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Each year the Mercury selection committee hands out their highly coveted award to the best British or Irish album of the past year. The committee’s obscure choices have often befuddled the critics, but I think most UK pundits are satisfied with this year’s shortlist.
Favorites Corinne Bailey Rae, The xx, Wild Beasts, Laura Marling, Mumford and Sons – they’re all here as predicted. Looking through this year’s nominees, there’s certainly an overabundance of critically acclaimed indie bands. The xx, Wild Beasts, Mumford and Sons, Villagers, Foals, and the often overlooked I Am Kloot all made the cut. Biffy Clyro, a Scottish band that has had a number of UK hits, appears to have taken the “commercial success” slot that could have gone to Muse. Former Jam frontman Paul Weller holds it down for the veterans, sneaking past old guys like Peter Gabriel. And Kit Downes Trio eases into the jazz slot.
Rapper Dizzee Rascal is the only previous Mercury Prize winner in the bunch; he walked away with the award in 2003 for his debut album, Boy in da Corner. In the past seven years, Dizzee has evolved from grime poet to super-successful party-boy rapper. Could he pull off an unprecedented second win, or will the committee want to share the wealth with a lower-profile artist?
Folk darling Laura Marling seems the one to beat, but The xx, who have crossed over in a big way here in the States, provide some stiff competition. The winner will be announced at a ceremony September 7. Often, winning a Mercury Prize can lead to amazing success for an unknown artist, but last year, rapper Speech Debelle‘s victory ultimately led to her departing from her label. Will the infamous “Mercury Prize curse” be in effect this year?
Corinne Bailey Rae – The Sea
The xx – xx
Wild Beasts – Two Dancers
Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can
Mumford And Sons – Sign No More
Paul Weller – Wake Up The Nation
Villagers – Becoming A Jackal
Foals – Total Life Forever
Biffy Clyro – Only Revolutions
Dizzee Rascal – Tongue ‘n’ Cheek
Kit Downes Trio – Golden
I Am Kloot – Sky at Night
Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself - he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri - he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.