Barclaycard Mercury Prize shortlist announced

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.

PJ Harvey wins the Mercury Prize, nation divided

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?

Siobhain Ma

It’s over. We can no longer keep posting filler “end of year” lists. It’s back to real blogging now…
The Hitsville Albums Of 2011 List, as voted for by you, in full:
Arctic Monkeys - Suck It And See
Laura Marling - A Creature I Don’t Know
Bon Iver - Bon Iver
The Horrors - Skying
Wu Lyf - Go Tell Fire To The Mountain
Jay-Z & Kanye West - Watch The Throne
SBTRKT - SBTRKT
Metronomy - The English Riviera
Wild Beasts - Smother
Tyler, The Creator - Goblin
Los Campesinos! - Hello Sadness
Bombay Bicycle Club - A Different Kind Of Fix
The Chapman Family - Burn Your Town
PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
James Blake - James Blake
Nicola Roberts - Cinderella’s Eyes
Slow Club - Paradise
Mastodon - The Hunter
Elbow - Build A Rocket Boys!
Drake - Take Care
The Weeknd - House Of Balloons/Thursday
Johnny Foreigner - Johnny Foreigner Vs Everything
Friendly Fires - Pala
Nicolas Jaar - Space Is Only Noise
Youth Lagoon - The Year Of Hibernation
M83 - Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie xx - We’re New Here
Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring For My Halo
Noel Gallagher - Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost
Lil B - I’m Gay (I’m Happy)
Radiohead - The King Of Limbs
Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto
Terius Nash - 1977
The Antlers - Burst Apart
Yuck - Yuck
Shabazz Palaces - Black Up
The Joy Formidable - The Big Roar
The Vaccines - What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?
Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat - Everything’s Getting Older
Battles - Gloss Drop
Tom Waits - Bad As Me
Real Estate - Days
Smith Westerns - Dye It Blonde
Noah And The Whale - Last Night On Earth
Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
St. Vincent - Strange Mercy
Childish Gambino - Camp
Death Grips - Exmilitary
Patrick Wolf - Lupercalia
There you have it, your fifty albums of the year. Pretty eclectic bunch aren’t you? Some superb picks alongside some, well, not so superb picks. At least Lulu wasn’t in there…

It’s over. We can no longer keep posting filler “end of year” lists. It’s back to real blogging now…

The Hitsville Albums Of 2011 List, as voted for by you, in full:

  1. Arctic Monkeys - Suck It And See
  2. Laura Marling - A Creature I Don’t Know
  3. Bon Iver - Bon Iver
  4. The Horrors - Skying
  5. Wu Lyf - Go Tell Fire To The Mountain
  6. Jay-Z & Kanye West - Watch The Throne
  7. SBTRKT - SBTRKT
  8. Metronomy - The English Riviera
  9. Wild Beasts - Smother
  10. Tyler, The Creator - Goblin
  11. Los Campesinos! - Hello Sadness
  12. Bombay Bicycle Club - A Different Kind Of Fix
  13. The Chapman Family - Burn Your Town
  14. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
  15. James Blake - James Blake
  16. Nicola Roberts - Cinderella’s Eyes
  17. Slow Club - Paradise
  18. Mastodon - The Hunter
  19. Elbow - Build A Rocket Boys!
  20. Drake - Take Care
  21. The Weeknd - House Of Balloons/Thursday
  22. Johnny Foreigner - Johnny Foreigner Vs Everything
  23. Friendly Fires - Pala
  24. Nicolas Jaar - Space Is Only Noise
  25. Youth Lagoon - The Year Of Hibernation
  26. M83 - Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
  27. Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie xx - We’re New Here
  28. Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring For My Halo
  29. Noel Gallagher - Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
  30. Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost
  31. Lil B - I’m Gay (I’m Happy)
  32. Radiohead - The King Of Limbs
  33. Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto
  34. Terius Nash - 1977
  35. The Antlers - Burst Apart
  36. Yuck - Yuck
  37. Shabazz Palaces - Black Up
  38. The Joy Formidable - The Big Roar
  39. The Vaccines - What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?
  40. Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat - Everything’s Getting Older
  41. Battles - Gloss Drop
  42. Tom Waits - Bad As Me
  43. Real Estate - Days
  44. Smith Westerns - Dye It Blonde
  45. Noah And The Whale - Last Night On Earth
  46. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
  47. St. Vincent - Strange Mercy
  48. Childish Gambino - Camp
  49. Death Grips - Exmilitary
  50. Patrick Wolf - Lupercalia

There you have it, your fifty albums of the year. Pretty eclectic bunch aren’t you? Some superb picks alongside some, well, not so superb picks. At least Lulu wasn’t in there…