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Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

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cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

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cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

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cover of the book How Novels Think

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cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

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cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

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cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

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The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mercury Music Prize 2009

Posted by Adam Roberts on 08/13/09 at 06:06 AM


• Bat For Lashes – Two Suns
• Florence and the Machine – Lungs
• Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires
• Glasvegas – Glasvegas
• Kasabian – West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum
• La Roux – La Roux
• Led Bib – Sensible Shoes
• Lisa Hannigan – Sea Sew
• Speech Debelle – Speech Therapy
• Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Twice Born Men
• The Horrors – Primary Colours
• The Invisible – The Invisible

This year’s shortlisting conspiracy is to show, by implication, that men are brutish grunty adolescents and women sophisticated, creatively inventive grown-ups. For on the one hand we are offered the chittering, repetitive inarticulacies of The Horrors, the dreary yowling and unimaginative melodies of Glasvegas, the second-hand goods of the yelping Friendly Fires and the been-there-done-that schtick of Kasabian, all quasi-Oasis posturing and booming. To be fair (oh must I be fair?) The Horrors’ ‘The Sea Within a Sea’ has an eerie Kraftwerkian charm; and some of the boingy plonky synthesiser effects on the Kasabian album are nice.  And then again The Invisible aren’t bad, although theirs is a music that indelibly evokes mental images of middle-aged men dancing badly in their kitchens and living rooms.  The thing is, it’s all a bit obvious, and blokey, and don’t-call-me-stupid Otto-ish, and especially so when set alongside the often exquisite, nuanced, well-made-song work of Lisa Hannigan (the whole of Sea Sew elaborates its nautical trope expressively and effectively, a thoroughly graceful, beautiful, touching, insightful album); or the needle-sharp suite from La Roux (let down only by the fact that her voice has too much of the expanded polystyrene scraped down a blackboard about it); or the plangent, dreamy woo of the new Bat For Lashes; or Florence and the Machine’s superb Lungs (Number 71 say perceptive things about this one: ‘Quirky, angry and passionate songs soar into uplifting climaxes ... Florence Welch has a clawing cat-cry of a voice, in a good way – if you like Björk ... very pre-Raphaelite and loaded with dark symbolism.’ Not quite so grown-up, this one, true: but not thudding or clunky neither).

Otherwise there’s some jazz (which I will start liking the day they hang the royal family), a bit of this and some of that. I haven’t heard the Speech Debelle rap album, which may be brilliant or not. But I just feel that my gender has let itself down rather badly here.


This is cross-posted, and in another place I note ‘Second thoughts: the Friendly Fires are growing on me a little. Just a little, mind.’

By Adam Roberts on 08/13/09 at 07:14 AM | Permanent link to this comment

The Horrors album is great.

Just thought you should know that.

By on 08/13/09 at 08:39 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Maybe I need to give it some more listens.

Also (as I say at the other place) for some reason I missed the Sweet Billy Pilgrim album from this first impression/assessment; and I have to concede Twice Born Men has almost nothing to do with this stompy-stompy oi!-oi! version of manhood. It’s rather pretty, in fact, in a poor-fractured-Atlas sort of way, although it strays a little too close to being actually clapped-out to really endear. But there are some very nice, bruised, scratchy pieces on it, though; and the ‘Calypso’ song is, after the John Denver song, the second-best song to namecheck Calypso that isn’t actually a Calypso I know.

It is the exception that disproves my initial rule, though, unfortunately for me.

By Adam Roberts on 08/14/09 at 03:23 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Sorry, I completely forgot I’d posted this.

I couldn’t really say, re. the masculinity or otherwise of any of the releases. What gets me about Primary Colours is the sheer incongruity of its “parts”. It comes across as something of a history (or anti-history) of noise in rock, taking its cue from the very dated sounds of garage rock, punk, krautrock and “shoegaze” — and by “dated” here I mean that there’s a very strong association of these “genres” with a particular span of years in the history of music.

So when the Kevin Shields-esque guitar noise slices in over the top of the Public Image Ltd-esque “Mirror’s Image”, it sounds so wrong that it’s a wonder that nobody ever thought of it before. By the time we reach the end of “Sea within A Sea”, the slight touch of electronica that rounds off the Can-esque epic sounds such a perfect fit that it’s hard not to wonder whether everything was “right” after all.

By on 08/16/09 at 09:19 PM | Permanent link to this comment

he National Mercury Music Prize is for British albums by British people(there was a bit of an uproar when Antony Hegarty was nominated AND won), so is it right that while Robert Plant is british, the album that he is nominated for - an album that is largely of american songs and Alison Krauss is American, plus producer(T-Bone Burnett)
MySpace Music Players

By MySpace Music Players on 11/26/09 at 03:46 AM | Permanent link to this comment

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