The Sound of Young Scotland? Spinning Coin Channel Postcard Records on 'Hyacinth'

Photo: Owen Godbert / Courtesy of Domino Records

Recorded in France, by musicians resident in Berlin, Spinning Coin's Hyacinth still sounds like it was made in Glasgow. In 1981.

Spinning Coin


21 February 2020

What's the deal with Scottish bands? If Braveheart is to be believed, the Scottish are a nation of rugged, no-nonsense pugilists with a penchant for hard liquor, deep-fried chocolate bars and whatever the hell haggis is. This hard-bitten and aggressive vibe seems to end before it reaches the world of pop music. Bands that hail from Caledonia seem to share a very aesthetic approach, best seen in bands like Orange Juice, Aztec Camera, Josef K, and, more recently, Camera Obscura. Once they'd got all that loud, feedback stuff out of the way, even the Jesus and Mary Chain went a bit windswept and fey. One could almost believe that while the rest of the world was listening to Public Image Ltd, everyone in the northern part of the British Isles had the Velvet Underground and the Byrds on heavy rotation.

Although they now reside in Berlin, Spinning Coin are most definitely a Scottish band. From the non-threatening name to the Sterling Morrison guitar sound, the band have done their homework well. So, is Hyacinth, their second album, business as usual then? Yes and no. What Spinning Coin do here is take all the bits that made all their predecessors sound great, toss out some of the unnecessary saccharine and make a solid album that could only come from where it did. Even though it was recorded in France.

There's more than a whiff of the 1980s on Hyacinth. Pick your favorite UK indie band of that era, and there will be a trace of it somewhere on this record. But Spinning Coin have chosen their influences carefully and well, so any sugary tweeness has been downplayed, and many of the tunes here ("Get High" for example) have strength and robustness that owes more to great songwriting than simply turning everything up to infinity and jumping on the fuzz pedal. Occasionally, it gets a little too close to the source – if Edwyn Collins ever hears "Despotic Sway", he'll be on to his lawyer before the last chorus. That said, it's still a great song.

In amongst the Lou Reed chord progressions and reverb-laden guitar sound are some very interesting voices. Rachel Taylor has a charming, natural delivery with a Scottish accent that would melt the heart of even the most jaded Slipknot fan. Meanwhile, Jack Mellin and Sean Armstrong channel Edwyn Collins (him again) and Belle and Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch in a very appealing way. When all those voices combine, on tracks like "Slips Away", it's a truly lovely thing.

The great thing about Hyacinth is that it's so out of time. In an era when young bands should be throwing away their guitars and spending their time programming sick beats, Spinning Coin have grabbed a sackful of great but forgotten music, assimilated it all, and made a record that sounds as fresh as a daisy. There's the occasional nod to the new millennium ("Ghosting" motors along like an over-caffeinated Arcade Fire), but generally, we're talking 1967 via 1981. In 2020, that's quite remarkable. And much appreciated.

If I've made Hyacinth sound like some retrograde plagiarism-fest, consisting of worn-out music that hair-metal was supposed to destroy once and for all, then I apologize. Yes, it sounds like it could have been made three popes ago, but is that such a terrible thing? 2020 is turning out to be weird and scary and not much fun at all, so if I want to spend 41 minutes wearing a fringed buckskin jacket, with my Cuban heels and my Ray-Bans on, then why shouldn't I? You should, too. It's nice here.

PM Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.