For any musical act from the United Kingdom, there are fewer accolades as revered, and indicative of a band on the rise, as the Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize.
The cash prize and award recognises the best album from the United Kingdom and Ireland annually, and in recent years has been handed to breakout bands such as indie darlings The XX (in 2010 for their eponymous debut) and Sheffield superheroes Arctic Monkeys (for Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not in 2006).
As The Daily Mail reports, last night alt-j took out the coveted music award at the 2012 ceremony held at Camden’s Roundhouse in North London for their rich debut, An Awesome Wave.
A record that follows “in the footsteps of other sophisticated English forebears… without mimicking them” according to our Tone Deaf record review, and their “ideas turn out to be as captivating to the ear as they are to the intelligencia.” It seems the judges of the Mercury Prize would agree.
The Leeds quartet were favourites for the Mercury Prize, tipped with 6-5 odds by many British bookies, and following on from their immensely hyped Australian tour – which sold out in just 3 minutes – has solidified their status as one of the year’s biggest buzz bands and success stories.
The genre-defying outfit beat out competition from strong contenders, such as conscientious rapper-turned-filmmaker Plan B’s ill Manors, Django Django’s eponymous debut, and forthcoming Laneway act Jessie Ware’s sparkling opening salvo, Devotion.
But it was the band named after the unpronounceable symbol produced by a MacBook keyboard shortcut (∆) that took out the top honour, the group remarking that they only had an “8.3 per cent” chance of having their name read out at the ceremony.“We’ll get extremely drunk at an after party… and then I’ll recover the next day listening to Radiohead’s In Rainbows…”
Drummer Thom Green, who provides the band’s crisp hip-hop influenced beats, told Spotify ahead of the ceremony of their 2012 nomination: “We weren’t too surprised, just very relieved. We’d been tipped to win before we’d even been nominated, so the pressure was on.”
The skins-hitter also told Tone Deaf in an interview of their rising popularity, “It’s so funny, because we really are just a small-time band, yet we are just so prolific right now.”
Having now won the 2012 Mercury Prize, Green then remarked: “We’ll get extremely drunk at an after party with our friends and family and then I’ll recover the next day listening to Radiohead’s In Rainbows and Monstar’s Harder/Bastard.”
Alt-j were one of 12 acts shortlisted for the Mercury Prize, including Michael Kiwanuka – the fresh faced singer with the old soul vocals, The Maccabees, Lianne La Havas, Ben Howard, Roller Trio, and Plumb from art-pop masters Field Music; as well as seasoned veteran Richard Hawley, and his psychedelically charged Standing At The Sky’s Edge.
Hawley was also heavily tipped for the prestigious prize after being controversially “robbed” of the title in 2006 for his album Cole’s Corner, but lost out to fellow Sheffield band Arctic Monkeys, whose cheeky frontman Alex Turner announced “someone call 999 – Richard Hawley’s been robbed” during his acceptance speech.
Australian fans will no doubt be ecstatic at the news of alt-j’s win, claiming a strong fanbase down under after two full houses at Sydney’s Oxford Art Factory and Melbourne’s Ding Dong Lounge, where flummoxed frontman Joe Green told the sweltering, packed room giving he and his bandmates the trademark triangle salute: “Thank you so much… you’ve made it feel like home.”
Alt-j are returning to Australia in early 2013 for the Laneway Festival, and as our Tone Deaf reviewer from the Melbourne show noted: “it’s safe to say that Laneway organisers are probably considering a later time slot and a larger stage to accommodate the four politely creative, quietly revolutionary English lads as these very words are written, based solely off the success of their virgin Australian visit.”