Mercury Prize 2009 – A female winner?

21 Jul

So the nominations for the Mercury Prize 2009 were announced today. Here’s the 12 albums that have made the cut:

Bat For Lashes – ‘Two Suns’
Florence And The Machine – ‘Lungs’
Friendly Fires – ‘Friendly Fires’
Glasvegas – ‘Glasvegas’
The Horrors – ‘Primary Colours’
La Roux – ‘La Roux’
Led Bib – ‘Sensible Shoes’
The Invisible – ‘The Invisible’
Lisa Hannigan – ‘Sea Sew’
Kasabian – ‘West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum’
Speech Debelle – ‘Speech Therapy’
Sweet Billy Pilgrim – ‘Twice Born Men’

There’s some good albums on the list but there’s a lot of albums that didn’t get nominated that I am quite surprised about – Doves, Late of the Pier, PJ Harvey, Little Boots, Graham Coxon, Micachu, Patrick Wolf, White Lies, Slow Club, Grammatics, Bombay Bicycle Club, Camera Obscura, Future of the Left…. arguments will go on and on I am sure.

There’s no point moaning about the ones that didn’t make the final 12. Of the ones that did, I like most of them.

I have a pretty strong feeling that the winner will be female this year. Florence, La Roux, Bat For Lashes, Speech Labelle and Lisa Hannigan have all made really good albums.

You will know of Lisa Hannigan from her work on both Damien Rice albums. Her solo stuff is even better and I think she’s a good outsider to win.

Bat For Lashes was everyone’s favourite a few years ago before she lost out to Klaxons and could be given this award in the same way that Elbow got it last year. I’m not denying that they didn’t deserve it for ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ but it kind of had a “now or never vibe” to it and it was almost done to get rid of Elbow and make room for someone else to make the list. Maybe that’s why Doves aren’t on it this year… it’s highly unlikely that the judges would give them the award this year for the same reasons as Elbow. Crazy I know because I think ‘Kingdom of Rust’ is ace but like Eurovision, it’s all about politics.

Speech Debelle could well become one of the biggest hip hop artists for future years if her debut album is anything to go by. The delivery and emotion in her music is overwhelming at times. Whilst it’s what you might call a hip-hop album, there’s amazing musicianship to back up the delivery – gone are the rather cliched Akai samples and processed beats and in comes a wide range of jazz and classic soul vibes. The Mercury Prize has launched a lot of artists in the past by honouring their debut albums with the prize (Gomez, Talvin Singh, Roni Size, Badly Drawn Boy, Franz, Arctic Monkeys, Dizzee Rascal…) and I can see this doing the same.  She’s not the most obvious choice of winners but I certainly think she’s interesting and unique enough to claim victory. Also, as a bit of a bonus, Micachu appears on the record – small consolation after missing out herself.

I was glad to see Florence and the Machine and La Roux on the list because I tipped them both for big things this year all the way back in January. Both albums are really unique and both probably kept Little Boots out of the final 12.

Of the other albums on the list, I think Friendly Fires are in with a good shout. I absolutely adore their debut album (it was in my top albums on 2008) and it would be deserved if they were to walk away with the prize. It’s a fresh and original sounding album that I never get bored of listening to from start to finish.

A lot of hype has been generated by Glasvegas and I do like their album a lot but I don’t think it has much variety. It does have some beautifully epic songs on it however so it could be worth a bet. It just depends on what the judges are looking for this year. It seems to change every year and judging by the strong omissions this year, it shows they’re looking for something very very specific.

Would it be too predictable and obvious for Kasabian to win the Mercury Prize? I do think ‘West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum’ is great but mainly because it reminds me of the great concept albums from the 1960s. Compared to their previous efforts it is a step up and to all the little kids that got into them via Club Foot and Empire will see this as a bold change of direction. However, for those of us who grew up listening to The Pretty Things, Can, 13th Floor Elevators – it’s more of a nostalgic trip than a journey into new territory. That’s not to say it’s a bad album – far from it, it’s amazing but I am not sure if albums influenced heavily from the past are what the judges are looking for. It’s usually been about forward thinking albums – (Portishead, Roni Size, Primal Scream and even Klaxons spring to mind).

Much like Kasabian’s nostalgic record, the same can be said of The Horrors’ ‘Primary Colours’. It’s a breathtaking record that is a hundred times better than their first album. The band really raised the bar with it and it’s a worthy addition to the list but again, it reminds me of Joy Division a bit too much. It’s not a bad thing to be like great bands from yesteryear but it’s kind of like buying chocolate on holiday. It does the job but you know in your heart of hearts it’s not what you can get at home. But you make do for the love of chocolate. But given the choice, you’d want the best chocolate. OK, that’s a pretty bad analogy but you get what I mean. Don’t you? Don’t you?!

Of the other albums on the list, I think The Invisible are god awful and wish that both them and the idiots they have for fans truly were like the name suggests. I’m not really that familiar with the Sweet Billy Pilgrim album as of yet, I shall have to give it a few listens. What I’ve heard so far hasn’t really given me an opinion as of yet.

Oh and as for Led Bib, I am trying to avoid it like swine flu because as most of you know, I fucking hate jazz. I ignored the critics who labelled them the ‘future of jazz’ as all that says to me is it’s the ‘future of shit’. That said, it might be an amazing ‘schmorgosboard of stunning musicianship and innovative time signatures’ but for me, that’s like putting a bow on a box of aids. I should give it a listen before judging them really but I really don’t want to. Fuck off jazz, let me eat my pizza in peace.


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