SCOTS band Django Django has been named as one of the acts in the running for the prestigious Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize, as the shortlist of 12 was announced last night.
The Edinburgh quartet’s eponymous debut – a mix of folk, electronica and psychedelia – has already received widespread acclaim from critics, making many mid-year “best albums so far” lists.
However, last night bookmakers placed urban rapper Plan B and past nominee Richard Hawley as joint favourites.
Established acts such as The Maccabees and Field Music were also among the acts who will battle it out against lesser-known names and emerging acts like Jessie Ware and Alt-J, who have won critical acclaim.
Rapper Plan B – whose real name is Ben Drew – is the first artist to make the list for a soundtrack album, with Ill Manors. It accompanies the gritty film of the same name which he also directed. Hawley, at 45 the oldest artist on the shortlist, was previously nominated in 2006 for Coles Corner and had been a hot contender, although he lost out to Arctic Monkeys.
When Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner collected the prize for his album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, he announced: “Someone call 999 – Richard Hawley’s been robbed.” The nominations almost invariably include a nod to the worlds of jazz and folk and this year is no exception. Folk is represented by both Sam Lee and Ben Howard, while drum, guitar and sax act the Roller Trio fly the flag for jazz.
The list fails to recognise notable commercial successes such as Coldplay and Florence + The Machine, as well as Emeli Sande who landed the Critics Choice award at the Brits and has received acclaim and huge sales following her performances at the Olympic ceremonies.
Simon Frith, the chairman of the judging panel, said the shortlist “showcases a wonderful variety of musical voices, emotions and ambitions”.
He said: “There are eight debut albums on the list and four albums from more established artists. The sheer range of music here celebrates the abiding ability of British musicians to find new ways to explore traditional themes of love and loss while making an exhilarating soundtrack for life in 2012.”
The award, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, gives a huge boost to sales for the victor.
And the 12 nominees are ...
London-based Edinburgh four-piece’s debut is a quirky mix of psychedelic electronica combined with Beach Boys vocals to create a sound that echoes cult Scots group the Beta Band.
Devon-born Howard’s offering sits squarely in the nu-folk camp, with the 70s pastoral folk of John Martyn and Nick Drake the dominant influences, relying on hushed vocals and picked guitars.
Given to the Wild
Lauded by critics as an intelligent blend of experimental rock and multi-layered cinematic pop, with influences ranging from Kate Bush through to the Stone Roses and David Bowie.
Modern prog rockers continue to combine tricky time-signatures, blooping synths and musical expertise with Beach Boy melodies to create a sound that recalls classic Yes or early Genesis, but in a good way.
Award-winning singer-songwriter whose sound and style is heavily indebted to 60s soul, jazz and folk – recalling the likes of Randy Newman, James Taylor and David Axelrod.
Standing at the Sky’s Edge
A stripped down sound sees Hawley taking influences from the late 60s. Referencing the likes of The Stooges and The Doors, it is a highly textured, expansive, and aggressive recording with occasional folky excursions.
Soundtrack from film of the same name, Plan B combines rap with a widescreen soundscape taking in hip hop, rock and urban club sounds to paint a picture of the dour life of youth on the edge of British society.
Is Your Love Big Enough?
Lianne La Havas
A soul-inflected voice backed by jazz-streaked folk and a dash of experimentation, Lianne La Havas’ low-key debut places her alongside the likes of Norah Jones and Corinne Bailey Rae.
Sophisticated, soul pop record that is downbeat in mood, Ware’s voice recalls the sultry tones of 80s singer Sade, as does her backing band at times, though its balladry tips its hat to The xx.
An Awesome Wave
Nu-folk with twists of art rock and electronica, as well as dipping into America, dubstep and bhangra combined with wistful wintry harmonies that take it closer to the Fleet Foxes than Mumford and Sons.
Experimental jazz-rock record that shifts between angular honking reminiscent of a stripped-down, tuneful Sun Ra or Sonny Rollins, and nebulous, free-floating compositions.
Ground Of Its Own
Sam Lee’s album is a collection of folk songs gathered while studying under a balladeer and traveller. An intimate and heartfelt album, its sound is closer to the traditional music of The Watersons.