It is that time of year again. Indie bands will fail to act like they don’t care. Some innovative pedlars of dubstep-tinged folk will be granted a brief elevation out of obscurity and the Mercury Prize judges will desperately cast their ears around for a token black artist to complete their nominations shortlist. Placing its numerous quirks and contradictions aside, the Mercury Prize remains an important barometer for the state of British music and a vital sales boost for bands and artists short on exposure. Then of course, there are the bragging rights due if you manage the incredible feat of picking a winner.
Katy B, Wild Beasts and the mega-selling Adele are all reasonably safe bets to make the cut but there are twelve spots to pick and several great acts guaranteed to miss out. Below we’ve compiled our predicted nominations, we’ll see how many we get right next Tuesday (19 July), but feel free to rate or slate our choices in the comments section below and tell Gigwise who you think will win the accolade come September.
Adele – '21'
The 4/1 frontrunner according to Ladbrokes should be a dead cert to make the shortlist. With over seven million worldwide sales, it is unlikely she will receive the ultimate honour since Mercury Prize judges tend to act as king makers and the Tottenham-based singer-songwriter hardly needs a profile boost. Still, ‘21’ is a solid album with a fabulous voice behind it, holding an awards ceremony without it seems unthinkable.
Wild Beasts – 'Smother'
Wild Beasts make ethereal indie pop for the literate lothario in everyone. Their third album ‘Smother’ garnered glowing reviews when it hit stores in May on the ever-reliable Domino Records label. Gigwise’s Will Kerr called it, “A wonderful album that at once feels adventurous and at home in its own skin.”
PJ Harvey – 'Let England Shake'
Critics salivated over Polly Jean Harvey’s eighth studio album when it was first released in February. As a former Mercury Prize winner in 2001, the experimental singer-songwriter certainly has the judge’s ears and ‘Let England Shake’ stands as a testament to powers of a late career revival. Steeped in the imagery of war and death, it certainly isn’t an immediate listen but after several spins proves an impressively rewarding one.
The Go! Team – 'Rolling Blackouts'
Remember The Go! Team? Their soundclash stylings found them plenty of fans in 2004 when their debut album ‘Thunder, Lightning, Strike’ was released and even bagged them a nomination for the 2005 Mercury Prize. Yeah that confuses us a tad too. Nevertheless, ‘Rolling Blackouts’ is their best record to date representing the zenneth of what happens when you mix police sirens and football chant vocals.
Katy B – 'On A Mission'
Katy B’s ‘On A Mission’ is basically the dubstep pop album for those people too po-faced to listen to Britney Spears’ ‘Femme Fatale’. Thankfully for Miss Brien, Britney is disqualified from the Mercury nominations on account of her being a Yank. The road is clear then for a bass-laden victory from the former student of Popular Music at Goldsmiths, University of London.
Tinie Tempah – 'Disc-Overy'
The nomination of Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Tongue n’ Cheek’ last year proved cheesy pop is no barrier to a Mercury nod, so Tinie Tempah should have no problems being this year’s sole representative of hip-hop. If by some magnificent feat two artists of black origin are to make the shortlist then Wiley’s ‘100% Publishing’ could metaphorically bring up Tinie’s rear.
Darkstar – 'North'
Every year the Mercurys pluck an unknown act into the limelight and every year they shuffle back embarrassedly back from wence they came. Anyone who has witnessed Darkstar’s live show will testify they are not the most charismatic of blokes but ‘North’ is a fantastically, offbeat example of the post-dubstep scene and should be rewarded as such.
Metronomy – 'The English Riviera'
Joe Mount and co are riding high in many a mid-year compilation of 2011’s best albums and with good reason. ‘The English Riveria’ saw this synth-pop four piece break away from their twitching, electro incarnation with aplomb and reinvent themselves in an equally brilliant, albeit more genteel guise. Gigwise’s Robert Leedham said of ‘The English Riviera’, “Like the first weeks of sun-tinged spring this is a record to cherish.”
James Blake – 'James Blake'
James Blake was the great white horse of 2011’s ‘Ones To Watch’ lists but found mixed reviews when his self-titled debut hit all good record retailers in February. Regardless, the ex-Mount Kimbie man has shifted over 170,000 copies of his LP worldwide and managed to excite enough people to make his inclusion on the Mercury shortlist a likelihood.
The Horrors – 'Skying'
‘Skying’ may have only been released this week but superlatives in the shape of ‘album of the year’ are already been thrown its way. If The Horrors’ third album doesn’t make the shortlist don’t bet against their frontman Faris Badwan’s side-project ‘Cat’s Eyes’ slipping in there instead. Launched with a gig in the Vatican, these are the kind of theatrics that can catch a bored music adjudicator’s eyes.
Yuck – 'Yuck'
Yuck have been relentlessly touring their debut LP around the UK since its release in February and are due some sort of reward for their protestant work ethic. Protests have been levelled at the former Cajun Dance Party members for their rigged adherence to the sound of 90s alt-rock but that didn’t stop the record from receiving generally favourable plaudits. Gigwise’s Matthew Pinder said of ‘Yuck’, “The album is a grower and I imagine the band will be too.”
Jamie XX – 'We’re New Here'
A crucial member of last year’s victors The XX, it is perhaps a bit far-fetched to think Jamie Smith could take home the prestigious gong for the second ceremony in a row. With the sad passing of his legendary collaborator Gil Scott-Heron and his band’s minimalist approach to electro holding a clear sway over so many records released in the past 12 month, ‘We’re New Here’ could have some legs as an outside shout.
Mercury Prize 2011 - Possible Nominees