This is Alt J. If you’ve never heard of them, never fear. (Suzan/Suzan/EMPICS Entertainment)
IF YOU LIKE your new music and you know your Michael Kiwanuka from your Michael Ball, then chances are you won’t need this cheat sheet for tonight’s Mercury Music Prize.
If you know that one Alt J single that’s been on the radio and you think you might have seen Plan B at Oxegen one year (you might have been waiting for Mundy to come on), then you may need to glance at it.
If you’ve never heard of any of the the artists named above or below, then it’s time to get cramming and impress your friends. The Mercury Music prize, one of the most prestigious in the industry will be announced live on Channel 4 tonight.
Previous winners include Primal Scream, Portishead, Pulp, PJ Harvey, Arctic Monkeys, Elbow and The xx. If you’ve never heard of any of them we might be in serious trouble.
Study hall is now in session.
Four young lads who met at University in Leeds, Alt-J played a tiny gig at the Academy 2 in Dublin a few months back, and are coming back soon to play The Olympia. Their debut album An Awesome Wave is favourite to win the prize tonight and their name comes from the command used on a Mac keyboard to type the Greek letter Delta. Don’t let that carry-on put you off though, the album is great.
Cheat sheet song: Breezeblocks
Londoner Jessie Ware’s debut album Devotion is in the running for Mercury Music Prize tonight. She’s been described as a mish mash of Adele, Sade and SBTRKT and she’s the daughter of former Panorama journalist John Ware. She started off doing backing vocals for Jack Penate (where did he ever go) before landing a solo record deal. She went to school with Florence (of Florence of the Machine) Welch and was once called the ‘next Amy Winehouse’, because of her Jewish roots.
Cheat sheet song: Running
Hip Hop artist Plan B has been around the block a few time, releasing his acclaimed debut in 2006, while his second album The Defamation of Strickland Banks went into the UK charts at number one in April of this year. His album Ill Manors is nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, and it’s also the soundtrack to the British crime film written and directed by Plan B himselfm (aka Ben Drew). Ill Manors also went into the UK charts at number one.
Cheat sheet song: Ill Manors
The Maccabees have been around for a while too, releasing their first album in 2007. Their third album Given to the Wild was released in January and is nominated for the Mercury. The band hail from South London and while their band name was chosen when randomly flicking through a bible, many of their songs carry an atheist theme. The Telegraph recently said that the Maccabees music was for fans of ‘nineties indie and seventies Bowie’.
Cheat sheet song: Pelican
Londonder Kiwanuka played at this year’s Electric Picnic, a set that was tipped as one of the top ten of the festival. His Mercury Music Prize nomination is for his debut album Home Again, which was recorded on the Isle of Wight. The album was produced by Paul Butler, singer with the band The Bees, who spotted Kiwanuka on MySpace. The lead single from the album is a joy to listen to.
Cheat sheet song: Home Again
Lianne La Havas
Lianne Le Havas also played a highly anticipated set at Electric Picnic this year. She’s another Londoner, of Greek and Jamaican descent. She’s toured America with Bon Iver and was first signed to a record label in the US (Warner) before being signed in the UK. Her debut album Is Your Love Big Enough is nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. Her sounds is described as a mixture between folk and soul, and her lyrics can be quite heartbreaking.
Cheat sheet song: No Room For Doubt
Every year there’s one act nominated for the Mercury Prize that’s just that little bit more obscure, and Roller Trio might be this year’s offering. They describe themselves as a jazz-rock band, leading some to speculate that they also the traditional token jazz Mercury entry. Not if their live shows are anything to go by though (The Guardian has described them as ‘formidable’ in the past).
Cheat sheet song: R-O-R
Field Music hail from Sunderland and have been around since 2004. Brothers Peter and David Brewis teamed up with pianist Andrew Moore for their first two albums, and recorded their third as a duo. The pair are nominated for the Mercury Music Prize for their fourth album Plumb. Field Music are VERY cool and once split up because they didn’t want to be called a ‘band’. They also produce some very pleasing guitar pop music.
Cheat sheet song: (I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing
Sam Lee could give Roller Trio a run for their money in the relative obscurity stakes. He’s a survival expert who trained with Ray Mears (really) and had never sung before embarking on recording his solo album Ground of its Own, which is nominated for the Mercury. He really should have got on board with the singing before this, he’s got a fine set on him. Set of vocal chords, that is.
Cheat sheet song: The Ballad of George Collins
Howard’s debut album Every Kingdom is in the running for the Mercury tonight. He’s touted as being strongly influenced by legendary folksters Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, and you can definitely hear that, and there’s hints of Bon Iver and some jangly guitars in there too. Perfect album to listen to if you’re near the sea. Even better if you’re staring wistfully out the window.
Cheat sheet song: Old Pine
Chances are even if you don’t know who Django Django are you may have heard their song Default on the radio. The Scottish band formed in 2009 and their eponymous debut album is in the running for the Mercury. Despite the popularity of their lead single, the album is not to be overlooked (The Guardian gave it five stars and the notoriously cranky Pitchfork gave it 7.2). The band just played a sell-out gig at the Button Factory in Dublin last weekend.
Cheat sheet song: Default
And the one we almost forgot… Richard Hawley
Shame on us. We almost forgot (well, we did forget) one of the strongest contenders in the field. Richard Hawley certainly has form. His seventh studio album Standing on the Sky’s Edge is nominated for the Mercury Music Prize and he’s tipped as one of the favourites to win. Back in 2006 when Arctic Monkeys picked up the prize their frontman Alex Turner quipped “someone call 999! Richard Hawley’s been robbed”. Maybe justice will be served this time round.
Cheat sheet song: Leave Your Body Behind You
Now, are you all caught up? Good. There’ll be a test later.