It’s Mercury Prize season again.
There has been very little fanfare for this year’s prize. The shortlist for the best album released in the UK in the year to 17th July 2020 was announced on 23rd of that month and, since then, the Crotchety Headphones had heard nary a peep out of the music press until a few days ago.
On Thursday, the winner was announced on the BBC’s One Show programme and interviewed on Later … with Jools Holland the following day. Apparently, there was also a TV show on BBC Four the day before the announcement, with live performances by the 12 artists on the shortlist. Those performances are on the BBC’s YouTube channel in the form of a playlist.
For me, the standout pieces from that list were Laura Marling’s Song for Our Daughter, Moses Boyd’s Stranger Than Fiction and Anna Meredith’s Paramour. But, for this track-of-the-week, I’m following the path dictated by Mistress Curiosity and picking something by Lanterns On The Lake.
The Lanterns had already crossed my path once or twice and were earmarked for further investigation. Listening to their latest album, Spook the Herd, I remembered being struck by these words from Every Atom:
If I have to split every atomHazel Wilde
just to find a trace of you
That’s what I’ll do
She could have said, “I’ll search high and low for you” or “I’ll go to the ends of the Earth to find you”. But the Lanterns‘ singer/songwriter found an original and much more compelling turn of phrase to express her longing. And this song is full of such literary sparks. Here’s another one:
I caught a cavalier and a king or two
but I couldn’t get a peep out of them on you.
How’s that for a novel angle on a fruitless search?
The best description I can give for Lanterns‘ music is “accomplished singer/songwriter with an indie rock backing band”. On their latest album, one track is too slow and plodding for the Crotchety tastebuds but the rest are very listenable indie rock songs. Apart from the creativity in the lyrics there’s nothing especially remarkable about the tunes. Play them in the milking shed; they may or may not improve the milk yield, but they certainly won’t spook the herd.
And the winner of the Mercury Prize 2020? That was Michael Kiwanuka for his self-titled album, Kiwanuka. It was M.K.’s third nomination for the Mercury and he could easily have won in 2016 with Love and Hate, which was a far, far better album than the abominable Konnichiwa that took the prize for Skepta that year. Crotchety Man would have had no complaints about the 2020 result if it wasn’t for the fact that Laura Marling’s Song for Our Daughter was her fourth nomination and no-one deserves a Mercury more than her.