On Scottish bands

Andrew Carnegie, forefather of our university and lover of plaid, instilled our institution with a strange tie to his homeland, Scotland. I present five songs by Scottish groups.

Boards of Canada, “Turquoise Hexagon Sun” “Turquoise Hexagon Sun” is the second track on Boards of Canada’s Hi Scores: a five-minute masterpiece that has aged incredibly well. I know that it’s made with machines, but BOC fools me, fusing organic fuzz of real space, murmuring of a crowd and emotion with a space-age melody. “Turquoise” is a BOC classic, displaying the band’s uncanny ability to toe the line between ambient, psychedelic, and even disco.

Mogwai, “Stanley Kubrick” Glasgow post-rockers Mogwai released EP in 1999, having already garnered significant attention for their music. “Stanley Kubrick” is the foundation for EP, starting off with the slow patter of drums and murmurs, then arching into the band’s signature rich bass and guitar twang. Well-balanced distortion, drones, vocals and epic cymbal crashes elevate “Stanley Kubrick” to be one of Mogwai’s finest tracks.

The Twilight Sad, “Cold Days from the Birdhouse” With a powerful voice and thick Scottish accent, vocalist James Graham is what really sets The Twilight Sad and their album Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters apart from other bands in the same vein (think The Arcade Fire crossed with My Bloody Valentine). “Cold Days from the Birdhouse” opens their album with intensity, as Graham shouts “Where are your manners?” to the end, and “Cold Days” is among many awesome songs on a surprising debut album.

Belle and Sebastian, “Wrapped Up in Books” If you’ve seen John Cusack in High Fidelity, you’ve heard long-time indie darlings Belle and Sebastian. Their signature sound is understated indie pop, complete with rock organ and twee vocals. What I like most about Belle and Sebastian is their ability to tell serious emotional stories without melodrama. You feel like you’re listening to an upbeat song, while the lyrics are something else entirely. “Wrapped Up in Books” is a little ditty about fantasy relationships and the unwillingness to change course and follow your real desires.

Franz Ferdinand, “Cheating On You” As tired as they sound now, I have a fondness for Franz Ferdinand — the soundtrack to a lot of reckless driving senior year of high school. It wasn’t “Take Me Out” which got me hooked; it was “Cheating On You,” a song by all accounts much less musically interesting. But there was something exhilarating about shouting “I’m cheating on you!” out car windows, as relationships became strained and the angst of high school came to a head.

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