Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The Mercury Music Prize 2013: My Thoughts.

You may remember that around this time last year I wrote a blog about the recently announced Mercury Music Prize nominees, reviewed the 12 nominated acts and their music, and decided whether or not they deserved the prize less than Marina and the Diamonds, whose album Electra Heart was very good but mysteriously missing from the shortlist of nominated acts.

Around a week ago the shortlist for the 2013 Mercury Music Prize was nominated, and I detected another unjust omission in the form of my favourite album this year so far, Little Boots's Nocturnes. 

I've decided the only fair thing to do is once again listen to each of the albums and decide whether or not Little Boots's offering would be more deserving of the prize. However, much like last year, I cannot be bothered, and so I'll only be listening to the lead single from each of the acts once and only once and bringing you up to speed with whether or not they are much cop, particularly in comparison with Little Boots's fabulous single Motorway.

As usual, the shortlist was unveiled with the acts listed in alphabetical order and so as usual I will be inviting people to "check their surname-early-in-the-alphabet privilege" and reviewing the acts in reverse alphabetical order.

Here goes nothing.

Villagers - Awayland

What's the lead single?
The lead single is called Nothing Arrived.

Is it a load of old tosh?
To be fair to Villagers, this song is not a load of old tosh. The instruments are very pleasant-sounding in a Coldplay-on-a-good-day kind of way, and the singer's voice is very tuneful. The only thing is, as the title suggests, the song isn't terribly uplifting. 

The chorus says "I waited for something, but something died. So I waited for nothing, and nothing arrived". Sounds a lot like the day I sat in all day at my mam's house waiting for the man to fix the washing machine, only to get a phone call at the eleventh hour saying that the man could not come after all and I had got out of bed before noon for no reason whatsoever. Still, at least I didn't miss the end of This Morning like I normally do.

What can you tell me about the artist?
Villagers are, disappointingly, not in any way affiliated with YMCA hitmakers The Village People. Much like Westlife and Boyzone before them, Villagers come from a country called Ireland. How exotic. 

Lead singer Conor O'Brien (possessor of the world's most Irish name) claims he wrote this album because promoting the group's debut record Becoming A Jackal had apparently left him feeling like he had "romanticised sadness", and he needed a change. Odd, because the song I just listened to was depressing beyond relief which can only mean the group's first album hit levels of depressing matched only by the feeling of watching somebody knife Elmo to death.

Is it as good as Motorway by Little Boots?
No it is not. Little Boots - 1. Everyone else- 0. A promising start.

Savages - Silence Yourself

What's the lead single?
There doesn't seem to be one, actually. The opening song, meanwhile, is called Shut Up, and it is not a cover of the Kelly Osbourne song of the same name. Pity.

Is it a load of old tosh?
It's a fairly by-the-numbers post-punk number with Franz Ferdinand-style guitar licks, although the singer is a woman and I can't deny my love of female singers in bands, which there is still a disappointingly small number of in 2013. It's a cool sounding song. Not something I'd ever have a massive desire to listen to again, but still not "a load of tosh" either.

What can you tell me about the artist?
According to reputed essay source Wikipedia, Savages are a "London-based post-punk revival rock band, formed in 2011". The lead singer Jehnny Beth isn't actually called Jehnny Beth at all, she's called Camille Berthomier and comes from a country in Europe called France. The album Silence Yourself was co-produced by a man named Johnny Hostile who doesn't sound very friendly at all.

According to the guitarist Gemma Thompson, the name Savages is derived from books she read when she was younger like Lord Of The Flies. I haven't read this book, so I'm no expert, but it seems like Lord Of The Flies is not an appropriate book for a "younger" person to be reading. I was always a fan of the Mr. Men series, and believe young people should stick to that instead. That's why I'll be calling my own London-based post-punk revival rock band Mr. Greedy, after one of my favourite fictional characters. Much more family friendly, I'm sure you agree.

And is it as good as Motorway by Little Boots?
I can safely say that it is not, another victory for Little Boots.

Rudimental - Home

What's the lead single called?
The lead single is called Spoons.

Is it a load of old tosh?
Unlike follow-up single Feel The Love, which gets right on my tits I can tell you that for free, Spoons is not a load of old tosh and has a much cooler, Mercury Music Prize vibe, as opposed to a "2am with sick on my trainers at a club in South Shields" vibe.

What can you tell me about the artist?
Rudimental have already had two number 1s in the UK from this album, with the equally annoying singles Waiting All Night and Feel The Love. Lucky them, it took The Saturdays six bloody years to get a number 1. Probably because at any given time one of them is about to give birth.

Is it as good as Motorway by Little Boots?
It's not bad, but Motorway is better.

Laura Mvula - Sing To The Moon

What's the lead single called?
The lead single is called She.

Is it a load of old tosh?
Absolutely not. In fact it is utterly beautiful and I recommend you listen to it.

What can you tell me about the artist?
Mvula isn't the name Laura Mvula was born with, it is in fact her husband's name. Her maiden name is Douglas which, as I'm sure you'll agree, is shit compared to Mvula. Laura Mvula made her first UK TV appearance on The Graham Norton Show, on the same episode where Mark Wahlberg got really drunk and made a total jackass of himself.

And is it as good as Motorway by Little Boots?
It is a very different kind of song, but yes I think it is.

Laura Marling - Once I Was An Eagle

What's the lead single called?
It is called Master Hunter.

Is it a load of old tosh?
I generally find Laura Marling's music to be very hit and miss. This song has a surprisingly country-ish sound to it (watch out, Shania Twain, I say) and while again it's not the sort of thing I'd listen to I still couldn't honestly say it was "a load of old tosh".

What can you tell me about the artist?
In 2011 Laura Marling beat competition from Cheryl Cole and Paloma "Oh One Of Your Chat Show Guests Didn't Come In Today...Of Course I'll Stand In" Faith to the prize of Best British Female at the Brit Awards. She also beat Ellie Goulding, who was very upset indeed.

And is it as good as Motorway by Little Boots?
No, not it actually isn't.

Jon Hopkins - Immunity

What's the lead single called?
Once again, there doesn't appear to be one, so I'm going to listen to the only song on the album under five minutes long, We Disappear.

Is it a load of old tosh?
It's very cool-sounding. There's a lot of buzzing and hissing and beeping and stuff. It is, however, an instrumental, which means that it's not exactly a singalong classic and after a while, as cool sounding as it is, by about two thirds of the way through you do just want to skip to the end and listen to Jessie J's Domino. Or maybe that's just me.

What can you tell me about the artist?
Unlike most of the artists I've discussed so far, Jon Hopkins is a man. Something I find very interesting  indeed is that Jon Hopkins has been making cool electronic music since he was very young, and he is responsible for the swirling loveliness that makes up the score to the final episode of Sex And The City, such as in this memorable and very beautiful scene.

Enough about Sex And The City, Daniel, is the song as good as Motorway by Little Boots?
I'm going to say no, but feel free to disagree with me.

James Blake - Overgrown

What's the lead single called?
Why, it's called Retrograde!

Is it a load of old tosh?
Like most of James Blake's music, he sounds very whiny on it and slightly like he's either stubbed his toe on the kitchen door or quite simply wants to be put out of his misery. If you can overlook his high-pitched whimpering, then there is a very nice-sounding song. If you can't, then frankly I don't blame you, James Blake's voice is not the easiest thing to listen to.

What can you tell me about the artist?
It's James Blake's birthday next week! I hope he has a lovely day. He is probably most known for his song The Wilhelm Scream, which is actually a cover of a song his dad wrote. Isn't that nice? He was nominated for Best British Male at the 2012 Brit Awards, but the award went to Ed Sheeran. Imagine showing up to an awards ceremony, only for that bore Ed bloody Sheeran to walk off for the award you were nominated for? Nightmare.

And is it as good as Motorway by Little Boots?

Jake Bugg - Jake Bugg

What's the lead single called?
The lead single was Trouble Town. He then went to release a further six singles, making seven in total. Does he think he's Katy bloody Perry or sumfin'?

Is it a load of old tosh?
This song reminds me of popular photo-sharing phone app, Instagram. For some reason, even though Jake Bugg was only 18 when this song was released, they've clearly tried to make this song sound really old and reminiscent of the glory days of vinyl. But do you know what? The glory days of vinyl ended because something better came along. It's the same with Instagram, millions of people are buying phones with state of the art cameras only to put them on the Internet looking like they were taken on a shitty camera 30 years ago. So I'm going to say that Trouble Town is a load of old tosh, simply because it sounds like they're forcing it to sound like it was coming out of a gramophone or some shite.

What can you tell me about the artist?
Jake Bugg was inspired to become a musician after watching an episode of The Simpsons. When his album beat Leona Lewis to number 1 he declared "it's my job to keep that X Factor shit from number 1". The following is a list of UK number 1 songs from artists who came from The X Factor which are better than Jake Bugg's "Trouble Town"...

1. Leona Lewis - Bleeding Love
2. Joe McElderry - The Climb
3. Alexandra Burke - Bad Boys
4. James Arthur - Impossible
5. Steve Brookstein - Against All Odds
6. Olly Murs - Troublemaker
7. Leona Lewis - Run
8. JLS - Beat Again
9. Olly Murs - Heart Skips A Beat
10. Diana Vickers - Once
11. Little Mix - Wings


In the interest of fairness here is a list of UK number 1s from The X Factor less good than the aforementioned Jake Bugg debut single...

1. Chico - It's Chico Time
2. One Direction - Little Things

That is probably all.

I take it it's not better than Little Boots's Motorway then?
Erm, no. It is not.

Foals - Holy Fire

Come on then, what's the lead single?
I'm glad you asked. The lead singer is called Inhaler, yes it is.

Is it a load of old tosh?
No but it's not terribly interesting to listen to. It starts off well enough, but by the end of the first repetitive verse it's a bit "oh ok, what now then?"

What can you tell us about the artist?
They got their name from the fact that lead singer Yannis Phillipakis's surname means "little lover of horses" in Greek. Why the Greek language needs a word for this term I'm not 100% sure of, but then who am I to criticise the Greek language? I AM NO ONE, THAT'S WHO. Yannis Phillipakis dropped out of Oxford university to pursue music, which certainly shows dedication on his part.

Is it better than Motorway?
Nope. No it isn't. Little Boots definitely should have been on that shortlist.

Disclosure - Settle

What's the lead single called?
The lead single from Settle has the unusual title Latch, which features Sam Smith. Whoever that is.

Is it a load of old tosh?
I can safely say that it isn't a load of old tosh and while it isn't as good as Disclosure's more popular single White Noise, I still think it's a very good and very current-sounding single.

Tell us something about the artist?
Much like Pet Shop Boys, Disclosure are a British electronic music duo. However, unlike Pet Shop Boys, Disclosure have recorded precisely zero duets with Dusty Springfield. Largely because Dusty Springfield is dead. What a pity. The two members of Disclosure are called Guy Lawrence and Howard Lawrence. The fact both of their surnames is Lawrence is no co-incidence- they are, in fact, brothers.

Is it as good as Motorway by Little Boots?
There's not much in it no it isn't.

David Bowie - The Next Day

What's the lead single called?
The lead single, which was released to iTunes with no furore and no fanfare earlier this year, was called Where Are We Now?

Is it a load of old tosh?
I'm pleased to say that it isn't. I may not be the David Bowie fan that about three quarters of my generation wishes they were pretends to be professes to be (because, y'know, his Aladdin Sane cover was on some pretty cool t-shirts in the mid-2000s), but I am an admirer of his and I do appreciate his work, so it would be a shame if he appeared from nowhere and cocked it up with a big stinker of an album, particularly when it wasn't exactly like the music industry was banging his door down demanding a new album. Where Are We Now? is a surprisingly somber song, released on Bowie's 66th birthday, where he appears to be looking back over his life and reflecting on mistakes he has made. I'll admit it isn't likely to get you up shaking what your mama gave you, but it's definitely worth a listen at the very least.

So...exactly who is this "David Bowie" you speak of?
A relative newcomer to the music scene, David Bowie released his debut album in 1967, though it was the release of his single Spaced Oddity in 1969 that made him famous. Over the course of his career he's released a truckload of iconic and unforgettable hits from Hero and The Rebel Rebel to Starmen and Ziggy Starburst. He is one of the most important musicians of all time.

Is it as good as Motorway by Little Boots?
Yeah, go on then.


Arctic Monkeys - AM

What's the first single?
The first single is called R U Mine?, which utilises "txt spk" (or "text speak") to ask the question "Are You Mine?"

Is it a load of old tosh?
From the opening verse it's a bit all over the place which is confusing, probably because it's now 2.10am and I'm listening to this song for the first time. However, as the song goes on it all starts to come together a lot more, which makes it a lot easier to listen to and follow and everything. Perhaps with repeated listening it might be a grower, but I'm going to say that this isn't for me, though "a load of old tosh" it is not.

What can you tell us about the artist?
Their first commercial single I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor went straight to number 1, and is now essential if you're making a "hits of the 2000s" playlist, alongside Poker Face and Can't Get You Out Of My Head and Love Machine and Mr. Brightside. Ah, the 2000s. What a decade.

Little Boots...?
Is better than this.

Well, after all that, what conclusions can we come to?

Who should win the Mercury Music Prize this year, otherwise known as the year two thousand and thirteen or 2013 as it is more commonly written?
Based purely on the songs I've included in this blog post, I'm going to say Rudimental (although I do dislike their other songs) or Disclosure, or possibly David Bowie.

And was Little Boots robbed?
Yes she bloody was!