Music Columnist


We’ve taken a look at the nominees for the 2020 Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) awards and provided a handy guide to each album and artist!

If 2020 has proved anything, it’s that end-of-year awards may join cockroaches as the only things left after Armageddon. We are entering the last gasp of this cursed year, which means it's time to reflect on the gems that rose up out of the catastrophes, before we hurriedly sprint our way into 2021. 

A mainstay of the Scottish music scene for almost a decade, the Scottish Album of the Year Award celebrates the best albums from across the entire genre spectrum. A mixture of professional nominators and public voting has whittled the vast field down to a shortlist of ten fantastically different records. With the grand prize of £20,000 previously going to the likes of Anna Meredith, RM Hubbert, and two-time victors Young Fathers (as well as a generous £1000 given to each of the nine runners up), the award has become synonymous with success in the industry. With the big night taking place virtually on the 29th of October, here’s a rundown of who’s made the list and what they’re all about!

The Ninth Wave – Infancy

Since breaking onto the scene in 2017, the Glasgow outfit started turning heads immediately with their unique sound and image. Blending slick synth and guitar instrumentation with Roland Orzabal-esque lead vocals, The Ninth Wave’s take on post-punk is unrivalled. The culmination of several years in the studio with Haydn Park-Patterson and Millie Kidd, Infancy is one of the strongest albums on this year’s shortlist and cements the band as one of Glasgow’s finest.

BEST TRACK: Half Pure

comfort – Not Passing

From synthy post-punk to pure, brutal punk. At just twenty-one minutes, Not Passing is a whirlwind of heavy drums, distorted electronics and, above all, howling vocals courtesy of Natalie and Sean McGhee. The brother and sister duo create a dystopian cacophony of warbling noise, from which Natalie’s brutal lyricism and delivery stand tall. Tackling themes of gender identity and the difficulties of “not passing” in a cisgendered society, each cut on Not Passing is as unflinching as the next.

BEST TRACK: Better Need Assumptions 

SHHE – SHHE

The name adopted by singer-songwriter Su Shaw, SHHE’s music is as haunting as it is gorgeous. Ethereal, electronic melodies are elevated by Shaw’s gossamer-soft vocals to create a sound that is all her own. SHHE is an album unafraid to take its time, letting each idea stretch and breathe before drifting into the next. Half an hour of pure luxury, Shaw has established herself as an innovator in the field of art pop.

BEST TRACK: Saint Cyrus

Nova – Re-Up

Emerging from the often unfairly overlooked Scottish hip-hop scene, Nova aka Nova Scotia The Truth aka Shaheeda Sinckler has cultivated her own brand of R&B on her EP Re-Up. One of the most unique voices on the shortlist, Nova raps over an eclectic mix of lo-fi and heavy grime beats about issues relevant to the modern underground. While her lyrics and delivery swing between in-your-face abrasiveness to mournful reflections at the drop of a hat, the quality of her writing remains head and shoulders above her contemporaries.

BEST TRACK: Trees

Bossy Love – Me + U

At the tail-end of 2019, Glasgow two-piece Bossy Love came through with one of the most vibrant and colourful pop albums. Me + U is littered with sticky hooks and infectious production from front to back. There’s an addictive quality to the record, and each of the deceptively simple tracks stay with you long after the album ends. A dynamic mix of R&B, electronic, and dance, Bossy Love are rapidly and rightfully becoming a top name in Scottish pop.

BEST TRACK: The E

Erland Cooper – Sule Skerry 

Highlighting the sonic diversity prevalent within Scotland’s music scene, Sule Skerry is the second of a planned trilogy of albums from composer and multi-instrumentalist Erland Cooper. Exploring themes of the sea and chaotic earthly forces, Sule Skerry wields a powerful variety of musical tools to create an atmosphere reminiscent of the storms of Cooper’s native Orkney. Featuring guest vocals and spoken word as well as lavish orchestral movements, the album is a wholly unique experience and would be worth a listen for its atmosphere building alone.

BEST TRACK: Sule Skerry

Blanck Mass – Animated Violence Mild

Animated Violence Mild is not for the faint-hearted. The brainchild of Fuck Buttons co-founder Benjamin John Power, Blanck Mass’ latest output is steeped in harsh sounds and choppy, distorted vocals. Behind the overwhelming wall of noise, however, Animated Violence Mild is teeming with fascinating sonic ideas and anthemic political melodies. Each track slides right into the next, creating an intricately crafted listening experience despite its brutality. It's unrelenting and unapologetic – a monster of an album to match a monster of a year.

BEST TRACK: Love is a Parasite

Callum Easter – Here or Nowhere

As DIY and DIY can get, Here or Nowhere was written, performed, and mastered entirely between artist Callum Easter’s Edinburgh flat and studio. The unpolished recording and production mask some of the most darkly captivating song writing in recent memory. Easter’s eclectic choice of instrumentation is matched only by the kitchen-sink variety of genres he touches on over the album’s runtime. Skeletal guitar ballads lie side-by-side with joyful piano tunes, yet nothing feels “out of place” – the chaotic nature of the album establishes it as the product of a single, visionary artist. 

BEST TRACK: Space in Time

Declan Welsh and The Decadent West – Cheaply Bought, Expensively Sold

You would be forgiven for thinking Cheaply Bought, Expensively Sold came from a band with years in the industry under their belts. On what is shockingly their debut album, Welsh & Co. come through with a guitar-led project that eclipses most veterans of the genre. A definitive entry into the indie-punk canon, the band’s sound is full-bodied and cohesive, each instrumental layer bleeding into one another to form a wonderfully anthemic set of tracks. 

BEST TRACK: Turn Me On

Cloth – Cloth 

Capping off this whistle-stop tour of Scottish music’s elite is the debut album from Glasgow alt-rock three-piece Cloth. An album of gentle melancholy, Rachel Swinton’s gorgeous vocals are backed by the chiming guitars and punchy bass of brother Paul and friend Clare Gallacher. Despite comprising only three people, Cloth never feels lacking, and the band understands how to turn sparsity to their advantage. It’s a wonderful, almost cosy, set of tracks – a phenomenal debut that sets the bar very high for their next outing.

BEST TRACK: Old Bear

And so concludes the showcase of this year’s nominees, each bringing something entirely unique to the Scottish scene. While the shortlist barely scratches the surface of those eligible for the award, it goes some way in demonstrating the sheer diverse range of voices writing and playing music across the country. No matter who takes the big prize on Thursday, each artist is a reminder of the incredibly high standard of musicians in the landscape today.


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