For all you English folk who’ve crossed the bridge for university, you have a lot to learn about Welsh music. And we’re not just talking about Catatonia here. A very good place to start your diverse musical journey is the Welsh Music Prize. The award is given out every autumn to the best Welsh album that year, which means it’s been made in Wales or by Welsh artists living all over the globe. Previous winners include Super Furry Animal’s Gruff Rhys, Joanna Gruesome, and Future of the Left.
This year, Cardiff Student Media headed to the Sherman Theatre for the winner to be announced. And to make the most of free beer kindly provided by the Otley Brewing Company (we’d recommend the beetroot stout, but our judgement may have been skewed by the fact we’re skint students and were perhaps wrongly trusted with actual free alcohol). After an introduction by John Rostron and Huw Stephens, the duo who seem to be involved in all of the Welsh music things (including co-founding the prize as well as Sŵn festival) Gwenno’s ‘Y Dydd Olaf’ was announced as the winner for the Welsh Music Prize 2015. You can watch our interview with her over on CUTV Music very soon, and read our full review of the winning album here.
The fifteen nominated albums started off as part of a longer list of around 50 records that have been released in Wales over the year, before the jury whittled them down. They can certainly be trusted to make the right choice as well, being a 100 strong group of creatives from every part of the music industry in Wales, and Welsh themselves.
The 12 judges (Pitchfork reviewers, Buzz magazine writers, and Focus wales representatives being among them) then have the difficult yet envy-worthy decision of deciding who the winner should be. It must be a pretty nice job getting to listen to 15 varied and finely produced albums on repeat with a group of people just as excited about Welsh music as yourself.
If you knew the ins and outs of all nominated albums when they were announced a few weeks ago then you should come and replace us lowly lot because we admittedly didn’t. However, that is surely the importance of this prize, giving a platform to Welsh music you may not have heard otherwise and giving other less blessed lands a chance to get to know some finely produced, brilliantly diverse Welsh music.
From the widely popular Catfish and the Bottlemen’s ‘The Balcony’ to the lesser known but just as epic ‘Droogs’ from Hippies vs Ghost, every album brings a different aspect of the Welsh soundscape into focus whilst bringing influences from afar too. Some, but refreshingly not all of the albums have already received critical acclaim, like H. Hawkline’s disjointed-pop ‘In The Pink Of Condition’ which received 4 stars from The Guardian and the winning Gwenno album which got 8/10 from Pitchfork. A running theme with all of the albums that were nominated seems to be their use of music to make political statements, whether they be subtle or obvious (see ‘Zefur Wolves’ for interesting tales of global hardship structured concisely into song, a bit like a more melodic punch in the face).
No one else sums up the strong Welsh mentality through her music more than the winning Gwenno, her sci-fi inspired electronic soundscapes detailing political and feminist messages in both Welsh and Cornish. John Rostron said ‘There was absolute consensus from our judges that Gwenno’s album was the best of a brilliant bunch… It’s a bold, brave and wonderful record that, also, shows Wales at it’s creative best. A deserved win.”
The full list of nominations is as follows; and we’ve linked to a handy Spotify playlist with our favourite track from every album for your listening pleasure.
Calan – Dinas
Catfish and the Bottlemen – The Balcony
Geraint Jarman – Dwyn yr Hogyn Nol
H. Hawkline – In The Pink Of Condition
Gwenno – Y Dydd Olaf
Hippies vs Ghosts – Droogs
Houdini Dax – Naughty Nation
Keys – Ring the Changes
Joanna Gruesome – Peanut Butter
Paper Aeroplanes – Joy
Richard James – All the New Highways
Trwbador – Several Wolves
Tender Prey – Organ Calzone
Zarelli – Soft Rains
Zefur Wolves – Zefur Wolves