Sunday, October 25, 2015

Mercury Prize 2015 Soapbox

So it's the time of year again that the Mercury Prize Short-list is announced. The majority of people are probably not aware that this exists as they go about their days blissfully unaware of the fact that most of these acts exist. But for a small proportion of us who love music this is our grand national. Those of us who take music that little bit too seriously love this. It gives us a chance to actually bet on who might win, and vent frustration on who should have been nominated in think piece blogs such as this. This Mercury's are more or less the same each year. You can divide it into categories pretty easily.
The big hitters:
Every year a few of the biggest acts our country has produced get nominated. This year Florence Welch became a true icon. Touring all over the world and headlining Glastonbury for the first time. It's just as well that her album is brilliant. Her foghorn vocals have been toned down but this is a bit of a hollow victory. The twee harps of the earlier records have been replaced with brass horns. 'How big...' is a truly massive album. Good enough to win, but maybe not edgy enough to truly deserve the prize. The other obvious entry is Syro By Aphex Twin. Not being a fan of him before hearing this has biased me a bit. The few dissenting voices claiming that the album is in some way dull or short of his standards, seem as bewildering to me as the album itself. It deserves a Mercury, but anyone who has his own WW2 tank probably doesn't need one.
This year Eska, C Duncan and Benjamin Clementine are the Who? nominees. The best part of the mercury's for me is discovering new artists that I would not otherwise would have heard of. There is no token jazz entries this year. I've not heard of any of these artists. I hadn't heard of Jon Hopkins before he was nominated for 'Immunity'. While I was happy that James Blake won that year. Immunity is on a totally different level. I believe it's one of the best electronic albums of all time. I hope I grow to love the artists I've not heard of on this years list.
Solid Bets: 
While most people tend to lighten up by album number three Ghostpoet's music only seems to get more and more depressing. Which is admirable, even if I worry if he's OK. In my view his first album is still the best as it was his unique take on Hip Hop and electronica that first made me a fan. With 'Shedding Skin' Ghostpoet has embraced a new jazzy direction. It's a fantastic album but not a very fun one. Jamie XX is a solid bet. I've not heard it but I know 'In Colour' is fantastic. Soak, Gaz Coombes and Rosin Murphy will probably do OK. Usually the winner is decided at the last minute so it can be the more underrated records that win. I think the two that deserve to win are Slaves and Wolf Alice. Wolf Alice in particular. 'My Love is Cool' seems to summarise 2015 like no other record. In 10 years time it will sound totally dated. But every decade needs music that defines it. A Mercury will help cement the album's status for future generations.
As usual there is nothing from the genre of heavy metal. Bring Me The Horizon would have deserved a nod but the album came out too late. I love God Damn but it's not exactly music for the brain. It's sad that metal never gets a nod but can you seriously think of a metal band that deserves it?  Asking Alexandria Mercury winners? excuse me while I vomit. Grime Is over looked too but that's because despite the revival only JME would actually be elegable.
Public Service Broadcasting are the big WTF? exclusion. The Race For Space is a near perfect album. Poignant, funny, and moving. It's got great tunes and is a fantastic example of how music  has progressed in this decade. Sleaford Mods obviously never paid the £170. Everything Everything's exclusion seems a bit strange. But I never heard that LP so I can't say much. Swim Deep's new record  is a fantastic musical trip, which sadly came out too late to be in with a shot. Django Django also deserved a second nomination for their fantastic Sophomore LP.
It's not the best list the Mercury's have come up with, but there's still plenty of great records on there.

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