15 November 2015

Mercury Prize 2015 - Our verdict on the nominations

So here we are with our look at all of the nominations for the 2015 Mercury Music Prize - this year's list has been the usual basket of established acts, likely contenders, the usual lack of heavier music, people who have no right being there, and some shocking admissions (although I do not think that Sleaford Mods will be too bothered about not being picked). If we are honest, there have been some stronger years for releases, but that is not to say that there are no decent records on this list, as you will see from the reviews. With this post I (Eddie) will be posting the links to each review in the title, and a round up at the end based on the marks each one was given by our team.  

Aphex Twin - SYRO

The wait for this album has been long and in some ways most people would have given up hope of every hearing another album where the artist title was Aphex Twin.  I don't know if the wait justifies the end result of the album that will be told in the fullness of time.  But it is a glorious piece of noise that once again shows that whilst there are many noise and electronica artist out there who are doing some sterling stuff, there has always been one man who is just so far ahead of the curve that he just keeps everyone guessing to what he will do next.

9 out of ten - Almost perfect, almost....

Review by Eddie Carter

C. Duncan - Architect

Simplify. Add. It's a good bet that was always the policy C. Duncan was striving for from day one of recording Architect. For sure, this relatively youthful talent has drawn on a few inspirations like Simon and Garfunkel and perhaps Joni Mitchell, but what sets this album in good stead is how he's smartly crafted what is deceivingly a minimal sounding piece into a fine cacophonic art. At the very least he's shown his worth as a Mercury nominee, at the very most this is a well scripted piece. The transposition from a library musician to out and out artist has been a smooth one.

8 out of ten. Oh, now you have my attention, and maybe my money, time and heart.

Review by Marc Richardson

Florence + the Machine - How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

Listening to the album my first impressions were not exactly favourable, I wasn't getting it initially and it took a few more times to grasp the feel of the album - its direction and pace.  Eventually I came to the conclusion that it is beautiful. Ship to wreck would not leave my mind - the video of it the duality of expression - seemed to speak to me more than any of Florence's other tracks on her last two albums.

9 out of ten - Almost perfect, almost.... 

Review by Helen Carter

Jamie XX - In Colour

So yeah, I didn’t really enjoy it as a whole, though I was never going to. There’s parts of it that I liked but I’m still baffled that, with hundreds, thousands even, of British acts in multiple genres out there, this has been nominated for a Mercury Award.  The aforementioned Fingathing do this sort of stuff so much better. Zan Lyons or Professor Kliq too.

4 out of ten - Well it is alright, but still

Review by Luke Dunmore

Benjamin Clementine - At Least for now

Well, that was a trip and half, make no mistake. A very interesting album. You can tell that a lot of heart and soul has gone into this. Hopefully it'll win the Mercury award as it's certainly worth any positive accolades it's nominated for. The only gripe I have is that the "one man one piano" songs aren't as good as the more crazy moments. More crazy moments would certainly be the order of the day. As someone who mainly listens to musical genres with the word "metal" in the title, I can recommend this.

8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention, and maybe my money, time and heart.

Review by Chris Jermyn

SOAK - Before We Forgot How to Dream

SOAK's tones I may concede will be an acquired taste. Either you'll grow to like her or not. For somebody writing songs from a young age, she's done well for what she's done so far, even before she's reached 20. Before We Forgot How to Dream is a reasonable outing on a slight charm offensive. It may have tugged some heartstrings of a few other reviewers, for me it hasn't quite got the sharp licks that the Cocteau's managed to perfect over the years. This album I believe could do with a good polishing up and a slicker and improved electronic makeover, there's always scope for one or two little adjustments.

6 out of ten. Now I see where you were going, but not quite there.

Review by Marc Richardson

Ghostpoet - Shedding Skin

I think it is fair to say that I have a few issues with this album and that it is not one that I will be returning to soon - one of the first thing that hinders this album is the similarity between numbers, there is very little to distinguish between some of the songs. By the time we reach the end of the album, it has just drifted too far in the wrong direction that it takes away from the good work which was done at the beginning of the album as I was really impressed by a few of the numbers.  When sixty percent of your album have a guest and some of those performances are not memorable, then you have a problem.  In places this record really does connect with me, in places I felt it was working against itself and the audience in a way which was destructive to the outcome of the record.  It started off strong, but it sunk under the waves by the end of the album which is a real shame.

5.5 out of ten - It could have been a bit better

Review by Eddie Carter

Wolf Alice - My Love Is Cool

So how does this album stand up to the wave of hype?  Well as far as a debut album goes, it is not the perfect release that has been hailed in some quarters; some songs feel a little unfinished and in need of further work.  But it is far from a disaster in terms of quality, these guys are just young kids who have just really started their journey in music and whilst they may have release some quality Eps and have labels/radio behind them they are still finding their feet.  I like it a lot, but I am not quite in love with it.  Now the mark might seem a little low, but for me it is the right mark as it does not quite have my heart; but they certainly have my interest and they are an act I will be following with interest.

7.5 out of ten - This is good and well worth a check

Review by Eddie Carter

ESKA - Eska

So, overall, I would say that the album is a good one, but its strength is also its weakness. Whilst the lady can sing, and her vocal range is immense, it’s also a tad uncontrolled, and I think that on a couple of the tracks, less if definitely more.

7 - This is good and well worth a check

Review by Andrew Oyston

Slaves - Are You Satisfied

To quote one of the lines from "Feed the Mantaray" - 'When the words don't work anymore and you are talking to yourself with your knees on the floor, what will you do?' and this is a problem with this record for me.  It does not have the depth to justify the hype, I reckon in a live gig and amongst the crowd these songs might take on a new dimension; on record it does not have that impact, it is too reliant on the short, sharp, shock tactic that has only worked for a tiny percentage of the time.  This album is not that record, but they are getting the press and it is now an award nominated record - still does not mean it is anything other than average at best - it does not hit the spot, but I have heard a hell of a lot worse.

5 out of ten - It could have been a bit better

Review by Eddie Carter

Gaz Coombes - Matador 

I was truly not expecting much from this album at all, but over the half hour or so that the album was playing, my opinion was challenged and changed; it is a game changer if ever I heard one, it is a million miles from his roots and it is also a beautifully fragile album that has me in raptor.  Is it perfect, not really - there is some choices of track ordering which do not let the album flow for me, but these are small personal details and do not take anything away from the music.  If you are expecting more Supergrass in a different light, you will have to look elsewhere.  Even if you were not a Supergrass fan beforehand, I would recommend this album; you will be surprised.  The king is dead; all hail the new king in town.

9 out of ten - Almost perfect, almost....

Review by Eddie Carter

Róisín Murphy - Hairless Toys

Overall Hairless Toys is not a bad album at all, just a frustrating one. It’s a pleasant background listen but it’s not very memorable, the songs are mostly too long and quite similar which means they all kind of drift into each other, which might well be the point I dunno!

6 out of 10 - Now I see where you were going but not quite there

Review by Luke Dunmore

So in terms of how they we rate them, in reverse order.....

12 - Jamie XX - In Colour
11 - Slaves - Are You Satisfied
10 - Ghostpoet - Shedding Skin
09 - SOAK - Before We Forgot How To Dream
08 - Róisín Murphy - Hairless Toys
07 - ESKA - Eska
06 - Wolf Alice - My Love Is Cool
05 - C. Duncan - Architect
04 - Benjamin Clement - At Least For Now
03 - Aphex Twin - SYRO
02 - Florence + The Machine - How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
01 - Gaz Coombes - Matador

So that is it for one more year, good luck to all the bands and artists this year; our track record is one correct and one incorrect - let us see how things pan out on 20 November!

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