The 2021 Hyundai Mercury Prize – Who Else is in the Running?

Continuing The Baying of Kazak’s Hyundai Mercury Prize 2021 coverage, this page contains lists of the many albums I think would also be deserving nominees, the records I think could contend despite not being to my tastes, and even a few unlucky souls who are probably going to be done in by the eligibility dates.

If you haven’t already had a chance to read the main article, which lays out the twelve albums I recommend to make the shortlist, you can find it here

Other Worthy Picks

Simply put, there were more than twelve great British and Irish albums released in the past year. Many more, in fact. The following list contains those albums that came excruciatingly close to making my mock shortlist as well as those that I wouldn’t begrudge a spot on the actual shortlist due to their very high quality.

Albums listed in alphabetical order.

Alfie Templeman – Forever Isn’t Long Enough (Pop, Chess Club)

The case for inclusion: Alfie Templeman may only be eighteen years old, but he has already been releasing music for three years. His debut album, Forever Isn’t Long Enough, might be a little too ‘chart-friendly pop’ to seriously contend for a nomination this year, but it’s undeniably an exuberant and well-crafted illustration of his self-described “indie R&B.”

Does it tick any of the Mercury Prize’s boxes? Debut album.

Odds of being nominated: Slim.

Standout tracks: Wait, I Lied

For fans of: Dayglow, Gus Dapperton


Arlo Parks – Collapsed in Sunbeams (Neo-Soul/R&B, Arlo Parks under exclusive license to Transgressive Records Ltd.)

The case for inclusion: Few acts have had a stronger push from the UK music industry this year than Arlo Parks. Thankfully Collapsed in Sunbeams lived up to expectations as a very enjoyable album of mellow, anthemic soul-pop.

Does it tick any of the Mercury Prize’s boxes? Debut album, London artist.

Odds of being nominated: Strong.

Standout tracks: Eugene, Caroline

For fans of: NAO, Jorja Smith, Cautious Clay, Lianne La Havas,


Black Country, New Road – For the First Time (Post-Rock, Ninja Tune)

The case for inclusion: Labelled “the best band in the world” by The Quietus after just two singles, Black Country, New Road are another British act who have somehow exceeded colossal expectations with their debut album. For the First Time captures the energy of their now-legendary early live shows with post-rock heavily influenced by Slint and, on occasion, wild instrumentals that sound like an evil Beirut.

Does it tick any of the Mercury Prize’s boxes? Debut album, formed in London.

Odds of being nominated: Fair.

Standout tracks: Track X, Sunglasses

For fans of: Slint, Black Midi, Ought, Squid


Black Midi – Cavalcade (Rock/Jazz/Experimental, Rough Trade Records)

The case for inclusion: The follow-up to 2019 nominee Schlagenheim is a dizzying concoction of experimental rock, beautiful orchestration, and squalling jazz in equal measures. If there was one more place available on the shortlist this would be my choice.

Does it tick any of the Mercury Prize’s boxes? Second album, London band, previous nominee.

Odds of being nominated: Strong, but perhaps a long shot to win.

Standout tracks: Slow, Ascending Forth

For fans of: Radiohead, Black Country, New Road


Carwyn Ellis & Rio 18 – Mas (World/Singer-Songwriter, Recordiau Agati/Banana & Louie Records)

The case for inclusion: Sung entirely in Welsh, Carwyn Ellis’s second album with Rio de Janeiro’s finest musicians sees the veteran singer-songwriter once again experimenting with “distinct pop and South American flavours drawn from Bossa Nova, Cumbia, Samba and Tropicalismo styles.”

Does it tick any of the Mercury Prize’s boxes? I guess it’s techinally the second album of this particular group? The fact that it is so niche could actually end up working in its favour – the Mercury Prize does love a nomination that completely bamboozles the mainstream.

Odds of being nominated: Slim.

Standout tracks: Dwyn Dŵr

For fans of: Colorama (of which Carwyn is the bandleader)


DVNE – Etemen Ænka (Metal/Rock, Metal Blade Records)

The case for inclusion: On Etemen Ænka Edinburgh’s DVNE hammer out absolutely humongous-sounding metal. Many of the songs take cues from prog, often breaking the six- or seven-minute mark, and building out of multiple linked-but-distinct sections. Some of the incredible guitar riffs, meanwhile, have a slower, more melodic feel that is equally indebted to hard rock as much as metal, situating Etemen Ænka at the more accesible end of the genre. DVNE’s musical ambition would make them worthy recipients of a nomination this year.

Does it tick any of the Mercury Prize’s boxes? Etemen Ænka is DVNE’s second album, but as a metal album it is almost disqualified by default – the genre is a huge blind spot for the Mercury Prize.

Odds of being nominated: Very slim.

Standout tracks: Omega Severer, SI-XIV

For fans of: Mare Cognitum, Cult of Luna, Mastodon


Fimber Bravo – Lunar Tredd (World/Electronic, Moshi Moshi)

The case for inclusion: Lunar Tredd is an example of the type of album that could benefit from the rule change made last year in the wake of the Rina Sawayama debacle. Legendary steel pan pioneer and founding member of the Twentieth Century Steel Band Fimber Bravo is Trinidadian but has lived in the UK since the 1970s, so he is now eligible for inclusion. Lunar Tredd situates Bravo’s stellar playing “in leftfield improvisations with Western pop and electronic sounds,” producing a stellar mix of music’s past, present, and future wrapped in infectious high-tempo grooves.

Does it tick any of the Mercury Prize’s boxes? London-based.

Odds of being nominated: Fair

Standout tracks: Can’t Control We, Call My Name

For fans of: Twentieth Century Steel Band, Bakra Bata


For Those I Love – For Those I Love (Electronic/Dance, SEPTEMBER RECORDINGS LTD.)

The case for inclusion: For Those I Love is a devastating album that pays tribute to friend and Burnt Out bandmate Paul Curran, who passed away during recording. Set to highly emotive dance music stuffed with melodic samples, David Balfe lays bare the raw grieving process whilst also excoriating class oppression in his native Dublin, all in his distinctive vocal delivery. It’s one of this year’s truly unique albums, and one of its most cathartic too.

Does it tick any of the Mercury Prize’s boxes? Debut album.

Odds of being nominated: Fair.

Standout tracks: I Have A Love, Birthday/The Pain

For fans of: The Streets, Lost Girls


Ghetts – Conflict of Interest (Grime/Rap, Warner Music UK)

The case for inclusion: Conflict of Interest is one of the most lavish-sounding grime albums I’ve heard since 2019 winner Psychodrama by Dave. Its regular use of sweeping string sections and haunting choirs accentuates the feeling of splendour already generated by its glossy production, sleek mid-tempo beats, and many high-profile guest appearances. At the same time, tracks with rougher edges like No Mercy help the record from feeling overblown. A huge commercial and critical success story, by this point Conflict of Interest feels like a shoo-in to receive a nomination. It is a little overlong, a feeling that is compounded by the inclusion of few tracks that really didn’t need to be here. Nevertheless, the sheer number of great moments found on Conflict of Interest make it one of the most entertaining albums up for consideration.

Does it tick any of the Mercury Prize’s boxes? London artist.

Odds of being nominated: Strong, and surely one of the heavy favourites to win at this point.

Standout tracks: Mozambique (feat. Jaykae & Moonchild Sanelly), No Mercy (feat. Pa Salieu & BackRoad Gee)

For fans of: Dave, Kano


Goat Girl – On All Fours (Indie Rock, Rough Trade Records Ltd)

The case for inclusion: For On All Fours, South Londoners Goat Girl included a number of incongruous-looking influences (prog synths and Spaghetti Western soundtracks, anyone?) into their indie rock, yet somehow tied them all together fantastically. The result is an album that somehow feels both psychedlic and endearingly glum – not two moods that usually go together.

Does it tick any of the Mercury Prize’s boxes? London band, Second album.

Odds of being nominated: Slim.

Standout tracks: Sad Cowboy, Badibaba

For fans of: Warpaint, Lonerism-era Tame Impala, Porridge Radio


Gorillaz – Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez (Hip-Hop/Pop, Parlophone Records Limited)

The case for inclusion: After starting the 2010s very strongly with the grandiose Plastic Beach, Damon Albarn’s recorded output seemed to fizzle for the rest of that decade. There’s a strong case to be made that the star-studded Song Machine, Season One is his best album since Gorillaz’s high water mark Demon Days in 2005. It’s certainly the most consistent, and on standouts like Desolé, Aries, or Valley of the Pagans Albarn has added yet more classics to Gorillaz’s already-unimpeachable singles catalogue.

Does it tick any of the Mercury Prize’s boxes? Few modern musicians’ careers have been as closely associated with London as Damon Albarn’s. Gorillaz are also technically former nominees, though in this case it’s more likely to work against them. They probably burned bridges with the Mercury Prize after cartoon bassist Murdoc publically withdrew thier debut album from the 2001 shortlist, comparing the prospect of winning to “carrying a dead albatross round your neck for eternity.” I’m not sure that even the olive-branch nomination for Albarn’s solo debut Everyday Robots in 2014 will resolve this feud.

Odds of being nominated: Slim.

Standout tracks: Valley of the Pagans (feat. Beck), Desolé (feat. Fatoumata Diawara)

For fans of: Beck, Glass Animals


Headie One – Edna (Grime/Drill, Relentless Records)

The case for inclusion: Tottenham MC Headie One had already established himself as one of drill’s major stars even before the release of debut studio album Edna (named after his late mother). Even so, this album shot him into another stratosphere, reaching number one on the UK album charts in its first week and spawning two top-ten singles (with another one clocking in at number eleven). This is another highly-polished rap album for the judges to consider, with even more flashy features than Ghetts’ Conflict of Interest, including Stormzy, Drake, Future, and Skepta, to name a few.

Does it tick any of the Mercury Prize’s boxes? Debut album, London artist.

Odds of being nominated: Fair.

Standout tracks: Cold, Triple Science

For fans of: AJ Tracey, Digga D, J Hus


InsidesSoft Bonds (Electronic/Ambient, Further Distractions)

The case for inclusion: Ambient pop duo Insides return after twenty years with a bewitching collection of slow-burners. Soft Bonds‘ sparse and unnerving tracks create a palpable tension and downcast mood which are only occasionally broken through by a glimmering guitar line or splash of melodic synth to great effect.

Does it tick any of the Mercury Prize’s boxes? Not as far as I can see.

Odds of being nominated: Slim.

Standout tracks: Undressing, It Was Like This Once, It Will Be Like This Again

For fans of: Eartheater


Jane Weaver – Flock (Indie Pop/Psychedelic, Fire Records)

The case for inclusion: The press release that accompanied Flock’s announcement reads like a quasi-manifesto, with author Jane Weaver stating that she wanted it to represent “the most genuine version of herself, complete with unpretentious Day-Glo pop sensibilities, wit, kindness, humour and glamour.” On those terms it is a sure success, updating her established repetoire of psychedelic indie pop with a fun-loving streak that elevates tracks like The Revolution of Supervisions to new heights.

Does it tick any of the Mercury Prize’s boxes? Not as far as I can see, sorry Jane!

Odds of being nominated: Slim.

Standout tracks: The Revolution of Super Visions, Solarised

For fans of: Tame Impala, Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals)


Low Island – If You Could Have it All Again (Indie Pop, Emotional Interference)

The case for inclusion: As the latest torchbearers of Oxford’s proud musical heritage, Low Island could have buckled under the weight of local anticipation for their debut album. Instead, they created an immensely entertaining hybrid of moody synthpop and more traditional British indie-rock. If You Could Have it All Again is filled with spirited indie-dancefloor beats, bass-heavy grooves, and gorgeous moments of quiet melancholy.

Does it tick any of the Mercury Prize’s boxes? Debut album.

Odds of being nominated: Slim.

Standout tracks: What Do You Stand For, Space Closing In

For fans of: Everything Everything, LCD Soundsystem, Cut Copy


New Pagans – The Seed, The Vessel, The Roots and All (Alternative/Post-Punk, Big Scary Monsters)

The case for inclusion: For their debut album Belfast quintet New Pagans packed their defiant explorations of “past and present issues surrounding relationships, equality, history, and gender” into a taught, explosive mix of alt-rock and post-punk that’s brimming with thrilling hooks and choruses.

Does it tick any of the Mercury Prize’s boxes? Debut album.

Odds of being nominated: Fair.

Standout tracks: Harbour, Natural Beauty

For fans of: Wolf Alice, Honeyblood, Cloud Nothings


Nubiyan Twist – Freedom Fables (Jazz, Strut Records)

The case for inclusion: According to bandleader Tom Excell, the Leeds/London jazz collective Nubiyan Twist sought to “referenc[e] a lot of music that we all loved during our formative years.” The assimilation of these diverse influences, including hip-hop, Latin, and UK soul, keeps their jazz varied and vibrant, daring listeners to dance and sing along rather than simply nod their head in approval.

Does it tick any of the Mercury Prize’s boxes? Londoners (of sorts). Jazz record (Though, as mentioned above, it’s a rare year that two jazz albums make the list and my money is on Sons of Kemet this time)

Odds of being nominated: Fair

Standout tracks: Ma Wonka, Morning Light

For fans of: Oscar Jerome, Alfa Mist, Ezra Collective


Ochre – An Eye to Windward (Ambient, Christopher Leary)

The case for inclusion: England-born, Netherlands-based Christopher Leary (a.k.a Ochre) is now entering his third decade as an artist. His latest release, An Eye to Windward, is a dazzle of shimmering ambient electronica that recalls varied works ranging from the expected (Vangelis’ Blade Runner soundtrack) to the more surprising (Radiohead’s The King of Limbs on Fata Morgana). Its warm tones and winding melodies construct one of the most immersive worlds found on any album released in the last year. It’s truly a record to lose yourself in.

Does it tick any of the Mercury Prize’s boxes? Not as far as I can see.

Odds of being nominated: Slim.

Standout tracks: Fata Morgana, A Current Under the Sea

For fans of: Clark, Rival Consoles


Saint Saviour – Tomorrow Again (Alt-Folk/Singer-Songwriter, VLF Records)

The case for inclusion: Tomorrow Again is a pleasingly subdued affair. Fingerpicked guitars, soft keys, and the occasional woodwind instrument are more than enough to carry most songs, thanks in no small part to the strength of the melodies and the bewitching vocals. At certain points it morphs into chart-friendly pop (For My Love) or alt-rock (Breton Stripe), but always in a way that feels like a welcome, natural progression. The Mercury Prize does occasionally hand out nominations to left-of-centre singer-songwriters (e.g. Laura Mvula in 2013), and Tomorrow Again sounds very much like the kind of record that could receive a surprise nomination.

Does it tick any of the Mercury Prize’s boxes? Not as far as I can see.

Odds of being nominated: Fair.

Standout tracks: The Place I Want To Be, John

For fans of: Badly Drawn Boy, This Is The Kit, Susanne Sundfør


shame – Drunk Tank Pink (Post-Punk, Dead Oceans)

The case for inclusion: shame broaden their lively post-punk with more expansive musical ideas (e.g. the extended outro of closer Station Wagon) and lyrics filled with relatable ennui. They may have matured since their acclaimed debut, but singles like Water in the Well prove that there is still plenty of fire (and ideas) left in their tank.

Does it tick any of the Mercury Prize’s boxes? Second album, London band.

Odds of being nominated: Fair.

Standout tracks: Water in the Well, Born in Luton

For fans of: Preoccupations, Interpol, Fontaines D.C.


Voronoi – The Last Three Seconds (Jazz/Experimental, Small Pond Records)

The case for inclusion: Named after a type of mathematical diagram, Leeds trio Voronoi have been justifiably described as “progressive jazz-metal.” If we didn’t already know music’s endless capability to surprise, I’d suspect that mixing these three genres into something listenable would be near-impossible. Despite those odds, The Last Three Seconds is marvellous, sounding pleasingly apocalyptic and jittery.

Does it tick any of the Mercury Prize’s boxes? Debut album, Jazz (of sorts).

Odds of being nominated: Slim.

Standout tracks: Interstellar Something

For fans of: I honestly have no idea!


Not For Me, But Don’t Be Surprised if they Make the Actual Shortlist

AJ Tracey – Flu Game (Grime/Rap)

Alfa Mist – Bring Backs (Jazz)

The AnchoressThe Art of Losing (Alternative/Singer-Songwriter)

Anna B SavageA Common Turn (Singer-Songwriter)

Arab StrapAs Days Get Dark (Indie Rock)

beabadoobeeFake It Flowers (Indie Rock)

Billie MartenFlora Fauna (Singer-Songwriter, Indie)

Dean BluntBLACK METAL 2 (Singer-Songwriter)

Digga DMade in the Pyrex (Drill/Rap)

Django DjangoGlowing in the Dark (Indie Rock)

dodieBuild a Problem (Pop)

EomacCracks (Dance/Electronic)

FLOHIONo Panic, No Pain (Rap)

Fontaines D.C.A Hero’s Death (Post-Punk)

FredoMoney Can’t Buy Happiness (Rap)

Glass AnimalsDreamland (Indie Pop)

Greentea PengMan Made (Psych-Soul, Dub)

Leon VynehallRare, Forever (Electronic)

Loraine JamesReflection (Electronic)

Lost HorizonsIn Quiet Moments (Indie Rock)

Penelope TrappesPenelope Three (Experimental)

Rochelle Jordan – Play With The Changes (R&B)

SlowthaiTYRON (Rap)

SquidBright Green Field (Rock)

William DoyleGreat Spans of Muddy Time (Electronic/Retro-Pop)


Finally, Spare a Thought For…

Every year there are a number of high quality candidates that realistically never had a chance of being nominated due to their release date coming so close to the end of the eligibility window. They’re too late to seriously contend for their year and too early to count for the following year.

Technically, preview copies will have been sent to the judging panel sometime in May, so the situation is not quite as hopeless as it would first appear. Nonetheless, a release date in mid-June to mid-July does seem to have a tangible effect on an album’s nomination chances.

Previous examples of such glaring omissions include Let’s Eat Grandma’s I’m All Ears (29 June 2018), Spiritualized’s Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space (16 June 1997), Jessie Ware’s What’s Your Pleasure? (26 June 2020), and Sophie’s Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides (15 June 2018).


Lianne La Havas – Lianne La Havas (Neo-Soul/Singer-Songwriter, Warner Records UK)

Released 17 July 2020 (one day before this year’s eleigibility period started)

For fans of: Michael Kiwanuka, Corinne Bailey Rae, Erykah Badu, Moses Sumney


Laura Mvula – Pink Noise (Pop/Funk Warner Records UK)

Released 2 July 2021

For fans of: Jessie Ware, Prince


NZCA Lines – Pure Luxury (Neo-Soul/Singer-Songwriter, Warner Records UK)

Released 10 July 2020

For fans of: Metronomy


Drug Store Romeos – The world within our bedrooms (Dream-Pop, Fiction Records)

Released 9 July 2021

For fans of: Beach House, The Orielles, Kero Kero Bonito


To see the main article, which lays out the twelve albums I recommend to make the shortlist, please click here

© The Baying of Kazak 2021. All rights reserved. All opinions (except those directly attributed to a third party) are the author’s own.

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