The Skinny's Scottish Albums of the 2010s

As the decade came to a dramatic end, we polled our music team one last time to find out what the best Scottish albums of the last ten years were

Feature by Music Team | 14 Jan 2020
  • Young Fathers live at The Barrowlands, Glasgow

#20 Belle & Sebastian – Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance [2015, Matador]

#19 The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave [2014, FatCat]

#18 Honeyblood – Honeyblood [2014, FatCat]

#17 Golden Teacher – No Luscious Life [2017, Golden Teacher Records]

#16 Sacred Paws – Strike a Match [2017, Rock Action]

#15 Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat – Everything's Getting Older [2011, Chemikal Underground]

#14 Young Fathers – DEAD [2014, Big Dada]

#13 Rustie – Glass Swords [2011, Warp]

#12 Camera Obscura – Desire Lines [2013, 4AD]

#11 The Twilight Sad – It Won/t Be Like This All the Time [2019, Rock Action]

#10 Happy Meals – Apero
[Night School Records, 2014]
Free Love, fka Happy Meals, launched their debut record in 2014. Formed off the back of the NEET Green Door Studio course the duo completed in the same year, it was an early indication of the act’s huge promise. With a running time just shy of 30 minutes, Apero steadily builds an absorbing spectrum of layered electronic soundscapes and ambiguous lyrical imagery. The release would prove to be a highly enjoyable early experiment of one of Scotland’s most exciting electronic acts. [Niamh Carey]

#9 Honeyblood – Babes Never Die
[FatCat Records, 2016]
If there’s one thing that’s shaped Stina Tweeddale’s output as Honeyblood to date, it’s female friendships. From early demos with Shona McVicar to recent single The Third Degree, Tweeddale knows the good and bad of having a strong girl gang. And there was no better testament to that than 2016‘s Babes Never Die, with drumming force Cat Myers. An intoxicating brew of singalong punk, Honeyblood’s sophomore release showed Tweeddale’s unwavering grit and undeniable talent as a songwriter. Watch her fire burn bright. [Cheri Amour]

#8 SOPHIE – Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides
[Transgressive, 2018]
While LA has arguably been the most influential city in music this decade thanks to the likes of Kendrick Lamar and the Brainfeeder stable, Glasgow can make a bold claim too. SOPHIE, the now LA-based producer, is the jewel in Glasgow's electronic music crown thanks to her groundbreaking and emotionally striking debut LP. Her 2018 release skyrocketed her as one of modern electronic music's most exciting producers and composers along with being a proud transgender icon. [Adam Turner-Heffer]

#7 Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse
[Atlantic Records, 2013]
In one of his final interviews, Scott Hutchison claimed Pedestrian Verse was the finest Frightened Rabbit record. It is not a popularly-held opinion but with the passage of time it’s one that more people might come around to.

Scott was Frightened Rabbit and Pedestrian Verse is Scott: full-throated, warm-hearted, bitingly witty. It’s littered with idiosyncrasies and peculiarities and yet it still sounds every inch the kind of album that carries bands to arenas. It’s their masterpiece, and it’s still here. It’s ours to keep. [Joe Goggins]

From the Archive: Read Scott Hutchison's track-by-track guide to Pedestrian Verse

#6 King Creosote & Jon Hopkins – Diamond Mine
[Domino Records, 2011]
Diamond Mine combines the delicate songcraft of Scottish singer-songwriter Kenny Anderson with the atmospheric production of Jon Hopkins. Produced over seven years, the record is a love letter to the East Neuk of Fife, Anderson’s home. Interspersing his romantic observations with Hopkins’ field recordings – traffic, birdsong, dull chatter in a cafe – familiar, mundane details are beautified, immortalised. Soft and haunting, almost siren-like in its beauty, Diamond Mine makes the heart ache for home – wherever that may be. [Katie Cutforth]

#5 CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe
[Glassnote Records, 2013]
When CHVRCHES released their debut album in 2013 it was clear they were going to reach the heights of global pop stardom. The Bones of What You Believe came at a time when electro-pop was thriving, and showed that it can be clever as well as catchy. It’s rough around the edges in the best possible way, combining gritty, erratic beats with Lauren Mayberry’s squeaky clean vocals to form a collection of no-nonsense synth-pop hits. [Nadia Younes]

#4 Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
[Warp, 2013]
Like the ghostly view of San Francisco on its cover, Tomorrow's Harvest is both looming and transitory. The reclusive pair's first release in eight years is full of dystopian anxiety and environmental worry, anticipating the cultural shift towards panic that marked the second half of the decade. But, in true BoC fashion, there's always majesty and solemnity lurking amid the darkness, as subtle, ambient grooves and gorgeous washes of arpeggiated synth ensure that existential dread can still sound beautiful. [Lewis Wade]

#3 Kathryn Joseph – Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I’ve Spilled
[Hits the Fan Records, 2014]
Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I’ve Spilled is the 2015 SAY Award-winning record that first introduced Kathryn Joseph to our radios and record players. Joseph channelled her discomfort during emotive and intimate early performances to sublime effect, leaving audiences transfixed by her defiant, almost accusatory stare. Bones... – primal, delicate and visceral – is almost too human to bear, as Joseph bravely and formidably opens herself to articulate some of the most overwhelming emotional responses a person can endure. [Fraser MacIntyre]

#2 Anna Meredith – Varmints
[Moshi Moshi, 2016]
It's fair to say that no other album on this list sounds quite like Varmints. But then few of the musicians featured here will have benefitted from such rigorous classical training as Anna Meredith. A former composer-in-residence with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Meredith's high cultural background makes her an unlikely pop star. But her award-winning debut LP is an enthralling, joyous experience. The immediacy of ambitious tracks like Nautilus mean it can be enjoyed by all. [Chris McCall]

#1 Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar
[Ninja Tune, 2018]
“If we try and put ourselves in a box, it’s gonna end up with spikes coming out,” Alloysious Massaquoi, one third of Young Fathers, told The Guardian in an interview ahead of the release of their album Cocoa Sugar in 2018. It’s a neat summation of the trio’s undefinable work across all their albums. Uncompromising and unpredictable, it’s music that has elements of familiarity, but tinged with danger; get close enough and you might prick your finger. Or, as Massaquoi later adds: “Aesthetically pleasing, but fucked up.”

Not only is Cocoa Sugar a decade-defining record for Scottish music; it is the pinnacle (so far) of a decade-defining band. We should use that word advisedly. As whenever trying to describe Young Fathers, pinning them down doesn’t come easily. Are they rock stars? Rappers? A boy band? It’s the same when it comes to their music, and no more so than on Cocoa Sugar. Genreless. Borderless. Uninterested in being contained by human constructs like gender and race, they are just as happy to play about with vocal effects (Fee Fi) and pronouns (Wire) to wrong-foot, to play characters, as they are to use production that is fluid and kinetic.

It’s political, though not always obviously so, allowing the unexpected rhymes and gnomic lines from their songs to remain pliable, while its members – two black men, one white – give voice to urgent causes and issues and rail against injustices. The ambiguity ends up imbuing any one of their phrases with potential meaning, while their initial motivations remain known only to them. Even the album title works like this: for some it’s a comment on the history of slavery, while for Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and Graham 'G' Hastings, it’s just a reference to their ability to make music filled with contrasts. You can almost see them winking.

Cocoa Sugar is the culmination of a vision, a late decade work that shows the diversity and life still left in Scottish music. It has translated to critical and widespread commercial success, a signal that there is value in making something new and modern and wild and filled with ideas. This album and this band are the perfect reflection – in their actions and in their art – of the progressive country Scotland is trying to be. [Tony Inglis]