The best thing about the Barclaycard Mercury Prize is the arguments. The disagreements and impassioned rows about who the panel missed off the list. That's where we're now at in the office...
Albums are stacked up, scuffles are ensuing – the kind not seen since Steven Gerrard requested Phil Collins in a Southport bar – and the snapping of polycarbonate plastic can be heard from downstairs. Why? Because this lot never made the bloomin’ nominations list…
Wild Beasts – ‘Smother’
What? Katy B’s ‘On A Mission’ has made the Mercury nominations, even with that drooling 15-minute ender of thank yous and big ups? Sure, it’s catchy in places, a smorgasbord of dance-pop culture in 2011 even, but really? Has it got enough clout and consistency to win the damned thing? Dub off.
If one album exhumes a focused direction, under-pins grandiose musical textures and offers enough harmonies to kick Fleet Foxes in the shins (that’s what the Mercury panel are after, right?), it’s Wild Beasts’ ‘Smoother’ – the award’s overlooked masterpiece of 2011.
But that’s not all. Live, the Kendal group are wondrous, seductive and woozy, with the likes of ‘Bed Of Nails’ and ‘Albatross’ slotting smoothly alongside ‘Limbo, Panto’ and ‘Two Dancers’. Their Park Stage nightcap at Glastonbury was certainly worth cheating on Coldplay for.
Yuck – ‘Yuck’
It’s rare for youthful entities like Yuck to get a fair hearing at the Mercury Prize tribunal, but if this kangaroo court had a moment to take in Yuck’s self-titled debut they might be shocked to find out there’s more nuances to this four-piece than another ill-timed shoegaze reinvention.
Within Yuck is both an eye for melody and ear for abstract nonsense, which makes the sonic results ever more exciting. ‘Georgia’ and ‘Get Away’ are brimming with adolescent genius, dipped in candy innocence, whilst all-the-while doffing their cap to their inspirations, scene forefathers Dinosaur Jr and Sonic Youth.
It was at moments like Glastonbury 2011 that these fledging foals grew up, matured into the John Peel tent and rocked like no other mid-afternoon band could, with fuzzy pitches and warm low-fi nodes. For the self-confessed festival-phobes it was their graduation into the established ranks, and with Bestival, Reading and Leeds Festivals all on the horizon getting muted for a industry award isn’t going to hold these alt-indie kids back.
See where else you can catch the band this summer.
Jessie J – ‘Who You Are’
The hype surrounding the BRIT Awards Critics’ Choice can often leave the winner in a haze of confusion. But this year’s victor, Jessie J, emerged strongly to smash expectations with her debut album ‘Who You Are’.
The LP extends further than just a run-of-the-mill pop album, seeping with honesty, a talent for crafting songs and a voice to stop listeners in their tracks. Proving her commitment to the cause, Jessie J owned Glastonbury’s Other Stage despite a broken leg.
Noah and the Whale – ‘Last Night On Earth’.
Veterans of the nu-folk scene, Noah and the Whale proved that they still have plenty to offer with their latest album ‘Last Night On Earth’. Anthemic single ‘L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N’ is undeniably catchy and the quality of their songwriting continues to improve as it edges towards Tom Petty and the Kinks territory. No wonder they’re running triumphantly from festival stage to festival stage this summer.
Imelda May – ‘Mayhem’
With ‘Mayhem’ peaking at number one in the Irish album chart, Imelda May is the first Irish female artist to hold two albums simultaneously in the top five. Her blend of soulful blues and retro rockabilly justify a nod at least, her large crowds at the likes of Glastonbury and Hop Farm are justification enough.