Tomorrow the wonderful Lauren Laverne will rip open an envelope and announce the albums that make up this year’s Mercury Prize shortlist.
It will be predictably unpredictably- if that is possible – with nods to a folk album or two, a bit of jazz and classical and maybe something completely off the wall. But making the running will be the obvious stuff from new bands like Daughter and London Grammar and old-timers like Bowie and the Primals.
There are however so many great albums that could be on that list, but won’t make the cut as they are by bands and singers that are either too below the radar or just not the sort of thing the judges probably ever get round to listening to. And of course everyone has their opinion – so here is mine. So here then are five amazing British albums released in the last twelve months that really ought to be tumbling from Lauren’s lips tomorrow. One or two of them on the list would be amazing.
1 Neil’s Children – Dimly Lit
The Southend band who have been around for ages have just delivered a carer defining, superb album that takes the current vogue for all things psych in a darker direction than most of their peers. Sure there’s a whiff of Syd Barrett and The United States of America but also the sometimes challenging electronica of Stereloab and Broadcast. They do deep and scary as on Edward the Confessor, but they can also churn out a pop hit or two such as the amazing Trust You. They are about a million times smarter and more musically adventurous than Peace!
2 Mondo JetSet – Provincial Drama Club
Another band who have been around the block a little, but have just released their masterpiece. Provincial Drama Club boasts no fewer than 23 tracks and several of those are two melodies spliced together. It is a Magnetic Fields 69 Love Songs in miniature, but like that album the quality of the melodies and the witty lyrics just keep on coming. Think Noel Coward and Neil Tennant transported to a provincial English seaside town with only a head full of thwarted ambitions and a deck chair on a soggy day for company. Absolutely essential.
3 Darren Hayman – The Violence
In some parallel pop universe Darren Hayman is preparing his Mercury acceptance speech and wondering how that bonus cash could fund the research for next concept album. The Violence is the type of left field English pop that the Mercurys should be celebrating. It is a concept albums of sort that recounts tales of the witch trials and the ongoing religious rankles of the sixteenth century. It might sound a tad pretentious, but believe me it is utterly addictive. Hayman has a wonderful way of getting under the skin of the characters he writes about so that the listener gets to hear both sides of the story. As for the melodies they are among the best that Hayman has ever written and his songbook is pretty much in the same league as anyone else from last twenty years IMO.
4 The Hidden Masters – Of This & Other Worlds
Now this is an album that is utterly unique. There has been nothing like the ambition, scope and sheer cheek of Of This & Other Worlds for four decades. It is a fantastic pot pourri of largely unsung British psych pop influences channeled into something that is chaotic, funny and utterly compelling. Possibly my favourite album of 2013. Like Candy is a Bohemian Rhapsody for garage punk fans.
5 Scott Walker – Bish Bosch
And for a new act who about this fella? Bish Bosch is another absolute triumph, with some of Scott’s most challenging music in a decades nestling along side a song or two that you can almost hum along to. It is a lot more interesting than London Grammar! And doesn’t he have a British passport these days too!