Best Mercury Prize winners: Arctic Monkeys, the XX and more - Reverb

Best Mercury Prize winners: Arctic Monkeys, the XX and more

The Mercury Prize is designated to the UK’s best album of the year, according to a panel of music industry heads in the UK and Ireland. And as with things like this, depending who you ask, they never get it right.

Wednesday, the shortlist for the 2013 Mercury Prize will be announced in a ceremony that will have artists tugging at their collar for two different reasons. While the prize can give huge exposure to a band and essentially launch their careers, there’s some who say it’s cursed, an albatross rather than a feather in the cap. Look no further than past winners like Roni Size, Talvin Singh and Gomez. You’ve never heard of them? Case in point.

Still, the prize is a tremendous honor for the non-superstitious. Alt-J took home the prize last year, and so far, it’s done them nothing but good. This year, house/techno DJ duo Disclosure are favorites to bring the award down, but the panel has surprised in the past.

Come along with us as we take a look at 10 great albums that nabbed a Mercury Prize over the award’s contentious 22-year history.

1992: Primal Scream — Screamadelica

Scottish alt-rockers Primal Scream had a modest fan base until their third album, “Screamadelica,” hit shelves in 1992. With that, of the sudden, they exploded. “Screamadelica” shouldered off the band’s once strictly indie sound for a more inclusive one that embraced house, psychedelia and Rolling Stones-style classic rock (e.g. “Movin’ On Up” and “Come Together”). The album won near every top spot it was eligible for in the UK that year — including a freshly minted award called The Mercury Prize.

“Movin’ On Up”

1994: M People — “Elegant Slumming”

Looking at the first two years that preceded M People‘s Mercury Prize, it would be easy to assume the award was reserved for pasty indie rock groups. M People’s fist-pumping house album “Elegant Slumming” turned that all on its head, and paved the way for future winners like Roni Size and Talvin Singh.

M People will tour this October to mark the 20th anniversary of the album, their first tour in nearly 10 years.

“One Night In Heaven”

1995: Portishead — “Dummy”

Portishead‘s entrancing debut “Dummy” netted the Bristol-based group a silly amount of plaudits. To be sure, it was a new breed of music — one initially called “The Brisol Sound,” now referred to with the gauche, unmistakably ’90s handle “trip-hop.” Neither of those labels do “Dummy,” justice, though, an album that’s almost better described visually than with clunky music descriptors like “jazzy” or “groovy.” A Mercury Prize well deserved.

“Sour Times”

1999: Talvin Singh — “OK”

“The world is sound,” we’re told in the beginning of Talvin Singh‘s sophomore LP, “OK.” Over the next hour of music, he creates a beautiful one. The Mercury Award usually goes to some variety of guitar pop music, rendering Singh’s tabla/electronic concoction a welcome breath of fresh air in the winner’s circle. Singh’s often cited as evidence of the Mercury Prize curse, however, as his follow-up albums garnered much chillier receptions, perhaps for painting less accommodating worlds.

“Butterfly”

2001: PJ Harvey — “Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea”

The fifth time proved to be the charm for alt-rock bad-ass Polly Jean Harvey, who’s pretty fifth album, “Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea,” netted her a Mercury Prize in 2001. She went up against Damon Alburn’s Gorillaz that year — that is, before he pulled their name from contention. For PJ, the eighth time proved pretty swell, too: With 2011’s “Let England Shake,” Harvey became the first artist to win two Mercury Prizes.

“This Is Love”


More of Reverb’s list of best Mercury Prize winners >>

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