Ok so the Mercury list was announced recently. 'Who gives a shit?' I hear you cry. Admittedly like all subjective industry awards it is a creative veneer for a basic sales push but I don't mind that - in fact I celebrate it. It is something of a paradox that with so much music available on the internet and blogs aplenty for many people their contact with interesting, rich music is minimal. For many their main channels of musical exploration amount to national radio and video music channels. Thank christ for 6 music but that's a blog for another time. The Mercury list is rightly considered a selection of creative, quality music produced by real artists as opposed to brands. The real value of the contest is not the contest itself but the fact that many people who otherwise would not come into contact with artists such as I Am Kloot will seek them out for a listen as a result of the Mercury list. Last year's choice of Speech Debelle was widely criticised for being too clever, yet the real problem with the choice was it simply wasn't very good.
So who do I think should win? Well having already established that the contest itself isn't important I feel freed from the burden of significance. The early favourites are The XX and Dizzee Rascal. I have listened to both albums on a number of occasions and I fail to see the excitement in either. The XX is perfectly good background music but they are doing nothing that Stars for example don't already do much more creatively. I'm a long term admirer of Dizzee and unlike some applaud his mainstream success yet no way can Tongue 'N Cheek be regarded as his best work. It lacks the lyrical imagination and social commentary of Boy in Da Corner and though an above average pop album it shouldn't win this award (a Brit is probably a dead cert). Any winner from four would for me be a fine reflection on the year's music - Laura Marling, Wild Beasts, Mumford and Sons and Paul Weller. There is much to applaud about each of these artists. Wild Beasts are of course from the mighty Kendal and as a result are already winners in life. Two Dancers showed clear improvement on their first album Limbo Panto and they have a great talent for crafting interesting, challenging yet accessible songs. Mumford and Sons have rightly received huge acclaim on both sides of the atlantic, particularly for their mesmeric live performances. They seem to have come along at the right time with the door recently opened by Fleet Foxes and Band of Horses. These songs seem to have real soul and make a connection with the audience. If you like M&S I urge you to seek out Fanfarlo who I suspect will similarly cheer your heart. Weller has frustratingly not produced a great solo album with the possible exception of Stanley Road. How brilliant then that such a talent has put together a wonderfully coherent album of timeless songs. I'm not sure how much Wake Up The Nation is a document of our times but it is a fantastic album. Which brings me to my choice, Laura Marling 'I speak because I can.' Her first album was one of my favourites and I had high expectations for her follow up. Those expectations have been blown out of the water; the song writing has gone up a notch but the true masterstroke was enlisting Ethan Johns to produce who brings his unparalleled talent for bringing out the personality of the person behind the music. If you don't already own this album what the hell are you doing?