The best Scottish albums of all time

With the 2022 SAY awards approaching, we round-up our favourite Scottish records

On the 20 October, the SAY Awards will crown 2022’s Scottish Album Of The Year. Anyone can vote, and any album is eligible as long as it was released between 1 June 2021 – 31 May 2022, which means records from the likes of Biffy Clyro, Belle And Sebastian, and Fatherson are all fighting for the prize alongside over a hundred others.

Whoever wins will be in good company. Not just from previous winners like Mogwai, Young Fathers and Kathryn Joseph, but also from a long history of other Scottish albums that remain some of the greatest records of all time. Here we roundup our picks of the best ever Scottish albums…

Belle & Sebastian – The Life Pursuit

It’s almost impossible to pick just one Belles album but if you’re going to put me on the spot, The Life Pursuit just edges it. The main reason for that is ‘Another Sunny Day’, a twangy, jangly ray of sunshine with one little grey cloud floating around ominously. Overall, The Life Pursuit has a little more oomph than you’d expect but the Belles wear it well. Mark.

The Jesus And Mary Chain – Darklands

The Belles had ‘Another Sunny Day’, but the Mary Chain had ‘Happy When It Rains’. An album full of summer anthems for people who prefer the shade, Darklands took everything great about Psychocandy and tightened it up – knocking down their own walls of sound to redefine noise pop. It’s hard for any band to beat ‘Just Like Honey’, but on Darklands TJAMC showed us just how much heart and soul was hiding under all the fuzz. Paul

KT Tunstall – Eye To The Telescope

KT’s debut album launched her onto the singer-songwriter scene in 2005 and my younger self was obsessed. The singles on Eye To The Telescope are excellent – ‘Black Horse And The Cherry Tree’ is a hell of a debut track, and ‘Suddenly I See’ was one of my favourite pop songs of all time long before I first saw that opening montage in The Devil Wears Prada. A deep dive into the album is just as rewarding, with KT showing off her atmospheric songwriting in ballads like ‘Silent Sea’ and ‘Black & White’. Caitlin

Biffy Clyro – Infinity Land

In 2004 Simon and the Johnson brother’s third LP Infinity Land took their characteristic blend of jagged chaotic outburst, rhythmic grooves and touching tearjerkers to further extremes. Tracks like ‘The Kids from Kibble…’ might sound a thousand miles (as the old Scots idiom goes) from their stadium-filling rock of today, but this album sure jolted them in that direction. John

Frightened Rabbit – The Winter Of Mixed Drinks

FR’s songs were always painful to listen to but it’s taken a long, long time to brave them since Scott Hutchinson’s tragic death, particularly ‘Swim Until You Can’t See Land’. Even now, I get to the first line and the tears come. The astounding achievement that is this album now feels like a void in Scottish music. Mark

Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand

Indie disco peaked in 2004. Franz Ferdinand had 11 tracks on their debut and they were pretty much all on permeant repeat wherever Converse were sticking to floors. They might all be faultless art rock classics in the daytime, but if you’re listening to ‘Take Me Out’, ‘The Dark Of The Matinee’, ‘This Fire’, ‘Michael’, ‘Come On Home’ or ‘40’’ and not dancing with a drink in your hand, you’re doing it wrong. Paul

Twin AtlanticFree

I listened to this album a lot in my teenage years and it’s lot more angsty than I remember, which is sobering. It’s also still endlessly enjoyable. Sam McTrusty’s aggressively Scottish vocals are a lot of fun and the band have a knack for huge cathartic choruses. The highlight of Free is in one of its rare quieter moments, however, when McTrusty lets his voice shine on powerful breakup ballad ‘Crash Land’. Caitlin

Teenage Fanclub – Songs From Northern Britain

There are only great Teenage Fanclub albums and perfect Teenage Fanclub albums. This is the latter, a blast of melodic loveliness from start to finish. Norman Blake has written some incredibly pretty songs but none prettier than ‘I Don’t Want Control Of You’. Probably the best guitar pop record of all time. Mark

Primal Scream – Screamadelica

Think of British music like an hourglass and Screamadelica is the narrow place in the middle where the sand falls through – distilling everything that came before and focusing everything that followed. Like listening to the moment The Rolling Stones discovered house (or the moment the rave scene discovered The Rolling Stones), Screamadelica reinvented dance-rock by kicking down the doors of perception. Paul

Cocteau Twins – Heaven or Las Vegas

The Glasgow trio took a risk stepping away from the more ominous shadows of previous work into the ethereal swirl of enchantment that is Heaven or Las Vegas, and boy did it pay off, becoming one of the most influential records of the 90s. Though still slippery to the touch, Elisabeth Fraser’s lyrics became closer to be grasp, while Will Heggie’s bass and Robin Guthrie continued to morph new wave into shoegaze in a way that would define a sound still ever-present. John

Superstar – Superstar

Joe McAlinden should really be a superstar. Born out of the same Glasgow scene as The Vaselines, Teenage Fanclub and BMX Bandits, Superstar specialised in sparkling power pop with an orchestral sweep. In an alternative universe, ‘The Reason Why’ would be on every 90s playlist and compilation CD. Mark

Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career 

You could almost be forgiven for stopping after the first track. ‘French Navy’ is such a perfect opening (90s Glasgow by way of 60s Motown) that nothing that follows can surely top it, but the rest of My Maudlin Career is Camera Obscura at their twee pop best – brighter, darker, hookier, and more imperceptibly magical than anything else they ever put out. Paul

The Trashcan Sinatras – Cake 

The Trashcans came along towards the end of Scottish music’s most insanely productive era. This 1990 debut blew up the band in America, mainly thanks to the utterly wonderful ‘Opportunity Knocks’ but the album is loaded with brilliant slightly askew pop nuggets that pitch this halfway between The Housemartins and The Smiths. Mark

Del Amitri – Change Everything

Is Justin Currie the most underrated songwriter in Scottish music? Change Everything would suggest so. From the pleading philanderer in ‘Be My Downfall’ to the abandoned lover in ‘Always The Last To Know’, Currie writes characters as vivid as any in a book or screen, all totally and utterly lousy at love. Sad bangers before there was even a name for them. Mark

Cast your vote now for this year’s SAY winner at