A guide to the SAY Award 2016 shortlist

A guide to the SAY Award 2016 shortlist

If you haven’t listened to the albums yet, here’s what you’re missing

The 2016 SAY Award shortlist was announced last night, taking the number of hopefuls down from 20 to ten. If you still haven’t managed to get your ears around any of the albums, take some direction from our guide to the remaining candidates.

The public vote winners are a collaboration ripped straight from your best fever dream: LA’s quirkrockers Sparks vs Glasgow’s art rock Franz Ferdinand. In their eponymous debut album, the two groups bringing out the best in each other, Alex Kapranos’ voice getting ever more theatrical in response to Russell Mael, while, musically, it’s a battle of manic riffs and tongue-in-cheek self-awareness.
Stand-out track: 'Police Encounters'

Anna Meredith – Varmints
Former composer-in-residence with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Meredith is renowned for her genre-breaking take on composition and production, and Varmints, her fIrst LP, stands the test of her reputation. Rarely have classical, electronic and indie music been combined to such drop-everything-and-listen effect, this is an album layered with 8-bit bloops and quivering with Meredith’s theatrical influences.
Stand-out track: 'R-Type'

Auntie Flo – Theory of Flo
Addictive Afro-electro taken from the DJ sets of Glasgow producer Brian d’Souza and collaborator Esa Williams. The Theory of Flo is a journey through West Africa and South America with a colourful list of collaborators including Noisettes lead singer Shingai Shoniwa and Ghanian singer Abuley, shot through with crisp beats and an irresistible, organic flow.
Stand-out track: 'Dance Ritual II'

C Duncan – Architect
Architect’s dreamy winterpop made the Mercury Prize sit up and take note last year, so it’s no surprise C Duncan has wandered onto the shortlist. It’s his first LP (although album number three is already finished), but the record’s gentleness and complexity bring to mind a singer-songwriter far more experienced. The songs are beautifully crafted and, coupled with the album’s gentle energy, C Duncan has engineered something special here.
Stand-out track: 'I’ll Be Gone by Winter'

Emma Pollock – In Search of Harperfield
The return of occasional Delgado for her fourth solo album was welcomed with open arms (it has been six years after all); there’s something pleasantly familiar about Pollock’s vivid indie rock. In Search of Harperfield looks for answers in the face of self-doubt, ageing and death, wrapped up in poignant melodies, with Paul Savage’s tight production the bow on top.
Stand-out track: 'Don’t Make me Wait'

Lau – The Bell That Never Rang
The trad folk of Lau’s Drever-Green-O’Rourke trio is presided over on The Bell that Never Rang by the somewhat unlikely Joan Wasser (aka Joan as Police Woman). More traditional than previous LPs to begin with – streamtrain riffs paired with thoughtful vocals – the album takes a turn for the incredible on the title track. Joined by the Elysian Chorus, a 17-minute journey through discordant refrains and laid-back vocals.
Stand-out track: 'The Bell that Never Rang'

Steve Mason – Meet the Humans
Produced by Elbow’s keyboardist Craig Potter, Meet the Humans shows off a more relaxed Mason, content to gently experiment, confident in his melancholy. Reminiscent of early Beta Band days, each song stands alone as a fully-formed being, and the range is astounding: everything gets a look-in, from an early demo to swooning orchestral moments.
Stand-out track: 'Words in my Head'

The Revenge – Love That Will Not Die
There’s a lot going on on The Revenge’s Love That Will Not Die, but we can cut him some slack, given this debut album is 15 years in the making. There’s a surprise round every corner: a hint of Depeche Mode here, a blast of disco-inspired garage rock there, and – why not? – a Sister Sledge collaboration to really mess your shit up - ultimately it’s a raucous, joyous debut album.
Stand-out track: 'Stay for a While'

Young Fathers – White Men are Black Men Too
The follow up to 2014’s Mercury-winning Dead was always going to be a tough one, but Young Fathers storm straight in with a record that challenges race and class. White Men are Black Men Too is a mix of genres, hip hop – sure – but the trio aren’t ashamed to be called pop, though that’s too insouciant an adjective for what this is: genre-redefining, dramatic and powerful.
Stand-out track: 'Old Rock n Roll'

Chvrches – Every Open Eye
Scotland’s synthpop darlings are no strangers to accolade, and Chvrches’ second album, Every Open Eye, deserves all it gets. Confident hooks, pointed lyrics and Lauren Mayberry’s beatific vocals join together in an album that’s both blissed-out and fiercely ambitious, filled with nuggets of danceable gold.
Stand-out track: 'Leave a Trace'

This year's winner will be announced at a ceremony at Paisley Town Hall on Wed 29 June.

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