TOMORROW will see the winner of the SAY Award 2019 finally revealed at a glittering ceremony in the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh. The winning album will be selected by an esteemed panel of judges on the night who will deliberate over the final ten records which made the shortlist. Firmly recognised as Scotland’s most prestigious music prize, the winner will pick up a bespoke prize created by local designer Emma McDowall and a lucrative £20,000.
So with the eagerly anticipated announcement only a day away, here’s a rundown of the final shortlist.
Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert – Here Lies The Body
Previous SAY Award winners Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert bring their distinctive individual talents together on ‘Here Lies the Body’. After first working together on Hubbert’s ‘Car Song’ in 2012, the inimitable duo have teamed up once again to create a concept album that is unpredictable and incredibly diverse. Featuring vocal input from one of Scotland’s rising stars and previous SAY Award nominee Siobhan Wilson, Hubbert’s familiar percussive guitar style works wonderfully with Moffat’s recognisable drawl. It’s a concept album that revolves around the story of two former lovers who reunite in Blackpool and traverses themes of lust, maternal abandonment, alternate realities and human frailty.
Andrew Wasylyk – The Paralian
Known as an integral part of Idlewild’s current line-up and head of indie-pop outfit The Hazey Janes, The Paralian is Andrew Wasylyk’s third solo effort. Paralian doesn’t have much lyrical input for the most part, but is more focused on creating thoughtful, delicate soundscapes and multi-textured complexities. After he was commissioned to create new music for the restored 19th century Erard Grecian harp at the historic house Hospitalfield in Arbroath, Wasylyk was inspired by his surrounding environment and the building’s relationship to the brutal but beautiful North Sea and the harp-led compositions soon grew into a series of textured tales dressed in a variety of instruments including synths, flugelhorn, euphonium, oboe and strings
Auntie Flo – Radio Highlife
Previously shortlisted in 2016 for ‘Theory of Flow’, DJ, producer and musician Brian d’Souza – aka Auntie Flo- released Radio Highlife last year and it has been described as the culmination of “seven years of wild travelling, serendipitous encounters and deeply personal moments”. Sharing its name with his popular radio show on Worldwide FM which explores the best dance sounds from around the world, it includes field recordings and studio sessions from Cuba, Cape Town, Bali, Russia, Istanbul, Senegal, Norway, the UK and beyond. D’Souza was born in Glasgow to parents of Kenyan and Goan heritage and has been a key figure in the city’s club scene as the founder and resident DJ of the popular Highlife parties
C Duncan – Health
A record which saw him move from working in his bedroom to the studio for the first time and collaborate with outside producers, ‘Health’ has marked an exciting new era for C Duncan, bringing his trademark suavity into new dynamic and vibrant territory. Described as his most open albums to date with lyrics that turn to topics of communication, sexuality and anxiety, it is the third time he has been longlisted for the SAY Award after Architect and The Midnight Sun.
Carla J. Easton – Impossible Stuff
After her work with TeenCanteen, ‘Impossible Stuff’ is Carla J. Easton’s second full-length solo effort. After meeting Arcade Fire producer Howard Bilerman at the inaugural Singer Songwriter Residency at The Banff Centre For Arts and Creativity, Easton travelled over to Canada to record a full record with the revered producer who has also worked with the likes of Leonard Cohen and British Sea Power. Supported by Creative Scotland and Help Musicians UK, she has described it as “the record I’ve been wanting to make for years”, arranging string and brass sections, double drums and choirs and generating a very rich and full sound.
Fergus McCreadie Trio – Turas
Led by the multi-award winning McCreadie, the Fergus McCreadie trio consists of himself, David Bowden and Stephen Henderson; three musicians who attended the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Gaelic for ‘journey’, Turas is about journeys in Scotland and inspired by places McCreadie has been to in his home nation either by himself or with the trio. With the aim of creating “as much of an immersive journey as possible”, he was inspired by albums such as Brad Mehldau’s Highway Rider, Keith Jarrett’s Vienna Concert and Pat Metheny’s 80/1 which all have strong narratives weaved through them. The album won Best Album at the Scottish Jazz Awards 2019.
Free Love – Luxury Hits
Previously known as Happy Meals, Free Love returned to their Full Ashram label for ‘Luxury Hits’ after being shortlisted in 2015 for ‘Apero’ and longlisted in 2018 for ‘Full Ashram Devotional Ceremony IV-VI). A psychedelically enriched style of songwriting aimed at lounging dancefloors and pop romantics longing for a new fix, the album consists of 8 tracks full of colour and a breezy warmth – spanning everything from classic synth-pop to Italo disco and has successfully broadened their international appeal, gaining popularity in Germany and Russia.
Karine Polwart – Laws of Motion
‘Laws of Motion’ is the latest in an evolving series of collaborative projects across which Karine has combined music and storytelling with politics and environmental-societal issues. Shortlisted twice already for the SAY Award in 2013 for ‘Traces’ and again in 2018 with Pippa Murphy for ‘A Pocket of Wind Resistance’ and a six-time winner at the Scottish Trad Awards, her latest album explores themes of human transience, change and permanency. Featuring long-term collaborators Steven Polwart and Inge Thomson, she has long established herself as one of the leading figures in Scottish folk music
Kathryn Joseph – From When I Wake The Want Is
‘From When I Wake The Want Is’ is Kathryn Joseph’s second solo album since ‘Bones You Have Thrown Me, And Blood I’ve Spilled’ which won the SAY Award in 2015. It is her first album on Mogwai’s Rock Action label and sees her working with producer and main musical collaborator Marcus Mackay once again. Written during a year when she split from her partner, the deeply personal album is a raw testimonial of strength that explores the dichotomy between light and dark; pain and beauty.
Mastersystem – Dance Music
Mastersystem were a British rock supergroup composed of two sets of brothers, who were members of Frightened Rabbit and Editors and Minor Victories. Their debut album ‘Dance Music’ has gained even greater significance since it came out last year as it was the final record put out by Scott Hutchison before his tragic and untimely death last May. A massive passion project for all four members, it’s an album that evokes the spirit of nineties grunge bands like early Idlewild, Hundred Reasons, Nirvana and The Posies. Clash Music said: “It’s sonically self-conscious, yet done with such love, such precision, that it’s difficult to shrug off. It’s bold, carefree, and gripping throughout, with centrepiece ‘Old Team’ representing the sound of teenage dreams being fulfilled some two decades on.”