Sunday, 16 September 2012

The Mercury Music Prize Nominees 2012 - Safety In Sound's Verdict




It's that time of year again! Following on from last year where I was a little disappointed with what I saw as an underwhelming list (http://www.safetyinsound.com/2011/07/mercury-music-demise-frustrated-account.html), I'm actually pretty happy with this years lot. In fact, it's pretty sad how despite being on holiday, I insisted on finding the nearest Spanish internet Cafe to view the announcement. This years 12 albums show good variation without any of the annoyingly hopeless curveballs or ageing, boring old names, meaning competition should be fierce and actually kind of exciting . Sure, it's pretty mainstream this year, but who said mainstream always has to be a dirty word?

Helping give the Mercury a cheeky facelift, the prizes televisual coverage is moving to channel 4, with a full new team of presenters. Additionally, all of the artists will take part in a series of concerts, which is such an obvious move that I don't really see how it hasnt happened before.  Interestingly, (and in my mind, quite rightly) 2012's shortlist is a list that is chockfull of debut records,  8 out of the 12 made by new artists who by definition are in a position where they would make the best use of the £20,000 prize money to solidify their careers and create follow up records. But who should win? Lets weigh up some of the nominees...

Alt J 
One of the bookies faves, Alt-J embody the Mercury spirit well, perhaps best of all the nominated acts. They're mainstream enough for Radio 1 play, but arty and textured enough to get Guardian readers nodding in approval. Their sound is tailored for critical appeal, whether intentional or not. A band on the cusp of becoming massive off the back of a summer of impressive festival shows, this nomination is likely to help them whatever the outcome, and I for one wouldn't be suprised at all if they grabbed the win.


Jessie Ware, Credit: GraziaDaily

Jessie Ware/Lianne La Havas
 Flying the flag for fempop, both artists have provided something different this year and I think both would make incredibly good use of the prize money. Jessie Ware's album hasn't floored me personally, perhaps in need of a few more listens, but I really like her as an artist and think this sort of accolade could encourage some great career development, allowing her to work with the right people to make more songs as polished as Running and 110%. Of course, it's no secret how much I love Lianne La Havas, and in my mind she would be the perfect Mercury winner - young, unassuming, no gradiose story, just a talented voice and a massive enjoyable record.


Richard Hawley
A Richard Hawley triumph would be lovely following the now legendary 'someone call 999, Richard Hawley has been robbed' speech that Alex Turner made when Arctic Monkeys beat him back in 2006. Standing At The Sky's Edge is a great record and musically, a worthy winner, but the track record of Mercury winners does tends to favour newer acts.

Ben Howard/Michael Kiwanuka
 Choices that are both a little on the safe and obvious side, but reasonable contenders nonetheless. Howards album in particular was an accomplished offering of rousing folk pop, the sort of thing that is very difficult to take any sort of offence at Again, these two men are likely to see great sales surges off the back of these nods of recognition.

Django Django 
I'm a little irked by their inclusion when Hot Chip could have had their place, but again, a reasonable chance of winning after how well this record was received. Personally, I'm not massively convinced, but I wouldn't want to write them off completely.

Plan B
 If the Mercury panel are feeling controversial (or lazy, depending how you want to look at it), I think Plan B might be in for a win. With Ill Manors soundtracking the year that broken britain morphed into the celebratory summer of sport, it's a very British record with a back story that could make journalistic gold if he were to win. However, if the award is based as purely on music as the panel claim, he might be in trouble, because nothing quite matches the dizzying heights of his previous effort, The Defamation Of Strickland Banks.


The Maccabees,  Credit: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire
The Maccabees
 My boys, my loves. For purely selfish reasons, I would love nothing more than a Maccabees win. They've have had an absolute dream of a year, made an incredible record that did really well and this would just top it off. Nobody could say they don't deserve it, after years and years of work with little to no award recognition, so Given To The Wild might well be in with a chance.

So, a good list, and a good handful of worthy winners. But who do YOU think is going to win? Do you care either way? Chair of judges Simon Frith was quoted by The Independent as admitting that he wasn't overly thrilled by this years nominess as a whole, with the somewhat disheartening admittance  “Is there a record that’s going to change music? Probably not.” So is there still a place for the Mercury Music Prize, or is it a pointless barometer? In my mind, it provides the sort of press that new bands can find invaluable, but maybe I'm just somebody who loves a good contest. One way or another, I will be planted in front of the television on November 1st waiting to see who emerges victorious. Beats the Brit Awards eh?

THE FULL LIST (with odds, from William Hill)

Richard Hawley: 'Standing At The Sky's Edge' – 4/1
Plan B: ‘Ill Manors’ – 4/1
Alt-J (∆): 'An Awesome Wave' – Odds 5/1
Django Django: 'Django Django' – 5/1
The Maccabees: 'Given To The Wild' – 7/1
Jessie Ware: 'Devotion' – 7/1
Ben Howard – ‘Every Kingdom’ 8/1
Michael Kiwanuka: 'Home Again' – 8/1
Lianne La Havas – ‘Is Your Love Big Enough’ – 8/1
Field Music: ‘Plum’ – 10/1
Roller Trio – ‘Roller Trio’ – 10/1
Sam Lee – ‘Ground Of Its Own’ – 10/1


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