Alt-J take home the 2012 Mercury Prize: The favourites ever since the nominations were announced, Alt-J were announced winners of the Barclaycard Music Prize 2012, beating Plan B, Richard Hawley, Field Music, Django Django, Lianne La Havas and a host of other acts. That’s them up there talking the press after winning. Apparently, the £20,000 prize money isn’t even enough to pay off just one of their student loans. We’d rant about uni fees and the state of higher education here, but we wanna keep it light.
The shortlist of albums for the Mercury Prize has been unveiled, but who cares about that when you’ve got the Hercury Prize to vote in! Okay, so the name’s not the best, but the spirit’s there. The twelve records selected were released between June 10th 2011 and September 11th 2012, by British acts and were not chosen by the Mercury judging panel. With that out the way, here’s who you can pick from:
- Bloc Party - Four
- Burial - Kindred
- The Chapman Family - Cruel Britannia
- Enter Shikari - A Flash Flood Of Colour
- The Horrors - Skying
- Johnny Foreigner - Johnny Foreigner Vs Everything
- Keaton Henson - Dear…
- Laura Marling - A Creature I Don’t Know
- Los Campesinos! - Hello Sadness
- Spectrals - Bad Penny
- Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs - Trouble
- The xx - Coexist
The real Mercury Prize ceremony takes place on November 2nd of this Year, but no one wants to wait that long so you have until the 5th of October to choose your winner for the inaugral Hercury Prize!
(Nope, doesn’t get any better the more you say it)
After a few months of speculation and god-knows how much spent at betting shops around the country, PJ Harvey has become the first artist to win the Mercury Prize twice, triumphing with her critically-lauded album Let England Shake. Receiving a rare 10/10 review from NME and similar accolades from other sections of the music press, the album has been hailed as Harvey’s finest yet.
While I questioned some of the nominated records at this year’s Mercury Prize (Katy B and Tinie Tempah for those interested), the presence of PJ Harvey and her most recent offering Let England Shake was reassuring. There’s no denying her impact on British music, she was even awarded Outstanding Contribution to Music at this year’s NME Awards and Let England Shake has cemented her status as one of the country’s most talented songwriters and musicians.
Described as a “war record” (and rightly so with lyrics like “Soldiers falling like lumps of meat” and “Smile, smile Bobby, with your lovely mouth/Pack up your troubles, let’s head out to the fountain of death”), Let England Shake is unsettling, disturbing and often harrowing to listen to but despite that there’s an unusual beauty to it. Various parts have an almost dream-pop feeling whilst aspects of English folk music can be identified too but despite the fusion of different styles it’s Harvey’s voice that pushes through, forcing you to sit up and pay attention.
However, if you think such a heavy subject choice results in boring songs you’re wrong. The album’s opener/title track starts the record off with an upbeat, jaunty feeling and closer “The Colour of the Earth” is light and very, very English. Even with her dark, distressing vision of England, Harvey’s music shows the positive side of the country. A place where beautiful music continues to be made - of which she is a shining example. Let England Shake is an accomplished record with incredible, and relevant, lyrics and some fascinating sounds. And hey, is that not what the Mercury Prize is supposed to be celebrating?
It’s that time again. When the nation turns its ears to a group of artists most have never heard of, when hipsters flock to betting shops, when obscure jazz-fusion-dubstep-punk beat combos from the Outer Hebrides garner more attention than ever. Yes, it’s the annual Mercury Prize, won in recent years by The xx, Elbow and, erm, Speech DeBelle. For those unfamiliar with the award, to be nominated, albums have to have been released in the last year or so by a British or Irish artist. The shortlists tend to be on a scale from big crossover success to the aforementioned “no one’s ever heard of them, or will again after this” jazz anomalies. But without further ado, the nominees are:
- Adele - 21
- Anna Calvi - Anna Calvi
- Elbow - Build A Rocket Boys!
- Everything Everything - Man Alive
- Ghostpoet - Peanut Butter Blue & Melancholy Jam
- Gwylim Simcock - Good Day At Schloss Elmau
- James Blake - James Blake
- Katy B - On A Mission
- King Creosote & John Hopkins - Diamond Mine
- Metronomy - The English Riviera
- PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
- Tinie Tempah - Disc-overy
First off, the big omissions. Wild Beasts and The Horrors can feel rightly snubbed, as both albums were previously seen as surefire inclusions and likely winners. Arctic Monkeys also should feel like they’ve missed out, Friendly Fires too; Radiohead also seemed likely nominees, purely for having written a record about trees. Smaller acts such as Gold Panda, Esben & The Witch, Cat’s Eyes and The Joy Formidable could’ve all staked a claim for a nomination with their superb debut albums.
On to the actual nominees. Of the more well-known names, the list is curiously made up of albums that you feel people have been told to buy. Adele, James Blake, Tinie Tempah; all usually stock names for those in middle age to reel off in an effort to seem cool and eclectic. The inclusion of Katy B is slightly baffling considering she’s the most boring popstar since Ellie Goulding, whilst Tinie Tempah has to be the least threatening rapper since Will Smith. Anna Calvi is good, producing is atmospheric gothic rock, with a few Jeff Buckley-esque guitar flourishes here and there, but nothing worthy of nomination.
Elbow arguably have the best album on the list, but whether Mercury would want to give them the prize twice in such a short space of time is doubtful. Metronomy’s third album is a more mature and slick affair than previous efforts and it would be great for them to gain the recognition and wider exposure. The same goes for Everything Everything and their unclassifiable brilliance. Ghostpoet could be a dark horse, purely for having the best album name on the list, but also for an excellent debut, combining the everyday touch of Mike Skinner with the atmospherics of The xx and their dub influenced peers.
If you’re looking for a safe bet, then PJ Harvey looks to be it. A former winner in 2001, Polly Jean’s eighth album has been superbly-received across the board, even earning a rare 10/10 from the NME. It’s folksy, poetic and has just the right amount of weirdness to win over the Mercury judges. This writer is yet to be charmed by “Let England Shake”, but it does seem a likely winner.
However Hitsville U.K.’s Mercury Prize pick is:
METRONOMY - THE ENGLISH RIVIERA
It would’ve been Ghostpoet, but he’s quite a longshot. It would’ve been Elbow, but it’s unlikely the judges will pick them so soon after “The Seldom Seen Kid” grabbed the prize in 2008. So Hitsville U.K. is getting right behind the Devon four-piece.
The winner will be announced at an award ceremony on September 6th.