So as many music fans have seen, the Mercury Prize short-list was released last night. Most are happy with the majority of the list but there were certainly a few shock omissions and inclusions (see the full list here). The world of Jazz got a serious nod from the prestigious Mercury Prize committee with two acts in the list as did the Urban scene with two acts coming from Big Dada records, the same label as 2009 winner Speech Debelle.
While most genres were represented in the list, the real shock was that many of the big albums of the year in terms of sales were missing such as Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran and Paolo Nutini. Previous years have seen at least a few of the big-boys with last year featuring Bowie, Arctic's and Foals plus number one albums from Rudimental, Jake Bugg and Disclosure. This year however we see just two number one albums from Bombay Bicycle Club and Royal Blood, one of which was only last week. Is this a sign that the Mercury Prize is slowly moving more to it's roots of supporting breakthrough music and artists
So after discussion with a few colleagues, I have put together what my 12 would have been:
1. Bombay Bicycle Club
The fourth album from Bombay and although it's not a completely new direction, this album takes a lot from World music with a heavy use of sampling. The added guest vocals from Rae Morris and Lucy Rose add subtle harmonies to the album which complements their lesser use of guitars.
2. Royal Blood
The most successful début rock release in three years, Royal Blood's self-titled album smashed records and brought in the acclaim too. But it's not just about sales with many saying they have re-written the rules of rock with just two guys, without a standard 6 string electric guitar in sight, producing a sound that could easily be a 5 man outfit. They also seem to be attract a broad audience from rock fans to indie fans to chart fans alike.
3. FKA Twigs
I would keep 'LP1' in the list. The début from Young Turks' signing FKA has caused quite a storm within the music industry bringing a modern twist to R&B. Featuring swirling synths, space aged drum patterns and heavy grumbling bass, the former Jessie J backing dancer certainly delivered on the hype with this record.
4. East India Youth
This album is all about gentle melodic electro pop but it also breathes originality. The album took three years to come and it's looking like it was worth the wait. A well executed album and his nomination will surely help push Will Doyle aka East India Youth into the playlists of many.
5. Woman's Hour
The debut album from Kendal four-piece Woman's Hour was tipped by many to be included in the list with many near perfect reviews. Fronted by sublings Will and Fiona Burgess the album hints at 80's pop but doesn't stray too far away from modern electro-indie either.
6. Paolo Nutini
The one 'bigboy' I would of had in our list would have been Paolo. His album 'Caustic Love' was hailed by critics with The Independent going so far as to say it may be 'the best R&B album since the 1970's'. A stunning record which has helped Paolo reinvent himself as one of the biggest solo artists in the country.
The Jungle lads mix hip-hop, soul, grooves and much more in their much anticipated début release. Signed to XL records, the label which has produced the likes of The XX and Adele once again delivers with another fantastic innovative album which should have a great chance at taking the prize.
8. Damon Albarn
Hard to believe that this is Damon's first solo album but he has used it as a platform to produce a powerful, honest, auto-biographical record. One of the most eagerly-awaited albums of 2014, it has lived up to all the anticipation and pleased critics and fans alike.
9. Manic Street Preachers
'Futurology' went into the UK charts at No.2 making it the bands highest charting record since 2007's 'Send Away The Tigers'. The band have come back fighting after two under performing albums and you'll have to search far and wide to find a negative review of this one.
10. Wild Beasts
Another Kendal band, Wild Beasts would have made the list for their new album 'Wanderlust'. The band were nominated for their album 'Two Dancers' and have produced their fourth critically acclaimed album in a row. Constantly delivering, the band constantly come back with something that almost seems to top the last. Very surprised that they missed out this time.
A bit of an outsider but Matt Cutler aka Lone released without doubt one of the best electronic albums in 2014. An album that can be adapted to almost any environment suited as well in a cafe as it is in a club. He states one of his key influences as Madlib which rings true throughout the album with hazy hip-hop samples.
12. Anna Calvi
Anna Calvi's second album 'One Breath' came out in October last year on Domino Records. It became an instant success with Music Week naming it album of the week with a string of great reviews also. The interest in the singer-songwriter has continued and she will be supporting Morrissey at his mammoth show at The O2 this year.