We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

It’s a good thing Scotland’s burgeoning folk-pop scene doesn’t have a East Coast/West Coast rivalry going. If it did, those notorious gangstas the Proclaimers would undoubtedly be looking to bust a cap in Colin MacIntyre’s ass. The former, of course, hail from Edinburgh, on Scotland’s east coast—which is very much like our East Coast except all the women are named Firtha. MacIntyre, aka Mull Historical Society, hails from the Isle of Mull, off Scotland’s west coast—which is exactly like our West Coast except all the women are named Raoghnailt. MacIntyre first made a splash with his 2001 debut, Loss, a flawlessly arranged and irreproachably tasteful collection that melded bubble-gum-soul vocals and head-bopping pop melodies with more than a hint of weirdness. His follow-up, Us, is every bit as tuneful as its predecessor, even if it contains nothing as irresistible as Loss’s “Animal Cannabus”—which should have been the jukebox song of 2001. Still, songs such as “The Final Arrears” and “Don’t Take Your Love Away From Me” come so close it hardly matters. On the former, MacIntyre digitally clones himself about 900 times for the big chorus, which he further lards with blurting trumpet and cheesy Beatles-esque sound effects. On the latter, any similarities to Elton John’s schlock masterwork of a similar title are purely noncoincidental. But if MacIntyre has a taste for cheese, it’s a very strange one. “Minister for Genetics and Insurance M.P.,” for example, alternates between Grandaddy-like alien prog and a perky chorus that has the narrator “waking up with the Minister…/Working with industry/Catching another plane…/Taking a final stand.” And what are we to make of “The Supermarket Strikes Back,” a champagne bubble of a song whose chorus goes, “And this is the last time/That I’ll sit with my mouth wide open and wait for the flies to come in/From the grave of a grocer/The grave of a grocer”? Or, for that matter, of the title track, which sounds alternately like Justin Timberlake, Spiritualized, and a poor wee fellow with a big brass tuba drowning in the Firth of Lorn? Of course, MacIntyre isn’t all mysterioso all the time: “Oh Mother” gets both delicate and straightforward (“Oh mother the pain is part of the joy/And that is the deal”), and “Am I Wrong” smacks you with a sock full of piano keys before delivering a plea everyone can relate to: “Come back my love/I’m trying to fight again/I’m getting it right again.” If MacIntyre keeps making himself understood as well as that, he’d better be watching his back. —Michael Little