As seen on BBC.co.uk
To me the Mercury Music Prize is a weird one. More important than the BRIT's but less fun than the NME awards it seems caught between wanting to award innovation whilst recognising bands who have already achieved huge commercial success. Personally I'd like to see it revamped slightly to bring it in line with Canada's Polaris Prize with a record sales cap for nominees. This would eradicate the likes of Coldplay being nominated and not turning up to the awards whilst giving much needed mainstream publicity for under-appreciated acts. For that is another strange aspect of this prize, the tabloids, broadsheets, websites and blogs peer and pour over it to the nth degree and in that slightly skewed sense it is important to have a worthy winner. Next week sees the shortlist for this years prize announced, here is who I'd like to see get a mention.
Personally I'd love to see Friendly Fires win the award. I believe the Mercury should award innovation and forward thinking and whilst the Devon based 3-piece have left a crumb-trail from Detroit techno via blissfull shoegaze they still create a sound akin to an intergalactic disco. What I love the most about the band and their self titled debut album is how romantic it is. So often dance music, or music with an eye on the dancefloor, loses it's ability to emote but Friendly Fires make songs about falling in love across the artificial smoke and strobing neon lights- it's a devastating blend. Take the song 'Paris' for example, essentially a flighty tale of idealistic escapism it is elevated by vast caves of heart swelling noise and a rhythm even the most surly curmudgeon would find irresistible. To see a band I first heard on a Kitsune compilation grow and develop into a fully fledged festival rocking monster is a joy to behold and is what the Mercury prize should be rewarding.
Aside from Friendly Fires I'd love to see The Maccabees get nominated. So cruelly dismissed as a landfill indie unit the Brighton band went into to studio with Arcade Fire's producer and crafted an album that sounds like the Canadian band sound tracking a sweet and tender coming of age film. Honest and ambitious 'Wall Of Arms' is the sound of a band growing in confidence and defying all expectations in the process. I fully expect to see The Horrors on the Mercury shortlist with their album 'Primary Colours'- ordinarily I'd be raving about it as the second coming as I have on numerous occasions this year however to me this prize is about innovation along the lines of Dizzee Rascal's stunning debut or Burial laying the foundations for the dubstep movement soaring in 2009. With that in mind I do hope the judges are not swayed by critical praise and recognise that whilst 'Primary Colours' is stunning it is far too retrospective to win the award outright.
Presumably one or two of Little Boots, La Roux and Florence and The Machine will be nominated. I'd like to see Florence join the list as she is one of the most talented performers I have ever had the privilege to watch perform and her album 'Lungs' sounds so lost in it's own passion that you lose all cynicism and find yourself looking for the nearest forest to go stage an impromptu party in. Moreover if Florence gets to play on the night it will rival Amy Winehouse in 2007 for a definitive Mercury performance- there is not a better singer in popular music today than Florence Welch.
To round things off I'll mention a few acts who probably won't get nominated but it would be wonderful to see. Dananananaykroyd and Sky Larkin contribute towards a group of bands in the UK who have created a greater sense of community and independence than any major label, multi million 'campaign' could ever instill into a fan base. Alongside Los Campesinos! they have created three albums in 'Hey Everyone!', 'The Golden Spike' and 'We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed' that have made the past 12 months consistently exciting and sounding great. Similarly, Future Of The Left are a band who have to do things the hard way and make a glorious racket in the process. Their album 'Travels With Myself and Another' is a furious rant against the ills of society and includes a stunning dismissal of the countries Barfly venues that could unite a thousand jobbing bands in recognition. Elsewhere nods for Metronomy, Patrick Wolf, Franz Ferdinand, Late of The Pier, Eugene McGuinness or Bat For Lashes would all be richly deserved.
If half of these acts make it through (and more importantly White Lies don't) then I'l be a very happy bunny and enjoy the furious internet arguments over who 'deserves' to win with pleasure.
*My money is on The Manic's or The Horrors.
Thursday, July 16
As seen on BBC.co.uk