The Mercury Prize shortlist will be announced in the coming weeks, celebrating the best British Albums of the last 12 months. Often considered a welcome alternative to the Brits awards that celebrate commerical success over ‘quality’ when deciding on a shortlist, winning the Mercury Prize can kickstart a successful career (See The XX and Dizzee Rascal). I won’t be predicting the shortlist, as usually there are only 7 or so albums I’ve actually heard of given some attention, instead I’ll make a case for 6 albums I think should be given some love. Some may say my picks are too ‘commerical’ but these are the 6 British albums I’ve enjoyed the most from the last 12 months and I would be happy to see any of these appear on the shortlist.
Florence & The Machine – Ceremonials
I’ll start with the album most likely to appear on the shortlist, Florence was nominated for Lungs in 2009 and I’m sure she will be for Ceremonials. A more complete album in every way, it remains true to the F&TM sound while still feeling inventive and fresh. This is the haunting soundtrack of emotional relationships and still managed to reach incredible heights of euphoria throughout. It’s a worthy contender for the Mercury prize, proving just enough subtle moments to contrast with the often ridiculously epic vocals of Florence herself. A British talent to be proud of and might just scoop the prize.
Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know
Sure to be another early favourite for voters if nominated this would be Laura Marling’s third album to get a mention from Mercury. Her sound has expanded so much at this point, the thrilling intensity of The Beast melting easily into the restrained Night After Night. Her impeccable voice is again the main reason this album is so good, Laura Marling would probably be in my top 5 Vocalists of all time. Effortless from start to finish A Creature I Don’t Know is a masterclass in folk crossover. I think she has a fair chance of a nomination again this year and in my book she is a huge contender for the prize itself.
Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto
I decided to get the three most likely artists out of the way first, Mylo Xyloto would be the fourth Coldplay album to be shortlisted. It’s the album that spoke to me the most out of everything they’ve ever done. They capture that epic stadium sound that they deliver on tour better than ever here, whilst experimenting with their sound to great effect. It is their most commercial record to date though, which could prevent it from getting a nomination this year. It was the album that really made a fan of the group so I would love to see it mentioned in the coming weeks.
Nicola Roberts – Cinderella’s Eyes
The thought of a member of Girls Aloud being a contender for the Mercury Prize is sure to make some of my more ‘alternative’ readers uncomfortable, but even the indie kids couldn’t deny the quality of pop featured on Cinderella’s Eyes. Besides the throbbing Diplo sound of Beat of My Drum or the Robyn style rapping on Take A Bite, it’s the way that Nicola draws on her personal life for inspiration on these songs that makes it worthy of attention here. Sticks + Stones talks of the bullying she received early on in Girls Aloud, ‘Funny how I was so young for so many things, yet you’d think I’d cope with being told I’m ugly’ is the sort of lyric you would never expect on a ‘Girlband gone Solo’ album. The chances of it getting a nomination are slim, but few albums deserve it more than this.
Rebecca Ferguson – Heaven
Another taboo type of potential nominee for many, an X Factor contestant. Rebecca Ferguson proved with debut album Heaven that the show really could launch a superstar with talent worthy of representing Britain. She was brilliant on X Factor, but here she’s honed in on the style of music that suits her perfectly. Comparisons to Adele’s 21 are warranted, this is a record aimed at the same audience. Rebecca Ferguson has a more unusual vocal tone though, and lyrically has a less sombre outlook on heartbreak. It could be a surprise choice when the shortlist is announced, and Rebecca more than deserves it for Heaven.
Plan B – ill Manors
I’ve saved this album for last because it’s the only one I haven’t mentioned on the blog yet. I don’t want to pre-empt myself too much, but provided nothing crazy happens in the rest of 2012 ill Manors will absolutely be top of my end of year album list. The best album I’ve heard since My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, ill Manors is far and away my pick for the winner of this year’s Mercury Prize. So much more than a soundtrack to the film of the same name, this is Ben Drew (Plan B’s real name) expressing these stories in the greatest medium he can. He’s the narrator of 11 graphic tales of drugs, prostitution and ‘real life’ on the streets of urban London with the opening track acting as a sort of introduction to proceedings. It isn’t just the incredible lyrics that make ill manors an impressive achievement, the album is a complete work. The production is inventive and much like Defamation Of Strickland Banks goes a long way to bring you further into the world Ben is portraying. This is the sound of a musician coming into his own and trying to make a difference to society and for the people he cares about. It’s a brutal, emotional and honest depiction of a time and place and yet again proves that Plan B is one of the UK’s greatest talents. An incredible record, I will not be happy if ill Manors is ignored on this year’s Mercury Prize Shortlist.
Some other worthy picks
Other albums I would be happy to see making an appearance. Just making the cut is The XX‘s new album Coexist released on the last day of the eligibility period. Having won the award 2 years ago I wouldn’t be surprised to see them again. Ben Howard and his album Every Kingdom could make it too, though I’d rather see Laura Marling taking the folk spot on the shortlist. Kate Bush‘s 50 Words for Snow is being shown as the early favourite by the bookies and seeing Kate get shortlisted would be brilliant. A final choice? Cheryl’s A Million Lights may make most of the people who care about the Mercury Prize feel ill but I would much rather see her make it than acts like Rita Ora.