Thursday, August 4, 2016

Mercury Prize: opinions, thoughts, facts and odds.

Has it really been a whole year since the Mercury prize last announced it's nominations? Looks like there has been a few changes as well. First of all it's now the 'Hyundai Mercury Music Prize' which is kind of ironic. This would signal that they have sold out. If not for one of the the most varied and interesting Short-lists in years. You also get to choose which album you'd like to win. The album that gets the most votes is included in the shorter-list.
As usual there is an obscure jazz album by a group entitled The Comet is Coming (25/1*). Who alongside other bat-shit crazy modern jazz groups such as Polar Bear and Moon Hooch, are making some amazingly fucked up jazz. They won't win, obviously. Anonhi (5/1) seems to be in with a bit of a chance. I've not heard much of the album because while I hugely admire her bold production and outspokenness. I kind of miss her old music back when she had her Johnson(s). The tender piano balladry and themes of sexuality and death were easier for me to relate to. I've never cared much for Jamie Woon (25/1), but Michael Kiwanuka's (10/1) album 'Love and Hate' surprised me by how much I enjoyed it. It's expertly crafted, sand full of lush orchestral backing. It may sound like a throwback to the likes of Marvin Gaye and Gil Scott Heron, but that is only because of how (depressingly) relevant the music they made still is. I loved both Bat For Lashes (16/1) and Laura Mvula's (16/1) last LP's, and while I've not heard their new ones, I reckon they're both in with a good chance. I love everything I've heard from Savages (16/1) 'Adore Life', And I would love them to win, I think they deserve it, as they are the kind of band that only comes around once in a decade or so. I'm irked by the inclusion of The 1975 (12/1) on the list. I like the style of music they make but I just don't like the music they make. I worry that they are a shoo-in for the fan vote. I don't begrudge their success, but I don't think they are deserving of the award. After years of the award being criticised for not representing Grime this year we have both Kano's (12/1) 'Made in the Manor' and Skepta's (8/1) 'Konnichiwa'. While the genre has been gaining momentum it is only now that we once again have milestone albums to judge it by. Kano's tune 'This is England' Is one of the best I've heard all year, while Konnichiwa is a masterpiece of the grime genre. Distinctly British yet very diverse in style for such a small sub-genre. It's packed full of brilliant tunes, fantastic production, and thoughtful, funny and downright violent lyrics**. 
That leaves us with the biggest names of all, Radiohead (5/1) and David Bowie (2/1). Radiohead's  album has divided fans in comparison. I admire the fact that they use their status to made bolder and stranger albums than their contemporaries ever dared, yet I bemoan the lack of actual tunes. 'A Moon Shaped Pool' is an album of huge beauty and depth, Yet I feel that the genius of albums such as 'Kid A' was how exiting and fresh they made all this experimentation seem. I just feel that the song's don't match their own grandeur.
I am a huge fan of Bowie's. I was convinced that Blackstar was the start of a bright new chapter in his career and I was heartbroken to find this wasn't the case. It is one of the best albums he ever produced and one of the most ambitious of his career. Facing his own mortality yet taking brave steps into Jazz, Drum & Bass and Hip Hop. Bowie always looked forward rather than backwards. I feel that the best way to honour him is to do the same. He doesn't need acclaim or accolades***, so I feel that it should go to someone else.
In my opinion that should be Skepta. 'Konnichiwa' is one of the most enjoyable listens of the year, it's full of fantastic tunes, great rhymes and great production. With the grime revival in full swing, The Mercury panel have a chance to honour one of it's best achievements.

* all odds from ladbrokes
* For lyrics calm. 
***No disrespect meant, the same was true last time he was nominated

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