So over the past few days, on this journey into being none the wiser, we’ve covered the guitar based indie might of the Arctic Monkeys and the polarizing debut of folk upstart Jake Bugg. We’ve studied the return to form and beyond by Foals as well as the celebration of great work that Disclosure inspired this summer. We learnt about the rejuvenating, refreshing, party-starting sound that Rudimental has been creating throughout 2013 and we even discovered electronica genius Jon Hopkins whilst on these metaphorical travels. That, believe it or not only gets us half way through the list of potential claimants to the Mercury music prize.
Despite all of the previously mentioned names being very strong contenders, each in their own right, today I’ll be weaving my way through some of the artists I believe have the strongest chance at winning, and that’s not saying I prefer them, but it’s based on the talent, relevance, social opinion and credibility of all three of the acts 2013 productions.
It’s no secret if you’ve ever visited the Mojo20 Facebook page that I’m a loyal fan of Laura Marling, and her career since 2007 has seen her develop as an artist, from the witty, observational and charming music found on first album ‘Alas, I Cannot Swim’ and collaborations with Noah & The Whale as well as Mystery Jets, and then onto a colder sharper sound, that buried her deeper into the folk roots that anchored her at the beginning, and kept her a favourite for music fans between 2007 and 2010. Second album ‘I speak Because I Can’ was more of the latter style; her music had become more hard-hitting and a lot edgier. Marling appeared tougher, and where she mumbled and rambled in the coolest and cutest way possible about her views and experiences on the first LP, she was now telling you what was going on, and gave you no option other than to listen. ‘Devils Spoke’, ‘Rambling Man’ and ‘Blackberry Stone’ were highlights that showcased her evolution, at what seemed to be its start. With third album ‘A Creature I Don’t Know’ hitting an all time folk high, it became harder to connect with her, and although ‘Sophia’ was a standout song, it wasn’t her best work, due to the loss of what it was that made her so relatable. So by the time we reach the nominated ‘Once I Was An Eagle’, and her style is almost entirely post-Victorian based folk, with lyrics based on folklore, metaphors and tradition, something appears to be missing. However if you pull your head out of wherever you’ve been keeping it, and see it as a transcendence rather than a failure and just start listening, you see a young woman who mirrors Bob Dylan at his best point, and you see aggression and confidence, both vocally and musically. The acoustic guitar is pulling overtime in first featured single ‘Master Hunter’, and even the music video clearly shows that 50 years ago, she’d have either played alongside Joan Baez or scared her out of the business. She remains interesting with artistic and themed performances permanently being promoted. She appears to be on a journey to being a top name, revered and respected by her peers, and perhaps this prize could be what gets her there. In 2008 her first album failed to take the top spot, is 2013 her time?
If the majority of people I’ve seen discussing this on Facebook are correct then Marling will be waiting a bit longer, as Savages, appear to be the nations favourite so far. With May 2013’s ‘Silence Yourself’ being recognised as one of the most impressive pieces of musicianship this year, it may be the case that the unwashed masses have actually hit the nail on the head, and instead of just inviting everybody to play Candy Crush Saga, they’ve offered some genuinely insightful information. The London based four piece have certainly debuted with a metaphorical bang, and are making believers out of hipsters and indie kids alike, with songs such as ‘Husbands’, Shut Up’ and ‘She Will’. Politically edged and very vocal with their own opinions and expressions, Savages are using their music as a vehicle to make the world listen to them, and their point. The sound is captivating, and if it’s attention they want, they can have it, I’m not starting anything. The vibe that emanates from Savages is one of style, it’s fresh, and it’s very now despite the post-punk , early 80’s sound. Reminiscent of Joy Division, the futures very bright for this lot, and the future may just begin now.
From post-punk to new soul, another selection is Laura Mvula, whose last name in early 2013 we embarrassingly failed to pronounce on one of our podcasts. But that’s all in the past so get over it. Since she was nearly named BBC sound of 2013, she’s had much radio exposure and her vintage sound, that reminds us all of a 21st century Nina Simone, has found its way into most of the countries hearts. Stripped back, simple tunes like ‘Green Garden’ and emotionally charged pieces like ‘She’ have made ‘Sing To The Moon’ a highlight reel of modern music that respectfully nods into the past and adapts legendary into contemporary. 2013 has been a big year for Mvula, but 2014 could be gigantic, if she cashes in on the Mercury prize, and capitalises on a great beginning to a potentially iconic career. This all being speculation of course, because without it she may sail on, through another year, and just be another name that never really made it. That is of course if you believe that accolades and prizes are what creates a musician/artist/band/legend. I don’t personally but considering this four part feature, I should really hope the outcome of this is all very important. Three great female based acts, all as mentioned before, top contenders to win it all. But Marling has missed out before and only grown. Savages possibly wouldn’t suit a win, and their fan base may shy away slightly considering their political stance being tarnished by their newfound money grabbing and respect yearning attitude. Mvula I believe could do with this the most, and her sound and refinement are befitting of a winner. Plus with her now reaching the end of a great year, perhaps it’d really light her name up and kick start what has already begun. We’ll see…
Words by Stuart Green (@mojo20_music)