The Scottish Album of the Year Award is a celebration of the best in contemporary Scottish music and since 2012 they been championing some incredible music. Past winners include Young Fathers (2014), RM Hubbert (2013) and Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat (2012) and the shortlist of 10 for this year’s prize includes Primal Scream, FFS & CHVRCHES.
We’re going to be at the award ceremony at Paisley Town Hall on Wednesday 29 June where the winner will be announced. There’ll also be live performances from last year’s winner Kathryn Joseph as well as 2 of our favourite new Scottish bands WHITE and Bossy Love – we can’t wait!
In anticipation of the crowing of this year’s winner we’ve prepared a lowdown on each one of this year’s shortlisted albums. Take a butchers below!
FFS – ‘FFS’ (Public Vote Winner)
Although you may have only been aware that Scottish indie-shredders Franz Ferdinand and American pop-rockers Sparks formed a supergroup last year, they have in fact been recording together for around a decade. This becomes abundantly clear while listening to their self-titled debut album.
Both bands refined sounds amalgamate with excellent results, FFS is an endlessly enjoyable album to listen to with big tunes cropping up regularly. There is a reason why they have won the public vote to be included in the shortlist. Give Johnny Delusional a go and see what all the fuss is about.
Anna Meredith – ‘Varmints’
Well, off the bat we see the wonderful variety that this competition contains. Allow me to introduce you to one of the most unique albums of the year. In fact, I’m struggling to remember an album that has been this “out there” for a long time.
Varmints is an absolute conquest to say the least, Anna Merideth is a modern day classically influenced musician who has concocted a potion of industrial electronica and innovative instrument improvisation with jaw dropping results. It’s sounds as if a classical composer from the 1700’s has been reincarnated and is conducting an orchestra complete with a Scrillex sized armoury of modern musical mayhem, after having six Red Bulls and a large helping of LSD.
Here is a taster in the form of Nautilus but do yourself a favour and listen to Varmints from start to finish you won’t regret it.
Lau – ‘The Bell That Never Rang’
Moving swiftly along to the other side of the genre spectrum, folk trio Lau have released their fourth studio album. It’s called The Bell That Never Rang and it is a delight to listen to. Lau are undeniably tight and talented, they sound splendid live and have really achieved an authentic, folky jam session sound on a range of songs on the album.
There is inventive lyrics and enchanting music peppered throughout the album. There are layers upon layers added by the unique instrumentals, the album as a whole makes you realise how under used the fiddle and accordion are in modern music. It may not be the younger ”Creamfields is the best weekend of the year” generation’s cup of tea but any music lover will certainly appreciate the album for what it is; a genuine, emotive piece of art that makes you think and feel like all good music should.
C Duncan – ‘Architect’
This Glaswegian was thrust into our lives and the emerging music scene this year, one of the main reasons for this is because of a Mercury Prize nomination in 2015. Christopher Duncan has received justified praise for his debut album Architect. The composition and song writing prowess Christopher has channelled from honing in classical influences and a youth surrounded in music creation and performance, really comes to the fore for the world to see in Architect.
It’s an outstandingly soulful and warm collection of songs that was composed in its totality by Christopher himself. The most impressive thing about the record is that it was performed and produced entirely by Duncan in his Glasgow home In his bedroom studio setup. Have a listen to For and drift off to a soothing, dreamy world of relaxation and wonder.
Emma Pollock – ‘In Search of Harperfield’
In Search Of Harperfield is Emma Pollock’s third solo album which critics believe is her best one yet. Emma was a founding member of the band The Delgados and just couldn’t leave music behind when the band broke up. We among many others are delighted that she has chosen to take a stab at a solo career and this latest record validates her decision even more.
Emma has an enchanting voice and the meaning of the lyrics coupled with the theme of her past, which is explored throughout the album, are so genuine that the emotions expressed through the songs are almost tangible. Emma Pollock increases the difficulty the judges have in choosing a winner in a sense that even if it’s narrowed down to the folk/trad/soul genre how are the judges going to be able to choose which one of the last three deserve the award? It’s a lovely piece of captivating music that Emma should be incredibly proud of.
Young Fathers – ‘White Men Are Black Men Too’
If you don’t know this interracial trio by now you haven’t been paying close enough attention. Young Fathers won the SAY award in 2014 with TAPE TWO, their second release which was recorded in an impressively short amount of time. Their third album Dead won the Mercury prize for album of the year in 2014, so it’s safe to say the lads are well and truly established as a force to be reckoned with in the music industry.
White Men Are Black Men Too is the latest album which sees the already controversial collective tackle issues that society would rather not discuss. It also showcases the group’s ability to modify their sound and although they have been discovered and labelled as a Hip Hop act this album is more Pop than Hip Hop and has interestingly allowed Young Fathers to avoid conforming to a genre by ironically sounding slightly more mainstream yet still avoid radio friendly songs at all costs. This is a dumbfounding achievement which has resulted in the trio staying true to their values and adding to their unpredictable nature. White Men Are Black Men Too is another spectacular album worthy of the shortlist spot it has achieved.
CHVRCHES – ‘Every Open Eye’
The indie synth pop group have constructed a road map to success for aspiring bands. Their incredibly catchy, breath-of-fresh-air singles took the UK and beyond by storm over the last two years. They have deserved every bit of recognition they have received of late and the new album Every Open Eye has been another roaring success. The first single; Leave A Trace, has been played almost 26 million times on Spotify and there are so many other bangers on the album which means CHVRCHES are a formidable contender in this competition.
Auntie Flo – ‘Theory of Flo’
Theory Of Flo is nothing short of an adventurous, internationally influenced triumph. A massively intriguing collection of tracks that really explores dance music and contains ingenious arrangements and collaborations which fill out the album into an absolute cracker. I’ve alluded to its international flavourings, these come in the form of a South African born co-producer, a selection of Cuban musicians, a Ghanaian vocalist, an array of UK artists and it’s all been mashed together by Scotsman Auntie Flo. He’s done an excellent job of curating the whole album, it’s one that could be thrown on at any party leading to everyone in attendance dancing the night away.
The Revenge – ‘Love That Will Not Die’
Graeme Clark AKA The Revenge has been on the club scene for years, he has released some amazing critically acclaimed pumpers and remixes in that time. Love That Will Not Die is being referred to as his first solo LP release, and what a brilliant record it is. The Revenge seems to have used his time in the game to master the House genre, there is encapsulating Progressive and Slow House throughout the album and a fair amount of Classic and Deep thrown House thrown in there for good measure. All of the songs on the album are dance floor ready and you can’t help but bop along to it no matter where you are listening to it.
The album is good fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously. A few of the tunes contain some groovy disco flavourings and really highlight The Revenge’s versatility as an established DJ. Throw on this sweet collab with Disco heavyweights Sister Sledge and I dare you not to nod your head and stamp your feet.
Steve Mason – ‘Meet The Humans’
So, it’s pretty clear that Scotland is rife with some of the most talented artists in the world of music right now. How about some happy-go-lucky Indie Pop to round off what is a truly, terrific ten albums? Meet the Humans is Steve Mason’s third solo album, it has received excellent reviews and a common theme in the praise is the warm, upbeat nature of the record. Experts and fans seem to agree that Steve is more at home producing this type of sound. He seems to have upped his song writing game with splendid results.
Meet the Humans was produced by Craig Potter of Elbow and I have to say that some of the best songs on the album spark positive emotions and good vibes reminiscent of listening to Elbow’s One Day Like This on a sunny afternoon. It’s a wonderful sound created by an intoxicating blend of masterful music and happy harmonies. Steve has knocked this one out of the park and is undeniably in with a chance of winning the SAY award 2016.
The judging panel contains a diverse line-up of individuals who are certainly suitable to select a winner. There are industry heavyweights, Scottish music and cultural buffs and reputable reviewers who are currently or have been involved with the likes of; The Guardian, Paisley, Edinburgh International Festival, Time Out, Celtic Connections and The Rolling Stone to name a few.