Is there a breakout in this year's Mercury Prize lot?
The nominees for this year's Barclay Mercury Prize, a sought-after British award bestowed upon left-of-center releases, contains a number of already familiar names to music fans on these shores. The concise electronic romance of the xx, the reflective neo-soul of Corinne Bailey Rae and veteran rock 'n' roller Paul Weller are among the crop of finalists, which in 2009 went to the jazzy acoustic hip-hop of Speech Debelle.
Though the Mercury Prize takes a more expansive approach than most major U.S. awards, it's rarely simply a collection of unknowns. Past nominees have included the likes of Radiohead and Robert Plant, and this year singer/songwriter Laura Marling and rapper Dizzee Rascal make return appearances on the nominee list for their recent albums.
Fast-rising folk rockers Mumford & Sons scored a 2010 nomination, as did Sub Pop indie rockers Foals. Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro, vocally adventurous rock experimentalists Wild Beasts, jazz act the Kit Downes Trio and Manchester nap rockers I Am Kloot help round out the nominees.
Of the relatively unknown artists, worth keeping an eye on is Domino's the Villagers. Led by Conor J. O'Brien, the Irish act released its debut, "Becoming a Jackal," in the spring of this year, and it's an elegantly atmospheric effort, with spacious melodies, ghostly harmonies and dark poetics. The Villagers will be at Hollywood's Hotel Cafe next Tuesday (July 27), performing an early 8 p.m. set. Tickets are $14.50.
Other recent winners have included Elbow, the Klaxons, the Arctic Monkeys and Antony and the Johnsons. Winning the award doesn't necessarily foretell industry success, though, and some of the bigger overseas breakouts in recent years, including La Roux and Amy Winehouse were runner-ups. The Mercury Prize is a cash award chosen by a panel of U.K. industry professionals.
-- Todd Martens
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