Gary Flockhart: Jessie Ware’s the alternative to Alt-J award win

Alt-J celebrate their Mercury Prize win
Alt-J celebrate their Mercury Prize win
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IF we didn’t know better we’d have assumed that Alt-J were having a laugh with their oh-so-surprised reaction at beating out the likes of Plan B and Richard Hawley to claim the 2012 Mercury Prize.

“When it came to the announcement we could see [presenter] Lauren Laverne form an ‘alt-j’ shape with her mouth and it was like, ‘Oh my God, I think we’ve won!’” said keyboard player Gus Unger-Hamilton in the aftermath of their win. “It was a bit like a shell going off in a trench.”

I don’t suppose the four-piece, who met at Leeds University, have been in many shell-hit trenches. That said, their reaction at winning did seem genuine, somehow.

Not sure why, mind. After all, Alt-J’s debut album, An Awesome Wave, has had universal love from the critics and it was the clear bookies’ favourite to win the award.

Did they deserve it? Well, depends who you ask. As always when Britain’s most hyped music accolade is announced, fans unite on the internet to either praise the judges or get mad at them. This year was no exception.

Personally I’m not sure that An Awesome Wave is really THAT great an album but, then again, this year’s Mercury shortlist was not exactly a vintage one anyway.

There were no year-defining records such as The xx’s debut, which reached omnipresent status in the nation’s consciousness as it became the soundtrack to just about everything.

The same could be said of last year’s winner, PJ Harvey, whose Let England Shake is a career high from one of Britain’s most artistically-driven musicians.

With nothing so startling on this year’s shortlist, I’d have given the prize to Jessie Ware, whose debut, Devotion, is a cut above the rest.