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Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Two Planets

Some Mercury Prize predictions, both plausible and not

Photo By Jennifer TzarJennifer TzarSo I got an email last week from a fellow at the BBC asking me if I wanted to offer up some thoughts and/or predictions on the shortlist for the UK and Ireland’s Mercury Prize, which is set to be revealed next Tuesday. Having been largely off the mark in what I expected to make the shortlist for Canada’s Polaris Music Prize last week, and actually knowing how that process works, I figured I couldn’t possibly do any worse with the Mercurys – a prize whose process was almost completely unknown to me and which tends to draw from a much broader range of candidates than my little indie rockist world.

I’ve since learned that the 12 albums on the shortlist are selected by the same shadowy group of journalists, musicians and other industry illuminati types who choose the winner – a far cry from the Polaris’ jury, which endeavours to be as inclusive of journos and whatnot as possible and only saving the star chamber treatment for choosing the winner. And so to the BBC fellow’s original request, I’m not really sure if I should attempt to predict what albums will make the short list, what albums should make the short list or what albums I’d like to make the short list. I know I’d fail miserably at the first task and it’s impossible to accomplish the second without a much more comprehensive knowledge of all the possible nominees so that basically leaves the wholly subjective wish list, which is fine with me, but I’ll try to temper my picks with some degree of realism.

Bat For Lashes / Two Suns – This record would actually fit all three angles – I want to see it make the list, it deserves to make the list and it almost certainly will make the list, thus making Natasha Khan an impressive two for two in Mercury nominations for her albums. It’s one of those records that’s distinctive, accessible and artistically ambitious – and also just excellent. Even without seeing the actual list, this is my odds-on pick to win… of course, Fur & Gold was also heavily favoured and didn’t end up winning.

MP3: Bat For Lashes – “Glass” (live)

Manic Street Preachers / Journal For Plague Lovers – I get the feeling that the Mercury jurors are all about the new and so the Manics’ best album in many years may get overlooked on account of its creators already being some degree of legend. And that would be a real shame because it also happens to be their most heartfelt album, perhaps ever, has a genuinely affecting backstory and frankly rocks like a mother.

Video: Manic Street Preachers – “Jackie Collins Existential Question Time”

Patrick Wolf / The Bachelor – I’m personally of the opinion that many of the accolades given to Bat For Lashes could also apply to Patrick Wolf, particularly his latest which currently ranks as one of my favourite records of the year, but don’t know how he’s generally rated critically in his homeland. I get the sense that his extravagant personality might work against him with some unable or unwilling to look past his flamboyant exterior to see the brilliance underneath. Their loss.

MP3: Patrick Wolf – “Vulture”

Micachu / Jewellery – I will fully admit this one is here as a bit of a hedge. I remain unsure if it’s a brilliant record or bollocks, but with every listen it steps more firmly in the direction of the former. If someone told me it was an utter long shot to make the list, I would agree and if someone else told me it was a lock, I would also agree. It perplexes me. Either way, I look forward to offering an “I told you so” if it is indeed nominated.

MP3: Micachu – “Lips”

Emmy The Great / First Love – There is no realistic way I expect Emmy’s debut to get a Mercury nomination. Yes, Laura Marling got a nod last year and came out of the same scene, but Emmy’s more cynical, sardonic approach doesn’t strike that same chord of timelessness that Marling’s does. But that said, and acknowledging that while First Love is very good it’s not fully representative of her at her best, I’m still exceedingly fond of the record and would love to see it get the boost that a nomination would provide.

MP3: Emmy The Great – “We Almost Had A Baby” (Simon Raymonde mix)

Fanfarlo / Reservoir – I don’t know sort of precedent there is for self-released records getting Mercury nominations are, but if we’re talking about worthy records based strictly on musical merit, I would think that this meticulously crafted piece of orchestral pop would get some serious consideration. It’s not groundbreaking or all that original, but it is lovely and lilting and makes me, at least, quite happy.

MP3: Fanfarlo – “I’m A Pilot”

So there’s my picks if I were allowed to decide half of the short list, and besides Bat For Lashes I don’t really expect any of them will make the cut – especially if you look at who the UK’s bookmakers are betting will win. I assume they’re basing their odds on things like sales, profile and critical buzz and have got it down to either Doves or Little Boots. The former I can understand, as they follow the slow and steady veteran model that got Elbow the big prize last year but whereas The Seldom Seen Kid was, in my opinion, a big leap forward for that band, Kingdom Of Rust doesn’t really set itself apart from its predecessors. As far as Little Boots goes, there’s no denying Hands is fun and catchy as all get out, but it seems a bit shallow to ordain as the best album in the kingdom. And looking at other frontrunners, I’ve already covered Bat For Lashes and am a bit perplexed to see La Roux rated so highly – her self-title has some high points but I find it pretty monotonous overall. Florence & The Machine’s Lungs I’ve not spent enough time with to render fair judgment.

All will come clear next Tuesday, with the winner to be announced September 8, but until then the speculation is the fun part. The Line Of Best Fit, To Die By Your Side and Music Snobbery were also asked by the Beeb to compile their picks for the shortlist, Clash has made their predictions and The Quietus is pulling for The Horrors. If you’ve got an opinion of what should make the list or even win outright, chime in in the comments.

XFM is streaming a studio session with Bat For Lashes.

Bumpershine has an interview with Fanfarlo and is also giving away some CDs.

The Mirror and BBC have interviews with Florence Welch of Florence & The Machine.

Ms Lily Allen has a new video from It’s Not Me, It’s You.

Video: Lily Allen – “22”

NME has details on an upcoming re-release of Friendly Fires’ self-titled debut on August 31 which will include a new song, a disc or remixes and a live DVD. They play Lee’s Palace on August 10 and have a DJ gig at The Social later that night. Clash also has an interview with the band.

MP3: Friendly Fires – “Jump In The Pool”

Been waiting for this date to be confirmed for a little while now – Britrock prevails as The Twilight Sad, BrakesBrakesBrakes and We Were Promised Jetpacks hit the El Mocambo on October 10, tickets a mere $12. The Twilight Sad’s new album Forget The Night Ahead is out out September 22, BrakesBrakesBrakes’ Touchdown came out earlier this Spring and the Jetpacks debut These Four Walls hit stores last week.

MP3: The Twilight Sad – “Reflection Of The Television”
MP3: BrakesBrakesBrakes – “Don’t Take Me To Space (Man)”
MP3: We Were Promised Jetpacks – “Quiet Little Voices”

I missed this interview with Charlotte Hatherley at the Big Takeover website when it was originally posted back in May, but considering her new solo record New Colours isn’t due out till September at the earliest – maybe even October – I don’t think there’s any particular rush. But there is a new video!

MP3: Charlotte Hatherley – “Colours”
MP3: Charlotte Hatherley – “White”
Video: Charlotte Hatherley – “White”

This isn’t an official video for the title track of Camera Obscura’s latest My Maudlin Career, but the clip compiled of home videos taken on their recently-completed North American tour is certainly charming. They’ve also chosen to celebrate Bastille Day yesterday by giving away an MP3 of their last single “French Navy”.

MP3: Camera Obscura – “French Navy”
Video: Camera Obscura – “My Maudlin Career On The Road”

Torontonians disappointed that Arctic Monkeys didn’t make plans to visit over the August long weekend despite being up the 401 at Osheaga can celebrate – they’ve set a date at the Kool Haus for September 29 in support of their new album Humbug, due out August 25 and the first single from which, “Crying Lightining”, is streaming at their MySpace. Full tour dates at Spin.

Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite bemoans the demise of music journalism at Drowned In Sound.

Maximo Park are keeping a tour diary for Spinner. They’re at Lee’s Palace on September 18.

By : Frank Yang at 8:20 am
Category: General

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

RSS Feed for this post4 Responses.
  1. whatlofi says:

    There’s definitely a dearth of classic Mercury fare this year. The bookies’ list is either too pop (Little Boots, La Roux, Allen, L.), too weird (Micachu, The Bug) or too “wait, we can’t reward indie warhorses the second year running” (Doves, Manics). Florence & the Machine fits the template better than most, but the record hasn’t been out long enough to establish a slot in the critical pecking order. This could be the year that the token jazz or classical Cinderella gets to go to the ball. Yeah right. The Horrors anyone?

  2. ricky says:

    bat for lashes and patrick wolf put out tremendous albums, but of course, it’s the mercury, so they definitely won’t win

  3. MagnersPear says:

    two suns is such a good record, i hope to see bat for lashes have a lot of success. They are playing TONIGHT (on the 16th July) at Somerset house. By becoming a fan of the MagnersPear facebook page http://bit.ly/MagnersUK you will be put in the draw to win tickets. There are 4 tickets to be won, so well worth a go!

  4. Bumpershine says:

    Thanks for the link Frank, too bad Fanfarlo didn’t make the Shortlist, I was pulling for them.