You have until May 28th to vote for your favourite album in the longlist, plus you can listen each album at http://www.sayaward.com/the-albums/ (this piece was written several weeks beforehand).
A couple of weeks ago, the 20 strong ‘longlist’ of nominees for the third Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Awards were announced. For the uninitiated, these awards are essentially a Scottish version of the Mercury Awards; i.e. the one that has some credibility and albums you’d actually want to listen to. And this year’s selection has a whole host of albums that you should listen to, with awards host (and Radio Scotland champion of new music) Vic Galloway commenting that “this is possibly the strongest list the award has seen yet.”
Previous winners RM Hubbert and Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat beating off stiff competition from big label acts show that SAY doesn’t follow others and go for the obvious. It’s another fine selection of albums, and whilst unlikely to bother said Mercurys, they are easily as good as the albums on that esteemed list. What is again striking is the variety that’s on display, with Frightened Rabbit of the opinion that “Scotland’s music scene is amongst the most productive, creative and energetic of any country in the world and this award list serves to highlight that fact.”
Although indie albums tip the balance, the list also features hip-hop, electro, folk, rock and the obligatory (but far from token) jazz and classical albums. I do wonder what would happen if Scotland produced half a dozen world class jazz or classical albums each a year (not an impossibility), would the longlist reflect that?
The spirit of adventure is rewarded this time around, all conquering Chvrches synth-pop debut The Bones of What You Believe has come home, whilst Mogwai continue their leftfield journey with their French TV soundtrack Les Revenants, Boards of Canada go from strength to strength with Tomorrow’s Harvest, young upstart Adam Stafford’s Imaginary Walls Collapse channels the spirit of Beck’s Odelay, and says “In this increasing culture of music as a disposable commodity, events like the SAY Award give us a chance to debate and discuss the importance of the album as a collected work of art and give little or esoteric artists like me the chance to reach a wider public.” Steve Mason’s majestic concept piece Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time might become his first ever award win (Beta Band included), “it would be amazing if the only award I ever won for music came from the country of my birth.”
The inspirational Edwyn Collins caps his creative green patch by making the list with Understated and Glasgow indie royalty The Pastels’ Slow Summits is included. Biffy Clyro are this year’s big name act although I’d imagine, in keeping with the spirit of the awards, they won’t win. Emerging Scots indie stars Adam Holmes and The Embers, Kid Canaveral, The Phantom Band’s Rick Redbeard and Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire are all acknowledged, indicating that the future is most definitely bright for Scottish music. Already attracting acclaim are Camera Obscura, the only act in the list to have an Edinburgh tourist attraction named after them, and Frightened Rabbit. Last year’s SAY winner RM Hubbert is back again with his latest album Breaks & Bone, the stunning conclusion to his Ampersand Trilogy.
Hip-hop again features in the SAY longlist, with a pair of albums, Hector Bizerk’s self released Nobody Seen Nothing was a winner at the Scottish Alternative Music Awards, and Young Fathers Tape Two has lead to them being snapped up by top US label Anticon, with the follow up release already doing well Stateside. For such a small nation, Scotland has an impressive array of world class artists, Tommy Smith’s Scottish National Jazz Orchestra are a big band of international renown and their tribute to Duke Ellington is something special, and there are two classical albums on the shortlist, much acclaimed Dunedin Consort’s Six Brandenburg Concertos is a stunning piece of baroque, and Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s second Berlioz release features prize-winning mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill (“She’s up there among the best sopranos in the world so we are delighted this nomination will bring her more attention here in her home country.” says the orchestra’s Caroline Dooley), showing why they’re regarded as one of the world’s finest chamber orchestras. John Butt from Dunedin Consort makes the point that “It is also a great privilege to be considered for this award among all genres of music, beyond the purely classical scene. Hopefully it will help to show the richness and range of musical production and performance now coming out of Scotland.”
Each year I do wonder if we really need a Scottish album award when there are loads of awards out there already, be that all the specialist genre specific awards, or the national awards – and equally, does it marginalise our music? Making it a sort of ‘not good enough for the proper awards’ consolation prize. After my initial caution I then check out the longlist and find myself agreeing with Creative Scotland’s (agreeing with Creative Scotland??!! – Editor) Caroline Parkin who says that: “It’s great to see such a diverse range of genres on the long list and we hope that each nominee will see an increase in fans and sales as a result.”
Info: Tip up here to listen to nominees: http://www.sayaward.com
Original feature appears in Leither Magazine May 2014