The longlist for the prestigious Scottish Album of the Year award was announced last week in Glasgow. The last two winners were both female: Kathryn Joseph for her stunning album Bones You Have Thrown Me And Blood I’ve Spilled in 2015 and last year Anna Meredith won for her experimental opus Varmints. This year there is an interesting mix of albums nominated for the award (the full list can be found here) and so I thought I’d share some thoughts on the long listed albums which are by female artists.
Rachel Newton – Here’s My Heart Come Take It
On this album the harpist Rachel Newton evokes a brilliantly eerie atmosphere, through her voice and the music which reaches beyond traditional folk. She sings both in Gaelic and English and there’s a real hint of menace to some of the songs. Don’t Go Out Tonight My Darling is a highlight, the domestic tragedy in the lyrics is depressingly timeless. Newton’s skills as a harpist really add to the texture of these songs, with her having deservedly won the BBC Folk Awards Musician of the Year. This album is an engaging and occasionally unsettling listen that is more than worthy of a spot on the shortlist.
Teen Canteen – Say It All With A Kiss
Remember when you used to go on holiday when you were wee and you’d get a stick of rock to sook? Well Teen Canteen’s album Say It All With A Kiss is exactly that kind of sweet. It’s got girl group melodies and 80s power harmonies like Altered Images and Bis have been mixed in a blender with some Irn Bru and Tunnock’s teacakes. Honey is a highlight, as is Roses (My Love). Of course just like any treat if you have too much your teeth start to ache a little but it’s enjoyable enough to want to go back for more.
Vukovi – Vukovi
Vukovi are a proper loud and angry rock band, the kind of act which seems like a dying breed right now. From start this album goes straight for the jugular and you know live it would blow your eardrums out even more. There’s nothing really new or different about this kind of music and but it has an appeal all the same. Sometimes you do just want to break stuff or mosh til you faint and Vukovi capture that feeling perfectly.
Modern Studies – Swell to Great
My first thought on listening to this was that they sound like a sleepy Delgados and there’s a softness to these songs which is kind of hypnotising to listen to. I like the way the vocals sometimes seep together so it never feels like a solo performance. Modern Studies is quite a distinctly Scottish subject and you feel that this band could only come from here too, with their strange mix of sounds. It’s atmospheric and builds quietly into something lovely. Swell to great, indeed.
Ela Orleans – Circles of Upper and Lower Hell
Ela Orleans is a Polish composer, based in Scotland who makes music which would suit a soundtrack for a claustrophobic horror film or some kind of art installation. Her eccentric electronica works best on You Go Through Me, featuring vocals from The Pastels. At times this feels like you’re listening to something more akin to musical vignettes rather than songs as such, but such experimentation and original vision can only be admired.
Honeyblood – Babes Never Die
Honeyblood have brains, wit, tunes for miles and a real spiky heart at the core of their songs. Babes Never Die is such an anthem, if I was twenty years younger I’d be getting it tattooed on my arm. There’s just so many hits on this stunning album, it’s kind of sad that indie music doesn’t crossover into the charts anymore. Every song has a real special energy about it and you can hear the influences of punk, britpop, and riot grrl. At Honeyblood gigs you see everyone from teens to hipsters to old bald guys and this kind of crossover appeal has got them support from 6 Music, though you feel they should be on Radio 1 too. To me Honeyblood’s second album is even better than their debut and Babes Never Die would be a worthy winner of this award.
Sacred Paws – Strike a Match
This album kind of demonstrates why a title like ‘Scottish’ barely sums up the breadth and depth of music nominated for this award. Sacred Paws live in both Glasgow and London and bring together a wealth of sounds and influences which have little to do with any particular place. The songs on this album mix Afro-pop beats with indie choruses which create a distinctly different kind of lo-fi sound. Rest is great, and Everyday too. There’s an openness to this music, a friendliness in the happy mish-mash of sounds that just makes you want to listen all over again. Really hope to see this one on the shortlist.
Listen to all the albums online here. There will be a chance to vote one act through to the shortlist from June 12th to 14th and the shortlist will be announced on the 15th June with the ceremony on June 28th. Good luck to all acts nominated!