopes, Broken Bells release After The Disco, Gyratory System Utility Music, East India Youth Total Strife Forever,Run The Jewels Run The Jewels and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings Give The People What They Want. January 20 is the day that Mogwai (above) Rave Tapes, Warpaint Warpaint, Rifles None The Wiser, Beth Nielsen Chapman Uncovered, Sophie Ellis-Bextor Wanderlust and Mary Chapin Carpenter Songs From The Movies hits the street. January 27 is a busy day with releases from Cymbals The Age Of Fracture, Dum Dum Girls Too True, Indica Shine, Of Mice and Men Restraining Force, Primal Fear Delivering The Black, Red Dragon Cartel Red Dragon Cartel, David Crosby Croz, Paul Rodgers Royal Sessions, Mike Oldfield Man On The Rocks, and You Me At Six Cavalier Youth.

Watch out for bored journalists somewhere writing about a possible Britpop revival for ooh, at least half an hour (it was twenty years ago after all), when in late January there are re-issues from Ocean Colour Scene (Ocean Colour Scene and Marchin’ Already, released on January 20), Gene (who re-issue their first four studio albums Olympian, Drawn To The Deep End, Revelations, Libertine and the compilation To See The Lights on January 27), Cast (who re-issue All Change, Mother Nature Calls, Magic Hour and Beetroot on January 27 and two of Luke Haines’ 1990s acts The Auteurs and Baader Meinhof (re-issuing New Wave and Baader Meinhof, respectively also on January 27).

February will see Katy B Little Red, Maximo Park Too Much Information, Young Fathers DEAD, Quilt Head In Splendour, Rosanne Cash The River And The Thread, Grand Magus Triumph And Power, Family Rain Under The Volcano, Bombay Bicycle Club So Long, See You Tomorrow, Within Temptation Hydra, Arthur Beatrice Working Out, Seth Lakeman Word Of Mouth and an as yet untitled McFly album (February 3). There will also be releases from Cheatahs Cheatahs, Temples Sun Structures, Neil Finn Dizzy Heights, Cage The Elephant Melophobia (February 10), We Are The In Crowd Weird Kids and Death Vessel Island Intellectuals (February 17), St. Vincent St. Vincent and Milagres Violent Light (February 24).

March meanwhile will give us the release of Rufus Wainwright’s compilation Vibrate on March 3. This will be followed by Metronomy Love Letters, Joan As Policewoman The Classic, Fenster The Pink Caves, Blood Red Shoes’ self-titled fourth album and Elbow’s sixth as yet untitled album (March 10), Lyla Foy Mirrors The Sky, Sabina Toujours, Black Lips Underneath The Rainbow (March 17),Jimi Goodwin Odludek and Johnny Cash’s unreleased album Out Among The Stars (March 24). This month will also see the release of Kaiser Chiefs Education Education Education And War and Band Of Skulls Himalayan (March 31).

In Scotland, Edinburgh has often played second fiddle to Glasgow, but there are new releases expected from Withered Hand, Broken Records, Meursault and The Last Battle. No confirmed release dates as yet, but well worth keeping an eye out for.

There are albums with titles but no firm release date as yet… including Manic Street Preachers Futurology, Kelis Food, Tori Amos Unrepentant Geraldines, Professor Green Growing Up In Public, Azealia Banks’ long awaited debut Broke With Expensive Taste, Blondie Ghosts Of Download, Beck Morning Phase, and Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga’s duets album Cheek To Cheek. LCD Soundsystem are also expected to release a live album of their final show in New York.

…while there are a number of artists who have been spotted near studios of late, including Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Interpol, Wu-Tang Clan, Brian Wilson, Adele, Damon Albarn (who is said to be working on both a solo album and a new Blur album), The Horrors, Staves, Carl Barat, Health, Charlatans, Howler, Best Coast, Muse, Big Pink, Alabama Shakes, Lily Allen, Bodycount, Black Submarine, Bwani Junction, Dead Weather, Cypress Hill, Snow Patrol, Jay Electronica, Emeli Sande, Sia, Solange, Flying Lotus, Foster The People, Liars, Let’s Wrestle, First Aid Kit, Courtney Love, Mastodon, Maccabees, TV On The Radio, Lana Del Rey, Metallica, Frank Ocean, Nine Black Alps, Modest Mouse, Rita Ora, TLC, Smashing Pumpkins, Wild Beasts and last but by no means least, Kanye West.

And artists who seem to have been working on new albums forever, including U2, La Roux and Klaxons are set to have albums out. Outkast are also set to return in 2014. Me? Well, I’ve already set aside Christmas money for vinyl versions of Mogwai, Warpaint and Stephen Malkmus…

You can also stream the Stephen Malkmus album in its entirety:

Getting ready for 2014 part 6

Hello again.


First of all (just in case you wondered) I didn’t go away, but the admin system on the blog started playing up, but it’s fixed now.

It’s been a long time coming, but February 2014 will see the return of Dan Willson AKA Withered Hand and his long-awaited sophomore album New Gods.

More details over at God Is In The TV (which is where I found out about it from, so give them the credit!) but this is the first track to do the rounds, entitled ‘Black Tambourine.’

There’s lots of wonderful guests, giving it an awesome scots indie pedigree. And you can pre-order it over at iTunes (and yes, I have already!) before it comes out on Monday…

The return of Withered Hand

Withered Hand

Photo Laura Lewis

Dan Willson, AKA Withered hand is due to release the long-awaited follow-up to his Good News LP in 2014.

Having released a couple of EPs – Heart Heart and Inbetweens last year, he is shortly to release a split single with Charles Latham, on Hangover Lounge Records.

Dan’s song is ‘King of Hollywood’ a garage version (as in punk rather than UK 2step -though that would be, umm, different) of a track from the forthcoming album.

Meanwhile, he will be playing a very special gig in Edinburgh during August. Read about his gig with support from The Vaselines’ Eugene Kelly and the Second Hand Marching Band here.

Act quickly on the single, limited to 150 copies, try Avalanche Records in Edinburgh, Rough Trade in London and the website

Gig Review: Meursault/Found/Withered Hand

Meursault/Found/Withered Hand

Edinburgh Liquid Rooms, April 26

Put on as part of Haddowfest, even before a note had been played, on paper this was a fantastic gig featuring three of Edinburgh’s finest acts. And given the profile that both Meursault and Withered Hand now have – having headlined the much bigger Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh in their own respective rights- at this point in their respective careers it could be argued that this was an intimate gig.

Doors were at seven so I was aghast to arrive at twenty-past seven to find Dan Willson and his band well into their set. Focusing on new songs, they sounded brilliant, and when the long-awaited follow-up to Good News appears, don’t expect it simply to be part 2 on the evidence of tonight.

‘Hi, we’re Found…we think.’ Found have parted company with bassist Tommy Perman, but the new look, two-piece band are now trading in rather fine analogue electronica. Their most recent album, 2011’s Factorycraft saw them reaching new heights critically and commercially, so let us hope that they continue. ‘Bangin’ has been the description of their recent shows -and I would agree.

Neil Pennycook and his merry men take to stage with a reminder from the compere that they have been longlisted for the Scottish Album Of The Year Award, alongside obvious pals like Paws, Errors and RM Hubbert and commercial heavyweights like Calvin Harris and Emelie Sandé. To my shame, I hadn’t seen a full band show from Meursault before, but I’m in quite a hurry to see them again. If their third album, Something For The Weakened demonstrated that they had evolved from folk-meets-electronica (don’t you dare call them folktronica!), then live this is one step even further. Opening with ‘Flittin’ they show that actually they can rock -but on their own terms.

This is perhaps best demonstrated by ‘Crank Resolutions’ which live is more in keeping with the magnificent melancholia of The Blue Nile or Mogwai. It’s not to say that Meursault are a miserable band -live on stage Neil Pennycook is on fine form, and quite the cheery bloke. He even dedicates ‘Dull Spark’ to Oskar ‘who is four today!’ Between their first album in 2008 Pissing On Bonfires/Kissing With Tongues and the present there’s an impressive trajectory, and it will be interesting to see what Neil and co. do next. THere will be an ever-growing crowd of obnservers waiting, too…

Christmas Posts 2012 #4


It was pretty damn great watching Withered Hand headlining the Queen’s Hall during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Not least because I saw him play on a bill with Jesus H. Foxx and Broken Records headlining at Edinburgh’s Cabaret Voltaire in late 2009.

I was blown away by Dan Willson’s performance that night – and spent the next age trying to get hold of his album. Eventually Ed at SL Records obliged -and it’s always pained me that I heard it after I had done my best albums for the year list.

Oh well…this was a free track that Dan gave away at the end of 2009. Not a year I would want to live through again, but this is an excellent song, which has another version on his latest EP Inbetweens (order here

Withered Hand -‘It’s A Wonderful Lie.’ mp3

If you haven’t bought Dan’s stuff before now, you should start by trying your local independent record shop. You could also buy direct from Dan here

Read my Withered Hand interview from early 2010 here

Presenting…Whatever Gets You Through The Night


This was in my inbox this evening when I came home. It’s an album called Whatever Gets You through The Night, and it comes out on November 5 on Biphonic Records (home to Swimmer One and Seafieldroad).

Sixteen tracks in total, this was a live show that took place at the Arches in Glasgow back in June of this year.. This is the accompanying album – 16 brand new songs inspired by the hours between midnight and 4am, by a cross section of Scottish musicians.

And when I say cross-section, it’s Ricky Ross (of Deacon Blue) on the same album as Wounded Knee, Errors on the same album as Rachel Sermanni, Eugene Kelly as Meursault. Lots of 17 Seconds favourites, Swimmer One and Emma Pollock were the first acts I ever interviewed for the blog, over five years ago. There’s a feature over at The Skinny which explains how it came together.

Stream it below, you can also download the Swimmer One track for free.

Gig review: Withered Hand/ballboy/Darren Hayman

Withered Hand/ballboy/Darren Hayman

Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, August 4.

Over ten years of living in Edinburgh has convinced me that the place with the best programming (particularly for leftfield music) has got to be The Queen’s Hall. That period has seen me see some great acts here (Tindersticks, King Creosote, Low, Sons & Daughters, Yo La Tengo, The Delgados, Mogwai, Divine Comedy, Echo and the Bunnymen, Daniel Johnston, Idlewild, Broken Records, Elbow…those are just the ones I can think of, off the top of my head), and tonight is no exception.

It’s a triple bill that has pulled together three excellent acts, and is compered by Josie Long, who is hysterically funny and a reminder that whilst the fringe goes on outside, there are plenty of great acts in amongst the dross. First on is Darren Hayman, whose prolific output is all the more impressive given how high in quality it is. He begins at the piano for three songs, including the absolutely beautiful ‘Ship’s Piano.’ There’s no outing for tracks off his forthcoming Lido, but we do get an insight into yet another project he has on the go, all about the Essex Witch Trials. He told me afterwards that it has all been written -so I think we can safely expect to see this in about six months.

The first time I saw ballboy was at this very same venue -supporting The Delgados. That night he blew our minds with a reworking of ‘Born In The USA.’ Tonight, he gives us several new songs ‘Slip Into The Ocean Slip into The Sea’ and ‘The Parade.’ His dry sense of humour makes us laugh when he introduces ‘I Gave Up My Eyes To A Man Who Was Blind’ by telling us that someone once asked him -apparently in all seriousness -if it was a true story. Gordon McIntyre is a lyrical genius, and it’s clear why the late, great John Peel (and many others) have and continue to hold him so high.

Now, Dan Willson AKA Withered Hand started recording after Peel died -but I’d be willing to bet that he would have had as many entries on the hallowed Festive Fifty as the two other guests of the night. Dan arrives on stage solo, and the version of ‘Cornflake’ he gives us is brilliant. He’s joined by a number of guests, the first one of which is Neil Pennycook from Meursault, who joins him for a new song ‘Love Over Desire.’ Malcolm Benzie from eagleowl contributes violin and mandolin to much of the evening’s proceedings, including ‘Gethsemane’ from this year’s Heart Heart EP and another fine new song ‘Jubilee.’

THe first time I saw Dan live was third on the bill at the much smaller Cabaret Voltaire at the end of 2009. He’s come a long way in profile since then, but he still seems genuinely humbled to be headlining the Queen’s Hall. Yet there’s so many people here, so thrilled for him to have got here. He dedicates ‘New Dawn’ to the BBC’s Vic Galloway thanking him for his support (Galloway is one of many from the Scottish music scene in the hall tonight). It’s now been three years since his debut LP Good News, and I’m itching for the follow-up, when he’s ready to give it to us. There’s a new 10″ that he’s been teasing us with on his web page.

THe highlight though is the expanded Withered Hand line-up bolstered by the Second Hand Marching Band for ‘Religious Songs.’ On vinyl, this is a joy -but I hope someone recorded tonight’s version, because with the crowd singing along to every word, the effect is brilliant, and I don’t know whether to cry or scream for joy.

Three very talented songwriters, all who have given us so much already-and who, hopefully, have far more left for us to hear.