Tomorrow night we will finally find out which album will be crowned the winner of the 2010 Mercury Prize. I’ve asked each of our writers to choose which album they think should win the gong this year, as well as which album they think was criminally absent from the 2010 shortlist. Hopefully you have watched the scene in the film ‘On the Waterfront’ where Marlon Brando says those iconic lines, “I coulda been a contendah! I coulda been somebody!” If not, watch this and you’ll get my meaning:
Like all good music reviewers, we’re an opinionated bunch here at TGTF. Continue beyond the cut for our picks…
Kevin Angel (hometown: Southampton, UK)
Who should win: Laura Marling – ‘I Speak Because I Can’ (Virgin). Laura has blossomed from the naive teenager we knew in ‘Alas I Cannot Swim’ to a full blown English rose in her second Mercury Prize-nominated album. It has to be her time to shine this time round, with a such a distinct voice, and some of the best song-writing out there, if Miss Marling isn’t handed the much-hyped award tomorrow night, I’m having words with the panel!
Who should have been a contender: Paloma Faith – ‘Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful’ (Epic). A true English eccentric, also in possession of one of the great albums by a U.K female in recent times, with a voice that evokes memories of the greats like Etta James. A constantly changing look, clever wordplay, bloody good tunes and a don’t give a fuck attitude will ensure she is around for the long term, so although no nomination this year…here’s to 2011.
Mary Chang, Editor (hometown/current location: Washington, DC, USA)
Who should win: Villagers – ‘Becoming a Jackal’ (Domino). This year’s field is pretty crowded with folk acts – Villagers, Laura Marling and Mumford and Sons – but Conor O’Brien’s effort is the most genuine of all, and I think it will go down in history as the first step in his meteoric rise to fame. He’s already an incredibly talented singer/songwriter – all he needs to do is get out there and wow more crowds, something that will be made a whole lot easier by winning the Mercury. O’Brien and his band (who call themselves ‘alt-rock hobbits’) will be a force to be reckoned with: check out the jaunty ‘The Pact (I’ll Be Your Fever)’ and the lilting loveliness of upcoming single ‘That Day’.
Who should have been a contender: Goldheart Assembly – ‘Wolves and Thieves’ (Fierce Panda). Delphic and Two Door Cinema Club put out strong and popular albums at the start of 2010 (‘Acolyte’ and ‘Tourist History’, respectively) that should have received nods this year but neither of those two acts ‘need’ the inevitable spike in record sales that winning the Mercury Prize affords the artist. Goldheart Assembly is the UK’s answer to Fleet Foxes, but smartly they’ve added a dose more pop (see ‘Under the Waterway’) that should get hearts a-fluttering. If only more people knew about them.
Emmy Droege (current location: somewhere in middle America, USA)
Who should win: Foals – Total Life Forever’ (Transgressive). I’ll never forget the first time I heard ‘Blue Blood’ booming through the speakers. The crisp, spring air had finally arrived, and there was no better way to welcome in a renewal. There’s a real sense of life to be heard on every track from this Oxford five-piece. An aptly named second album, and one worthy of winning the prestigious award so that
singer Yannis Philippakis can get “a nose job and upgrade my girlfriend”.
Who should have been a contender: Frightened Rabbit – ‘The Winter of Mixed Drinks’ (Fat Cat). Before there’s a collective gasp of but ‘they’re full of doom and gloom’, one must understand that there’s also a contiguous layer of hope underneath the songs from these Scottish indie rockers. The melodious ‘Foot Shooter’ and upbeat ‘Not Miserable’ are proof of how the quintet rises above the false classification of being a bunch of bearded and depressed boozers. A great album always clings on to hope, and ‘The Winter of Mixed Drinks’ has a stronghold on it.
Mary Beth Howard (hometown: Germantown, MD, USA)
Who should win: Mumford and Sons – ‘Sigh No More’ (Island). Of the 10 great albums nominated for this year’s Mercury Prize, Mumford and Sons’ debut is by far my favorite, and not just because I’m surprisingly partial to a bit of folk. The music is stunning and there’s a rawness and emotional intensity to the songs that is captivating (and, though not relevant to this award, it translates amazingly well live).
Who should have been a contender: Marina and the Diamonds – ‘The Family Jewels’ (Sixsevennine). The lovely Marina’s album has been one of my favorites of the year, and I was disappointed to see it wasn’t nominated. Her voice is distinctive and interesting, whether on a ballad like ‘Obsessions’ or on upbeat tracks like ‘Hollywood’ or ‘Oh No!,’ and the album, as a whole, is just a lot of fun.
Luke Morton (current location: Lincoln, UK)
Who should win: The xx – ‘xx’ (Young Turks). For me the winner has to be the xx. Definitely the most interesting new British band to have ‘made it’ in the past year. Their debut album is a fantastic journey with some of the best indie-electro tunes I’ve heard in a long time.
Who should have been a contender: Gorillaz – ‘Plastic Beach’ (Parlophone). That has got to be my favourite UK album in the past 12 months. Damon Albarn and the gang have done it again, this time featuring such legends as Snoop Dogg, Mos Def and Lou Reed. A brilliant concept album from one of the biggest British bands touring today.
Johnny Owen (current location: London, UK)
Who should win: Villagers – ‘Becoming a Jackal’ (Domino). For the most part occupying the space between ‘I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning’ by Bright Eyes and ‘Funeral’ by Arcade Fire, the debut album from the sickeningly talented Conor O’Brian (in addition to writing the songs he also created the artwork and played almost all the instruments) burrows under your skin and stays with you long after listening. Introduced to the good people at Domino Records by Cass McCombs, an artist who knows a thing or two about penning a tune, Conor has been gaining friends faster than last weeks lottery winner since the release of ‘Being A Jackal’. Delivered with a beguiling combination of vulnerability and composure, at heart many of the songs on this remarkable album study the ways in which we relate to each other, whether as lover to lover, artist to audience or simply stranger to stranger on the bus ride home, and do so with an uncommon compassion and insight well deserving of reward.
Who should have been a contender: Blood Red Shoes – ‘Fire Like This’ (V2). There haven’t been too many albums released over the past year that have really gone for the throat and demanded attention but that’s exactly what ‘Fire Like This’ does. From the album opener ‘Don’t Ask’, which brings to mind the criminally underappreciated ‘Pretty Girls Make Graves’ (seriously, check out ‘The New Romance’), to ‘Colours Fade’ with it’s Sonic Youth style slow build-up, this album is both leaner and more raw than it’s predecessor. After a reputedly troubled gestation period (documented in ‘It Is Happening’) the Brighton two-piece, sticking with producer Mike Crossey from first album ‘Box Of Secrets’, managed to pull an immense, grungy slab of rock out of the bag.