Thu 22 Oct 2015

What Our Mercury Prize Shortlist Would Have Been…


Last week to the enjoyment/disgruntlement of many music fans, the 2015 Mercury Prize shortlist was released (see the full list here). This year seems to have stirred up more of a storm than usual with many ‘sure things’ missing and a few genres completely snubbed. Although the list is varied in terms of recording styles, it seems to avoid areas of the British music industry which are flourishing right now. For example who can doubt the importance of the Grime genre with people like Stormzy making the BBC Sound of 2015 poll and Skepta firmly on his way to breaking America. The list usually sees at least one urban act on the shortlist and in last year’s case win it, but this year you could argue it is missing altogether. There is also no nod towards any jazz or folk albums although some might say there hasn’t been any strong enough.

This year does however seem to have less of a mainstream feel to it, following on from last year’s inclusion of just two number one albums. The inclusion of high-grossing albums is usually the main reason the list has been criticized in previous years. That being said, one of the biggest talking points is that the biggest albums of both Foals and Everything Everything’ careers so far have been missed yet Florence + The Machine haven’t. 

So after much deliberation, I decided to put together what my 12 would have been. Let us know your thoughts @GigsandTours.

1. Aphex Twin – Syro 


We had to wait 13 years since Richard James’ last full-length release under Aphex Twin. So much has changed in the electronic landscape in that time and yet this album completely feels like it belongs in the current day without actually changing a vast amount of production style from his last album Drukqs. It’s an album to really immerse yourself in and appreciate musically with each listen revealing something new. It’s no surprise it won the Grammy for Best Dance/Electronic album this year, surely a contender for the Mercury too. 

2. New Order – Music Complete


One of the most influential bands of all time returned with their 10th studio album and a new look line-up compared to their last full-length release. Tom Chapman has taken the mantel of matching Hooky’s melodic and integral basslines and as expected there is a big use of the original keys sound from Gillian Gillbert. Although the album lacks dance floor classics, Plastic holds its own among the best New Order dance tracks. But the album as a whole is a great intelligent listen with some nice guest choices too (La Roux, Iggy Pop, Brandon Flowers). For me, this should be up there although not a winner. 

3. JME – Integrity 


Surely the strongest full-length Grime release of 2015 so far. This album, for me, represents where the genre is going (and how it’s growing) and you’d have to look long and hard for a negative review. With Grime quickly becoming the biggest urban genre in the UK and finally making it’s way onto foreign radios, it’s a no brainer to have this album on this year’s Mercury Prize list. 

4. Eska – Eska


One of the strongest female singers in the UK right now. Although predominately known for her singing, this debut album delivers a stunning composition of music across the board. There’s electronic, folk, trip-hop, reggae, dub, acoustic and other influences and it screams Mercury Prize winner for me. Without being broken down it just feels like a complete piece of music but when broken musically it’s so much more. If this year’s winner isn’t an electronic album then I would put my money on this.

5. Romare – Projections


Romare’s debut album received widespread acclaim and support from the most ‘muso’ of DJ’s (Gilles Peterson et al.) and released on one of the coolest labels around, Ninja Tune, which has seen two previous Mercury winners. The album picks up African-American music with jazz, garage, soul and churns it into a format for the modern dance scene. 

6. C Duncan – Architect 


Scottish Multi-instrumentalist C Duncan, known for his heavily featured music on TV, recorded each instrument individually from his bedroom studio in Glasgow. A painstaking process which creates an album that really holds it weight among the other nominees, even without heavy production. This record is raw and in it’s rawness C Duncan’s talent shines through. 

7. Little Simz – A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons 


Following her release of 4 mixtapes and 5 EPs, 21 year old London rapper Little Simz finally dropped her debut album on her own label AGE 101. Really well received it’s certainly one of the strongest urban albums of 2015 and definitely stronger than many urban inclusions in the past. Her rapping abilities are clear but it’s also the choice of instruments, interludes and themes which make this album stand out.

8. Jamie XX – In Colour 


After winning the Mercury Prize with The xx in 2010, Jamie has another really strong claim to doing it again. This debut album was seen by many as the soundtrack to their summer even with it’s striking differences to the The xx. A clever record with a layout that has clearly been mulled over for some time. Favourite to win and although they never usually take the prize, this might be the year to buck the trend.  

9. Roisin Murphy – Hairless Toys


Former Moloko front-woman, prolific in the 00’s both as a solo artist and in a group, it’s taken eight years for this release. A crisp record which could only be described as ‘dark disco’, Roisin plays homage to the past while finishing this record with a superb modern gloss. 

10. LA Priest – Inji


Many won’t be surprised that this record has been over-looked but you only need to speak to music fans and look at it’s reviews to see it’s one of the strongest albums of the year. The former Late of the Pier front-man delivers an exquisite electro-pop debut which should have been rewarded for it’s excellence. 

11. Laura Marling – Short Movie 


One of the most heavily nominated artists having made the list for three of her five albums (without a win), Laura should have once again made the list. Not just because folk as a genre is missing this year but because it’s arguably her best yet. Laura really pushes the ‘nu-folk’ movement and brings a more electronic sound than her previous albums. It’s an evolution of an artist who’s sound leans towards an artist much older than her mere 25 years.

12. Everything Everything – Get To Heaven 


Their snub is probably the biggest upset (and surprise) of this year’s awards. ‘Get To Heaven’ is an album that has everything from pop friendly tracks to modern electron
ica. It spans multiple genres and styles and really defines them as a hero of the scene. This album is one of the most
 interesting of 2015 and should have made the list.

A few others that nearly made the cut: Hot Chip, Mark Ronson (yes he’s half British), Four Tet, SBTRKT, Georgia, Outfit, Ghostpoet (in the official list) and The Maccabees.