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Nic Ladds 20th Jul 2010 - 18:00

Mercury Prize - a rundown of the acts

The Mercury Prize, formerly known as the Mercury Music Prize, is a highly coveted award in the world of music and when you look at a list of the previous winners, it is not hard to see why.

To get on the shortlist is often enough to propel lesser-known acts in to the limelight so a victory is clearly huge for the smaller acts and also serves as positive reinforcement for the more established acts.

The shortlist this year is as ever selected by a selected panel of musicians, music executives, journalists and other figures in the music industry in the UK and Ireland.

In the past, the smaller names have been favoured which makes betting on the winner an interesting prospect! Here is a rundown of the artists and what you can expect from them:


The XX (15/8)

A personal favourite of mine and favourites to land this year's award are The XX. Although they may not be as familiar as some of the other names on the list, in my opinion they have every right to be among the best.

Their eponymous debut album only peaked at 31 in the UK charts but received widespread critical acclaim. Rolling Stone magazine rated their album number nine and NME placed them second in their album of the year awards. The Guardian even thought so much of it they rated it the number one album of 2009.

Their genre is hard to define, among the attempts to pigeon-hole them have resulted in such genres as "dream pop". Personally I found their album a grower, it got a lot better with more listens.  Basic space and VCR are two of their most accessible hits and I recommend you give them a listen.

If the Mercury panel stick to their usual plan of giving it to more underground, cult acts then it is hard to see The XX being beaten by anyone else on this shortlist.


Wild Beasts (9/2)

This indie rock band has made it on the shortlist for their well received 2009 album Two Dancers.  Another album that may have passed a lot of people by but also ranked highly on many 'album of the year' lists.

What sets this band aside from the seemingly countless indie bands on the scene these days has to be lead singer Hayden Thorpe.  His rather unique "countertenor" (high-pitched) voice really distinguishes them.

Whether they are unique or impressive enough all round to see off highly rated competition remains to be seen though. There do seem to be artists in the shortlist that impress more.


Mumford & Sons (9/2)

Fans of the folkier side of rock will surely be fans of Mumford & Sons. Their sound is uplifting and reminiscent of the outstanding Fleet Foxes.

Their album Sigh No More did well in the charts and peaked at number six in the UK. Their standout song is Little Lion Man, a summery tune that was named 'hottest record in the world' by Zane Lowe of BBC Radio One.

Their album is undoubtedly a fine piece of work and they are in with a shout of receiving the acclaim they deserve. I would maybe rank them a little more among the outsiders that are worth an outside punt than hot favourites though.


Dizzee Rascal (7/1)

Dizzee has already won the Mercury Award in 2003 for his then groundbreaking album Boy In Da Corner. His sound and style have really changed since those more underground beats and now he is right in the mainstream pumping out plenty of dance floor anthems.

With songs such as Bonkers, Dance wiv me and Holiday, Dizzee's 2009 album Tongue n' Cheek was a hit with most of his fans as well as the media. It peaked at number three in the UK album charts and holds three number one singles.

I am not sure how willing the judges would be to see Dizzee lift his second Mercury Award while newer artists are pushed to one side so I personally think he will be a victim of his own success this year.


Corinne Bailey Rae (8/1)

Most people will recognise Corinne from her self-titled debut album with the 2006 anthem 'Put Your Records On'. The Sea is her second album and was a huge hit which had a lot to do with the affect her husband's death had on her music.

It is a real insight in to the pain she went through and could be worth an outside chance due to the circumstances surrounding it.


Paul Weller (8/1)

The Jam icon Paul Weller's tenth studio album Wake Up The Nation received almost widespread praise. It is seen as the album where Paul is back to his best and if the judges are feeling nostalgic then he could be in with a shout.

'The Modfather' clearly still has 'it' and he could show the younger acts a thing or two by winning.


Foals (8/1)

Although their album Total Life Forever hit number eight in the UK chart and their sound is quite unique, I can't really see this sort of band winning this year. Their sound is edgy, alternative and quite funky but I don't really think it is widely liked enough to win.

There are better artists at better prices for me and their position in-between the big prices and favourites makes them hard to back.


Laura Marling (10/1)

This is just the sort of act that could shock a lot of people; an attractive, 20 year old singer songwriter with her folky, melodic tunes with impressive lyrics for such a young artist.

Laura is my outside tip, he album I Speak Because I Can peaked at number four and she clearly has a big following with over 60,000 record sales.

When you look at last year's winner Speech Debelle, not many fancied the young singer to beat such established acts and she did, so why can't it happen again?


I Am Kloot (11/1)

Sky at Night is I Am Kloot's fifth album and the decision to stream it free on the Guardian's website was clearly successful as the album has gained plenty of coverage and hits.

I think from this act onwards we see a big dip in the realistic chances they have of winning, regardless of how impressive they are.

The rest of the acts include:

Kit Downes Trio (14/1) - they are an acoustic jazz threesome whose members won the 2008 BBC Jazz Award for rising star.

Biffy Clyro (14/1) - the Scottish rockers are a big name on the scene but their album Only Revolutions has been overshadowed by some more impressive albums this year.

Villagers (14/1) - the Irish band are certainly worth a listen if you like folk rock, almost reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel on their main hit Becoming A Jackal. With more publicity, I think they could be a lot bigger but I think this could be a bit out of their reach.



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