During my short time here in Nottingham, England, I have been given the amazing opportunity to explore the culture, art, and history of a place I have never been before. While I’ve enjoyed learning more of 20th century Nottingham author D.H. Lawrence and exploring the stomping grounds of the legendary Robin Hood, I have most enjoyed getting involved with the music scene. Being a part of the music section of the University of Nottingham’s official student magazine IMPACT has allowed me to research and discover some of the UK and Ireland’s greatest current musicians, (I am even getting the chance to see and possibly interview the band alt-J!)
The Mercury Prize is an annual competition in partnership with BBC Music that highlights some of the year’s best albums in the UK and Ireland. The contest has great range, allowing artists from all different stages of their careers and unique genres to participate. The twelve Albums of the Year for 2015 are each extremely deserving of the distinction, together highlighting the diversity and pure talent of the British music scene.
Check out the nominees, as there is surely an album that will fit everyone’s musical tastes!
Syro – Aphex Twin (Electronica)
With over a decade spanning between Syro and his last album, Aphex Twin manages to create a modern record that stays true to his 90s synesthetic-inspired, ambient techno background; in fact, his aesthetic is something rarely found in 2015. Often difficult for electronica artists of current times, Aphex Twin’s sound is distinct, and each song employs vastly different yet cohesive compositions and sounds. Syro also won the 2014 Grammy for Best Dance/Electronica Album, and tops the charts in its genre.
For fans of: Deadmau5, B12, the Orb
At Least for Now – Benjamin Clementine (R&B)
Self-taught musician Benjamin Clementine’s breakout album At Least for Now is one of the most powerful records on this year’s shortlist. At only 26, Clementine—who is also a poet—has a sound that is simple and sophisticated, with beautiful lyrics in both verse and prose backed by clean piano, violin, and percussive instrumentals. This soulful album is perfect for listeners of R&B—as well as for fans of spoken word poetry.
For fans of: Hozier, Aloe Blacc, Sly Johnson
Architect – C Duncan (Indie Pop/Alternative)
C Duncan’s debut album, Architect is very relaxing, with beautiful airy harmonies—not completely different from those of the 60s—and simple instrumentation. This young artist has a sophisticated sound reminiscent of early pop/rock musicians, and each song has the ability to influence the mood of the listener—whether hopeful, joyous, or somber. Architect, while employing diverse sounds, is very cohesive, and is a very easy album to listen to.
For fans of: Sufjan Stevens, Nick Castro, The Beatles
Eska – ESKA (Folk/Soul)
Originally born in Zimbabwe, Eska’s self-named debut album is much like Clementine’s At Least for Now when it comes to its powerful lyrics and themes. However, ESKA is still remarkably unique with its eclectic mix of sounds and genres; it is one part jazz, one part folk, one part soul, and all parts poetry. Her powerful vocals are perfectly complimented by simple yet interesting instrumentation.ESKA is a record that is easy for fans of any time of music to fall in love with.
For fans of: Corinne Bailey Rae, Lianne La Havas, Etta James
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful – Florence + the Machine (Indie Rock/Neo Soul)
Possibly one of the most well-known artists on this list in America, Florence + the Machine’s newest album has topped the charts all across the globe. With popular singles such as “Ship to Wreck,” How Big represents Florence + the Machine’s distinctive style: soulful, jazzy, and upbeat. However, this album is better-rounded and richer in sound than their previous works. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful is a record that will only make fans of Florence + the Machine stronger fans, and will certainly gain this indie rock group an even bigger following.
For fans of: Ingrid Michaelson, Brandon Flowers, Lana del Rey
Matador – Gaz Coombes (Alt Rock/Britpop)
Former frontman for Britpop bands the Jennifers and Supergrass, Gaz Coombes’ latest albumMatador is a powerful one that is crafted with over two decades of musical experience and growth. The record—heartfelt and written genuinely–always seems to remain at the cusp of multiple emotions, allowing its listener to feel so powerful what Coombes was at the moment of each song’s conception.Matador is amazingly diverse, with sounds of psychedelica and electronica mixing artfully with rock. Coombes’ work is reminiscent of his past musical endeavors, yet is perfect for the 2015 alternative rock fan.
For fans of: Gorillaz, Supergrass, Muse
Shedding Skin – Ghostpoet (British Rap)
Ghostpoet is no stranger to a Mercury Prize nomination, being nominated of the prize in 2011.Shedding Skin is a great album for fans of rap, spoken word, as well as indie rock; Ghostpoet’s profound lyrics are backed by alternative rock instrumentals, distinguishing it from much of the mainstream rap of 2015. The album is beautifully crafted, telling its audience a story both honest and powerful. Compared to his previous albums, Shedding Skin seems to show a level of growth unexpected for an already talented musician. Ghostpoet’s latest release is great for a wide variety of listeners—including those who tend to stay away from rap.
For fans of: SBTRKT, Ty, the xx
In Colour – Jamie xx (Dubstep/Trip-Hop)
Part of the 2010 Mercury Prize winner the xx, Jamie xx’s debut album In Colour is reminiscent of the dream pop band while focusing less on rock and more on electronica. The record employs the sounds of dubstep, glitch, and hip-hop to create a well-rounded and unique album. The psychedelic, trippy instrumentals are often complimented by dreamy lyrics—many times by fellow the xx member Romy—and each song is distinct while creating a masterly-crafted and cohesive album. In Colour is perfect for fans of trance music that are looking for an album easy yet exciting to listen to.
For fans of: The xx, Caribou, the Glitch Mob
Hairless Toys – Róisín Murphy (Electronic Pop)
Formerly half of acid jazz duo Moloko, Murphy creates a unique sound reminiscent of later disco in her latest album Hairless Toys. Her almost hypnotizing electronic beats and ethereal vocals upgrade her house roots of the 90′s to a more trance-like sound, with flavors of electrofunk and synthpop. An exciting and captivating album, Hairless Toys is extremely diverse, with songs that would appeal to modern fans of any electronica genre.
For fans of: Moloko, La Roux, Chromeo
Are You Satisfied? – Slaves (Punk Revival)
Likely the most exciting and humorous album on the shortlist, Slaves’ Are You Satisfied? is wickedly clever, with vicious guitar riffs and biting, frustrated lyrics. Perfect for fans of 90s and 2000s punk, the album is angsty, putting even the most sophisticated adult listener in touch with their inner teenage millennial. Slaves’ debut album is witty and exciting, recorded with the much-missed integrity of grungy, emo garage bands; however, Are You Satisfied? modernizes this aesthetic, making this album fit—however uniquely—into 2015.
For fans of: Weezer, The White Stripes, Vant
Before We Forgot How to Dream – SOAK (Indie Folk/Dream Pop)
At the age of 18, Irish singer-songwriter SOAK shows impressive talent with her airy and unique vocals and instrumentation in the album Before We Forgot How to Dream. The album is extremely powerful despite its simple sound, with lyrics that lament the loss of one’s childhood and delve into the modern teenage mind. That being said, Before We Forgot is exceptionally sophisticated and refined. SOAK’s debut album is a beautiful record that is easy to listen to, and will appeal to fans of dreamy folk ballads.
For fans of: Sinéad O’Connor, Tegan and Sara, the xx
My Love is Cool – Wolf Alice (Post-Grunge)
Wolf Alice’s debut album My Love is Cool—which follows two rough-edged EPs—shows the sheer ability of the alternative band to create edgy, deliberate music that is both clean and grungy. Each song is distinct, with quite a few different sounds and genres serving as inspiration throughout the album, including punk rock, folk, and electropop. Wolf Alice reworks two old tracks, and their cleaner sound shows the new-found professionalism of the band while adding to My Love a much-appreciated nod to Wolf Alice’s roots. Fans of many different styles of rock can find something they appreciate in this album.
For fans of: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Kooks, Peggysue
The winner of the 2015 Mercury Prize Album of the Year will be announced November 20th on their website, and is guaranteed to be a tight race with so many talented musicians up for nomination.
Who do you think will win? Let us know!