The good people at BBC Music asked me to write a post for them involving the Mercury Prize. Basically, they want to know what albums I would nominated. Since, the deadline is today, it's a good time to recognize the finest British, Scottish and Irish albums.
Just to get you caught-up, the Mercury Prize is for Britain's top album that came out between July 15 2008 and today. It's similar to the Polaris Prize in Canada or the defunct Shortlist Prize in the U.S. Last year, Elbow's Seldom Seen Kid shocked the world and took the Mercury Prize. Not really shocked, but it was well-deserved and represented more of a career-spanning achievement.
Here's who I putting on my non-existent ballot:
-- Florence and the Machine, Lungs-- If Florence Welsh's debut album is not nominated, then the Mercury Prize is a failure. With a trio or superstar producers (James Ford,Paul Epworth, Steve Mackie), the album breathes creativity with every track. The grandiose, shout from the mountain tops quality in "Dog Days Are Over," "Rabbit Heart and "Drumming Song" compliment the sweet, other-worldly quality of "Between Two Lungs" and "My Boy Builds Coffins". It's the most self-assured debut I've heard so far this year.
-- Bat for Lashes, Two Suns-- She was a rumored front-runner two years ago with her debut Fur and Gold, but Natasha Khan outdid herself with her sophomore album. You listen to the album and wonder how she comes up with such beautiful melodies and instrumentation. She's like some musical siren who's emerged from the forest to make our lives better. It's never boring with the poetism mixed with slight dance beats of "Sleep Alone" and the deep well of love's disappointment of "Daniel". Who has album of the year in their grasp? Grizzly Bear? Puke. Dirty Projectors? Puh-leeze. It's Bat for Lashes.
-- The Mummers, Tale to Tell-- The Mummers are not an act that many are familiar with, but the Mercury Prize shouldn't be a popularity contest. I've been a big supporter of the Raissa Khan-Panni led collective when I saw their performance on Jools Holland. Their dreamland orchestra pop is like if Nino Rota decided to come back to life and produce a Mercury Rev album. Tale to Tell has a wide-eyed wonder quality about possibilities of life that's filled of beautiful orchestrations and Raissa's soothing voice. Ahhh, nighty-night. Be sure to check out their Passion Pit cover.
-- Glasvegas -- The album boils down to that sweeping, over-the-top, heart-on-your-sleeve rock sound that hits you like a sledgehammer on your soul. It draws it's energy from the James Dean legend, the early rock 'n' roll of Del Shannon and the working class life of Scotland. Every song has passion at its center and nothing is done delicately. Heck, they're Scottish, do it big or go home.
-- White Lies, To Lose My Life -- Their look and sound might signify doom and gloom, but I find To Lose My Life empowering. From the school of big songs about darkness (founded by Joy Division), White Lies provide thunder to the mix-up part of your early adulthood where you wonder what happens when you die. Like their tour buddies Glasvegas, White Lies's epic sound of big soundscapes and booming vocals is quote invigorating.
-- PJ Harvey & John Parish, A Woman a Man Walked By -- The PJ Harvey I listened to back in the day was a rock chick with voice a that was unmatched among her piers. It was rocking and scary at the same time. That voice is gone, now she's a soul-searching and contemplative singer. In her second collaboration with John Parish, they go for a blues-rock album that has some foot-stomping tunes. It's a more intimate-sounding, antiqued album then Dance Hall At Louse Point. It's like it was transported from late 18th century Appalachian Mountains and given a new lease on life.
-- Doves, Kingdom of Rust-- Is it there best album? No. Sooner or later, Doves, like Elbow, will be recognized as one of the premiere British bands of this decade. Since my votes are imaginary, I'll vote for Kingdom of Rust as an acknowledgment of a complete body of work.
-- VV Brown, Traveling Like the Light-- Just making the dealing, VV Brown's debut album comes out in the UK today. Savvy release date don't you think? In any event, you get a little bit of everything with Miss Brown -- a super-hyped pop princess, a soulful rock chick and a well-rounded quirky songstress. She turns up the juice on tracks like "Crying Blood," "Game Over" and "L.O.V.E". All these songs are classic 50s-60s pop sound mixed with her modern ideals.
So that's who I'm going with. The announcement will be on July 21st with the show on September 8th.