Album reviews: Hamish Hawk, Wozniak, Scott Twynholm, We Were Promised Jetpacks

Hamish Hawk

Hamish Hawk - Heavy Elevator

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Much has been made of the ‘intelligent pop’ of Hamish Hawk, but the Scottish musician is proving that well-thought out music needn’t be dull.

Massively popular with BBC’s 6music, Hawk was first discovered by Fife underground folk legend King Creosote and mentored by Idlewild’s Rod Jones, and the Edinburgh musician revels in his own background on Scotland’s east coast.

However, his influences range far and wide, his croon evoking the likes of Scott Walker and the Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon.

It’s been mentioned before that Hawk looks a little like actor David Hyde Pierce – best known for portraying psychiatrist Niles Crane on Frasier – and if the two met in some parallel universe they might well share an interest in fine wine, wordplay and intellectual pursuits.

There’s also some of the swagger of Jarvis Cocker across these ten tracks and Hawk in fact references Pulp in the extravagantly-titled ‘Mauritian Badminton Doubles Champion 1973': “‘Common People' played by Christopher Wren’.”

Hawk’s lyrics can be a bit mysterious, but always fun, as on ‘Caterpillar’ he sings of “A town called Misery” where “No-one seems to live here... ‘cept me... obviously.”

That track is also notable for its driving alt.rock feel, perfectly emphasising another aspect of Hawk’s music – its extreme variety. There’s no getting away from his rich baritone which lends a chamber pop feel to some of the tracks, but others like ‘Bakerloo Unbecoming‘ seem impossible to categorise.

Similarly, the shards of guitar and stabs of Hammond organ make the second single, ‘Calls to Tiree’ help set this album aside from anything else that’s current.

Whatever, the smart money is on us hearing much more from Hamish Hawk in the near future.

Wozniak - Bruises

A pigeonhole can be comfortable and familiar, but a break from the norm can pay dividends.

Thus, this Edinburgh act have eschewed their customary post-rock. Admittedly, opener ‘The Cannibal’ has a familiar sound, a towering post-rock instrumental, but is followed by ‘Arts & Science’, its spoken word vocals darkly intoning “storms keep coming” as the quartet whip up a malevolent tsunami of beat-driven noise.

The 10 tracks cover a range of styles and textures – sparse slowcore on ‘Moga Mobo’, the shoegazey ‘Beach Black’, while ‘Cadences’ evokes The Cure at their darkest.

The album closes with a shimmering Cocteau Twins-style ‘Slow Fade’, but preceding that is the epic nine minutes of post-rock that is ‘Goldfinch’. Well, there’s a lot to be said for tradition too.

Scott Twynholm - Tekstura

Lockdown has led many musicians to deliver more introspective works, this Glasgow-based composer included.

Twynholm was previously of a more ‘pop’ disposition, including a spell with Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart David as part of Looper. However, that act’s music featured in several blockbuster movies, so this move to more atmospheric material is no surprise.

Including Placebo’s Fiona Brice on violin, the 10 tracks here, Twynholm says, began as more of an experiment in sound, but clearly his pop sensibilities took over with beautiful pastoral melodies coming to the fore.

Evoking Debussy and Michael Nyman, fans of his ‘rock’ contemporaries like Thom Yorke and even Mogwai will enjoy chilling out, with this as the soundtrack.

We Were Promised Jetpacks -Enjoy The View

"Change of direction" is a phrase to strike fear into the hearts of long-term fans of any artist.

So when the Scottish act's fifth album opens with 'Not Me Anymore's rhythm unit and almost doo-wop vocal, it seems a worrying deviation from the now-trio's usual brand of bombastic indie rock.

Happily, when the drums pound in on 'Fat Chance' and Adam Thompson's vocals hit their customary heights, all is well - indeed, things get much more rocking when 'All That Glittered' breenges in.

Overall the band’s fifth album has softer production and more keyboards than before - 'If It Happens' has a poppier feel, while 'Just Don't Think About It' is slower and reflective but its booming production a far cry from the opening tune.

'I Wish You Well' has a massive wigout in its second half and 'Nothing Ever Changes' and 'Making My Mind Up' has the frenetic jangle of the band's earliest work.

10 years on, We Were Promised Jetpacks are growing older - but not too gracefully.