British music’s most famous album award has thrown up a mixed bag of winners over the years. For every Franz Ferdinand (2004) there’s been a Gomez (1998); for every The XX (2010) an M People (1994). But despite its foibles the Mercury still means something. Take the sales figures alone: PJ Harvey’s ‘Let England Shake’ shot up by 1,190 per cent the day after Jools Holland pulled her name out of his silver envelope last year. The prize is also an indelible record of British taste in 2012. Get it wrong and future generations will have that bit of history to despair of along with ‘50 Shades of Grey’, the Olympic Closing Ceremony and George Osborne. Here are our predictions (and hopes) for the 12 names that will be announced for the shortlist next Wednesday.
If chronicling the trials of a lost generation of British youth doesn’t deserve a nomination, we’re not sure what does. Hence Plan B will have even more to be angry about if he doesn’t get the nod. Sitting similarly pretty should be Jessie Ware (above), whose album ‘Devotion’ represents the grown-up sound of UK bass. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds will likely feature (whereas Liam’s Beady Eye won’t). Florence And The Machine should join a resurgent Saint Etienne, whose LP ‘Words and Music’ is a stirring ode to pop itself. Expect to see Kate Bush in the oldie-but-goodie slot.
This has been a stand-out year for electronic music, and it would be nice if Actress and Rustie were given credit. On the indie side, Django Django and Alt-J have all the art school credentials to follow in Franz Ferdinand’s footsteps. The jazz choice could easily be all-star London trio Troyka, while last but not least, weepy Scottish folk band Meursault could hope to do a King Creosote and boost their profile via a well-deserved place on the shortlist. The Mercury always throws up surprises. Let’s just hope they’re nice – and not Gomez-esque – ones. Jonny Ensall
The Mercury Prize shortlist is announced on Wed Sept 12.