Thursday, 13 September 2012

Mercury Prize Shortlist:


Oh, hello, little blog. Remember me?

It feels like forever since i last posted here and i guess it has been. While everyone else in my family has been off having exciting adventures in Italy and New York, i've been stuck in a very rainy hometown doing nothing worth blogging about, and then getting horribly poorly and doing nothing but sleep. i suspect it was just a cold and i know i shouldn't complain - people go through far worse on a daily basis - but it seemed to head straight for my chest and really knocked me for six. The last remnants still seem to be lingering over me, but i am much better now and keen to get my blogging flow going again ..except i have nothing to show for the last few weeks of my life, so it might take a little while.

Anyway, excuses over, i just wanted to give a nod to the Mercury Prize whose shortlist of nominees was announced yesterday.

The Barclaycard Mercury Prize is often counted as one of the most prestigious prizes in music. Awarded for an outstanding album released from the UK or Ireland within the last year (this year's nominees had to be released between July 12th 2011 and Sept 10th 2012) and chosen by a panel of music industry figures, previous winners have ranged from Pulp to Ms Dynamite, Portishead to Dizzee Rascal, M People to the Arctic Monkeys, Elbow, The XX and PJ Harvey (the only artist to have one more than once). 

This year's shortlist is as follows: 
  • Alt-J - 'An Awesome Wave'
  • Ben Howard - 'Every Kingdom' 
  • Django Django - 'Django Django' 
  • Field Music - 'Plumb'
  • Jessie Ware - 'Devotion'
  • Lianne La Havas - 'Is Your Love Big Enough?'
  • Michael Kiwanuka - 'Home Again'
  • Plan B - 'Ill Manors'
  • Richard Hawley - 'Standing at the Sky's Edge'
  • Roller Trio - 'Roller Trio'
  • Sam Lee - 'Ground of Its Own'
  • The Maccabees - 'Given to the Wild' 
(Found here.)

The artists come from a variety of styles and genres, with varying levels of chart success, but something about the list doesn't feel as surprising or eclectic as normal to me. That said, there are some albums i've never listened to - Django Django, Field Music, Richard Hawley, Roller Trio & Sam Lee - featured there alongside some of my favourite albums of the last year. In fact, if they'd only included Laura Marling's 'A Creature I Don't Know' and King Charles' 'Loveblood', it would pretty much be a complete list of my favourite UK albums this year.

If the choice were mine alone, I would be stuck between Alt-J and Jessie Ware for the £20,000 prize, with Ben Howard and the Maccabees very very close behind, and Lianne La Havas just behind them -- 5 of my favourite albums of this year. Plan B would definitely have a look in too and Michael Kiwanuka might stand an outside chance on my list.

But who will the Mercury panel choose? They're renowned for awarding the prize to a slightly left-of-centre choice - someone whose album has been well received, but perhaps didn't have huge chart success: PJ Harvey last year, when Adele might have seemed obvious, or the hardly-known Speech Debelle in 2009, being just some examples. It's a pattern that, being established over the years, has meant that though their choices might seem the less-obvious of the list, they've become possible to predict.

This year, however, i am completely stumped.

Plan B and Richard Hawley have been tipped as the top choices, but they feel a little too obvious to me, personally -- Plan B's album is an absolute cracker and might well win for its storytelling quality and contrast to his previous release, but it charted at number 1 and might be too overtly successful; while Richard Hawley's is an album i haven't listened to, but he seems like precisely the kind of person you'd expect to win a Mercury Prize and, well, we can't be having that!

i can't even hazard a guess at who might win. i'd be delighted if any of my favourites won, of course, but i feel like it's a fairly level playing field this year and they all stand a chance. They've come up with a real gem of a list and have a tough choice ahead of themselves. i, for one, am sincerely looking forward to watching the announcement on November 1st.

In the meantime, i'm off to listen to those on the list i haven't heard before  ...and to delight in this week's new album releases from the XX (next year's list, anyone?) and actual Bob Dylan!


Who are your favourite artists on this year's list?
And who do you think the panel will choose for this year's prize? 

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