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UPDATED 5:29 PM EST: Just announced – The xx have won this year’s Mercury Prize for their well-received, self-titled debut album. Each year, the Mercury committee selects one album by a British or Irish artist as the best. Winning the prize either means great success or humiliating failure (a.k.a. the Mercury Prize curse). Let’s hope the folks in the xx are investing well.

The xx – xx – WINNER!

What is this? Sexy minimalist indie rock with R&B-infused male-female vocals.

You’ll Like This If You Like: The Cure, Young Marble Giants, Portishead, Stone Roses

Singles: “Crystalised,” “Basic Space,” “Islands,” “VCR”

Review: “There is a lightness of touch at play that gives the xx a sophistication beyond their years. It probably means that their dream pop will become the ubiquitous dinner party album du jour. But really, their panicky atmospherics are too strange for that. This is uneasy listening to soundtrack the gentle gnashing of teeth.”Sarah Boden in The Guardian

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Sample some videos from the xx’s Mercury-winning debut album:

Here were the other nominees for the British Isles’ biggest annual music prize:

Biffy Clyro – Only Revolutions

What is this? Really loud prog-metal from Scotland.

You’ll Like This If You Like: Foo Fighters, At the Drive-In, Muse.

Singles: “Mountains,” “That Golden Rule,” “The Captain,” “Many of Horror”

Review: “It’s as a whole that Only Revolutions springs the band instantly level with the greatest rock acts in the world. The only thing that can stop them being recognised as such is the 2010 trend of UK guitar music being treated with contempt by the electro-pop-fixated mainstream. But don’t call them a band out of time – they’re the very sound of loud now, and finally it’s time for the last few stragglers to get in the saddle.” – Jamie Fullerton in NME

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Corinne Bailey Rae – The Sea

What is this? Mournful, moody soul with a ’70s singer-songwriter’s emotional palette.

You’ll Like This If You Like: Joni Mitchell’s Blue, Erykah Badu’s Mama’s Gun, Jeff Buckley’s Grace, Marvin Gaye’s ’70s oeuvre, Laura Nyro’s New York Tendaberry.

Singles: “I’d Do It All Again,” “Paris Nights/New York Mornings,” “Closer”

Review: “The singer/songwriter’s first album in nearly four years is haunted by the sudden death of her husband in 2008. But despite its elegiac tone, Sea is not a downer. If Rae can seem more pensive and fragile than she did on her breezily accessible debut, she also sounds more sensual and soulful – empowered by a love that endures, and destined to find love again.” – Elysa Gardner in USA Today

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Dizzee Rascal – Tongue ‘n’ Cheek

What is this? Electro hip-hop party jams from Britain’s leading grime poet.

You’ll Like This If You Like: Basement Jaxx, The Chemical Brothers, Ludacris

Singles: “Dance Wiv Me”, “Bonkers”, “Holiday” and “Dirtee Disco”

Review: “[Dizzee] broke through in 2002 with ‘I Luv U,’ a jarring account of dysfunctional teenage relationships that received critical acclaim but barely troubled the charts. On Tongue N’ Cheek, seven years later, he’s in party mood, ready to celebrate the leisure society and its hedonistic culture of cash and consumerism. His pop-star status suggests that, now, the rest of the country wants to join him.” – Gervase de Wilde in The Daily Telegraph

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Foals – Total Life Forever

What is this? Cerebral, nerdy “math rock”.

You’ll Like This If You Like: Bloc Party, Talking Heads, Vampire Weekend, The Cure

Singles: “Spanish Sahara,” “This Orient,” “Miami”

Review: “…The confidence of this follow-up is striking. Not because the Oxford quintet now do everything harder, faster, cooler: quite the opposite. There is stillness and hush here, and a depth of emotion they have never accessed before.” – Maddy Costa in The Guardian

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I Am Kloot – Sky at Night

What is this? Earnest Mancunian indie rock produced by Guy Garvey and Craig Potter from the band Elbow.

You’ll Like This If You Like: Elbow, Richard Hawley, Doves, Sparklehorse

Singles: “Northern Skies/Lately,” “Proof”

Review: ” This is a record with charm, maturity, elegance and craft worked into their introspective rock of old. It floats and drifts between choruses and verses without paying too much attention to itself, but behind the scenes it’s also meticulous and terribly catchy. You always wondered whether they’d be able to find a place where their songwriting could exist without the inconsistency and awkwardness, and lo; here it is. Proof.” – Adam Knott in Sputnikmusic

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Kit Downes Trio – Golden

What is this? Acoustic jazz from British pianist Kit Downes, guitarist Chris Montague, and drummer Joshua Blackmore.

You’ll Like This If You Like: Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Bela Bartok, Empirical, Acoustic Ladyland

Singles: “Jump Minzi Jump”

Review: “This is a hugely promising record that reveals fresh angles with each listening and this combined with the press frenzy (in jazz terms anyway) around Downes at present suggests that his is a star still on the rise. Expect to hear a lot more about this gifted and remarkably versatile young musician plus his two talented colleagues.”Ian Mann in The Jazz Mann

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Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can

What is this? Gutsy folk from a 20-year-old singer-songwriter prodigy.

You’ll Like Her If You Like: Joni Mitchell, Sandy Denny, Nick Drake, Cat Power, Fiona Apple

Singles: “Goodbye England (Covered in Snow),” “Devil’s Spoke,” “Rambling Man”

Review: “Her sophomore effort, I Speak Because I Can, finds Marling, still only 20, shrugging off virtually all traces of girlishness and wide-eyed charm, instead delving into darkly elemental, frequently morbid folk. And yet, astonishingly, the expected growing pains never come. To say Marling evinces wisdom beyond her years on I Speak would be a criminal understatement, considering she’s created a haunting, fully flowered gem of an album despite being younger than two-thirds of the Jonas Brothers.” – Joshua Love in Pitchfork.

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Mumford And Sons – Sigh No More

What is this? Folky, harmonic Americana with big anthemic choruses.

You’ll Like Them If You Like: Noah and the Whale, Kings of Leon, Fleet Foxes, Arcade Fire

Singles: “Little Lion Man,” “Winter Winds,” “The Cave,” “Roll Away Your Stones,” “Thistle & Weeds”

Review:Sigh No More sees four-piece Mumford and Sons strike out for equally distinctive territory, carving out a mostly winning – if nigglingly naive – debut that deserves an audience to match its impressive convictions. It’s a record deploying a wealth of folk signifiers, from banjos and sighing mandolins to dubious lyrics about how the harvest left no fruit for you to eat, but which in truth shares more genes with the bombastic song progressions of Arcade Fire or even Kings of Leon’s grit ‘n’ shine indie anthemics.” Alex Denney in BBC Music

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Paul Weller – Wake Up The Nation

What is this? The feisty, fiftysomething frontman reunited with his former Jam bassist Bruce Foxton to do this experimental, genre-bending epic that combines all of his influences – punk, pop, blues, soul, funk, psychedelia.

You’ll Like This If You Like: The Jam and The Style Council, Elvis Costello, Nick Cave

Singles: “7&3 is the Striker’s Name,” “Wake Up the Nation/No Tears to Cry”, “Find the Torch, Burn the Plans,” “Fast Car/Slow Traffic/Andromeda”

Review: “Artists Weller’s age often falter trying to chase the past. Weller, on the other hand, simply brings his musical baggage along with him wherever he goes, unpacking or picking up new things as necessary. Whether anyone else follows him, well, that’s really none of his concern, but with albums like this one it’s hard not to at least sit up and take notice of Weller’s creative renewal.” Joshua Klein in Pitchfork

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Villagers – Becoming A Jackal

What is this? Don’t get confused by the name. This isn’t actually a band, per se – it’s Irish singer-songwriter Conor O’Brien‘s musical pseudonym. His music is emotionally raw, folk-influenced “chamber pop.”

You’ll Like This If You Like: Bright Eyes, Radiohead, Elliott Smith, Damien Rice

Singles: “Becoming a Jackal,” “Ship of Promises”

Review: “O’Brien’s howls and cries throughout are an exorcism of growing pains, and to that end universally resonant and resolutely empathetic. Of course, he’s not be the first to tread that worn and torn ground, but it’s truly refreshing to find such an artist who can straddle such divisive terrain with nonchalant aplomb. “William Grant in Drowned in Sound

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Wild Beasts – Two Dancers

What is this? ’80s-rooted indie rock. Featuring the “WTF?” countertenor vocals of Hayden Thorpe. (His voice is a bit of an acquired taste.)

You’ll Like This If You Like : Sparks, The Smiths, Associates

Singles: “Hooting & Howling,” “All the King’s Men,” “We Still Got the Taste Dancin’ on Our Tongues”

Review: “Two Dancers marks a big step forward for Wild Beasts. The eccentricities are still present, the quirks still correct, but everything has been shepherded into a more cohesive, frequently more melancholy, totality. These are beasts not tamed, as such, but those who’ve learned when to hold back, and when to sink in their teeth.” Chris Baynes in PopMatters

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Filed Under: Mercury Prize, Music
By Kevin Wicks
Kevin Wicks is the founding editor of Anglophenia.