Mercury Prize shortlist 'reflects floundering British music scene'
Obscure shortlist is defined by its omissions and leaves some critics wanting to 'shoot their ears off'
IN A YEAR when album sales are at a record low, critics have said the latest Mercury Prize shortlist is a reflection of Britain's "floundering" music scene.
Aside from rapper Plan B (pictured), the nominees have been described as relatively unknown. The list, announced last night, includes Leeds quartet Alt-J, guitarist Richard Hawley, singer Jessie Ware, soul-singer Michael Kiwanuka, jazz band Roller Trio and student-friendly indie band The Maccabees.
"Who the hell is this lot?" asks Will Hodgkinson in The Times. "The Mercurys has always been a celebration of creative accomplishment over commercial success, but this is a particularly obscure list."
The lack of breakthrough names suggests Britain has let America take the lead, says Hodgkinson. There's nothing to match the big US albums of the past year, such as Frank Ocean's Channel Orange or Jack White's Blunderbuss. "Instead we have a collection of accomplished but rather less ambitious works that are confined mostly to niche interest."
At the gossip website Holy Moly, they say looking at the list made them want to “shoot our own ears off". While they praise the work of Jessie Ware, Plan B and Richard Hawley, they lament the inclusion of so many "nice" or "okaaaaayyyyyy" artists and complain bitterly about Ben Howard's nomination, who is described as "boring, inexplicably popular, faux earnest, froggy voiced, substance-less mush".
The Daily Telegraph’s Neil McCormick describes the list as "odd and not particularly inspiring" but says it is a relatively accurate reflection of a "divided and floundering music scene".
McCormick asks: "What kind of year has it been for music in Britain? Parochial, introspective, quirky and lacking in both confidence and identity, at least if it were to be judged by nominations for the Barclaycard Mercury Prize 2012."
Where are all the heavy hitters, he asks, noting that Emeli Sandé and Coldplay don't appear. But the "the biggest injustice of all", he claims, is that Kate Bush has been overlooked for her album, 50 Words for Snow.
"I can't help feeling that the Barclaycard Mercury Prize list 2012 adds up to much less than the sum of its parts, creating a sense that British music is adrift, either self-involved to the extent of not really caring about the bigger picture, or pursuing a slightly bland, inoffensive commercial agenda," says McCormick.
In The Guardian, Alexis Petridis also points out that the list is more easily defined by who's missing. There's no dance music, no hard rock, no curveball, no Kate Bush and no representation of out-and-out pop music.
Petridis adds: "A cynical voice would say that's probably because the charts are in a state of awfulness almost without precedent – they've been rotten before, but never this sonically homogenous – and a cynic might have a point."
The Mercury awards ceremony will take place on 1 November.
Mercury Prize 2012 shortlist:
Alt-J - An Awesome Wave
Ben Howard - Every Kingdom
Django Django - Django Django
Field Music - Plumb
Richard Hawley - Standing at the Sky's Edge
Michael Kiwanuka - Home Again
Lianne La Havas - Is Your Love Big Enough?
Sam Lee - Ground of its Own
The Maccabees - Given To The Wild
Plan B - ill Manors
Roller Trio - Roller Trio
Jessie Ware - Devotion ·