Mercury Prize 2009 - The Clash Top Twelve

The Clash team picks its faves for this year's Mercury...
Elbow win the Mercury
This time next week we’ll all know what twelve albums will contest the 2009 Barclaycard Mercury Prize – the discerning music fan’s choice of award, or something. Last year’s winners were, of course, Elbow (pictured) with ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’.

Clash will be at the official announcement on Tuesday morning, and will bring you the news just as soon as our fingers can return to these here keys. But before the final twelve are confirmed, we thought we’d have some fun.

So, here’s the Clash office’s chosen twelve, based on picks from every member of the team – albums had to be released on or after July 13 2008 to be considered. Let’s hope at least a few of them appear in the list proper or else we’re going to look very silly.

And if Little Boots wins, well… it may be time to rethink this whole music thing.

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La Roux – ‘La Roux’
(Polydor, released June 29)
The pop powerhouse that is La Roux – a.k.a. Elly Jackson and behind-the-scenes fellow Ben Langmaid – romped to the upper reaches of the singles chart with their two recent singles ‘Bulletproof’ and ‘In For The Kill’ – impressive considering debut effort ‘Quicksand’ only made number 133 on its release last year. The duo’s debut album (REVIEW) performed equally impressively, shifting over 60,000 copies upon release. With that kind of commercial clout the Mercury panel is bound to be tempted to shortlist the act, especially as reviews have backed up their appeal – but will a nod come at the expense of Little Boots and Florence and the Machine?
Ladbrokes odds as of July 14: 8/1

La Roux – ‘In For The Kill’

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Metronomy – ‘Nights Out’
(Because, released September 8)
While the Joseph Mount-fronted dance act might seem like a surprise pick here, bear in mind the great acclaim that came the way of ‘Nights Out’ upon its release last year, and how it ranked highly in NME’s end-of-year list. Essentially a solo affair, with only occasional contributions from live colleagues Oscar Cash and Gabriel Stebbing fleshing out Mount’s more-than-considerable efforts, this album’s appeal crosses audiences – the dance crowd can get into its immersive atmospherics, while indie kids can lose themselves in its intoxicating beat flurries. Don’t be shocked if this makes the official shortlist, given the weight of critical support behind it.
Ladbrokes odds as of July 14: 50/1

Metronomy – ‘Radio Ladio’

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The Invisible – ‘The Invisible’
(Accidental, released March 2)
A strong blend of soul and indie, mixed with unashamed flourishes of future funk, this eponymous debut (REVIEW) from London trio The Invisible put pay to pre-release press coverage proclaiming the outfit as the British TV On The Radio – their sound is more direct than that of the NYC outfit, far more immediately engaging on the dancefloor. Embracing disparate musical influences can often send a band down the path marked muddled, misinformed, and unfocused; but The Invisible’s slick combination of aforementioned traits results in a long-player big on depth and longevity while possessing the necessary pop edge to appeal to those with ears tuned wholly to the mainstream.
Ladbrokes odds as of July 14: N/A

The Invisible – ‘London Girl’

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Late Of The Pier – ‘Fantasy Black Channel’
(Parlophone, released July 30)
Fresh-of-face Castle Donington four-piece LOTP had critics falling out of their comfy chairs when this sparkling album was unleashed – creative beyond all expectations, it proved beyond doubt that the youth of this country could craft remarkably individual records that stand completely separate of movements in both music and fashion. Presenting to the fore ‘80s-echoing synth sounds – before La Roux et al took up the cause – alongside punk traits more commonly found in screamo records and first-wave electro melodies, plus plenty of dance-friendly beats and bleeps, ‘Fantasy Black Channel’ was far and away the best British debut of 2008. Probably. Maybe. It was, and is, very, very good, is basically what we’re saying. But is it too soon after Klaxons for a band of brightly clothed kids to pick up the award?
Ladbrokes odds as of July 14: 33/1

Late Of The Pier – ‘Heartbeat’

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Friendly Fires – ‘Friendly Fires’
(XL, released September 1)
Should LOTP receive a shortlist nod, what odds on Friendly Fires missing the cut as a result? The two bands are, ostensibly, pretty similar, although the arrangements of this St Albans outfit are considerably simpler than the ‘Fantasy Black Channel’ makers. Not that we’re saying ‘Friendly Fires’ isn’t good, because it most certainly is – and to some ears it’s the best album on this here list, with its head-spinning mix of percussively punchy tracks, part indie-rock and part salsa party. Singles taken from the LP have been consistently strong, and a repackaged version of the album is scheduled for the near future, containing a brand-new track. A Mercury win would be well timed, to say the least – but even without the award, Friendly Fires are sure to be one of this summer’s festival season’s star attractions.
Ladbrokes odds as of July 14: 16/1

Friendly Fires – ‘Skeleton Boy’

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Golden Silvers – ‘True Romance’
(XL, released April 20)
Golden Silvers had operated just off mainstream radars for some time, running their own club night in east London and generally plugging their outfit to the best of their abilities, but things took a massive step in the right direction last summer when they were announced as winners of the Glastonbury Festival’s new talent competition. They went on the play the festival’s Other Stage (i.e. the second stage, and still massive), and ink a deal with XL. This debut album is brazen in its embracing of the ‘80s, evoking a real retro atmosphere, but swaggers to a perfectly pitched pop beat entirely of its own design. It’s this blend, of the definitely old and the defiantly new, which keeps things interesting.
Ladbrokes odds as of July 14: 40/1

Golden Silvers - 'True Romance’

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The Horrors – ‘Primary Colours’
(XL, released May 4)
Released to spectacular acclaim, ‘Primary Colours’ (REVIEW) completely altered opinions of Southend-spawned goth-punk five-piece The Horrors – previously seen as a style-before-substance act buoyed by industry hype, even though their debut ‘Strange House’ was a fiery and entirely non-commercial head-fuck of an album, their Chris Cunningham- and Geoff Barrow-produced second LP had critics fawning with unexpected synchronicity. Punk collides with Kraut, scorched soul with confrontational combat-rock, and the whole thing’s so brilliantly sequenced that by the time the concluding ‘Sea Within A Sea’ fades gracefully to a close, all you can do is reach for repeat. It’s that sort of album – dozens of plays on and it still impresses.
Ladbrokes odds as of July 14: 20/1

The Horrors – ‘Sea Within A Sea’

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Gallows – ‘Grey Britain’
(Warner Bros., released May 2)
Well, the Mercury’s never gone to a hardcore band before, so why not? Audacious of conceptual design, and predictably brutal of execution, ‘Grey Britain’ (REVIEW) is an arresting listen – it’s less a sequel to the group’s low-budget debut ‘Orchestra Of Wolves’, more a complete two fingers up to every hardcore album from the UK that’s come before it. Pissed off but fiercely intelligent, it’s fuel for change in a way that The Enemy’s limp rallying cries can never be. You either go along with its riotous flow or get drowned in the flood.
Ladbrokes odds as of July 14: 50/1

Gallows – ‘London Is The Reason’

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Bat For Lashes – ‘Two Suns’
(Parlophone, released April 6)
There are those out there who feel Bat For Lashes – the musical vehicle for the prodigiously talented Natasha Khan – should have won the Mercury for their debut of 2007, ‘Fur & Gold’. In that occasion Khan lost out to Klaxons – but 2009 could be her year, especially after both amazing reviews for this second album (REVIEW) and high-profile live performances last summer alongside Radiohead. Björk and M.I.A. are fans, and if it’s good enough for those girls then it must be pretty… well, pretty, which it certainly is. It’s just a shame Jo ‘Leech’ Whiley’s keen on Khan, too, or else we’d call this one right now and be done with it.
Ladbrokes odds as of July 14: 7/1

Bat For Lashes – ‘Pearl's Dream’

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Micachu And The Shapes – ‘Jewellery’
(Rough Trade, released March 9)
If the Mercury panel are truly looking to celebrate individuality, experimentation and creativity, then surely Micachu And The Shapes’ debut album will appear in the shortlisted twelve a week today. ‘Jewellery’ showcases the sound of an individual, Mica Levi, surrounded by similarly minded souls whose only intention is to delight with pure sonic magic – yes, there’s pop within these arrangements, but they’re structured in such a new, inspiring fashion that it can be hard for those without focus to listen deep into the mix and discover the joy within. It’s the kind of album that makes you feel so very old, as these youthful musicians are carving out a niche that’s almost entirely without precedent.
Ladbrokes odds as of July 14: 40/1

Micachu And The Shapes – ‘Golden Phone’


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Doves – ‘Kingdom Of Rust’
(Heavenly, released April 6)
An early front-runner for this year’s Mercury with the bookies, ‘Kingdom Of Rust’ (REVIEW) is Manchester-based trio Doves’ fourth album – and Elbow, from a similar part of the country (and arguably with a very similar sound), won with their fourth album last year. The opinion in the Clash office is that the judges won’t present the Mercury to an act with such ties to the previous year’s winners, but a spread of positive reviews and an ever-growing live audience could sway them. Plus, the members of Doves are, in our experience, Genuinely Nice Guys, and the Mercury is the kind of award that so often goes to those who’ve put the work in without ever complaining about the hours, the touring, the stress… Could be, could be.
Ladbrokes odds as of July 14: 7/1

Doves – ‘Kingdom Of Rust’


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Dananananaykroyd – ‘Hey Everyone!’
(Best Before, released April 6)
How’s this for a curveball then? We could have gone for the Manics, Future of the Left, The Phantom Band, The Maccabees… the list goes on, and on (and even includes that Florence character, who seems to be favourite for the Mercury everywhere we’re looking right now). But few bands get the two Clash offices bouncing quite as wonderfully as this, the debut album from twelve-legged and six-voiced Scottish ensemble Dananananaykroyd. And just imagine Lauren Laverne or whoever it is at the nominations announcement trying to pronounce their name… brilliant. They’re the best live band in the UK right now, and that’s got to be worth something – half the judges might not have heard of them, and those who have might not care, but to us (at least a few of us here at Clash, anyway) there might not be a more fun British album than this released in 2009. ‘Hey Everyone!’ (REVIEW) will make you smile, however shitty your day.
Ladbrokes odds as of July 14: N/A

Dananananaykroyd – ‘Black Wax’


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Well, that’s twelve, although there are hundreds of albums in the running. Will your favourite emerge victorious, or even make next week’s official shortlist? No, probably not, because your taste is awful. Yes, I’m talking to you. Kasabian indeed…

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