Mercury revved

Oops – I wrote this yesterday and then saved it as a draft instead of publishing it. Oh well. Read with irony…

I don’t normally care very much about the Mercury prize, but Elbow’s victory last year probably restored some credibility to it, and the speculation about the likely nominees, announced tomorrow, is interesting.

I would have no problem with Florence and the Machine receiving a nod – it’s an undeniably interesting and successful record. I can’t help but think her voice, while powerful, is unsubtle and many of the rich arrangements on the collection serve to prevent it sounding like an insistent honk. But still, Rabbit Heart is surely one of the most striking singles released all year, and the long player lives up to its promise.

Probably the record I’ve listened to more than any other in 2009 is Wall of Arms by The Maccabees, so I very much hope that gets acknowledged. Among other currently trendy artists, Jack Penate would not be an unworthy nominee either – both of those records are excellent albums that function as a whole from start to finish, and do interesting things with the sounds they use.

Elbow’s win has probably cooked the goose of their fellow epic and melancholy Mancs the Doves – I suppose a nomination might come their way, but they clearly can’t win.

Emmy the Great’s album would also be a welcome nominee. The Noisettes seem not to have gained the momentum I would have expected on the back of such a strong pop record – a nomination would be a well-deserved fillip for them. And Bat for Lashes seems an inevitability.

There has been some discussion of Madness’s Liberty of Norton Folgate earning them a nomination as this year’s “heritage artist”. I’ve only listened to it once, and while I’m sure it’s very good, and will grow on me, I’m sceptical of claims that it’s their greatest record ever. It perhaps risks over-shadowing the Pet Shop Boys’ Yes, which probably functions better as a pop record and should, if there’s any justice (which, of course, there isn’t – not generally, and seldom where the MErcury is concerned), be on the list.

What else? Oh yes – Camera Obscura. I like their My Maudlin Career album, but can’t quite get past the problem that it’s not as good as its predecessor Let’s Get Out Of This Country record. Still, it would be lovely to see it get recognised.

There are some conspicuous selections that have been tipped but plainly do not deserve a nomination. I have quite a bit of time for the Glasvegas album, for instance… but the best record of the last twelve months? Of course not. Jarvis Cocker’s deeply mediocre Further Complications has no place on the list either. And the Manics’ Journal for Plague Lovers, while a lovely idea, failed to excite my ears in the end. Could Morrissey be on there? Years of Refusal is a decent record, but surely shouldn’t be on the list.

It would be jolly nice to see Thomas Tantrum’s debut album get nominated, come to think of it – it rewarded a lot of listens last year, despite being superficially simply shouty and noisy.

And finally… wel, it would gladden my heart beyond measure if MJ Hibbett’s Regardez, Ecoutez et Repetez were to strike a blow for Proper Indie and make the nominees. I will be astonished if it does, but it’s a lovely thought…

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3 comments

  1. Florence and the Machine’s album is less heavy on the shouting – but yes, that’s a bit how her Glastonbury set seemed on the telly as well. It’s worth a listen (bar the dreadful ‘Kiss with a Fist’). I’m slightly surprised to see F+TM and Bat for Lashes get nominated, on reflection – they’re quite similar-sounding records. Florence edges it, to my ears.

    White Lies I forgot to mention – I rather like them as a singles band, but the album doesn’t do much that is interesting beyond the singles.

    Agree about Little Boots though – what the hell 6Music are doing playlisting that sub-Girls Aloud coffee table shite is beyond me.

  2. I’m so delighted that The Invisible and Sweet Billy Pilgrim have been nominated that I could comfortably forget about the mediocrity of the rest of the list! If one of these albums wins it will restore my faith in the industry but it’s very unlikely. I think it’s going to be won by one of the women and it’s been a few years since an urban act got a look in, so I reckon Speech Debelle has a good chance, in spite of being rubbish. Other than that, the favourite must be Bat For Lashes. I haven’t heard the Florence and the Machine album but she just shouted her way through her support slot for Blur at Hyde Park – it didn’t make me want to take a chance on the record!

    Lots of omissions as always, but my personal selection is too subjective and unrepresentative. There’s less to complain about this year – glad that the ghastly White Lies and Little Boots have not been nominated. Micachu should definitely be there though!

  3. I’m totally in agreement with pretty much all of this, the only things I can’t agree to being about the albums I’ve not really heard! The Maccabees record has surprised me by being absolutely essential listening. For weeks, I’ve had to force myself to actually listen to other albums, because it’s been all I’ve wanted to listen to.

    Had I written such a list yesterday I’d have liked to add the Dutch Uncles album as a complete outsider. Having seen the list, I am delighted that Friendly Fires are on it – that’s a genuinely interesting album with surprising influences. And of course La Roux, but the latter is to be discounted as I’m not impartial on that one!

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