MERCURY MUSIC PRIZE 2023

THE SHORTLIST

"The Mercury Prize ‘Albums of the Year’ celebrate and promote the best of British & Irish music recognising artistic achievement across a range of contemporary music genres. The shortlist was chosen by an independent judging panel and was revealed at a launch event on 27 July 2023."

Ezra Collective

Where I'm Meant To Be

    Ezra Collective’s new era, a venture in discovered maturity and raised stakes, will be defined by the anticipated second album.

    'Where I’m Meant To Be' is a thumping celebration of life, an affirming elevation in the Ezra Collective’s winding hybrid sound and refined collective character. The songs marry cool confidence with bright energy. Full of call-and-response conversations between their ensemble parts, a natural product of years improvising together on-stage, the album - which also features Sampa The Great, Kojey Radical, Emile Sandé, Steve McQueen, and Nao - will light up sweaty dance floors and soundtrack dinner parties in equal measure.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Laura says: Infusing afrobeat, funk, dub and hip hop into their jazz foundation, Ezra Collective bring the party once again. They’ve thrown in a little Latin flavour and a whole heap of guest musicians this time around too. Where I’m Meant To Be is a shot of pure feel good energy and you can’t fail to be swept up in their positive vibrations. Sooooo good!

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Life Goes On (feat. Sampa The Great)
    2. Victory Dance
    3. No Confusion (feat. Kojey Radical)
    4. Welcome To My World
    5. Togetherness
    6. Ego Killah
    7. Smile
    8. Live Strong
    9. Siesta (feat. Emeli Sandé)
    10. Words By Steve
    11. Belonging
    12. Never The Same Again
    13. Words By TJ
    14. Love In Outer Space (feat. Nao)

    Arctic Monkeys

    The Car

      The Car is the seventh studio album from Arctic Monkeys. Featuring ten new songs written by Alex Turner, produced by James Ford and recorded at Butley Priory, Suffolk, La Frette, Paris and RAK Studios, London.

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Liam says: Making the descent back to Earth after their stay at the Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, Arctic Monkeys continue where they left off with album number seven. From stunning string-led ballads ("There'd Better Be A Mirrorball", "Big Ideas"), to late night funk ("Hello You", "Jet Skis On The Moat"), "The Car" proceeds with Arctic's evolution with lavish and exquisite results.

      TRACK LISTING

      SIDE A
      1. There'd Better Be A Mirrorball
      2. I Ain't Quite Where I Think I Am
      3. Sculptures Of Anything Goes
      4. Jet Skis On The Moat
      5. Body Paint

      SIDE B
      6. The Car
      7. Big Ideas
      8. Hello You
      9. Mr Schwartz
      10. Perfect Sense

      Loyle Carner

      Hugo

        In hugo, there’s a central question that Loyle Carner keeps coming back to: “I’m young, Black, successful and have a platform - but where do I go next?” The answer is explored in this epic scream of a third album. With urgent delivery and gloriously widescreen production, Carner confronts both the deeply personal (“You can’t hate the roots of a tree, and not hate the tree. So how can I hate my father without hating me?) and the highly political (“I told the black man he didn’t understand I reached the white man he wouldn’t take my hand”).

        Cinematic in scale and scope, hugo is both a rallying war cry for a generation forged in fire and a study of the personal internal conflict that drives the rest of the album - as a mixed-race Black man, as an artist, as a father and as a son. With Mercury and Brits nominations, NME Awards and appearances in global brand campaigns (Nike, YSL, Timberland), Carner has undoubtedly had a meteoric rise to the top, culminating with his second album Not Waving, But Drowning charting at number 3 in the UK albums chart in 2019. However, hugo sees Carner taking a sharp detour from his previous work, putting it down to lockdown and the “hedonistic side of career being stripped away. There were no shows, no backstage, no festivals, no photoshoots”. By continuing to write in these tumultuous times with a renewed clarity and sense of artistic freedom, Carner reached deeper beneath the surface than he ever had before. The result is his most cathartic and ambitious record yet, a coruscating journey into the heart of what it means to be alive in these tumultuous times, and one which looks set to neatly cement his position as one of the most potent and vital young talents around today. Working alongside renowned producer kwes. (Solange, Kelela, Nao), Carner leaves no stone unturned on this album, in both its sound and its stories.

        In a 10-track album that moves from gorgeous neo-soul moments to thundering hip hop, with immediate, infectious bangers and sampled interludes from non musicians (mixed-race Guyanese poet John Agard and youth activist and politician Athian Akec) Carner shifts seamlessly from micro to macro, confronting everything from strained relationships with family to the societal tears caused by class stratification. It also lays bare bruises in his personal life that he has never revealed before – often in painful, deeply uncomfortable ways, focusing on Carner's experience of becoming a father in the context of growing up without contact with his biological father. With the song “Polyfilla”, against the backdrop of a warm melodic beat, Carner explores his desire to “break the chains in the cycle” of dysfunctional Black fatherhood, commenting on the narrative of fatherhood in the genre, and saying a key part of the process was realising that his father “grew up in a world where nobody showed him how to love or nurture”. The follow up track “A Lasting Place” is an exploration of the MC’s failure and inability to be perfect in this mission. The album closer is a powerful statement of love and forgiveness; with his signature lyrical dexterity, Carner declares his relentless commitment to his son and sees forgiving his father as a key part of this. The song closes with an emotional ending of Carner telling his dad “still I’m lucky yo that we talk”. There’s a striking duality of hugo’s bold, multilayered tracks and its often starkly intimate and tender lyricism, and that dichotomy is deliberate - it is a message for young Black men, but really, anyone, who is listening. Cognizant of the immense pain and fear and confusion that we are faced with everyday, Carner has thrown down the gauntlet, defying us not to rise above the fray, wake up each day and be ambitious. Ambitious in building strong personal relationships. Ambitious in our pursuit of our goals. Ambitious in never refusing to back down against injustice. Rejecting the title of leader, Loyle Carner sees himself “as holding up a mirror”, and that clearly translates into the album's universal messages.

        STAFF COMMENTS

        Millie says: It’s been three long years since his last album, ‘Hugo’ takes a moment for self reflection for Loyle Carner. There’s some incredible tracks and I’ve only dipped in briefly (so it’s only going to get better) ‘Nobody Knows’ has a killer beat while paired with personal subject matter alongside a gospel choir sample which sets it alive. Another highlight is ‘Hate’ doing what Carner does best, within every bar is just fierce. Cue listening on repeat.

        TRACK LISTING

        Hate
        Nobody Knows
        Georgetown
        Speed Of Plight
        Homerton
        Blood On My Nikes
        Plastic
        A Lasting Place
        Polyfilla
        HGU 

        Olivia Dean

        Messy

          Fast rising UK soul-pop star Olivia Dean releases her long-awaited debut album Messy. Featuring the singles ‘Danger’ and ‘UFO’, Messy cements Dean as one of the most original and versatile voices in UK pop.

          Crafting classic yet conversational hooks with genre-fluid tinges, she’s honed a way of exploring universal themes of love, loss and everything in between with razor-sharp but open-hearted storytelling. Of her debut album, Olivia shares, “Going into making the record, I'd just done this ‘Growth’ project. And for ages, I was like, well, my debut album needs to be what I've grown into, I need to have the answer. And that really confused me for a while. Then I realised, I'm always going to be growing. So this doesn't have to be a destination, it's just where I’m at now.”

          Fred Again...

          Actual Life 3: January 1 - September 9 2022

            Actual Life 3 (January 1 – September 9 2022) is the third in his series of Actual Life albums, which saw Fred again.. resume his diary-esque approach to production using intimate use of voice notes from friends, videos found whilst scrolling on Instagram and samples from important records in his life.

            It was an autobiographical chapter of work that pushed forward the heritage of UK electronic music while standing as testament to the power of music in facilitating catharsis, healing and celebrating the realities of friendship, love and life.

            J Hus

            Beautiful & Brutal Yard

              Released via 'Black Butter Records' - J Hus is back with his highly anticipated third album ‘Beautiful And Brutal Yard’, preceded by the raucous street track ‘It’s Crazy’ which charted Top 15 and ‘Who Told You’ (featuring Drake) which debuted at #2 with the 3rd highest UK week 1 singles sales of the year and Hus’ highest single chart to date. ‘B.A.B.Y.’ is the follow-up to his chart-topping album ‘Big Conspiracy’ which earned him the Best Male Award at the Brits and his Top 10 platinum debut ‘Common Sense’ which won an NME award and was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize and Best Album at the Brits.

              Fans have come to expect a range of influences and musical styles from Hus’ albums and they will not be disappointed. Across ‘B.A.B.Y’ Hus incorporates elements of afrobeats, drill, R&B and bashment, all delivered in his inimitable lyrical style. The album includes features from Drake, Burna Boy, Jorja Smith, Popcaan and Naira Marley as well as from UK up and comers CB, Villz and Boss Belly. 

              Jockstrap

              I Love You Jennifer B

                London-based duo Jockstrap (Georgia Ellery and Taylor Skye) will release their hotly-anticipated debut full-length record I Love You Jennifer B via Rough Trade Records.

                Commenting on the album release, Jockstrap’s Georgia Ellery and Taylor Skye said: “I Love You Jennifer B is a collection of Jockstrap tracks that have been 3 years in the making. Everything on it is pretty singular sounding so we hope there is a track on there for everyone and something that speaks to you and says ‘I’m a banger.’” Skye added of ‘Glasgow’ (their new single): “‘Glasgow’ is our coming of age, moving forward, long-distance, travelling, beautiful bosk, wonderful thicket song.” And Ellery said of the song’s subject: “Glasgow is a great city, perhaps my favourite in the UK! Only downside is that it’s so damn cold all the time.”

                When Georgia Ellery and Taylor Skye make music as Jockstrap, the process and result has one definition: pure modern pop alchemy. With their debut album I Love You Jennifer B, Jockstrap will cement themselves as one of the most vital young groups to emerge from London’s melting pot of musical cultures in years.

                TRACK LISTING

                Neon
                Jennifer B
                Greatest Hits
                What’s It All About?
                Concrete Over Water
                Angst
                Debra
                Glasgow
                Lancaster Court
                50/50 (Extended)

                Lankum

                False Lankum

                  False Lankum follows their 2019 breakthrough album The Livelong Day, which paved the way for critical and commercial success, earning them that year’s RTE Choice Music Prize (the Irish equivalent of the Album of the Year Grammy) and the #8 spot on NPR Music’s Best Albums of the Year list. Drawing on traditional folk songs, Lankum put their own dark, distinctive mark onto each, leaning into heavy drones and sonic distortion that imparts new intensity and beauty into each track. This record sees the band cement their breakout from the folk genre, creating bold, contemporary music that may be fashioned from traditional elements but is firmly new, sitting comfortably alongside Rough Trade labelmates like black midi and Gilla Band. False Lankum also features two original tracks, ‘Netta Perseus’ and ‘The Turn’, both penned by the group’s Daragh Lynch.

                  ‘Go Dig My Grave’ was discovered by Lankum’s Radie Peat who learned the particular version on the album from the singing of Jean Ritchie, who recorded it in 1963 on the album Jean Ritchie and Doc Watson at Folk City. It is a member of a family of songs which seem to be largely made up of what are known as ‘floating verses’, originally composed as stanzas of various different ballads, some of which date back as far as the 17th century.

                  “'Our interpretation of the traditional song Go Dig My Grave is one that centres around the emotion of grief – all-consuming, unbearable and absolute” explain Lankum, “A visceral physical reaction to something that the body and mind are almost incapable of processing. The second part of the song is inspired by the Irish tradition of keening (from the Irish caoineadh) – a traditional form of lament for the deceased. Regarded by some as opening up ‘perilous channels of communication with the dead’, the practice came under severe censure from the catholic church in Ireland from the 17th century on.”

                  From the start, Dublin’s Lankum planned for False Lankum, their fourth record and third for Rough Trade, to feel like a complete piece – a progression and a journey for the listener. “We wanted to create more contrast on the record so the light parts would be almost spiritual and the dark parts would be incredibly dark, even horror inducing,” they explain. The album’s 12 tracks, composed of 10 traditional songs and two originals, show the four-piece using a new palate to colour their sound in an increasingly experimental way, alongside longtime producer John ‘Spud’ Murphy.

                  TRACK LISTING

                  1. Go Dig My Grave
                  2. Clear Away In The Morning
                  3. Fugue I
                  4. Master Crowley’s
                  5. Newcastle
                  6. Fugue II
                  7. Netta Perseus
                  8. The New York Trader
                  9. Lord Abore And Mary Flynn
                  10. Fugue III
                  11. On A Monday Morning
                  12. The Turn

                  Raye

                  My 21st Century Blues

                    'My 21st Century Blues' is Raye part two - it's Raye on her own terms - it's the Raye of old, but reloaded.

                    These are songs made by Raye, for Raye, but within that they're for everyone who has faced and overcome adversity. they're also anthems for other women in the industry, or stuck in a cycle of misogyny.

                    TRACK LISTING

                    1 Introduction
                    2 Oscar Winning Tears
                    3 Hard Out Here
                    4 Black Mascara
                    5 Escapism
                    6 Mary Jane
                    7 The Thrill Is Gone
                    8 Ice Cream Man
                    9 Flip A Switch
                    10 Body Dysmorphia
                    11 Environmental Anxiety
                    12 Five Star Hotels. (feat. Mahalia)
                    13 Worth It
                    14 Buss It Down
                    15 Fin

                    Shygirl

                    Nymph

                      Debut album from the experimental pop artist Shygirl. The 12-track album was created with a close-knit group of friends and previous collaborators including Mura Masa, Sega Bodega, Karma Kid, Arca and Cosha along with the producers Noah Goldstein, Danny L Harle, BloodPop, Vegyn and Kingdom.

                      "Nymph" reveals Shygirl’s inner self-reflection in experimental vocal tones and deconstructed dance melodies and exhibits a new level of intimacy and emotional depth in her songwriting. Simultaneously asserting her power and freedom and yet still longing for love, she delivers us lyrical harmonies and catchy hooks telling stories of relationships, sexual desires and romantic frustrations. Over lush production, Shygirl brings us on the journey of what intimacy is like for a woman who’s seen as ‘too hot to handle’, someone sought after and overlooked at the same time. Shygirl’s melodies intertwine with the sounds of bassline, garage, dancehall and hip hop, all seamlessly flowing together like an artful ribbon dance.

                      STAFF COMMENTS

                      Matt says: Don't sleep on the neo-heart-melter: "Heaven" which aptly gives Sophie a run for her money in the 'future-emotional-heartbreak-ballad' stakes.

                      TRACK LISTING

                      Side 1
                      1. Woe (3:41)
                      2. Come For Me (1:07)
                      3. Shlut (2:32)
                      4. Little Bit (3:34)
                      5. Firefly (3:15)
                      6. Coochie (A Bedtime Story) (2:58)
                      Side 2
                      1. Heaven (2:42)
                      2. Nike (2:10)
                      3. Poison (2:42)
                      4. Honey (3:36)
                      5. Missing U (0:59)
                      6. Wildfire (2:56)

                      Jessie Ware

                      That! Feels Good!

                        ‘Pearls’ sees the dancefloor diva back where she belongs. Thumping with 70’s funk infused basslines and infectious grooves towed by sonic synthesisers, the track was co-written and produced by Coffee Clarence JR, Sarah Hudson and legendary British producer Stuart Price. The track is riding high on captivating energy that seems like it could’ve emerged straight from a mirror ball.

                        “Pearls is a record that doesn’t take itself too seriously but demands you to have a dance. It’s inspired by divas like Donna Summer, Evelyn Champagne King, Teena Marie and Chaka khan and I guess attempts to show - in lightness - all the hats I try to wear (usually at the same time). It’s the second song you will hear from my collaboration with Stuart Price and Coffee - with the wonderful addition of Sarah Hudson - and hopefully gives you a taste of the fun we have working together. “ Jessie also added, “That! Feels Good! stems from over 10 years of understanding who I am, and who I enjoy being as an artist and the thrill of performance. “

                        The new single follows recent release ‘Free Yourself’, that offered a taster session to Jessie’s upcoming studio album. ‘Free Yourself’ went on to have the biggest week one streams in both the UK and internationally ahead of any other Jessie single to date.

                        ‘That! Feels Good!’ is the follow up album to 2020’s ‘What’s Your Pleasure?’, which proved her status as one of the UK’s most influential artists and became her highest charting album to date. It included singles ‘Save A Kiss’, ‘Spotlight’ and Barack Obama approved ‘Remember Where You Are’ (added to his NYE playlist). Last year saw Jessie support juggernaut Harry Styles in the USA, gain 2.4 billion global streams and complete a fantastic run of live shows including career defining sets at Glastonbury and Primavera. She continues to cement herself as a formidable force and at the forefront of UK pop.

                        STAFF COMMENTS

                        Liam says: Following on from her incredible disco odyssey 'What's Your Pleasure?', 'That! Feels Good!' sees Jessie Ware fully diving into high camp. Lead single 'Free Yourself' is empowering disco floorfiller, whilst 'Pearls' serves as a long-lost Chaka Khan-esque funk cut that has 'Ru Paul's Drag Race Lipsync For Your Life' written all over it. It's infectious, sultry and undoubtedly got the potential to be the party record of the year - Mega, mega stuff!!

                        TRACK LISTING

                        1. That! Feels Good!
                        2. Free Yourself
                        3. Pearls
                        4. Hello Love
                        5. Begin Again
                        6. Beautiful People
                        7.Freak Me Now
                        8. Shake The Bottle
                        9. Lightning
                        10. These Lips 

                        Young Fathers

                        Heavy Heavy

                          Young Fathers - Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and G. Hastings - announce details of their brand new album Heavy Heavy. Set for release on February 3rd 2023 via Ninja Tune, it’s the group’s fourth album and their first since 2018’s album Cocoa Sugar. The 10-track project signals a renewed back-to-basics approach, just the three of them in their basement studio, some equipment and microphones: everything always plugged in, everything always in reach.

                          Speaking about the title, the band write that Heavy Heavy could be a mood, or it could describe the smoothed granite of bass that supports the sound… or it could be a nod to the natural progression of boys to grown men and the inevitable toll of living, a joyous burden, relationships, family, the natural momentum of a group that has been around long enough to witness massive changes.

                          “You let the demons out and deal with it,” reckons Kayus of the album. “Make sense of it after.”

                          For Young Fathers, there’s no dress code required. Dancing, not moshing. Hips jerking, feet slipping, brain firing in Catherine Wheel sparks of joy and empathy. Underground but never dark. Still young, after some years, even as the heavy, heavy weight of the world seems to grow day by day.

                          STAFF COMMENTS

                          Liam says: Young Fathers have always remained an euphoric and life affirming outlet during turbulent times and with 'Heavy Heavy' this is no different. With huge choruses and exquisite instrumentation that dabbles in neo-soul, hip-hop and avant-pop, 'Heavy Heavy' is just a flat out joyous listen. Main highlight is the massive and awe-inspiring 'Geronimo' - incredible stuff!

                          TRACK LISTING

                          01. Rice
                          02. I Saw
                          03. Drum
                          04. Tell Somebody
                          05. Geronimo
                          06. Shoot Me Down
                          07. Ululation
                          08. Sink Or Swim
                          09. Holy Moly
                          10. Be Your Lady


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