The Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Awards released their long list of nominated albums at the end of April, and since then they’ve been streaming the albums on their website. We have a bit of a connection with the SAY Awards after our very own Brian d’Souza’s music making alter-ego, Auntie Flo, was nominated a couple of years ago. This year we’re connected again as our Head of Music Neil MacDonald is a judge of this year’s nominees. We promised there’ll be no conflict of interest here however as the rest of our team suggest just a few records Neil and the other judges may want to listen to carefully before all records go to a public vote on Monday to see who makes this year’s short list.
PAWS – Youth Culture Forever (Fat Cat)
Full disclosure: this was an album of the year contender for a few of us at Open Ear last year. If chiming, treble heavy guitar lines are your friends but you love an abrasive wall of chords as background flavour then these guys are going to be up your street. Personally, we love their sense of black humour and wit when dealing with topics of love and loss as passionately as they do. Few lyricists succeed in being personal while universalising in their words, and it seems moving lyricism has shied away from the raucous end of Rock music in recent years. Thankfully, this is not music for the lads, but instead an album of depth and consideration coupled with an impetus that makes it thoroughly engaging.
Withered Hand – New Gods (Fortuna Pop!)
Dan Wilson is Withered Hand. More exactly he is a singer-songwriter who came late to the craft at age 30. Now on album number two, Wilson’s Lo-Fi style has been expanded to take in something closer to a band sound. Those sounds touch on Scottish greats like Teenage Fanclub, but also on a clear appreciation of 90s American Indie like Built to Spill, Smog, and of course REM. New Gods, itself a play on the title of debut Good News, continues to showcase Wilson’s way with words but expands his sound significantly with ‘Heart Heart’, a rocking number that ends in exuberantly glee.
Kathryn Joseph – Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I Have Spilled (Hits the Fan)
As with all awards lists, there are albums present that come from a variety of styles and genres. There’s often talk of a certain sense of tokenism in regard to these works, interspersed with the occasional story of non-mainstream artists seeing huge leaps in sales thanks to nominations. Tokenism almost certainly hasn’t played a part in Kathryn Joseph’s nomination. Her downtempo, piano led work is darkened with mysterious shadows throughout, and reminds of PJ Harvey’s White Chalk, with hints of Björk, Kate Bush, and Lou Rhodes from Lamb coming through at various times. It’s an intimate, looping, multilayered album well worth indulging with some quiet time with headphones.
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