By Mitchell Stirling
After taking a three month delay on the normal timeline for a rebrand, as well as a move to Channel Four, The Mercury Prize has shifted the nomination reveal date to when the winner’s ceremony has usually has been held in previous years. It also conveniently sidesteps The Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Between now and the end of October some of the nominees will be performing their album in full in a series of one off gigs before, on 1st November, the ceremony will be held at London’s Camden Roundhouse. We are intrigued to how this might work with a previous nominee such as Burial playing, or the difference between 3,500 people coming to watch an act the size of a Radiohead or a Muse, if nominated in the future, versus ‘Token jazz act that doesn’t have a Wikipedia page right now’. We hope that has no bearings on the nominee process (or at least we are getting our excuses in early for not getting our predictions close to the two third mark we have averaged these past three years).
Other music sites have had a crack at doing this and we can’t really offer much differentiation on their efforts, a sign possibly of a less than stellar period for obvious Mercury baiting records; however, plenty of worthy stuff will always be on the list and not on the list.
The sure things:
Not the bookies’ favourite at the moment to win (we’ll come to that shortly), though she will be near the top of the list by Wednesday. Her debut album Devotion was a fitting soundtrack to the late summer we had in the UK and would be a worthy winner we feel, though we won’t be carving her initials on the trophy quite yet. Like having our very own Lykke Li.
In 2006 Alex Turner famously requested that someone should call 999 after Arctic Monkeys had won the Mercury Prize as Richard Hawley had been robbed. Despite not quite hitting the emotional highs and lows of Coles Corner, Standing At The Sky’s Edge has been warmly received for the conjuring of a guitar sound not often heard on a British rock record after the Seahorse’s debut. With the backing of Uncut, Mojo and the broadsheets, it’s got to feature.
Alt-J have been earmarked as early favourites by an attention seeking bookmaker who dubbed them the new Radiohead recently. They aren’t, but of any record that could be described as a bit Radiohead, An Awesome Wave is the one most likely to do well and seems to push more Mercury buttons than a few other electronic LPs that have been touted.
Kiwanuka won the BBC Sound of 2012 so there will be an element of circle jerk if Home Again gets on the list - not that it doesn’t deserve to be talked about in such terms, but there does seem to be an element of self fulfilling prophecy when it comes to the list in some years when the same people are involved in both.
Who else could be featuring?
Depending how many spaces there are for that sort of electro-indie type stuff on the list (not as many as some publications are suggesting!), Edinburgh’s Django Django may get to see their self-titled smorgasbord of styles on the list as might fellow Scot Rustie with Glass Swords.
If there is to be something from your BBC3 indie style, we’d wager it could be The Vaccines after their triumphant festival appearances (another variable of moving the dates is the panel have likely seen a higher proportion of the longlist live than before.)
In a similar vein are another band who have been a fixture at many a festival over the past eighteen months - Dry The River might take the folky upstart slot and also be one of the few debut guitar bands not dabbling in electronics likely to feature. Rounding off the trio of bands who have stepped up after a year on the festival circuit are The Maccabees.
Laura Marling has already had a perfect opportunity to warm up a potential album in a full gig by playing all of A Creature I Don’t Know at The Royal Albert Hall this July, and while it’s not as strong as her second album she’s well liked by the judges and a third nomination out of three wouldn’t be out of the question.
Of course Kate Bush should be on the list for the spellbinding 50 Words For Snow but as she’s unlikely to show up and we are more likely to perform the album live in full this autumn, there’s a better chance of seeing Emeli Sandé on the list.
There is normally one nomination that has judges reaching for the eligibility book to see the cut off date and this year it will be The XX, we know the prerequisite for enjoying Coexist is already liking the band and having won in 2010 we know this to be true of the Mercury judges. We don’t think this will be like when Q had the vote for best album ever open long enough for Be Here Now to make number 13.
Another recent nomination making a good case for a repeat listing is Sweet Billy Pilgrim whose Crown and Treaty is as worthy as 2009 nomination Twice Born Men. The same goes for Portico Quartet. Of course no Mercury Prize list discussion would be complete with a suggestion that Paul Weller will feature. Other acts who have been around the block a few times include Pet Shop Boys, the relaunched Dexys, Hot Chip and Graham Coxon. The most interesting returning act is quite likely one Bill Fay with his first album in four decades garnering plaudits.
We of course would like to see representation for Muso’s Guide favourites Slow Club, SBTRKT, Summer Camp, Little Dragon and Cate Le Bon. Personally this writer would like to see any of Emika, Beth Jeans Houghton, Actress, Spectrals or why the hell not Nicola Roberts feature.
A lot of people have written off Ed Sheeran as being too pop for the list but there’s no reason to say that the panel might look kindly on Rebecca Ferguson, Rumer or, shock horror, even One Direction. That seems more likely than leftfield and very leftfield shouts for worthy albums like Kuedo, Zomby, Pinch and Shackleton, The 2 Bears, LHF (remember this album is over two hours long, not conducive to getting on with listening to hundreds of albums for judging!) or Kindness.
Not this year:
Some other acts have had success on the list before and have put out records less impressive in the timeframe; others have had no luck with their career highpoints so I wouldn’t hold out too much hope for them this time out:
Florence and the Machine, Mariana and the Diamonds, Mystery Jets, Micachu and the Shapes
Plan B, Field Music, Keane, Errors, Spiritualized, Toddla T, The Invisible, Orbital, Bombay Bicycle Club, Peggy Sue, The Maccabees, Fanfarlo, Kasabian, Blood Red Shoes, Pulled Apart By Horses and Two Door Cinema Club
Our final prediction:
Jessie Ware – Devotion
Alt-J – An Awesome Wave
Richard Hawley – Standing At The Sky’s Edge
Michael Kiwunaka – Home Again
The Vaccines – Come Of Age
The XX – Coexist
Dry The River – Shallow Bed
Rustie – Glass Swords
Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know
Emeli Sandé – Our Version of Events
Bill Fay – Life Is People
The Maccabees – Given To The Wild
Rebecca Ferguson, Ed Sheeran, Django Django, Sweet Billy Pilgrim, Graham Coxon and Portico Quintet are our also-rans to give us a shot at getting more right.