Nominations for the coveted Mercury Prize have been announced, with contenders for the ‘Albums of the Year’ including the likes of Radiohead, Laura Mvula and the late David Bowie. With twelve albums selected from the rich pool of high quality albums to be released in the last year, the worlds of pop, jazz, rock, grime and more are represented in the final shortlist, with other fantastic efforts such as PJ Harvey’s The Hope Six Demolition Project and James Blake’s The Colour In Anything unfortunate to miss out.
Laura Mvula’s wonderful second LP, The Dreaming Room, offers mesmeric pop with soulful vocals and bright instrumentation, in perfect contrast with the melancholy and pain of Bat For Lashes’ heartbroken concept album The Bride. Detailing the feelings of a bride whose groom is killed en route to their wedding, the Bat For Lashes effort is theatrical, haunting and yet somehow hopeful, pitting it against the similarly qualified Blackstar, which Bowie released as a swan song mere days before his death from liver cancer at the start of the year.
Soul is well-supported this year, with the vintage sounds of Michael Kiwanuka’s Love & Hate combining elements of folk, blues and rock, whilst Jamie Woon’s Sharpness is smooth and scattered with lazy jazz brushstrokes. The 1975 bring neo-funk to the party with their strong pop sensibilities, whilst grunge girls Savages have been called up thanks to their skillful command of scuzzy guitars and masterful cuts between calm and chaos.
Unsurprisingly, Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool is considered a strong contender for the prize, with the signature sophistication of Greenwood’s composition and Thom Yorke’s unmistakable lyrics, but the veterans are not alone as the list’s only musical pioneers, with Skepta’s Konnichiwa demonstrating why he is still grime’s top dog even amidst the resurgence that has brought the likes of Kano into the running for the 2016 prize.
Experimental dance music also finds its way into the nominations list thanks to Anohni’s Hopelessness, written alongside producers Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never, and the jazz-infused electronic soundscapes of Channel the Spirits by The Comet Is Coming. The latter tiptoes around dubstep, jungle, electronica and noise, without ever settling in any of them, demonstrating the variety of styles that this year’s shortlist embodies.
The full list can be seen below.
Anohni - Hopelessness
Bat For Lashes - The Bride
David Bowie - Blackstar
Jamie Woon - Sharpness
Kano - Made in the Manor
Laura Mvula - The Dreaming Room
Michael Kiwanuka - Love & Hate
Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
Savages - Adore Life
Skepta - Konnichiwa
The 1975 - I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it
The Comet Is Coming - Channel the Spirits
Words by Andrew Kemp
Photo courtesy of Mercury Prize