SAY Award 2021: The Longlist

The twenty-strong longlist for this year's Scottish Album of the Year award has been revealed

Article by Tallah Brash | 16 Sep 2021
  • SAY Award longlist

The 2021 SAY Award will truly be a celebration of Scottish music like no other. All of the albums eligible for this year’s award were released during the ongoing pandemic, a reality no musician in this lifetime thought they’d ever experience. A big part of releasing new music is getting to perform it to a live audience, and with the live sector completely shut down, that’s not yet become a reality for many until quite recently, yet the amount of music that has continued to be released in Scotland during the pandemic is testament to the resilience and ambition of our music community.

Mogwai, Biffy Clyro, Carla J. Easton

This year’s longlist offers a fantastic snapshot of just some of the excellent records that have surfaced during a time of real adversity. It’ll come as no surprise to learn that Mogwai’s chart-topping (not to mention Mercury Prize-nominated) album As the Love Continues has found its way into this year’s longlist, making it the sixth time the Glasgow post-rock band have been nominated for the SAY Award. Kilmarnock’s Biffy Clyro are also back in the running this year with their eighth studio album, A Celebration of Endings.

After a relatively lengthy break, hip-hop heavyweights Stanley Odd made a triumphant return earlier this year with STAY ODD, seeing them back in the running for the £20,000 prize for the first time since 2013 when Reject was up for the award. Singer and harpist Rachel Newton’s gorgeous To the Awe sees her once again up for the award after her 2016 album Here’s My Heart Come Take It made the shortlist in 2017.

Andrew Wasylyk, Carla J. Easton and Fergus McCreadie, who were all nominated for the 2019 award, are all back in contention for 2021, as are Erland Cooper and The Ninth Wave who were both nominated just last year. And while Aidan Moffat won the inaugural award alongside Bill Wells for their album Everything’s Getting Older, and received a second nomination alongside RM Hubbert in 2019, 2021 sees him receive a nomination as one half of Arab Strap. The duo made an exciting return during the pandemic with As Days Get Dark, their first album since 2005 and first to be eligible for the prestigious award.

New SAY Award nominees: TAAHLIAH, The Snuts, Joesef

As well as all the familiar faces, a slew of new talent have found their way onto the longlist this year too, some of whom we’re sure will become household names of the future. West Lothian’s The Snuts have already made a name for themselves this year with their debut album W.L. topping both the Scottish and UK charts back in April. Also making waves in recent months is the exceptionally talented Glasgow DJ and producer TAAHLIAH, who made history at the 2020 Scottish Alternative Music Awards by being the first artist nominated in two different categories – Best Newcomer and Best Electronic – going on to win both.

Joesef, who receives his first SAY Award nomination for the soulful Does It Make You Feel Good?, has been one to watch for some time following multiple sold out live shows in the central belt before he landed on the longlist for the BBC Sound of 2020. And two artists who have really flourished during the pandemic – Ayrshire rapper Jubemi Iyiku, aka Bemz, and Aberdeen R’n’B artist AiiTee – have also made the longlist with Saint of Lost Causes and Love Don’t Fall respectively.

Elsewhere, Glasgow singer-songwriter Lizzie Reid’s gorgeous debut Cubicle is up for the 2021 award, alongside saxophonists Matt Carmichael and Paul Towndrow, trad singer-songwriter Jenny Sturgeon and Glasgow industrial electronic trio Kübler Ross. Read the full SAY Award longlist below.

Two new SAY Awards

As well as the main award, 2021 sees The SAY Award introduce two new prizes. The Modern Scottish Classic award will be voted on by this year's longlisted artists; the prize is designed to celebrate an iconic Scottish record that is inspiring music being made in Scotland today. The Sound of Young Scotland Award, on the other hand, is aimed at those just getting started in their careers. The winner will receive up to £5,000 funding to put together their debut album.

Introducing this year's longlist, Robert Kilpatrick of SMIA said: “With each of this year’s Longlisted albums having been released throughout the pandemic, that reflection sees a new depth, and “strength” in the context of 2021 [that] embodies much more than artistic merit – it’s underpinned by resilience, passion and endurance throughout challenges that our artists and music industry in particular have sorely felt.”

The next step in the SAY Award journey is the award's public vote (from 27 Sep), with music fans' favourite from this year's longlist getting a guaranteed spot on the shortlist. The SAY Award 2021 shortlist will be announced on 9 Oct, along with the winner of the Modern Scottish Classic Award; the SAY Award ceremony takes place at Edinburgh's Usher Hall on 23 Oct. 

The 2021 SAY Award longlist

AiiTee – Love Don't Fall
Andrew Wasylyk – Fugitive Light And Themes Of Consolation
Arab Strap – As Days Get Dark
Bemz – Saint of Lost Causes
Biffy Clyro – A Celebration of Endings
Carla J. Easton – WEIRDO
Erland Cooper – Landform (Feat. Marta Salogni)
Fergus McCreadie – Cairn
Jenny Sturgeon – The Living Mountain
Joesef – Does It Make You Feel Good?
Kübler Ross – Kübler Ross
Lizzie Reid – Cubicle
Matt Carmichael – Where Will the River Flow
Mogwai – As The Love Continues
Paul Towndrow – Deepening The River
Rachel Newton – To The Awe
Stanley Odd – STAY ODD
TAAHLIAH – Angelica
The Ninth Wave – Happy Days!
The Snuts – W.L.