Eight of the twelve nominated albums are debuts, but it is East London rapper Plan B’s third album and Sheffield singer Richard Hawley’s sixth that are the favourites to win this year’s Mercury Prize, according to bookmakers William Hill. Brighton-based band The Maccabees and Peter and David Brewis, the Sunderland brothers that make up Field Music, are the only other veterans to have albums included on this year’s shortlist.
Also nominated are indie favourites Alt-J, psychedelic quartet Django Django and the rather more pop-friendly Jessie Ware, as well as folk singer Sam Lee and a band that Radio 6 Music DJ Gilles Peterson has called the "new sound of UK jazz", Roller Trio. Acoustic singer-songwriters Ben Howard, Lianne La Havas and the lesser-known Michael Kiwanuka round off the shortlist, a nod to a year that has seen the arrival and subsequent flourishing of many talented new solo artists. Speculations that Kate Bush’s 50 Words for Snow or the comeback album from Dexys, One Day I’m Going To Soar, would be nominated were proven to be unfounded, to the disappointment of a few - but for a prize that has always attempted to push emerging artists over old favourites, it is hardly surprising. Cambridge-based Alt-J would be my pick to win with their gorgeous, unique strain of ‘folk-step’, but Plan B is probably the safest bet. Then again, when Richard Hawley lost out to the Arctic Monkeys in 2006, Alex Turner famously exclaimed that the singer had been "robbed". Perhaps Hawley will manage to scoop the 2012 prize with this second attempt.
The 2012 Albums of the Year (with odds from William Hill) are:
Alt-J – An Awesome Wave 5/1
Ben Howard – Every Kingdom 8/1
Django Django – Django Django 5/1
Field Music – Plumb 10/1
Jessie Ware – Devotion 7/1
Lianne La Havas – Is Your Love Big Enough? 8/1
Michael Kiwanuka – Home Again 8/1
Plan B – Ill Manors 4/1
Richard Hawley – Standing at the Sky’s Edge 4/1
Roller Trio – Roller Trio 10/1
Sam Lee – Ground Of Its Own 10/1
The Maccabees – Given To The Wild 7/1