Soak – Before We Forgot How To Dream
Soak has produced an album with beautiful melodies: ones that can capture your heart and make you reflect on the plights of growing older. Before We Forgot How to Dream contains an eclectic range of musical subtleties and lyrical composition that draws the listener in and forms a resonant artistic balance to engage with. From the intro, to the interludes, each song builds to a wonderful resolve that captures the imaginations of hearts, and un-bottles them for the world to hear. It’s effortless, yes; it’s perfectly produced, yes; and it’s moving.
C Duncan – Architect
With the Mercury music prize you can never tell what’s going to happen. Sometimes they go for something tellingly of the time. Other times they go for something timeless. This release from composer C Duncan is of the timeless variety. Architect could have been released any decade since the 1960s and would still be as titillating as it is now. Every track is injected with whimsy and wonder that transports you a million miles away from your present location. A truly beautiful effort that should keep the musos out there happy.
Aphex Twin – Syro
Syro has been hailed as “a triumphant return for a great pioneer of British electronic music” by the judging panel for this year’s Mercury Prize, who called it “compelling, playful and timeless”. It seems only fitting that Aphex Twin’s innovation and seamless skill in blending together so many elements should also be recognised with the award of this year’s Mercury Prize. The album is unique in its mainstream success, transcending the underground nature of the music Aphex Twin has been a game-changer in for over two decades.
Ghostpoet – Shedding Skin
No stranger to the Mercury Prize shortlist, Ghostpoet’s Shedding Skin is a rapid departure from his 2011 release Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam. With contributions from North Easterners Nadine Shah and Paul Smith from Maximo Park appearing alongside up and coming singer-songwriter Lucy Rose and Belgian jazz singer Melanie De Biasio, the album incorporates a range of genres, that showcases the myriad of influences the 32 year old Obaro Ejimiwe has under his belt.
Slaves – Are You Satisfied?
The duo have kick-started an unlikely punk resurgence and changed the face of music with their ferocious, short and snappy hits such as ‘Sockets’ and ‘The Hunter’. However, Slaves are not a one trick pony as demonstrated by the slower, yet equally politically charged, ‘Wow!!! 7AM’ and the acoustic ‘Are You Satisfied?’. Through their brash and almost animalistic live performances, Laurie Vincent and Isaac Holman attack both the audience and the establishment with vigour as they bring this album to life. You won’t have missed them this summer.
Roisin Murphy – Hairless Toys
The latest release from Roisin Murphy is a cosmic/cybernetic glimpse to an era when disco making popstars are androids incapable of making imperfect albums. Hairless Toys cements Murphy as a musical ice queen who is as sensual as she is unapproachable. If this record wins the prize it will clearly be a win for the robots. Which ain’t such a bad thing if they’re making music as sexy as the ex-lead singer of legendary 00s dance legends Moloko.
Florence and the Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
The band’s ability to develop and adapt reflects their artistic depth making them especially deserving of the Mercury Prize. This album takes the listener on a heartfelt journey of love, loathe and loss. The emotion that runs through each track is built from layers of passionate lyrics, pleasing melodies and powerful vocals which seem to tessellate around one other. With consistently positive reviews from the likes of NME, The Telegraph and Rolling Stone, it is difficult to fault this album.
Eska – Eska
The eponymous debut album from Eska is as haunting as it is beautiful. It seems to straddle genres by evoking dream pop, soul, R&B and post-punk. The album tricks you into thinking it’s compositionally sparse but do not be deceived. Each track builds to a dazzling multi-textured zenith. Her world weary voice on tracks like ‘Rock of Ages’ make you think that this is an artist at the top of their game and not someone who’s released their first album within the space of this year. She deserves to win based on the maturity of her music.
Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool
When the release date for their album was finally announced, it was impossible to approach it without hope and trepidation. My Love Is Cool retains the wild exuberance and desire that are hallmarks of the greatest debut albums, yet it is tempered by a poignant reflection, making it more than just a brilliant debut. Their voracious hunger for creating new material and experimenting with a range of styles has produced an innovative album that triumphs in its diversity, whilst still being bloody good fun to listen to.
Benjamin Clementine – At Least For Now
If you’re not captivated by the opening piano chords of ‘Winston Churchill’s Boy’ then I would go see a doctor to make sure you’re still alive. This is a sumptuous recording that comes across effortless. If you think you can see comparisons between 2005’s surprise winner Antony and the Johnsons and this release by Benjamin Clementine you wouldn’t be mistaken as Clementine is an ardent Antony fan. It’s been a decade since I Am A Bird Now won so perhaps it’s time that something beautifully flamboyant took the prize.
Jamie XX – In Colour
If this year’s Mercury Prize is to be awarded on the basis of objective value and talent, it has to go to Jamie xx. Although In Colour is the product of just one man, there is still a strong sense of community on the record as The XX’s Romy Madley Croft contributes greatly to the record’s glory, lending vocals to the uplifting summer anthem ‘Loud Places’ and the heart-wrenchingly beautiful ‘SeeSaw’. Jamie XX has triumphantly blended the modern genres of House, Hip Hop and Future Garage on one palette to invent a new attractive colour, emitting many shades of the 21st century’s musical rainbow to please the masses.
Gaz Coombes – Matador
If you listen to BBC 6 Music there’s literally know way you could have missed the title track of Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes’ sophomore album. Where 2012’s Here Comes the Bombs was typical NME fodder, Matador is distinctly more experimental. Gone is the flippant hedonism of Britpop and here is a more mature and pensive troubadour. Supergrass’ I Should Coco was nominated in 1995 so perhaps this an award that would celebrate Coombes’ musical evolution from a simple frontman to a true storyteller.