totally enormous extinct dinosaurs
Yep, it’s that time again. It feel concurrently like 2011’s Mercury Prize ceremony occurred both just yesterday and aeons ago, but it’s been a year since PJ Harvey picked up the prize for Let England Shake, becoming the first artist to win the prize twice. That album was the expected winner from pre-nomination hype to the second before the envelope opened, but this year there doesn’t seem to be much of a clear-cut front runner. We’ll take a look at who could and should get nominated… (as a reminder, only British and Irish albums released between 12th July 2011 and 11th September 2012 qualify for nomination)
The Mercury panel rather like their token selections, resulting in the handful of jazz, classical and fringe nominations every year (hello there Gwilym Simcock). They also love to throw a massive seller or two in the mix as well (hello there Adele’s 21), so you can expect Florence + The Machine's Ceremonials and Ed Sheeran's + on the final list, and with her ubiquitousness at both Olympic ceremonies this summer, it’s highly likely Emeli Sande's name will pop up somewhere. Kate Bush’s Fifty Names For Snow fills the veteran and comeback criteria, so would be a decent bet for nomination if not victory, if there are any gamblers out there. Its connection with its parent film of the same name, as well as its prescience could earn Plan B's iLL Manors a nod; selecting a socially-concious “state of the nation” record would certainly give the Mercury a dollop of relevance.
It’ll certainly be a crime to see Laura Marling left off this year’s shortlist. Her third album A Creature I Don’t Know was one of the highlights of 2011 and Marling’s strongest album to date. The same could be said of both Los Campesinos!’s Hello Sadness and Johnny Foreigner Vs Everything by (unsurprisingly) Johnny Foreigner; both were hailed as the bands’ best albums so far by fans and critics alike (apart from one notorious downmarket magazine) and are certainly deserving of nomination. However it’s unlikely either will appear on the final list, purely because it’s rare to see an album of this breed of indie rock nominated by Mercury. More straightforward indie albums like The Cribs’ In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull, The Maccabees' Given To The Wild, The Vaccines' Come Of Age or The Futureheads' Rant! are far more likely to pop up on the shortlist, though whether they’re deserving is another question (The Cribs and The Maccabees probably don’t, The Vaccines’ album has only been out a week, so it’s hard to tell, The Futureheads might get a nod for the bravery and quirk of releasing an acapella album).
Judged on early hype, Alt-J seem to be most people’s choice for An Awesome Wave, although that may just be through sparsity of a top-tier, clear-cut winner. The Cambridge quartet do seem like standard Mercury fare, like Everything Everything last year, but it’s hard to see them winning the whole shebang. The same goes for a fair few potential nominees released in 2012; Django Django, The Twilight Sad, Islet, Bloc Party, 2:54, Pulled Apart By Horses, Richard Hawley, Hot Chip, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs. Seeing any of those names amongst the nominees would be expected (although choosing Bloc Party for Four would be baffling), but it’s hard to see how they’d win.
When it comes to choosing a winner, only two albums stick out for us. Jessie Ware's debut album Devotion has received near-universal praise from all quarters, finally giving us a British popstar who’s not boring as all hell who also has several bucketloads of talent. To be quite honest, she deserves nominating for "110%" alone. Our other pick would have to be The xx's sublime Coexist. Following up their Mercury-winning self-titled debut was always going to be a challenge, but they seem to have pulled it off with aplomb. Eleven perfect songs that retain the band’s style but advances their sound, Coexist is very likely a contender for album of the year and only just sneaks into the list of possible nominations, being released on the last eligible day. Should Coexist win the prize, the London three-piece will be the first group to win the Mercury twice; an astonishing feat considering this is only their second album, where as Radiohead are still waiting for their first win, after 15 years and six nominations.
So there you have it, a brief guide to what to expect when the official nominations are released next Wednesday. Who do you think deserves to win?
We’re two thirds of the way through the year, so with only four months left until list-omania kicks into full gear, here are what you lot have been loving so far in the past eight months
- Frank Ocean - Channel Orange
- Death Grips - The Money Store
- Sigur Ros - Valtari
- Killer Mike - RAP Music
- El-P - Cancer For Cure
- Hot Chip - In Our Heads
- Japandroids - Celebration Rock
- Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs - Trouble
- Burial - Kindred
- Crocodiles - Endless Flowers
- Enter Shikari - A Flash Flood Of Colour
- Alt-J - An Awesome Wave
- Lambchop - Mr M
- OFWGKTA - The OF Tape Vol 2
- Django Django - Django Django
- Beach House - Bleach
- Justin Bieber - Believe
- Nicki Minaj - Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded
- Grimes - Visions
- John Talabot - Fin
- Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls
- The Cribs - In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull
- The Maccabees - Given To The Wild
- Best Coast - The Only Place
You can vote throughout the year, and multiple times, for your favourite album, track, EP, film, TV show, game, trailer, music video and artwork. Go to http://hitsvilleuk.tumblr.com/ask
Eminem - The Way I Am
It started the longest and most fruitful love affair I’ve had in music – hip hop. As far as I can tell, Eminem was instrumental in drawing a lot of ’90-’95 born kids into the hip hop world and I was no exception.
Slipknot - Duality
Yes it’s corny but it just so happens that just at the turn of my teens I was trying to get a girl to like me and she listened to all this heavy metal so I asked her for some good metal tunes and she recommended this. I mean, yeah, I wouldn’t listen to it very much now just because I’m not into Slipknot but it’s still a pretty big deal in terms of what happened after.
Pendulum - Fasten Your Seatbelt
The song that taught me that all electronic music wasn’t the kind that chavs played out of their Sony Ericssons at 3:20 on a Friday afternoon. It was the first “drum and bass” song I jammed to and it started a long and fruitful relationship.
Reuben - Suffocation Of The Soul
The band that I would call my all time favourite, Reuben took a while to grow on me but I think they’re just the perfect band. “Suffocation of the Soul” was the turning point, when I heard that epic minute-long scream from frontman Jamie Lenman.
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosuars - Household Goods
This is the song that made me want to produce music in the style that I do now, the song that made me realise where electronic music was going and that woke me up to TEED.
Pink Floyd - Comfortably Numb
Prior to the age of eleven, music with neither an important nor a pleasant phenomena in my life; it had not become the all-pervading, omnipresent God it is to me now, and was still very much a minor deity, only manifesting itself in my life in the guise of gimmicky bubblegum pop at Primary School Disco Jelly And Cake Binge-fests, or the Shania Twain-stained car rides to which I was subjected whenever travelling anywhere with my mother (even at that tender age, such experiences made me pray for psychokinetic abilities, if only so it would enable me to make the car swerve off the road, taking my mother, and her pick-up truck-eulogizing country-pop music with it). Besides the feelings I had towards the lyrics of the Pokemon theme tune at that age, treating it almost as a national anthem, I cannot boast having felt passionately about any one piece of music till I heard Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd, the live version, from the Is There Anybody Out There? album (otherwise known as The Wall: Live); a rock opera about a troubled musician known as Pink, who in response to all the pain, trauma, and disaffection of his life, constructs a metaphorical wall around himself, wherein he goes insane, imagines himself a great dictator, engages in all the violent frolic dictators commonly engage in to pass the time, before eventually being held on trial by all the people who caused him to build a wall around himself in the first place, all of whom find him guilty, and, as a punishment, sentence this self-same wall to be torn down, leaving him naked, vulnerable and bleeding once again. The pinnacle of the album, Comfortably Numb describes the part of Pink’s career in which, almost hebephrenically unresponsive to those around him, he becomes enamoured with his feverish isolation and dictatorial delusions and is loathe to leave his comfortably benumbed state, despite the exhortations of the doctor attempting to revive him for the show he is about to perform. From the haunting, invidious voice of Roger Waters portraying the Doctor, who all but climbs in your ear and seductively dismembers your synapses, to the piercing, chorus-marinated guitar solo by David Gilmour at the song’s climax — which led me to pick up a guitar myself — the song is a visceral and febrile piece of music, as beautiful as it is flagellating, and, on the first listen, had an effect on me like a fever dream, like catching meningitis in Toys ‘R‘ Us: infecting my everyday life with fear and phantasmagoria, but, in the aftermath, always looked on with vehement fondness, adoration and nostalgia. Not only did this song lead me to become the multi-instrumentalist and composer I am today, it gave me a passport to a world of music and soundscapes I have been illegally smuggling myself back into ever since.
Soft Machine - Facelift
Before the age of Spotify and YouTube when you didn’t have the luxury of listening to an album before you’d bought it and then just illegally downloading it anyway, you had to find new music the old fashioned way: by going into a music store other than HMV, finding the CD with the most surrealistic album cover or absurd/sexually allusive track listing, handing over the £10 or so it cost to a bearded guru all but levitating above the cash register and sweating incense, taking said CD home, and hoping, that when placed in the CD drive, what came out of the speakers would not be the audio equivalent of a pigeon caught in a lawnmower being manned by a pre-emptive taxidermist. I bought the album Third by Soft Machine in just this fashion, imploring my mother to let me order it off Amazon without having heard any of the music first, solely because I’d heard the band’s name mentioned in conjunction with Pink Floyd and because the album was extolled for its ‘weirdness’. At that age, the phrase ‘this is weird and unlistenable’ was almost always readily translatable as ’BUY ME AND THUS EXPAND THE PARAMETERS OF YOUR OWN WEIRDNESS, REUBEN, YOU DETESTABLY ECCENTRIC FUCK’, so buy the album I did, and I did not regret it. From the very first moment I placed Third in the disc drive and started listening to the opening track, Facelift, a twenty minute, experimental, Jazz Fusion and Noise composition — (small-fry for a person whose most recent listening material has consisted of hour long Drone Metal songs) — I felt intensely nauseated. It made me feel sick. I felt both car sick and seasick at the same time, when, in actuality, I was moving nowhere but in the maelstrom of the strange, upsetting music assailing my ears. A tour de force of fusion-driven atonality, I couldn’t even recognise the sounds I was hearing. The track begins with a drone over which screeches what sounds like a vacuum cleaner attempting to play an alto saxophone, which, becoming increasingly frustrated with its efforts, decides to take out its anger on the listener. What follows is no less abrasive, progressing through unmapped terrains of out of tune Indian music, bitchin’ 5/4 bass grooves played over no less bitchin’ 5/4 alto sax riffs, flute interludes, what sounds like two different sections of the song being played at the same time, culminating in a return to one of the opening themes being abused by studio effects and played in reverse. After having weathered all twenty minutes of this, I felt as though I’d actually undergone a Facelift, and, in a manner of speaking, I had, for the Face I had when I came out the other end was not one of the deformed, horror movie faces of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Elephant Man, or Peter Bogdanovich’s Mask, but the happy, enlightened face of one of who has just had a conversation with god and discovered he wears a beret.
Frank Zappa - Catholic Girls
On the eve before the morning of my very first week-long whiskey hangover, I met a man who was to change my life forever. The father of a girl I was inexplicably smitten with at the time, we had a brief, though epoch-making chat about music after he’d dropped her off, in which he promised to burn some CDs for me, and, true to his word, did just that, amongst them a copy of the Cheap Thrills compilation by Frank Zappa. Having heard Zappa’s name invoked often but having never heard any of his music, I had no idea what to expect. I was immediately bamboozled by the manic eclecticism of the opening track, Catholic Girls [live], with its cartoon character vocals, funk bass, sudden unexpected mergings into big band music lauding the singularity of oral sex delivered by the titular subject of the song, two note guitar solo, unbelievable passages of tossed-off syncopation and sax solos. I didn’t understand the music at all. I couldn’t understand what it was trying to do. It didn’t seem to be aspiring to be beautiful or psychologically transportive like the Prog Rock to which I was accustomed; in fact, it seemed like it was trying to do the exact opposite — as though it was trying to piss me off, to be ugly, to make me annoyed, or lose my patience — I couldn’t make sense of it all. But, alas, like many things in my life that I meet with initial confusion or hostility, I came to love it, and became a frantic devotee of Frank Zappa and proud owner of most of his albums: no mean feat considering he had upward of eighty of them. The most important thing that Zappa taught me is that ‘The Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes, and never has been.’ Life is not a trial or a race for survival but an endless joke for which we are forever postponing the punchline; and if anyone gets offended by this, or takes it all too seriously, be sure you have a whoopee cushion poised at the ready for when the nincompoop sits downs.
Captain Beefheart - Frownland
Getting into the music of Captain Beefheart is like deliberately deciding to stick your head up a cow’s rear end: most people lack the temerity to try it in the first place, and those who do, shocked by the stench and appalling interior decor, quickly remove themselves, and expunge all memories of the incident from their minds. Those who stay do not do so by choice; they find themselves caught in the fetid shackles of the cow’s constricting sphincter, unwilling tenant to a room in which the wallpaper consists of the best of what four stomachs and a diet of grass have to offer. Unpleasant at the offing, but, after a prolonged tenancy, the anally-bound prisoner finds themselves perceiving a strange beauty and spasmodic artistry in the malodorous barrage of the cow’s bowel movements, and, succumbing to this Stockholm Syndrome, refuses to leave, even when the paramedics arrive with The Jaws of Life and a novelty-cheque-sized tube of Anusol in tow. Such was my reaction when I first heard Frownland by Captain Beefheart from the Troutmaskreplica album. Anticipating an album of colourful Jazz, I was bewildered to hear an opening track only 1 minute and forty-five seconds long, in which each member of the band seemed to be allowing themselves to play whatever they wanted, so long as it AT NO POINT, corresponded with what the other band members were doing, while Beefheart himself, in his proto-Tom Waits voice, roared abstract poetry over the top: but the band were not just making it up as they went along; they knew every note, could play it backwards and forwards if they wanted to, had spend over a year in prison camp-like confinement ensuring that they could do so: I was the small-minded one for not being able to see the discipline and composition in their chaos, not they for making music above my limited comprehension. Beefheart taught me to always have the patience to find the patterns in madness, even if you go mad yourself in the process, for it is much better to go mad and be enlightened, than to be trapped in the thralls of a rigidified sanity that thinks itself above such things; such a boxed-in perspective is a more terrible place to be than even the most flatulent of cow’s anuses, and not a fate I would wish on anyone.
I hope I don’t have to explain who Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs is/are, at least not to anyone plugged in to the alternative music world. At this point Orlando Higginbottom’s electro pop project can speak for itself, not only in name but in every facet of the musical artist. TEED has been pumping out jams for the better part of four years, with dual EPs Prehistory and Prehistory II being the turning point at which TEED’s output became what he makes now, namely Trouble, his debut album.
Of the fourteen tracks featured on the record, five are past singles (the title track, "Household Goods", "Garden", "You Need Me On My Own" and "Tapes And Money"), which have preceded the album nicely, providing a commercial, dancy prelude. The nine remaining tracks that we haven’t officially heard, however, are another metaphorical string to the bow of TEED’s sound. The album opener "Promises", begins slowly with beat-pads and builds up to Higginbottom’s trademark bouncing square synths with groovy samba-styled drums; backed up by the dreamy vocals and an interesting guitar riff that wouldn’t be out of place on a surf-rock record. The most accurate word I can think of to summarise TEED’s sound on this record is exotic, with tracks like "Trouble" implementing whatever unusual and interesting instruments they can – in the aforementioned title track’s case, kettle drums. "Shimmer" is permeated with the sounds of wildlife, and the groove behind it is distinctly different to the Oxford producer’s usual output.
The beauty of Higginbottom’s debut is that so few acts sound like TEED, that it’s a completely new experience in a market saturated with noteworthy nu-garage and post-dub acts emerging, but all sounding worryingly the same. TEED stands out from the crowd; where SBTRKT is stripped down, TEED is beefed up; where Gold Panda lives in the world of glitchy beats, TEED opts for a smooth, professional sound
The obvious bangers on this record – by far “Household Goods”, “Tapes And Money” and "American Dream Pt. II" - are all driven by modern dance music sensibilities but there’s so much energy, fun, and sentiment poured into each track that it never feels like another beiged-out Swedish House Mafia mix, or one of David Guetta’s aural abortions. It might be easy to say that each of these tracks sounds a lot like the other, but in my books that’s never a bad thing; surely an artist needs a signature sound? And there is variety on display. This album is going to be hard to beat for a super-fanboy like myself; I can’t even pick a favourite track, but with this level of quality, young Mr Higginbottom is going to find a whole new group of devotees this summer.
As much as I loathe the term post-dubstep, I’ve been listening to a brickload of it. MMOTHS are one such act, spotted on the iTunes homepage and caught my eye. Their interesting dreampop/idm sensibility have such an interesting sound and I’m really curious to see what else they can offer, especially after hearing their outstanding remix of Bon Iver’s “Baby”.
The young EDM artist piqued my interest after I heard a remix of his “Unison” by Knife Party (good if you’re into berserk nonsensical madness dance music) and looked into his discography. An almost counteraction to Skrillex’s complete overhaul of what EDM is, Porter Robinson takes us in the opposite direction with more traditional dance music hooks and riffs, although not completely ignoring the increasing insurgency of house and dubstep.
Crosses are Deftones frontman Chino Moreno’s new project and with a more modern take on the dreampop we’ve heard from his other project Team Sleep, Crosses prove to be more and more interesting, having already released two impressive and sprawling EPs of content (one of which received 8/10 from us last year).
James Blake is by no means a new face but recent interviews have suggested that his new album could one to look forward to, for sure. After the disappointment of his eponymous debut, Blake has been said to be moving in a more clubby, beat-heavy direction, which should be very interesting indeed.
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs
I’ll not beat around the bush here, T.E.E.D are the best band in the business right now and if you haven’t listened to them yet, you’ll be sorry when the album comes out and you’re left wishing you knew them before it was cool. Orlando Higginbottom has slowly been gaining hype over the last few years through EPs, standalone singles and some stellar remixes, and even got his own Hitsville Spotlight last year.
T.E.E.D are another project of mine, having heard of them through a friend nearly a year ago. I’ve been following Orlando Higginbottom’s solo project since then and I must say I am a megafan. His breed of bouncy synth pop reminds me of Hot Chip but with a bass music overtone that makes for pretty much the exact kind of electronica that I’ve been searching for seemingly my whole life. He’s been enjoying somewhat large success recently with his track “Garden” hitting BBC Radio 1’s A-List and doing pretty well for itself.
I first heard “Household Goods”, a blasting song (probably the best of his earlier releases) with bouncing synthy beeps and then a blistering bassy chorus, setting the scene for my undying love for the band. T.E.E.D’s debut album is due out in May, leaving him time to try and get the album released everywhere at the same time. The whole ethic of TEED is a positive one, a fun project that doesn’t take itself too seriously – as you can see from his outlandish costumes.
His live shows are a lot of fun – having seen him live twice now, he seems to go to a lot of trouble to ensure you have fun – with an impressive light show, insane amounts of sub bass and tantalising tastes of the new tracks we can expect from the debut LP, not to mention the insanely sexy dancers that he lets tag along with him onstage. If he’s playing in a town near you, and he hasn’t sold out, go and see him. You won’t regret it.