I’m a bit torn on this year’s Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award longlist.
On the one hand, the fact that four of the five albums I put forward made the list makes me very happy (as for the fifth? Well, another band featuring the same songwriter made the cut, so it’s not like I can quibble).
On the other: well, with such a strong showing from my faves – and only two properly new-to-me acts among the final 20 – could this be the least diverse list in six years of the award? And is that a reflection on Scottish music, or the hundred of us “industry insiders” from whose votes the longlist is compiled?
My first reaction when I saw the list was to be pleased to see such a decent showing by female songwriters, as the gender balance in some past years has been pretty lacking (I’m counting RM Hubbert’s gorgeous Telling The Trees among them, since each of the musicians, artists and writers Hubby approached to collaborate on a track happened to be female). In that excitement I glossed over just how white it all is, with Rachel Aggs of Sacred Paws I think the only artist of colour on the list. I’ve wittered on before about the need for diversity in criticism for just this very reason, and I hope somebody better qualified than me is ready and willing to write about it.
I’ve always tried, as far as I am able (which probably isn’t very far, given the subjectiveness at play in musical taste) to distinguish between the music that I “like” and the music that is “good” in my writing. Of course, now I’ve cut back on the extent to which I write about stuff that is out of my wheelhouse that obviously trickles down into what I’m able to give an opinion on. But I’m not sure how to address that without risking my mental health and tentative first steps into some sort of a work-life balance again.
That longlist in full…
Adam Holmes and the Embers: Brighter Still
C Duncan: The Midnight Sun
Ela Orleans: Circles of Upper and Lower Hell
Fatherson: Open Book
Frightened Rabbit: Painting of a Panic Attack
Honeyblood: Babes Never Die
The Jesus and Mary Chain: Damage and Joy
King Creosote: Astronaut Meets Appleman
Meursault: I Will Kill Again
Modern Studies: Swell To Great
Pictish Trail: Future Echoes
Rachel Newton: Here’s My Heart Come Take It
RM Hubbert: Telling The Trees
Sacred Paws: Strike A Match
Teenage Fanclub: Here
TeenCanteen: Say It All With a Kiss
While leaning, perhaps predictably, on the side of indie-kinda-folky (we are Scottish, after all) and with no showing whatsoever from, say, hip hop, I think that, musically, this is quite a strong list (although with the caveat that my tastes tend to trend towards the indie-kinda-folky). And, lord knows, for the majority of the artists shortlisted that £20,000 grand prize is a life-changing sum of money, potentially enabling somebody to devote a whole year to their creative practice and produce some really incredible art.
Between 29th May and 11th June, you’ll get to find out for yourself as two longlisted albums per day stream at SAYAward.com, before a 72-hour public vote begins on 12th June. The top album will once again be shortlisted alongside nine picks by a panel of industry judges, with the overall winner announced on 28th June at the award ceremony at Paisley Town Hall.
Do you have a favourite from the longlisted albums? Who would you have included?