The Mercury Prize nominations are out.
Every year, the Mercury Prize picks out the best album released in the past year by a British or an Irish act.
The coveted prize is known for its tastemaking decisions and has often presciently given the award to albums that have gone on to become era defining.
Previous winners have included ‘Screamadelica’ by Primal Scream; ‘Different Class’ by Pulp; ‘Boy in da Corner’ by Dizzee Rascal; ‘An Awesome Wave’ by Alt-J; and last year’s winner, ‘Collapsed in Sunbeams’ by Arlo Parks.
The winner will be announced on 8 September at the Mercury Prize Ceremony, after a host of judges, including Anna Calvi, Jamie Cullum and Loyle Carner, have decided on the album of the year.
This year’s nominations are a typical grab-bag of some of the biggest pop hitters of the year to lesser-known masterpieces.
Fergus McCreadie: ‘Forest Floor’
It’s an unofficial tradition that the Mercury Prize nominates at least one jazz album every year. Last year, the nomination went to the collaborative piece ‘Promises’ by Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders and the London Symphony Orchestra.
This year, the jazz nomination is Scottish pianist Fergus McCreadie. The album is a stripped back collection of pieces by McCreadie with double bassist David Bowden and Stephen Henderson on drums.
Although the jazz album hasn’t historically won the award, 'Forest Floor' is definitely worth checking out for its Scottish-traditional influence and luscious rural textures. It’s a cracker even if you don’t know a thing about jazz.
'Tresor' is the third solo album by Welsh musician Gwenno Saunders. It’s also the second that she’s released entirely in the Cornish language, the mother tongue of the Cornwall region in southwest Britain. The album is imbued with mystery and folklore as Gwenno takes the listener on a journey across inspirational women writers.
For a deeper look into the Cornish language, check out our article interviewing a Cornish speaker here.
Harry Styles: ‘Harry’s House’
'Harry's House' is probably the biggest pop hit album of the nominations list. Harry Styles’ third effort is anything but predictable. As Styles matures into his own… style, he’s filled the album with irresistible melodies and confident vocal performances.
And if you’re at all on TikTok, you’ll have already heard lead single “As It Was” at least a thousand times by now.
Jessie Buckley & Bernard Butler: ‘For All Our Days That Tear the Heart’
Jessie Buckley, the Irish actor who seems to be in basically everything in cinema these days, has teamed up with Suede guitarist Bernard Butler in the most unlikely collaboration of the year.
Butler won a Mercury Prize with Suede back in 1993, but the decision to team up with the actor-singer has created something very different to his band’s previous work. From Celtic inspired folk songs to orchestral backings, this is an inspired combination.
Joy Crookes: ‘Skin’
Another jazz influenced album, Joy Crookes’ debut release has soul and R&B influences throughout what she calls an “autobiographical body of work”.
Her piercing social commentary around her British-Irish-Bangladeshi heritage and experiences growing up in Britain place Crookes’s smooth tunes firmly into the one-to-watch category of new artists.
Kojey Radical: ‘Reason to Smile’
Another debut, Kojey Radical’s 'Reason to Smile' is also a genre-bending work that incorporates grime, hip-hop and spoken word to create one of the most poetic entries on the Mercury nominations list this year.
Chronicling Radical’s experience on entering fatherhood and the lessons he wants to pass onto his son Zach, the album also has guest features from Masego, Kelis and Wretch 32.
Little Simz: ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert’
Rapper Little Simz presents an ambitious concept album for her fourth outing.
The confident album has been praised for its quality songwriting while Little Simz expounds on her insecurities with the deft lyrical quality of an artist who truly knows herself.
Nova Twins: ‘Supernova’
Singer and guitarist Amy Love and bassist Georgia South have found new ways to bring their loud and exciting grime/rock combo to the listening public with 'Supernova'.
While a lot of the albums on the list feature smooth talking lyrics and comforting melodies, the Nova Twins know how to create the perfect antidote. Expect political messaging shouted abrasively over punk hooks in one of the most pumped up albums of the year.
Sam Fender: ‘Seventeen Going Under’
Sam Fender rocketed to stardom with the title track from his album 'Seventeen Going Under'.
The second album from the Americana-influenced songwriter paints an evocative picture of life in his hometown of Newcastle, all sung with his characteristic Geordie accent.
Self Esteem: ‘Prioritise Pleasure’
Rebecca Lucy Taylor, known professionally as Self Esteem (and previously a member of folk duo Slow Club), made it big with the second album 'Prioritise Pleasure', which contains a smorgasbord of confidence-inducing anthems.
The polemical ‘I Do This All the Time’ is the album's incredible focal point, with its spoken word lyrics describing the ways Taylor has faced sexism. The song effortlessly combines her brand of hard-hitting but humorous lyrics with infectious pop sensibilities.
Wet Leg: ‘Wet Leg’
This has been Wet Leg's year. Practically unheard of before and seemingly coming out of nowhere, the Isle of White duo have taken the airwaves by storm with their irresistible hooks on lead-single ‘Chaise Longue’.
If you haven’t heard of them, get out from under that rock because they’re the band of the moment. Check them out for rock tunes you can’t help but dance to.
Yard Act: ‘The Overload’
Last but by no means least is post-punk band Yard Act, who have got things to say about Brexit, class, and inequality. For your injection of angry but politically savvy vitriol, look no further than 'The Overload'.
Carrying on in the vein of contemporary punk band Idles, Yard Act are part of a new breed of punks that carry their hearts on their sleeves and sing for the little guy.