The 2014 longlist, announced today, as selected by 100 industry nominators, follows suit: it spotlights baroque and hip-hop, electronica and indie- pop, folk and jazz and stadium-rock. And it presents them on an even-footing, irrespective of genre, label affiliation, critical acclaim or commercial success.
Ten of these titles will be shortlisted on May 29 (nine elected by an 11-strong judging panel; one by public vote), and one will receive this year's £20,000 award on June 19, with £1000 for each of the shortlisted runners-up).
In the meantime, here's to a longlist of day-glo debuts and slow-burning returns; of insurgent rap and saxophone-jams; of human beat-boxing and bruised-folk yarns: of our kaleidoscopic voices.
Heirs and Graces (Gogar)
The debut solo album from the Edinburgh singer is a stellar homage to trad-pop song-writing, whose warm blend of Celtic ballads and Nashville arias was produced by folk sage John Wood (Nick Drake, Richard Thompson). Holmes was nominated as Best Newcomer at the 2011 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.
Imaginary Walls Collapse (Song, by Toad)
The Falkirk art-pop polymath is a Scottish Bafta-winning film-maker and thrilling live performer and songwriter. His second album, Imaginary Walls Collapse, underscores Stafford's vivid knack for loop-fuelled machine-hymns, euphoric guitar-pop, beat-boxing and gospel-blues hosannas.
Opposites (14th Floor Records)
Nothing says "bona fide rock gods" like a concept double-album, emblazoned with artwork by Storm Thorgerson (who fashioned Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of the Moon). Kilmarnock stadium-rockers Biffy Clyro pulled off such a statement with Opposites, et voila: they bagged their first UK Number One album.
Boards Of Canada
Tomorrow's Harvest (Warp)
Preceded by a teaser campaign that rivalled Daft Punk in the cryptic stakes, Tomorrow's Harvest is the first long-player in eight years from the Edinburgh electro-diviners. The arcane-pop revolutionaries summon a typically unsettling voyage through warped psychedelia, uncanny sci-fi and pastoral symphonies on their fourth outing.
Desire Lines (4AD)
The fifth album from Glasgow's vintage indie-pop seducers sees Tracyanne Campbell et al ramp up their lavish chamber arrangements, girl-group harmonies and melancholic grandeur, to dreamy effect. This long-player has been held up in high places as a highlight of their career.
The Bones Of What You Believe (Virgin)
The debut LP from the Glasgow trio is an electro-pop masterpiece that gatecrashed the UK Top 10 and continues to win them global acclaim, but it is also a testament to Scotland's collaborative music community: two of the band were longlisted for the 2013 Scottish Album Of The Year Award, thanks to their other sonic allegiances: Martin Doherty in The Twilight Sad and Iain Cook in The Unwinding Hours.
Dunedin Consort (Dir. John Butt)
J. S. Bach: Six Brandenburg Concertos (Linn)
One of the Sunday Herald's top classical albums of 2013, this recording sees Bach aficionado John Butt and baroque ensemble the Dunedin Consort shine new light upon, and breathe new life into, the enduringly popular Six Brandenburg Concertos. The musicianship on their first entirely instrumental release is stunning, but never showy.
The eighth solo album from Scotland's indie statesman and second since two brain haemorrhages in 2005 finds the Orange Juice and Postcard Records poster boy in excellent, reflective fettle, and allies his nascent art-rock and country roots with Motown, Stax, jangle-pop and soul.
Pedestrian Verse (Atlantic)
The band had the spotlight turned on them after making the leap from indie (Fat Cat) to major (Atlantic), with many fearing the corporate step-up would compromise their charms. Such concerns were assuaged with Pedestrian Verse their major-label debut, first Top 10 record, and a superb collection of poetic alt-rock and stadium anthems.
Nobody Seen Nothing (Self-released)
You could never accuse Hector Bizerk of appropriating US rap. Their remarkable, funk-fuelled take on hip-hop is steered by drummer Audrey Tait's beats, and loaded with (Sauchiehall) street-level poetry courtesy of Louie Deadlife, who rejects rap cliches and machismo. ("It's not my fault I'm just a man").
Now That You Are A Dancer (Fence)
The power-pop party-starters unleashed a melodious alt-rock barrage on their second album, Now That You Are A Dancer, from the carnal throb of A Compromise to the axe-chiming doo-wop of Who Would Want To Be Loved? (They would, and they are).
Les Revenants (Rock Action)
First nominated for 2011's Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will, the Glasgow instrumental rock behemoths return to the Scottish Album Of The Year longlist with Les Revenants, their terrific (and faintly terrifying) soundtrack for the French un-dead television series of the same name.
No Selfish Heart (Chemikal Underground)
In which Rick Anthony, frontman of The Phantom Band, moonlights as a gorgeous, peat-crackling bard, strips his bruised-Americana bare, and floors us with his baritone charms. This yearning anthology of meditations on nature, love and death is intimate yet universal, and timeless.
Breaks & Bone (Chemikal Underground)
The insatiable axe-seducer lifted last year's Scottish Album Of The Year Award for 13 Lost & Found, and swiftly released this beautiful follow-up. The final instalment in his Ampersand Trilogy, it sees Hubbert find his singing voice, as exquisite guitar instrumentals alternate with unplugged post-rock lullabies.
Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire
Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire (Middle Of Nowhere)
Hart's impeccable take on Scots-inflected Americana swaggered to the fore on this eponymous debut with new backing band The Lonesome Fire. It won him many fans, including television presenter Craig Ferguson, who invited Hart to perform a week-long residency on his popular American TV slot, the Late, Late Show.
Scottish Chamber Orchestra (R. Ticciati)
Berlioz: Les Nuits d'ete (Linn)
Featuring excerpts from Romeo and Juliette and La mort de Cleopatre, this exceptional recording from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill and lauded Berliozian Robin Ticciati (who has been SCO's principle conductor since 2009), was awarded last year's top classical album garland in The Herald.
Scottish National Jazz Orchestra
In The Spirit Of Duke (Spartacus)
Jazz firebrand Tommy Smith first appeared on the Scottish Album Of The Year Award longlist in 2012 with his wayfaring solo LP, Karma. He returns his Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, who re-animate the Duke Ellington canon on a spontaneous (yet meticulously stage-crafted) live run-through of favourites and surprises.
Monkey Minds In The Devil's Time (Domino)
A socially-charged outing from former Beta Band trailblazer Steve Mason, this album sees the Fife-via-London electro-folk polemicist embrace themes ranging from social (in)justice and protest, to (black) affairs of the heart on swoon-inducing psych-pop serenade, A Lot Of Love.
Slow Summits (Domino)
The first full-length album in 16 years from Glasgow's beloved indie linchpins, Slow Summits lives up to its name, and then some: it's a wonderful, unhurried compendium of elevating chamber-pop and hazy, airborne arias. But do not be misled by its modest charms: The Pastels have been an influential force for 30 years, and our musical landscape would be less colourful without them.
Tape Two (Anticon)
Signed to celebrated American rap enclave Anticon, the Edinburgh-based hip-hop trio have gradually evolved from party-rap livewires to global brooding-pop concerns, thanks to a series of increasingly potent releases, including Tape Two and its truly wondrous dirge-soul opener, I Heard.
The Scottish Album Of The Year Award is developed by the Scottish Music Industry Association. The SAY Award shortlist is announced on May 29; the award ceremony is on June 19. Nicola Meighan is on the judging panel for the 2014 SAY Award. l www.sayaward.com