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Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Morning Light

2011 Mercury Music Prize shortlist is predictably unpredictable

Photo By Jean-Baptiste MondinoJean-Baptiste MondinoThanks to the fact that the United Kingdom exists five hours into the future, I woke up yesterday morning just in time to see the short list for this year’s Mercury Prize – awarded annually to the best album in the UK and Ireland – commandeer my Twitter feed for a short while. The process by which the shortlist and winner is selected isn’t entirely clear to me – it’s not as transparent as Canada’s Polaris Prize – but in a way that mysteriousness makes it more interesting.

Even though the “how” isn’t clear, a few years of Mercury-spotting has made the “what” pretty easy to peg, at least in a manner of speaking. History shows that about half the list is the cream of the Brit-indie pop/rock crop and the other half is pulled from all manner of other genres, from jazz to pop to hip-hop to what have you and the net result is eleven or twelve – interesting there’s no fixed size to the short list – albums that offer a good amount of grist for the conversational mill. The dozen records competing for the prize are:

Adele / 21 / Video: “Rolling In The Deep”
James Blake / James Blake / MP3: “To Care (Like You)”
Anna Calvi / Anna Calvi / MP3: “Blackout”
Elbow / build a rocket boys! / MP3: “Open Arms”
Everything Everything / Man Alive / Video: “Final Form”
Ghostpoet / Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam / Video: “Cash And Carry Me Home”
PJ Harvey / Let England Shake / MP3: “Written On The Forehead”
Katy B / On A Mission / Video: “Carry Me Home”
King Creosote & Jon Hopkins / Diamond Mine / Video: “Bubble”
Metronomy / The English Riviera / Video: “The Look”
Gwilym Simcock / Good Days at Schloss Elmau
Tinie Tempah / Disc-Overy / Video: “‘Til I’m Gone”

I can only speak to first-hand experience with about half the list, but it’s not unreasonable to think that the winning album will be amongst that subset. Indeed, many have already narrowed it down to a two-artist race between Adele and PJ Harvey, and if it’s down to those two I’d give the edge to Polly Jean if for no other reason than last year’s XX win was the eminently obvious choice. I don’t necessarily see them doing that again. And while I’d have no problem with either, both of their records being massive achievements by a number of standards, I’d be pretty happy to see Anna Calvi sneak up the middle to take it. I do love her self-titled debut and am sad that her appearance at Osheaga next week will not come with a stop down the 401. Perhaps a Mercury win would encourage her to do another North American tour and give me the opportunity to finally see her live. I also continue to love Elbow’s latest but think the odds of them winning for two albums in a row are pretty slim – they don’t have the underdog card to play anymore.

In any case, the winner will be announced on September 6.

Washington City Paper talks to Wild Beasts, whose Smother seems to be the consensus surprising omission from this year’s short list. They also do a couple video sessions for WNYC and The Fader and will be at The Mod Club on September 29.

Spin talks to Daniel Blumberg and The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel to Max Bloom, both of Yuck.

Emmy The Great talks to Clash about her personal grassroots campaign against News International.

Interview and The Sydney Morning Herald talk to Patrick Wolf about his new record Lupercalia while The Independent finds out how he and Patti Smith became friends.

JAM has a feature on White Lies, in town at The Phoenix on August 3.

NPR has a World Cafe session with Beady Eye.

The Grid is starting rumours that Noel Gallagher will be in town for a show the week his solo debut Noel Gallagher and the High Flying Birds is released in North America, which is to say November 8. Bookie’s not one to just make stuff up, so keep an eye out. Also, in conversation with The List, Gallagher says he takes no joy in Beady Eye’s failure to tear up the charts.

The Guardian talks to Adrian Utley and Geoff Barrow of Portishead, who have two shows at The Sound Academy on October 9 and 10; word is the first night is sold out and the second not too far behind.

Artrocker chats with Tim Burgess of The Charlatans.

eMusic talks reunions and reissues with Brett Anderson and Mat Osman of Suede.

According to The Guardian, the New Order split is about as final and acrimonious as you imagined it to be.

French dance-pop veterans Tahiti 80 are back with a new record in The Past, The Present & The Possible and a tour which brings them to The Horseshoe on September 22, tickets $13.50 in advance.

MP3: Tahiti 80 – “Keys To The City”

M83 has finally revealed specifics on and an MP3 from their next album, which will be a double-set entitled Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. Pitchfork has details on the record, which will be out on October 18. M83 plays Lee’s Palace on November 18, tickets $20 in advance.

MP3: M83 – “Midnight City”

DIY has a profile of I Break Horses, whose debut Hearts is out August 15.

Spinner talks to Lykke Li.

Adult Swim is giving away a new song from The Tallest Man On Earth. Just because, I guess.

MP3: The Tallest Man On Earth – “Weather Of A Killing Kind”

In a perfect world, this would be an item about a new Jens Lekman album and world tour including a local date. But it’s not a perfect world so instead, it’s an item about a new EP entitled An Argument With Myself, due out September 20, and a US tour that doesn’t cross the border. The Secretly Canadian press release consists of an interview with Jens.

Stereogum has the first MP3 from the new Loney Dear record, entitled Hall Music and out on October 4. There’s also rumours/promises of North American dates in November.

Labrador Records, purveyors of the finest in Swedish pop, have put out a free label sampler entitled Stockholm Belongs To Us which collects tracks from all their active roster. Needless to say, it’s wonderful.

Consequence Of Sound and Pitchfork both have more details on Bjork’s Biophilia project, the album of which will be out September 27 and the app of which was released today – The Guardian takes it for a spin.

And speaking of Bjork, guess who’s going to Iceland Airwaves this October? Lots of people. Me amongst them. It’s unlikely I’ll be able to swing tickets to Bjork’s Reykjav√≠k Concert Hall shows, but hey. Iceland!

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

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RSS Feed for this post2 Responses.
  1. Sasha says:

    I’vce seen a lot of shows in my day, but Anna Calvi at the El Mo back in May was one of the really really good ones (didn’t hurt it was my b-day either!!) I hope you get to see her soon Frank, she is an absolute force of nature. Tiniest little speaking voice, then a BOOMing singing voice, and guitar chops I’d put right next to any of my favorite guitarists! What a show. The only thing that makes me sad is that I’ll probably never get to see her in such a small venue again!!

    Needless to say, I too hope she sneaks up the middle and wins this thing. Adele &PJ are great and all, but Calvi appears to me to be a bit of a game changer, and that should be rewarded!

  2. Marina says:

    Love that PJ Harvey’s on here! Also can’t wait for Patti Smith’s new album “Outside Society” to come out on the 23rd, it’ll be awesome!

    http://www.pattismith.net/