So, it’s that time again, the nominations for this year’s Mercury prize are in and next week we find out who will walk away with one of the few awards in popular music that has some credibility. Not forgetting the myriad of curve balls thrown in over the years, the Mercury Prize is always interesting and can, on occasion, make careers.
This years list has some fine artists, some that have been ignored over the years (King Creosote); some predictable old favorites (PJ Harvey, Elbow); and the commercially successful (Adele).
The bookies are often the last to know on these occasions because of the “curve ball” reputation of the panel that finally choses the artist. Nevertheless it is always interesting to see how it pans out.
The talent on show this year is as follows:
Adele was previously nominated in 2008 and needs little introduction. She is now a phenomenal success throughout the world selling millions of copies of both her first album and the current offering. If anything, this success is what could go against her even though this is about “the best album” of the last 12 months, many of the previous awards have gone to artists that have not had that recognition in the past.
This is perhaps the biggest down side of the Mercury Prize, it can sometimes appear that they penalize success. But this is not always the case as we have seen with the Arctic Monkeys and M People winning in the past.
Adele is an awesome talent and many believe this is really the album of the moment. But does that mean it will win?
Metronomy – The English Riviera
These are a favorite of mine. Their last album “Nights Out” was superb and quirky and having seen them live a couple of times, are most entertaining. They don’t take themselves too seriously on stage and the aim of any night with Metronomy is to have a good time.
I personally would love them to win, but I suspect this is one act that will not have a chance, specifically for their lack of “ernestness” with their song writing.
Having said that, this is their most serious work to date and has significant depth to the songwriting. It is a diverse weave of music, through the electronic pop, catchy hooks known so well in the past, with a calmer exterior and more thoughtful moments. This is a superb album.
Everything Everything – Man Alive
I first saw this band a couple of years ago supporting the Rumble Strips. The Rumble Strips were the “big thing” apparently, but after hearing a demo on an XFM late night slot I thought I would go along to see Everything Everything and see what they had to offer.
They were superb. Their music varies so much within and between each track and they put so much into the music it is quite remarkable. Not only do they manage to convey their music live so brilliantly, but manage to create an album full of songs that represents them so well.
One thing this album is not, is boring. It keeps the interest alive all the way through – it is different, interesting and manages to provide catchy tunes that the day time radio stations can deal with.
I heard a 6 Music roundtable one week where guests were reviewing a single of theirs and the main criticism was that the music was too “complicated” and it would be difficult to play live! All I can say is bring it on. I am sure we can take “complicated” in a musical setting.
This album is unlikely to win, but this would certainly be in my final 2 in consideration if it was up to me.
Ghost Poet – Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam
GhostPoet AKA 28 year old Obaro Ejimiwe is an electronic producer and singer. It would be wrong to even attempt to pigeon hole this artist which is why it is so good that he has been nominated. Soul, hip-hop, electonica, poetry, political, mood music – however you describe it, this album “should” be listened to and hopefully, the Mercury Prize has already done its job by bringing this music to a wider audience.
Anna Calvi came to the public’s attention when she was announced to be a contender for the BBC’s sound of 2011 poll. Her debut single, the cover “Jezebel” (not on the album) captured peoples imagination and caused a considerable stir.
Her eagerly awaited album did not disappoint and is an eclectic mix of styles, superbly produced.
She has such an amazing and strong voice that powers the songs and creates an emotional feel, it is hard not to be mesmerised by both her voice and the music.
This album, along with Everything Everything would be the two I would choose between. Quite obviously the talent shown is superb and the songs have longevity. This is an album that will pass the test of time.
Her live performances match the quality of her songwriting and it is hard not to be captivated by her presence.
Tinie Tempah – Disc-Overy
Tinie Tempah is fast becoming a phenomenon, with a number 1 record with his first single release and working with countless artists he has become the man of the moment. At 22 he has had a remarkable rise to fame.
For me this album just doesn’t cut the mustard, and is too hit and miss, but there is no doubt that he has garnered both commercial success and plenty of critical praise for this release.
Elbow – Build A Rocket Boys
I now have to make a confession with regard to this much loved band. I really do not see the attraction. I like some tracks on some of their previous works, but their albums have left me underwhelmed and well, a little bored.
These days this is considered somewhat blasphemous to admit. They have become the darlings of the cool music industry and nothing bad can be said about them – especially on 6 Music.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not begrudge their success. A hard working talented bunch of guys who have stuck at it and finally got success. Their music however, simply does not rock my boat.
This album would not be on my list, and I doubt it has a chance of winning on this occasion.
Gwilym Simcock – Good Days at Schloss Elmau
This, the 2011 Mercury token Jazz/Classical work is particularly excellent and is another reason why the Mercury Prize is so valuable. In many ways it matters little whether many of these artists actually win the award, the fact they are on the list brings artists to the attention of a new audience.
This is a superb album, from a man whose reputation precedes him. Some criticisms of over elaboration at times can be forgiven, when the overall feel is sublime.
James Blake – James Blake
An electronic composer with a nod toward dub-step and soul this is a wonderful album. He has delighted the festival crowds this year on his travels and has impressed many.
I like this album, although it is not my favorite on the list. There is no doubt he will be with us for years to come.
PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
Apparently one of the bookies’ favorites, it would be ironic to think someone would win two Mercury awards when the likes of Radiohead with their Myriad of nominations has never won one.
Yet, I guess if anyone was to take home a second award, PJ Harvey would be top of many people’s list of worthy benefactors. This is a superb record, probably the best since her last Mercury winning album. Consistently pushing the boundaries she has again excelled.
Katy B – On A Mission
Katy B honours the virtues of Pop, R & B, Funk, House and Dubstep in a commercial field. This album has been lauded as a triumph by the music press, tabloid hell and broad sheet reviewers, crossing over and being a commercial success to boot.
This is not really my “bag” as such, but the depth and breadth of British talent is really on show this year, and Katy B is a massive part of that.
King Creosote and Jon Hopkins – Diamond Mine
In these days of a “folk Revival” – Who would have thought it?? it is good to see a band get recognition, who have been treading the boards long before the current crop of trendy folksters were strutting their stuff.
Not that we should pigeon hole the eclectic talent of Kenny Anderson into the folk category. I last saw King Creosote supporting Squeeze on a reunion tour some years ago. They managed to woo the crowd with their excellent songwriting, although they had to battle hard after the crowd groaned somewhat as the accordion came out. Somewhat of a “Marmite” instrument.
This offering with the collaboration with Jon Hopkins has received plaudits all round and it is great to see a well deserved nomination.
Who will win?
I think we are looking for a curve ball this year after the XX rightly won it last time out. I think the bookies may well get it wrong, but I am sure the judges will be keen to avoid a Speech Debelle moment.
I would chose Everything Everything or Anna Calvi for the reasons already mentioned. But the judges will be hard pressed to ignore the woman of the moment Adele.
Bookies favorites at the moment appear to be PJ Harvey, James Blake and Adele fighting it out with Anna Calvi, Metronomy and Ghostpoet close behind.
The point of the prize however, is more the nominations than the winner as many get the exposure that hitherto they would be hard pressed to get.
I can’t wait for Tuesday night though!