As the Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize 2012 draws near, we have a look at the shortlist and the likelihood of each act actually walking away with the prize. There’s no such thing as a done deal when it comes to the Mercury Music Prize; the ones that you think are the favourites never seem to walk away the title, the judging panel is very hard to second guess. But hey, that’s not going to stop us giving it a try!
Alt-J: An Awesome Wave
These quirky popsters have crept up on the public throughout 2012, and with their debut album garnering critical acclaim in all corners of the press, they’ve been pegged by many as the favourites to win. A recent survey conducted by Spotify showed that Alt-J’s tracks had been streamed more times that any other nominated artist. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to walk home with the prize though.
Bookies’ Odds: 5/4
Watch Alt-J's 'Something Good':
Ben Howard: Every Kingdom
Another debut album here, this time from solo artist Ben Howard. The album reached the Top Ten and included the singles ‘The Wolves’ and ‘Only Love.’ He must surely be an outsider’s vote, with the best will in the world. Though he’s evidently a talented songwriter and Every Kingdom is a well-crafted album, we don’t think he has quite the spark necessary to take the prize home.
Bookies’ Odds: 10/1
Watch Ben Howard 'The Wolves':
The Mercury Music Prize is rife with debut albums, as ever and Django Django’s is one of them. The band met at art school in Edinburgh, before decamping to East London. Their psychedelic pop has been hit with the critics; The Guardian awarded them 5 stars for the album and NME gave it a solid 8 out of 10. We’re not sure that Django Django will make enough of a mark with this debut, though; it’s a pleasant listen and well-constructed but it lacks the bite of some of the competition.
Bookies’ Odds: 6/1
Watch Django Django's 'Hail Bop':
Field Music: Plumb
Stalwarts of the North East music scene, the Brewis brothers’ band recorded their fourth album in their home city of Sunderland. Field Music are very much the music industry insider’s nominee of choice. The influential BBC 6Music DJ Lauren Laverne has made no secret of her love for the band and Field Music’s wide-reaching support within the indie community shouldn’t be underestimated. They count Maximo Park and The Futureheads amongst their network of allies and Plumb was released on the highly-respected Memphis Industries record label. We reckon Field Music are in with a pretty good chance.
Bookies’ Odds: 10/1
Watch Field Music's '(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing'
Jessie Ware: Devotion
Jessie Ware is undoubtedly one of the fast-rising stars of 2012. She made a very swift and credible transition from being a guest vocalist (for the likes of Joker and SBTRKT) to an artist in her own right. Jessie seems to have taken to the art of being a pop star with almost alarming ease and Devotion has been both embraced by the mainstream and accepted in circles normally blighted by indie snobbery.
Bookies’ Odds: 10/1
Watch Jessie Ware's 'Wildest Moments':
Lianne La Havas: Is Your Love Big Enough?
Another debut album, Lianne La Havas reached number four in the UK albums chart with this finely honed, soulful debut. Armed with her guitar and a velveteen voice, Lianne has appeared on Later With Jools Holland and her singles ‘Lost & Found’ and ‘Is Your Love Big Enough?’ have both received national airplay. Her songwriting straddles the notion of ‘classic’ and ‘innovative’ and we don’t think she should be ruled out, despite what the bookies think.
Bookies’ Odds: 16/1
Watch Lianne La Havas perform 'No Room For Doubt':
Michael Kiwanuka: Home Again
Sounding as though he has been transported to us from the distant past, Michael Kiwanuka’s songs could easily have been conjured up decades ago, as he draws heavily from the ‘60s folk sound, with a touch of the late Terry Callier about him. As it is, he’s in line for the 2012 prize. His singles, ‘Home Again’ and ‘I’m Getting Ready’ were both mainstream hits but will his authentic retro sound be considered innovative enough for this year’s title. We don’t think so and neither do those taking the bets.
Bookies’ Odds: 25/1
Watch Michael Kiwanuka's 'Tell Me A Tale':
Plan B: Ill Manors
Rapper Ben Drew (aka Plan B) has undergone something of a transformation. From shock-rapper, to soul singer and now, somewhere between the two, the Ill Manors soundtrack can be seen as a response to the London riots of last year and musically, the perfect synthesis of what Plan B does best; hard hitting rap, coupled with melodic, old school soul. He’s currently fourth favourite to win and in many ways, Ill Manors is one of the more ambitious entries this year, both in its political commentary and musically.
Bookies’ Odds: 8/1
Watch Plan B's 'Ill Manors':
Richard Hawley: Standing At The Sky’s Edge
Ah, Richard Hawley – the Sheffield songwriter who can do no wrong. Media darling, loved by the public, TV and radio regular. Who doesn’t love a bit of Richard Hawley? Well, Alt-J, probably, as he’s their main rival, snapping at their heels in the bookies’ charts. Standing At The Sky’s Edge is another slice of nostalgic rock and roll from Hawley. This is the second stab at the Mercury Music Prize for him, as his 2005 album Coles Corner was also nominated. Will the judges finally give him the nod this time round? All eyes might be on Alt-J but we reckon that Hawley could well sneak up on them.
Bookies’ Odds: 5/1
Watch Richard Hawley perform 'Leave Your Body Behind You':
Roller Trio: Roller Trio
Outsiders from the jazz world, Roller Trio can pretty much be discounted in this race, sadly. Mercury Music Prize like to add the odd niche entry every now and then, just to show how terribly eclectic their tastes are. But we all know they’re not going to win. The bookies know they’re not going to win, the judges know they’re not going to win. Actually, we’re hoping they’re not going to win because a) we’ll look really stupid and b) we’ll be kicking ourselves for not sticking a tenner on them.
Bookies' Odds: 33/1
Watch Roller Trio's rehearsal of 'These Strings':
Sam Lee: Ground Of Its Own
Another nostalgic folkie, Sam Lee’s debut album draws comparisons to classic British folk artists such as Fairport Convention and John Martyn. This art college graduate will most likely struggle to get himself noticed amongst the other, more successful songwriters on the shortlist. Not that popularity is always the litmus test for the judging panel but it can’t help but influence them.
Bookies’ Odds: 20/1
Watch Sam Lee live at Moseley Folk Festival 2011:
The Maccabees: Given To The Wild
Certain sectors of the music press went wild for The Maccabees’ return and their third album has been rewarded with a slot of the Mercurys shortlist. The Brighton five-piece have come of age here, and you can almost taste the renewed ambition in their songwriting. Not convinced they’ve done enough to plan any major celebrations this evening though.
Bookies Odds: 12/1
Watch The Macabees 'Ayla'
And who’s our money on, here at Contact? Jessie Ware. Or maybe Plan B. Or Richard Hawley. Oh, we can’t make our minds up…