A BAND famed for their dark and gothic lyrics have won the accolade of best Scottish album of 2014, as rated by the world’s top music critics.
The Twilight Sad have emerged as the most-lauded act in the survey, which was based on review ratings in newspapers, magazines and online internationally over the past 12 months.
The Lanarkshire band’s fourth album, Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave, triumphed over Edinburgh hip-hop trio Young Fathers’ hugely acclaimed album Dead. Young Fathers won the prestigious Mercury Music Prize last month.
The Scottish top 20 is compiled by the Any Decent Music? website, which gathers reviews of albums and aggregates the critics’ ratings.
In third place is the soundtrack album for the Bafta Scotland-nominated documentary From Scotland With Love, which saw singer-songwriter Kenny Anderson, who performs as King Creosote, marry new material to archive film footage from around the country.
Anderson’s fellow Fifer James Yorkston won two places on the list: one a homage to American singer Daniel Johnston that he recorded with Galway-born Adrian Crowley, and another which KT Tunstall and Johnny “Pictish Trail” Lynch both feature on.
The Edinburgh-based website uses the aggregate ratings of critics from more than 50 different publications and websites to keep track of the best-rated albums.
Among the big-name artists to rate the highest were indie veterans Mogwai, former stadium giants Simple Minds and Roddy Frame, the Aztec Camera frontman. Indie band Frightened Rabbit’s frontman Scott Hutchison claimed 13th place with the solo album he recorded on the Isle of Mull and released under the name Owl John.
Lesser-known acts to rate well on the list include the Glasgow-based instrumental outfit Remember Remember and indie-folk singer Alasdair Roberts, whose most recent album was a collaboration with the Perthshire poet Robin Robertson which was inspired by the Hebridean archipelago St Kilda.
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Olaf Furniss, journalist and organiser of the Scottish music industry seminars Wide Days, said: “It’s worth noting that four albums released on Fat Cat Records are in the top 20, which is testament to the taste of the label’s owner, Alex Knight.
“PAWS were signed after we dragged him to see their gig at goNorth, and Honeyblood were signed the following year on the strength of their performance at our Wide Days convention in 2012. For me, We Were Promised Jetpacks’ Unravelling is their best work to date.
“Many of my favourite albums of the year are in this selection, although Stanley Odd are conspicuous by their absence.
“I tipped Young Fathers back in 2009, so them winning both the SAY award and then the Mercury Music Prize was immensely gratifying.”
Dave McGeachan, senior promoter at DF Concerts, organisers of the T in the Park music festival, said: “It’s been a really strong year for Scottish acts and it’s great to see The Twilight Sad at the top of the list, as they have worked so hard on their new album and very much deserve the recognition.
“Others on the list that have stood out for me this year are The Phantom Band, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Owl John and Paolo Nutini – whose album in particular has been a huge success both critically and commercially.
“Personally, I really love the Mogwai album and think it’s their best record for years.”
By coincidence, all three acts to top the list have been booked to appear at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay festival.
Both The Twilight Sad and Young Fathers will be performing on the open-air Waverley Stage at the street party on 31 December, while King Creosote will appear in a secret venue the following day.
Pete Irvine, managing director of Unique Events, producers of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations, said: “We’re delighted that the three bands who have topped the poll are all playing at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay this year.”
Comment: Twilight Sad tops poll, but Young Fathers stand apart
The Any Decent Music? Scottish album poll of polls is an opportunity to hear ourselves as others hear us. But it seems, according to this year’s list of the top 20 most favourably reviewed albums, that critical acclaim from our main overseas markets dovetails quite neatly with approbation on home turf.
The usual celebrated suspects – from young bucks (We Were Promised Jetpacks) to old warhorses (Simple Minds), critical darlings (Mogwai) to commercial powerhouses (Paolo Nutini) – form a generally Glasgow-centric, guitar-heavy and male-orientated list, which represents the main preoccupations of the Scottish rock and pop community with reasonable accuracy, if not quite reflecting the variety of music produced across the length and breadth of the country.
In that respect, The Twilight Sad could well be considered the most typical Scottish band of the year, though their rather beige fourth album Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave makes for an underwhelming chart-topper.
Young Fathers’ Mercury Music Prize-winning Dead, on the other hand, is an exotic beast of an album which proudly and deliberately stands apart from its peers and even its environment.
King Creosote’s ravishing From Scotland With Love, meanwhile, is all about its environment, being the soundtrack to a documentary compilation of archive Scottish social history footage.
Elsewhere, Paolo Nutini and Roddy Frame have received deserving plaudits for classy comebacks and Glasgow-based Honeyblood have turned heads with their self-titled fuzz pop debut.
But that’s just what the music critics reckon – and what do they know? FIONA SHEPHERD
• Fiona Shepherd is the rock and pop critic for The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday.
TOP SCOTS ALBUMS
List compiled by website Any Decent Music?, which will reveal the winners of its global “poll of polls” and the most critically-acclaimed album of 2014 at the end of the year.
The Twilight Sad
Nobody Wants To be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave
2. Young Fathers
3. King Creosote
From Scotland With Love
4. Alasdair Roberts & Robin Robertson
5. Roddy Frame
6. We Were Promised Jetpacks
8. The Phantom Band
9. Remember Remember
Forgetting The Present
10. The National Jazz Trio Of Scotland
Standards Volume III
11. James Yorkston
The Cellardyke Recording and Wassailing Society
13. Owl John
14. Paolo Nutini
15. Withered Hand
Youth Culture Forever
17. Simple Minds
18. Adrian Crowley & James Yorkston
My Yoke Is Heavy: The Songs Of Daniel Johnston
20. The Amazing Snakeheads
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