The public vote for this year’s Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award shortlist is now open – it closes at midnight on Wednesday May 28.
Here’s a guide to this year’s longlisted albums, which originally ran in The Herald Newspaper (Scotland) on April 24th. There are also links to my related artist interviews and album reviews throughout.
I’m one of the judges for this year’s SAY Award; full panel info here.
Since it was launched in 2012, The Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award has celebrated home-grown music in its myriad forms. The 2014 longlist, as selected by 100 industry nominators, follows suit: it spotlights baroque and hip-hop; electronica and indie-pop; folk and jazz and stadium-rock. And it presents them on an even footing, irrespective of genre, label affiliation, critical acclaim or commercial success.
Ten of these titles will be shortlisted on May 29 (nine elected by a judging panel; one by public vote), and one will be awarded this year’s £20 000 SAY Award on June 19 (with £1000 for each of the shortlisted runners-up). In the meantime, here’s to a longlist of day-glo debuts and slow-burning returns; of insurgent rap and saxophone-jams; of human beat-boxing and bruised-folk yarns: of our kaleidoscopic voices.
Adam Holmes – Heirs and Graces (Gogar)
The debut solo album from Edinburgh’s Adam Holmes is a stellar homage to trad-pop song-writing, whose warm blend of Celtic ballads and Nashville arias was produced by folk sage John Wood (Nick Drake, Richard Thompson). Holmes was nominated as Best Newcomer at the 2011 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.
Adam Stafford – Imaginary Walls Collapse (Song, by Toad)
Falkirk art-pop polymath Adam Stafford is a Scottish BAFTA-winning film-maker and thrilling live performer and songwriter. His second album, Imaginary Walls Collapse, underscores Stafford’s vivid knack for loop-fuelled machine-hymns, euphoric guitar-pop, beat-boxing and gospel-blues hosannas.
Biffy Clyro – Opposites (14th Floor Records)
Nothing says “bona fide rock gods” like a concept double-album, emblazoned with artwork by Storm Thorgerson (who fashioned Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon). Kilmarnock stadium-rockers Biffy Clyro pulled off such a statement with Opposites, et voila: they bagged their first UK Number One album.
Biffy Clyro – Opposites album review, Time Out (London)
Boards Of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest (Warp)
Preceded by a teaser campaign that rivalled Daft Punk in the cryptic stakes, Tomorrow’s Harvest is the first album in eight years from Edinburgh electro-diviners Boards of Canada. The arcane-pop revolutionaries summon a typically unsettling voyage through warped psychedelia, uncanny sci-fi and pastoral symphonies on their fourth outing.
Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest, album review, BBC Radio Scotland
Camera Obscura – Desire Lines (4AD)
The fifth album from Glasgow’s vintage indie-pop seducers sees Tracyanne Campbell et al ramp up their lavish chamber arrangements, girl-group harmonies, and melancholic grandeur, to dreamy effect. This long-player has been held up in high places as a highlight of their career.
Camera Obscura (archive interview), Plan B Magazine.
CHVRCHES – The Bones Of What You Believe (Virgin)
The debut LP from Glasgow trio Chvrches is an electro-pop masterpiece which gatecrashed the UK Top 10 and continues to win them global acclaim, but it’s also a testament to Scotland’s collaborative grassroots music community: two of the band were longlisted for the 2013 SAY Award, thanks to their other sonic allegiances: Martin Doherty in The Twilight Sad and Iain Cook in The Unwinding Hours.
Dunedin Consort (Dir. John Butt) – J. S. Bach: Six Brandenburg Concertos (Linn)
The Herald’s penultimate classical album of 2013, this recording sees Bach aficionado John Butt OBE and baroque ensemble the Dunedin Consort shine new light upon, and breathe new life into, Bach’s enduringly popular Six Brandenburg Concertos. The musicianship on their first entirely instrumental release is stunning, but never showy.
John Butt SAY Award interview (scroll) – The Herald
Edwyn Collins – Understated (AED)
The eighth solo album from Scotland’s indie statesman – and second since two brain haemorrhages in 2005 – finds the Orange Juice and Postcard Records poster boy in excellent, reflective fettle, and allies his nascent art-rock and country roots with Motown, Stax, jangle-pop and soul.
Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse (Atlantic)
Frightened Rabbit had the spotlight turned on them after making the leap from indie (Fat Cat) to major (Atlantic), with many fearing the corporate step-up would compromise their charms. Such concerns were assuaged with Pedestrian Verse – their major-label debut, first Top 10 record, and a superb collection of poetic alt-rock and stadium anthems.
Hector Bizerk – Nobody Seen Nothing (Self-released)
You could never accuse Hector Bizerk of appropriating US rap. Their remarkable, funk-fuelled take on hip-hop is steered by drummer Audrey Tait’s beats, and loaded with (Sauchiehall) street-level poetry courtesy of Louie Deadlife, who rejects cliches, bling and machismo. (“It’s not my fault I’m just a man”).
Kid Canaveral – Now That You Are A Dancer (Fence)
Power-pop party-starters Kid Canaveral unleashed a melodious alt-rock barrage on their second album, Now That You Are A Dancer – from the carnal throb of A Compromise to the axe-chiming doo-wop of Who Would Want To Be Loved? (They would, and they are).
Mogwai – Les Revenants (Rock Action)
First nominated for 2011’s Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will, Glasgow instrumental rock behemoths Mogwai return to the SAY longlist with Les Revenants, their terrific (and faintly terrifying) soundtrack for the French un-dead TV series of the same name.
Stuart Braithwaite and Douglas Gordon interview, The Quietus
Rick Redbeard – No Selfish Heart (Chemikal Underground)
In which Rick Anthony, frontman of The Phantom Band, moonlights as a gorgeous, peat-crackling bard, strips his cracked-Americana bare, and floors us with his baritone charms. This yearning anthology of meditations on nature, love and death is intimate yet universal, and timeless.
RM Hubbert – Breaks & Bone (Chemikal Underground)
Insatiable axe-seducer RM Hubbert lifted last year’s SAY Award for 13 Lost & Found, and swiftly released this beautiful follow-up. The final instalment in his Ampersand Trilogy, it sees Hubbert find his singing voice, as exquisite guitar instrumentals alternate with post-rock lullabies.
RM Hubbert – Breaks & Bone / Ampersand Trilogy interview (and further conversations), The Herald.
Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire – Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire (Middle of Nowhere)
Roddy Hart’s impeccable take on Scots-inflected Americana swaggered to the fore on this eponymous debut with new backing band The Lonesome Fire. It won him many fans, including US TV supremo Craig Ferguson, who invited Hart to perform a week-long residency on the Late, Late Show.
Scottish Chamber Orchestra (R. Ticciati) – Berlioz: Les Nuits d’été (Linn)
Featuring excerpts from Romeo and Juliette and La mort de Cleopatre, this exceptional recording from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill and lauded Berliozian Robin Ticciati (who has been SCO’s principle conductor since 2009), was awarded last year’s top classical album garland in The Herald.
Scottish National Jazz Orchestra – In The Spirit Of Duke (Spartacus)
Jazz firebrand Tommy Smith first appeared on the SAY Award longlist in 2012 with his wayfaring solo LP, Karma. He returns his Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, who re-animate the Duke Ellington canon on a spontaneous (yet meticulously stage-crafted) live run-through of favourites and surprises.
Steve Mason – Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time (Domino)
A socially-charged outing from former Beta Band trailblazer Steve Mason, Monkey Minds… sees the Fife-via-London electro-folk polemicist embrace themes ranging from social (in)justice and protest, to (black) affairs of the heart on swoon-inducing psych-pop serenade, A Lot Of Love.
Steve Mason interview, The Herald
The Pastels – Slow Summits (Domino)
The first full-length album in 16 years from Glasgow’s beloved indie linchpins, Slow Summits lives up to its name, and then some: it’s a wonderful, unhurried compendium of elevating chamber-pop and hazy, airborne arias. But don’t be misled by its modest charms: The Pastels have been an influential force for 30 years, and our musical landscape would be less colourful without them.
Stephen Pastel SAY Award interview, The Herald
Young Fathers – Tape Two (Anticon)
Signed to celebrated US rap enclave Anticon, Edinburgh-based hip-hop trio Young Fathers have gradually evolved from party-rap livewires to global brooding-pop concerns, thanks to a series of increasingly potent releases – including Tape Two and its truly wondrous dirge-soul opener, I Heard.
Interview – Young Fathers, The Herald
The Scottish Album of the Year Award is developed by the Scottish Music Industry Association. The SAY Award shortlist is announced on May 29 – PUBLIC VOTING IS OPEN UNTIL MIDNIGHT ON WEDNESDAY MAY 28 HERE.