Mercury Prize 2021
The 30th annual Mercury Prize ceremony will take place later this week at the Hammersmith Eventim Apollo in London. The nominees for the award — one of the most prestigious contemporary music prizes in Britain — were announced in July this year, after Michael Kiwanuka was announced as winner at the 2020 ceremony.
To celebrate this year’s event, we’ve compiled a list of five of our favourite records on this year’s shortlist. Check them out below before the winner is announced on Thursday, September 9th.
Arlo Parks — ‘Collapsed in Sunbeams’
A delicate and soulful collection of poetry and contemporary pop music, ‘Collapsed in Sunbeams’ includes seven singles — the smooth, brass-infused ‘Hurt’ and the softly-strummed ‘Black Dog’ among them.
Names like Radiohead’s Thom Yorke — a six-time Mercury nominee himself — and get dropped on ‘Too Good’, as the record takes the listener on a journey through multiple genres, moods and arrangements. It’s one of the broadest and most instantaneous records on this year’s list.
BERWYN — ‘DEMOTAPE/VEGA’
Ghetts may be the better known out of the two male rappers on this year’s shortlist, but Trinidad-born, Romford raised BERWYN is utterly deserving of the plaudits for his moving debut album ‘DEMOTAPE/VEGA’.
Verses about aspiring for success while making sandwiches at Subway (‘Glory’), and being denied a place at university (‘017 Freestyle’) are set to sombre piano chords in what is a compellingly vulnerable record packed with potential.
Black Country, New Road — ‘For the First Time’
Fusing Slint-style post-rock with orchestral disharmony, Cambridge-formed band Black Country, New Road follow in the footsteps of avant-garde disruptors Black Midi in landing an unlikely nomination for the Mercury Prize.
The band’s signing to Ninja Tune in 2021 was somewhat unexpected, partnership, with the band’s experimental jazz tendencies an outlier on the revered electronic label’s roster. But this chaotic and dynamic debut has proven doubters wrong, winning the band a significant following and boundless critical praise.
Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra — ‘Promises’
This ambient, electronic and symphonic jazz suite marks the first new album from legendary saxophonist Pharoah Sanders in a decade. And while laid back, instrumental music doesn’t traditionally fare as well as contemporary pop and rock music when it comes to the Mercury Prize, the album’s calming conduciveness to the events of the past year might make ground for an upset at the ceremony this year. Either way, it’s a fantastic and spiritual piece of work.
SAULT — Untitled (Rise)
Mysterious neo-soul duo SAULT is one of the most enigmatic acts on this year’s list, boasting a sound that harks back to the skeletal grooves of ESG and the minimal funk of last year’s winner, Michael Kiwanuka.
‘Untitled (Rise)’ was the second of two records from the outfit released in 2020, and features a swathe of infectious rhythms across tracks like ‘Free’, the gospel-tinged ‘Son Shine’ and the percussive and transcendent ‘I Just Want to Dance’. Cool, contemporary and creative — this one just might win.