Collar Up is a dream-pop trio originating from the west of Scotland. The band is fronted by Stephen McLaren (piano, voice), whose beautifully-crafted slices of melodic pop are underpinned by his own elegant and arresting chord changes, emotive vocal and concise lyricism. The band also features Chris Harvie (guitar, atmospherics) and Nora Noonan (drums, percussive pulse, harmonies).
Second album Ghosts is an excellent snapshot of a band achieving its full potential while resolutely following its own path. The Collar Up sound is partly informed by the soundscape reveries and sophisticated arrangements of Beach House, Mercury Rev, Kate Bush and Cocteau Twins. Bookended by instrumental opening and closing credits, Ghosts features lush, reverb-heavy textures. An accomplished singer-songwriter, on Ghosts McLaren exhibits a pronounced political awareness and sense of social justice (Pay The Cost And Drive On; A Jam Jar Full Of Wasps) alongside the reflections of a man now leaving his greener years behind (Every Man For Themselves). Elsewhere the mating rituals of the wasted and the search for a more romantic ideal drift into focus, while techno and Happy Hardcore’s swifter bpms join a burgeoning list of musical reference points (The Fear Of Love; Short Term Memories).
Accomplished without altogether letting go of innocence, the wide-eyed but knowing qualities of the best pop music make Ghosts a potent proposition.
The band has played gigs from Glasgow to Paris (supporting The Twilight Sad, Sparrow and the Workshop and Meursault), with one Edinburgh show being filmed and broadcast on STV.
‘They’ve played supports for all the right people but with an impressive 2nd album Ghosts set for release on 13 May, it’s not hard to imagine Edinburgh-based threesome Collar Up becoming the main attraction… (Ghosts) manages to sound both timeless and reminiscent of the mid-80s’ (The Scotsman)
'The quiet grandeur of tracks like Tonight demonstrate an un-showy expertise, while the lyrical bite of Jam Jar Full of Wasps hints at a heated undercurrent easy to miss on first pass. Vocally, band-leader Stephen McLaren sets targets his larynx is only barely up to hitting, but his soft tones are affectingly expressive, matched to an atmospheric wash of dolorous piano and guitar melodies. And what’s more, it’s not as po-faced as first feared either, as evidenced by the existential musings of Every Man for Himself – a song in which the narrator meets his 8-year-old self playing footie, ponders the passing of time, and then promptly gets nutmegged by the jumped-up doppelganger.'(The Skinny).
'This is the soundtrack to your escapist fantasies'**** (The List)
released May 13, 2013
Stephen McLaren (Voice/piano)
Stephen Dennis (guitar/voice)
Nora Noonan (drums/percussion/voice)
All songs written and produced by Stephen McLaren
Recorded by Stephen McLaren and Stephen Dennis
Final mix and master by Fabien Pinardon for Permwhale Recordings
Artwork by Jordan Yorkston and Stephen McLaren