Veteran Weller in running for music prize

Chart veteran Paul Weller will tonight take on past winner Dizzee Rascal and hotly-tipped acts such as The xx to claim the Barclaycard Mercury Prize.

Chart veteran Paul Weller will tonight take on past winner Dizzee Rascal and hotly-tipped acts such as The xx to claim the Barclaycard Mercury Prize.

The award – to be handed out at a star-studded event tonight – is given to the outstanding album of the past year.

Weller, nominated for the prize for the first time in 16 years with 'Wake Up The Nation', had his odds slashed after a wave of hundreds of bets placed over the weekend.

Bookmaker William Hill, which now has the Modfather as 1-10 favourite, reckons it is based on hope rather than any inside knowledge.

“We feel that the gamble is based on a sentimental belief that Paul was robbed back in 1994 and the judging panel will attempt to right that wrong this year,” said Hill’s spokesman Rupert Adams.

Other hotly tipped nominees are London trio The xx, and Dizzee, who won the title in 2003.

The 12-strong shortlist features two bands which landed their first nominations five albums into their careers – Scots rockers Biffy Clyro and Manchester’s I Am Kloot.

Nominees also include a couple. Laura Marling – shortlisted for a second time for latest album I 'Speak Because I Can' – is dating Marcus Mumford, frontman of Mumford & Sons who are nominated for debut release 'Sigh No More'.

Dizzee, whose career 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, 52, was only once 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.

Despite being in his 50s, Weller is by no means the oldest Mercury nominee - jazz pianist Stan Tracey was 66 when his album 'Portraits Plus' was included in 1993.

Established names on this year’s list also include Corinne Bailey Rae – whose album 'The Sea' deals with how she coped following the death of her husband.

Kendal quartet Wild Beasts – noted for Hayden Thorpe’s unusual countertenor singing voice – and Oxford’s Foals are both shortlisted for second albums.

I Am Kloot’s album 'Sky At Night' was produced by 2008 winner Elbow’s Guy Garvey and Craig Potter.

As well as a £20,000 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.

Here are the runners and riders (with bookmaker William Hill’s odds in brackets):

:: Paul Weller – Wake Up The Nation (1/10)

Having clocked up careers with The Jam and Style Council, Weller is now 10 albums into his solo career and still going strong at the age of 52. He is by no means the oldest Mercury nominee, with jazz pianist Stan Tracey included in the 1993 list when he was 66.

What the judges said: “Wake up the Nation indeed. Paul Weller delivers an astonishing rush of energy, passion and invention.”

:: The xx – xx (7/4)

This trio come from good stock – they attended the same London school, the Elliott School, as previous Mercury nominees Hot Chip and Burial. Their pared down, intimate and sensual sound has impressed critics for the past year.

What the judges said: “Hypnotic beats and hushed voices combine in a brilliant evocation of space and time.”

:: Wild Beasts – Two Dancers (5/1)

Atmospheric guitar rock from a Kendal-based quartet. This is the band’s second album and showcases singer Hayden Thorpe’s unusual countertenor voice – a range shared by 2005 Mercury winner Antony Hegarty.

What the judges said: “An invigoratingly original guitar-driven record. Ornate, sinister, gleeful and endlessly intriguing.”

:: Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can (7/1)

Two albums into her career, Marling was shortlisted for a second time and she is still only 20. Hailing from Eversley in Hampshire, the singer-songwriter’s album was produced by Ethan Johns, respected for his work with artists such as Kings Of Leon.

What the judges said: “Subtle and powerful, delicate and fierce – an exceptional collection of songs that linger long in the mind.”

:: Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More (8/1)

Debut release from the west London quartet which originated from the same folk scene from which Laura Marling emerged (she is also the girlfriend of frontman Marcus Mumford). The band have become festival favourites and the top-10 album has sold more than half a million copies.

What the judges said: “A compelling, fresh take on acoustic roots music - euphoric and vital.”

:: I Am Kloot – Sky At Night (10/1)

More than a decade into their career, I Am Kloot’s fifth studio album has brought new recognition. The Mancunian act – whose frontman Johnny Bramwell performed for many years as Johnny Dangerously – had their new release produced by Guy Garvey and Craig Potter of 2008 Mercury winners Elbow.

What the judges said: “I Am Kloot conjure up an atmosphere with a melodic phrase and capture a mood in a moment – a bittersweet and emotional record.”

:: Villagers – Becoming A Jackal (12/1)

Essentially just Dun Laoghaire-raised Conor O’Brien, Becoming A Jackal is his debut album, although he has previously recorded with his former band The Immediate and as a member of Cathy Davey’s band. His performance of his album’s title track on Later With Jools Holland brought him to a wider audience earlier this year.

What the judges said: “Eerie stories, imaginative arrangements and a singular poetic vision – a record of great charm and mystery.”

:: Foals – Total Life Forever (16/1)

Oxford quintet Foals made the top 10 with this second album full of ringing guitars and muted strings. The act, fronted by Yannis Philippakis, recorded the album in Gothenburg and London.

What the judges said: “Foals stretch themselves across new rhythms and guitar-sketched soundscapes on an absorbingly adventurous album.”

:: Biffy Clyro – Only Revolutions (16/1)

Formed 15 years ago, the Ayrshire rock trio features twins James and Ben Johnston, plus frontman Simon Neil. Only Revolutions is the band’s platinum-selling fifth album and features Queens Of The Stone Age star Josh Homme.

What the judges said: “A monumental celebration of the power of the classic rock trio. Totally committed and utterly convincing.”

:: Corinne Bailey Rae – The Sea (25/1)

The Sea, the singer’s second album, is her first for four years – a gap partly due to her coming to terms with the death of her musician husband Jason.

Bailey Rae drew on her emotional response to write the album, which was recorded in Leeds, Manchester and Los Angeles.

What the judges said: “Emotionally raw, musically sophisticated, deeply soulful – an exceptional record.”

:: Dizzee Rascal – Tongue N’ Cheek (33/1)

The only previous winner on this year’s list, Dizzee – real name Dylan Mills - has now been on the Mercury list three times with only four albums to his name.

He initially struggled to live up to the promise of his debut which won in 2003, but in the past two years has found huge chart success, with this release spawning four number one singles.

What the judges said: “The irresistible sound of a supremely gifted rapper enjoying himself. Contemporary pop music at its most exciting.”

:: Kit Downes Trio – Golden (33/1)

Pianist Downes is a former member of the acclaimed jazz act Empirical and trained at the Royal Academy of Music. He has worked with acts such as Micachu and Acoustic Ladyland. The jazz trio, which also features bass player Calum Gourlay and drummer James Maddren, released debut Golden earlier this year.

What the judges said: “A lyrical and exciting musical conversation between three highly gifted jazz artists – dynamic, engaging and rewarding.”

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