Sunday 19 November 2017

Villagers in the running for Mercury Prize

Mercury Prize Album of the Year nominee, Villagers, (aka Conor J. O'Brien), for his album 'Becoming A Jackal' ahead of the awards which will take place tomorrow night. Photo: PA
Mercury Prize Album of the Year nominee, Villagers, (aka Conor J. O'Brien), for his album 'Becoming A Jackal' ahead of the awards which will take place tomorrow night. Photo: PA

Irish band Villagers have been included in the shortlist for this year's Mercury Prize.

Dizzee Rascal and The xx have emerged as the bookies' favourites to land the award this year.

Bookmaker William Hill said the odds for shortlisted albums had "never been closer".

Here is an overview of the runners and riders (with Hill's odds in brackets):

Villagers - Becoming A Jackal (10/1)

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."

Dizzee Rascal - Tongue N' Cheek (4/1)

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."

The xx - xx (4/1)

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."

Paul Weller - Wake Up The Nation (6/1)

Having clocked up careers with The Jam and Style Council, Weller is now ten albums into his solo career and still going strong at the age of 52. He is by no means the oldest Mercury nominee with Robert Wyatt earning a place on the shortlist in 2003 with Cuckooland at the age of 58.

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

Corinne Bailey Rae - The Sea (6/1)

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."

Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can (6/1)

Two albums into her career, Marling has been 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 (6/1)

Debut release from the west London quartet which emerged 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 ten album has sold more than half a million copies.

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

Foals - Total Life Forever (8/1)

Oxford quintet Foals made the top ten 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."

Wild Beasts - Two Dancers (8/1)

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."

Biffy Clyro - Only Revolutions (8/1)

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."

Kit Downes Trio - Golden (10/1)

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."

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."

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