The Mercury Music Prize will be awarded at tonight’s (Wed 29th October) awards ceremony, and the bookies admit it’s one of the most open betting markets in recent Mercury history. Twelve artists have been nominated, including well-established acts such as Damon Albarn and Bombay Bicycle Club, alongside exciting newcomers like Anna Calvi and FKA Twigs. The award has been controversial since its inception, but each of the nominated musicians would welcome the increased exposure and recognition that comes with winning; not to mention the £20,000 prize money. This is our preview of the acts and the betting market in the build-up to the main event.
Remarkably, despite being sponsored by Barclaycard, the Mercury prize is still named after a defunct telecommunications company. Critics of the prize would say that it retains about as much relevance as the former sponsor, which may be down to the shifting landscape of the selection process and the subjective criteria for appointing a winner. By way of explanation, Mercury Judge, John Kennedy, told officialcharts.com:
“The aim of the Mercury prize is to try and highlight albums that might have got slightly overlooked…the winner has to reflect a year in music but also potentially to have created a classic piece of work that can stand the test of time. Craft, skill, context, innovation, individuality, and talent all come into play.”
Crystal clear, then.
Damon Albarn – Everday Robots +1600 with Ladbrokes.
The Blur and Gorillaz front man has been responsible for some of the great music of the last 20 years, and returned this year with a very introspective record, in Everyday Robots. His first solo album is a collection of wistful songs which reflect on his life and upbringing. Tinged with melancholy, Albarn’s songwriting is hugely accomplished.
Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See you tomorrow +1600 with Ladbrokes.
This is the London band’s fourth album, and was their first to reach the top of the album charts, when it peaked at number one in February. Rated by many as their best to date, the album features their trademark vocals and harmonies with a much more electronic sound than before.
Anna Calvi – One Breath +2000 with Ladbrokes.
Previously nominated in 2011 for her debut album, singer-songwriter Calvi is back with ‘One Breath’. Intense, dramatic, gothic rock. Calvi says that, “being creative is about going into the depths of your psyche where things are going to get a bit strange and ugly and weird”.
East India Youth – Total Strife Forever +1000 with Skybet.
Total Strife Forever is a play on the Foals’ title of Total Life Forever, and is the debut album of electronic producer William Doyle. Mostly instrumental, the album could be described as melodic electro-pop.
FKA Twigs – LP1 +250 with Skybet.
Previously a backing dancer for Kylie Minogue, Londoner Taliah Barnett is one of the favourites to take the prize, with her debut album LP1. Her moody vocals and heavy synth beats have seen her compared to previous winners and label mates, the xx.
GoGo Penguin – V2.0 +3300 with Ladbrokes.
Manchester based Jazz trio GoGo Penguin have been nominated for their second album, V2.0. Their first album ‘Fanfare’ just missed out on nomination last year, but went on to be nominated for best Jazz album at the World Wide Awards.
Jungle – Jungle +1000 with Ladbrokes.
The self-titled debut album from the West-London duo, fuses funk, soul, and hip-hop to create dance music with a throwback to soul and funk. The album was initially released in a series of tracks and videos that were posted online, building the hype, while the duo’s identities remained a secret.
Nick Mulvey – First Mind +1000 with Ladbrokes.
Singer/songwriter of the ilk of Ben Howard and Damien Rice, Nick Mulvey’s debut album mixes his expertise as a percussionist with acoustic guitars to create a rhythmic, hypnotic sound.
Polar Bear – In Each and Every One +3300 with Coral.
A five-piece experimental jazz band that was first nominated for the Mercury Prize way back in 2005. ‘In Each and Every One’ is their first album for four years, and according to the band, is “more spacious and more intense” than their previous music.
Royal Blood – Royal Blood +500 with Bet365.
The self-titled album by the Brighton Rock duo became the fastest-selling British Rock debut for three years, and topped the album charts in the first week of its release. Likened to the White Stripes and Queens of the Stone Age, the band supported the Arctic Monkeys at their Finsbury Park gigs.
Kate Tempest – Everybody Down +300 with Bet365.
Kate Tempest won the Ted Hughes award for innovation in poetry just 18 months ago, and her album ‘Everybody Down’ crosses the boundaries between poetry and hip-hop. The rapper-cum-poet attended the same Brits school as Adele and Jessie J, and has already made plans to cross genres again by turning ‘Everybody Down’ into a novel.
Young Fathers – Dead +1600 with Bet365.
This debut album is from Edinburgh based hip-hop trio Young Fathers. With one member hailing from Scotland, one from Liberia, and one from Nigeria, the band have developed a reputation for creating a diverse blend of music. Their EP, ‘Tape Two’, beat Biffy Clyro and Edywn Collins to best Scottish album earlier this year.
Last year’s Mercury Prize was won by James Blake, who was available at odds of +3300 before the win. Despite two strong favourites in FKA Twigs and Kate Tempest, the competition this year is wide open, and there is usually more value in looking at one of the outsiders. Our selection for the winner is Electro-funk duo Jungle. Their brand of dance music fused with soul and funk could be seen to reflect the year of music, in which disco/funk/soul has seen something of a revival. The way that they released their album track by track over the internet, without revealing their identities, also shows the kind of innovative thinking that the Mercury judges are looking for when they award the prize.
Jungle to win the Mercury Music Prize
Odds +1000 with Ladbrokes
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