Barclaycard Mercury Prize – Albums of the Year (Part 2)

Continuing on from Part 1, we take a look at the next 6 albums in the running for the coveted Barclaycard Mercury Prize – Album of the Year.

7) Michael Kiwanuka – Home Again

Home Again‘ is the debut album from singer-songwriter Michael Kiwanuka, released by Polydor Records in March 2012. It features the singles, ‘Home Again’, ‘I’m Getting Ready’ and ‘Bones’.

The 25 year old Londoner started off the year on a high, after winning the BBC Sound of 2012, beating off tough competition from Azealia Banks and Frank Ocean. His debut album, produced by Paul Butler, is a soulful folk album showcasing Kiwanuka’s rich jazz voice. Having been inspired by Otis Redding ‘Sitting on the Dock of the Bay’, Kiwanuka’s style ranges from the laid-back summery atmosphere of ‘I’m getting Ready’ to the old school retro sounds of his latest single ‘Bones’ and the smooth mellow sounds of his debut single, ‘Home Again’.

Having supported both Adele and Laura Marling on tour, Michael has just set off on his own US tour, with a European tour set to start Nov 9th in Paris. Be sure to check out his new single ‘Bones‘, set for release on September 24th.


8) Plan B – Ill Manors

East Londoner Plan B (AKA Ben Drew), released his third album ‘Ill Manors’ through Atlantic Records in July 2012. The album, which was also the soundtrack to his directorial film debut of the same name, includes contributions from Labrinth and Kano and features the singles ‘Deepest Shame’, ‘Lost My Way’, and ‘Ill Manors’.

‘Ill Manors’ skillfully depicts the underside of London and the harsh realities including protests, drugs, racism and violence.  Combine that with soulful choruses, stirring strings, classical samples, bursts of dialogue and drum ‘n’ bass and you’re in for a brilliantly perceptive album.  We’re presented with a genuine sense of frustration and hopelessness in ‘Lost My Way’ and although the album is relentlessly grim, it offers a somewhat positive message in ‘Live Once’ to ‘follow your dreams’.

Plan B recently performed at the iTunes festival last week, but if you weren’t lucky to get tickets, you can catch him on his UK tour starting February 2013.


9) Richard Hawley – Standing at the Sky’s Edge

Standing at the Sky’s Edge‘ is the 6th album from Richard Hawley. Released through Parlophone Records in May 2012, the album features the singles ‘Down in the Woods‘ and ‘Leave Your Body Behind You

The Sheffield based singer has worked with the likes of Pulp, Robbie Williams and Red Hot Chili Peppers and has gone on to create 5 critically acclaimed albums. ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge‘ refers to an area in Sheffield that once boasted amazing views of the city, but is now over-run with council estates and crime. Again, not the most uplifting subject matter, however the music captures this perfectly with its echoed vocals and distorted guitar solos.

Hawley really lets loose in this album, from the hazy distorted echoes of ‘She Brings The Sunlight’, to the rock n roll vibes of ‘Down in the Woods. Don’t Stare at the Sun’ presents us with a chilled out track highlighting Hawleys melodic vocals that builds to one of his statement guitar solos. His recent single ‘Leave Your Body Behind You’ allows Hawley to rock out, as the reverb almost overpowers Hawleys vocals. The constant repetition of Hawley and the choir chanting ‘Leave Your Body Behind You’, adds to an extremely effective finish.

Be sure to catch Richard Hawley at one of his many upcoming UK and EU dates.


10) Roller Trio – Roller Trio 

Roller Trio consisting of James Mainwaring (tenor sax and electronics), Luke Wynter (guitar) and Luke Reddin-Williams (drums), released their self titled debut album in August 2012, through F-IRE Presents.

The trio, who are previous recipients of the 2011 Peter Whittingham Jazz Award, are a dynamic group filled with rhythmic patterns and melodic riffs and also combine elements of hip hop, rock and funk. Roller Trio think outside the box, to deliver a fresh take on contemporary jazz that is greatly influenced by popular culture.

The 9 track album features the tracks ‘Deep Heat’ ‘R-O-R’ and ‘Where’s my Whip’. Keep an eye out for one of their many upcoming UK dates from September 23rd.


11) Sam Lee – Ground of its Own

North London’s Sam Lee, released his debut album in July 2012 through The Nest Collective and  features the singles ‘The Ballad of George Collins’ and ‘Goodbye My Darling’.

‘Ground of it’s Own’ is a compelling and uplifting debut album, that breathes new life into old songs from the Gypsy traveller communities. He celebrates the British tradition of the ever changing British folk song, and sings with such charm and beauty. His interpretations of the songs, allows him to explore both lost and current sounds. In ‘The Ballad of George Collins‘, he incorporates the use of a jaws harp, to propel the once mellow track into a more trance-like song. His rich baritone voice further highlights the storytelling aspect through out the album.

From The London Jazz festival at The National Maritme Musuem in London, to the Folk Aliance in Toronto, Sam has plenty of upcoming performances to look out for.


12) The Maccabees – Given to the Wild

Brighton based five-piece band, The Maccabees, released their third album ‘Given to the Wild’ in January 2012, through Fiction Records. It features the singles ‘Pelican’, ‘Feel to Follow’ and their latest single ‘Ayla which was released September 10th.

Given to the Wild’ is a creative and lyrical album that captures your attention throughout. The album serves as a nice change from their typical acoustic origins, and shows how the band has matured by incorporating a variety of different influences to evolve their sound. The wonderfully structured album presents us with a varied selection of tracks, from the soft ghostly echoes of ‘Child’, to the beautiful melodic harmonies of ‘Heave’.  ‘Pelican’ packs some quirky punches with its infectious energy, upligting chorus and angular guitar riffs, while the laid back vocal style of ‘Feel to Follow’ builds to a transcendent, uplifting moment.

Currently in the middle of their US tour, the band are set to support Florence + The Machine in their upcoming North American Tour.



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