10. SCHOOL OF VELOCITY – MIAOUX MIAOUX
The ‘Nom de Plume’ of Julian Corry this is the excellent follow up to the ground breaking ‘Light of the North’ shortlisted for Scottish Album of the Year in 2013. Possibly even more accessible than its predecessor it shifts variously between classic pop to electronica to dance floor. Went to see him in an almost empty tent at T in the Park this year and was surprised just how effortlessly the album was reproduced with an almost defiant attempt by Julian to play as many instruments as possible. Miaoux Miaoux always seem just a couple of steps away from the big time but with material like this it will come.
9. WHITE MEN ARE BLACK TOO – YOUNG FATHERS
Arriving with a blaze of publicity and incredible reviews after their Mercury prize win last year this is a more than worthy successor to last years ‘Dead’. The winning formula of cleverly crafted songs based around almost uncompromising beats and defiant lyrics makes sure it can not be ignored. Didn’t see them live but the few appearance I saw on TV from the festival circuit showed an almost electric presence on stage. Next year definitely going to catch them somewhere.
8. GRIND – THE TREACHEROUS ORCHESTRA
I’ve known Ross Ainslie and Ali Hutton since they were nippers sitting at the feet of the legendary Highland Perthshire piper Gordon Duncan and there are echoes of the great man throughout all of the TO’s work. The Treacherous Orchestra’s sound is simply a traditional tour de force and this 10 piece simply sound huge. Grind is the point where they really arrive. Swirling melodies, cross rhythms and multi layered instrumentation, it is simply fantastic. Already won the Scottish Traditional Album of the Year. There will be many more awards.
7. GIRLS IN PEACETIME WANT TO DANCE – BELLE AND SEBASTIAN
We used to kill ourselves laughing when we heard the tales of how B&S would spend hours agonising whether to add a cowbell to their latest then minimalist recordings when we shared a studio in Glasgow. Now they record big albums and even sound like Talking Heads on a couple of tracks here. I simply love Belle and Sebastian and this is a fantastic album that was barely off the modern equivalent of the turntable when it came out in the spring. For me a B&S album is all about desperately trying to understand what inspires Stewart Murdoch to take such weird lyrical twists whilst been blown away by the musical ambition. It would be almost impossible for Belle and Sebastian to disappoint me and this is a confident, assertive band in their prime.
6. THE WAY BACK UP – PRIDES
No list would be complete without one of Scotland’s most successful chart bothering acts of 2015. Reminiscent of many of the great Glasgow pop acts of the 80s Prides have all the necessary pop references at their fingertips and they are a great band to have on when you want your day brightened up. The shelf life for pop acts is somewhat limited nowadays and it will be up to them to challenge but keep their existing audience happy whilst constantly looking at new ways to bring new fans in.
5. BONES YOU HAVE THROWN ME AND BLOOD I’VE SPILLED – KATHRYN JOSEPH
It’s pretty hard to say something new about this stunning Scottish Album of the Year that hasn’t been said already. It is one of these rare albums that seems to be loved by all. Haunting, passionate, fragile, it is an intense but always rewarding listening experience. The distressing conditions which brought her to compose this album is there in practically every note. A lot is made of her being a forty year old mother but life experience oozes out of this album and being so uncomfortable and uncompromising with the music circus just makes her even more interesting. I tried to get her to perform at an event I was co-hosting on the Creative Industries in the Scotland Office without any real hope of securing her. It would have been great to have got her in front of politicians and the London industry with songs so personal.
4. ARCHITECT – C. DUNCAN
Like most, I hadn’t heard of ‘C’ till Architect was perhaps surprisingly nominated as the only Scots offering at this year’s Mercury award. Famously recorded on a shoestring budget in his bedroom this former Royal Conservatoire classical student has made a rich, complex but always accessible album. It’s hard to pick out the references when listening to it and there’s everything from strange doo-wop to classical pop. I really love this album and it’s great when you hear something new like this that really challenges you. Really hope that ‘C’ makes it and will be fascinating to see what sort of musical career develops.
3. THE BELL THAT NEVER RANG – LAU
Lau played at the House of Commons last year at the AGM of the All Party Folk Group and we had a fantastic time in the Jubilee Room and later in Strangers Bar where we were then entertained by super Lau fan, Mark Radcliffe. This is a hugely ambitious and very different album from their previous works and it works on practically every level. Centred round the epic seventeen-minute title track with a gorgeous string arrangement it’s hard to believe that all of this is produced by a traditional trio. There is great chemistry between Kris, Martin and Aidan and it’s almost like they can read each others minds musically. Going to be really interesting to see what they get up to next.
2. TINY REWARDS – ADMIRAL FALLOW
I was at first disappointed with Tiny Rewards when it first came out. I wanted more of ‘Old Fools’ and ‘Isn’t the World Enough’ and the whole album seemed so understated. But it is definitely a grower and I only really got it when I saw them at T in the Park. Admiral Fallow are perhaps the most enigmatic of Scotland’s contenders and they remain determined to fully explore all the music options available in their broad armoury of musical influences. Sara O and I went to see them perform in the Fruitmarket at the Glasgow Film Festival when they preformed in front of 10 short films from a variety of Scottish film makers. When you see them in that environment it all makes sense.
1. EVERY OPEN EYE – CHVRCHES
Simply fantastic. This album has it all and the success Chvrches have enjoyed on both sides of the Atlantic is more than deserved. Described as synth pop it is so much more than that. Chvrches simply use the genre to explore and get in to more exciting and innovative things. Lauren Mayberry is almost the perfect singer. A vulnerable but yet assertive vocalist, on the one stripped down track ‘Afterglow’ you hear something incredibly powerful but understated – they should do more songs like that. Lauren has also taken a very brave stance on sexism in the music industry (perhaps sexism’s last great bastion) and has already been credited for driving this agenda. There will be an invitation extended to her from the All Party Music Group to see if there is anything that we can do to give sexism in the music industry more of a political profile. I hope she accepts, just to meet her would be great.