Category Archives: MUSIC

Record Store Day 2013 – Rise Music Shop Bristol

Well another record store day has passed and what a day it was.  More releases than ever before and the most well attended by music fans and those who wish to support independent record stores.

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This year I chose Rise Music store in Bristol for the 3rd year running and it was an even better experience than usual due to the excellent staff and organisation of the large queues that inevitably are formed so early in the morning.

Rise has recently had to branch out and diversify its product range in order to keep the integrity of it’s core activity, namely being an independent record store.  They now have a partnership on the ground floor of the premises with Friska, bringing a high quality independent Cafe and a stage for in store gigs.  This works remarkably well and in someways adds to the record store ambiance rather than taking away from it.

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So for record store day rather than waiting in the freezing cold for hours we were able to spend some of it in the warmth of the cafe while waiting for the fun to begin.

This year I ended up getting to the shop for 4:15am, yes – 4:15!!!! unbelievably I was still 20th in the line!

It was a 2 hour wait before the cafe opened at 6am and slowly allowed the queue of people to enter.  The lucky first 20 in the queue get their items picked for them and a goody bag with some freebies for making the effort.  This is an excellent way of doing it and avoids the scrum for the very rare items that people are after.

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Lawrence (owner of the store) sporting his red fez for the day was constantly looking after people making sure they got the help they needed to find what they wanted.

It’s an exciting time to get your hands on the limited edition items, however, it is easy to forget what the day is really about.  To bring people into the independent record stores all over the country that have been going out of business at an alarming rate.

The record stores still around are excellent and have had to up their game by diversifying and essentially giving people a much better experience.  Rough Trade, Sister Ray and soul jazz records to name a few I have been to recently are all excellent.  One of the great pleasures is talking to the staff who are enthusiasts for new music and are extremely knowledgeable.  Rise Music is excellent at this, and many are in bands themselves such as Olo Worms in Bristol, adding to the live music vibe of the store.

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The much hullabaloo about HMV recently brings into focus how good independent record stores are.  People cry that HMV is the last music store on the high street.  My beef with this is that I don’t think that it has truly been a music store for 20 years.  It lost it’s soul a long time ago and became a bland entertainment store, charging too much on the whole, with little support for local bands hiding vinyl in a corner somewhere if you were lucky.

Whoever has the pleasure of re-organising the HMV business model would do well to look at the independent record stores for inspiration.

So what were my picks of the RSD 2013.  I was extremely fortunate to get my hands on all 3 of the Caribou albums – of which rise only had 3 copies of each in store.  Tame Impala, Paul Weller, David Bowie and Nick Cave were all highlights for me.

Apparently the day became the best in Rise music’s history so far.  The interest generated by the event and the entertainment provided by Rise was superb.  The bands that played all day were excellent and I met many like minded music lovers from as far away as Swindon who will be back next year.  More importantly, they will be back between now and the next RSD supporting their independent record shops.

As if to stress the point – I was back at Rise the next day for an in store free gig by Mathew E White.  A lunch time beer and a free gig is not a bad way to spend a Sunday.  Mathew E White was amazing.  The band played for about half an hour, the ground floor was packed and the music was superb.  Their rhythm section blew the house down.

I couldn’t recommend Rise music highly enough.  Remember to support our local record stores!

RECORD STORE DAY 2012: A Vinyl extravaganza at Bristol’s best independent record store RISE

Record store day 2012 finally arrived in the early hours of yesterday 21st April.  I chose Rise Records, one of the finest record stores in the UK and the best independent record store in Bristol as my vinyl heaven location.

I nipped into RISE on Friday afternoon to see how preparations were going, the staff seemed a little rushed off their feet! With over 400 titles to put out onto the floor and prepare for what they hoped would be hoards of eager shoppers, they had their work cut out.

Each year the event has been going, it has become more popular with more releases and more interest.  Vinyl sales went up by over 40% last year and a welcome niche market has opened up for the musical connoisseur and a lifeline for “real” independent record shops.  Times are hard, and Record Store Day is a welcome silver lining to the dark clouds of economic gloom for record dealers around the world.

Last year I began queuing at 6:10am for the 8am lift off. By the time the shop opened there was a queue several hundred meters long. This time I was told that people were intending to start queuing at 4am!  So with heavy eyelids I set my alarm for 4am and got to the queue for around 4:30am.

It is essential to be in the first 20 in the queue as people are let in 20 at a time.  I was number 8!  This year I managed to even persuade my partner to join the fun!  Ironically I was standing next to the same people as last year as the geek music chat began!

Time passed quickly as the excitement built and the darkness fell away.  Automatic lights came on in the shop to reveal the hundreds of limited edition titles on display, and then by 7am the staff arrived to prepare for the rush.

It was incredibly well organised as they passed out lists to the first 20 people to pick their items strictly to Record Store Day rules – first come first serve.  This prevents any initial over exuberance and “elbowing” tactics for the ultra rare items.  Last year there was nearly a fight over a Dr Who single!

8 o’clock came and we were allowed in, our piles of records waiting for us.  We browsed in ore at the wealth of vinyl on offer to be tempted with yet more purchases.  It is hard to resist!

Some ask, “what is the point of vinyl?”, usually asked with their mp3 in their pocket full of pirated music that they have neither paid for or on the most part ever listened to.

I love music, all kinds and on all formats.  Everything has its place.  Mp3 players are amazing and very convenient; CD’s are excellent quality these days and are also convenient (the original CD’s in the 80’s and early 90’s were simply awful quality); and Vinyl are a different listening experience, superb quality and playing albums the way there were intended to be listened to, with artwork and an emotional experience.

The Vinyl experience is different and more attentive and more emotional.  When record companies began trying to force the death of vinyl in a re-issuing frenzy on CD of back catalogue items in a “bring them in and pile them high” attitude as a cash cow, the emotional aspect of buying records began to be broken.  The start of the death nail for recorded music.

This year many of the items available for record store day are of high quality and much sought after, along with some titles that are the inevitable cash in.  Record store day is more than just getting your hands on some lovely limited vinyl though, it is an event.  RISE had bands on all day and DJ sets, Record store day beer (very good!) as well as special offers and a few give away’s.  With   physical sales of music declining and difficult economic times generally this day has become very important in the record store retail calender.

The highlight for me was seeing Duke Spirit play live at 3pm.  They were superb and I can’t wait to listen to their live album I bought.

My vinyl highlights were The Kinks re-issues; Lee Scratch Perry 3 x 10″ box set; David Bowie Starman pic disc; Refused “The shape of punk to come”; Blood Music 7″; Keith Howard 12″;  Gorillaz 10″, Edwyn Collins tape box and Velvet Underground Loaded on pink Vinyl!

I’m still counting the cost however, as inevitably over enthusiasm got the better of me! Not to worry, it’s only once a year!

A great day for independent music shops – great music, great live music, great beer and a great day.  Thanks RISE for an excellent day!

Roll on next year . . . . .

BEST ALBUMS OF 2011

Another good year for music, and with all the Best Of lists around i thought I would do mine again.  So here goes.

THE BEST ALBUMS OF 2011

#1        BATTLES – GLOSS DROP

This was a much looked forward to album and it did not disappoint. If you are a fan of percussion, this is a great album.  I saw them live at Glastonbury this year, and they were one of my highlights.  It was a close run thing but I think this just pips Bjork to the #1 spot!

#2    BJORK – BIOPHILIA

Weird and wonderful, Bjork is at least interesting, even when she miss fires.  A genuine genius and someone always looking for the off the wall idea.  This album takes her music a step forward in linear production.  This one will keep me interested for the months ahead.

#3    ZUN ZUN EGUI – KATANG

This band is a Bristol favourite and much championed new band who have been steadily releasing EP’s over the past couple of years.  I first saw them live when supporting Tinaweren at the Academy.  They were superb.  An eclectic mix of African Rythms, screeching vocals and Hendrix like guitar licks.  Simply unbeatable and unique!

#4    BAXTER DURY – HAPPY SOUP

Alternative Pop at it’s best, this album was a wonderful surprise and with the catchiest tunes.

#5    LYKKE LI – WOUNDED RHYMES

With a moodier persona, Lykke Li has still proven her ability to write a catchy song and to wow her audience.  A more rounded album than her debut, this is again unmissable.

#6    ANNA CALVI – ANNA CALVI

The new kid on the block, much was expected and much delivered.  A unique voice, so powerful, with a unique sound.  Superb. Live review here

#7    JAMES BLAKE – JAMES BLAKE

Innovation is the name of the game with James Blake, pushing the boundaries while still acquiring the fans.  A superb live performer and an excellent album.

#8   YUCK

This is the Indie fans dream album, with wonderful songs to go with the shoe gazing. Full album review

#9    KURT VILE – SMOKE RING FOR MY HALO

Wonderful album finally getting the recognition he deserves.

#10 METRONOMY – THE ENGLISH RIVIERA

I was amazed at how much attention Metronomy got this year, but it is all well deserved, along with the Mercury nomination.  A step on from their last offering, this band is excellent on so many levels.

#11    RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS – I’M WITH YOU

This album was received with a lot less fanfare.  With the loss of John Frusciante many have written the Chili peppers off.  Not me.  This album is a grower, and the more subtle sound of Josh Klinghoffer adds to the enjoyment. They are also a live act to reckon with. 

# 12    BON IVER – BON IVER

Another masterpiece from Bon Iver.  A lot more polished than the last album, and perhaps less surprising, but a superb listen for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

#13    THE HORRORS – SKYING

Carrying on from where they left off, while taking on some more 80’s sounds.  An excellent album

#14    THE KILLS – BLOOD PRESSURES

Their sound has been changing over time from their raw first 2 efforts.  With the distractions of side projects this album is a welcome return.

#15    GANG OF FOUR – CONTENT

My my, this album could have been a disaster, however, with this offering, they have finally laid to rest the idea that they could never compete with their first 2 albums.  Having been so influential on so many bands, it is nice to see them come up with the goods again.  A superb album.

#16    WIRE – RED BARKED TREE

Another new wave classic artist coming up with the goods.

#17    PETE AND THE PIRATES – ONE THOUSAND PICTURES

This album passed without so much a whimper in the music press, yet it is remarkably good.  This is one that needs a good listen and you will be going back to it for months ahead.  Live review here

#18    PJ HARVEY – LET ENGLAND SHAKE

The indie darling came up trumps again this year and took the Mercury prize to boot.

#19 RADIOHEAD – KING OF LIMBS

They keep doing it – probably the most innovative popular music band on the planet came up with an offering that was a lot less accessible than “In Rainbows”  – this album needs a bit of love to appreciate it.

#20 – Frankie and the Heartstrings – Hunger

Another great live band with the energy most can only hope to have.

21 – Duke Spirit – Bruiser
22 – Pains at being pure at heart – Belong
23 – Scum – Again into Eyes
24 – Cold war Kids – Mine is Yours
25 – Nicholas Jaar – Space is only Noise
26 – Woods – Sun and Shade
27 – Kate Bush – 50 words for snow
28 – Smith Westerns –  Dye it Blonde
29 – Black Keys – El Camino
30 – J Mascis – Several Shades of Why

RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS – Live Review with support from Fools Gold – LG Arena Birmingham 2011

The last few years have been quite a learning curve for the Chili Peppers.  With the loss of John Frusciante as their guitar player, to some it would have been felt like the loss of a limb.

All their classic albums have been made with John Frusciante who has been a prolific guitarist and creative force inside the band.  Last year he was voted greatest guitar player of the past 20 years by 6 Music listeners.

However, the new album “I’m With You”, showed that this was simply not the case.  The “new” guitarist Mr Josh Klinghoffer, long time friend of John Frusciante and former touring partner, backing up Frusciante on the last Chili Pepper’s tour, has brought a more subtle sound to the proceedings, but no less engaging.

With a less than enthusiastic response to their latest album, a 3 star (out of 5) rating being the most common, the consensus is that it is a good album but not their best.  However, as time has gone on, the album sinks into the veins of the listener proving that longevity may be the album’s key ingredient.  A return to their roots, of 70’s funk, is the theme of the album.

The real test for many Chili fans is of course the live performance.  Can Klinghoffer live up to the antics of Frusciante?

The venue was the LG Arena, Birmingham, 19th November 2011. 

Now I am not a fan of arenas at the best of times, and the last time I came to the Birmingham NEC was some 15 or so years ago.  It was always a soulless place.

On this visit I was pleasantly surprised.  Much has been done to take away the feeling of entering a large shed, and extra thought has now gone in to preventing the overcrowding and toilet queues of previous years.

Fools Gold support act

Fools Gold I must confess are a band that has largely passed me by.  However, the evening started well with us getting inside the venue in time to catch their set.

Their music is most entertaining, with much audience participation. Their sound very much reminding me of a northern African feel to it. Upbeat and and happy sounds was the theme of the day.  The woven melodies throughout the African themed percussion and Rhythms was great to hear.

It was a fitting support band that got the crowd going and was very much appreciated by the Brummie gathering. As was the impromptu collaboration with Josh Klinghoffer halfway through the set.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers

They appeared on stage just before 9pm with a packed out crowd.

The last time I saw them play was their very last performance with John Frusciante at the Leeds Festival in 2007 and he was on superb form that night.

They opened to the opening track on the album Monarchy of Roses.  A superb opening, with a brand new track along with their new guitarist. The crowd went mad and the band seemed really up for it.

No sooner had we been treated to a new track than they went into a crowd favourite – Dani California.  It was clear even this early on that this there would be a lot of crowd singing this evening!

The set continued with new material being interspersed with the old favourites, and the new songs never appeared out of place.

The band were clearly enjoying the night and were very tight.

The evening went incredibly quickly.

My personal favourites being Can’t Stop, Under the Bridge, By the Way, Give it Away, The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie and Higher Ground.

After over an hour they went off stage and then came back with an extended encore.  The crowd loved it and even my friend thought they were amazing, and she has seen them a dozen or so times.

Klinghoffer was outstanding all evening. The jamming was as good as ever and he stamped his authority on the set.  The new songs were all received well, and although the old material, and the solo guitar work had a different slant, with Klinghoffer’s personality in his guitar playing, it was still amazing to watch.

What this gig showed, was that of all the bands around at the moment, as a live force, the Chili Peppers are still a must see.  They left the stage after an hour and 40 mins with the crowd still wanting more.

Simply superb.

Track listing for gig.

Monarchy of Roses
Dani California
Scar Tissue
Can’t Stop
The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie
Parallel Universe
Hard to Concentrate
Look Around
I Like Dirt
Universally Speaking
Goodbye Hooray
Under the Bridge
Higher Ground
Californication
By The Way

Encore

Chad Mauro Jam
Around The World
Everybody Knows This is Nowhere
Give it Away

This live set can be downloaded from the Red Hot Chili Peppers Web Site here 

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PETER AND THE HARMONICS – Live Review, Louisiana Bristol, and Album Review

Speculative gigs to see new bands play are always a hit and miss affair, but on this occasion there was nothing to lose as it was a part of the Bristol harbour festival.  A wonderful annual event that brings the heart of Bristol to life.

A wonderful arts and music festival throughout the weekend was to begin on the Friday night.  So I headed down to one of the fringe venues at the brilliant Louisiana.  I was attending on the recommendation of a friend who knew a member of the band.

Whenever you get an invitation to see a band because they are a friend it is a bit of a double edged sword.  What if they are awful?

Luckily on this occasion, there were no such fears.

Peter and the Harmonics, a local Bristol band comprising of

Pete Stilwell (The Francos)
Lead Vocals and GuitarEd Falconer (The Francos)
Guitar, Violin and Backing VocalsJimmy Curry (45’s and Snatch22)
Bass Guitar and Backing VocalsTom Chillcott (Nova Saints)
Drums and Backing Vocals

arrived on the ground floor stage at about 7pm and from the off had a little more than the average band to offer.

Their Facebook page lists their influences as Neil Young, The Band, The Coral, The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver.

This is one of the few influences list that I have seen which does have some bearing on the type and quality of the music they play.

Pete Stilwell has a sweet voice that commands attention right from the off, and you can tell from the hush of the crowd that the band has them where they want them, listening to every word and note.

The set moved along with variety and ease and the band were able to have a rapport with the crowd, always a help on a festival night.  From acoustic numbers, violin interludes, rock and ballads the bands repertoire was excellent.

The band sounded tight, and brought across their music brilliantly.  They were a real delight to watch and listen to.  A definite depth to their songwriting from the catchy Over Me to the Bluesy These Terrors I Know.

Despite the fickleness of the music industry, if these guys keep it together I’m sure they will garner much interest in the future.

I managed to get hold of their home made EP with the tracks Over Me, These Terrors I Know and Gold is the Morning.  I would certainly recommend giving them a listen or trying to see them as they do gigs in the region.

P J Harvey wins Mercury Music Prize 2011

Last night PJ Harvey was crowned the Queen of Indie and the critics darling as she romped home with the Mercury Music Prize just as the bookies were predicting.

This decision by the panel dispelled a few fears and myths regarding the Mercury Prize.  Namely that you cannot win the prize twice; that an established artist could not win it; and the bookies can sometimes get it right!

In the past perhaps it has been thought that when they nominate the likes of David Bowie and Paul Weller, that it was an acknowledgement, but in reality they could never win.

This years list was particularly strong and varied which made it all the more difficult for the judges, which makes the win by PJ Harvey even more prestigious.

Radiohead must still be thinking what they have to do to win it though!!

A superb album from a superb artist and worthy winner.

MERCURY MUSIC PRIZE 2011

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 21

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

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!