Chart veteran Paul Weller was today shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize for the first time in 16 years – and will battle it out with past winner Dizzee Rascal.
Also in the running are hotly tipped The xx – whose music provided the theme for the BBC’s election coverage – and 40-something Mancunian trio I Am Kloot have made their shortlist debut with their fifth album.
They are among 12 acts battling for the respected award, officially called the Barclaycard Mercury Prize, which rewards the outstanding album of the year.
Dizzee, whose career has soared in recent years, first won the Mercury with debut release 'Boy In Da Corner' in 2003. This latest nomination for Tongue N’ Cheek is his third in only four albums, as he was also listed in 2007 for 'Maths + English'.
Weller has only once been nominated for the Mercury since its 1992 launch. His second solo release, 'Wild Wood', was shortlisted in 1994, losing out to M People’s 'Elegant Slumming' on the night.
Also finding a repeat inclusion is Laura Marling, whose 'I Speak Because I Can' follows her 2008 debut 'Alas, I Cannot Swim' on to the shortlist.
As well as a £20,000 (€23,500) prize, the award can be an invaluable method of raising awareness for shortlisted acts and many see a huge sales boost.
However, last year’s winner, Speech Debelle, bucked the trend and failed to strike a chord with the music-buying public. Her album 'Speech Therapy' has still to dent the top 40.
Established names on this year’s list include Corinne Bailey Rae – whose album 'The Sea' deals with how she coped following the death of her husband – and Scottish rock trio Biffy Clyro.
Kendal quartet Wild Beasts – noted for Hayden Thorpe’s unusual countertenor singing voice – and Oxford’s Foals are both shortlisted for second albums.
Last year’s nominations – like those of 2008 – saw female acts heavily featured but this year there are only two solo performers – Marling and Bailey Rae. However, the line-up for The xx who met at London’s Elliott School – which previous Mercury nominees Hot Chip and Burial attended – does feature guitarist/singer Romy Madley Croft.
The list does have a slight folk theme with entries for Marling, Mumford & Sons and Irish act Villagers – largely a vehicle for Conor J O’Brien.
This year’s jazz entry comes from pianist Kit Downes with his trio’s debut release 'Golden'.
I Am Kloot, who have been together more than a decade, featured Elbow’s Guy Garvey and Craig Potter on production duties.
Acts who had been tipped for inclusion but failed to make the list include Gorillaz, Marina And The Diamonds and Ellie Goulding, who won the Critics’ Choice prize at the Brits earlier this year.
Gennaro Castaldo, of entertainment retailer HMV, said: “If you look back at the Mercury awards over the years, the most successful nominated and winning albums tend to be the ones that have been ’bubbling under’ for a while and building great word of mouth and critical acclaim, so that, when the judges do shine the spotlight on them, sales can take off in a very significant way.
“If the winner is a little too obscure or their music a bit too left field, as was arguably the case last year with Speech Debelle, then it may prove difficult to make that all-important connection with a wider, more mainstream audience.
“Equally, if the winner is already very well-known and has already enjoyed substantial sales, then any increase in sales and interest may also be more modest.
“It’s really about finding just the right balance – so that an album is chosen both because it’s a truly outstanding recording, but also because, in being selected, it has the potential to ’cross over’ and go on to reach a much wider audience – as we saw with the 2008 winners Elbow.”
The winner will be announced at a ceremony at London’s Grosvenor Park Hotel in September.
The shortlist is as follows:
:: I Am Kloot – 'Sky At Night'
:: Foals – 'Total Life Forever'
:: Laura Marling – 'I Speak Because I Can'
:: The xx – 'xx'
:: Dizzee Rascal – 'Tongue N’ Cheek'
:: Corinne Bailey Rae – 'The Sea'
:: Villagers – 'Becoming A Jackal'
:: Wild Beasts – 'Two Dancers'
:: Biffy Clyro – 'Only Revolutions'
:: Kit Downes Trio – 'Golden'
:: Paul Weller – 'Wake Up The Nation'
:: Mumford & Sons – 'Sigh No More'