David Bowie’s first new album for a decade is leading the field for this year’s Barclaycard Mercury Prize, which has returned to the mainstream after 2012’s shortlist was dubbed the “most obscure” in recent history.
The 12-strong shortlist for the album of the year in 2013 includes Bowie’s The Next Day, which the bookies installed as favourite alongside the new Arctic Monkeys album AM.
Simon Frith, chair of the judges for the £20,000 prize, said it was a “fascinating year” for British and Irish music, adding it was “marked by a wonderful range of musical voices”.
Among the surprises was the omission of London Grammar, who had been tipped to win the award ahead of the shortlist announcement, King Krule and Primal Scream.
The judges, made up of journalists, DJs, radio programmers and musicians, said The Next Day, Bowie’s 24th studio album, “celebrates his songwriting ability with panache and a remarkable sense of urgency”.
The shortlist was chosen from an entry of over 220 albums, and was announced last night by radio DJ Lauren Laverne at an event in central London. The winner will be named at an awards ceremony at the Roundhouse on October 30.
The Arctic Monkeys released their fifth album this week it has been received well. Recorded in Los Angeles it was described as a “bold new chapter” in their development, the judges added it was “sonically gripping, lyrically involving and brilliantly performed”.
Last year, the judges overlooked Coldplay, Kate Bush and Florence & the Machine, and was dubbed “arguably the most obscure in the history of the prize” by one critic.
The biggest-selling name on the shortlist was Plan B but the prize went to Alt-J for their debut album An Awesome Wave.
Serial nominee Laura Marling has made the shortlist for Once I Was An Eagle. It is the 23-year-old’s fourth album, and reached number three in the charts.
She was last nominated in 2010, the same year as two fellow nominees on this year’s list. The Foals' third album Holy Fire is also up for the award, following the nomination in 2010, the same year as the Villagers, this year up for the album Awayland.
Described as “late night music for the digital age,” James Blake was nominated for a second time with his self-produced album Overgrown.
Teenage indie sensation Jake Bugg was nominated for his eponymous album. The Nottingham singer-songwriter went in at number one when it was released in October. The record comprised “fluent, restless, acutely observed songs of teenage life in contemporary Britain”.
Laura Mvula has been heavily feted for her debut album Sing to the Moon. Also up for first albums are Rudimental for Home, Savages for Silence Yourself and Disclosure – who are made up of brothers Howard and Guy Lawrence – for Settle.
Jon Hopkins, who has done production work with Brian Eno and Coldplay is up for his fourth solo album Immunity.
Normally all of the artists perform one-off gigs in the run up to the awards, but it is unclear whether David Bowie will play or even be present to pick up the award, should he be named the winner.