With the shortlist for acts nominated for this years Barclaycard Mercury Prize due to be announced on Wednesday 10th September 2014, we thought we’d throw our two cents in and name who we believe is likely to be included on the official shortlist and have a chance at following in the footsteps of last year’s winner James Blake in taking home the coveted prize.
In no particular order…
Jungle – Jungle
We gave Jungle’s eponymous album 4 stars when we reviewed it earlier in the year and we think the West London duo have a strong chance of being the 14th band to lift the prize. The decorative beats and falsetto vocals of debut single ‘Busy Earnin’ caught the attention of critics and music lovers alike when it was released and they even had a spot performing on the US chat show Jimmy Kimmel Live! They have been one of the buzz bands of the year and are definite dark horses to lift the trophy.
Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots
Each year there is an act who has been nominated several times but failed to scoop the grand prize and this year, having previously been nominated twice with Blur and once with Gorillaz (sort of), our pick for the “in with a shout but maybe just a stretch too far” spot goes to Damon Albarn for his debut solo album Everyday Robots. We gave it a 3.5/5 rating in our review and it received positive reviews across the board from critics whilst also peaking at number two on the UK albums chart but although he should feature on the shortlist, it seems as though it may be another “thanks but no thanks” when it comes to the Mercury Prize once again for everyone’s favourite polyglot.
Kate Tempest – Everybody Down
South East London spoken word artist/rapper Kate Tempest is leading the charge this year with her critically acclaimed album Everybody Down, which was released in May this year. Telling the story of several characters in a similar style to The Streets 2004 release A Grand Don’t Come For Free, the album is a mash up of hip hop beats with spoken word narrative and looks set to be the main ‘urban’ nomination for this year. Tempest has already won the Ted Hughes Award for her theatrical spoken word piece Brand New Ancients so it could only be a matter of time before she adds another trophy to her mantelpiece. Surely a guarantee for the shortlist.
Sam Smith – In the Lonely Hour
If there is going to be an act who has already received huge mainstream chart success that takes home the prize then surely it has to be soul-singer/songwriter Sam Smith. Having come to public consciousness whilst featuring on Disclosure’s 2012 breakthrough track ‘Latch’, Smith has gone on to be named the BBC’s Sound of 2014 and also topped the UK album chart with his debut album In the Lonely Hour which was certified platinum and also charted at number two on the US Billboard chart. It’s rare for an album that has already had so much success to win the Mercury Prize but as Arctic Monkeys showed in 2006 when Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not was named the winner, it can happen. I wouldn’t bet my house on him winning, but stranger things have happened and he should at least make the shortlist.
Young Fathers – Dead
Ninja Tune imprint Big Dada Recordings has got previous in the competition with their artists Roots Manuva (2002) and Ty (2004) both being nominated but inevitably failing to win. Success eventually arrived when Speech Debelle caused an upset by scooping the award in 2009, beating the likes of Florence and the Machine, Kasabian and Friendly Fires in the process. This year, Young Fathers released their debut studio album Dead to extremely positive reviews and should definitely make the shortlist. The Edinburgh-based alternative hip-hop act have come a long way musically from their earlier mixtapes and the shortlist is bound to feature some diverse acts; could this be their year?
Metronomy – Love Letters
Electronic music group Metronomy could be a consideration for the shortlist with their fourth studio album Love Letters. Reviewed favorably by our good selves, Love Letters peaked at number 7 on the UK albums chart, making it Metronomy’s highest charting album to date. With a previous nomination in 2011, they have experience of walking away empty handed and if they do end up making the shortlist this year they may well need to draw on that experience once again, but it’s all about the taking part, right?
FKA Twigs – LP1
FKA Twigs is another artist who has a real shot at taking the title for 2014 having released her debut album LP1 in August. With a host of ‘One To Watch’ labels from the likes of Billboard, Spotify and the BBC, the Gloucestershire born alternative R&B artist made a huge splash in the music scene ocean with LP1, none more so than with the single ‘Two Weeks’ which received heavy air play in the UK on stations like Rinse FM and opened FKA Twigs up to an even wider audience. Potential frontrunner.
Chvrches – The Bones Of What You Believe
Having released The Bones Of What You Believe in September 2013, it would be easy to forget that Chvrches are eligible to take part in this years competition and with an album the quality of their debut, they have every chance of making this year’s shortlist. The Scottish synth-pop trio have seen major success with the album, charting in the UK top ten and entering the US chart at number twelve whilst also having their track ‘We Sink’ feature on the Fifa 14 soundtrack and ‘The Mother We Share’ feature at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. This mainstream success though may push the judges towards a slightly less well known nomination, but they should be a good shout to make the shortlist.
Wild Beasts – Present Tense
Wild Beasts’ debut album Two Dancers was nominated for the prize in 2010, being beaten to the prize by deserving winners The XX. 2014 has seen the indie rockers release their follow up Present Tense with NME and Uncut both awarding the album an impressive 9/10 rating. Although living up to the high expectations following a successful debut album is extremely difficult to do, Wild Beasts certainly managed to live up to their hype and definitely deserve a place on the shortlist. A must for the final 12, even if they don’t win, they should surely be given the award for most passive aggressive swearing on a track for the ‘f-bomb’ they drop on their single ‘Wanderlust’.
Temples – Sun Structures
They’re a psychedelic rock band with a 2014 Beatles-esque sound and have been cited by both Johnny Marr and Noel Gallagher as the best new band in Britain; that automatically adds them to the shortlist doesn’t it? After reaching the UK top ten with their debut offering Sun Structures in February and receiving a 4.5/5 from our review of the album, the band went on to play a storming set at Reading and Leeds this year and have got to be considered strong contenders to be included on the shortlist.
As the Urban Music Editor on the site, it is great to be able to mention artists like FKA Twigs and Young Fathers in the same breath as such an established and well respected figure in UK music as Damon Albarn and it shows that the Mercury Prize still remains relevant across a multitude of genres.
Whilst there are certain to be a couple of mainstream artists thrown in to ensure that the award remains relevant to those members of the public who say that they’ve “never heard of half the acts who’ve been nominated” and these are likely to come in the shape of Coldplay, Paolo Nutini or Ed Sheeran, the below shall be recorded as the Gigslutz prediction for the Mercury Prize 2014 shortlist. Let me know what you think of the predictions @MattTarrJourno and keep following @Gigslutz_ to see how close our predictions were when the final official shortlist is announced on 10th September!
Gigslutz Mercury Prize 2014 Shortlist (in no particular order)
– Young Fathers
– Sam Smith
– FKA Twigs
– Kate Tempest
– Wild Beasts
– Damon Albarn
– Bombay Bicycle Club