Oh, Go On Then – Alternative Mercury Prize Not Quite Shortlist

I have to say that the real Mercury Prize shortlist this year is a bit of a disappointment this year in the respect that it’s a bit on the vanilla side.  Thankfully this means that everyone can get all in a strop about *their* faves not getting a mention, and this is the real spirit of the competition.  Frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way from an award named after a telecommunications company that went bust in 1999.

So, to join in with the doings, here’s an almost shortlist of my favourites that weren’t nominated keeping to a couple of mild criteria:

  • Released within the real prize’s qualification period (July 12 2011 – September 10 2012)
  • Artists involved are at least partly from the UK
  • Artists not actually shortlisted (although for the purposes of this list, only Richard Hawley – see below for comedy gold in 2006 – is omitted from this thingy)
  • Something from qualifying album is on Spotify, just to make it easy for me.  BTW, if you like something here or elsewhere on the various playlists, please buy it – no artist will ever make a living from the tiny streaming royalties they receive.


Hope there’s something you like, or violently disagree with.



Best of 2011, 50-41

And I’m finally off.  Like the hordes of awful Christmas adverts have already reminded us, it’s only November and yet the end of year lists are all over the place already.  Then again, pretty much all of the more notable releases of 2011 are already upon us, wisely choosing to avoid the annual tat-fest that infects the festive charts and airwaves.  Sorry if that has ruined any hopes that anyone had of Daniel O’Donnell or any one of a number of bagpipers, monks and karaoke competition winners appearing in this list.

This year has been a right old bumper crop of greatness as far as music has been concerned, which is a blessed relief as that corner of existence not concerned with music (which I shall dub “everything else”) has been a bit rubbish.  Compiling this has been an absolute pain and it’s been a tortuous process just getting myself started.  On the plus side, in doing this I’ve been revisiting so many recordings that I’d forgotten just how much I enjoyed during the past 12 months while I’ve been (literally) playing albums off against each other, and even these ones at the lower end of the scale (and there are plenty I’ve left out for various reasons) are regarded very fondly here.  The next three chunks will appear at incredibly irregular intervals, followed by a more in-depth look at each of the top 10 on a daily basis once everything else is out of the way and nothing happens to distract me, like having to do stuff for Christmas or having to work and sleep.

Hope you enjoy reading and disagreeing with all of this over the next few weeks as much as I’m hating writing it.


Thomas Dolby – A Map Of The Floating City

We never did find out what those numbers meant

This one should really be entitled “what I dun on me Summer Holidays”, given that this album is released in the aftermath of one of the strangest and most involving marketing campaigns that I can remember.  Eschewing the usual “hello, buy my new thing” standard method of selling stuff, Thomas Morgan Dolby Robertson assembled a crack team of writers, artists and game designers to come up with a mysterious world set in an alternate, dystopian reality where nobody knew what was going on, and players around the world were divided into 9 Tribes on three continents and given instructions to trade, ally, invent, scheme and generally caper our way to the centre of the map in order to find the Floating City, with clues hidden in (and on) EPs and an iPhone game as if that wasn’t enough to start with.

Of course it all got a bit competitive, and probably somewhat predictably given  a couple of the tasks we were set along the way (which involved much creative writing, editing and opinionating well into the tiny wee hours during a couple of weekends/schoolnights), it all went a bit mad.  Strops were thrown, arguments were fermented and (most importantly) friendships were cemented during a particularly memorable night where a character’s trial went completely and spectacularly mad and the players got very angry indeed.  Oddly enough, this added to the game immeasurably, bringing people together first in a sense of outrage, closely followed by general militant bemusement.  And nobody did militant bemusement quite like the mostly-British (let’s see if I get this right) Muluberry ClubBloc Seaboard, a coming-together of several of the game’s tribes who joined forces for that most noble of reasons, “well, it seemed like a good idea at the time”.


Thomas Dolby – Oceanea EP

To be honest, I was supposed to have done this at least a couple of months ago. But such is the nature of the wider picture surrounding this release, I keep getting distracted…

For his first release in many an age, eccentric and accomplished electronic boffin Thomas Dolby unsurprisingly isn’t going down the traditional route of recording some songs, making an album out of them, releasing them and seeing what happens. Oh no. Instead, it’s being released in bits and using a wide variety of media to distribute and promote it.
Map of the Floating City, the final and full album, is to be comprised of three separate EPs, musically designated by a shared geographical feel.  The first of these (Amerikana, released digitally through his official forum only) was accompanied by an iPhone game named after and based on one of the songs (Toadlickers), and is the reason why this is so delayed, as everytime I mentioned it, I had to stop and play the bloody thing, especially after I got knocked off the leaderboard…  And now, with the recent release of an online game based on the overall picture of the upcoming album, I’m finding even more time being hoovered up.


Thomas Dolby – The Golden Age of Wireless

I had the best of both worlds musically as a kid. Having both an older brother and sister with different musical tastes (briefly converging around Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life) meant that I had a right old raft of stuff to choose from.  My sister was more pop-minded – the 1970s Holy Trinity (her opinion, not mine) of Davids  *Cassidy, Soul and Essex if you must know* springing to memory most readily to the point where I can clearly remember Julie complaining to Mum that I had ruined David Soul’s Don’t Give Up On Us, Baby for her forever because I wouldn’t stop singing it.  My brother (David, although not one of the three already mentioned) was a bit more ‘serious’, with boxfuls of Motown & Stax 7″s, with the occasional dip into the left field with odd Echo & the Bunnymen and Clash singles, and a brief interest in things electronic before sodding off into Acid Jazz territory, by which point I was finding my own stuff to listen to which still comes as a blessed relief every time I think about it.

But rewinding ever so slightly, two albums stand out for me in that brief ‘leccy period – Propaganda’s A Secret Wish which I finally got round to buying for my own very recently, and this debut from Thomas Morgan Dolby Robertson which I have never bought because I nicked it of my brother way back then and I still have it.


Sunday Whatever

Due to an unnaturally short attention span this weekend, I thought it might be an idea to just go through whatever I’ve been listening to this week and pick out five random tracks I’ve especially liked for no reason other than it might kill a bit of time before Match of the Day 2 starts: (more…)