The Mercury Prize is one of the most prestigious, and most heavily sought after awards, especially by younger artists as the prize, unlike many others, offers artists who are slightly under the radar a chance to win. The past years of the award have seen success for some of the most significant albums in UK culture (such as Pulp’s ‘A Different Class’ and Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’) and have sprung the careers of many (notably the debut album win of Dizzee Rascal).
However, in recent years the award has come under scrutiny for its vague definition of what the prize is actually for. Some would argue it is simply for the best album of the year, others argue it is for the most innovative or ground-breaking. Either way, this year’s nominees faced tough competition, with the shortlist including such huge names as Lily Allen, Florence & The Machine, Arctic Monkeys, Noel Gallagher, and Everything Everything. Even so, the shock winners of this years prize, Wolf Alice were deserved winners!
The album that won them the prize, ‘Visions Of A Life’ may not be the most groundbreaking of records and is not going to change the face of British music culture. Yet, it is perhaps best described by one of the album’s singles… ‘Beautifully Unconventional’. It takes music that fans of Indie, Rock, Punk and Psychedelia can all get along with and then bends the listeners expectations of the song. In basic terms, the album does what it says on the tin and honours the album title exceptionally. ‘Visions Of A Life’ is the most perfectly crafted insight into human emotion the music scene has witnessed in the modern day. From the explosive euphoria of ‘Space & Time’ to the mental battle with anxiety in ‘Sky Musings’, and from the primal hunger of ‘Formidable Cool’ to the shy romance of ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’ it takes all aspects of life and translates them into the concept album of a lifetime.
Their debut release ‘My Love Is Cool’ had already displayed their technical prowess, however this follow up record has firmly cemented them as one of the UK’s best artists. They may not have many songs which would class as catchy or merit a sing-a-long, but the stylized pop-rock, the full-throttle punk, and most impressively of all, the psychedelic swell of the instrumental sections that give this album its warmth all exude unparalleled levels of craftsmanship. Each song demonstrates a different emotion, or a different time in life that almost all of us experience. By exploring the intricacies of the modern mind, the album is satisfyingly relatable, and, despite Lily Allen’s feeling that she has been “robbed” of the award, is more than deserving of winning this poignant award.
After the rumours that are set to spend their £25,000 winnings on a new studio, we can all start wondering what will be next for the band, and what is next for The Mercury Prize in the years to come!
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