Mercury Music Prize 2010

ClashMusic picks some alternative acts
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Music awards are total bullshit.

We all know it, there can be no debate. The last time awards for music were anywhere near appropriate was in Primary School, where little Johnny would get two gold stars for a much improved performance on the xylophone.

But they do provide a talking point. This year’s Mercury Music Prize list has been hailed as a validation of British music, a sign that this Sceptred Isle has dragged itself out of a moribund artistic climate. Only… it doesn’t. What we have instead is ten acts who have released albums – some of which are good, even brilliant, but most of them are insipid retreads of former glories.

Plus, there’s no electronica in sight. What is that all about?

So anyway: the ClashMusic team have put our heads together to nominate ten albums worthy of inclusion in the Mercury awards list. Your favourite not in here? Lettuce know.

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The Fall – Your Future, Our Clutter
Mark E Smith has never been nominated for the Mercury award –what could the organisers be afraid of? Apart from the obvious. The Fall are one of British music’s true institutions, a band for whom breaking new ground is an everyday activity. One of Smith’s most focussed statements for a decade ‘Your Future, Our Clutter’ towers over most of 2010’s releases thus far.

Four Tet – There Is Love In You
Another artist who has never been nominated for the Mercury, Kieran Hebden returned this year with ‘There Is Love In You’. A terrific album, it is informed by a recent DJ stint at Plastic People. Underground dance mixes with head nodding electronica, yet throughout this is a tremendous sense of the spiritual. Perhaps the most emotive statement from the boy Hebden.

Noah & The Whale – First Days Of Spring
Lead singer Charlie Fink used to go out with Laura Marling, until the two had a messy break up. Cue not one but TWO of the year’s most affecting romantic statements, with Laura Marling gaining the nod from the Mercury organisers. Yet imagine a world where Noah & The Whale rub shoulders with Laura Marling and her new beau Marcus Mumford. Soap operas have been made of less…

The Maccabees – Wall of Arms
Last year, The Horrors abandoned straight up garage rock for a twilight world where Krautrock, primitive electronica and more inter-twined. This time round, it is the turn of The Maccabees to produce a stunning second album. Yet ‘Wall Of Arms’ doesn’t break any boundaries, preferring instead to focus on a new sense of ambition in their songcraft. The sort of thing which seduces music fans, but not awards’ boards.

Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport
Now this really is perplexing. Brighton duo Fuck Buttons release one of the most invigorating albums of the past decade but are soundly ignored by the Mercury panel. Word is they refused to enter, with Fuck Buttons joking on Twitter that the organisers didn’t even realise they were British. Whatever, ‘Tarot Sport’ remains an entrancing, bewitching listen, one that continually surprises even after the hundredth listen. A good excuse to put it on the Clash stereo…

King Midas Sound – Waiting For You
A new project from Kevin Martin, the producer has foregone the dread soundscapes of The Bug for something warmer. Inspired by Lover’s Rock –perhaps Britain’s greatest contribution to the reggae tapestry – the loose grooves contain the exacting production skills that pushed dubstep into new territories under his previous guise.

Massive Attack – Splitting The Atom
OK, OK we admit it – ‘Splitting The Atom’ isn’t as good as those first three Massive Attack albums. But then, what is? After spending the 90s scaling glacial peaks, the Bristol duo are now content to take the pressure off and simply make music for the love of making music. Nonetheless, this is a challenging release with a stellar supporting cast.

These New Puritans – Hidden
Not perfect by any means, but These New Puritans seemed to tap into the darker regions of the collective consciousness with ‘Hidden’. Introducing elements of free jazz and other outré forms, the Southend band reinvented themselves as musical mavericks. A powerful, at times confusing album ‘Hidden’ dwells on the dark side of life just as Britain looks as if its going to go right down the shitter…

Plan B – Defamation Of Strickland Banks
The year’s most successful reinvention? Plan B earned a Mercury nomination for his sweary debut, but the slick soul of ‘Strickland Banks’ doesn’t earn a mention. Perhaps that’s because in the minds of the Mercury panel swearing = cool and soul = passé. Who knows, but with a series of massive hit singles Plan B is having the last laugh.

Polar Bear – Peepers
Ah, the token jazz entry. Normally, any project Seb Rochford puts his name to is worthy of a mention with Polar Bear and Acoustic Ladyland both receiving acclaim. Yet ‘Peepers’ fell somewhat short - what gives? A more streamlined affair Polar Bear have added some jazz-funk to their skronk-rock mixture.

Honourable mentions: Twilight Sad, Rolo Tomassi, Hudson Mohawke, Male Bonding, Field Music.

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