Richard Hawley and Plan B are among the favourites for the Barclaycard Mercury Prize as high profile groups including Coldplay were snubbed in a shortlist comprised largely of small selling albums.
The 12-strong list of nominees was announced by radio DJ Lauren Laverne in London tonight, with the line-up including eight debut albums. The prize is awarded to British and Irish musicians who have released albums in the past year.
Being perhaps the most high profile artist on the list, Plan B was instantly installed as the favourite by bookies William Hill, for his album Ill Manors. Plan B, whose real name is Ben Drew, was behind the LP soundtracked the film of the same name which he also directed. The judges described the album as “brilliantly visceral soundtrack to an angry, troubling and harsh picture of life on the underside of London in 2012.”
The prize will offer a chance of redemption for Richard Hawley for his album Standing at the Sky’s Edge. Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys, whose record beat Hawley to the prize in 2006, said at the time: “Someone call 999, Richard Hawley’s been robbed.”
Snubs were handed to higher profile artists including Coldplay, Emeli Sande, who featured heavily in the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics, Ed Sheeran and Florence & the Machine. The new album from 2010 winners the xx was also overlooked.
Alternative four-piece band Alt-J have been nominated for An Awesome Wave. The judges said the music “tantalises and delights” adding it had “unexpected shards of sound, mesmerising layers of rhythm – irresistible”.
Other shortlisted artists likely to be firmly in the running include Jessie Ware, whose album was described as “sensuous and emotive deeply imbued with the spirit of British club culture” and psychedelic quartet Django Django for their self-titled LP.
Michael Kiwanuka, the 25-year old who won the BBC’s Sound of 2012 in January, has also been nominated.
This year marks a shake-up at the ceremony as it moves to Channel 4 after two decades at the BBC. There will be a new format, and new presenters,and for the first time all of the nominees will play a concert in the run up to the awards ceremony in November.
Last year the award went to PJ Harvey for Let England Shake, the first time an artist has won the honour twice.
The Maccabees, a five-piece band, has been nominated for Given to the Wild, their third album, with
Sunderland band Field Music picked for their album Plumb. The list is rounded out by Lianne La Havas, Roller Trio and Ben Howard.
No clear favourite had emerged, according to the chair of the judges, Simon Frith.
He said: “There was nothing that served an absolute must. It felt like people could explore different tastes.”
Of the shortlist he asked: “Is there a record that’s going to change music? Probably not.”
Talking about traditional sales dropping, he said it was very important to get people buying albums again.
“The album is still seen as the art form by artists," he said, "but it is not necessarily the art form that people want to listen to.
“It’s a paradox. It’s puzzling how this [the future of album sales] will develop.”