Don't know your xx from your Wild Beasts? Dizzee Rascal from Paul Weller? Check out our handy guide to this year's prize
Want to know who is who on this year’s Barclaycard Mercury Prize? Check out NME‘s potted biogs and links to the music of each of this year’s nominees. The winner will be announced on September 7.
Biffy Clyro – ‘Only Revolutions’
Ayr trio Biffy Clyro, led by singer/guitarist Simon Neil, formed in an early incarnation in 1995 but didn’t get signed until 2000, when they were picked up by the Beggars Banquet label. Influenced by Nirvana and other hard rock and grunge acts, they started off as an arty but heavy rock band with 2002 debut album ‘Blackened Sky’. Album ‘The Vertigo Of Bliss’ followed in 2003 before 2004’s ‘Infinity Land’, then they got a breakthrough of sorts in 2007 with fourth effort ‘Puzzle’. The album marked a change in the band’s sound to more accessible epic rock, consolidated with 2009’s ‘Only Revolutions’, their fifth album, by which time they were UK festival main stage regulars.
Listen to Biffy Clyro’s music
Corinne Bailey Rae – ‘The Sea’
Leeds-born singer/songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae was in an all-girl band named Helen before she found success as a solo artist, releasing her debut single ‘Like A Star’ in November 2004. Her self-titled debut album followed in February 2006. She’s best known for her 2006 hit ‘Put Your Records On’, and last year released her second solo album, ‘The Sea’, which picks up this year’s Mercury nomination. Themes on the album included her grieving for the death of her husband, Jason Rae, who passed away in 2008, as well as an aquatic theme that runs through the record.
Listen to Corinne Bailey Rae’s music
Dizzee Rascal – ‘Tongue N’ Cheek’
London rapper Dizzee, real name Dylan Mills, has now been nominated for the Mercury Prize three times – winning it once with his 2003 debut ‘Boy In Da Corner’ while 2007’s ‘Maths + English’ was also nominated. This year he picks up a nomination for pop crossover effort ‘Tongue N’ Cheek’ which features several Number One singles. Since 2003 Dizzee has gone from a London grime rapper to a global pop act, collaborating with Calvin Harris, Florence And The Machine and Armand Van Helden on the way, and in 2010 has played huge slots on the festival circuits in the UK and abroad.
Listen to Dizzee Rascal’s music
Foals – ‘Total Life Forever’
Oxford five-piece Foals are nominated this year for their second album ‘Total Life Forever’ – though many fans and critics thought that their 2008 debut ‘Antidotes’ was hard done by not to be nominated. Known for their arty approach to indie as well as their raucous live shows, the band are led by frontman Yannis Philippakis, whose obsession with Ray Kurzwei‘s book Singularity, about the relationship between humans and technology, influenced the lyrics of this album.
Listen to Foals’ music
I Am Kloot – ‘Sky At Night’
Manchester indie legends I Am Kloot have remained a cult prospect since their debut album ‘Natural History’ was released in 2001. But the release of ‘Sky At Night’ earlier this month saw many peers and critics come out in support of the band they thought had been overlooked over the years – including Elbow‘s Guy Garvey, a former Mercury winner himself, who produced it with bandmate Craig Potter. Led by songwriter John Bramwell, the trio’s other musician fans include The Maccabees, who have gone on record talking about how they used to go to sparsely-attended shows by the band and were in awe of them.
Listen to I Am Kloot’s music
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Kit Downes Trio – ‘Golden’
Jazz pianist Kit Downes‘ band’s album ‘Golden’ is this year’s jazz nomination. The trio, completed by Calum Gourlay (bass) and James Maddren (drums), formed in 2005 at the Royal Academy of Music. Downes has described his influences as ranging from Bela Bartok to Keith Jarrett to Rufus Wainwright. ‘Golden’ was released in November last year and is their first full-length effort together.
Listen to Kit Downes’ music
Laura Marling – ‘I Speak Because I Can’
Born in Hampshire in 1990, this is Laura Marling‘s second consecutive Mercury Prize nomination, after her debut ‘Alas I Cannot Swim got the nod in 2008. ‘I Speak Because I Can’ was recorded with Ryan Adams‘ producer Ethan Johns, and is the first of two records she intends to make with him this year. Marling also recently recorded with Jack White at his Nashville studio.
Listen to Laura Marling’s music
Mumford And Sons – ‘Sigh No More’
This is the debut album from the London-based band, who began life – among other things – playing friend’s weddings and performing as a backing band for fellow Mercury nominee Laura Marling. Cutting their teeth in the west London folk scene, the band, who feature Marcus Mumford, Winston Marshall, Ben Lovett and Ted Dwane, have built up a strong live following, which has continued to grow since the release of their debut, which has gone platinum in the UK.
Listen to Mumford And Sons’ music
Paul Weller – ‘Wake Up The Nation’
Having fronted The Jam, The Style Council and enjoyed a successful solo career for nearly two decades, this marks Paul Weller‘s first ever Mercury Prize nomination. The record in question saw Weller move outside his regular selection of collaborators, co-writing with producer Simon Dine and recording with among others My Bloody Valentine‘s Kevin Shields. Weller‘s 10th solo album also sees him reuniting with The Jam‘s bassist Bruce Foxton, who contributed to the sessions. Weller was named Godlike Genius at this year’s NME Awards.
Listen to Paul Weller’s music
Villagers – ‘Becoming A Jackal’
Fronted by Conor O’Brien, this Domino signed act formed in Dublin suburb[/b] Malahide in the aftermath of the break up of a band called The Immediate. The band, who have been favourably compared to Bright Eyes, released this their debut album in April and have been touring the UK and Ireland since its release.
Listen to Villagers’ music
Wild Beasts – ‘Two Dancers’
Wild Beasts can trace their roots back to a school band formed at Queens Katherine School in Hayden Thorpe in 2002, though were named after the French word for a wild beast, Fauve. Switching to English, the second Domino act on this year’s shortlist released their debut ‘Limbo, Panto’ in 2008, rapidly following it with ‘Two Dancers’ the following year. That album has been widely tipped to feature on this year’s shortlist since its release and has now lived up to expectations.
Listen to Wild Beasts’ music
The XX – ‘XX’
The critics and bookies favourite before the shortlist was even announced, the last 12 months have represented a heady rise for the Londoners. Following the release of their self-produced album last August, the band have slowly found their music cropping up everywhere from an interactive sound installation by acclaimed video director Saam Farahmand to soundtracking the BBC‘s coverage of this year’s general election. All four band members met at the Elliott School in Putney, though keyboard player Baria Qureshi decided to leave Romy Madley Croft, Oliver Sim and Jamie Smith late last year, suggesting she did not enjoy touring.
Listen to The XX’s music
You can buy all the albums from the Mercury Prize shortlist from Amazon.co.uk now.