Last year, James Blake swept up the Barclaycard Mercury Prize with his hauntingly beautiful album, Overgrown. In preparation for the 2014 awards show, In The Middle scrutinise this year’s nominees and their chances of taking centre stage at the Roundhouse on 29th October 2014.
Royal Blood – s/t: No band in 2014 has got close to the monumental rise enjoyed by Royal Blood. After selling out their UK tour in minutes, a Mercury award would be a cherry of an already very impressive cake. However, huge bands such as Arctic Monkeys have lost out to smaller acts in the past.
Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow: Perhaps the biggest surprise on the list. The band aren’t undiscovered talent nor was the album met with unanimous critical acclaim. But as it topped the charts and having been accompanied by an impressive Glastonbury set it’s impossible to rule them out.
Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots: In 2001 Albarn’s Gorrilaz refused their nomination but still remained a critic’s favourite. His debut solo album merges together into a soulful and elegant whole. Importantly, it avoids the blandness that plagues the old guard. This could be the formula to rebuild burnt bridges.
FKA Twigs – LP1: With her swirling vocal lines and subdued beats it’s not surprising to learn that FKA twigs shares the Young Turks label with the xx and SBTRKT. It’s yet to be seen as to whether this will weaken her chances however, as James Blake’s similarly melancholic electronica won last year’s prize.
East India Youth – Total Strife Forever: William Doyle’s haunting electronica has won himself much admiration this year, the album’s vas soundscapes have rightly earned him recognition from the Mercury panel. Yet could the prize be given to a flop-haired, keyboard adorned young man two years in a row?
Anna Calvi – One Breath: More than a singer-songwriter, Anna Calvi is a virtuoso electric guitarist. Her 2011 debut made guitarists everywhere blush with embarrassment and earned a Mercury nomination. This year there’s no PJ Harvey to beat her to the prize, the award is agonisingly close.
GoGo Penguin – v2.0: The jazz trio from Manchester creates easy-to-listen to songs around a virtuoso pianist. At times the double bass morphs into a danceable bass-line. Though undoubtedly great musicians, you’d have to go back 15 years to find a winner from the jazz genre.
Jungle – Jungle: Initially known mysteriously as J and T, Jungle at least deserve a prize for marketing themselves brilliantly. That being said, it’s a testament to their infectious mid-tempo 1970’s style funk that they didn’t need to reveal themselves for so long.
Nick Mulvey – First Mind: Another former nominee, in 2008 Mulvey lost out as part of Portico Quartet. Now He’s swapped the Hang (just google it) for an acoustic guitar, and plays folk music. Whilst the change might seem dramatic he claims they “hold the same principles” and the Mercury panel obviously agree.
Polar Bear – In Each and Every One: Polar Bear is as much a dance act as it is a jazz one. It sounds like an Ibiza DJ has got their hands on Miles Davis records… But in a really good way. Having already been nominated, we know the Mercury panel loves an outsider and this might be the biggest of the lot.
Kate Tempest – Everybody Down: The poet turned rapper won the Ted Hughes Award only last year, now she’s looking for an accolade for her songs. Some were less than pleased with the former Brit-schooler trying her hand at MCing, yete Tempest’s sparkling use of language silences any critics.
Young Fathers – Dead: The Scottish hip-hop trio bring rap, rock and influences from their disparate heritages together with surprising cohesion on their debut. Could have potentially been the last ever Scottish act to grace the Mercury’s had Alex Salmond had his way. A consolation prize then maybe?