Today (19 June), the shortlist for the 2020 Gwobr Albwm Cymraeg y Flwyddyn (Welsh Language Album of the Year) has been published by the National Eisteddfod and BBC Radio Cymru
With so many excellent albums eligible for this year’s award, the judges agreed to include 11 albums on the shortlist rather than the traditional ten.
The aim of this award is to celebrate the eclectic mix of Welsh language music recorded and released during the year, which runs from 31 May 2019 until the end of May this year.
A panel of judges, all part of the music scene have spent hours listening to all the albums, and then voted for their favourite albums at the end of the process. The judges were Elan Evans, Siân Eleri Evans, Huw Foulkes, Gwenan Gibbard, Dyl Mei, Siân Meinir, Gwyn Owen and Neal Thompson.
With the National Eisteddfod in Ceredigion postponed this year, organisers are working with BBC Radio Cymru’s Gŵyl AmGen, and the winner will be announced during the festival, which runs from 30 July – 2 August.
The shortlisted albums are:
BBC Radio Cymru will feature each of the albums during the day on their programmes, and at 18:30, a the Eisteddfod hosts a facebook live discussion on the shortlist and the wider Welsh language music scene. Sôn am Sîn will also host a session on the shortlist during Gŵyl Tafwyl Digidol.
The winner will be announced on Saturday 1 August, and more details regarding the prize will be published over the coming weeks.
Hip Hip Hwre - 3 Hwr Doeth (Recordiau Noddfa)
Hip Hip Hwre, 3 Hwr Doeth’s second album, is a record with vast themes, ranging from politics to sex, and from homelessness to Chinese cuisine. Recorded at the Pasta Hull HQ, Hip Hip Hwre builds upon the unique hip-hop sounds that were introduced to audiences across Wales with their precious album. With songs such as ‘Biji Bo’ and ‘Ma Nain Fi’n Wech Na Nain Chdi’ already reaching anthemic status in gigs, the new album pushes the Caernarfon collective’s witty humour even further.
Mirores - Ani Glass (Recordiau NEB)
Ani Glass’ debut album, Mirores, is a collection of beautiful and dreamy synth-pop sounds. The album is a mixture of magical electronic music and Ani’s unique voice, which ties everything together to create a truly special record. The album guides us through the streets of Cardiff, a musical and thematic journey through the capital, with some songs reminding us of busy streets, and others offering a chance to contemplate the city’s open areas.
Joia! - Carwyn Ellis & Rio 18 (Recordiau Agati / Banana and Louie Records)
Joia! is the product of a period of recording in Rio de Janeiro. The album is the most recent project from Carwyn Ellis, lead singer of Colorama, and was produced by Brazilian musician Kassin. Carwyn and Kassin formed a band of Rio’s top musicians in order to write and record the band; this band is known as Rio 18. Inspired by the vast sounds of Bossa Nova music, the album’s title personifies the project; ‘Joia’ in Brazilian Portugese means groovy!
Dilyn Afon - Cynefin
After three years of researching and recording Delyn Afton, Cynin’s first album, was released in 2020. The record is a collection of traditional folk songs from Ceredigion and follows the area’s cultural heritage and surroundings. A modern voice is given to the area’s heritage and lost melodies on an album that presents some profound material in a new and fresh light.
Mai - Georgia Ruth (Bubblewrap Records)
Mai is a very personal collection of eight songs and three beautiful instrumental pieces, which includes Eifion Wyn’s praise of the month May as a central piece. There are more modern elements to Georgia Ruth than other artists, as she combines the harp with electric and traditional instruments. Listen to Madryn, a song presented to Georgia’s young son that epitomizes this magical album.
Pang! - Gruff Rhys (Rough Trade)
Pang! is the first solely Welsh language album from Gruff Rhys since 2005. The album combines Gruff’s solo acoustic style with African sounds thanks to the immense production from South African musician Muzi. Like most of his work, Gruff Rhys comments on the state of the world in his own trademark laid-back way on Pang! With completely new sounds leading the way. The song ‘Bae Bae Bae’ will be familiar to those that visited the 2018 National Eisteddfod as it was a part of the ‘Carnifal y Môr’ special art exhibition.
Arenig - Gwilym Bowen Rhys (Recordiau Erwydd)
Arenig is successful and prolific musician Gwilym Bowen Rhys’ third album, and is vastly different from Rhys’ earlier work as lead vocalist to Y Bandana. Gwilym has a unique voice and this diverse record is a chance to enjoy his voice in many different styles, from the profound ‘Byta Dy Bres’ to the romantic ‘Er Fy Ngwaethaf.’
Sbwriel Gwyn - Los Blancos (Recordiau Libertino)
Los Blancos’ debut album, Sbwriel Gwyn, is the latest in a wave of incredible albums to come from Libertino Records. The Carmarthen foursome’s first album is an assortment of well-known singles, such as ‘Cadw Fi Lan’ and ‘Clarach,’ and newer material that were already favourites in gigs. The band’s raw live energy has been captured on record thanks to production by Kris Jenkins. This album without a doubt has ensured Los Blancos’ place as one of the biggest bands in the Welsh language music scene.
Sir Fôn Bach - Llio Rhydderch (Fflach)
Although she’s been performing and releasing exceptional music for decades, it seems Llio Rhydderch isn’t slowing down. Sir Fôn Bach is a chance to hear a master at her craft; this is Llio Rhydderch at her best as she takes us to a different world. The album is a new interpretation of many traditional melodies, making the listener step back from life’s pace and the modern world by relaxing to the sounds of the harp in all its glory.
Amen - Mr (Strangetown Records)
Following a return to the Welsh language music scene with 2018’s Oesoedd record, Amen is the second album from former Y Cyrff and Catatonia member Mark Roberts’ latest project, Mr. The influence of previous projects is clear on the album but, as usual, Mark succeeds to push musical boundaries on this record. Not one song highlights the nostalgic yet modern feel of the record more than the album’s closing track; ‘Llanrwst Revisited.’ This song is a contemporary take on the Cyrff classic, ‘Cymru, Lloegr a Llanrwst.’
Iaith y Nefoedd - Yr Ods (Lwcus T)
Iaith y Nefoedd is Yr Ods’ long-awaited third album. The record is part of a larger work with author Llwyd Owen that includes a novella of the same name. Yr Ods take the listener to a post-apocalyptic version of Wales where the Welsh language has almost been eradicated on a record that succeeds in scaring us and making us question our Welsh identity and modernity in a truly striking way.