Hotly-tipped Barclaycard Mercury Prize nominees FKA twigs and Kate Tempest are among the acts which have enjoyed the biggest percentage sales boosts since being shortlisted for tonight’s award.
Twigs – whose real name is Tahliah Barnett – saw her total sales increase by 83% after being added to the 12-strong list, while poet and rapper Tempest enjoyed a 124% rise, although the two acts have had fewer than 10,000 extra album sales between them.
The award for the best album of the year is handed out at a ceremony at the Roundhouse in north London with the acts in the running – who also include Damon Albarn and Royal Blood – each performing for guests.
The prize is usually seen as a huge boost to the nominees with a sizeable hike in sales, but the act with the highest percentage increase – jazz trio GoGo Penguin with a 138% surge – shifting only an extra 2,095 copies of their release V2.0
One nominee Anna Calvi – who has been nominated once before – had a rise of just 6%, which represented only an extra 800 copies. Even Albarn saw sales for his debut solo release Everyday Robots go up by just 8% although starting from a larger base that amounted to a further 3,615 albums.
Chart-topping duo Royal Blood have achieved the largest sales since the shortlist was announced on September 10, according to figures from the Official Charts Company, although the self-titled album was already a major seller. It has shifted a further 59,000 copies – representing a 62% rise – but had already been doing well, going straight to number one prior to its inclusion, and is the biggest-selling rock debut of the past three years.
Bookmaker William Hill makes FKA Twigs the favourite with LP1 after a rush of bets at the weekend, displacing Tempest, with Everybody Down.
Hill’s spokesman Rupert Adams said: “It has been one way traffic all week - all the money has been for FKA twigs, which is reminiscent of the gamble we saw in 2010 on The XX which ended up being one of our worst ever Mercury results.”
Past victors have included acts such as Arctic Monkeys, Elbow, double winner PJ Harvey and last year’s triumphant James Blake. Some have failed to capitalise on the exposure with 2009’s Speech Debelle only making it to number 65 with her winning album, and failing to chart with her follow-up.
The event is being televised by More4 from 9.30pm.
Calvi, who played in bands before taking centre stage as a solo performer, has now been nominated for for the Mercury for both her albums. She was previously up for the award in 2011.
The judges said: ”One Breath is a majestic display of Anna Calvi’s awesome power as a composer, singer and guitarist. Subtle, passionate and inspiring music.“
The north London-based band – made up of Jack Steadman, Jamie MacColl, Suren de Saram and Ed Nash – formed nine years ago and this fourth album became their first chart-topper, earlier this year.
The judges said: “Bombay Bicycle Club draw on an adventurous and intriguing variety of sounds, samples and situations to make music that is glowing and infectious.”
Albarn has figured in the shortlist repeatedly for his releases with Blur and Gorillaz (although asked for the latter to be withdrawn from the nominations one year), but Everyday Robots is the first solo release under his own name. It features contributions from musician and producer Brian Eno, as well as Natasha Khan from Bat for Lashes.
The judges said: “Damon Albarn is a master of melodic texture and songwriting. Everyday Robots is an album of immense reflective authority. Melancholic, wise, beautiful.”
East India Youth is the pseudonym of 23-year-old William Doyle, originally from Bournemouth. His debut album was self-produced and home-recorded and largely inspired by his time living in the East India Docks area of London.
The judges said: “Charming and continuously surprising adventures in DIY electronica. A gorgeous synthesis of experiment and emotion.”
FKA twigs is 26-year-old dancer turned singer-songwriter Tahliah Barnett, who was brought up in Gloucestershire but is now based in south London. Her debut album has seen her working with Adele’s collaborator Paul Epworth as well as Dev Hynes (who has recorded as Lightspeed Champion and Blood Orange).
The judges said: “An enthralling electro-pop record. Artful, restless and seductive.”
Manchester-based GoGo Penguin is made up of pianist Chris Illingworth, bassist Nick Blacka and drummer Rob Turner. V2.0 is the jazz act’s second album.
The judges said: “Innovative and fresh – a modern take on the piano trio. Breathtaking chords, driving rhythms, utterly captivating.”
West London school friends Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland – previously in indie band Born Blonde – front the electronic soul/funk act. Their self-produced debut album came out in July 2014.
The judges said: “A radiant celebration of the sounds of the city. Soulful, pristine and life-enhancing.”
Tempest is an acclaimed poet, playwright and novelist and the 27-year-old has also been rapping since her teens. Tracks on the album, which capture the details of modern life, also tie in with her novel The Bricks That Built The Houses.
The judges said: “Compelling and moving rap poetry. A London street tale of young love, loss and longing – a stunning match of musical and lyrical detail.”
Mulvey, who studied music in Havana, was previously shortlisted for the Mercury as a member of the jazz quartet Portico Quartet. For his debut folk-influenced solo release, he has returned to playing guitar.
The judges said: “A new and astonishingly gifted singer-songwriter. A delicate voice, intricate guitar playing, an ever shifting musical ambience.”
Jazz combo Polar Bear were previously nominated for the prize in 2005 and feature a line-up of musicians who appear in a number of other acts – Seb Rochford, Pete Wareham, Mark Lockheart, Tom Herbert and Leafcutter John. Their fifth album was produced by drummer Rochford.
The judges said: “Ethereal and urgent, poignant and uplifting. Hypnotic music from one of Britain’s finest instrumental bands.”
Brighton-based duo Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher conjure up a huge noise with just drums, vocals and a bass guitar playing lead riffs. Their debut album went to number one earlier this month.
The judges said: “A triumphant celebration of the primal power of rock. Intense and thrilling.”
The Edinburgh-based trio is made up of Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and G Hastings. They formed in 2008, clocked up appearances at numerous festivals and have been described as a “psychedelic hip hop boy band”.
The judges said: “A startlingly original take on hip-hop. Brimming with ideas, a potent mix of pop, rap, rhymes and rhythms. Ominous and exciting.”