You can never second-guess the Mercury shortlist. There are always albums on there you wouldn’t expect. The shortlist for the Mercury prize will be announced next week (September 10). Who could be nominated? Here’s 60 British albums that could be in the running…
The shortlist for the Mercury prize will be announced next week (September 10). Who could be nominated? Here's 60 British albums that could be in the running, starting with FKA Twigs' 'LP9'. "Twigs pitches sound against silence, lending her songs a cosmic eeriness," wrote Hazel Sheffield about the Young Turks signings' debut record. Producers included Dev Hynes, Paul Epworth and Clams Casino.
Honeyblood - 'Honeyblood'
"‘Honeyblood’ is visceral pop music giving its prettiest snarl," wrote Mark Beaumont, stamping the Glasgow duo’s album with a 9/10. Released by Fat Cat Records, the album gave Stina Tweeddale and Shona McVicar's career a kickstart.
Wild Beasts - 'Present Tense'
"Adventurers of archaic guitar-pop, 'Present Tense’ roams a landscape which couldn’t have been charted by anyone else," wrote Ben Hewitt in his NME review, awarding it a 9/10. 'Present Tense' - their fourth album, released by Domino Records - was described by the Kendal-formed band as more "melodic and pop."
The Horrors - 'Luminous'
After a difficult period in the studio with delays, The Horrors completed ‘Luminous’. Craig Silvey (Portishead, Arcade Fire) and Paul Epworth helped produce the XL-released record, the band's fourth. NME reviewer Barry Nicolson wrote: ‘Four albums in, their own future remains tantalisingly unwritten’.
Katy B - 'Little Red'
The more mature, multi-textured album ‘Little Red’ reintroduces Peckham-based Katy. The album topped the charts, making it her first number one album in the UK. "It's a grower, a record about learning to dust off heartache and returning to the scene of the crime," wrote NME reviewer Eve Barlow.
Morrissey - 'World Peace Is None Of Your Business'
Morrissey was dropped by his label, Harvest, just three weeks after ‘World Peace Is None of Your Business’ was released, but he'd already managed to “reclaim his throne as the last of the famous international pop provocateurs”, wrote Ben Hewitt.
Pulled Apart By Horses - 'Blood'
The Leeds band Pulled Apart By Horses released their album ‘Blood’ earlier this year on their label Best Of The Best and Sony Red. "Doubtless they'll work it out in the pit, but it's hard to shake the feeling they could do so much more," we said.
Young Fathers - 'Dead'
The debut album from Youth Fathers, made for “an album that’s unique, but maddeningly all over the place” wrote Phil Hebblethwaite. The hip-hop trio from Edinburgh's release came out on Big Dada and included the enormous banger 'Get Up'. A strong contender, we'd imagine.
Eagulls - 'Eagulls'
"For all the ugliness that spills out of Eagulls, they’re never anything less than vital; these are anthems for a doomed youth determined to kick against the pricks rather than mope forlornly and fruitlessly," wrote NME's Ben Hewitt.
Metronomy - 'Love Letters'
The much-awaited ‘Love Letters’ by Metronomy was recorded at Toe Rag studios in Hackney. "It is certainly an obdurate and insular one, whose charms are revealed coyly and across repeat listens," says Barry Nicolson. 2011 album 'The English Riviera' was nominated for a Mercury, could this be the band's year?
Erased Tapes' bewildering, bespectacled minimalist experimenter wowed us in the NME office with his new album ‘Whelm’, a whisper-quiet collection of sonically austere but emotionally rich songs. The Dorset-born talent would be a worthy nominee.
Cymbals - 'The Age Of Fracture'
"This record is fun with a capital ‘F’, but there are moments of gravitas too. Not easy to do, that," wrote Chris Cottingham in his NME review.
Fear Of Men - 'Loom'
Released in April, Fear of Men – consisting of British art students Jessica Weiss and Daniel Falvey - enjoyed a positive reception to debut album ‘Loom’. “Psychological trauma aside, there’s a warmth to Weiss’ soft, sighing vocals and Daniel Falvey’s rippling guitar textures that lifts ‘Loom’ to the heavens,” wrote Stuart Huggett.
Jungle - 'Jungle'
The self-titled debut from the mysterious Jungle came as “a rounded future pop record then; funky and reflective, ominous and ecstatic, as pouty as it is party,” wrote Mark Beaumont. It's self-produced and released on XL.
Happyness - ’Weird Little Birthday’
The London trio Happyness' ’Weird Little Birthday’ was described by Phil Hebblethwaite as “ultra-lo-fi, but an album nonetheless stuffed full of rich melodies and arch lyrical observations.”
Tom Vek - 'Luck'
Tom Vek released ‘Luck’ on Moshi Moshi to mixed critical reception. “It’s doomy, dangerous and has a bassline that sounds like he's playing conkers with wrecking balls. ‘Luck' has its moments, but in terms of defining a way forward for Vek, chance would be a fine thing,” says Gavin Haynes.
Manic Street Preachers - ‘Futurology’
Manic Street Preachers’ 12th album ‘Futurology’ debuted at number two in the UK Album Charts, making it their highest charting album since ‘Send Away the Tigers’ in 2007. “The Manics have never backed down from fighting against what’s expected of them,” wrote Ben Hewitt.
Rustie - 'Green Language'
Released on Warp, Rustie’s second album ‘Green Language’ was described by Ben Cardew as “an adventurous, enthralling, emotional and frequently brilliant album, then. And yet, from an artist of such rare talent, it’s also a frustrating, slightly underwhelming one.”
The Wytches - ‘Annabel Dream Reader’
The Peterborough three-piece's debut album ‘Annabel Dream Reader’ was produced by ex-Coral member Bill Ryder Jones and “is a blizzard of darkness that takes cues from experts in the field,” NME said.
James Yorkston - 'The Cellardyke Recording & Wassailing Society'
Yorkston impressed with his eighth album which included guest spots from KT Tunstall and The Pictish Trail. To top it off, the album was produced by Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor. “The time for Fife’s James Yorkston to be ranked as one of the country’s great songwriters is long overdue,” wrote Stuart Huggett.
Basement Jaxx - 'Junto'
Now on album number seven, “Basement Jaxx have spent years playing to huge numbers of sweaty people in fields around the world, yet their recorded output has been far from essential,” wrote Chris Cottingham. ‘Junto’ is their first album in five years.
Dan Michaelson & The Coastguards – ‘Distance’
Dan Michealson “is a beautiful lyricist, never self-pitying nor prone to blame or cliché, but the truest note he and his Coastguards strike is that despairing feeling when your heart becomes a stuck anchor dragging through the murk,” wrote Laura Snapes.
Temples - 'Sun Structures’
The debut album from Kettering band Temples ‘Sun Structures’ was “a fresh and energised ’60s homage,” says Mark Beaumont. Made in their hometown studio, the album gained celebrity fans such as Noel Gallagher and Johnny Marr, who said they are the best new band in Britain.
Woman's Hour - ‘Conversations’
‘Conversations’ is the debut from Kendal quartet, Woman’s Hour. “There are times… when the record threatens to stray into the MOR territory of, say, Dido, but when the songs are this honest and heartfelt, it's a forgivable transgression,” says Mischa Pearlman.
East India Youth - 'Total Strife Forever'
“It’s well-executed, quite odd, highly original and full of promise – exactly what you want from a debut album,” says Phil Hebblethwaite on Stolen Recordings signing East India Youth. ‘Total Strife Forever’ took three years to complete, and Will Doyle was influenced particularly by Brian Eno.
Sleaford Mods - ‘Divide and Exit’
"Sometimes, in times of complacency, what we really need is a band to rock up and tell everyone to fuck off," wrote Louis Pattison. It's actually the Nottingham duo's seventh album but in 2014 they've really struck a chord.
Band of Skulls - 'Himalayan'
“The Southampton rock trip showcase the lessons they learnt while supporting Queens of the Stone Age and Muse,” Lisa Wright wrote on Band of Skull’s third studio album, produced by Nick Launay, one of the most sought-after producers after his work with Arcade Fire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Nick Cave.
Lone - ‘Reality Testing’
Nottingham electronic musician Lone produced “an album that is both intriguingly new and gorgeously listenable,” said Ben Cardew. Lone’s fifth album, released by R&S, shifted towards a hip-hop groove.
Dry The River- ‘Alarms in the Heart’
The follow up to their successful debut album ‘Shallow Bed’ had a strong team working behind the scenes including Charlie Hugall (Florence And The Machine), Paul Savage (Franz Ferdinand) and Peter Miles (We Are The Ocean) producing the album. The album also had arrangements and strings from Valgeir Sigurðsson (Sigur Rós, Björk).
Bombay Bicycle Club - ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’
“This could be the moment when everything clicks,” wrote Barry Nicolson of Bombay Bicycle Club’s fourth album. After working with several producers on their previous albums, the band produced this album themselves.
Gruff Rhys - 'American Interior'
Teaming up with KT Tunstall and PJ Harvey’s producer Ali Chant, Gruff Rhys released ‘American Interior’ on label Turnstile. “Gruff Rhys has built a solid career on creating lush, immersive and fully-formed surrealist worlds outside of Super Furry Animals,” reviewed Mark Beaumont.
Elbow - ‘The Take Off and Landing of Everything’
Produced by Elbow’s keys man Craig Potter, ‘The Take Off and Landing of Everything’ is the Bury band’s sixth studio album, released through Fiction Records. Emily Mackay wrote: “This isn’t a bad or a lazy album, and Elbow are too good a band to ever be dismissed.”
Damon Albarn- ‘Everyday Robots’
‘Everyday Robots’ was one of the most anticipated albums of 2014. Though Albarn has worked on many projects including Gorillaz and Rocket Juice & the Moon, this was his first solo album. The album is “Autobiographical Albarn at his most honest and exposed,” wrote Mark Beaumont. Richard Russell and Brian Eno helped Albarn out on production duties.
Childhood - 'Lacuna'
London based Childhood “concocted a debut that’s more than capable of standing up to the rougher approach of their geographical peers. In doing so, they've uncovered a diamond,” wrote Lisa Wright. ‘Lacuna’, produced by Bloc Party’s Dan Carey, impressed, despite the fact that frontman Ben Romans-Hopcraft never played a note before the band met in 2012.
Royal Blood - 'Royal Blood'
The fastest-selling debut rock album for three years, the self-titled album by Brighton duo Royal Blood “proves that‚ like all the best heavy music, it's the moments of vulnerable calm that elevate noisy bands highest,” wrote Ben Patashnik.
Coves - 'Soft Friday'
Given a 9/10 by NME’s Mark Beaumont, Coves debut album is “cold-blooded revenge pop that strikes like a shard of shattered plate to the heart”. The London duo worked with Paul Weller’s Brendan Lynch on ‘Soft Friday’ which was released on Nettwerk.
Amazing Snakeheads - ‘Amphetamine Ballads’
The debut album from Glasgow's Amazing Snakeheads “showcases a group with good taste… and the ability to cook up an adrenalised racket or a melancholy fog,” wrote Noel Gardner. Since then they've announced a change in personnel with frontman Dale Barclay the only remaining member from the line-up that released the band's debut in April.
Kate Tempest - ‘Everybody Down’
‘As a rapper, she’s excellent, balancing deft flow and dense storytelling to the detriment of neither,” says Louis Pattison on Kate Tempest debut, ‘Everybody Down’. Award winning poet, spoken word artist and playwright, Kate Tempest dazzled with her record released on Big Dada.
Thumpers - 'Galore'
London duo Thumpers released their playful debut ‘Galore’ on Red Records. It's an album “that sounds like a follower, not a leader,” says David Renshaw.
Alexis Taylor - 'Await Barbarians'
Hop Chip’s frontman Alexis Taylor's second solo effort ‘Await Barbarians’ eradicated any familiar reminisces and wiped away all traces of the day job here: "'Await Barbarians' is largely beatless and almost completely devoid of immediacy,” said Matthew Horton.
The Courteeners - 'Concrete Love'
‘Concrete Love’ is “nothing to beat their own drum about,” wrote Barry Nicolson.
Coldplay - 'Ghost Stories'
The spacey, synthy ‘Ghost Stories’ from multi-award winning Coldplay was a bit of a damp squib. It was described by NME reviewer Matthew Horton as a “feeling more than a collection of songs, and [it] takes a willing reception for granted”.
Adult Jazz - 'Gist Is'
The Leeds-based quartet Adult Jazz's debut album ‘Gist Is’ was recorded in a makeshift studio in a barn in Scotland over three years. They “make low-key pop more exciting with their clever folk harmonies and mind-bending experimentation,” said Robert Cooke.
Mogwai - 'Rave Tapes'
"‘Rave Tapes’ doesn’t stray far from the Mogwai comfort zone, but nor is it the sound of a band clapped out. Nineteen years in, there are still crescendos left to climb,"wrote Louis Pattison of the Scottish legends' 2014 album.
Lily Allen - 'Sheezus'
Homage to Kanye West’s ‘Yeezus’, Lily Allen sprung back into 2014 with new album ‘Sheezus’ which was given a lowly 3/10 by NME: “For all Allen’s excuses, the naff ‘Sheezus’ is the sorriest,” wrote Laura Snapes. The album was produced by Grammy-nominated Greg Kurstin, who also produced Sia's number one US album '1,000 Forms Of Fear.'
La Roux - 'Trouble In Paradise'
Going solo left Elly Jackson free to indulge in lush neo-disco - laced with anxiety." In spite of all the terror and uncertainty," wrote Matthew Horton, "it's the warmth that lingers."
Klaxons – ‘Love Frequency’
“Klaxons have long claimed to be a pop band at heart, and this is the closest to an outright pop record they’ve ever made. Despite the claim that no drugs were involved in its making, there’s an unmistakable first-pill purity about ‘Children Of The Sun’ and ‘Invisible Forces’," said Barry Nicolson of nu-rave lads' fourth album.
Sohn – ‘Tremors’
“All 11 icy nocturnes here come soaked in dread, from the gently classical ‘Tempest’ to arresting piano anthem ‘Paralysed’. Tracks like ‘Bloodflows’ show off SOHN’s gift for a disarmingly simple lyric. “My love, my love, my love don’t love me,” he croons over a beat James Blake would covet," wrote Al Horner of the shadowy Vienna producer.
Slow Club - 'Complete Surrender'
“Coming on like Sheffield’s very own two-person take on The Commitments, Charles Watson and Rebecca Taylor’s third album sees them loading up the big soul guns for a shot at the mainstream," wrote Leonie Cooper.
Foxes – ‘Glorious’
“The Southampton starlet’s debut ‘Glorious’ gives good pop. ‘Youth’ and ‘Talking To Ghosts’ do a solid job of impersonating Bat For Lashes minus the art-school trimmings," wrote Alex Denney.
Chvrches – ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’
“How three individuals grounded in the homespun Caledonian traditions of post-rock and twee-folk managed to build the gleaming chrome-pop edifice of Chvrches is far from self-evident. While not every track has the immediacy of 'Lies' or 'Recover', there's not a weak one among them," affirmed Barry Nicolson.
Sam Smith – ‘In The Lonely Hour’
The Disclosure collaborator and BBC Sound Of winner stepped out on his own in May with his debut album, ‘In The Lonely Hour’. It might be too mainstream to actually win the Mercury but Smith’s ubiquity over the last few months means he’s certainly in with a shot of being nominated.
Jake Bugg – ‘Shangri-La’
Barry Nicolson gave Bugg's Rubin-produced ‘Shangri La’ 6/10 and compared it to his debut, writing: "it is basically more of the same, and for many of his fans, that’ll be more than enough. It would be a shame, however, if it was enough for Bugg, too."
Toy – ‘Join The Dots’
“‘Join the Dots’ maintains Toy’s stance as masters of creativity and control, and expands it," wrote Huw Nesbitt. "Instrumental opener ‘Conductor’ sets the tone, with its 10-minute stretch of ambient keys and a repetitive beat that explodes into a crescendo of screeching guitars not dissimilar to ‘Set The Control To The Heart Of The Sun’ by Pink Floyd."
The Kooks – ‘Listen’
When The Kooks returned with new single ‘Down’ in March, eyebrows were raised at their new direction. Subsequent album ‘Listen’ continues that drift away from the pure indie-pop of their earlier records and, while it may be winning over festival crowds, will it be enough for the Mercury panel to take Luke Pritchard and his band seriously?
Actress – ‘Ghettoville’
Kate Hutchinson awarded Actress's 'Ghettoville 8/10, writing, “At 16 tracks long ‘Ghettoville’ is demanding and uneasy going, oscillating between the sort of punchy club beats that could give you a hernia and soundscapes so deep and affecting you’d expect to hear them at an art installation."
Future Of The Left – ‘How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident’
“Not since their 2007 debut ‘Curses’ have Cardiff rockers Future Of The Left sounded this thrilling. Where last year’s disappointing third album was characterised by tongue-in-cheek silliness and fussy arrangements, the follow-up ‘How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident’ is direct and heavy as hell," wrote John Calvert.
The Bug – ‘Angels & Devils’
"‘Angels & Devils’, Kevin Martin’s third LP, uses dourness to create an album of contrasts," wrote Huw Nesbitt. Featuring vocalists Liz Harris of Grouper, Inga Copeland formerly of Hype William and Death Grips, it could well be an album you'll see on the Mercury shortlist.
Soft Walls – ‘No Time’
“Dan Reeves manages to lifts his spirits by hitting a single-chord groove and just playing his way out of it. A fine and strange album," wrote Stuart Huggett.
Kwes – ‘Ilp’
“London producer Kwes has added his intimate electronica to The xx, toured with Bobby Womack’s band and been sampled by Kanye. But these endorsements don’t seem to have boosted his confidence, and this debut initially sounds low-key to the point of negligible," wrote David Renshaw.