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The Mercury Prize 2013 was open to albums released by British or Irish artists between September 11th 2012 and September 9th 2013. The shortlist was announced in early September with the award ceremony on October 30th. But who missed out? Here’s a look at 8 glaring omissions.
Biffy Clyro – Opposites (28th January 2013)
The Reading and Leeds headliners finally had their moment of glory, topping the album chart at the sixth attempt. A two part concept album, ‘The Land at the End of Our Toes‘ and ‘The Sand at the Core of Our Bones’ are opposites, hence the title. The former is a reflection on difficulties encountered during life whilst the latter looks at the hopes for the future. With 20 tracks the judges had a lot to consider from the Scots who admit nothing was off limits. They tried “a wide array of sound sources like bagpipes, kazoos, mariachi band, tap dancing, church organ, tubular bells and the sound of the band’s beards being scratched”.
The Staves – Dead & Born & Grown (12th November 2012)
These three sisters are ludicrously underrated. They have some of the most spine tingling harmonies you will ever hear and the degree to which they know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, through virtue of being sisters, is evident in their tight and flawless performances. Although they’ve lacked strong publicity and regular radio play they had 15 minutes of fame earlier this year, taking to Glastonbury’s iconic Pyramid Stage with Mumford & Sons, alongside The Vaccines, First Aid Kit and Vampire Weekend for the epic finale and have also had notable support slots with The Civil Wars and Bon Iver.
Kodaline – In A Perfect World (14th June 2013)
Kodaline have a reputation for storytelling, somewhat helped by their music videos. Even without them the songs speak to listeners. I first heard the Irish quartet last November and have watched them have a string of respectable charts performances including a #3 album as well as singles High Hopes, Love Like This and All I Want – the video to which has surpassed 4.6m YouTube views. Their beautifully crafted melodies and carefully placed vocals haven’t pleased everyone scoring 54/100 on Metacritic but for me the whole thing from start to finish is sublime and deserved of a nomination.
Public Service Broadcasting – Inform, Educate, Entertain (6th May 2013)
With the mantra ‘Inform, Educate, Entertain’, PSB have gained a cult following. This corduroy-clad duo of guitarist and all round string player J.Willgoose Esq. and drummer, pianist and general electronic man Wrigglesworth, sample old public information films, archive footage and propaganda material to fit around their own instrumentation. Unfortunately the Mercury judges, who usually praise and reward innovation, left them out of the running. The videos are aesthetically pleasing and fashionably patriotic, with many harking back to British glory days such as Spitfire or Everest, yet the geek chic and retro vibe make it enthralling for a contemporary market.
Only released two days before the announcement, this trio who formed at Nottingham University in 2009, topped betting charts leading many to question if the favourites list was just picked at random. It would have been foolish to cast them aside as they were the ‘most blogged about artist of the year’ according to hype machine. With tracks like the hard-hitting Strong and Wasting My Young Years it’s easy to see why. The band centres on Hannah Reid who doesn’t hide the fact that many of the songs she writes have deep, personal connotations.
The 1975 – The 1975 (2nd September 2013)
Only released the week of the shortlist announcement, The 1975 were the talk of the industry months before. The Manchester pop rockers have an eclectic funk, managing to engage fans with a modern take on an 80s style. Chocolate, Sex and The City proved they can write hooks but the album showed another side, dispensing with the lackadaisical bravado in favour of a more serious and reflective nature like piano ballad and album closer Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You. They openly narrate experiences of sex, drugs, fear, death, and anything else people grapple with whilst growing up.
Daughter – If You Leave (18th March 2013)
Another highly anticipated debut, If You Leave is by solo project turned indie-folk trio Daughter whose success is thanks partly to the almost viral success of Youth. The track proved popular following its use on numerous television shows and adverts in the last couple of years. The album finally dropped in March and contained more of the same sophistication and emotion, receiving countless positive reviews praising the sheer beauty and almost unassuming grandeur. However, the unrelenting melancholy has worked against them at times.
Peace – In Love (25th March 2013)
The B-Town fad has taken a shine to the limelight this year with Peace and Swim Deep, the most well known, both releasing debuts and hitting the festival scene hard in 2013. Whenever you mention one the other isn’t far behind. If I was to pick I’d say Peace had a better chance of making the shortlist. Although Swim Deep seem to have mastered the tropical pop bounce, Peace’s songs are far more slicker, catchier and it’s a more consistent album overall with anthems like Wraith, Lovesick and Follow Baby providing enough reason to edge them ahead.