When Aidan Moffat and James Graham of Twilight Sad are singing a fellow musician’s praises it behoves you to take note and listen, so when RM Hubbert was repeatedly mentioned by both I did just that. And I’m mighty glad I did, because ‘Thirteen Lost and Found’ is an unusual and deeply delightful collaboration from some of Scotland’s most brilliant musicians at the behest of the phenomenal, RM Hubbert.

Opening track ‘We Radioed’ is a storm of guitars, a blustery, vigorous and wordless entrance that demonstrates from the start just how expressive a guitar can be in hands as talented as these.

From no words, to lyrics fully foreground, ‘Car Song’ finds the aforementioned Aidan Moffat doing what he does best. That is poignantly raw and near uncomfortably honest narratives. This is a gruff, half-sung story of the urge that grips us all sometimes, “So let’s do it. Lets sell all our things and buy a campervan…and just go…” While the focus is held by the tale, the finger picked guitar swoops in with the final upturn of the vocals to perfectly compliment and lift the energy. Unusually for Moffat, hope wins the day, “What we can’t build in bricks, I can build in my heart.”

There are six further gorgeous instrumentals to come, around which the vocal-led tracks weave. ‘For Joe’, ‘V’ and ‘Gus Am Bris An Latha’ are softer than the first, with gentle changes of pace and percussion throughout, just perfect for lying in the grass on a sunny day feeling happy to be alive and well and lying in the grass on a sunny day. ‘Sandwalks’ meanwhile, adds a melancholic drama by way of piano and Hubbert‘s trademark flamenco touches.

‘Sunbeam Melts The Hour’ is, I suspect, a ‘Marmite’ song. The Joanna Newsom-esque vocals are so pretty and accented I listened dozens of times before I realised they were singing in English not Mandarin! This song wouldn’t have been out of place in ‘Raise The Red Lantern’ and provides a total contrast to the deep drawl of Moffat.

Likewise the cold, stark nightmarish fairytale of ‘Half Light’, with its creepy chorus of layered vocals from Emma Pollock and vicious, swooping violin is completely different from the preceding tracks, but as is the case throughout, the underpinning guitar holds everything together.

After the faster-paced, wooden-box percussion of ‘Switches pt.2’, Alasdair Roberts rounds out the album with a slow, sad folk tale of lost love and broken hearts. Ultimately what could, due to the extensive and varied collaborations, feel like a jumble of styles is gently held together by Hubbert and his guitar to create something more than the sum of its many talented parts. This album is a total joy to hear and entirely deserving of all the praise heaped on it so far. I’m only happy I can add more to the pile. Lie down and listen, just listen.

Out now through Chemikal Underground Records

Posted by Katy Cousins

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