The blogosphere is ablaze today with speculation on the shortlist for the Mercury Prize. Nialler9 has some ruminations up, taking into account the apparently automatic annual folk and urban nominations, and culminating in a ballsy prediction of a final twelve.
Some other blogs, such as Clash Music and The Line of Best Fit have also had a go as part of some sort of loosely organised BBC scheme. I got very interested, and for once, I think I’ve heard enough UK/IRE music to come up with a my own list. So I’m going to have a go as well.
This might be a bit Hibernocentric, ladies and gentlemen, but given how tokenesque the “and Ireland” part of “Britain and Ireland” tends to be in the Mercury, I’m sure you’ll forgive the overbalancing.
Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career
My Maudlin Career, sticky and sweet as a stick of rock and just as nostalgia-inducing, is the one album I could hold up (literally, on vinyl, thanks to Road‘s €12.99 album of the week deal) as both a personal favourite and generally accessible enough to hold off the torrents of fuck-you that the morning after would inevitably bring. ‘French Navy’ is one of the songs of a fantastic year for songs, and this record has gradually eked out its own novel corner in the twisted and illogical web of music I like or love.
Micachu and the Shapes – Jewellery
Part of the rehabilitation of lo-fi has been the use of the term to mean something positive. Frills: out. Fuzz that feels like a blanket: in. The idea that lo-fi stuff is good despite its production: gone. Don’t get confused though. Jewellery isn’t sloppy at all. It’s all very careful, very measured. But warm. Charming. Catchy. Uplifting, or downpulling in an empathetic way. And then there’s ‘Golden Phone’.
Dananananaykroyd – Hey Everyone
If Dananananananananananaykroyd were a piece of punctuation, they would be an exclamation mark. Their oeuvre, as they cast it, is “fight pop”, and that seems pretty fair, if you do your fighting with people who listen to C86. People who listen to C86 who are also into the Blood Brothers and Mclusky. Fight Like Apes then, I suppose. Anyway, this album is good for some fierce solo night walking, and deserves a spot.
Future of the Left – Travels With Myself and Another
The key concepts when you’re dealing with Falco are as follows: 1. Cynicism. 2. Loudness. This being the case, this album feels more like a photographer’s frame being drawn around The World, rather than a piece of artifice. Noisy, tense music underlies songs about things like the perpetuation of war in Eritrea, and the equally important shame of someone called Emma upon the revelation that her parents use plastic forks.
Patrick Kelleher – You Look Cold
This one’s a long shot, but on the off-chance the Mercury people are looking hard enough, Patrick Kelleher is a prime candidate for the outsider spot on the shortlist. Could be repeating myself at this point, but You Look Cold is as frozen and synaesthetic as anything you’re likely to hear this year, and it’s remarkable if only as a collection of textures. It’s more than that though. It’s touching, riling and intriguing in equal measures.
PJ Harvey and John Parish – A Woman A Man Walked By
Sometimes you need utterly serious music. Music which has no eyebrow raised, no tongue anywhere near cheek. Music can be art without having to pretend like it gets its own joke. Sometimes it doesn’t work and it seems trite, admittedly, but the elegance of A Woman A Man Walked By is undeniable. There is nothing in music more like chiselled marble than PJ Harvey’s voice with reverb on it, and it’s a pretty thing.
La Roux – La Roux
It’s pretty much broadly agreed that 2009 is the year of female electronic-y type music. Whether or not you believe that it’s in some way an important movement, you’d have to be sleepy, deluded or immune to fun to have missed the fact that La Roux has put out some of the purest, best pop in years. ‘Bulletproof’ is a slab of watertight brilliance, and the rest of the album, fizzy-compressed as it is, is not far behind.
Florence and the Machine – Lungs
On first impressions, Florence and the Machine (or FloMac as I have decided to attempt to spread) is the very definition of something I would acknowledge but claim it’s “not my thing”. However, persistent nudging from the entire world has led me to be more open to FloMac’s charms. The voice is of course undeniable, and the arrangements fall on the right, crystalline side of pretentious. Everything N. Khan should be.
Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion
New to the Those Geese Were Stupefied party? The blog’s named after a line from Jake Summers by Fight Like Apes. The John Goodmanson-produced album wasn’t the Surfer Rosa some had secretly harboured hopes for, but at a very basic level, Fight Like Apes are still starlingly refreshing. If I was hearing these songs for the first time I’d say: a post-Pixies post-Mclusky guitar band with distorted keyboards instead of guitars and a penchant for perplexity.
Roots Manuva – Slime and Reason
Studio One dancehall beats and a truly original lyricist in front of a microphone. Where could it possibly go wrong? Independent of the shackles of American hip hop orthodoxy due to geographic location and, you feel, viciously intelligent cynicism, Roots Manuva’s newest album is a portrait of the artist on the wrong side of the hill. It’s a perspective not often celebrated, but it’s fascinating, and teasingly catchy at times.
Sky Larkin – The Golden Spike
Katie Harkin is the next in the line of astute, funny, slightly nerdy lyricists which have emerged from Enguhland in the wake of 60s bands re-inserting the stiff lip and cultural selfness into imported music. Beneath surprisingly believable songs about being a fossil or a matador is some riot grrrrrrrrrrl-influenced no frills indie rock music that wouldn’t be out of place in Portland, but nor is it out of place in Leeds.
The Horrors – Primary Colours
Okay, this is here because I couldn’t think of twelve I’d truly stand behind, but I’ll admit some things: this is an alright album. It sounds better than The Horrors look like they’d sound. It brings together some interesting elements into a workable whole – shoegaze sweeps and the parts of Joy Division 2004 didn’t plunder, for example. It’s listenable. And I really wasn’t expecting it to be.