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Mercury Prize Shortlist 2012

 
By on Wednesday, 12th September 2012 at 6:23 pm
 

The shortlist for the Barclaycard Mercury Prize 2012 Albums of the Year were announced this evening by 6music presenter Lauren Laverne in a special ceremony at London’s Hospital Club. While some of the names on here are no surprise, with bookies predicting their odds for weeks, others seem to be a who’s who of the knife edge between mainstream and indie. And it just wouldn’t be the Mercury Prize nominations without a random jazz album mentioned. Let’s have a look at the nominees…

Not surprisingly to those in the indie blogosphere, Django Django‘s rhythmically dynamic self-titled debut received a nod. The band scored an American label contract this summer. Count on ‘Default’ and ‘Storm’ to get continued airplay all the way up to the night the winner is announced. (Read our coverage on the Djangos here.) So was alt-J‘s debut ‘An Awesome Wave’. I’m sure they expected it; why else would they have booked a tour for *next* May if they weren’t? If the sweaty club atmosphere I experienced on night 2 of the Great Escape this year seeing them (who were then followed by Django Django, I might add) is any indication, their album will be a frontrunner on many indie music fans’ lists.

Continuing with the debuts nominated, the singer/songwriter genre is well represented with entries from the female squeal-eliciting Ben Howard (‘Every Kingdom’), folk newcomer Sam Lee (‘Ground of Its Own’) and Michael Kiwanuka (‘Home Again’). Electro urban newcomer Jessie Ware, who Martin caught at Evolution, appears on the shortlist with her debut ‘Devotion’ released in mid-August. BBC Sound of 2012 nominee and Warner Brothers signee Lianne La Havas, who wowed crowds at the Great Escape and beyond, also received a nod for ‘Is Your Love Big Enough?’ If she wins the gong in November, expect cheesy headlines using the album title for full effect.

Stalwarts of the Northern music scene have been rewarded with nominations as well. The forward thinking of Sunderland indie heroes Field Music‘s ‘Plumb’ released in February 2012 and Sheffield’s bequiffed guitar bandolero Richard Hawley‘s new psychedelic direction for ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’ were both recognised on the shortlist this year. The honour of this year’s wild card also goes to the North, via Leeds jazz rock band Roller Trio. Their self-titled album looks, from a distance, exactly like that of Stornoway‘s ‘Beachcomber’s Windowsill’. (Not kidding. Have a look here and compare.)

The Maccabees, having returned after 3 years with new album, ‘Given to the Wild’, also appear on the list, making us seriously wonder how groundbreaking this list can be, with so many ‘safe contenders’. Plan B‘s nomination for third album ‘Ill Manors’ is less dubious, especially in light of Ben Drew’s shedding some much needed light on human trafficking in his video for ‘Deepest Shame’. Good save, committee folks.

The winner of the 2012 Mercury Prize will be announced on Thursday, the 1st of November. In addition to the ceremony itself, there will be a unique ‘Albums of the Year Live’ gig series leading up to the big event. The series will see the shortlisted artists play very intimate gigs. Access to apply for tickets to these gigs will be extremely limited and only through signing up a special mailing list for alerts on these very gigs. Each successful applicant will have access to two tickets; a £5 donation to War Child is required at the time to secure each ticket, with Barclaycard matching every donation pound for pound for their cardholders who use their card when purchasing. Go here for more information.

 

MP3 of the Day #618: Richard Hawley

 
By on Thursday, 6th September 2012 at 10:00 am
 

If you’ve been wondering if you should part with your hard-earned money for Richard Hawley‘s latest album ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’, you can use this free download to help you in that decision. ‘Down in the Woods’ was not what I was expecting from Mr. Hawley, and neither was ‘Leave Your Body Behind You’ (reviewed by Martin here), but I’ll let you make up your own opinion. Listen to and download the song below.

 

Richard Hawley / September and October 2012 UK Tour

 
By on Wednesday, 8th August 2012 at 8:30 am
 

The voice of Sheffield Richard Hawley will be touring the UK this autumn. His support on this tour will be the lovely Lisa Hannigan.

Sunday 16th September 2012 – Holmfirth Picturedrome
Monday 17th September 2012 – Norwich UEA
Tuesday 18th September 2012 – Portsmouth Pyramids
Wednesday 19th September 2012 – Brighton Dome
Friday 21st September 2012 – Bath Pavilion Bath
Saturday 22nd September 2012 – Birmingham HMV Institute
Sunday 23th September 2012 – Sheffield City Hall
Tuesday 25th September 2012 – Leeds O2 Academy
Wednesday 26th September 2012 – Manchester Academy
Thursday 27th September 2012 – Newcastle O2 Academy
Friday 28th September 2012 – Glasgow Barrowlands
Sunday 30th September 2012 – Lincoln Engine Shed
Monday 1st October 2012 – Derby Assembly Room
Tuesday 2nd October 2012 – Sheffield City Hall
Wednesday 3rd October 2012 – London Brixton O2 Academy

 

Video of the Moment #865: Richard Hawley

 
By on Sunday, 1st July 2012 at 10:00 am
 

Richard Hawley‘s latest album, ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’, has proved to be a psychedelic departure from albums past. Take, for example, the second single from the long player, entitled ‘Down in the Woods’. The high speed, LSD-infused promo video should be clear evidence of the Sheffield troubadour’s new direction lauded by some but bemoaned by others. Watch it below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40DeE8eJ2v0[/youtube]

 

Single Review: Richard Hawley – Leave Your Body Behind You

 
By on Friday, 13th April 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

Sheffield’s finest former ’50s-throwback troubadour Richard Hawley introduces his forthcoming album, ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’, with the release of its first single ‘Leave Your Body Behind You’. The trademark Hawley sonorous baritone remains, but overall this is something of a departure from his previous languorous style. There’s a new psychedelic presentation and a rockier sound; fair play, Hawley has been sticking to the same formula for a few albums now, and he’s due a change of direction. As if transported in a bequiffed Tardis, Hawley now finds himself at the cusp of the 1970s, just as the trippy ’60s discover the hard rock of the following decade.

Most fascinating are Hawley’s entirely apropos-of-nothing comments on the sentiment behind the song, worth repeating in full here. “So much damage has been done to this world by people who get all their knowledge from one book – be it The Bible or whatever.” He adds, “If we could just allow ourselves to be liberated by the fact that this is our only time here, we could just get on with what really matters. I really think we could have put a man on the moon 1,000 years ago if we accepted that.”

Fair enough on the first point – those who read only one book in their entire lives are bound to be a little narrow in their viewpoint, whether it be the Bible, War And Peace, or Spot the Dog. Although it’s likely, what with the Bible being a tricky read, that most people come at it with at least a vague prior familiarity with the adventures of Janet and John and the BFG. I suspect what Hawley is trying to do is express the danger of taking ancient religious texts too literally, a point on which most would agree, although this is hardly a novel idea in the post-9/11 world.

The second point is outrageous to the point of parody; Hawley clearly believes his assertion (“I really think”), and it has presumably influenced his music, thus it deserves comment here. In the 11th century, the height of European transport technology was the Viking longboat, with the English too preoccupied with defending their towns and womenfolk from pillaging and rape by the Nordics to concentrate on the development of space travel. The Medieval English Church was the fabric that held society together, as landowners developed ever more efficient ways of organising farming and horticulture, effectively preventing famine taking hold as the population grew at increasing speed. The Islamic Caliphates of the East gave structure to a society which, amongst vast swathes of scientific and mathematic enquiry, held a great interest in astronomy and optics, critiqued the inaccurate prevailing theories of the time, and developed new pieces of astronomical equipment which were used for centuries after. The USA, the country that finally put man on the moon, wouldn’t even be constituted for another 700 years. The lack of medieval liquid hydrogen and freeze-dried chicken soup was not related to a preoccupation with overbearing theology.

Whilst by definition no religion (and certainly not Scientology) has ever been rooted in the scientific method, and bearing in mind several notable events such as the Roman Inquisition when scientists and philosophers were persecuted for ideas that have subsequently been accepted as mainstream, there is little evidence that the advent of space travel was at all hindered by religious or any other philosophical belief. Indeed, the fact that both Russia and the U.S. were so close as the space race played out in the 1960s, indicates that space travel became possible at a specific point in time due to simultaneous global technological developments; if any single event contributed more than any other, it was World War II.

Despite the factual deficiencies in Hawley’s bizarre assertion, there may be a valid spiritual perspective here: that we should realise that in our limited time on the planet it’s really only the big stuff that matters. Day-to-day struggles and mundane worries are simply distractions that diminish our capability to truly make a mark on our lives and those of others. Being inspired by that which we truly love is the only way to happiness, and is the only way to justify the blessing of existence – big, important points, most eloquently expressed in Steve Jobs’ famous Stanford University commencement speech, and echoed here.

‘Leave Your Body Behind You’ can be interpreted in two ways – it is an evocation to action, to transcend the mortal, bodily realm and make a mark on history; and that mark will be more important than the skin and bones which are the physical remnants of life. Ironically, these are deeply spiritual sentiments which echo mainstream religion’s views on life and death, those which Hawley appears to have no time for. Despite all this pedantry, the song makes a fine noise, and is a marker for a change of direction for Hawley, which should excite those of an open-minded persuasion. Fans of Hawley’s peculiar brand of non-spiritual spiritualism should be snapping up tickets to No Direction Home festival in June, where he is headlining the Sunday night.

7/10

‘Leave Your Body Behind You’ is available now as a one-track digital download. A 10″ vinyl version (backed with new track ‘You Haunt Me’) will be the first single release through the Richard Hawley Singles Club, available exclusively via Independent record shops for Record Store Day (from Saturday 21 April) and from Hawley’s official Web site. The Singles Club will be a series of 10″ singles, b/w exclusive bonus tracks, to be released throughout the next 12 months. The two-track download will be available on the 7th of May.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Oh_r-n94uY[/youtube]

 

Mencap Little Noise Sessions / November 2009

 
By on Sunday, 8th November 2009 at 3:50 pm
 

Following on from the amazing lineups of the past two years, the Mencap Little Noise sessions are back again this November to raise more money for the mental disability charity.

The lineup is almost complete, with a string of pretty amazing performances scheduled. Personally, I’m most excited about Editors day, along with the pop-tastic Alexandra Burke, Mika and Newton Faulkner days – all of the shows have great talent and with the promise of special guests, I say you should hop on down to Union Chapel to check out some great music. Head on over to the Little Noise Sessions website for more answers to your questions.

The artists so far announced include:

Monday 16th November
Editors
The Maccabees
Bombay Bicycle Club
Everything Everything

Tuesday 17th November
Alexandra Burke
Alphabeat
Marina and the Diamonds
VV Brown

Wednesday 18th November
Mika
Paloma Faith
Alex Gardner
Daisy Dares You

Thursday 19th November
Richard Hawley
I Blame Coco

Friday 20th November
Lostprophets
The Blackout
Egyptian Hip Hop

Saturday 21st November
Taio Cruz
Tinchy Stryder
Chipmunk

Sunday 22nd November
Florence and the Machine
Golden Silvers
Erik Hassle
Ellie Goulding

Monday 23rd November
David Gray
The Low Anthem
Lisa Mitchell

Tuesday 24th November
Newton Faulkner
Scouting for Girls
Little Comets
Stornoway

 
 
 

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