London Grammar - If You Wait
I am exasperated. Confused. Unsure of the world around me. How the fine folk who decide the Mercury Prize nominations somehow forgot about London Grammar is more than I can take. Convinced from the very first listen that this was the best album of the year, I cockily threw If You Wait around with pomposity, certain it would sweep Bowie and friends aside with the ease that its sound embraces. Sexing up the guitar-based electronica of The xx with the soulful pillow talk of Hannah Reid (no doubt a secret lovechild of Florence Welch), If You Wait is an ethereal treasure. And who doesn’t like treasure? Apparently the guys down at Mercury have shown a major oversight in not crediting London Grammar with the acclaim they deserve. Expect big things from this three-piece in the future.
The 1975 - The 1975
Following a series of successful EPs and radio-friendly singles in the form of Sex, The City and Chocolate, The 1975 were hotly tipped as one of the best emerging bands of 2013. This made their exclusion from the Mercury Prize a bit of a shock, especially given the depth of song-writing and musicality of the band’s debut. Their self-titled album, The 1975, was filled with quality. It included the aforementioned singles, as well as new tracks like Heart Out and M.O.N.E.Y, making the album an essential for fans of The 1975’s eighties-informed sound. The band were a noted success on the festival circuit as well this year, with performances at Reading and Glastonbury earning the band rave reviews. Even though it seems like they’ve been overlooked this year, I’m sure there’s more to come from The 1975.
Frank Turner - Tape Deck Heart
In seven years Frank Turner has released five mind-blowingly brilliant solo albums and won exactly zero major industry awards. This is a fact that he probably enjoys, being a punk revolutionary at heart. Yet you would at least think that the Mercury’s, an award famous for nominating warbling singer-songwriters alongside ‘proper’ bands and the token left-field weirdo, would love a man that encompasses all of this and more. Tape Deck Heart is the most depressing thing that Frank Turner has ever released, and it still manages to come together as the best complete album he’s recorded to date. It’s sad, it’s funny, it’s got a song that’s basically about how much he loves to dance with an opening ripped off from I Will Survive… So what’s not to love, Mercury Awards?
Bonobo - The North Borders
Simon Green’s brand of lucid, hypnotising electronic music has been entrancing us since his first album in 2001. This year he released The North Borders, and with it found new success. The North Borders is understated in its quiet layers of crisp percussion and soothing melodies, and the production flawlessly blends electronic elements with perfectly-chosen instrumentation alongside, as always, excellent vocals from his guest singers. Bonobo has consistently proven his mastery of the genre, and The North Borders epitomizes the effortlessness with which he lulls the listeners with his intricate yet beautifully simple, chilled electronic music.
Tribes - Wish To Scream
In a music industry that is currently dominated by dance music, chart pop and rap, many have argued that guitar bands are a thing of the past. Only so many festival anthems can be written and only so many guitar solos can be played, say many critics. With their sophomore album Wish to Scream, Tribes answered the doubters with 11 tracks of classic songwriting that didn’t sound tired. In a year that views Oasis as history, when people are still clamouring over 70 year old Rolling Stones, it is refreshing to hear four guys sing and play guitars loudly whilst still sounding comfortable in their own skins. They may not have created a genre but they’ve certainly revitalised one.
Peace - In Love
It is in my mind, disappointing, that arguably the most accomplished debut from an English rock band this year has been overlooked for nomination. Peace plainly recorded this album with a love of the 90s in mind, as Brit-pop, Baggy and Shoegaze in equal measure seem influential in all 14 tracks- although Peace are far from being any sort of tribute act. From Indie Dance anthem Bloodshake, to the brilliantly simple teenage singalong Lovesick, to epic slower tracks like California Daze and Float Forever, In Love is packed to the brim with talented songwriting and killer guitar riffs.
CHVRCHES - The Bones Of What You Believe
CHVRCHES’ debut album has been eagerly anticipated ever since the release of their single, The Mother We Share, back in November 2012. Lead singer Lauren Mayberry’s voice mixes stunningly with the trio’s fluid synthpop. The album is wonderfully paced, with the opening tracks The Mother We Share and We Sink providing marquee hits, whilst Tether delivers a delightfully measured introduction, culminating in a beautifully layered climax. Whilst some of the experimental aspects of the album may go unappreciated, to me they serve as a testament to the group’s range and ambition.
My Bloody Valentine - MBV
MBV takes the idea that people know what music they enjoy, and completely ignores it. If sounds were shapes, individually you would visualise each element from the album as the product of a drug-induced nightmare. However, My Bloody Valentine has managed to put something together which, whilst on a complete anti-culture with the majority of modern music, manages to be brilliant by encouraging you to reflect upon why you like the music you do.
Disclosure - Settle So Disclosure weren’t completely overlooked by this year’s Mercury Prize - one has to credit the panel for at least nominating the Surrey-based duo. Yet I still find it a travesty that they weren’t named as this year’s winners. Debut album, Settle, was met with wildly positive reviews and featured appearances from top-class acts such as Jessie Ware, and London Grammar. What Disclosure really deserve recognition for is the fact that they have brought the genre of Deep House into the foreground of mainstream music, making a formerly niche genre greatly accessible through the creation of a near-flawless album.