WINNERS AND NOMINATIONS
Rockers Wolf Alice defied the odds to win Britain’s prestigious Mercury Prize for their second album ‘Visions of a Life’
Rock band Wolf Alice won Britain’s mercury prize on Sept. 20 for album “Visions of a Life”, beating off competition from the likes of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and the Arctic Monkeys. The four-member band from north London, which first began as a duo in 2010, took the 25,000 pound ($33,165) prize and “album of the year” trophy, which has been awarded to a wide range of music artists since it began in 1992.
“Visions of a Life”, the group’s second studio album, won praise from critics when it was released last year and reached no. 2 in the UK album charts.
“This has never really happened to us ... we’ve been nominated before but we’ve never won,” band member Joel Amey said. “It’s hard to guage how these things really go in your favour but so far the Mercury (nomination) has done wonders for us getting to new people.”
The mercury prize, which is less mainstream than Britain’s annual BRIT Awards, honours music by British and Irish acts and organisers said this year ’s shortlist celebrated musicians “at all stages of their careers”.
It also included albums by bands Florence + The Machine and Everything Everything, singers Lily Allen, Nadine Shah, Jorga Smith and King Krule, MC Novelist, jazz group Sons of Kemet and the collaborative “Everything is Recorded”, spearheaded by XL Recordings founder Richard Russell.
Past winners of the prize include grime artist Skepta and musicians PJ Harvey and Benjamin Clementine.
“This means so much,” said visibly-stunned frontwoman Ellie Rowsell as she picked up the £25,000 ($33,000) prize, which is presented annually for the best album released by a British or Irish artist, according to a panel of judges.
The 26-year-old later said she “now knows what overwhelmed feels like”, having missed out after being nominated in 2015 for their debut album “My Love is Cool.”
It is the first time a rock band has won the award in six years, with bookmakers making post-punk singer Nadine Shah and jazz group Sons of Kemet the pre-ceremony favourites.
The north London four-piece join past winners including Primal Scream, Franz Ferdinand, PJ Harvey, The xx and grime star Skepta.
The band, whose critically-acclaimed album charted at number two in Britain on its release in September, closed out the show with a celebratory, barefoot performance of album track “Don’t Delete the Kisses”.
Rowsell and guitarist Joff Oddie got together as a two-piece folk band in 2010, taking a heavier rock turn soon after when they added a bassist and a drummer.
The ceremony, held at the Hammersmith Apollo theatre in London, opened with a powerful performance by Florence + The Machine of “Hunger”, the second single from album “High as Hope,” before Sons of Kemet brought the crowd to its feet with an electrifying live jam.
Lily Allen announced her return to the spotlight with a moving rendition “Apples” from her raw and confessional album “No Shame”.
The black-clad Shah then brought a dark intensitytotheeveningwithherliveperformance of “Out the Way”, staring wide-eyed at the star-studded audience throughout the song, which ended with her on the verge of tears.
Shah, whose father moved to Britain from Pakistan, mined her personal experiences on album “Holiday Destination” to explore the themes of xenophobia and immigration, with one track closing with a chant recorded at a pro-refugee rally.
“I’m so glad that that’s on there,” she told the BBC. “I wanted to be very direct and I wanted people to be very aware of the context of the album.”
Continuing in the political vein, Sons of Kemet bagged the shortlist’s usual spot for a jazz act with their anti-monarchy album “Your Queen Is a Reptile”.
Sheffield rockers Arctic Monkeys were aiming to become only the second artist to win the award twice, but missed out with their sixth studio album “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino”.
The band’s departure to a more laid back, piano-driven sound, divided critics and some fans, but the record became their sixth consecutive number-one debut in Britain, and the country’s fastest-selling vinyl record in 25 years.
Indie rockers Everything Everything and impromptu collective Everything Is Recorded, put together by producer Richard Russell, were also nominated, both performing live.
A pair of debut albums were up for the big prize: “Novelist Guy” by grime act Novelist and “Lost and Found” by R and B artist Jorja Smith.
“This year... celebrates albums by musicians at all stages of their careers, but with a shared belief in the importance of music for navigating life’s challenges — whether personal or political, falling in or out of love, growing up or looking back, angry or ecstatic,” the jury said.
“The music here is funny and inspiring, smart and moving,” it added.
Former Oasis guitarist Gallagher was among the audience, with his High Flying Birds project nominated for “Who Built the Moon?,” but he ultimately went home empty handed, although promised he would be partying “until Saturday” as he made his way into the venue.
Musicians from Everything Everything
Florence Welch from Florence + The Machine
Nominee:British singer Jorja Smith