VF’s Mercury Music Live Prize

Tinie Tempah at Hop Farm Festival 2011 by Sara Bowrey
Tinie Tempah at Hop Farm Festival 2011 by Sara Bowrey

We look at what makes the Barclaycard Mercury Prize 2011-nominated albums so great and how they've transposed live at festivals this year. We also check out where else you can catch the nominees this summer.

It’s our very own Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize, if you will.

And the nominees are…

Adele – ‘21’

Adele’s record-breaking second album survived 11 consecutive weeks at the top of the charts – a first for a female British musician. Her angelic vocals have spanned the radio waves with hits from ‘Rolling in the Deep’ to ‘Someone Like You’ riding high in the charts for what seems like forever.

She’s no festival fan though, and the singer is yet to step out onto the summer circuit. She did play at the iTunes festival though, belting out a cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Make You Feel My Love’. ET.

Adele has no upcoming festival dates.

Anna Calvi – ‘Anna Calvi’

She might seem shy on stage, but live or on record, Anna Calvi’s voice will floor you within seconds of a song starting up. At once both ferocious and vulnerable, she can summon the same kind of operatic drama that the likes of Nick Cave, PJ Harvey or Jeff Buckley specialise in.

It all goes widescreen on the soaring ‘Desire’, then to sinister on ‘The Devil’, and Calvi proves that she’s no slouch on the guitar front either on the reverb-drenched instrumental ‘Rider To The Sea’. Who knows where she’ll go next, but the possibilities her first effort springs up are immense. CE.

Check out where you can catch the star here.

Elbow – ‘Build a Rocket Boys!’

Elbow are elders in familiar territory, this being their third Mercury Prize nomination. The fizzing victory lap that followed them collecting the Mercury Prize in 2008 allowed them shake off Doves and Coldplay similarities, instead releasing an album of Manchurian poetry and intricate musical beauty, which led to an elegant ascendancy.

Their 2011 effort ‘Build a Rocket Boys!’ wasn’t garnered with the same praise on release but much like their career, it slowly grew, twisting and turning into the mainstream conscience before blooming on Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage in June.

Check out where you can catch the band here.

Everything Everything – ‘Man Alive’

Everything Everything’s debut ‘Man Alive’ is a rollercoaster, taking in Franz-esque indie dancefloor stomps (‘Photoshop Handsome’), jaw-dropping piano balladry (‘NASA Is On Your Side’), minimal electro bleeps (‘Tin (The Manhole)’) and a clear love of 90’s R’n’B (‘Schoolin’), directed by the falsetto yelp and surreal, scattergun lyrics of singer Johnathan Higgs.

It may not always be obvious, but, through all the twists and turns, it’s superb, ambitious, affecting pop music. To top it all off, they’ve taken to dressing in Ghostbusters-style band uniforms when playing live, just to make it all even more irresistible.

Check out where you can catch the band here.

Ghostpoet – ‘Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam’

Playing with a sense of detachment from grime and guns, Ghostpoet is as much likely to give the hip-hop scene a lecture on middle-aged melancholy and Friday night existentialism as he his gang warfare.

His debut is still fresh off the vinyl pressing but has all the bold brilliance to captivate bigger audiences and bring an underdog Mercury Prize award in for our favourite tortured lyrically-verbose soul.

Replacing Gonjasufi at Glastonbury just days before the festival put Ghostpoet in front of his largest-ever festival crowd and this piece of luck spring-boarded the London rising rap sensation with proof he could deliver to the larger open air crowds.

Check out where you can catch the star here.

Gwilym Simcock – ‘Good Days at Schloss Elmau’

It’s a shame that the jazz Mercury Music Prize entries are always seen as the wildcard entry, the token suggestion that the panel have their ears open to something other than the usual guitar-based noodlings. But here’s another name to get Googling: Gwilym Simcock.

His album ‘Good Days at Schloss Elmau’, a mixture of classical-led jazz, harvested a slew of superlatives from critics on its release in January but without a UK festival appearance since the Norfolk and Norwich Festival in 2009, this clip from Ulrecht Jazz Fest last summer will have to sum up his passion and versatility in a blitz of one minute 29 seconds.

Gwilym Simcock has no upcoming festival dates.

James Blake – ‘James Blake’

Determined to do more than simply push boundaries, James Blake literally shook the music of 2011 (check out the basslines on the debut), proving that the experimental can appeal to the mainstream.

Single, ‘Limit To Your Love’, is an eerie and disjointed masterpiece and the star has been a favourite at festivals this summer, being given an highly-sought Park Stage sun-setter slot at Glastonbury with many more to come.

Check out where you can catch the star here.

Katy B – ‘On a Mission’

Of the three BRIT-school alumnae on this year’s nomination shortlist, the scribbled name of Katy B will probably be the one betting slip that will be torn up first when the Jools Holland gargles out the winner in September.

However, her strong debut of dubstep and UK funky, coupled with a non-stop run of festival dates highlight her merits. It’s a succinct first showing from a club-singer-turning-pop-star that this summer was beefed up with covers of The Streets ‘Blinded By The Lights’ and dance classics ‘Back to Life’, ‘Gypsy Woman’ by and ‘Show Me Love’.

Check out where you can catch the singer here.

King Creosote and Jon Hopkins – ‘Diamond Mine’

Long a frustrated accordion-waving troubadour of the remotest parts of Fife, Scotland, Kenny Anderson, or King Creosote as he more formally goes by, has earned buckets of cult acclaim in more than a decade working with his solo hands.

Yet his first Mercury nomination comes after collaborating with respected London electronica figure Jon Hopkins. This record reportedly took seven years to complete so don’t expect the follow up anytime soon.
Playing main stage for the first time at Bestival, King Creosote was almost as far from his Fife roots as you physically can be within UK borders, but played to a rain soaked island crowd with a refreshingly warm burst of highland happiness. Expect more of the same this summer.

Check out where you can catch the pair here.

Metronomy – ‘The English Riviera’

While the festival crowd had already taken them under their wing, Joe Mount and crew’s third album ‘The English Riviera’ has propelled onto the main stages this summer. The sunshine might mean the lightbulbs each member wears onstage may shine a little less brightly, but it means that songs like ‘The Look’ and ‘Everything’s Going My Way’ are in their perfect environment.

Mixing some sardonic LCD Soundsystem with the upbeat FM rock of Phoenix, the euphoria and claustrophobia of living in a British seaside town is brought to life. If you like some wit and romance while you dance, look no further.

Check out where you can catch the band here.

PJ Harvey – ‘Let England Shake’

Harvey’s fourth Mercury Prize nomination would suggest it’s hard to ignore the female songstress from this process with her seductive style and understated sassiness.

So she returns with her eighth full length, after the Mercury winning success of ‘Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea’ in 2001 and undoubtedly is back on the form of her life. ‘Let England Shake’ feels, despite inspiration from T.S. Eliot and other turn of the 20th century poets, as much of its time as any body of work she’s delivered previous and the earnest strength in her imagery of war gives it both a compelling and chilling backbone.

In her home county of Dorset, Camp Bestival 2009 was to be PJ Harvey’s only UK performance of the year. She debuted almost as much new material as she played old, but it went down as one of the greatest sets she’d ever played and the festival organiser Rob da Bank has even invited her to his Isle of Wight Bestival bash this September.

Check out where you can catch the star here.

Tinie Tempah – ‘Disc-Overy’

With two BRIT awards already under his belt and a Glastonbury appearance alongside Snoop Dogg, Tinie Tempah is undoubtedly a man of the moment.

His debut album ‘Disc-Overy’ features hit singles ‘Pass Out’ and ‘Written In The Stars’, all of which brought crowds to life at everywhere from the Isle of Wight Festival to Hop Farm.
Check out where you can catch the rapper here.