Alt-J win the Mercury Prize 2012

Thursday 1st November 2012 saw the big, little, old and new names of the British indie music industry flock to Camden’s Roundhouse for the Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize

The awards ceremony presented the acts with the chance to strut their stuff on stage, have a nice nervous meal and then drink too much for the purposes of celebration or commiseration.
Thursday 1st November 2012 saw the big, little, old and new names of the British indie music industry flock to Camden’s Roundhouse for the Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize. As ever the result had been keenly anticipated, long before the nominations had even been announced, and the awards ceremony presented the acts with the chance to strut their stuff on stage, have a nice nervous meal and then drink too much for the purposes of celebration or commiseration.

The list of nominees was pleasingly eclectic this year. Plan B kicked off the performance proceedings, showcasing his album Ill Manors with the single of the same name. The indomitable Roundhouse venue proved its worth through a selection of stages. One was up in the rafters and would later be graced by stellar performances from Richard Hawley and The Maccabees, but for now it was Plan B who ran around it during a strobe lit, balaclava filled rendition of his song that would have left any middle class spectators at the dinner tables below sitting a little less comfortably.

Equally strong but perhaps less intimidating and politically incisive were pieces from Django Django (who played ‘Wor’ in coordinated outfits and with determined groove), Alt-J, brothers from Sunderland Field Music and the saviour of the English folk song, Sam Lee who even brought his ‘jaw harp’ along for the occasion. Roller Trio were extremely impressive as the only purely instrumental act of the night, doing their bit for the Leeds improv and jazz scene with a flawless arrangement of ‘The Interrupters’. Michael Kiwanuka appeared like a soulful and bearded angel on the raised stage. His performance of ‘Tell Me a Tale’ demonstrated some cracking jazz flute, and a poignancy that is typical of his live acts but lacking in his album Home Again. The heartache was heaped on further by Lianne La Havas and Jessie Ware who both dressed and sang particularly beautifully. Ben Howard rattled out ‘The Fear’ from his album Every Kingdom, apt as he seemed a bit nervous and never really moved up a gear into his usual rasping intensity. Nonetheless, every performance was striking and a welcome reminder of the wonders of live music versus albums sweated and fretted over in a studio.

There could only be one winner though, and the bookies were right all along.
There could only be one winner though, and the bookies were right all along. I think Alt-J were deserved victors. An Awesome Wave is genuinely like nothing I’ve ever heard before. Whether that is down to Joe Newman’s quirky vocals, the marriage of melodies that wouldn’t sound out of place on CBeebies (listen carefully to 'Dissolve Me' before you try and disagree) with much darker, heavier vibes, or the fact I ought to listen to more music is hard to say, but the album’s extreme popularity this year has been quite something to behold. Watching the band perform at Bestival this summer was in many ways reminiscent of a football match. The tent and its outskirts were crammed with beery, dedicated fans who chanted every lyric of every song in a devotional trance. Unfortunately all my friends had crowd-surfed away from me, so no one was there to help my chant of ‘play the album in full! Uninterrupted! From start to finish! Please!’ to catch on, but I think I was making a good point. An Awesome Wave is a brilliant album not only because of each individual song, but because of its construction as a whole. The Intro, three ‘Interlude’ tracks and hidden track ‘Handmade’ at the end are there for good reason, placed very deliberately and very effectively between songs to create and maintain the dumbfounding atmosphere that the album can boast and, with the Mercury Prize under its belt, has been lauded for.

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Lily Blacksell

Lily Blacksell is Redbrick's Social Secretary and also one of the Music Editors. She studies English and Creative Writing at Birmingham (@LilyBlacksell)



Published

8th November 2012



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