Now in its 21st year of showcasing the best British and Irish albums, the prestigious Barclaycard Mercury Prize is still going strong. As usual, the nominees were announced by Lauren Laverne at a glitzy do in Covent Garden. Vada’s Music Editor, Sean Ward, has had a look at the nominees.
I have no major quarrels with the shortlist this year (apart from Jake Bugg, but the less said about him, the better). It’s a fairly safe selection – there are arguably no truly left-field choices – but there are some undeniably great albums nominated. Disclosure’s Settle is my own personal pick for the winner; the Lawrence brothers have crafted an assured debut that could establish themselves as the new masters in their field. But I would be just as happy to see nearly any of them take home the prize, especially Foals, James Blake, Jon Hopkins, Laura Mvula or David Bowie – all are exceptional at what they do in their own personal ways. Nevertheless, with Jessie Ware’s magnificent debut, Devotion, losing out to Alt-J’s An Awesome Wave at last year’s ceremony, my favourites aren’t always successful.
However, that being said, one of the major talking points every year when it comes to the Mercury Prize is the snubs or albums that people feel should have been nominated but have just missed out, or, in some cases were cruelly and inexplicably overlooked entirely.
After all, all great music deserves to be heard. With this in mind I’ve narrowed it down to my own personal shortlist of 12 amazing British and Irish albums from the past 12 months that warrant recognition.
Agree/disagree with the Mercury choices, or my own? Leave a comment below with your own ignored favourites.
The titular duo successfully merge synthpop and R&B on their excellent debut to create an album of minimalistic tunes that are fun and fresh.
2. Bat for Lashes – The Haunted Man
Natasha Khan was nominated for the Mercury Prize for her first two LPs, Fur and Gold and Two Suns, but it turned out to not be third time lucky for the avant-garde pop songstress. Like the artwork for The Haunted Man, Khan’s sound is stripped bare but retains the previous records’ raw power.
3. Charli XCX – True Romance
BFFs with Marina and the Diamonds, Charli XCX is perhaps best known as a co-writer on Icona Pop’s goliath hit of the summer, I Love It. On this, her first major-label studio album, she proves she can sing a memorable pop song or two of her own. Moody, sassy, dark and catchy, True Romance perfectly highlights Ms. Aitchison’s playful and distinctive style.
4. Everything Everything – Arc
Bizarrely, the Mercury judges failed to reward the innovative indie rock quartet with a nod for their sophomore effort, despite it being (in my opinion, at least) even better than their pretty good debut, Man Alive, which was nominated in 2011.
5. Factory Floor – Factory Floor
The DFA label has produced some top-quality records, ranging from Arcade Fire to LCD Soundsystem. Their latest is the brilliant debut from Factory Floor. Described as Joy Division meets industrial electro, they’re definitely a band to check out.
6. Forest Swords – Engravings
Ethereal and sensual, yet dark and heavy, Forest Swords’ combination of electronica and hip hop weaves a stunning and evocative tapestry.
7. Gold Panda – Half of Where You Live
Gold Panda is a producer from London, specialising in wonky, danceable rhythms. This, his second LP, builds on the unmistakable style introduced in his excellent first offering, Lucky Shiner.
8. The Haxan Cloak – Excavation
Terrifying and growling, Excavation is like a soundtrack to some low-budget experimental horror film. Not perhaps what you want after a long, hard day but it’s hard to deny the talent on display.
Tipped by some as the favourites to win, the trio were ultimately shut out of the final list. They have made a prominent name for themselves in a relatively short amount of time with their refreshing brand of Massive Attack-esque trip hop and soulful vocals from frontwoman Hannah Reid.
10. Mount Kimbie – Cold Spring Fault Less Youth
With bold beats and low-key melodies, the London duo’s second album is ambitious and exciting.
11. Neon Neon – Praxis Makes Perfect
This collaborative project’s first full-length record told the troubled story of John DeLorean, founder of the DeLorean Motor Company (aka the Back to the Future car), through a mixture of synthpop and hip hop earned a nomination for the Mercury Prize in 2008. They returned in 2013 to produce an album about the life of the Italian left-wing political activist, Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. As you do. A lot more fun than it sounds.
12. Andy Stott – Luxury Problems
The Manchester-based techno musician’s third LP is delicate and complex but accessible. Stott cleverly manipulates vocal samples into a gorgeous collection of tracks.