Opinion: Disappointing Mercury Prize 2013 trying too hard

“TOKEN jazz, token folk, seven similar indie bands, two female singers, a ‘surprise’ pop inclusion; no electronica, no metal.”
That was my cynical, withering Mercury Prize 2013 shortlist prediction Tweet earlier today, followed closely by “I hope I’m wrong.”
Turned out I was wrong – but I’m not happy about it.
Because this year’s Mercury Prize could be the heaviest weighting towards electronic music yet – James Blake, Disclosure, and Jon Hopkins line-up alongside the more likely guitar-slinging lads like Arctic Monkeys, Foals, Jake Bugg etc.
But to me, this is a deliberate ploy towards electonica tokenism – an attempt to tackle one of the prize’s biggest criticisms, of the genre being overlooked.
This despite the fact that the likes of 4Hero, The Prodigy, Roni Size, Portishead, La Roux, Hot Chip etc have all featured before.
Now the relative glut of knob-twiddlers in 2013 this has left not room on the shortlist for the oft-ridiculed token jazz record, and token folk record.
Where are Lau? Or Melt Yourself Down?
One of the best things about this award is that it heralds the unheralded.
Elbow weren’t unknown when they won, but they were severely underrated – is David Bowie in their position right now, for instance?
And the unknown likes of Sweet Billy Pilgrim, or Polar Bear, or Portico Quartet would have been missed by so many people who now love these acts, were it not for their nominations – whereas the folkier acts this year, the likes of Villagers and Laura Marling, aren’t exactly under the radar.
It all leads to one of the most disappointing shortlists that I can remember.
And don’t get me started on their approach to metal music…

…And the winner is – Clean George IV cleans up

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AFTER a record number of votes being cast this year – 115 in total – the winner of this year’s Albums of the Year poll is…
(drum roll)
…God Save The Clean, by Clean George IV.
The album pipped frontrunners Fiona Apple, Alt-J, and Grizzly Bear to the gong – no doubt helped by the vote being publicised on Clean George IV’s official Facebook and Twitter!
Also a good sign was the fact the each entry received at least one vote this year.
So congratulations to Clean George IV on a great LP, and thanks to everyone who voted. I’m already looking forward to seeing what 2013 has in store.

View: Five future Albums of the Year for 2013

DESPITE the voting to name the Sound Advice Album of the Year for 2012 still being open, I couldn’t help but take a peek into the pipeline and select a few potential Albums of the Year 2013.
Here is what I found in the pipe.
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Thom Yorke (Radiohead) + Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) + Nigel Godrich (Radiohead) + Joey Waronker (Beck & R.E.M) + Mauro Refosco (David Byrne & Red Hot Chili Peppers) = sum thing good.
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No band has made my Albums of the Year shortlists more than Biffy Clyro. Don’t bet against the Biff doing it again with Opposites.
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Judging by the quality of the first few tracks to be released from Everything Everything’s Arc, be glad you only have to wait until January to hear it.
Holy Fire by Foals is set to usher in the band’s funkiest, heaviest work to date. Hot stuff.
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A new, full, proper, non-side-project release from Scandanavian electronic duo The Knife? Yes please, Shaking The Habitual.
And don’t forget, there’s still time to dwell in the past and vote for the Album of the Year 2012 below…

Which is the top Album of the Year 2012

Albums of the Year: Wave Picture perfect

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WYMESWOLD band The Wave Pictures’ album Long Black Cars is the last LP to park itself in the Albums of the Year 2012 lot.
The group sees a slightlier rockier sound driving the ramshackle indie pop which fans of the band know and love.
And atop this, as always, sits David Tattershall’s trademark vocals and perceptive, poetic, bathetic wordplay.
It’s the sound of a band deciding not to reinvent it’s wheel, just to run it that little bit faster and smoother than ever before.
If it gets your vote, click on the poll below – and if it doesn’t, let me know in the comments!

Which is the top Album of the Year 2012

Albums of the Year: Taxidermist a cut above

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NOSTALGIA 77 normally brews up a heady mixture of hip hop breaks and funk, but alongside pianist Matthew Bourne – who I assume is The Monster – The Taxidermist sees the collective led by Ben Lamdin stitching together an altogether jazzier creation.
In addition, there’s his usual fare here too, plus sultry sax, a bit of Latin and Afrobeat tacked on, all sorts of strange influences, to create an odd animal.
It’s eclectic, and an exploration every time you listen.
If it gets your vote, click on the poll below – and if it doesn’t, let me know in the comments!

Which is the top Album of the Year 2012

Albums of the Year: I like I Like Trains

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2012 was the year that wallowing miseries I Like Trains embraced the digital age, and to stunning effect.
The Leeds group and their trademark plodding depressed post-rock was transposed from guitars to synth and computers on The Shallows, as was the subject matter, moving from the likes of doomed historical figures (Elegies To Lessons Learnt) and impending apocalypse (He Who Saw The Deep) to the effect the computer age is having on human culture.
As you can imagine, it’s not been great.
But the great news is, as our society increasingly breaks down into some dystopian matrix, we do now have an LP which is in equal parts cerebral and evocative to soundtrack it.
If it gets your vote, click on the poll below – and if it doesn’t, let me know in the comments!

Which is the top Album of the Year 2012

Albums of the Year: Grizz me slow

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YOU could have penciled in indie rockers Grizzly Bear’s Shields album as an Album of the Year for 2012 then and there back in June 2011, when the group first started working on it.
This is the main is due to my deep, deep love for their previous release Veckatimest, a meticulously crafted, timeless classic of an album – if Shields only turned out a fraction as good as Veckatimest, it would be straight in.
Luckily, it’s more than a bit good.
Although the songs’ brilliance still shines as bright it’s a slow-burner of an album, with tracks less immediate as before – this is because Shields works better as an album as a whole.
It’s just the nuances of the work’s emotion have to be eeked out of this intricate musical construction by the listener over repeated listens – something, I’m sure you’ll agree, listeners will be more than happy to do.
If it gets your vote, click on the poll below – and if it doesn’t, let me know in the comments!

Which is the top Album of the Year 2012