If the music industry were to have royalty appointed, I’m pretty sure they would be something similar to The Burns Unit. Why you ask? Well before we can even dive into their album Sideshow you need to no a little about the members…
The Burns Unit is made up of 8 exceptional talented musicians:
[EP] Emma Pollock (vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, piano) who is a Mercury Prize nominee and founding member of Scottish indie Quartet Delgados.
[FP] Future Pilot AKA (bass, atmospherics) is a Scottish legend. He was a member of The Soup Dragons, BMX Bandits and Telstar Ponies when he was known as Sushil Dade.
[KP] Karine Polwart (vocals, acoustic guitar, percussion, shruti box) is twice winner of “Best Original Song” at the BBC Folk Awards.
[KE] Kim Edgar (vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, piano, accordion, organ) had her album “Butterflies and Broken Glass’ named album of the week on BBC Radio Scotland in 2008.
[KC]King Creosote (vocals, acoustic guitar, accordion, keyboards) has released over 40 recordings through his own label and has supported his former band mate KT Tunstall.
[MF] Mattie Foulds (drums, percussion) is a producer and is establishing his new portable recording studio, ‘mobile with a home’.
[ST] MC Soon T (vocals) has written hundreds of politically charged reggae/dub/punk/hip hop tracks that showcase a highly developed vocalist style.
[MJ] Michael Johnston (vocals, piano, accordion, synth, percussion) is a member of legendary Canadian roots-rock group, ‘Skydiggers’.
There you have it, eight highly talented individuals that have come together like bread and butter to create an album that is so musically mind blowing it suits nearly everybody’s taste! So lets dive into their album, Sideshow!
The album begins with ‘Since We’ve Fallen Out’ and features EP, KC, FP, KE, KP, MF and MJ, and what a track to kick start the album! The vocals are beautifully crafted and both lead vocals highly compliment each other. There are no words to sum up this track it just works so well. The instruments are played with care, and they help create a highly emotional track. This is a stunning introduction to the album.
As we move onto the next track, were introduced with ‘Trouble’, which features EP, FP, KC, KE, KP, MF and MJ. Starting with the synth your immediately hit with a completely different song to the first. This is upbeat and actually quite a fun song! Once again, there is no fault to the vocals, and with the catchy chorus lines you can’t help but join in! Outstanding!
‘Send Them Kids To War’ follows with EP, FP, KC, KE, KP, MF, MJ and ST. Its as if you have put on a different album! MC Soon T sticks at what she is good at here, this song is political to the max (the name of the track says it all)! Saying her vocal style is highly developed is an understatement. This is a very unique way of singing; it’s her signature on the track. Like the vocals this is a fast paced song and she takes rapping to a whole new level.
Track 4 is called ‘Future Pilot A.K.C.’ and features EP, KC, KE, KP and MJ. FP’s bass clearly shines through this track along with the marching drumbeat that gives the song a military feel. This is the longest track on the album, and sadly maybe just a little too long. The repetitive marching drumbeat does tend to drag a little and nothing new happens throughout the track. All in all, a good song, but its not the best.
‘Blood, Ice and Ash’s’ has EP, FP, KC, KE, KP, MF and MJ leading one of the most magnificent tracks on the album! It’s a dark story about a girl searching for a boy and is simply spectacular. Although it is quite a dark song, initially it is beautiful. The haunting piano compliments the delicate vocals in the track but when the distorted guitar comes stomping in, it changes the atmosphere completely. This track is more than just song, and if your going to listen to anything on the album this is the one you want. This is an epic story that is carried amazingly by both the storyteller and the instruments. Personally I would be happy with just this one track.
It’s a hard track to follow, but ‘Sorry’ does the job with EP, KC, KE, KP and MJ taking the reins. Although the instruments are played with such care and devotion they purely fill the gaps, the real music is within the vocals. Every word is sung with emotion, and this song shows how talented these vocalists really are. Fans of Folk will welcome this wonderful song; it touches the heart and soul of anyone that can really appreciate music.
Following on from this is ‘You Need Me To Need This’ which has EP, FP, KC, KE, KP, MF and MJ appearing in it. Personally when you arrive at the section where the male vocals come in and the drums begin, it almost felt as if it was taken out of a film like ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’. The haunting vocals from both vocalists just make it seem as if its been pulled out from a musical, perhaps I am wrong, but this is the feeling I get from the track! None the less it’s another wonderful song, and by this point in the album, all you really expect is excellence!
‘Majesty of Decay’ follows and in it is EP, FP, KC, KE, KP, MF, MJ and ST. When the song begins, you feel as if your aware of the type of song this is going to be. How wrong were you? As soon as the upbeat drums come in with the folk styled vocals the entire song is transformed! Again, it’s another vocal driven track, with the instruments enhancing the vocal melody lines. A little repetitive and unfortunately you find yourself tiring of this track after a while, not one of the best on the album sadly.
The second to last track is called ‘What is Life?’ and making an appearance is EP, FP, KC, KE, KP, MF, MJ and ST. Once again you’re hit by those unique vocals from MC Soon T that also features her usual political message. Sadly I was hoping to hear something a little different from this vocalist, but unfortunately this was not the case. It felt like this was very similar to her track early on (‘Send Them Kids To War’) and it would have been nice if she had tried something a little different. It was like the same song but with different lyrics.
‘Helpless To Turn’ is the final chapter in this epic album and in it we can hear EP, FP, KC, KE, KP, MF and MJ. Gentle piano chords open the track quickly followed by (yet again!) beautiful vocals. In this she sings of taking a boys ‘breath away’, and I’ll happily admit that while listening to this song, she did just that. The two vocalists take on the role of the characters in this song and this dedication helps bring out the emotion; it makes it all seem more real. We (the listeners) are in fact spoiled in this track, as The Burns Unit have put everything they are great at into this; storytelling, wonderful vocal harmonies, beautiful melodies and excitement. It’s all here in this one track. They couldn’t have ended the album on a better note.
The Burns Unit are more than just a band; they are a super group that is exploding with experience and diversity. With such a wide range of musical talent and styles it’s amazing that they didn’t come together, clash and just make terrible noise. No, instead they joined forces and created an album with a collaboration of genres, heart-wrenching melodies thrown in with a mix of enthusiasm, talent, ideas and chemistry. The outcome? Something that is more than just your ordinary run of the mill album. Sideshow is more than you could ever imagine.