Yesterday saw the announcement of the 2009 Mercury Music Prize nominations, and as usual there are some nominees that were widely predicted, and a handful of esoteric acts that may benefit significantly from the exposure a Mercury nomination can give. The list contains a number of Breaking More Waves favourites as well as one or two that we’re not so keen on. Florence And The Machine was probably the most widely tipped act to be nominated, and it was no surprise to find her on the list. The nomination was completely justified, Lungs is a fabulous powerful album that sounds good on first listen and gets even better as the days go on. You can read our review here.
After the nominations were announced the usual plethora of articles rapidly appeared on the internet either praising or damning the list, and trying to find connections between the musical styles. Drowned In Sound called it trendy and electro poppy in this article here whilst the Telegraph suggested that it was advertising the death of the genre here. (Note also in the comments section of the article Breaking More Waves correcting the journalists mistake !) Popjustice of course came up with the best article, announcing the Popjustice Twenty Quid Music Prize, with nominations including JLS, The Saturdays and Calvin Harris. Interesting to note that La Roux was nominated in the Twenty Quid Prize list, and features in the Mercury nominations as well. We think this says something about La Roux. In terms of being the sound of 2009 La Roux is it. But then La Roux is also the sound of 1982. La Roux ticks many boxes and appeals to many types and ages of people. Her singles have defined the year – big commercial pop songs that have appealed universally making a sound that until recently was considered cheesy, but is now mainstream and cool again. If the judges are going to define the prize with an album that defined the year in the same way that they did with The Arctic Monkeys Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not then La Roux will take it.
So what of the other acts ? The other day in Part 1 of this article we talked about artists in less populist genres such as folk and jazz who can use the award to receive wider recognition. This year we are pleasantly surprised to see the Lisa Hannigan album get the vote and this exposure can only lead to increased sales for Sea Sew. Curiously Lisa’s album was nominated for the Irish Choice Prize earlier this year, and therefore we had assumed it wasn’t eligible for inclusion in the Mercury list. Several articles have already appeared stating how unknown Lisa is, but we would contest that Lisa is more well known than many would think, following her work in the past with Snow Patrol and Damien Rice. We caught Lisa live earlier this year and you can read our review here. Other acts that will surely gain from exposure include jazz group Led Bib , who many had predicted would be nominated for Sensible Shoes and Sweet Billy Pilgrim with Twice Born Men who provide an inviting proposition of beautiful country, folk and experimentation. They remind us of Elbow with banjos in their song construction. We think they could well be a good bet as a dark horse.
Then of course there are higher profile acts. Kasabian will be pleased to be on the list with West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum, the buzz being that their current album of lad rock is their best yet. It guarantees them more radio play and further progression through the year leading towards the end of year polls. It’s not really Breaking More Waves cup of tea, but all credit to Kasabian nonetheless. Bat For Lashes aka Natasha Khan has now released two albums, both of which have been nominated for the prize. In terms of some of the reference points (we mentioned Enya in our review here ) there are some similarities to the Florence And The Machine album, although we prefer Lungs by some way. Last year we put Glasvegas at number three in our album of the year listings. Last years winners Elbow were number two. A masculine album that wears its heart on its dense wall of noise sleeve, Glasvegas may suffer from having been released last year when up against very now albums such as Florence and La Roux but we are pleased to see that it has not been forgotten.
At a time when UK urban and black music in general is going through a bit of a fallow period in terms of albums, Speech Debelle seems to be one of the few shining lights and her cool jazzy hip hop will probably reach a few more coffee tables through its nomination. Another dance influenced and highly predicted choice, the Friendly Fires debut has been a slow burner, gradually picking up interest as it funks and shakes its way across student union dance floors and the radio. It does raise the question of where are the nominations for purist genre specific dance music on the list? In the past acts such as Basement Jaxx, Hot Chip, The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers have all made the list but this year there is a gap.
Another smile was raised when we saw the inclusion of The Horrors. Who would have thought a couple of years ago that The Horrors second album would end up as a Mercury nomination in 2009? We’re very pleased about this. It probably has very little chance of winning, (although what do we know) being maybe just a little too obvious in its references, but Primary Colours certainly deserves its place. Read our review of the album here.
Which leads us to the final act on the list - The Invisible. This is the only act we shrugged our shoulders a little to. Having caught them live earlier this year supporting Doves their funky blend of urgent rock pop failed to move us, which we found surprising as the huge number of comparisons to TV On The Radio made by the press would suggest that we really should like The Invisible. That’s music for you though, full of contradictions.
So that’s the nominations dealt with. There were also some high profile acts that were not on the list. Doves Kingdom Of Rust had been widely predicted to ‘do an Elbow’ by many, but didn’t make it. We agree with the panels view on this one, it left us feeling a little disappointed. You can see our full thoughts here on that one. Likewise Hands by Little Boots has not made the cut. Cynically we could suggest she has been beaten by La Roux again. Victoria Hesketh could have done with the nomination to help her not particularly impressive sales figures, which we documented here, but despite some neat pure pop melodies maybe there wasn’t enough innovation on the Little Boots album to be considered for a Mercury.
So that’s it. The runners are now officially racing. Who is going to win ? Well, the last few years we have had reasonable success rates at picking the winners - three out of the last four. Our personal favourites are Florence And The Machine and The Horrors, but we’re liking what we have heard so far of Sweet Billy Pilgrim as well. But this year we’re really not sure if our own personal tastes will match the panels, so we’re going to cop out and not make a prediction. What do you think ?
But even after the votes have been cast later this year, we'll be putting any wrongs right. Come December the most authoritative and damn special Top Ten Albums Of The Year List will be published. Right here. Humble ? Not this blog !
Here's our little bit of exposure for Lisa Hannigan, certainly in our opinion one of the most unexpected nominations, but also one of the most gratifying.