'And the Mercury music prize should go to...'

Ahead of Wednesday's official shortlist, Independent music critic Andy Gill draws up his own, from teen rockers the Strypes to comeback king David Bowie

On Wednesday, the shortlist for the most coveted music award of the year, the Mercury Prize, will be announced. Among the 12 British artists' albums selected by the judging panel of music journalists, heads of radio stations, radio presenters and musicians, you can be sure that folk, rock, pop and electronica will be represented – along with the obligatory jazz album. Before the judges' decisions are revealed, Andy Gill here presents his own selection of the 12 albums that should be recognised.

1. James Blake - Overgrown

On Overgrown, James Blake blends glitchy electronica and fragile soul stylings into far stronger song forms than on his debut, sculpting his skeletal pulses and ghostly palimpsests of piano chords into more persuasive structures that allow his airy falsetto to soar freely, bolstered by the security of melody and rhythm. The results retain his characteristic subtlety and simplicity, but unveil a warmer, more sensuous sensibility than before.

James Blake - Overgrown James Blake - Overgrown  

2. David Bowie - The Next Day

It's rare to hear a comeback effort that not only reflects an artist's own best work, but stands alongside it in terms of quality, as The Next Day does. These songs fizz and crackle with echoes of Bowie's classic Berlin Period, as if he is deliberately mining memories, but somehow still sound fiercely contemporary. Allied to the sleek, muscular modernity of the arrangements, the lyrics refract the tawdry web of modern life, offering sometimes brutal commentaries on contemporary events. An album that conveys, with apt anxiety and disgust, the fears and troubles of a world riven by conflict and distracted by superficial celebrity.

David Bowie - The Next Day David Bowie - The Next Day  

3. Jake Bugg - Jake Bugg

There's an engaging rockabilly intensity to Jake Bugg's catchy folk rants, his simple strum'n'drum arrangements allowing that sharp, piercing voice to cut through unhindered on songs such as the single “Lightning Bolt”. Bugg's is a gritty, urban-realist form of folk music, depicting with premature world-weariness a youth culture pockmarked by booze, drug abuse and routine violence. But it's balanced by a consolatory tenderness that's entirely in keeping with his bohemian skiffle style.

Jake Bugg - Jake Bugg Jake Bugg - Jake Bugg  

4. Example - The Evolution of Man

The subject of his second album is Example himself, the “Evolution” being his hopeful graduation to a more responsible lifestyle, after years of determined dissolution brought little satisfaction. His hard-partying lifestyle has now, he claims, been consigned to his past. His obvious delight in sensory experience, however, still shines through in his intricate wordplay and the ambitious rap-rock arrangements that give the album its impressive breadth of tone and texture.

Example - The Evolution of Man Example - The Evolution of Man  

5. London Grammar - If You Wait

Employing sparse, space-filled arrangements of muted guitar and keyboard textures behind Hannah Reid's solemnly soulful vocals, the indie trio London Grammar have crafted a beautiful, singular album that continues the strain of reserved intimacy established by The xx. Restraint is paramount in their music, with tracks stripped of all but the most vital motifs and shadings, the better to frame Reid's songs of loneliness, mistrust, and hesitant hope. An absorbing example of the subtle power of small details in conveying big emotions.

London Grammar - If You Wait London Grammar - If You Wait  

6. Laura Marling - Once I Was an Eagle

Once I Was an Eagle offers the most mature exposition yet of Laura Marling's recurring theme: an examination of turbulent emotional terrain. As well as her most lyrically impressive work, it's also the most musically satisfying, featuring a sparse palette of guitars, hand percussion and cello, which finds its most complete realisation in the opening 16-minute sequence whose four songs are segued along an unspooling thread of guitar figures and drones, hypnotically drawing the listener deeper into the emotional entanglement.

Laura Marling - Once I Was An Eagle Laura Marling - Once I Was An Eagle  

7. Peace - In Love

The Birmingham quartet Peace have been the most striking new guitar band of the past year, reinvigorating tired indie modes with a wealth of fresh new ideas, images and sounds. Equally at home on euphoric, jangly rockers and grumbling grunge plaints, they evoke both the weary outsider cool and pop melodicism of the Cure and the lairy, good-time groove sensibility of the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays, but with a keen ear for distinctive coinages that brings an innovative slant to the classic rock'n'roll concerns of love and alienation.

Peace - In Love Peace - In Love  

8. Rizzle Kicks - Roaring 20s

The aptly-titled Roaring 20s presents the year's liveliest and sharpest representation of young British pop-culture style; an artful blend of witty, occasionally ribald patter and bouncy, ebullient grooves in which rude, rasping trumpet buttresses the reggae and jazz elements that set the duo apart from grimier peers. A brilliant, sometimes laugh-out-loud survey of modern life and modern love as faced by teens and twenty-somethings, couched in raps of wry intelligence and sly imagination.

Rizzle Kicks - Roaring 20s Rizzle Kicks - Roaring 20s  

9. Rudimental - Home

Worthy heirs to the likes of Soul II Soul and Basement Jaxx, the Hackney groove crew Rudimental announced their arrival with the irresistible momentum of last year's Olympic summer hit “Feel the Love”, an amalgam of drum'n'bass urgency with deep soul feeling. Far from the usual jerry-built alliances of groove and vocalist, on Home the individual components are seamlessly combined, confirmation of the production team's strategy of having the singers involved throughout the process, rather than added as afterthoughts – a method most obviously effective in the two cuts featuring Emeli Sandé.

Rudimental - Home Rudimental - Home  

10. The Staves - Dead & Born & Grown

Watford's Staveley-Taylor sisters offer a distillation of all that's best about the folk heritages of England and America. Their voices have the cold precision of the Anglo folk tradition, while their harmonies embody the innocence of West Coast hippie idealism, uniquely blending country charm with the playful insouciance of the Andrews Sisters. In Dead & Born & Grown's musings on separation and solitude, the sweet sorrow of parting is crystallised in pristine harmonies layered over the crisp jangle of fingerstyle guitar, as perfect and precious as a Fabergé trinket.

The Staves - Dean & Born & Grown The Staves - Dean & Born & Grown  

11. The Strypes - Snapshot

With Snapshot, the unfeasibly precocious Irish teen quartet have given old-school R'n'B its biggest shot in the arm since Dr Feelgood revitalised the form in the late 1970s. Like the Feelgoods, the Strypes apply jump-leads to the blues, roaring through short, snappy songs at whirlwind speed, but jettisoning the indulgent soloing that once bogged down the boogie. Instead, brusque, abbreviated guitar riffs joust with singer Ross Farrelly's wailing blues harp in a way that may prompt flashbacks to Eel Pie Island in older readers.

The Strypes - Snapshot The Strypes - Snapshot  

12. Chris Wood - None The Wiser

A brilliant exponent of the topical troubadour form, Chris Woods has rarely been better than on None the Wiser, an album of righteous anger and heartbreaking pity which peels away the gaudy veneer of escapist noise concealing the quiet, bitter truths of Coalition Britain. He's especially good on the reality of ageing in a brutal recession, with hard-won wisdom bringing few saving graces, as he surveys a 21st century of boarded-up high streets, charity shops, venal financiers and lottery-culture game-shows. Rarely has it been made more plain how we're never all in this together.

Chris Wood - None The Wiser Chris Wood - None The Wiser  

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker