Editor's Letter

Editor’s Letter: Mercury Prize 2013 Contenders

By | Published on Thursday 5 September 2013

Mercury Prize

Next Wednesday at about half five there’ll be that annual gathering of music and media types where everyone lines up to hear a list read out. A very short list of records. That is to say, the Mercury Prize shortlist. At 5.33pm everyone will then start complaining. That’s the tradition.

As is also tradition, for some reason, I’ve put together a list of 20 acts I think stand a chance of being the subject of all that complaining. I did alright with my Mercury shortlist predicting last year, so fingers crossed, if you find yourself getting a little bit worked up about any or all of these artists now, you’ll be in a position to do some Grade A shouting at the twelve of them who get selected as “the best British albums of the last year” next week.

So, here you go, the 20 contenders on my Mercury Prize 2013 guess list:

Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle
Let’s just get this out of the way first, shall we? It is compulsory to include Laura Marling in any pre-emptive Mercury list. Yes, I know her third album ‘A Creature I Don’t Know’ wasn’t nominated last year, but that’s probably just because they forgot. I bet the all-important Post-It fell off Simon Frith’s hardback note pad as he pulled it out of his battered bag at the start of the long-list deliberations meeting. So this year: nomination? Quite possibly. Winner? No.

These New Puritans – Field Of Reeds
This is prime for a nomination because it’s experimental within the boundaries that the Mercury judging panel can cope with. Also it’s good. And TNP’s last album ‘Hidden’ wasn’t nominated, even though it clearly should have been.

Jon Hopkins – Immunity
Jon Hopkins is no stranger to the Mercury shortlist, but never as a solo act – his previous foray being with folkie King Creosote in 2011. A combination of intense techno and atmospheric sound collages, this is undoubtedly one of the last year’s finest records.

Foals – Holy Fire
Also previous nominees, Foals made the shortlist in 2010 with ‘Total Life Forever’. They 100% deserve to be nominated this time because their most recent album ‘Holy Fire’ is actually good.

Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse
Never nominated before, despite critical acclaim and judge-pleasing credentials, Frightened Rabbit released their first major label album earlier this year. And their major label status means we know they’ve been entered, so there’ll be none of that “oh, maybe their small indie label couldn’t afford it, because you have to pay to enter don’t you know” thinking if they don’t feature.

Daughter – If You Leave
If Daughter aren’t on the shortlist I’ll fall over and stay lying down for several minutes. To be honest, I’m yet to have my ‘breakthrough’ with this album, but a lot of people really, really, really like it. That’s why so many people clapped loudly whenever it was mentioned at this week’s AIM awards. And I know for a fact (note: this is not a fact) that every one of the Mercury judges is a massive fan.

Biffy Clyro – Opposites
Also nominated the same year as Foals previously were, Biffy Clyro are the second Scottish band in my longlist. And I know what you’re thinking, there would never be two Scottish artists on the Mercury shortlist. Maybe you’re right. But what you might not know about me is that I’m a risk taker.

Savages – Silence Yourself
This will definitely be nominated, and I expect it to be the album that causes the most amount of debate. People will say their sound isn’t original. Others will talk about them being women. I suggest you silence yourself and just listen. Yeah, I worked the title of the album into that bit; my work here is done. Ah, if only…

Tom Odell – Long Way Down
He’s nice, isn’t he? And he has lovely hair. And his nomination would piss off the NME. He’s in. Quick, who’ll be first to interview his dad?

David Bowie – The Next Day
Bowie is currently favourite to win, which seems a bit unfair. If I was Bowie and/or Sony Music I’d have not entered. It’s not like he needs £20,000 or any more recognition. It’s not really fair. But life ISN’T fair, and you’re going to have to learn that pretty soon if you don’t want it to swallow you up and spit you out. See, David Bowie is actually HELPING.

Rudimental – Home
One of the big success stories of recent times, this seems like a pretty safe bet for a nomination, even though most people only know one song off it and that came out ages ago now. Maybe the other songs are worth hearing, did you think about that?

Disclosure – Settle
Another one that seems like a safe bet, even though that would mean there were two dance albums in the shortlist, which would be almost as crazy as having two Scottish bands. Well, people are always saying the Mercury Prize needs a shake up.

Bat For Lashes – The Haunted Man
This is one I’m less confident about, partly because I’d completely forgotten that Bat For Lashes even released another album this last year. Also, this making the shortlist would mean that all three BFL albums had been nominated, and not even Laura Marling managed that.

Laura Mvula – Sing To The Moon
Laura Mvula has the sort of back story that works well in voiceovers at awards ceremonies, so that automatically puts her in a strong position. Also, whatever you think of her music, she has created an album that is very much her own sound.

Jake Bugg – Jake Bugg
Jake Bugg is absolutely, without doubt, the worst thing to happen to the music industry for 20 years. And yet people continue to encourage him. Shame on you all.

Bastille – Bad Blood
Don’t underestimate Bastille. I have on at least two occasions and I’m not about to do it again. I wasn’t that enamoured with ‘Bad Blood’, despite being a fan of Bastille’s early singles, but a lot of people felt differently.

James Blake – Overgrown
I’m not sure enough people have said how good James Blake’s second album is, so I’m going to tell you now that it’s very good indeed. Is that a controversial position? I’m not sure, but I really, really like it, so there.

Pet Shop Boys – Electric
Yes, along with David Bowie this is another big comeback (maybe not quite as big in this case), but an earlier draft of this list had Johnny Marr in it as well. Imagine that.

Bellowhead – Broadside
As we draw to the end of my list, it’s time to pick the folk and jazz albums. Because we know they’ll be there. They’re the hardest to pick too, because the judges will only let one of each in, so you can’t just throw a load of stuff at the wall like you can with the pop. For the folk prize, I’m going with Bellowhead because they’ve won quite a lot of Radio 2 Folk Awards and not much else, so it’s time they had something different in their trophy cabinet.

Laura Jurd – Landing Ground
And finally, my jazz choice is trumpet player Laura Jurd. Her debut album released last year mixes classical music into jazz and has received high acclaim as a result. She’s only 21 too, and youthfulness is something that goes down well with Mercury judges. Despite them all being 93.



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