Today (July 27), The Hyundai Mercury Prize will reveal the shortlist of twelve Hyundai Mercury Prize Albums Of The Year. The competition - fought between albums by British or Irish artists released between Saturday, July 30, 2016 and Friday, July 21, 2017 (inclusive) - will be fierce. Here the Music Week staff make a claim for an album that should definitely be on the shortlist...
Ward Thomas - Cartwheels (Sony)
"Free of any other considerations, it is entirely possible to make the claim that Ward Thomas deserve to be in the shortlist based on the quality of their latest collection of songs. On tracks like Lose Me, Boomerang and the title track they seemingly have a surplus of deft lyrics and beautiful melodies to hand. The thing is, though, Cartwheels is not just a brilliant album, it is an important one. When this record went to No. 1 back in September 2016 - thus making Ward Thomas the first ever UK country act to lay claim to that honour - it was the biggest indicator yet not only of the talent in the burgeoning UK country scene, but also the growing appetite for it. It was a moment of visibility that deserves recognition."
George Garner (deputy editor)
Stormzy - Gang Signs & Prayer (Merky)
"If Skepta opened the door for grime's mainstream success with 2016 Mercury Prize winner Konnichiwa, then Stormzy's burst through it. Gang Signs & Prayers exceeded any reasonable commercial expectations to record 68,594 first-week sales to become one of the year's biggest breakthroughs. And from the towering Top 10 lead single Big For Your Boots, to the abrasive Cold, to the soulful Blinded By Your Grace, there was ample substance to the hype. Whether the Mercury panel will vote for back-to-back grime winners remains to be seen, but GSAP, at the very least, deserves to be in the conversation."
James Hanley (senior staff writer)
Pixx – The Age Of Anxiety (4AD)
At 33/1 to make the shortlist, The Age Of Anxiety could be worth staking a few pennies on. And wouldn’t it be nice to see Hannah Rodgers get the nod? In her early twenties, the 4AD singer-songwriter wears the snarl, attitude and confidence of someone far more experienced. Despite a strong lead up of singles (Grip, Baboo, I Bow Down) and videos, this record seemed to creep up on people. Its glittering concoction of indie, electronica and pop evokes Kate Bush as much as Aphex Twin, and pastoral production gives the whole thing a lush, almost outdoorsy feel. Emotions run high throughout, delivered via Rodgers’ mammoth vocal, which vaults skyward one-minute and plumbs gloopy depths the next. But the most interesting – and perhaps most Mercury-friendly – attribute the record has is that, right at its heart, lies pop, pure and simple. Yes, it’s eccentric and higgledy-piggledy, but there are some serious choruses here.
Also, for what it’s worth, I’d love to see Sacred Paws and Harry Styles nominated, too.
Ben Homewood (senior staff writer)
Rag‘N’Bone Man – Human (Sony)
"A more than worthy contender for the accolade after what has been a supersonic year for the gentle giant from East Sussex. Rory Graham’s debut album, released in February, is a stunning and beautifully produced soul and pop masterpiece, and shows off his sometimes gruff but always soothing and melancholy vocals. If that’s not enough to make him a shortlist favourite, then maybe the fact it went straight to No.1 in the and is the fastest-selling debut album by a male artist - across physical, download and streaming - during the 2010s might swing it for him."
Georgina Littlejohn (writer)
The xx, I See You (Young Turks)
"It has been eight years since The xx released their stunning debut (which won them the Mercury Prize in 2010). On I See You, they flesh out previous ideas, whilst also creating a sense of expansive space. The combination of fragility and strength that is so central to an xx record is still there, but their 2017 release is imbued with a tenderness that we only saw glimpses of before, on tracks such as Angels or Infinity. An xx song is perfectly plumbed, perfectly constructed; but despite the resilient infrastructure, there is an undeniable heart to their music. The xx defy gravity: on tracks like Say Something Loving, On Hold and I Dare You, the sighs of Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim dance behind a relentless beat which both grounds them and sets them free. This sonic emancipation also translates lyrically – The xx are bolder, franker than before, exploring notions of appearance and reality in Performance, and inherited behaviour on Replica. The xx have retained the polished sheen, but condensed it into a new, laser-like directness which few other British bands today achieve."
Sophie Nevrkla (writer)
The Hyundai Mercury Prize awards show will be held at the Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith on Thursday, September 14, 2017, and will feature live performances from many of the twelve shortlisted artists. Last year, the prize was claimed by grime star Skepta.
The event marks the second year of the prize’s partnership with Hyundai Motors. The Prize’s broadcast partner, BBC Music, will also be providing live television and radio coverage of the event on BBC Four and BBC Radio 6 Music. Additionally, BBC Two will also broadcast a preview documentary on the 2017 Prize in early September. The Prize’s digital music partner, Apple Music, will be promoting the Prize across all its platforms from the shortlist announcement to the Awards Show..