On the eve of the announcing the winner of the Mercury Prize 2015, the [smiths] team recommend albums which should have been shortlisted this year.
Nominated by Rachel Michaella Finn
Foals, What Went Down
The British quartet’s fourth album offers an explosive culmination of their decade together as a band. Heavier than their previous three releases yet part of an obvious maturation, What Went Down is a ten track cacophony where their indie rock trademark takes on a stadium-rock sound of such strength that a strike from this year’s Mercury Prize shortlist seems absurd.
From the beginning, with the eponymous title track taking the listener on an ebb and flow of delicate verses that build up into a shrieking electrifying chorus, to the stripped-down synth ballad of ‘Give It All’ and the indie-pop exuberance of ‘Mountain at My Gates’, the album signifies in many ways the contemporary kick that British rock music is lacking, both in terms of lyrical maturity and track-to-track variety.
Not that this year’s Mercury prize doesn’t nod towards British rock that is still proving the genre is very much still producing new and interesting acts: fellow nominees Wolf Alice and Slaves are if anything just as worthy for a nomination, yet both bands are relatively new. It’s worth remembering that Foals last effort, Holy Fire was shortlisted for the prize in 2013 but to add What Went Down to the list would be a further nod towards a band that has been churning out award-worthy material since its inception.
Nominated by Abigail Lister
Laura Marling – Short Movie
Marling’s fifth album in seven years, Short Movie is a break away from her usual solo acoustic get up. With the introduction of a full band she has created an even more powerful record; a departure from her old sound yet still characteristically Marling. The album was largely influenced by a short, solitary stay in Los Angeles, and it is clear that Marling has emerged from this songwriting expedition a more confident artist – not afraid to try a new sound (considering Marling’s innate talent, is it really any surprise that she can take to blues rock like a fish to water); express more personal thoughts; talk personal in interviews. Three of Laura Marling’s previous albums have been nominated for the Mercury Prize and she is yet to win. Short Movie, an album about growth and personal change, deserves to have at least been recognised too.
Nomintaed by Edward Ginn
Gwilym Gold – A Paradise
It’s unfathomable to me that Gwilym’s first solo album has not been shortlisted for the Mercury Prize, you would have thought that his links with Goldsmiths would have guaranteed him entry!
A Paradise explores a new depth in ‘ambient’ music. Largely influenced by Hip Hop, R&B and Jazz, Gwilym is able to create an extremely innovative, as well as atmospheric sound. The majority of songs are stripped down to keys, drumbeats and vocal harmonies – however, this album does not lack variety. The track ‘Triumph’, for instance, consists of a tumultuous bass drum beat which is adapted into pure tranquillity by the layers of smooth vocals, creating an inventive groove. The tracks, which although part of an album, stand on their own – each song having its own hypnotic music video. I urge you to check out ‘A Greener World’ and ‘Triumph’ on YouTube – be prepared to have your mind blown.
Nominated by Meiling DellaGrotte
In, Around The Moments – GAPS
Brighton-based duo of Rachel Butt and Ed Critchley, also known as GAPS, released In, Around The Moments this past May through DJ Maya Jane Cole’s new label I/AM/ME. A rather unassuming album, its experimental sounds descend upon its listeners in a cascade of atmospheric soundscapes that seamlessly blends folk, metal and electronic together to generate sombre cinematic reflections. With Rachel’s ethereal lyrics and Ed’s extensive layering, In, Around The Moments is forty-five minutes of deliberately disorientating delirium. Although their sound could be prescribed for an audience of drugged-up students, even sober GAPS envelops you in mesmerising beats that will leave you with a haunting sense of longing for more.
With at least three of the twelve Mercury Prize nominations awarded to already well-established and known musicians/bands who arguably do not need more public awareness, GAPS would have benefited from some well-deserved recognition (they don’t even have a Wikipedia page!) They offer a unique sound for music lovers and snobs alike. And since they’ve been so unceremoniously overlooked… give them a listen, buy/stream/pirate their album, go to one of their intense immersive shows – make GAPS known.
Nominated by Rachel Wall
Roots Manuva– Bleeds
A geezer who thoroughly deserved as Mercury Prize in 2015? Roots Manuva. Aside from taking four years to create, and being easily the most diverse body of British work to emerge this year, Bleeds reflects something which writes Roots Manuva into the musical history books.
Bleeds is mental. So called by Smith (alias Roots Manuva) when describing this volume of work as an “egocentric jest of daring to do things in the tradition of Jesus: I’m ready to bleed for the artform.” The album is like Veruca Salt’s three course meal gum in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Every time you think you’ve got the flavour pinned down, it changes again.
The album is fearless. Facety 2:11 is a particular highlight, underpinned by an infant’s cry while blending cockney rhyming slang and patois into the verse. Smith’s music can’t sit still. It demands the listener become an active participant and with only ten tracks, that isn’t difficult to do. There is a sense that each song has been perfectly crafted, painstakingly detailed and that ten of such quality are worth fifty average tracks. He once described the process of album releases as “throwing a juicy steak to a pack of hungry wolves, they’ll eat it but it might not be worth anything.” Someone should have told him that this steak was delicious beyond measure, here’s to hoping he won’t wait four years for the next one.