Harry Styles’s high-end lockdown album is surprisingly of a piece with other longlisted albums by artists as distinct as Joy Crookes and Gwenno
It was perhaps inevitable that so many records born of the last couple of years should possess a certain interiority. Tours halted, venues closed, the world on hiatus. Meanwhile Britain was in a period of self-examination: its history of slavery, its attitudes to gender, its post-Brexit reckoning and repositioning.
Accordingly, many of the albums shortlisted for this year’s Mercury prize reflect this time: preoccupying themselves with ideas of belonging, identity, home. From Little Simz’s Sometimes I Might Be Introvert to Joy Crookes’ Skin, Fergus McCreadie’s Forest Floor to Sam Fender’s Seventeen Going Under, they have captured something of our containment and our scrutiny. They bring us south London, Cornwall, North Shields, rural Caledonia; gentrification, race, the Department for Work and Pensions. Kojey Radical winds his album down with the voice of his mother. Gwenno opens Tresor with a homely invitation: “Welcome, sit down / Fancy a cuppa?” These are songs that move close, closer, closer still.
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