Of all the depressing facets and minor annoyances which bug my life, the fact I'm not Scottish is perhaps the one which riles me the most. That might sound like a strange statement for those preoccupied with lazy, negative stereotypes, but there's something about the nation and its people which grip me every time I visit - something that's conspicuous in its absence even in my relatively convenient residence in North East England. What attracts me the most, though, is that along with its widely cited culture and heritage, Scotland also has a knack of spawning some of the most vital and transcendent music around, and even as a staunch advocate of my local scene I find it neigh on impossible not to become entranced by goings on north of the border.
A concentrated hub of talent and creativity, Scottish music is heralded and admired by listeners the world around, yet is largely ignored or sneered upon by the UK's London-based media - an injustice not lost on neglected industry figures, who last year formed the Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award by way of reaction. Billed as an equivalent to Britain's prestigious Mercury Prize, the new gong offers not only a comparable monetary incentive (winners receive £20,000, nine runners-up receive £1,000), but also a formidable and eclectic array of artistic endorsements which frankly embarrass its trend-conscious counterpart. The judges are of a fine mould also, as evidenced by last year's cheque landing in the hands of Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat for their collaborative LP Everything's Getting Older, a genuine modern masterwork whose subsequent exposure couldn't have been more richly deserved.
For this writer, it was the correct ruling, but to say it was straightforward would be to cast a blind eye on a shortlist which was refreshingly varied in both the sound and renown of its artists. Indeed, with Wells and Moffat joined by other cult acts such as King Creosote and Mogwai alongside mainstream breakouts Rustie and Twin Atlantic and novices like Conquering Animal Sound, the nominees were sourced from practically every nook of the country's musical spectrum; some craving the inevitable sales boost brought about by their recognition, others merely reveling in the approval of their distinguished peers. A slightly higher profile affair, this year's campaign performs a similar trick. There are established figures and critical darlings like Lau, Karine Polwart and Paul Buchanan, comparatively unknown quantities such as PAWS and Dam Mantle, and even a nod for all-conquering chart-buster Calvin Harris, proving the award to be far from an exercise in underground back-slapping (Emeli Sandé is in there too, but lets just ignore her).
So, what of the process itself? Well, the initial 20-album longlist announced a month ago is set to be halved into a final shortlist, with the eventual winner unveiled at a ceremony at Glasgow's legendary Barrowlands Ballroom on June 20. The ten nominees are set to be announced on May 30 (Thursday), and are largely selected by an independent panel. There is, however, a public vote open TODAY and TODAY ONLY, the winner of which will automatically be brought forward and stand chance of winning what's already become one of the most coveted and hotly contested accolades around. So, if like me you hold a passion for Scottish music, or merely for one of the records in contention, head over to the SAY Award website to support your favourite - unless, of course, your favourite is Emeli Sandé, in which case, please don't bother.
Here's the full longlist of nominated LPs. Pick a winner form that lot!
Admiral Fallow - Tree Bursts in Snow
Auntie Flo - Future Rhythm Machine
Calvin Harris - 18 Months
Dam Mantle - Brothers Fowl
Django Django - Django Django
Duncan Chisholm - Affric
Errors - Have Some Faith in Magic
Human Don't Be Angry - Human Don't Be Angry
Karine Polwart - Traces
Konrad Wiszniewski & Euan Stevenson - New Focus
Lau - Race the Loser
Meursault - Something for the Weakened
Miaoux Miaoux - Light of the North
Paul Buchanan - Mid Air
PAWS - Cokefloat
RM Hubbert - Thirteen Lost & Found (my choice!)
Stanley Odd - Reject
The Twilight Sad - No One Can Ever Know
The Unwinding Hours - Afterlives