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Bat for Lashes illustration by Twiblodwyn


Every year, the Mercury Prize awards a grant to the creator of – in the Mercury panel’s opinion – the act behind the best British album of the last twelve months.

Past winners have ranged from inspired (Dizzee Rascal’s Boy in Da Corner in 2003, Portishead’s Dummy in 1995) to bizarre (everyone’s still baffled by Speech Debelle taking home the prize in 2009 including, we presume, Speech Debelle), but the event remains one of the biggest talking points on the British music calendar. The nominations for this year’s prize will be announced this Wednesday, September 11, and across the following 30 pages we’ve ran down a selection of acts that we think (and let’s face it, in some cases merely hope) will be in with a shot.

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Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus

With an Olympic appearance under their belt, noise duo Fuck Buttons have the solid catalogue and pedigree to make them a reasonable outsider choice. New album Slow Focus might be their most well realised effort to date, and denting the cacophony of their previous full-lengths, might have a shot at winning over swing voters not well-versed in the world of power electronics.

FACT’s review

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Disclosure – Settle

About an obvious a dance music shout as there’s likely to be for 2013, the brothers’ debut album Settle raced to number one in the UK charts, with as much acclaim coming from their UK garage heroes (Todd Edwards, Zed Bias) as their legion of young fans.

FACT’s review

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Snow Ghosts – A Small Murmuration

A long shot if ever there was one, Ross ‘Throwing Snow’ Tones and Hannah Cartwright’s A Small Murmuration has regardless been picking up support in strange places – even Big Brother spectre Dermot O’Leary appears to be a fan.

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Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest

One of the U.K.’s most high profile cult exports, we’re a little surprised that the pair haven’t been up for a nomination, before given the success of their breakout Music Has The Right To Children. Tomorrow’s Harvest is far from their finest effort, but often a serviceable record with the right amount of guilt that the committee avoided prior classics (Geogaddi is another notable omission) is all you need.

FACT’s review

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Forest Swords – Engravings

The Wirral’s answer to both Burial and Ennio Morricone, Forest Swords might be an off-kilter pick, but his stock’s been rising recently, thanks in part to his really rather good debut full-length Engravings. With a sideline in rap production and a sound that’s well and truly his own, Matthew Barnes is certainly this year’s critical darling, and it’s not unusual for that to translate into a nomination.

FACT’s review

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London Grammar – If You Wait

We’re not quite sure how, but in less than a year’s time London Grammar have gone from a group best known for appearing on Disclosure’s Settle to being favourites for this year’s Mercury – according to bookies Paddy Power, anyway. The music hype machine builds and breaks acts quicker than it ever has, but even in today’s accelerated climate a win for If You Wait would be an impressive feat.

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Savages – Silence Yourself

For many rock fans Savages mark the key breakout act of the last 12 months, with their debut album Silence Yourself breaking the UK top 20. They’ve already been nominated for the BBC Sound of 2013 poll, and although for many Factory Floor peddle a superior brand of post-punk, Savages seem the more likely of the two for a Mercury nod.

FACT’s review

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James Blake – Overgrown

He might still be the butt of many an in-joke (remember those alternative covers? We do) but James Blake has gone from strength to strength in 2013, with things coming to a head only this week thanks to the announcement of a collaboration with none other than Canadian rap superstar Drake. You know who else collaborated with Drake? Jamie xx – need we say more?

FACT’s review

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Atoms for Peace – AMOK

It’s Thom Yorke. He’s been nominated four times with Radiohead and once for solo album The Eraser, but has never taken home the prize. Will this be his year? Probably not, but another notch on the nomination bedpost would surprise nobody.

FACT’s review

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Jon Hopkins – Immunity

Budging from the pastoral electronica of his well-received 2009 debut album Insides to embrace a dancefloor focus on this year’s Immunity, Hopkins has proven equally adept at both styles. It shouldn’t come as a surprise as his resume is looking pretty tidy at this point (Coldplay and Brian Eno? Done), and his deeply cinematic compositions have the kind of wide appeal that tends to win over panels easily. Hopkins’ 2011 collaboration with King Creosote was nominated, so maybe 2013 will be his year?

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Factory Floor – Factory Floor

See Savages; lengthen the odds.

FACT’s review

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These New Puritans – Field of Reeds

The Essex group’s latest album Field of Reeds marks not only their most ambitious yet, it’s also their best. Angular post-punks go experimental neo-classical, employ a supporting cast of enough musicians to fill a small town (including an entire children’s choir) and make their masterpiece? Sounds like catnip to the Mercury panel.

FACT’s review

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The xx – Coexist

London sad-pop types the xx have not only been nominated before, they won the prize for their outstanding ’09 debut xx. For many listeners last year’s Coexist was even stronger, and it’s hard to debate their impact on the wider pop sound (it’s no accident that they were picked up by Rihanna’s team for her ‘Drunk on Love’) so we reckon this could at least be worth a self-congratulatory nod.

FACT’s review

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Rudimental – Home

Its been well-publicised that the UK mainstream is moving to dance music with more passion than it has in a long time, and although Disclosure’s Settle is the more obvious choice, we wouldn’t rule out a Mercury nod for Rudimental’s chart-topping debut album Home. After all, we’ve seen the prize go to an East London pirate radio regular before.

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James Holden – The Inheritors 

James Holden is rapidly becoming a national treasure at this point, and has been hard at it since the ripe old age of 19. Since then he’s tackled trance, techno and more recently a gorgeously diverse, far harder to place sound on exemplary 2013 full-length The Inheritors. Sadly if, as he claimed in ’06, The Idiots Are Winning, Holden might not be in with a chance – he does have a maths degree from Oxford after all.

FACT’s review

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Hurts – Exile

From the story of how they formed to those fucking jackets, everything about Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson’s musical partnership seems so meticulously managed that it, well, hurts. A Mercury nomination for album number three, Exile, would simply see things go according to plan.

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Pet Shop Boys – Electric

What can you say about electronic music veterans Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe that hasn’t been said before? Well unbelievably, after three decades of music and umpteen full-lengths, Electric is pretty darn good, and if you ask us has a pretty solid shot at a nomination. We all know how much the Mercury lot likes to congratulate the old guard, and for once those congratulations would be very much in order.

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Everything Everything – Arc

It might not be for everyone (everyone), but the Manchester-based group’s second album Arc has been tipped for a Mercury since its release in January, and we’d be surprised if their style – electronic-leaning and structurally ambitious, but traditional enough to still appeal to a pop panel – didn’t tick all the boxes required for a nomination this year.

FACT’s review

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My Bloody Valentine – m b v

So 2013 has been the year of the comeback, but few comebacks have been quite so eagerly awaited as My Bloody Valentine’s. The group might have been touring again for a few years now, but that’s hardly the point, we’d been waiting so long for the rumoured follow-up to 1991’s peerless shoegaze classic Loveless that it had become, well, kind of a joke. 22 years later and it finally arrives, and what’s more it’s pretty darned good. If that isn’t worth a nod, we don’t know what is.

FACT’s review

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Foals – Holy Fire

FACT’s John Calvert didn’t consider Foals’ third album a patch on 2010’s Total Life Forever, but then he’s not on the panel. Trust us, the awards would get a whole lot more entertaining if he was.

FACT’s review

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AlunaGeorge – Body Music

AlunaGeorge’s blend of rounded-off underground dance tropes and baby voiced vocals might not be for everyone, but there’s no denying their casual appeal. Just about leftfield enough for the board to think they’re making a risqué choice, they’re the kind of act that can scoop the prize simply because they tick a lot of boxes and don’t do anything wrong, per se.

FACT’s review

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Suede – Bloodsports

Let’s be honest, Suede have been crap since the mid-90s, which makes their 2013 comeback Bloodsports all the more astonishing. While it doesn’t quite reach the lurid post-Smiths brilliance of the band’s Mercury winning debut, it’s easily the year’s most unexpected return to form.

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Bat for Lashes – The Haunted Man

Natasha Khan is about as Mercury-friendly as acts come, and after failing to win with past nominations for Two Suns and Fur and Gold, it could be third time lucky for the London-born singer.

FACT’s review

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Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle

See Bat for Lashes; shorten the odds.

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David Bowie – The Next Day

His first album in ten years, The Next Day was not only a comeback for Bowie, but has proved to be the thin white duke’s most acclaimed album since the ’80s. We’re all aware what an impact he had on the musical landscape in the ’60s and ’70s, but the fact that he can still cause such a stir at the ripe old age of 66 is dumbfounding, and in our opinion well worthy of celebrating.

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Mala – Mala in Cuba

There’s often one token pick on the Mercury shortlist (stand up Led Bip), and although the debut album by one of dubstep’s all-time greats shouldn’t be reduced to a token nod, we all know it’s the Gilles Peterson / Cuba factor that will appeal to the judging panel.

FACT’s review

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Mount Kimbie – Cold Spring Fault Less Youth

Mount Kimbie have proven to be unlikely representatives of London’s floundering ‘post dubstep’ scene, but since inking a deal with Warp and exploring wonky pop on Cold Spring Fault Less Youth there’s a sense that their fan base is rapidly expanding. Skating the line of weird and listenable, the duo’s output is just the kind of blend Mercury has appeared receptive to in the past and their association with King Krule (another likely candidate for nomination) can’t hurt either.

FACT’s review

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King Krule – 6 Feet Beneath the Moon

Love him or hate him, it’s hard to deny that King Krule has the right team on the case. The singer/songwriter has been everywhere this year, and certainly in just the right kind of places that would almost guarantee a nomination. Slight urban appeal? Check. Actual songs that normal people can relate to? Check. Indie behemoths behind him pulling the strings? Check. Consider it a done deal.

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Zomby – With Love

This is FACT; you should probably know that we’d struggle to put together a list without enigmatic prankster Zomby somewhere on it. It’s not a massive stretch to assume that the shadowy producer’s recent With Love would make it to the Mercury shortlist either – it’s his most ambitious to date, and Zomby could realistically inhabit the same zone Burial did back in ’09. One thing we can be sure of is that if he was nominated, he’d be the bookie’s favourite for a no-show at the awards.

FACT’s review

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Arctic Monkeys – AM

Acts don’t tend to take home the Mercury twice – PJ Harvey’s the only one in history to do so, in fact – but 2006’s winners wound up with a second nomination for 2007’s Favourite Worst Nightmare, and we’d expect them to round up at least a couple more before they call it a day.

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