by Matthew Dixon
Each year, the UK music industry awards a prize to what they consider to be
the most high quality album released within the previous twelve months from artists
originating from the UK or Ireland. Each year the judges - drawn from people from
all walks of life in the music industry - listen to a massive selection of albums
from across the entire music industry, before eliminating down to a final shortlist
of twelve albums - taken from across the genres of music.
These are presented to the
public as a shortlist, and then the judges decide between what are considered to be
the greatest albums of the past twelve months. Previous winners have included Ms Dynamite,
Gomez, M People, PJ Harvey and Indian artist Talvin Singh. Who is going to win this
time? Here are the nominees.
Athlete - Vehicles And Animals
The past twelve months have been quite a rollercoaster ride for Athlete, a four piece
band from Deptford in South London. Just twelve months ago they launched themselves onto
the music scene with the summery song, "You Got The Style", which showcased
their style perfectly. Further tracks from the album that were highlighted include
the massively acclaimed hit, "El Salvador", and two other singles ("Westside" and "Beautiful"),
which were both rather agonising No. 41 singles on the chart. The band have had
a limited amount of commercial success, but haven't exactly been highly critically
acclaimed, which makes them perhaps a rather surprising nominee for the Mercury
Music Prize. Nevertheless, they've made what in my eyes is a really high quality
album, and there is the outside of chances that they might pull off a surprise.
Standout track: "El Salvador"
Chance of winning: Unlikely, owing to overly large number of decidedly
average reviews from rather key sources.
Eliza Carthy - Anglicana
Well in every Mercury Music Prize, there's always some artists that are virtually unknown in
the mainstream, but are representing a particular genre of music - and this is just such
an album. Eliza Carthy has been producing folk music for quite a while now, and has
already been Mercury Music Prize nominated (something only two other acts on this list
can claim), and this is actually a really good folk album. Is she likely to win?
It's hard to tell - there's the possibility of it, but I think this is little more than
a token entry for the UK folk music scene.
Standout track: "Worcester City"
Chance of winning: Next to nil, in all honesty. Eliza didn't win last time she
was up, and she's really only nominated so that folk music gets represented.
Coldplay - A Rush Of Blood To The Head
Well there was absolutely nothing less surprising about this year's Mercury Music Prize
shortlist than the inclusion of the latest offering from Coldplay. They are, without a doubt,
the biggest new band to have emerged in the past five years (albeit they lost out on a
Brit for Best Newcomer to A1) and their second album has actually been acclaimed much
more than the first one was - and that was something that was hard to beat. Tracks like
the haunting "Clocks" and the beautiful "Scientist" go alongside songs like
"God Put A Smile On Your Face", which is the sort of track that has given
Coldplay a large amount of backlash. Their music is regarded by some to be immensely
dull, but by the vast majority, they are thought of as amazing.
Standout track: Clocks
Chance of winning: Dare I say they are nil? I think that they are very
slim chances. They are firm favourites to win, and have the biggest album in the list,
however history of the Mercury Music Prize makes that a nail firmly into their coffin.
The obvious choices never seem to win, and no matter how much praise this album has had,
I see it as no exception.
Darkness - Permission To Land
Within the space of just a couple of months, the Darkness have become the hottest new
thing in British rock music - if not the hottest new thing in British music overall.
From the release of single "Growing On Me" to massive acclaim and appeal through to
their supporting of Robbie Williams in his high profile Knebworth Park gigs, this band
are quite literally exploding onto the music scene. They're best described as a modern
glam rock band, although they take more from Queen than Gary Glitter, Wizzard or the
Sweet. It's big guitars, big vocals, big hair and generally just big.
Standout track: Growing On Me
Chance of winning: Probably higher than people might initially expect.
These guys aren't the most obvious of choices, but that's just why I'd class them as at
least one of the top four favourites to win.
Dizzee Rascal - Boy In Da Corner
If you're looking for someone to re-kick-start the boom in the UK garage scene, then
this might just be your man - described by some people as the So Solid Crew meets the
Streets. He's just a teenager, but he's got some blazing beats and some really deep and
dark subjects - his debut single, "I Luv U", talks about teenage pregnancy, for example.
There's a lot of people thinking that Dizzee Rascal might just win, but for my money,
he's produced something nowhere near as good as last year's offering by the Streets -
and if that couldn't win, I see no reason why this album will win this year's prize.
Standout track: "I Luv U"
Chance of winning: Pretty high. A lot of people are fancying this as a
possible winner, and I might be letting personal preference get in the way when I say
that it just doesn't seem good enough to win.
Floetry - Floetic
If you asked someone to name all of the UK urban stars nominated for US Grammy Awards,
they'd probably say both Craig David and Daniel Bedingfield - but very few would know
of Floetry. They're a nu-soul duo from South London, and they're moreorless completely
unknown in the UK, however their American successes have been huge. Will it win? I
think they'll suffer from "Nitin Sawhney syndrome" - of being generally the same style
of music as last year's winner (Ms Dynamite).
Standout track: "Say Yes"
Chance of winning: As mentioned above, very slim. I just can't see them
giving the prize to an R&B act two years in a row.
Soweto Kinch - Conversations With The Unseen
Well if there's one act in the list that pretty much everyone won't have heard of, then
it will be Soweto Kinch. He is what could best be described as the token jazz entry -
a saxophonist who few outside the jazz world will have previously heard of. Nevertheless,
it will please jazz fans, who over the past few years haven't actually had any nominees
Standout track: "Snakehips"
Chance of winning: Virtually nil. I can't see Soweto as anything more than a
token entry to please jazz fans, and therefore there's no chance of it winning.
Lemon Jelly - Lost Horizons
Reviewers have called this album anything from a musical masterpiece to
"Teletubbies on acid" - and they're genuinely that bizarre. "Space Walk" and
"Nice Weather For Ducks" are the singles, and they're representatives of the best
of the album. It's full of samples - rather similar to their debut album "lemonjelly.ky"
- which is one of those albums that everyone expected would be Mercury Music Prize
nominated, making this a rather belated nomination. If anyone doesn't remember them,
let me fill you in with the words of an old Dutch nursery rhyme... "All the ducks are
swimming in the water, falderalderalde, falderalderalde."
Standout track: "Nice Weather For Ducks"
Chance of winning: Very high - dare I say that these are my tip for
winning the prize. I doubt if I'll be right - as I never have been every year that I
have predicted, but you never know.
Radiohead - Hail To The Thief
Another unsurprising, dull and predictable nomination here - Radiohead have been nominated
multiple times before, and it's no surprise that yet again the Oxford based kings of the
immensely beautiful - or terminally dull - depending on your opinion about them, are nominated.
They've gone back to slightly more commercial and accessible album than the band's previous
recording session, which gave us "Kid A" and "Amnesiac", but it's still a bit on the
obscure side. However, such things are generally liked by critics.
Standout track: "Go To Sleep"
Chance of winning: There's an awful lot of Radiohead fans, who are finally
wanting to see Radiohead win this prize - owing to the fact they've previously failed on
more than one occasion. However, I still think that they're never destined to win the
prize nowadays, because they're too successful. The Mercury judges tend to avoid the
big names, and therefore, rather like Coldplay, I think Radiohead are far from certain
to win this.
Thrills - So Much For The City
It's been quite a rollercoaster year for the Thrills - a four piece band from Dublin,
who rank as the only Irish entry for the Mercury Music Prize for this year. Their
style of happy indie music that is perfectly aimed at picnics in summer has given
them legions of praise from all over the music press - I've never yet found a bad
word to be said about them. This album also graced the top 3 of the album charts -
showing that alongside massive critical acclaim, the Thrills have had significant
commercial success. Will the Mercury Music Prize beckon? You never know.
Standout track: "Big Sur"
Chance of winning: Pretty high. They've had large amounts of praise,
without being really obvious contenders like Radiohead and Coldplay are. I guess that
the Thrills have a good chance of walking away with this.
Martina Topley-Bird - Quixotic
Most people won't have heard of Martina Topley-Bird before - as this album has had
little commercial success to date. However, the sharp eyed amongst you will have
remembered the fact that she actually has had much greater - although uncredited -
success as a vocalist for legendary dance/indie guy Tricky. This album is going
to be completely overlooked when people are thinking about who is going to win,
but this album of trip-hop music could possibly be a totally unexpected winner.
They like going for the unexpected - and save for the token nominations from the
jazz and folk worlds, there's none more unexpected than Martina Topley-Bird.
Standout track: "Anything"
Chance of winning: Higher than you might think. If it's going to a
less well-known artist, I think that it would be Martina.
Terri Walker - Untitled
Throughout the UK urban scene this year, there's not been all that many new artists,
so those who have broken through have been highly acclaimed. The biggest of the new
names has been Terri Walker. She's had a limited amount of mainstream success, but
within the UK urban underground, she's been truly massive. I doubt that Terri Walker
will win, seeing as she's a second artist who is too similar to Ms Dynamite to have
a reasonable chance of winning - particularly as in my opinion, she's nowhere near as good.
Standout track: "Ching Ching (Don't Worry 'Bout A Thing)"
Chance of winning: I really doubt it. It's too similar to last year's
entry, but also not as good.
Who do you think will win the prize? There's a whole range of artists from a whole
range of styles. The whole of the UK music scene can be proud at another high quality
set of entries, plus several others that rather noticeably missed out.
The whole of the UK music scene can be proud at another high quality set of
entries, but who won?
Dizzee Rascal - Boy In Da Corner
In the end it went to an album that I personally do not like - a shame,
seeing as there were so many albums that I did like and hoped to win. Is this
the defining album of our times? Probably. Is it worthy of winning the Mercury
Music Prize? I'd say there's much more deserving ones out there. However, for
the second year running, the Mercury Music Prize has looked down at what's going
on on the streets of the UK and has taken notice.
Finally, before we go, lets just point out one last thing. There's 12 amazing
albums there - but that is simply the tip of a very big iceberg. Here's just a
few of the obvious names that missed out this year."
Audio Bullys - Ego War
Blur - Think Tank
Libertines - Up The Bracket
Amy Studt - False Smiles
Bluetones - Luxembourg
Stereophonics - You Gotta Go There To Come Back
Mercury Music Prize