WHEN Stewart Henderson, chair of the Scottish Music Industry Association, initially punted the idea of an award to celebrate Scottish albums, he felt a Hippocratic responsibility to the scene he has been a part of for the past two decades.
“First of all, do no harm,” he says. “It’s been well documented how diverse, strong and interesting the Scottish music scene is so, at the very least, let’s create something that complements the work that people are doing up here.”
Having secured sufficient funding for the next few years, the Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award returns for a second bout with the unveiling today of a tantalising longlist, featuring the eclectic likes of Emeli Sandé, Paul Buchanan, Django Django, Lau, Calvin Harris and Konrad Wiszniewski & Euan Stevenson.
“Last year there weren’t any heavy hitters, but this year we have Calvin Harris, who has got over two million people following him on Twitter, and Emeli Sandé, the biggest selling UK artist last year,” says Henderson, while recognising that other established names such as The Proclaimers, Deacon Blue and The View failed to secure enough votes from nominators to make the list. “You need to have a lot of people voting for you across different constituencies to make sure you get up there. Folk albums by Lau and Karine Polwart picked up nominations across the board. But if these longlists weren’t contentious to some degree, we wouldn’t be doing our job right. Awards are at their best when they encourage a conversation.”
The SAY Award takes that conversation directly to the fans with the opportunity to listen to the nominated albums streaming on the website and then to vote one on to the shortlist, which will be announced on 30 May. The winner will then be revealed at the SAY Award ceremony which takes place on 20 June at Barrowland in Glasgow.
“I like the idea of celebrating the album as a format,” says Henderson. “That might be a bit old school, but I still believe the album is peerless in its ability to enhance our lives. A really great album is a friend, an icebreaker, a bereavement counsellor - it’s all of these things.
“I think the music scene up here is better for the existence of the SAY Award so I’m glad we’ve been able to get the support together to do it again.”
• The SAY Award is supported by Creative Scotland, Dewar’s, music licensing organisation PPL, Clyde Gateway and The Scotsman. www.sayaward.com
ADMIRAL FALLOW: TREE BURSTS IN SNOW
The slow-burn success story of Glaswegian five-piece Admiral Fallow continues with their second album which has attracted comparisons with Elbow, Snow Patrol and Mumford & Sons for its mainstream mix of rousing indie folk, elegant melancholy and meditations on violence and religion.
DJANGO DJANGO: DJANGO DJANGO
This Edinburgh-bred, London-based four-piece created their self-titled debut in starving artist conditions, using whatever time and salvaging whatever hardware they had to concoct a stramash of infectious electronica, rockabilly guitar, psychedelic flourishes and narcotic harmony vocals which arrived fully formed in January 2012 to instant acclaim.
AUNTIE FLO: FUTURE RHYTHM MACHINE
Auntie Flo is the alias of DJ Brian d’Souza, who claims to hail from GlasGoa. His Future Rhythm Machine album is a similarly eclectic conflation of mellow house, minimal techno and electro jazz with strong Afrobeat, Latino and Highlife inflections providing its distinctive flavour.
DUNCAN CHISHOLM: AFFRIC
In a country bursting with respected folk musicians, fiddle player Duncan Chisholm shines as one of our finest player/composers. Affric concludes his lauded Strathglass Trilogy, celebrating the ancient lands of the Chisholm clan. Bold, lyrical, dynamic and stuffed with great tunes, it was inspired by the beauty of Glen Affric and the character of his own family.
KARINE POLWART: TRACES
Polwart’s great strength as a songwriter and performer of her own material is her instinctive blend of the poetic and the topical. Traces is classic folk in that it tells stories both personal and observational, but is set against an eclectic backdrop of guitar, harmonium, accordian and percussion. And she sticks it to Donald Trump.
MIAOUX MIAOUX: LIGHT OF THE NORTH
Producer and remixer Justin Corrie turned a lot of heads with his accessible electronica debut for Chemikal Underground. Light Of The North cherrypicks everywhere from indie to glitch but it’s all pop music at the end of the day thanks to the vocal melodies which sound a bit like Owl City if he ate his porridge.
STANLEY STANLEY ODD: REJECT
From the name to the accent, this is rap but not as we normally know it. Edinburgh hip-hop collective Stanley Odd lace their second album with equal doses of humour, wordplay, shrewd social observation and political comment, delivered by MC Solareye and vocalist Veronika Electronika over a backing blending loops and live instrumentation.
CALVIN HARRIS: 18 MONTHS
The Dumfries hit machine works to a proven chart dance formula; so far his third album has yielded a record-breaking eight Top 10 singles. Harris would like to thank all the star vocalists who helped make this album the blockbuster it has become – Rihanna, Ne-Yo, Ellie Goulding, Tinie Tempah, Kelis, Example and Florence Welch - without whom, etc, etc…
EMELI SANDÉ: OUR VERSION OF EVENTS
Emeli Sandé has ruled the past year with her traditional songwriting values and tasteful brushes with hip-hop and electronica artists, producing this commercial behemoth of a debut, which became the UK’s biggest selling album of 2012 and hasn’t left the Top 10 since its release. Our Version of Events is the work of a single-minded auteur who is in it for the long haul.
DAM MANTLE: BROTHERS FOWL
Following a series of EPs, the debut album by Glasgow-based producer/composer Tom Marshallsay is an assured piece of DIY electronica. Brothers Fowl starts out as a soothing, ambient suite coloured with a pretty patchwork of hypnotic, jazzy loops before heading into more restless rhythmic territory.
ERRORS: HAVE SOME FAITH IN MAGIC
This Glasgow group delivered on their early promise in spades with a confident, idiosyncratic third album which blended their signature quaking electronica with prog and Krautrock elements to produce some irresistible hooks. Savour the unabashed eccentricities because, with the departure of guitarist Greg Paterson, the remaining trio have subsequently settled in more ambient pastures.
LAU: RACE THE LOSER
Folk power trio Lau have picked up the Best Group gong at the Radio 2 Folk Awards an impressive four times. Other folk groups are available. Yet the chemistry between singer/guitarist Kris Drever, fiddler Aidan O’Rourke and accordianist/vibe controller Martin Green continues to find fresh, inventive expression – and a crossover audience - on their third studio album.
Glasgow-based three-piece PAWS fly the flag for melodic grungy indie rock on their fizzy, fuzzy debut which encompasses bubblegum pop tunes, howling teen angst, hell-for-leather punky onslaughts and one garagey elegy, all dispensed with no-frills vigour.
THE UNWINDING HOURS: AFTERLIVES
Former Aereogramme mainstays Craig Beaton and Iain Cook try something a bit different on their second album, a generally less brooding and more blithe collection of atmospheric songs, where Beaton’s voice is as favoured as their trademark textured guitar sound.
HUMAN DON’T BE ANGRY: HUMAN DON’T BE ANGRY
HDBA, named after the German version of the board game Frustration, is ex-Arab Strap guitarist Malcolm Middleton in a mainly instrumental electronica guise, conceived “so I could have fun again musically”. This manifests itself in a playful 1980s influence and the optimistically titled Getting Better (At Feeling Like Shit).
MEURSAULT: SOMETHING FOR THE WEAKENED
As is to be expected from a musician/band named after a Camus character, Meursault’s music is not exactly a barrel of laughs. But there is a cathartic quality to Neil Pennycook’s writing and delivery. Something For The Weakened departs from the electronic foundations of previous albums but is as spare and spacious as before.
RM HUBBERT: THIRTEEN LOST & FOUND
Ex-El Hombre Trajeado frontman RM Hubbert demonstrates what a finger-picking good guitarist he is on Thirteen Lost & Found. Even in the company of guests such as Alex Kapranos (who also produced the album), Emma Pollock, Alasdair Roberts and last year’s SAY winner Aidan Moffat, his expressive flamenco-inspired playing remains the star turn.
KONRAD WISZNIEWSKI & EUAN STEVENSON: NEW FOCUS
Jazz saxophonist Konrad Wiszniewski and pianist/arranger Euan Stevenson join forces with the Glasgow String Quartet, harpist Alina Bzhezhinska and rhythm section Michael Janisch and Alyn Cosker for this fluid collaboration, which was inspired by Stan Getz’s string album Focus.
PAUL BUCHANAN: PAUL BUCHANAN: MID AIR
This solo debut “record-ette” from Blue Nile frontman Paul Buchanan is unsurprisingly a more stripped-down, intimate affair than the lush works of his revered band. Mid Air comprises 14 spare but evocative piano ballads with a wistful, wee small hours resonance, crowned with Buchanan’s exquisitely melancholy vocals.
THE TWILIGHT SAD: NO ONE CAN EVER KNOW
Kilsyth’s Twilight Sad access their inner goths on their third and best album to date, moving away from angsty indie folkisms to embrace the dark Europhile electronica and sonorous sounds of early Simple Minds and New Order, a synthesis they achieve without sacrificing their beloved anthemic abilities.