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.