Just by looking at some of the previous winners, it is clear to see the prestige and honour that the Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize provides. Excluding the occasional odd winner like 2009’s Speech DeBelle, the Prize has previously been presented to a variety of British artists with exceptional albums, including Dizzee Rascal in 2003, Arctic Monkeys in 2006, The xx in 2010, and last year’s winner, PJ Harvey, who was the first double-winner, after previously receiving the accolade in 2001. There’s been a whole host of incredible albums released in the last 12 months; Labrinth’s Electronic Earth, Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto, Bombay Bicycle Club’s A Different Kind Of Fix, but none of these have been included. There are only 12 nominations for the Mercury Music Prize, and this year the shortlist is brimming with talent.
Despite under-performing in the charts, favourite to win is Alt-J’s debut album An Awesome Wave which was a huge hit with critics thanks to their amalgamation of genres to form this indie-pop folk-step masterpiece.
Jessie Ware’s stunning album Devotion has also been shortlisted alongside Django Django’s self-titled debut, whose range of psychedelic, percussive electro-indie music has received positive reviews after their catchy single ‘Default‘. Richard Hawley’s seventh studio album Standing At The Sky’s Edge and country-boy Ben Howard’s soothing folk record Every Kingdom, released almost a year ago, are also contenders for the coveted prize.
The Mercury Music Prize is synonymous with artists who are unknown to most, but there are a greater number of chart-friendly artists in the shortlist this year. Plan B has been nominated for his recent number 1 album ill Manors, which featured a controversial single of the same name. Related to the state of Britain at the moment, this is an interesting nomination as it echoes the theme of last year’s winning album Let England Shake. BBC Sound of 2012 winner Michael Kiwanuka’s is another popular artist who has been nominated for his album Home Again, and one of the other artists shortlisted for the BBC poll at the beginning of the year, Lianne La Havas, has also received a nomination for her debut Is Your Love Big Enough?
And in true Mercury Music Prize come the unheard and bizarre artists. Roller Trio are an unexpected nomination, a three-piece jazz band whose debut self-titled album only went on sale last month. English folk singer Sam Lee is also a fairly unknown nominee (Not the Taiwanese tennis-player-turned-singer who shares the same name), who has been praised for his album Ground Of Its Own.
Rounding off nominations are The Maccabees with their 3rd studio album Given to the Wild and alternative indie band Field Music’s Plumb, despite under-performing in sales after it reached a peak position of number 49 in the UK album charts.
This year is the 20th anniversary of the Prize, having first been won by Primal Scream for the album Screamadelica in 1992. In celebration of the 20th anniversary, the Mercury Music Prize is also putting on a series of small gigs in London. The ‘Albums of the Year Live’ gigs will be an opportunity to see some of the shortlisted artists play in some of the most intimate venues in the city, which will provide a rare and exciting opportunity for fans.
The winner of the Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize will be announced on November 1st.