The Mercury shortlist will be revealed on Wednesday evening. You can check out 60 albums that could win here, read NME writers picks of who they want to see nominated and let us know in the comments who you want to see on the list.
Peace – ‘In Love’
Whilst the last 12 months have seen some truly exciting albums from more established bands like Arctic Monkeys, Foals and David Bowie, with the wealth of great new acts around at the moment, it feels like the Mercurys should be reflecting that. Swim Deep, Gabriel Bruce and Drenge have all released some cracking debuts this year but, for me, Peace just edged ahead with their first LP ‘In Love’. Pouring the heady rush of their live shows into one album, it’s a record that’s got everything. There’s dancefloor fillers (‘Wraith’, ‘Follow Baby’), lighter-waving anthems (‘Float Forever’, ‘California Daze’) and grungy, psych-tinged delirium (‘Higher Than The Sun’, ‘Waste Of Paint’). It’s an almost flawless debut, one that’s a gloriously triumphant first stride towards greatness and totally befitting of the Album Of The Year title.
Disclosure – ‘Settle’
The Mercury is often accused of ignoring pop and dance music so it would be wise for judges to pick Disclosure’s ‘Settle’ to line up alongside the 6Music safe bets and random jazz acts on this years shortlist. Featuring ‘Latch’ and ‘White Noise’, two of 2013’s most unavoidable and undeniable anthems, ‘Settle’ is an album which covers a lot of ground. It’s accessible but not too obvious, it has roots in independent music via PMR Records and is forward thinking at the same time. Like The xx in 2010, ‘Settle’ strikes me as being an album which is so undeniably the sound of this year that to ignore it would be perverse. I’d go as far as to say not only will the album deservedly be nominated, a £10 bet down the bookies on Guy and Howard Lawrence taking the prize itself might be a wise investment.
Primal Scream – ‘More Light’
Even at 51, there’s no question about whether Bobby Gillespie can still rock’n’roll. The thing is, on Primal Scream’s furiously political record ‘More Light’ he and his band also managed to put anger and danger back on the dancefloor. In an age when mainstream music has become studiously apathetic it would be heartening for the Mercury Prize to reward an album that squares up to Cameron’s war on the poor and intelligently and eloquently argues that we don’t have to put up with living in a world as heartless, venal and corrupt as the one we find ourselves in.
Kevin EG Perry
Arctic Monkeys – AM
Yeah, it’s an obvious choice. But when has the Mercury ever been obvious? ‘AM’ is Arctic Monkeys best album yet, they’re at the pinnacle of their career not to mention the forefront of British rock in 2013. And Jesus Christ, doesn’t that genre need a bit of love right now? Fact is, in a sea of drab, half-arsed British bands who are finding pretty astounding levels of success despite having zero exciting ideas, the Monkeys are a beacon of hope. The year’s already theirs – the Mercury deserves to be too.
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James Blake, Overgrown
Everyone’s favourite blubstepper lost out to PJ Harvey’s ‘Let England Shake’ for the Mercury Prize in 2011. ‘James Blake’ was an extraordinary album but arguably the finest songs on the album were covers. ‘Limit To Your Love’ was penned by Feist and ‘The Wilhem Scream’ a cover of Blake’s father James Litherland’s ‘Where to Turn’. Much of the rest of the album was co-written by Rob McAndrews. On ‘Overgrown’, the challenge for Blake’s ‘difficult second album’ was to prove himself as a songwriter, which he did with aplomb. From the potent “suddenly I’m hit!” of ‘Retrograde’, to the bone-chilling ‘Digital Lion’, the hauntingly warped ‘To The Last’ and ‘Take A Fall For Me’, the meaty collab with RZA, Blake is proving himself to be a British composer of tenacious talent.
Laura Marling, ‘Once I Was An Eagle’
Laura Marling’s never won the Mercury Prize which is frankly an outrage given that she’s one of our most prodigious writing talents. Her fourth album offers a near forensic analysis of her own psyche as she documents chronologically the beginning, middle and end of a failed love affair. The beauty in it lies in the fact that it’s not sad catharsis, but emancipatory as she comes out of the other end headstrong and defiant. She’s branched out musically too – from the noodly guitar picks on the brazenly brilliant ‘Master Hunter’ to the bluesy harp-laden ‘Where Can I Go’, it’s her most assertive album yet.
David Bowie, ‘The Next Day’
He doesn’t need the money, the recognition, or the Mercury sales boost, but Bowie’s 24th album is as fresh and razor-sharp as anything put out by a new British act this year. More than that, it set the agenda for this year’s big album releases: a clever marketing campaign that managed (and still manages) to preserve secrecy in the age of information overload. Daft Punk and Arcade Fire followed his lead. And who knows: a Mercury win may just tempt him to finally show his face…