Sod Mercury's Hyundai To Nothing: It's tQ's Jovian Bow Shock Prize!
, August 4th, 2016 12:50
As the Mercury Prize trundles out another meh list, we cobbled together an alternative 12 fantastic albums that have been made in the British Isles over the past yearish
On one of the recent, warm summer evenings in this strange summer of 2016 I found myself sat outside a pub on the River Lea in Hackney. Huge clouds of midges swarmed around the lights on the towpath, and a dog leapt onto the table beside me, trying to scarf an abandoned plate of chicken. Just along on the next bench were a group of blokes in their late 20s or early 30s, bulging calf muscles in sports socks, having a post-tennis or football or something pint. They had loud, confident voices tinted with public school, and it was fairly impossible not to earwig on their conversation, especially when one of their number starting honking on about the Mercury Prize. This, I felt, was professional eavesdropping. I tuned in, hoping I might glean some intelligence to pass on to you, our readers, to let you know how the other half work. It appeared he had something to do with marketing for Korean automobile company Hyundai, and was incredibly excited to be working on their new sponsorship of the Mercury Music Prize. No doubt his Tinder profile proudly proclaims him as a "creative", despite the fact that the last piece of art that he made that might be described as reasonable was a painting of his nan's house, executed with pot paint panache back in year six. As ever, he spoke in the clichés that must be drummed into these people during a six month internship bootcamp funded by a remortgaged detached home in Surrey, speaking about "synergy" and giving the manufacturer of the £50,000 Genesis coupe and the i20 Turbo Edition some "brand edge" via association with a prize where "it's not even fixed" but "totally credible". I don't need to add that at no point did he mention how the Mercury Music Prize might in some way reflect the diversity and depth of musical talent in the contemporary United Kingdom. So today in the office we had a quick think and put together the shortlist of 12 albums (well, 11 albums and a stunning mixtape) that are this year's Quietus Jovian Bow Shock Award In Association With A Reasonably Priced Restaurant Of The Eventual Winner's Choosing. It might feel like that country is doing handbrake turns around hell in a handcart at the moment, but there's some great music being made here. Let's celebrate it.
Blood Orange - Freetown Sound
"Freetown is a joyful celebration of what it means to belong somewhere, to recognise someone who reminds you of yourself, to have a community to move around in and to collaborate with, as Hynes often does. Everyone seems welcome – is welcome – on Freetown because everyone is free."
Read our review of Freetown Sound here
David Bowie - Blackstar
"Somehow Bowie and producer Tony Visconti pull elements of Walker, jazztronica, manual beats, Aleister Crowley, Bartók, arabesque ululations, Friedrich Nietzsche and the visual menace of Chris Cunningham all together, and they make a 10-minute melange that is both defiantly avant garde and peculiarly pleasing to the ear and eye all at the same time. One listens to 'Blackstar' and all of a sudden The Next Day feels like a solid but safe stepping stone to something truly important; the sense of anticipation has been almost tangible in my household ever since. ★ in no way disappoints."
Laura Cannell - Beneath Swooping Talons
(Front & Follow)
"Beneath Swooping Talons stands as an essential work of modern British folk and avant-garde composition." Joseph Burnett
Read our review of Beneath Swooping Talons here
Carter Tutti Void - f(x)
"You can sense that the moment of genesis was a beautiful claustrophobia, three individuals consumed by the very process. This is the sound of them marching up their walls - will you join them in the ascent?" Luke Turner
Read our review of f(x) here
Gaika - Security
Ghold - Pyr
"Ghold's primordial sludge is not gratuitous, it's a masterclass of doom-laden sturm und drang with an eerie, dread-filled undercurrent that sets the heart pacing and the mind wandering."
Meatraffle - Hi Fi Classics
"This debut album then, is an amalgamation of several influences. Post punk, reggae, jazz, hip-hop and psychedelia that evolves into something that sounds totally fresh and forward thinking." Angus Knight
Melt Yourself Down - Last Evenings On Earth
Anna Meredith - Varmints
(Moshi Moshi) "Thrilling."
Nicola Meighan Read our interview with Anna Meredith here Skepta - Konnichiwa
(Boy Better Know)
"Grime may be poised ready to sally forth out of its largely self-built walls and conquer hearts and minds the world over, but its fate rests firmly in the hands of its head bannerman. This is his warcry."Josh Gray
Underworld - Barbara Barbara, We Face A Shining Future
"Barbara Barbara, We Face A Shining Future, is an album on which Underworld reestablish themselves as supreme dance music architects."
Wolfgang Buttress & Bees - Be One
Be One sees sculptor Wolfgang Buttress joined by bits of Spiritualized, various family members and thousands of bees all buzzing in the key of C on one of the strangest records of 2016. The warmth of this ambient Music For Apiarists, written to accompany a sculpture designed around the structure of a bee hive, is what sets it apart and makes it, given the terrible things insecticides are doing to our bee population, hum with a political edge.