The music press are obsessed with lists. They must go through a pack of post-it notes quicker than you can say ‘Q Magazine’.
Sometimes those lists can be useful though. Not for the artists who are at the top and can take ad campaigns and airplay for granted. But for those who appear in the middle of everyone’s list, it can be the vital spark that turns a slow burner into a flame. ‘Diamond Mine’ is a record that The Guardian named the 13th best of 2011, hit Mojo’s Top 20 list and Q’s Top 50. Throw in a Mercury Prize nomination and you’re talking about an album that has picked up some serious word of mouth. And, if we’re honest, that’s the only currency that counts these days. Let’s face it, anyone can be bought (mine’s a Guinness). But a genuine buzz from the ground up, that builds and builds into award nominations, records sold and sold-out gigs, is the hardest part of making and continuing to make good music.
All this happened over the last year to King Creosote and Jon Hopkins – the collaborators behind ‘Diamond Mine’ – and it’s affect has been there for all to see. “With my time off over Christmas I thought I’d be leaving King Creosote at the Forth Road Bridge tolls as usual and would just wander around the Neuk as the anonymous Kenny Anderson,” says the songwriter who’s released over 40 albums over the last 15 years.
KC and Jon Hopkins (production credits: David Holmes, Coldplay and Wild Beasts) have created a work of stunning depth, original thought and gorgeous melodies that as wide an audience as is possible needs to hear. And they’re getting there… “There’s always a section in most shows now where I’ll completely forget where I am,” says KC of how reactions are having a knock-on effect. “Everything else – voice, strings, piano, reverberation – transcends to an all-enveloping aural, nay, near spiritual enlightenment!”
I believe him. As the record, and in particular latest single ‘John Taylor’s Month Away’ (see above), bring similar reactions from me. It’s the closing track that’s the big reveal however: “‘Your Young Voice’ started out as a simple heartfelt ode to an amazing and beautiful toddler and this proud dad is delighted it ended up exactly as is,” declares KC. I actually think it’s an old fashioned ‘headphones record’, in the way, say, Van Morrison’s ‘Astral Weeks’ always sounds better when your head’s on a pillow.
Which is why it’s good the news then, that in Liverpool next month, the duo will play the intimate Capstone Theatre: “In a small gig setting, with the right ambience, the mood and atmosphere of the record translate well. It didn’t translate at all at one of our festival appearances though! There isn’t a single instrument on the record that’s more important than any other and that’s the blend that makes it magical,” says Creosote.
Magical. That’s right. Sounds like the word I’ve been looking for to describe the record that’s been called “a pastoral portrait of life in a Fife coastal village,” by the BBC and “a quietly poignant but powerfully life-affirming song-cycle,” by The Independent.
Us? We’ll stick with magical. And we can’t wait to hear how it translates live. Get ready music mags: this could make the Top 50 Gigs of 2012…
King Creosote & Jon Hopkins
Capstone Theatre, Shaw Street, Liverpool