So the 2011 Mercury Prize nominations for album of the year have been announced; and as expected, there’s some fantastic albums shortlisted. In anticipation ahead of tonight’s ceremony at The Hospital Club, London here’s an album by album breakdown of the nominees. We’ve tipped some of these artists for success for 2011, and it’s refreshing to see an awards ceremony celebrating genuinely innovative and forward-thinking new music.
Adele – 21
Let’s do this alphabetically – and coincidentally start with the most predictable nomination. If an artist can sell 2.2 million copies in the U.S alone and reach the #1 slot for 10 (nonconsecutive) weeks, it becomes fair to say it’s been a good year. Let’s face it, when it comes to popular music Adele has been the voice of 2011. 21 is a record full of hits that has propelled her from her status as a success into an extraordinary pop sensation. The glory of 21 hasn’t faded yet, and it won’t be at all surprising if she adds yet another award to her rapidly filling trophy cabinet.
Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi
NME favourite Anna Calvi is perhaps one of the less likely nominees, with her self-titled debut album. But there’s no doubt that 2011 has been the year that’s got her noticed. Touring with the NME Radar Tour and being nominated for the BBC Sound of 2011 poll, Calvi has earned her place as one of the most inspiring female vocalists of the past year. Her unmistakable vocals and quintessentially British aroma has drawn up comparisons to flattering influences such as PJ Harvey and Nick Cave. We wouldn’t tip her for the prize, but there’s much more ahead of Anna Calvi.
Elbow – Build A Rocket Boys!
One of the more reputable names shortlisted is Manchester’s rock veterans, Elbow. Their fifth and most recent album, Build A Rocket Boys! has been subject to acclaim from the majority of publications – and tipped by many to be the best of their almost 15 year career. With their fantastic live reputation and positive progression as musicians, Elbow deserve recognition for their impressive contribution to British music. Have they nailed the album of the year? Well, they’ve got some pretty tough competition – and could quite probably be edged about by one of the newcomers.
Everything Everything – Man Alive
Let’s be honest, what a win would this be. Not only because Everything Everything are perhaps the underdogs here, but because Man Alive is genuinely one of the most interesting and creative records of the year – at the same time as being undeniably contagious. Everything Everything have been one of the leaders in the evolution of Manchester’s music exports, and their incomparable sound sticks out like a sore thumb (but in a good way). What could be better that seeing a band that writes songs about Adobe Photoshop and NASA clinch this years award.
Ghostpoet – Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam
It’s nice to see the Mercury Prize recognise contributions to urban and electronic music. With SBTRKT not being shortlisted, Ghostpoet only has to top Katy B and James Blake to be in for a chance of winning the award. Easier said than done, but Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam is a brilliant new twist on urban culture, with experimental yet dance-able tracks such as One Twos / Run Run Run and Cash and Carry me Home making their mark this year, it would be very naive to say Ghostpoet doesn’t stand a chance of coming out on top.
Gwilym Simcock – Good Days At Schloss Elmau
If Gwilym Simcock won the Mercury Prize for best album – that would be a pretty huge surprise. Simcock is a long way out of the most people’s musical radars – and although as a musician Simcock is one of the most incredible pianists around this has to be the biggest surprise on the nominee shortlist. Perhaps we don’t have the winner here, but it’s impossible not to admire the musicianship of this jazz pianist – truly keeping traditional styles alive and acting as a new-era pioneer of British Jazz.
James Blake – James Blake
When it comes to electronic innovation, James Blake must be the leading figure of the year. Blake, originally with Limit To Your Love changed many peoples perceptions of bass music and dubstep completely; with his unique addition of vocal manipulation that works beautifully both on his self-titled EP and on-stage. In the space of 12 months Blake has gone from producing at home to playing at some of the worlds biggest festival. It’s a crazy achievement, and completely deserving of appraise. James Blake must be one of the more likely artists to pick up tonight’s top spot.
Katy B – On A Mission
Although she hasn’t had the same impact or financial comfort that Adele’s gained this year; there’s no doubt that Katy B‘s take on popular music has played a big part in it’s progression towards the urban, bass prominent sounds of 2011. With help from dubstep producer, and part of supergroup Magnetic Man, Katy has released several urban anthems that have brought the sounds of suburban London into the British spotlight for all to see.
King Creosote & Jon Hopkins – Diamond Mine
Another surprise but fantastic nomination is the collaborative album between King Creosote and Jon Hopkins, Diamond Mine. The beautiful voice of King Creosote has had airplay from the likes of BBC 6 Music over the past year, but generally this is an artist that doesn’t get the deserved level of recognition. Real name Kenny Anderson, through King Cresote Anderson has encaptured everything beautiful about his surroundings in Fife, Scotland and exerted them through a selection of beautiful acoustic tracks – backed by brilliant productions from Jon Hopkins.
Metronomy – The English Riviera
2011 has seen the return of dance-tastic (yes, I went there) electro-pop outfit Metronomy. At times the boundary between silly and distorted can be a blur, but it’s completely clear that Metronomy are always 100% brilliant. The English Riviera is a progression on the earlier sounds of Pip Paine and the more successful Nights Out. By far the most successful of releases so far reaching #17 in the UK chart, The English Riviera is a demonstration of intriguing pop music – and yet another example of forward-thinking British musicianship.
PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
The hauntingly beautiful voice of PJ Harvey returns with Let England Shake – which, as the album suggests, is one of the most cultured and relevant British records of the past year. Let England Shake feels like a flash back to the past – a reflection on England’s roots and culture. Harvey’s expressed the importance of creating a completely different album to earlier releases, and she’s done exactly that. Reaching the top 10 spot in the UK and most of Europe’s album charts, Let England Shake focuses on England, but it isn’t an English record. It’s universal appeal could well push Harvey up to the top.
Tinie Tempah – Disc-Overy
Innovative record of the year? Maybe not. But we can’t deny the fact that Tinie Tempah has pushed his take on Hip-Hop right to the top of the charts. Whether he’s the new messiah of hip-hop or one of those responsible for it’s demise is debatable, but his success isn’t. Despite his ridiculous name and almost chunder-worthy, self-glorified album art – few have made as much as an impact as Tinie in such a small space of time. There’s no doubt that Tinie will be in with a good chance of winning tonight – but it’s got to be said, we won’t be backing him this time.