NEWISH PLAYLIST – MERCURY PRIZE SPECIAL

Another round of the Mercury Prize is upon us, and it seems to have appeared out of nowhere. The Mercury Prize often manages to highlight some of the most outstanding music released over the last year, and pushes albums that may have gone unheard into the spotlight. For this week’s playlist then, I thought I’d pick a song from each shortlisted LP, giving my opinion on the album, and whether or not I think it has a chance of winning. There are some obvious choices, some great choices, and as always, some choices that make you question the integrity of a number of music critics. You’ll probably be able to tell which ones I feel that way about. Also, you can vote for your favourite here, with the six most popular going through to the judges. I’ve also taken the current odds (as of 8th August 2016) from Paddy Power, mainly because I don’t understand betting and they were the first to pop up on a Google search. Anyway, as always, enjoy.

(Side note: notice how the first four tracks are from albums that have similar styles/colouring in their artwork? Marketing departments knew what was “in” this year I guess)

 

1. ‘ADORE’ – Savages / ADORE LIFE 

SAVAGES

I don’t know if there’s much more I can say about this lot. They’re kicking off their third playlist with a gorgeous track from an outstanding album. ‘Adore’ is much more laid back that most of the album, building to a resolution it never quite reaches. Beth’s voice is captivating as always, and this is the album I would like to win the prize this year. I don’t think it will unfortunately, but I think they deserve it for bringing post-punk to a wider audience and for injecting their sense of vibrancy and raw power into the music scene. Odds: 10/1

2. ‘LAZARUS’ – David Bowie / BLACKSTAR

bowie

After receiving a lot of flak in the office last week for my views on this album, I was wondering whether or not I should make them public here. In short: I don’t think Blackstar should win the Mercury Prize. Whilst it is a good album, it’s not necessarily brilliant. And whilst David Bowie was one of the greatest musicians the world has ever had the pleasure of knowing, I don’t feel like this album is his best work. There are so many other amazing acts to contend with, and I have a feeling people will be more inclined to award Bowie the Mercury mainly because it would be a fitting way to honour the legend we lost. But at the core of it, isn’t the Mercury about rewarding the best music of the past year? Sadly, I don’t think Blackstar qualifies as that. Odds: 5/4

3. ‘LOVE & HATE’ – Michael Kiwanuka / LOVE & HATE

kiwanuka

Two out of two for Mr Kiwanuka hey? His debut album Home Again was shortlisted for the Mercury back in 2012, and here he is again four years later. If nothing else, it shows that his music is able to tap into people’s souls, and hold their emotions hostage for the album’s duration. The title track of Love & Hate represents this, but also Kiwanuka’s knowledge of how to write a bloody great song. I don’t think the album will win it, but it’s nice to see Kiwanuka’s talents recognised again. Odds: 7/1

4. ‘4 DEGREES’ – ANOHNI / HOPELESSNESS

an

If you’re a gambler, I’d get your wallet out now. The last three years that I’ve guessed the Mercury Prize, I’ve guessed 2 winners correctly, mainly on a gut instinct. It felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach when I heard ANOHNI’s name announced out last Friday, so I know who I’m going with. It’s an extremely close call between ANOHNI and one other, but you’ll see who that is later. HOPELESSNESS is a gorgeous album, filled with lyrics about her own emotional anguish, and also scathing criticisms of the world’s political climate. Brilliant. Odds: 6/1

5. ‘CELEBRATION’ – Jamie Woon feat. Willy Mason / MAKING TIME

jamie woon

I hadn’t heard Making Time until last Friday, so the Mercury Prize did its job in one respect; it found a new audience for certain artists. Woon’s soulful voice is absolutely incredible, and that’s what dominates much of this album. The backing instrumentation throughout is mostly simple, allowing Woon’s voice to ensnare you. A great album, but not a winning one. Odds: 25/1

6. ‘DAYDREAMING’ – Radiohead / A MOON SHAPED POOL

radiohead.png
Another brilliant release from Radiohead that could be a strong contender to win. Masterfully crafted, highly polished, and full of classic Radiohead qualities, A Moon Shaped Pool is a beautiful piece of work. ‘Daydreaming’ is perhaps the best showing of Thom Yorke’s voice, and it’s wonderful. Odds: 15/2

7. ‘CLOSE ENCOUNTERS’ – Bat for Lashes / THE BRIDE

bat for lashes

Taken from Bat For Lashes’ highly anticipated concept album The Bride, ‘Close Encounters’ focuses on Khan’s voice, forcing the listener to hear her words. There’s an element of folk present in the melody, which seems constantly unsettled. I don’t reckon the album will win, but it definitely deserved to be shortlisted. Odds: 16/1

8. ‘THIS IS ENGLAND’ – Kano / MADE IN THE MANOR

kano

Kano is an explosive an provocative artist, starting his career at a young age in the then-underground grime scene. He gained popularity through a number of collaborations with more well-known artists but has since become a stand-out artist in his own right. Made in the Manor has more leanings towards earlier British hip-hop rather than grime, which is maybe why I like it so much. It questions the country, government and establishments contained within, exposing the frustrations and opinions of a man who seems to have had enough. I’m glad for Kano’s nomination, but I feel like there’s another grime artist who might pip him to the post. Odds: 8/1

9. ‘SPACE CARNIVAL’ – The Comet is Coming / CHANNEL THE SPIRITS

The_Comet_is_Coming_1_980_2500

The Mercury Prize is somewhat notorious for picking a super left-field artist and bringing them to the forefront. This year, that artist is The Comet is Coming, a three-piece group who incorporate psychedelia, electro, funk, and a whole lot of jazz into their music. I hadn’t heard of these guys before, and am only half way through Channel the Spirits, but I’m liking them so far. Not winners, but a good choice for the shortlist. Odds: 20/1

10. ‘MAN’ – Skepta / KONNICHIWA

skepta

The last time I included Skepta on the playlist, I said that I wasn’t a huge fan of grime. And whilst it’s grown on me slightly, that statement is still mostly true. However, just because it’s not my favourite genre of music, it doesn’t mean I don’t recognise the huge cultural shift it’s caused in the UK, and the fact that Skepta has played a huge part in that. Still remaining independent, many grime artists have changed perceptions not just of UK street music, but also the ways in which business can be done. The album was a triumph critically, and I’d wager Konnichiwa is going to be butting head’s with ANOHNI’s LP. If any album managed to perfectly capture youth culture in 2016, it’s this one. Odds: 5/1

11. ‘PEOPLE’ – Laura Mvula feat. Wretch 32 / THE DREAMING ROOM 

laura mvula

Laura Mvula’s second album was met with critical acclaim, with most focusing on her refusal to write “pop” music and instead craft songs layered in complex melody, harmony, and rhythm. There are moments where The Dreaming Room can feel claustrophobic and chaotic, but it mostly serves its purpose; an album that pushes the boundaries on modern genre definitions and explores Mvula’s talent as a songwriter. Odds: 16/1

12. ‘THE SOUND’ – The 1975 / I LIKE IT WHEN YOU SLEEP, FOR YOU ARE SO BEAUTIFUL YET SO UNAWARE OF IT

the 1975

Come on. This fucking lot? Out of fairness, I have to include their shambolic effort in the same vein as some of the most impressive releases over the past year? Fine. They have no chance. Although, Alt-fucking-J won back in 2012. Christ.  Odds: 18/1

Ryan Ottley-Booth

@R_Ottley_B

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NEWISH PLAYLIST – MERCURY PRIZE SPECIAL

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