British urban artist Plan B and Sheffield-based singer-songwriter Richard Hawley, a onetime member of Britpop band Pulp, lead the betting for this year's Barclaycard Mercury Prize for Album of the Year.
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Plan B's highly acclaimed third studio set Ill Manors (679/Atlantic Records) and Hawley's seventh solo record Standing At The Sky's Edge (Parlophone/EMI) are both 4/1 favorites to take the prestigious prize, according to bookmaker William Hill. They are closely followed by indie band Django Django's self-titled debut album (Because Music) and An Awesome Wave (Infectious Music), the debut album from alt-indie quartet Alt-J, which are both 5/1.
Other nominees include: Home Again, the studio debut from Polydor Records-signed soul singer Michael Kiwanuka; Devotion (Island Records/PMR) by London dance artist Jessie Ware; Every Kingdom by singer-songwriter Ben Howard, and Plumb, the fourth studio album from Sunderland-based rock act Field Music, which is made up of brothers Peter and David Brewis.
"The whole point of the Mercury Prize is a real nod to good albums so I feel so happy to be a part of the shortlist," a delighted Jessie Ware told Billboard.biz following her nomination, which she said left her feeling "pleased, surprised and ecstatic."
"Hopefully more people will find out about me on the back of it," she went onto say, adding that her motivation when making her dance-infused debut album Devotion was to "make something that I would love in ten years and still be proud of and that my family could be proud of."
The 12 finalists are rounded out by Lianne La Havas' Is Your Love Big Enough (Warner Bros. Records), The Maccabees' Given To The Wild (Fiction Records), U.K. jazz band Roller Trio's self-titled debut album and folk singer Sam Lee's debut Ground of its Own (The Nest Collective Records).
"The high for me was releasing the album, but this is up there," nominee Michael Kiwanuka told Billboard.biz. "You always have in the back of your mind that would be cool if you get recognized. But you can't concentrate on any of those things. You've got to just keep playing and doing your music and the rest is just a bonus."
The 12 finalists, which were chosen from an entry of over 250 albums, were announced earlier today by BBC TV and radio presenter Lauren Laverne at London's The Hospital Club. For the first time, the nominations launch is to be broadcast on British television with the event, which featured live performances from first-time nominees Michael Kiwanuka and Jesse Ware, due to be broadcast at 12.10am GMT.
The winner of last year's Mercury Prize was PJ Harvey's Let England Shake (Island), which consequently enjoyed a large spike in sales. This year's awards ceremony is due to take place November 1 at London's Roundhouse venue.
"This year's Barclaycard Mercury Prize shortlist showcases a wonderful variety of musical voices, emotions and ambitions," said Simon Frith, chair of judges, in a statement. "The sheer range of music here celebrates the abiding ability of British musicians to find new ways to explore traditional themes of love and loss while making an exhilarating soundtrack for 2012," he went on to say.
The 12 Barclaycard Mercury Prize finalists are:
Plan B -- Ill Manors (679/Atlantic Records)
Richard Hawley -- Standing At The Sky's Edge (Parlophone/EMI)
The Maccabees' -- Given To The Wild (Fiction Records),
Field Music Plumb -- (Memphis Industries)
Lianne La Havas -- Is Your Love Big Enough? (Warner Bros. Records)
Jessie Ware -- Devotion (Island Records/PMR)
Alt-J -- An Awesome Wave (Infectious Music)
Roller Trio -- Roller Trio (F-IRE Presents)
Michael Kiwanuka -- Home Again (Polydor Records)
Sam Lee -- Ground of its Own (The Nest Collective Records)
Django Django -- Django Django (Because Music)
Ben Howard -- Every Kingdom (Island Records)