It’s almost that time of year again for everyone’s favourite national music award (the BRITS? Never heard of them). Next Thursday we’ll all know which 12 British and Irish albums from the past year will be battling it out for the elusive title of Mercury Prize winner 2019.
Having successfully guessed the last two years of winners of the Prize, you’d think I’d be rushing to Ladbrokes to place my bet but instead I’m choosing the more virtuous route of sharing my predictions as an article.
So here we go, the 12 albums that I think are going to be nominated along with my worthless opinions on them and my dubious odds for winning.
Dave – Psychodrama
Makes sense to get the easiest (and my favourite) choice out of the way first. Probably the best British hip-hop album ever made, definitely the best of this year. Balancing the line between catchy and thoughtful with ease, the debut offering of talented Streatham rapper Dave has a very good chance of taking the prize this year. Two out of the five most recent winners have been hip-hop acts (Skepta and Young Fathers, and I’m quite hoping we can get 3 for 6.
Odds: 4 h
FONTAINES D.C. – Dogrel
Another strong debut album, this time from a Dublin-based five-piece post-punk band. Although the album did well with critics, traditionally punk hasn’t seen a lot of love from the Mercury judges and there’s some big players with strong albums in this UK post-punk revival scene (see IDLES) that could push them out of a nomination let alone a win, making FONTAINES D.C. quite the under-dogrels.
IDLES – Joy as an Act of Resistance
Post-punk darlings made quite a splash last August with their sophomore album, their politically charged snarls connecting with audiences and critics alike. The Bristolian 5-piece returned with a more accessible sound than their debut, Brutalism, and stand a good chance of bringing home the prize.
Ezra Collective – You Can’t Steal My Joy
Did someone say token jazz act? This London 5-piece are likely to take that title on the shortlist this year. Having dropped an amazing EP last year and this solid debut studio album a few months ago. Some people believe recent The Comet Is Coming album will make it on the shortlist this year and although I do think it’s a great record, I think that it’s somewhat unlikely since Sons of Kemet, another project of the talented Shabaka Hutchings was nominated last year. Also, call me superstitious, but I think the fact that You Can’t Steal My Joy features two recent nominees (Jorja Smith and Loyle Carner) bodes well for it, even if I believe it’s unlikely to win.
Foals – Part 1 Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost
Having had a nomination in 2013 with Holy Fire, the 4-piece has matured a lot in those 6 years and this record really shows it. I consider this a superior record to their 2013 contender for the award and think it’s pretty likely to make the shortlist and even has a decent chance of claiming the prize. If not, who knows? Maybe we’ll see the second part of this musical project in the 2020 awards?
Thom Yorke – ANIMA
Fun fact: Thom Yorke (either as a solo act or leading Radiohead) has been nominated for the Mercury Prize more than anyone else with 6 shortlist spots. Am I picking this album just because of that? Pretty much since I haven’t even found the time to listen to this album in full yet (I know, very professional) and I’m just playing a numbers game.
Little Simz – GREY Area
Predictions like these are almost never black or white but I don’t really think there’s any grey area when it comes to this albums place on the shortlist. Little Simz is one of the hottest things coming out of the UK hip-hop scene right now and is making waves here and across the pond, and this album (dropped in March) has pretty much cemented that.
slowthai – Nothing Great About Britain
This Northampton-born rapper is offering something pretty different to the other two UK hip-hop acts I’ve put on this list, but that might give the edge against his competition. Arguable owing just as many of his sonic influences from punk acts as London-based rap, this debut album contains some great singles and although the full package wasn’t quite as tight as I was hoping it to be, I think it’s pretty likely to appear on the shortlist.
black midi – Schlagenheim
Bit of wildcard choice and perhaps too leftfield for the Mercurys but this four-piece of experimental rockers has created a lot of hype over the last year with a heavy air of mystery. However their recently released noisy post-rock debut isn’t mysterious at all, it’s just great. Would be great to see them on the shortlist but perhaps this is just wishful thinking on my part.
Self Esteem – Compliments Please
Although I don’t personally see this record as the best choice for winner, it’s a very solid pop album by one half of established indie duo Slow Club. I also realised my list was in some desperate need of some pop music and I feel like this has a good shot of making it onto the shortlist.
Anna Calvi – Hunter
With two nominations already under her belt and even having been part of the Mercury judge panel at various points, this solo rocker seems like a shoe in for at the very least another nomination if not a win. The fact that this latest album has performed better both critically and commercial than her other two offering also looks promising for her.
Jade Bird – Jade Bird
Toting accessible rock with subversive lyrics, this English rocker has erupted out of nowhere to great success with her debut album. Perhaps not the strongest choice to win, I think this solid and clever record is likely to end up on the shortlist.
Quick list of acts I didn’t include in my list but could easily get nominated: The 1975, The Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy, Lewis Capaldi, The Comet Is Coming, The Big Moon, The Twilight Sad, James Blake and SOAK.
Well that’s all for now. Hopefully, come July 25th, I’ll be able to gloat at my amazing powers of prediction when the shortlist is released and of course expect more coverage of the Mercury Prize in a few months when the ceremony returns come 19th September.