Guessing games with the Mercury Prize


Anna Calvi, One Breath: Imperious south London singer, whose music walks a tightrope between Nick Cave and 1970s troubadours, such as Tim Buckley. Her full-fat playing draws on cinematic influences, such as Ennio Morricone. Calvi’s second LP doesn’t represent a huge creative leap forward — but is piled high with memorable riffs and choruses. Will She Win? Probably not.

Damon Albarn, Everyday Robots: He lowers the tempo with a collection of phlegmatic ballads inspired by his childhood in suburban Colchester. Will He Win? He has an outside shot.


FKA Twigs, LP1: Tahlia Barnett’s debut album is haunting and splices r’n’ b, pop, krautrock, electronica and numerous other influences. Will She Win? Very possibly.

Bombay Bicycle Club, So Long, See You Tomorrow: Still in their early 20s, the Londoners’ fourth LP is a satisfying blend of anthemic sentiments and sterling song-craft. Will They Win? Unlikely.

East India Youth, Total Strife Forever: William Doyle has concocted a confessional dance album. Abstruse one moment, heartfelt the next, it’s like nothing you’ve heard before. Will He Win? It would be a surprise.

GoGo Penguin, v2.0: On its merits, their second LP is absolutely worthy of its place — incorporating electronic, classical and trip-hop elements, they bravely push a multitude of envelopes. But let’s be honest: they’re only here because they are a ‘jazz’ act. Will They Win? Nooooooo.....

Jungle, Jungle: The bookies have listed them fourth in the pecking order — but, for our money, this London duo are the dark horses. With a sublime r’n’b sound, esoteric but very, very more-ish, they represent the coming together of several edgy music trends. Will They Win? It is a distinct possibility.

Kate Tempest, Everybody Down: Second favorite Tempest is a performance poet and rapper. However, it’s just five years since the judges went out on a limb and gave the prize to another rapper/poet type,

Speech Debelle: her LP went on to be one of the biggest flops in the history of the Mercury. Will She Win? The pundits think she may — we disagree.

Nick Mulvey, First Mind: Jazz-inflected singer-songwriter whose solo debut is agreeably understated. The problem is that ten minutes after you’ve listened you may struggle to recall a single note. Will He Win? Will who win?

Polar Bear, In Each and Every One: Another jazz shortlisting, led by Seb Rochford. Will They Win? They’ve been here before and never had a whiff of victory. Same again.

Royal Blood, Royal Blood: Are you ready to rock? The bass-and-drum-only partnership — they rely on FX pedals and distortion to conjure their guitar-esque fugues — builds on the power-duo template of White Stripes, Black Keys, et al. Recently became the first rock band in a year to top the UK album charts — that their music is relatively avant-garde may advance their cause. Will They Win? It’s a distinct possibility.

Young Fathers, Dead: The debut LP from this Scottish hip-hop trio is pleasingly abstruse, heaving with odd-ball samples and sinuous wordplay. You hope the exposure does them good. Will They Win? A Scottish hip-hop ensemble has never won the Mercury. No.

  • The Mercury Prize is live on Channel 4 at 10pm this evening.

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