27 October 2014

Mercury Prize 2014 - Round up & overall thoughts

So it is that time of year when the Mercury Prize for 2014 is upon us - people have had a month or so to get to grips with this year’s nominations.  So what will be happening with this blog will do what it says at the top - A brief summary from each of the blogs and showing what our thoughts are on the overall standard of this year's entries.  Last year the winner was James Blake - Overgrown (Cleverly linked here) which was 8th out of the 12 on offer.  To be honest, it was not expected at all for us or the general press as a whole.  The betting money was on either Disclosure, Rudimental or Savages (I know we said Mr D. Bowie - but with him being such a big star anyway, he was automatically out of the running) and Mercury do like to give a curve ball winner.  I think the only times I have ever got it right were for Suede - 'Suede', PJ Harvey - 'Let England Shake' and the first Artic Monkeys album 'Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not'; so my personal record for this event is 3 right and 18 wrong.  So, I am hoping to get this one right - anyway, let's look at this year choices:

Nick Mulvey - First Mind - 6.5 out of ten

The album could do with being trimmed by 2 songs and 10 minutes which would be much more digestible. Not bad for an ex-Portico Quintet bloke. I would be interested in hearing more of his music when he releases further material. - Chris C

I respect this woman’s approach and the interest in her is impressive, quite startling. But maybe I’m a troglodyte and I’m missing the reason behind the recent hype. However the album I’ve been given to blog about sounds like a soap opera in poetic form, mundane fixation on negative cynical pessimistic details.  I prefer escapism, music that is able to take you to somewhere new and different. This album just seems to grind the mind into the dirt of reality. No thanks. - Helen

Damon Albarn - Everyday Robots - 9 out of ten

This album is a dark slice of the soul which I would not have expected to hear from this man.  There are a few things I would change (get rid of the interludes and not too keen on Mr Tembo), but other than that it is a really, really good album.  I have always said I will praise when praise is deserved and as much as it pains me to say this, I do feel that I have heard a contender for album of the year.  Yes, Eddie Carter - the man who dislikes Blur an awful lot has just said that he expects this to be up there in the album of the year chart.  Hell is experiencing winter conditions..... - Eddie

Whilst this isn’t an album you’d listen to get yourself all gee’d up for a night on the town (and whatever you do, don’t listen to it while driving or operating heavy machinery) but as nice background music for sexy time, to listen to before sleep or, perhaps while off your tits on hash cakes then this is actually a decent enough album. - Luke

By rights, this album shouldn't work at all. In some cases, one layer feels mismatched to the other, and One Breath in all doesn't feel like the technical effort that I was somehow expecting. But on second listen, I guess I'm missing the point. One play of the album is not enough to fully appreciate the craft that Miss Anna Calvi applied to this. From an art point of view, this puts a fresh spin on things, it's delicate enough for its classical credentials yet not too heavily laboured, and more importantly, the freshness and its inventive approach is what swings me for this album. But that's exactly the point of Art Rock, and One Breath hits the nail on the head. As for its Mercury nomination, no less earned, but it's my hope that her more notable peers in the running for this year's prize won't have it their own way. - Marc

As jazz goes, this is fairly easy going; yet I can really see the influence of the UK electronica scene on this band.  The members of the band are really talented musicians and have made a beautiful piece of work that as an album is incredibly easy on the ear in places.  It has a limited crossover appeal, but this does not take away from the performance. I am also not 100% sure that I will be going out of my way to hear it again, but it is a good record and if it ended up winning the Mercury Prize I would not be disappointed. - Eddie

I actually enjoyed this album. Seriously - at first listen, I thought "Oh shit, here we go, another head scratcher of an album I've been made to listen to in order to get me out of my usual routine" but it actually turned out to be the opposite of my expectations. My line above about how the whole thing was probably gonna be all heavy-drum-loops didn't exactly ring true, they were there but there was a lot more thought and texture than I was prepared to give credit for. Production was interesting as well, one minute it seemed as minimalist as the ringtone on a mobile phone from 2001, the next it was all lush and extravagant. I would consider checking these out again in the future, maybe even by digging out some of their EPs. - Chris J

As an award nominated album, I find it hard to think that this could be the all out winner of the Mercury; not because it is not a brilliant record, it is a stunning piece of jazz/noise that will have fans of both genres thoroughly entertained.  It is just a bit too out there to be the award winner in my mind, but Mercury do like to throw the odd curve ball (Roni Size anyone?).  If it was not for the Mercury Prize, I would not have heard this hidden gem of a record.  It is challenging, abrasive and uncompromising in delivery; from beginning to end it has been challenging and the rewards of this album just keep coming with repeat listens.  Out of all the entries I have heard from this year’s list, this is my contender for the dark horse which may take everyone by surprise.  - Eddie

Overall its okay, I’d like to hear it in the background of a coffee shop perhaps, or in conjunction with Bowie or Sunn 0))) or Bhangra maybe? Or maybe all three; mix things up a bit. - Helen  

I have been told good things about this band and the album is a very good album indeed.  There is a perfect storm forming around this band that will take them onto better things, this album is really good and just a shade over 30 minutes it is an incredible ball of noise from this two piece.  The fact that this noise is only coming out of two people is another source of amazement/amusement (delete as per you own personal leaning).  Now, whilst this album is really good that it is not the second coming that some people are saying that it is.  There are a few moments which don't quite work for me, but there is a lot that does work as well.  I have been advised by many people that have seen this band over the last few months that the racket that these two people can make live is amazing.  A very good debut album, they are well placed to take over the world, let’s see what they do after this.  Also, one of the few hyped bands which aren't a pile of bollocks as well. - Eddie 

East India Youth - Total Strife Forever - 3 out of ten

When I first listened to Total Strife Forever I hated it. After a few more listens the hate faded and I just find the album incredibly frustrating now. There are a couple of good tracks and some that could be decent if they didn’t seem like works in progress. I think that’s where the main problem with this is; it feels like a collection of demos and half formed ideas, especially with only four of the eleven tracks having vocals. An album full of songs like Dripping Down and Heaven, How Long would have been a worthy winner of the Mercury Music Awards but this? This I find hard to understand how it was even released as is, as horrible as that sounds. - Luke


The album is awash with guitars, strings and electronic sounds, and I could pretend I was musically cultured enough to investigate each track as a case in point.  Instead, I will say that it's easy to see why this album hit number one, and why Bombay Bicycle Club are an accomplished festival act.  Bombastic opener "Overdone" was my highlight.  I'm giving this a 6 because musically it's brilliant, but not for me.

So according to our marking the system, in descending order here is what we think of this year's group of nominations -

Kate Tempest - Everybody Down - 2 out of ten (So this will probably win)
East Indian Youth - Total Strife Forever - 3 out of ten
Jungle - Jungle - 3 Out of ten
FKA Twigs - Lp1 - 6 out of ten
Bombay Bicycle Club - So Long, See You Tomorrow - 6 out of ten
Nick Mulvey - First Mind - 6.5 out of ten
Gogo Penguin - v2.0 - 7 out of ten
Polar Bear - In Each & Every One - 8 out of ten
Anna Calvi - One Breath - 8 out of ten
Royal Blood - Royal Blood - 8 out of ten
Damon Albarn - Everyday Robots - 9 out of ten
Young Fathers - Dead - 9 out of ten (So this one will have no chance) 

So I think that you can say that it has been better than last year's nominations (cleverly linked here) when only five of the nominations got over 7 out of ten; even then only two of them were better than that.  The fact that there was three releases on that list that are held as Jazz record with only one of them in the bottom half is a good sign for the UK jazz scene.  I also like the fact that it is a bit off the beat path here; only one of the nominations were of a huge stature (Mr Albarn, even though I still cannot believe how much I personally like that record - DAMN YOU ALBARN!!!!), with Royal Blood gaining popularity through their live performances, Bombay Bicycle Club being the indie darlings and Jungle being used by Amazon to promote their new phone (not convinced about the Amazon phone, but that is besides the point).  On the night I personally think that the award will go to Nick Mulvey or FKA Twigs, not because they are the best albums, but because they are the curve balls (unless they pick Polar Bear or Gogo Penguin - the two most obvious jazz records).  If they are obvious and pick Damon Albarn or Royal Blood - two incredible records, it would be a strange pick.  So this is what we think - let's see them prove us wrong....


  1. I would love Royal Blood personally to win. they are just great live! however, lets be honest, its the mercury Prize, whoever is obscure will win. Great coverage for that artist, unfortunate for the artists who actually appeal to the wider public. Nick Mulvey would be another i would like to see win however, i imagine FKA Twigs or Gogo Penguin will get it! Lets See!

    1. Looks like we were both wrong & Mr Jermyn was right with his pick of Young Fathers. ;-)


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