This week the shortlist was revealed for the Barclaycard Mercury Prize 2012 Albums of the Year. The running reflects an incredibly exciting time for British music with an incredible eight debut albums featured. Perhaps even more excitingly, all 12 of the albums are characterised by a refreshing sense of innovation that puts the art of music making to the fore.
The diminishing divide between electronic exploration and traditional guitar led Indie is a concurrent theme. The ebullient amalgam of cerebral Dance music and left field Pop sensibility that Django Django have conjured up on their eponymous debut is a perfect example, as is the melting pot of styles and brave sonic adventures of Cambridge four piece Alt J and their set An Awesome Wave.
Similarly, Jessie Ware and Lianne La Havas both fearlessly fuse traditional and contemporary approaches to incredible effect on their respective debuts. Is Your Love Big Enough? the striking first effort from Lianne La Havas spans a broad spectrum of styles, all anchored around the young singer’s wonderful vocal. Jessie Ware’s Devotion is equally adventurous, opening up a brave new chapter for the UK’s enduring love of sophisticated Soul and underground Dance music.
Two singer songwriters who’ve been heavily involved with the Communion collective, Ben Howard and Michael Kiwanuka, are represented for their first albums. Both are hugely gifted songwriters who breath new life into their craft, Ben with his hauntingly harmonic set Every Kingdom, and Michael with the sumptuous Soul of Home Again.
The brave innovation isn’t restricted to the newcomers though. Richard Hawley, a musician who’s output has been a consistent inspiration to many younger artists, turns in an ambitious opus with the psychedelically tinged Standing At The Sky’s Edge, whilst Field Music, a band who first came to the attention of many nearly a decade ago, have perfected their intellectually informed brand of grandiose Pop with their fourth album Plumb.
Plan B and The Maccabees may come from two very different start points, but they’ve both earned the love and respect of a loyal fan base with their honest and unaffected take on the modern world. The Maccabees highly poetic and emotionally charged Indie has found its sharpest form on third album Given To The Wild, whilst Ill Manors, Ben Drew’s unforgiving appraisal of inner city life, perfectly captures the mood of modern London.
From the further flung reaches of the musical landscape, Roller Trio and Sam Lee have reinvigorated age old art forms in startling fashion. Roller Trio’s self titled first offering reconfigures the heady world of Jazz Fusion, imbuing their music with an impulsive and instinctive charge that’s indicative of the vibrant Leeds scene that’s nurtured them. Sam Lee, a singer in the most traditional sense, has collected centuries old songs from the indigenous travelling community and revamped them using contemporary recording techniques and intelligent arrangements.
The next few months promise to be hugely exciting, as Barclaycard Albums of the Year Live brings a series of of exclusive intimate live performances from many of the bands and artists involved. It’s a couple of months until the Awards Show in November, which will be held for the first time in Camden Town’s iconic Roundhouse, but that means there’s plenty of time to experience all this incredible new music.