Voting starts tonight to determine which Scottish act released the top long-player of the past year. By Fiona Shepherd
THE Scottish Album of the Year Award goes from strength to strength, announcing its most impressive longlist to date a few weeks ago, representing a bold array of rock, pop, soul, folk and electronica albums, all released between January 2014 and March 2015.
Last year’s victors, Young Fathers, are nominated again and several SAY favourites made the cut for the second or third time, but inaugural winners Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat were overlooked, while Nicola Benedetti and Simple Minds were also passed over. The public has a say in selecting one album from the longlist to make it to the shortlist, with votes cast through the SAY website. Voting opens at midnight tonight for 72 hours, then the judges knit brows and lock horns, after which 20 become ten. The winner, and recipient of the £20,000 prize, will be announced at the SAY ceremony in Glasgow on 17 June. Place your votes/bets for one of the following:
The Amazing Snakeheads Amphetamine Ballads
Could The Amazing Snakeheads be the first band to win the award posthumously? It’s not easy being a guttural, kerb-crawling blues punk gang – frontman Dale Barclay presided over a revolving door of bandmates before declaring this year that the group were never, ever getting back together.
Belle and Sebastian
Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance
There’s always been a dance(able) element to Belle and Sebastian’s music but this album was more electro club than indie disco in places – witness the slick synth pop of Enter Sylvia Plath, the greatest disco song ever written about a poet.
Blue Rose Code
The Ballads Of Peckham Rye
Crossover folk sounds from Edinburgh singer/songwriter Ross Wilson, whose music attracted album guests of the calibre of Karine Polwart and legendary Pentangle bassist Danny Thompson.
Lease Of Life
Glasgow-based electronica trio Errors are one of several repeat offenders on the SAY longlist. Their fourth album Lease Of Life floats in ambient analogue and proggy post-rock instrumental waters to soothing, satisfying effect.
I Am An Island
Kilmarnock outfit who already feel established in the affections of the nation’s music fans. Perhaps it’s the comforting familiarity of their sound – debut album I Am An Island trades consistently in rousing, anthemic indie rock with unabashed Celtic heart.
Happy Meals are Borders-bred, Glasgow-based duo Lewis Cook and Suzanne Rodden. Their debut album, Apero, offers a cool, classy take on Euro electro pop perfectly complemented by Rodden’s Franco-Scottish, ice maiden vocal delivery.
Glasgow duo Honeyblood recall the buzzsaw indie pop sounds of the late 1980s and early ’90s on their self-titled debut which has drawn admiring glances for the melodic strength of its songwriting and the lyrical bite of frontwoman Stina Tweedale.
Everything Ever Written
Idlewild returned after a five-year hiatus with the confident flourish of Everything Ever Written, which built on their reputation as writers with great Celtic soul while adding widescreen arrangements and dynamic time signatures to the pot.
Bones You Have Thrown Me And Blood I’ve Spilled
A fragile sound from a singer/pianist who has been compared to Joanna Newsom and Antony Hegarty for her tremulous vocals but will surely be recognised in her own right for this enveloping album.
From Scotland With Love
The ruler of the Fence Collective has released a steady stream of consistently disarming albums over the past decade or so but From Scotland With Love has been by far his most commercially successful and fondly embraced to date.
In The Wake Of Neil Gunn
An instrumental odyssey inspired equally by Neil Gunn’s book Off In A Boat and Vass’s recovery from illness. The composer and multi-instrumentalist recreated Gunn’s 1937 voyage around the west of Scotland then wrote this healing album in response.
Mogwai maintain their unbroken run of SAY nominations with Rave Tapes, which builds on their spot-on soundtrack to French horror series Les Revenants by summoning up the musical spirit of Halloween director John Carpenter via synth arpeggios.
On which the former Paisley pop prodigy grew up and showed us what he’s made of. Caustic Love was a brave move for this established star, a cohesive collection with a sound that bypasses his pop peers entirely and aims directly for the soul territory of Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield.
Youth Culture Forever
No frills indie rocking from this Glasgow trio. Paws secure their second SAY Award nomination with Youth Culture Forever, which refines their mix of straight-ahead garage thrashing and more introspective moments without putting a gloss on heartbreak.
The Phantom Band
With their two playful, genre-mashing albums released during the eligibility period, The Phantom Band were spoiling us. There’s not much to choose between the anagrammatical Strange Friend and Fears Trending but the former gets the longlist nod, perhaps because it’s been out in the world, mangling minds for a bit longer.
The first new album in five years from Slam’s Stuart McMillan and Orde Meikle lives up to its name, combining old school sequencing techniques with the latest in studio production to wrap up the past, present – and future? – sound of Scottish techno.
This folk big band are best experienced live but their second album Grind is a worthy introduction for the uninitiated to their natural talent for writing crossover compositions arranged into intoxicating instrumental sets which flirt with rock and dance structures as much as the lyricism and exhilaration of traditional reels and jigs.
The Twilight Sad
Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave
Previous winners of the SAY public vote, Twilight Sad’s fourth album comes over as a distillation of their previous work – some chest-beating indie anthems and a darker dash of electronica-infused material to keep all-comers happy.
It’s no surprise that Dan Willson, aka Withered Hand, has found a kindred spirit in King Creosote – both are gifted songwriters, poignant lyricists and plaintive vocalists. New Gods expands on his debut, Good News, with a full band performance packed with warmth and wit.
You’ve got to feel for Young Fathers – three members and so far only two major awards to go round: last year’s SAY for Tape Two and the Mercury Music Prize for Dead. Have a heart, SAY judges, and let these inspired musicians score a prestigious doorstop each.
• Visit www.sayaward.com to cast your vote. Voting period opens at midnight for 72 hours. The Say Award shortlist is announced on Thursday and the winner chosen on 17 June