Who Should Win The Mercury Prize 2012?

The wait is over! The winner of the Mercury Prize 2012 will be announced this evening. Grumblings over the list will assuage, quiche will be scoffed and the triumphant will walk away with £20,000. So who will it be? Alt-J? Jessie Ware? Field Music? Here’s a closer look at the nominations.


So what have we got? First up: the easy listening category includes Ben Howard, the UK’s Jack Johnson, Michael Kiwanuka, the UK’s Jack Johnson, and Lianne La Havas, she of the beautiful voice.

The ‘mighty’ Roller Trio

Next, the first ‘WTF?’ card. Sam Lee’s website claims he uses “unconventional and contemporary arrangements that challenge preconceptions of what ʻtraditional folkʼ should sound like”. It also say he used to be a burlesque dancer. I know what I’m more interested in. Roller Trio, the token jazz group, sound exciting. Gilles Peterson has described them as the “new sound of UK jazz” and he’s usually right.

Sam Lee and Michael Kiwanuka

Then there’s the clever, genuinely good indie. Field Music’s fifth album ‘Plumb’ should definitely be in with a chance of winning. The Brewis brothers deserve more recognition for their unpredictable art rock. Also, props to anyone with the audacity to put out an album of 21 songs (‘Measure’). Django Django’s album and live shows are lots of fun, but it’s more a day out at Chessington than something you can really dig your teeth into.

The Maccabees have written a very good album with ‘Given To The Wild’. I remember hearing ‘Pelican’ on a treadmill in early January and thinking “Yes! This will be a good year for new music”. Richard Hawley’s album is brilliant, but it’s not breaking any conventions. But, you might ask, why should it? The criteria of the Mercury Awards is confusing. It claims to:

Cover a diverse range of styles and genres, highlighting what has been an exciting period for UK music. The twelve albums, share a common sense of adventure, pushing music in fresh and dynamic directions.

That’s true if it means albums pushing music in fresh and dynamic directions as fast as an old sloth.

Django Django

It’s good to see Alt-J’s ‘An Awesome Wave’ on the list. I’m not sure about the dubstep and hip-hop emphasis that’s often mentioned, but the drummer Thom Sonny Green creates interesting, exciting beats. The album is inventive; its details and the way they sit with each other make for a compelling friction. Jessie Ware’s ‘Devotion’ is also a well-deserving nominee. Her nu-soul combines a goosebump-inducing voice with electronic beats and flourishes, including a looped Big Pun sample on ‘110%’. Nice. Plan B’s album isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but he deserves a nod for being the only UK artist to write a notable political song this millennia.

But the galling omission from this year’s shortlist is music from the electronic, bass and grime scenes. Without representation, this year’s nominations are in no way an accurate picture of UK music. It’s this sort of behaviour that encourages America to believe it invented dubstep. Rustie’s maximalist symphony ‘Glass Swords’ is the most forward-thinking and dynamic album of the year and it’s baffling that he was ignored. Other artists who were robbed include Actress, Lone, Kindness, Micachu & The Shapes, The Invisible, Wiley and Kate Bush.

The list is about as ground-breaking as a pneumatic drill made of omelette. Although there’s nothing offensive about any of the acts put forward, there’s an awful lot of safe tunes for your mum and BBC Radio 2 listeners. The kind of music on compilations they play in cafes in Clapham.

The Mercurys are a key platform for new, exciting artists to break out and receive wider attention. They were set up as a credible alternative to the Brits in 1992. May I suggest that 20 years later, there’s space for an award with a similar original purpose?

We’ve made a Spotify playlist of the nominees which you can listen to below. You’ll have to find Roller Trio elsewhere. Let us know who you think should win by voting in our poll.

The full list of nominated albums is:

Alt-J – ‘An Awesome Wave’ (5/1)
Richard Hawley – ‘Standing On The Sky’s Edge’ (4-1)
Plan B – ‘Ill Manors’ (4-1)
Sam Lee – ‘Ground Of Its Own’ (10-1)
Lianne La Havas – ‘Is Your Love Big Enough?’ (8-1)
Django Django – ‘Django Django’ (5-1)
The Maccabees – ‘Given To The Wild’ (7-1)
Ben Howard – ‘Every Kingdom’ (8-1)
Jessie Ware – ‘Devotion’ (7-1)
Roller Trio – ‘Roller Trio’ (10-1)
Field Music – ‘Plumb’ (10-1)
Michael Kiwanuka – ‘Home Again’ (8-1)