GRAB LIFE BY the hands and make every second count; that’s the message that swells from this sensational debut album from The Lapelles. It’s a record that does everything a first album should do; it soars with youthful exuberance, it bites with gritty defiance, it bursts with strength, courage and endless potential and above all, it celebrates everything that this remarkable band were able to achieve in the short time they had together.

Upon its recent announcement, the band said: “we’ll never know whether this was the album we were going to make, but it’s an album we’re all immensely proud of….We’d like to thank all of you for your kind words of support that you’ve given us during this difficult period. This album is for you, and we hope you enjoy it.”

The Scottish music scene was dealt a devastating blow when frontman Gary Watson sadly passed away last August after a tragic accident; a loss that is still felt strongly today. With Watson at the helm, The Lapelles were truly on the cusp of something special. Their catchy tunes and infectious energy thrust them to the forefront of Scottish indie and in their short time together, they had made a significant name for themselves thanks to a number of notable support slots, a memorable showing at T in the Park and a sold out headline gig at King Tut’s. Armed with a remarkable skill for songwriting and a raucous live show, it wasn’t a matter of if this band were going to make it, it was merely a case of when.

However, when you listen to The Lapelles, what you are struck by isn’t the sadness of the story, but the energy, spirit and determination that went into this collection of songs. From the opening riffs of their thrilling debut single ‘Snakehips,’ you are swept up on an exhilarating ride which reminds you exactly what made this band so special in the first place.

Constructed from a track-listing written by Gary Watson himself, the album is made up of a collection of studio recordings and home demos that will be very familiar to those who had attended any of the band’s rapturous live shows. And while it may not be the finished article that they had hoped to one day release, the insatiable musical chemistry and irrepressible live energy for which they had become known is very much present and correct. From the powerfully tight rhythm section to the tantalising lead guitar lines and the post-punk swirl of synthesisers, it is a thrilling and nuanced display of raw talent and unbridled ambition.

‘Snakehips’ opens the album in truly electrifying fashion with a blast of intoxicating riffs and relentless hooks before ‘Toronto’ soars in; awash with vibrant synths and airy melodies. Elsewhere ‘Belt and Braces’ conjures all the qualities of a real indie rock banger; its bright guitar work and alluring vocals build up to an explosive chorus which stays with you long after your first listen – “like a shot in the dark I’m here to stay” Watson declares with fiery passion and defiance over a squall of synths and onslaught of guitars.

Despite being only 10 tracks in length, it’s a testament to the band’s creative ingenuity and unmistakable talent that they have been able to produce an album of such depth and nuance in a remarkably short period of time. It is Gary Watson’s innate skill for song-craft that lies at the heart of it though; his extraordinary ear for melody, his effortless lyricism and self-assured delivery all shine through from start to finish. From the cheeky swagger and fiery defiance of ‘Belt and Braces’, he moves on to the wistful croon on ‘Faraways’ – a track that pulls on the heart strings with its breezy melodies and deeply moving chorus; “you’re faraway from here” Watson sings in one of the album’s most emotionally resonant moments.

Those familiar with their live shows will be buoyed by the appearance of ‘The Strand’, one of the band’s most ambitious creations. Often performed as a rousing finale to their raucous sets, the sprawling six minute track is all the more stirring on record. Built around a simple synth hook and led by Watson’s confident drawl, it boasts a gripping climactic effect that sees it gradually build into a truly triumphant finale full of head-spinning synths and rip-roaring guitars; all in all, a thrilling summation of the band’s creative potential.

‘Grab Life By’ continues to stand out as the band’s piece de resistance though; an anthem for the ages that defines this album to its very core. Bursting with youthful vigour and a sense of  relentless energy, it’s a stirring call to arms that will be played around Glasgow for years to come.

By the time the beautiful acoustic ballad ‘Horseshoe Falls’ comes around; a track which fittingly shines a light on Gary Watson with no accompaniment other than his guitar, we are left with a deeply moving tribute to a superstar who unfortunately never got the chance to fulfill his potential. More than that though, The Lapelles provides us with the striking footprint of a young band’s hard work and unbelievable chemistry; a long-lasting legacy of one of the finest outfits Scotland has produced in many years and it should be celebrated and cherished as such. If you’re going to buy one album this year, make sure it is this one.

Check out our amazing sessions recorded with the band below: