Mercury Music Prize Night

7 Sep

Well it’s finally here, the night when we finally learn which album was officially the best British album of the past 12 months (although I think that it’s actually eleven because pretty much every album that is submitted from the month after the prize seems to get overlooked. I don’t really know why). The winners of this year’s prize will hope to do a little better than last year’s winner Speech Debelle whose album “Speech Therapy” was the lowest selling Mecury-winning album ever. She was also booed at various supporting gigs and barely anyone turned up to see her in person:

Bless her. Anyway, this year appears to be a bit more promising, with the front-runners already recording a massive amount of success. Let’s look at the movers and shakers:

The Bookies’ Favourite

This is definitely The XX. In fact, the XX were a shoe-in even before the nominations were announced. It’s going to be hard for any band to beat them as their chilled-out blend of indie and slightly dubstep influences is selling like hotcakes around the country, and they’re the darlings of pretty much every critic in the country. I do think they have some emotional depth but…. is it me or was their cover of “You’ve Got The Love” the best thing they did? Never mind, they’ll win. Mark my words.

The Fans’ Favourite

This is definitely Mumford and Sons, with that crazy ukelele that pops up and does the same thing in every song they do. Poor things: I just wished they could’ve done somehing more inventive with that ukelele! Anyway, their incredibly accessible collection of folk songs are non-threatening and ooze something that can only be described as “folk-rock-power-ballad”: i.e. they like to make a noise and be on the verge of shouting to express the fact that they’re being emotional (which you don’t have to do, as other people on the list prove). There’s going to be a lot of disappointed Mumford fans out there: I really don’t think they’ll win. Still, think positive:

The Chart-Topper:

Dizzee Rascal actually found himself as one of the front-runners for the prize when the nominations were first announced. I thought the fact that he was even included in the list strange, since both “Maths and English” and his prize-winning debut “Boy In Da Corner” were both far superior records and didn’t have that distinctive smell of selling-out. Still, “Dirtee Cash” is a good song, and there are some decent tunes on here. I just never thought that such a commercial, sometimes faceless album would end up making it on a list that’s supposed to be about innovation:

The Dark Horse

Laura Marling’s album “I Speak Because I Can” is the superior record, if you compare hers with Mumford and Sons. It’s heartfelt, well-written and thoughtful and doesn’t leave the folk roots behind in favour of more commercial ideas. Of course, traditionalism could be her downfall in a list of “innovators” but to me hers is a worthy dark-horse winner. Laura could find herself in a prime position, being a solo artist rather than in a band (these things go in cycles – note the three year run of PJ Harvey, Miss Dynamite and Dizzee Rascal followed by a succession of bands). Don’t be surprised if Miss Marling is the name on that envelope:

The Intelligent Indie-Rockers

I could have completely forgotten about Foals. But I didn’t. Because their album only has one shaky point: the lyrics. Other than that, it’s solid, clever, textured and overall very measured moving from light to shade with relative ease. They probably won’t be winners, but anyone who has any respect for the intelligence of music should know that they at least deserved their place in this list. Besides, you can’t beat a bit of calculated math-rock now and then. Oh, and Mumford, take note that Yannis never raises his voice on “This Orient” but is still racked with emotion.

The Personal Favourite

It won’t happen, no matter if they are the second favourites to win, but I so desperately want Wild Beasts to walk away with this prize. If their name was to read out of that envelope I think I might dance around the room. Then everyone would know how happy I was. They’re the ultimate package. Indie-rock with amazing melodies, ambiguous lyrics filled with euphemisms and metaphors, two brilliant singers, emotional depth, and possibly the only other album on the list, aside from the XX, that can truly say that it has a distinct “flow”, a sense that everything is in its rightful place and nothing stands out like a sore thumb. Other than the abrupt ending to the magical “Underbelly”, which is wholly intentional. Ah, boys, we can dream!

Plus they have that completely beautiful video to “Hooting and Howling”. Beat that. (Although I don’t like the idea that Hayden Thorpe pretty much drowns himself. Poor thing).

The Old-Timer

The last time Paul Weller was nominated for the prize was in 1994, for possibly his best album “Wild Wood”. I don’t think this shapes up well in comparison and Weller has maintained the same style and direction for years now. Still, if you look at his nomination as more of a “services to British msic” inclusion then maybe the oldest guy on the list will get the last laugh. Weirdly enough he is now the front-runner at 1/10. Surely it can’t happen?

The Hard-Rockers

Finally for my featured bit, Biffy Clyro have earned a nomination for their most recent album “Only Revolutions” (from which every single song has pretty much turned itself into a single). I don’t think this is as good an album as “Puzzle” from a couple of years back but Biffy have been long-overdue a nomination. I don’t think a proper rock album like this will win though. I think the prize has always gone to albums that are a little more nuanced and as good as Biffy are at what they do, they’ll have a hard time climbing the mountain of Mercury. Bless.

Well that pretty much covers it. There are a couple of other albums on the list (Corrine Bailey Rae, Kit Downes Trio, Villagers and I Am Kloot) but I don’t think any of these albums really have a chance. Then again, maybe that’s what I said about Speech Debelle last year. Then again, that list wasn’t as strong and full of depth as this one. But prove me wrong, people, prove me wrong!

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