“Your philosophy is a comfort to me, No negativity, No mediocrity”

The Scottish Album of the Year award is upon us.

The SAY award is fairly new and is an important shop window for Scottish talent. The longlist of 20 bands/artists is up now and it will be whittled down to 10 at the end of the month. Record industry people were involved in nominating the list. VoxBox is new and mainly a 2nd hand shop so far, and so (correctly) we weren’t involved in the nominations. However, I’m totally chuffed to see that even without our biased input, PAWS and Meursault are on that list. Both bands are good friends of the shop so I’m indeed really (really really) pleased for them. They work so hard. They helped us on our 1st record shop day last year too. More on this year’s fantastic RSD once I get the footage in order.

This SAY award is interesting though, as this year it pits Emeli Sande against mostly independent music makers.

If it was a straight democratic vote, Sande would win against everyone else put together. But, awards are an odd affair, whether the Mercury Music Prize or the Grammys, Crufts, Sid Vicious lookalike competitions and whatnot. Generally the judges are passionate, perhaps music industry, celebrity, blogger, label owner, radio presenter, music shop owner, or some other mover and shaker with more or less bits of the above. The public get a small say in the final.

The Scottish Adele, Sande has a multi-million selling debut album. She opened and closed the Olympics and her songs are always in the charts. You’ll see her when you go to the cinema in an advert too. [aside: I miss proper trailers]

She’s from Aberdeen! And she deserves the award. Yes she does. What else should you have to do to win it?

If greatness is measured in sales, them Emile Sande has already won. She wins not only the Scottish Album of the Year but also UK album of the year 2 years running.
The idea of awards too is flawed but at the same time wonderful. We can now have Meursault, The Twilight Sad, Admiral Fallow, PAWS, Miaoux Miaoux and PAWS rubbing shoulders and getting equal billing with a new local Superstar.

This is a really interesting contest. Judging a record’s merit involves more than just sales and the sales often are more than the record merits. I think this award acknowledges this. Like all awards though, it’s truly meaningless in many ways, but do remember to take the positive approach, at best, SAY is a real outside title shot for some of the bands and at worst… well it’s good publicity. So it’s a great and useful event. You can listen to the albums here:

http://www.sayaward.com/

The strangest thing for me is that there are so few big Scottish bands this year. (Frightened Rabbit and Primal Scream will be next year). The top prize is £10 000. The majority of the 20 bands on the long list aren’t even full time. It’s hard to make a living as a band you see. It has always been thus and it’s worth pointing out that, if you are in a band, it’s hard to hold down a job. You have to tour. Spread the tunes. Get in among folk. Find someone who can make you a star. Charts are less important now too. It’s better to inspire young people to feel, jump up and down, download your album and buy your t-shirts and artwork direct. As a poor Scottish songwriter once said “…poor beastie, thou maun live”.

Not many of these guys and galls get significant radio play despite Vic Galloway’s fantastic efforts at inviting young Scottish bands onto his BBC Radio show yet the talent on our doorstep is crazyily abundant.

It’s not fair to judge an album on one quick listen. Is it fair to judge an album in context? A backstory can prick up your ears and add a level of meaning to a song that was otherwise just ok. Example: Blood on the Tracks is a great album but it adds a whole new spin when you find out that it’s really about a marriage breakdown and divorce.

The Case For PAWS:
Their debut album caught me by surprise. It’s themes are dark but the album is positive. Like Iain Bank’s remarkable response to cancer. This is an album opening and closing with a young man speaking to a parent who recently died of cancer. Look at me now. I’ve achieved something mam. I took your advice and I wish you could see me now and the great response we get.

What are the other songs about? Just listen to the songs! The lyrics are often lost in the thrashing of guitar so they were just jumping out at me from time to time.* I didn’t realise Bloodline was about cancer. I thought it was about revenge What I heard: “You’ve got my nose, (but) I’ve got your eyes!” Had he plucked out someone’s eyes? The joys of misheard lyrics! Nope. “I’ve got your nose, I’ve got your eyes, I’ll continue the bloodline” is a hereditary reference. The title to this blog is a PAWS line too.

Why is Cokefloat! in my opinion, the best Scottish album? It’s not! It can’t be.*** Why not? Well, because I really love it! Unfortunately for Phil, Matt and Josh, the music I like is not often the most popular -you know, the predictable record shop guy stuff- and the modern music I like these days is made by the PAWS three. Animal hands! But weird things can happen and especially with awards.

Josh was born in Edinburgh and moved to Tain where, at some point, he met Phil. Tain. A mystical place. In Disney terms, this is far far away. If you’re from there it’s normal though. They moved to Glasgow to pick up Matt as a bassist and have become the hardest working band in showbusiness.

It’s hard as a band to get noticed and get signed. Even if you have potentially chart topping songs, without contacts, a backer, a label and a means of distribution then you’ll struggle. There’s a lot of luck needed too. You need to meet the right people. The serendipity required will come through hard work and talent. A second hand record shop like VoxBox knows about the phenominal amount of great music that never sold in its day. They’re the expensive records now!

What I’m trying to say is that it’s difficult coming from a place where there is not the established framework to become a star with album numero uno.
You need a friend of a friend or an uncles cousin or have a builder who worked with the producer of Later with Jools Holland’s girlfriend. Otherwise you must work hard until you can’t be ignored. This can take upwards of 3 albums.

To break out of Tain is difficult and it takes a rare sort of person to create their way out of there. Add to that the energy they put into every gig too. You’ll be caught up in no time. Their LP has a poppy thrash light side A and a really rough and thrashy side B. People like this stuff don’t they?

tain

So that’s why I’m biased, Cokefloat didn’t just push my buttons, it took a 15kg sledgehammer to the metaphorical fairground test yer strength machine. Wham! The bell fell far far away.

I like Emile Sande and her journey has been tough too, but her breakout has led to her writing music for X Factor contestants. Sande is great too for powering out of Aberdeen. She quit her medical degree for better things (If you like over-exagerated imagery then that’s a bit like what Che and Steve Biko did) -sorry it’s nothing like that at all. There’s some honest music there I’m sure, but with a Stoogey heart I will always have to go with the PAWS for their punky thrashy wow! factor.

PAWS brand of music isn’t new. None of the nominees sound particularly new either. We can’t invent new notes or chords! Personally, I’m happy as a pig in muck to have heard an album that I identified with.
For my part, I was brought up in places a bit like Tain: Hythie, Peterheid, Crimond, New Pitsligo and New Aberdour in Aberdeenshire. If yer mair interested in music than coos and fesh, ye hivteh ging awa ‘n’ move sooth. Ye must muster on and moove. (minein’ ti drap the Doric in lern ti spick Inglish guid enough so thit ither Scots ‘ill ken fit yer seyin is weil.)

PAWS also came to the shop to do a quick in-store before their Edinburgh gig in February. It was supposed to be a quick acoustic affair. Where shall we position Phil for optimum sound and so on? Maybe a stool in the window? “Where should I put the bass drum” said Josh as he came in with a bass drum. Still fresh from European tour, Phil brings electric guitar and a hefty guitar amp. Matt comes in with electric bass and heavy beast bass amp. Oh shit! You’ll ruin our floor… No, we have a drum carpet. But the neighbours! Oh.

Our neighbours are great. The gig was great.
Friend of the shop, William, recorded some nice footage which although a bit flickery is here to see.

It definitely is bootleg quality but it was ace. Totally fun and totally totally ace!

0.40 Jellyfish
3.35 Catherine 1956
7.10 Bloodline
10.25 Sore Tummy
13.40 Tulip
18.00 Bird Inside Birdcage, Ribcage Inside Brd
20.40 Poor Old Christopher Robin

After this tour they went to SXSW festival in Austin Texas, helped along by a Creative Scotland grant and played 10 shows in 4 days.

***It is.

*
Lyrically, they’re the best. With or without listening to Catherine 1956, read this:

She wasn’t only just my mother; she was my friend, a good friend.
She had only just begun to live.
It’s unfair because she worked hard for it.

We spent 18 full years under the same roof.
That sounds like a long time, but it’s not.
I would trade anything for one full day to just sit and hear her voice again.
So I sat and I twiddled my thumbs as you told me to “be strong”.

“It’s the only certain thing in this life, so be a big boy because
Life goes on.
You can’t live your life in fear.
Do something for me and get out of this town because there’s nothing for you here.”

She never had to tell me twice, she was intelligent.
I promised that I’d keep my word, so I will.
She gave good advice, the best that I have known.
She said “It’s not the dead I’m afraid of…it’s the living I fear”

So if a kid at school had broken my arm or a girl had smashed my heart.
She would hold me and tell me that “It was their loss” and to “toughen up, because

Life goes on.
You can’t live your life in fear.
Do something for me and get out of this town because there’s nothing for you here.

Remember to vote for who you like. Give them all a listen and remember that although it’s a competition, it’s not a competition.

  • Absolutely adore Cokefloat!, definitely my pick from what is a very strong longlist this year. Few albums have been as fun as that and fewer still have been as emotionally engaging; it’s a bit of a triumph, isn’t it? Furthermore, I’m glad you highlighted Bloodline and Catherine 1956, in particular, as they always get me and make me feel a little strange when I’m singing and air-drumming along.

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VoxBox Music became the newest record shop in the world on May 21st 2011. We buy and sell vinyl and other formats of music. We are independent and sell mostly pre-owned records although we are slowly branching into new vinyl too.

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