Guide to the Mercury Music Prize 2011

This year's Mercury nominees include Elbow, Adele, PJ Harvey and Tinie Tempah.
This year's Mercury nominees include Elbow, Adele, PJ Harvey and Tinie Tempah.

Reporter Andrew Trendell guides us through this year’s Mercury nominees, the bookie’s odds and which album seems most likely to be adorning millions of coffee tables come Wednesday morning.

Album: Anna Calvi by Anna Calvi

William Hill’s odds: 7/1

Key tracks: Desire, Suzanne and I, Love Won’t Be Leaving

Our verdict: With the ethereal guitar-mastery that channels the soul of Jeff Buckley, tribal pounding drums and a voice that wanders between a tender whisper and a mighty croon, Calvi’s sound is relentlessly arresting. There’s a lot of girl power and the shortlist and she’s often hailed as the young PJ Harvey, so how she fares should prove interesting.

Rating: 9/10

Buy it anyway? Hell yes.

Album: James Blake by James Blake

William Hill’s odds: 5/1

Key tracks: The Willhelm Scream, I Never Learnt To Share, Why Don’t You Call Me

Our verdict: An otherworldly blend of haunting melancholic melodies, trip-hop sensibilities and an unnerving dub-step backing, James Blake’s enigmatic eponymous debut is artful, idiosyncratic and heartfelt, so it should have Mercury written all over it, yes? No, sadly it’s a bit too close to the sonic territory of last year’s winners the XX to take home any silverware.

Rating: 7/10

Buy it anyway? You might as well, for a rainy day.

Album: Let England Shake by PJ Harvey

William Hill’s odds: 6/4

Key tracks: The Last Living Rose, The Words That Maketh Murder, The Glorious Land.

Our verdict: Renowned for her rocky, bluesy sound and sultry persona, our Polly Jean shocked the world when she returned clad in purest white with an album of war songs and ditties of a lost England, all sung in the most angelic tones. In short, it sounds like an album by a completely new and fresh talent, and it’s excellent. Unfortunately, no one has ever won the prize twice.

Rating: 8/10

Buy it anyway? Oh yes

Album: Build A Rocket Boys by Elbow

William Hill’s odds: 33/1

Key tracks: Lippy Kids, With Love, Open Arms

Our verdict: Littered with eclectic musical flourishes, based on atmospheric and heart-wrenching reflection on adolescence and drenched in Garvey’s unmistakable romantic translation of the day-to-day, Build A Rocket Boys is an album that’s as ambitious and star-gazing as its title suggests. But their last win is still too fresh in our memories for them to take the prize again. Rating: 9/10 Buy it anyway? Yes,

Album: 21 by Adele

William Hill’s odds: 6/1

Key tracks: Rolling In The Deep, Someone Like You, Set Fire To The Rain

Our verdict: Being launched into stardom at the tender age of 19 with her début, Adele returned this year to achieve hyper-mega-stardom. How has she done it? With a juggernaut set of lungs and a wisdom beyond her years. Will she win? No, what would she gain from it? Every man, child and probably fish already has a copy.

Rating: 7/10

Buy it anyway? Everbody already has haven’t they?

Album: Peanut Butter Blues And Melancholy Jam by Ghostpoet

William Hill’s odds: 8/1

Key tracks: Survive It, Liiines, Carry Me Home

Our verdict: Those odds may surprise you, but don’t underestimate this underground talent. His sleepy lo-fi sound is more on the urban side of trip-hop and is a bit reminiscent of Tricky. His chilled out and articulate street poetry is a refreshing take on the grime scene. Imagine if Dizzee Rascal and Roots Manuva were sleep walking underwater. It’s like that, but with a conscious ambition and awareness flowing throughout.

Rating: 7.5/10

Buy it anyway? Yes, it sounds good and will improve your street cred

Album: Good Days At Schloss Elmau by Gwilym Simcock

William Hill’s odds: 50/1

Key tracks: Mezzotint, Northern Smiles, These Are The Good Days

Our verdict: It’s the jazz one. Every year the Mercury’s have to shortlist a jazz one for some reason. And jazz never wins. This one’s quite nice though. That pianist has some clever fingers.

Rating: 6/10

Buy it anyway? Only if you’re: a) holding a middle-aged dinner party and don’t want anything to distract from the conversation, b) in need some fresh ‘on call’ music for the office phoneline, c) a dentist with a silent waiting room.

Album: Man Alive by Everything Everything

William Hill’s odds: 16/1

Key tracks: Schoolin’, Photoshop Handsome, MY KZ UR BF

Our verdict: Now here’s a gust of fresh air into a stale scene of formulaic indie. With a blend of angular frenetic guitarwork and blissful synth, Man Alive finds itself somewhere between Bloc Party and Super Furry Animals. There are far more original and exciting albums on the list, but the ambition they’ve stamped all over this suggests their best is yet to come.

Rating: 7/10

Buy it anyway? Aye, it’s a bit of fun.

Album: On A Mission by Katy B

William Hill’s odds: 16/1

Key tracks: Katy On A Mission, Lights, Broken Record

Our verdict: If you’ve been sat within earshot of the kidz at the back on a bus recently then you’re probably quite well-accompanied with Katy B. But don’t be misled – Katy B successfully avoids all fake X Factory gimmickry with her album of hook-laden and well-crafted dance pop. There’s some substance with her style, but she’s probably too mainstream and chart-friendly for the Mercury judges.

Rating: 6.5/10

Buy it anyway? If only for the kids.

Album: Diamond Mine by King Creosote and Jon Hopkins

William Hill’s odds: 20/1

Key tracks: John Taylor’s Month Away, Running On Fumes, Bubble

Our verdict: Every year needs the textbook obscure folk entry. But don’t dismiss this one. With it’s sparse folk-tinged soundscapes and romantic, whiskey-drenched tales of a time gone by, this is hidden gem is a simple and understated work of beauty.

Rating: 7/10

Buy it anyway? Yes, especially if you live on a boat.

Album: Disc-overy by Tinie Tempah

William Hill’s odds: 40/1

Key tracks: Pass Out, Frisky, Written In The Stars

Our verdict: Put the cringe-worthy title and a handful of hip-hop clichés aside and what you’re left with a debut brimming with talent, promise and, above all, swagger. With guest spots from Labyrinth and Ellie Goulding, it’s good, infectious synth and beat-driven pop without being abrasive. Sadly, it breaks no new ground so it probably won’t take home the gong.

Rating: 8/10

Buy it anyway? Yes, it’s good for a pre-night out.

Album: The English Riveria by Metronomy

William Hill’s odds: 7/1

Our verdict: Them odds ain’t bad, and neither is this work of whimsical indie dance-pop. This is an undeniably infectious burst of tropical sunshine, as if the Klaxons were more into Wham and sunbathing.

Rating: 8/10

Buy it anyway? Yes, long live summer