The XX, Paul Weller Lead Mercury Betting

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The xx on stage on Saturday at Lollapalooza 2010.

The XX are back as favorites to win the Barclaycard Mercury Prize in London tonight (Sept. 7) with their debut "XX" (Young Turks/XL Recordings). Their betting odds with bookmaker William Hill are evens.

The £20,000 ($31,000) prize goes to album of the year from a U.K. or Irish act, decided by a judging panel on the night.

Paul Weller's odds with William Hill were slashed dramatically from 10/1 to 1/10 following a flurry of betting over the weekend, making the Britrock veteran the favorite to win at one point yesterday (Sept. 6). His odds for "Wake Up The Nation" (Island) have now lengthened to 6/4 but that still makes him the second favorite, ahead of Wild Beasts (6/1), Foals (7/1), Laura Marling (8/1) and Mumford & Sons (12/1).

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William Hill said hundreds of bets were placed on Weller in various Birmingham betting shops over the weekend. He was previously nominated in 1994 for "Wild Wood" but lost out to M People who took the prize with "Elegant Slumming."

"We have a long history with the Mercury Prize, where the judging panel is beyond reproach," said William Hill's spokesman Rupert Adams. "We also know that the winner is not decided until Tuesday night, therefore 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."

Mumford & Sons' "Sigh No More" (Island) is the biggest seller on the list of nominees. The folk-rock act's debut has moved 633,000 according to the Official Charts Co and is currently at its peak position of No. 4 on the albums chart, following televised coverage on the BBC of its performance at Reading Festival.

However, its sales success may well prevent it winning, as the Mercury judges often reward albums that are perceived as having a niche audience, such as last year's winner Speech Debelle; alternatively they tend to choose a critically acclaimed album with sales potential. The XX falls into the latter category as it is still under 200,000 sales, having piled on many of those since the nominations in July.

Marcus Mumford conceded to NME that his band was not likely to win tonight. "How do I rate our chances? Nil or slim," he said. "We're just going to have a nice time."

The real outsiders for William Hill are former winner Dizzee Rascal and jazz act the Kit Downes Trio, both at 50/1. Villagers and I Am Kloot are at 16/1, Biffy Clyro has odds of 25/1 for their album "Only Revolutions" (14th Floor/Warner), which is currently the highest charting Mercury nominee. The Scottish rock act's set also benefited from their televised Reading performance and has risen to a new peak of No. 3.

Corinne Bailey Rae is at 40/1 for her well-regarded sophomore set "The Sea" (EMI).

The release period to be eligible for the 2010 prize was mid-July 2009 to mid-July 2010.

The ceremony takes place at the Grosvenor House Hotel and will feature performances from all artists. A 30-minute show including the announcement of the winner will be screened live on BBC Two.


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