I've been looking forward to the appearance of Katharine Towers's first collection of poems for some time now, having come across her work in a pamphlet, Slow Time, a few years back; a striking little volume for its poems' economical and unshowy resonance. So it was a pleasant surprise to spot the title poem from her debut with Picador, The Floating Man, in the Guardian the other month, and to see her collection longlisted for the Guardian First Book award. Even more so, it was a pleasure to write at length on the collection for that publication; my review of The Floating Man, appearing as it did, in last Saturday's Guardian Review. For those interested, it's also available to read online. And after you've been suitably persuaded, you can order a copy of the book, a snip at 25% off the cover price.
South London-based band the XX have won this year’s Mercury Prize, and deservedly so. Their self-titled debut beat other shortlisted albums from Mumford and Sons, Biffy Clyro, Dizzee Rascal, Foals, and bookie’s favourite (?!) washed-up has-been Paul Weller – all, I think, would have made deserving winners with the obvious exception of the latter. But the XX are unusually and subtly original in a way none of these artists are: their moody, electronic, skeletal songs are unlike anything else going on in the British pop-music mainstream at the moment. Like all great bands, they manage to sound wholly contemporary while also retaining a timeless feel; atmospheric and haunting, their stuff isn’t showy but it sticks and, I think, will stand up for years to come. I fully recommend buying a copy of their album if you haven’t already. Along with Klaxons, PJ Harvey, Pulp and Elbow, I’d go so far as to say they are perhaps the most deserving winners in the Mercury Prize’s history. But before this becomes Superlative Central, best to let the music speak for itself… above is the video to their single ‘Islands’; a live version of which I posted here back in October '09. Enjoy.