The Mercury Music Prize may not be the most well-known honour that can be bestowed on a band, but lately it’s been said by more than a few people that the artists being nominated for the title are getting more and more underwhelming with each year that passes.

Sheffield’s Arctic Monkeys, the BBC’s Sound of 2011 James Blake and music legend David Bowie have all made the 2013 shortlist, and whilst there are a lot of very talented musicians rubbing shoulders here all of the nominees seem a little on the safe side, with no ‘controversial’ or ‘surprising’ acts making the cut. While many will profess love for David Bowie, it’s a likely bet that the majority haven’t listened to his album in full or indeed any of the albums nominated this year; just a few singles here and there.

Arctic Monkeys

YORKSHIRE LADS: Sheffield’s Arctic Monkeys lead the nominations despite only releasing ‘AM’ this week. Photo (c) Promo.

In fact the only nominee listed that I think deserve to win are Savages – an all-female band of excellent role models for UK feminism, that released an album challenging people’s perceptions of women in the music industry. Fellow feminist Kate Nash was surely deserving of a nomination for the incredible Girl Talk album, that has helped a wave of teenage girls get into the alternative music scene, but somehow missed out. However Laura Marling has made the list again, and having listened to the work of art that is Once I Was An Eagle, I really do believe that it should be celebrated as a great contender to take the prize.

My biggest gripes with this year’s list are the nominations of dance acts Rudimental and Disclosure. Not that I don’t think their albums are deserving of recognition; quite the contrary, but it seems a very fickle decision to try and pander to the needs of every living soul on the planet.


QUESTIONABLE NOMINEES: The inclusion of Disclosure in the shortlist has surprised many critics across the blogosphere. Photo (c) Promo.

Daughter, London Grammar, King Krule, Peace and Palma Violets are all startling omissions, whilst the Arctic Monkeys got nominated despite their new and nominated album AM only being out for precisely one day and 17 hours when this year’s shortlist was announced. Where’s the emerging talent that people can usually discover at the Mercury Prize gigs? As much as I love Arctic Monkeys, they have no place on the list this year.

Foals are strong contenders for the win this year, as their latest LP Holy Fire really captured that perfect album formula. As well as putting out a great album they have toured endlessly this year, giving as many people as possible the opportunity to hear their newest record properly. That’s the spirit that the Mercury Prize should be attempting to capture, instead of simply increasing record sales for moderately popular guitar bands.


STRONG CONTENDERS: Foals are the early favourites to take the prize home for their album ‘Holy Fire’. Photo (c) Promo.

All in all, whilst the list is once again very hard to judge between the bands nominated, the sparkle of the Mercury Prize is waning and music fans are becoming less tolerant of the token categories. At least in this year’s list we seem to have finally moved on from an unknown jazz act being thrown into the mix. Only time will tell if the Mercury Prize will become another victim of people only listening to singles and not full albums. I think that’s the real issue with the Mercury Prize, but unfortunately one that cannot be resolved so easily. To be honest, it only has itself to blame for its somewhat diminishing credibility.

Barclaycard Mercury Prize 2013 – Albums of the Year Shortlist: 

Arctic Monkeys – AM
James Blake – Overgrown
David Bowie – The Next Day
Jake BuggJake Bugg
Disclosure – Settle
Foals – Holy Fire
Jon Hopkins – Immunity
Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle
Laura Mvula – Sing To The Moon
Rudimental – Home
Savages – Silence Yourself
Villagers – {Awayland}

If you have a couple more minutes to spare, why not check out the past week’s other content?