If you travel roughly ten miles south of Edinburgh, you’ll hit the little village of Rosewell, one of a handful of moderately sized towns in Scotland’s Midlothian district. On past the Rosedale Arms pub, the Hunter Holiday Cottages, and a dilapidated, centuries-old abbey where Robert the Bruce’s heart is buried, you’ll come to a stretch of hills overlooking the village. Climb them, and if you manage to hear the Zephyrs somewhere between noticing the wary-eyed sheep, your mud-caked shoes, and the voluminous rain clouds building in the distance, you’ll have touched something, however clichéd, that’s perfectly Scottish.
I suspect Stuart Nicol, his brother David, and Marcus MacKay, the trio that makes up Edinburgh’s Zephyrs, are far from concerned with idealizing their homeland for wayward tourists, but it’s an apt description of Bright Yellow Flowers on a Dark Double Bed nonetheless. Their fourth record and second for Acuarela, Bright Yellow Flowers, is a lolling collection of dreamy indie folk, full of luscious pedal-steel, cozy electric and acoustic guitars, and Stuart Nicol’s breathy vocals, all of which make a hike in the north country seem like the only sensible thing to do. Mojave 3 and Rock Action Mogwai are good starting points, but “Galicia,” “Ganeesha,” and the instrumental “What Voltage is the Moon” are more intimate in their presentation and more naïve in their subject matter. The recordings are alive in natural reverb — the pedal-steel, especially, moans and sighs like a whisper in your ear — but while Nicol’s vocals never offend, they’re so buried in the mix and so lacking in poignant material, you forget to care who loved who and why.
And that’s part of the larger problem. The Zephyrs are a little too content to build you a fire, warm your cocoa, and sing you too sleep. Besides the breathtaking untitled track that closes it, Bright Yellow Flowers balks before the big drama its Gaelic melodies suggest. And too bad. Whatever remains buried in Rosewell, I can’t help but think Robert the Bruce was a man of heart and action.