Corinne Bailey Ray - The Sea
Half written before and after her late husbands death, the album feels both new and fresh, and thick with yearning. This seems to be a feeling that Corinne has tapped into, not dwelling too much on her own pain it seems, but on the beauty that can be felt with it, and an empathy for everyone and everything surrounding her. The camaraderie she says she shared with her eclectic group of top musicians whilst creating this album, and healing her torn life, can truly be felt throughout each different thread running through this tapestry of tracks. It is a coming together of emotions and styles, elegantly structures and dripping with soul.
Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More
One of the most beautiful albums i have ever come across, listening to the group discuss their debut, and the effort that went into the composition of each individual track is a truly beautiful thing, and effortlessly paints them as talented musicians with a deep and proficient talent, as well as a deep emotional connection to the music they make. With a driving force behind every sound, movement can be heard in every single track, soft or rough. Their choral lyrical moments are pure gems.
Kit Downes Trio - Golden
The only representation of Jazz in this mix, Kit Downes reaches into his deep well of musical knowledge and presents a whirlwind foray into the bands own particular brand of off-kilter tunefulness. At times sounding like you are standing between two music rooms listening to separate practices, there is a whimsy to their style. Golden, the title track unfolds, revealing layers to explore, as the tune subtly changes with each few bars.
Dizzy Rascal - Tongue N Cheek
There has been a lot of discussion surrounding Dizzy, and it cannot be said that he is a lazy artist. His tracks have evolved since he started to make music, and his shrewd take on each musical style he lends his hand to is palpable throughout the track. The tracks are upbeat and pithy, as is to be expected from Dizzy’s own style of lyrical banter. This album has already been given such critical Kudos, and bore Dizzy an embarrassment of number one singles in the charts, if this were a more mainstream commercial based award, there is not doubt this one would be in the bag.
Wild Beasts - Two Dancers
One of the most bizarre and baffling groups of this years nominations, with Hayden Thorpe’s falsetto yowl etched across many tracks throughout the album, Wild beasts have also one of the most powerful albums. With discussion of the ‘fulcrum’ between the two sides of the album being the title track ‘Two Dancers’, listeners can feel the pull between broken emotions riding high and a gentle goading love for fun and enjoyment. The album is like a tale of life, with no beginning or end, but it continues. This sense is captured in the last track, which the band members favoured as one which gives a hint as to what will follow upon their return.
Paul Weller - Wake Up The Nation
With Weller’s ‘key track’ being the title of the album, and feeling this best sums up his efforts on this record. As the proffered ‘Mod-father’ and veteran of rock, his appearance on this list sets up the Mercury’s as indifferent to length of service in the music industry, and only celebrating all forms of truly great music, whatever the background.
Biffy Clyro - Only Revolutions
One of the more commercially popular albums, and from a background that stands out against the rest as more mainstream, Biffy Clyro have been rewarded for a long line of releases in this years Mercury awards. This certainly is one of their finest works, encompassing sensitive tracks, with the riff heavy larger numbers, inspiring moshpits across the festival scene this year.
Villagers - Becoming A Jackal
An irish artist and friends of the epic James Vincent McMorrow, links can be seen between the two pals, though his smooth and inviting voice sets him apart and places him in the Simon and Garfunkel era, recalling tracks such as America. With complex and insightful lyrics and a thunderous beat, sounding as though hacked out on the hull of his acoustic guitar, the title track becoming a jackal opens a new path to self discovery.
I am Kloot - Sky At Night
With gentle stirring riffs and rolling beats amongst some of the more powerful tracks, and lyrics which could make the most shallow person pensive, Kloot without question belong in this mix. You can sense the deep connection and understanding between band and producer in the shifting weight between dark and melodious, joyful and sweeping tracks. The most powerful has to be ‘I Still Do’, who’s bright and beautiful plucked guitar rhythm weaves a story behind its shimmering facade.
Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can
One of the most beautiful albums to come out of a painful experience that has ever been penned, recorded and presented before an already sizable fan-base. the meek and mystical Laura speaks to the heart and beseeches you to feel every note.
The XX - XX
Embodied as ‘A lifetimes work’ by band member ollie, this is one of the most expansive albums on the list, rivaling even foals in this field. with Both Romy and Ollie engaging with the lyrics, there is a bitter-sweet battle of the sexes involved, sometimes singing in turn, sometimes together, overlapping their voices in the same lyrical pattern, but never vying for the limelight. this represents a fantastically produced and epically involved collection.
Foals - Total life Forever
a master-class in the creation of space, and time. with barbed lyrics which bizarrely compliment the synthy backbeats and sneaky bass. All the undercurrents and over-exertion come together to form what can only be described as Ennui-Disco in my ears, though they may hate that. Its the culmination of being drowned in sound, and swept to a new and intuitive setting, which you will never tire of exploring
It has been announced and The XX have indeed won the coveted prize. The minimalist, futurist and deeply dark artistes have trumped all others and come out speechless in the award ceremony, bereft of a clever quip, or hundred mile and hour gabbled thanks. The XX have divided opinion in their figurative arrival centre stage earlier this year, and yet having had their track Intro used in the UK Election coverage this year, alongside other snapshots in adverts and television shows, they were tipped as one of the forerunners for the award.
Listening back to the album, you can see why the prestigious award was given to these bright young things- they have the gift of creating a world of space, and time to explore it. Through the sparse lyrical foreground, and the slow yet gaining rhythmic structures that support it, you can feel a strength grown and cultivated from inside out. there are no half measures within each track. Every composition has been thought about in depth, and with their own admittance that this album has been imbibed with everything they have ever written you get the sense that every single tune is their own baby, to be nurtured and set out into the world, but only when fully ready.