It’s that time of year again and although it’ll be another couple of months before the winner is actually announced by Jools Holland, it’s still fun to predict who might appear on the 12-strong shortlist. The question is, can any of these candidates follow in the shoes of last year’s winners The xx and actually bag that trophy?
There is no way on this earth that an LP that has been so highly praised and applauded by such a range of critics won’t get on the list. Frankly if ‘Let England Shake’ isn’t named as one of the 12 best albums of the year then something has gone wrong in the space-time continuum. Harvey might well be the first artist to win the prize twice. She has been nominated many times and a second win will seal her place as one of England’s great artists.
21 caused a bit of a splash when it landed earlier in the year. Okay, “bit of a splash” is like a massive understatement. Everyone seemed to go wild for her handwritten ballads and laments, and while they’re nothing new conceptually, a bossa-nova version of The Cure’s ‘Lovesong’ wasn’t anywhere near as bad as it could have been. Oh and there was that performance on the Brits where James Corden nearly cried live on air. She’s such a big hit with the public and the critics alike that if she does bag that nomination she’ll be a bookie’s favourite.
Smother continued right where their second effort Two Dancers left off: capturing the spirit of the lake poets in beautifully crafted songs that are a lot dirtier and earthy than Hayden Thorpe’s falsetto voice would have you believe. They might divide people but their excellent skill at composing a winning and literate ballad makes them a favourite among critics, and that’s all you need to bag a spot on that list.
Like Wild Beasts, expect The Horrors to grace the list two years in a row. Their latest effort Skying delivers a blast of late-80s dark pop reminiscent of the likes of Echo and the Bunnymen, but with an uplifting and, whisper it quietly, anthemic feel. They’re almost too clever and off kilter to take their anthems to arenas but they’re quickly cementing their status as one of Britain’s best bands. It’s a long way away from the days of Strange House.
SBTRKT’s downfall is that his self-titled debut album, while being brilliant for its scope and appeal, is perhaps a little too non-committal. SBTRKT is a beautiful dance album to listen to but the desire not to be pigeonholed as ‘dubstep’ ‘ambient’ or ‘electronic’ respectively means the panel could find the effort a little disjointed. While it all makes perfect sense to me, the subtle changes in style might not be to everyone’s taste.
Dubstep, personified. Blake took the spirit of previous nominee Burial on his debut album and makes the genre his own. However, is Blake’s use of silence as sound and the sparse, almost uncomfortably detached nature of his work alienating to those who might prefer some meat in their music? Only time will tell.
Nice things get said about Katy B. Lots of nice things. She’s pop with a twist and the Mercurys like things with a twist. However, ADELE is so likely to be on the list that the panel might not want another “pop” artist in there. Somewhere the idea that putting odd, potentially interesting or lesser known acts keeps up the appearance that the Mercurys still have indie cred. It’d be a shame for Katy though: she’s the slightly unglamorous popstrel it’s okay to like.
Like PJ Harvey, only a bit more grandiose. Potentially the occasionally overpowering nature of her powerhouse songs could be a stumbling block on her road to a nomination, but Calvi is forging ahead in a genre that has already been tried and tested and putting a little bluesy spin on things. The epic magnitude of her voice alone is arresting enough to make anyone sit up and listen, so don’t be surprised if she becomes a bit of a dark horse.
Shoegaze rock gets brought into the 21st century kicking and screaming on Yuck’s self-titled debut album that is a joyous listen, even if it is nothing new. Potentially though, the idea that it is traditionally American bands that create this particular brand of rock music that could work in Yuck’s favour. They are doing something for a British band, if that makes sense. The cross-atlantic sensibilities means they could be a worthy outsider at the very least.
The nominations come out tomorrow!