The Skinny's Scottish Albums of 2021
As voted for by The Skinny's music writers, in reverse order, here are our top ten Scottish releases of the year
It genuinely feels like it’s been an exciting year for Scotland’s music scene with hip-hop, R’n’B and young artists getting more recognition than ever before via new events like HANG and new awards like The SAY Award's Sound of Young Scotland Award, the inaugural award going to the very exciting young talent, LVRA.
Still, when we polled The Skinny's music writers, our Scottish albums of the year celebrated a lot of old heads and legacy bands alongside some new names; it's nice that these artists can sit alongside each other and not feel out of place. So without further ado, in reverse order here are The Skinny's favourite Scottish albums of 2021.
#10: Teenage Fanclub – Endless Arcade
[30 Apr, PeMa]
Having been at it since 1989, it's always kind of comforting when Teenage Fanclub release new music. Their eleventh album Endless Arcade was their first effort since Gorky's Zygotic Mynki frontman Euros Childs joined following the departure of long-time bandmate Gerard Loves. In our review of the record earlier this year we wrote: "Teenage Fanclub sound refreshed, renewed and remarkably like themselves as Endless Arcade reveals an old group with some new tricks sounding in rude health. Here's to them."
#9: Stanley Odd – STAY ODD
[12 Apr, Handsome Tramp Records]
After a six-year hiatus, Stanley Odd returned with STAY ODD, seeing the hip-hop outfit receiving a second nomination for The SAY Award eight years after Reject was up for the award. Here's what we said back in April: "On STAY ODD, their first album in over six years, Stanley Odd have levelled up. The dry wit, expertly delivered social commentary and playful cap tips at pop culture are all there, and the music bounces."
#8: Eliza Shaddad – The Woman You Want
[16 Jul, Rosemundy Records/Wow and Flutter]
Cornwall-based, Scottish-Sudanese artists Eliza Shaddad released her second album, The Woman You Want back in the summer. A gorgeous collection of 90s-indebted indie, here's what we had to say about it: "Refreshing real-talk and righteous songwriting, The Woman You Want is all the better for it."
#7: Mogwai – As the Love Continues
[19 Feb, Rock Action Records]
There's no mistaking that 2021 has been a huge year for Mogwai. Having released their tenth studio album to critical acclaim, As the Love Continues topped the UK album chart, was nominated for a Mercury Prize and won the title of Scottish Album of the Year at The SAY Award back in October. Here's what we had to say: "As the Love Continues is a continuation of their bombastic instrumental rock, adding enough new experiments to keep things interesting, but staying close enough to their well-hewn sound to ensure a cosy familiarity."
#6: Lizzie Reid – Cubicle
[10 Feb, Seven Four Seven Six]
Much like Mogwai, this year has been absolutely massive for Glasgow singer-songwriter Lizzie Reid. Having us hooked from the opening bars to single Seamless, we weren't at all surprised to see her debut EP Cubicle doing so well. Receiving a shortlisted nomination for the 2021 SAY Award, Reid's year was recently topped off by winning the Best Acoustic Award at the SAMAs. Here's what we said back in January: "[Cubicle is] a warm and intimate collection of folk and rock songs that showcases her clear skill for storytelling, and a surprisingly diverse range of sounds for a compact collection."
#5: CHVRCHES – Screen Violence
[27 Aug, Glassnote Records]
Following on from 2018's Love is Dead, CHVRCHES returned this August with their fourth album, the excellent Screen Violence. With exceptional features from the likes of The Cure's Robert Smith, Screen Violence was born in lockdown with its creation existing largely through screens. Here's what we said: "Despite the daring newness, Screen Violence still feels unmistakably CHVRCHES, and one of their strongest records at that."
#4: Arab Strap – As Days Get Dark
[5 Mar, Rock Action]
As the world was on fire, the return of Arab Strap at the end of 2020 with The Turning of our Bones seemed to send an invigorating shockwave through the Scottish music scene. After a 15 year gap, the duo of Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton were back! Here's what we said about the record: "Each of the album's songs involves darkness or takes place at night, giving it a remarkably cohesive feel, although the arrangements are some of the most varied and eccentric Arab Strap have made."
#3: TAAHLIAH – Angelica
[28 May, untitled (recs)]
Following two nominations which resulted in two wins at the 2020 Scottish Alternative Music Awards – Best Electronic and Best Newcomer – it's been another standout year for Glasgow-based hyperpop/gabber producer TAAHLIAH. Her debut record Angelica received a longlist nomination for the 2021 SAY Award and has made the top three in our Scottish albums of the year round-up. Here's what we said earlier this year: "The EP chronicles TAAHLIAH’s life so far, detailing a range of different experiences that have come to shape her as a person and as an artist, from coming to terms with being trans (Brave) to discussing coming from a working class background (Bourgeoisie); from breaking up (Tears) to falling in love (Freefalling)."
#2: Proc Fiskal – Siren Spine Sysex
[24 Sep, Hyperdub]
Not content with releasing the brilliant Lothian Buses EP in the first half of the year, September saw Edinburgh producer Joe Powers, aka Proc Fiskal, releasing the gorgeous Siren Spine Sysex. Here's what we said: "You get the sense [Proc Fiskal] could throw out these wonky chaotic rhythms until the cows come home, but the record’s greatest achievement is the scale and depth of emotion he wrings from them."
#1: Hamish Hawk – Heavy Elevator
[17 Sep, Assai Recordings]
Claiming the top spot in The Skinny's Scottish Album of the Year poll this year is the exceptionally talented Edinburgh artist Hamish Hawk. Seeming to really lean into his stride this year, he exploded onto the BBC 6 Music airwaves via Steve Lamacq's show with the surprisingly edgy Caterpillar, the lead single to his latest album Heavy Elevator. Here's what we said of the record: "Heavy Elevator is comprised of a series of wittily dark character portraits that find themselves fleshed out in dramatic chamber pop fashion, elucidated by seemingly incoherent imagery and lyrical phrasing."
When we spoke to him earlier this year, Hawk said: "Sometimes you will be in Scotmid listening to Édith Piaf, and you never really thought about how that music interacts with buying a loaf of bread. And I am fascinated by that sort of thing," perfectly summing up the vivid and abstract lyricism found across Heavy Elevator's ten tracks.
Here's a handy playlist featuring some of our favourite tracks from these ten exceptional Scottish records.