It’s less than a week until the nominations for the 2009 Barclaycard Mercury Prize are announced in London. While there’s no real science behind trying to guess the twelve albums which make the list, there are certain albums that give off a vibe of the Mercury. Right here, Muso’s Guide takes a look at what records might be prominently displayed at your nearest HMV later this month.
Even with that heading there’s no guarantee on these, last year Portishead’s Third seemed such a nailed on nomination that I scanned the list two or three times to check I hadn’t missed it. So if you do spend a couple of quid on the following to win, we shoulder no blame. Take some solace in that we are likely to have got stung as well though.
Doves – Kingdom of Rust
This is currently the bookies favourite and would draw obvious comparison’s to Elbow’s win last year. Like The Seldom Seen Kid it’s a record that very few people outright hate and with a central section as strong as any album likely to be on the list, we certainly wouldn’t begrudge it a spot. Asuccessive win for what would be considered a safe BBC Radio Two album would, however, be a little hard to swallow from the panel.
Bat For Lashes – Two Suns
Another previous nominee who went close in 2007 with her debut, only to lose out to Klaxons. Back with a more expansively produced top five album this year, you can almost see the Mercury sticker on the album cover already. Narrowly missing out two years back may help or hinder her for the win. A win for Bat For Lashes would also see the first female winner since Ms. Dynamite in 2002, as well as tapping into the zeitgeist of the penchant for synthy, froth-inducing ladies releasing albums over the last 12 month or so. The difference here is that Natasha Khan’s Two Suns is so much stronger than mots of the debut offerings likely to make the list.
The Horrors – Primary Colours
Talk of this motley crew of Hoxton Haircuts being on the 2009 list would have reduced me to hysterics up until a few months ago. While I’m not quite as gaga over their second album as some, it’s certainly something different from anything else likely to make it onto the list. And despite its much longer win-odds than artists like Doves and Bat For Lashes, it’s already been nodded to by a fair few something of a dark horse. I’m inclined to agree with that assessment.
Little Boots – Hands and La Roux – La Roux
Last year Adele made the list after finishing top on The BBC’s sound of 2009 – and Duffy didn’t. It was Duffy that would go on to sell more, take home a clutch of BRIT Awards and inspire a nation to shout at a Diet Coke advert. Adele quietly picked up a Grammy award this year, by way of compensation. This year it was Little Boots who had the most praise at the turn of the year, yet her album fell out of the top ten and then the top 40 in successive weeks.
On the other hand La Roux were only denied #1 by Michael Jackson’s death and have the biggest selling debut of the year so far. Which is more likely to be on the list is hard to tell; Little Boots could do with a bigger push, but La Roux is more popular and certainly an interesting pop star. Their albums range between the so-so to the good and really good, but that’s not going to be taken into account. Both likely to be on list, both could win, though on the other hand the panel might only go for one of them. We can’t see them both failing to make it though.
Florence and The Machine – Lungs
Also denied a chart topper by Michael Jackson, and very fresh in the judges minds if they did get it in time. All submissions need to be with jthe udges by the start of June to allow enough time to listen, but the official cut-off is merely that the album has to have been released by July 13. The album is ambitious, a unique-sounding artist that people seem to love and loath in equal measure. Will the haters on the panel be able to shout it down, to stop it winning? We think so. But to prevent a nomination? Unlikely.
Glasvegas – Glasvegas
Despite coming out way back last year, Glasvegas is eligible for this year’s nominations – and some of us smart arses were talking it up as a potential winner this time last year. That big time delay will have lost it a fair bit of momentum in terms of winning, and it wasn’t quite as good as we hoped it was going to be. It’s another album that just has the feel of a Mercury nomination about it.
Others that could make it:
Starting with albums I would like to see there personally we have the ramshackle pop-wonk of Micachu and The Shapes with Jewellery, and The Manics and Super Furry Animals with their best albums since 1996 and 2000 respectively. There might be room for Uncut/Mojo types The Phantom Band, or less likely The Invisible, The Ailens, Eugene McGuiness and The Week That Was. There may also be a space in the dance slot for Metronomy or Late of The Pier. Friendly Fires is from late last year, but certainly good enough to hold a place – it’s another album that feels like a good representation of the last 12 months of music in the UK. Fanfarlo’s Reservoir certainly wouldn’t look out of place on the list, but then again being told it wasn’t entered surprise me either.
We’d love to see Blue Roses on there, but with The Horrors and Friendly Fires having a much more likely chance it looks like XL may have put their eggs in those baskets. This might open the room for Alessi’s Ark or Emmy The Great to grab the token pop-folk nomination. On the other hand, with the potential for such a female dominated list there may just be room for Lily Allen, who in fact wasn’t nominated for Alright, Still; she’d be the biggest star at the award ceremony. This in turn might be a good thing for Sons of Noel and Adrian, Lau and the Ivor Novello award-winning The Leisure Society.
Morton Valence’s Bob and Veronica Ride Again is another record that ticks a lot of Mercury buttons but there are a lot of those this year so we are erring on inclusion. White Lies flit in our mind between really likely and not likely, and will likely vie for the NME hype slot with Glasvegas.
Out of the newer guitar acts, noises have been made about Danananananakroyd, Los Campesinos!, Sky Larkin, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Broken Records, Post War Years, Golden Silvers, Broken Records, Noah and The Whale, Slow Club and Grammatics. Second albums from The Maccabees, The Noisettes, My Latest Novel and Jack Penate are up there as well, Noisettes likely to have the most behind them. The third albums from Kasabian and Bloc Party are probably not going to be on the list though.
There’s always a slot for an older act and I’ve mulled the merits of Pet Shop Boys, Jarvis, Tony Christie and Morrissey but have decided that Madness with the excellent The Liberty of Norton Folgate are our tip for the OAP slot.
We did have it in mind that The Bug’s London Zoo would be one of the favourites, but its July 7 2008 release date is out of the time period. This leaves a rather large hole for the urban nominee which won’t go to previous nominees The Streets or Roots Manuva this time. The one on everyone’s lips is Speech Therapy by Speech Debelle, and we’re close to including it as a certainty. There could also be space for VV Brown, who just released an album in time. With Estelle being nominated last year, there certainly seems to be space for the more pop-styled R&B/Soul.
There are previous winners galore in Franz Ferdinand, Antony and The Johnsons and PJ Harvey (with John Parrish), all having released eligible albums, but we can’t see any of those capturing the judges enough in 2009 to have them return to the list.
We aren’t the people to ask about the Jazz nominee (we’ve been told Led Bib though) or a classical album if that mainstay of nomination lists past returns. Likewise the folk nod might be something that hasn’t come up on our radar yet. Our final suggestion – a slightly left-field one – is for Ambivalence Avenue by Bibio on Warp.
Muso’s Guide’s final predictions:
Doves, Bat For Lashes, The Horrors, Florence and The Machine, La Roux, Glasvegas, The Phantom Band, Madness, Led Bib, Bibio, Speech Debelle and The Leisure Society.
And half a dozen extra to cover our tracks: White Lies, Morton Valence, Noisettes, Lily Allen, Manic Street Preachers and Friendly Fires.