Stop The Presses!

Mercury Rising: Britain’s Mercury Music Prize Nominations Are Announced

Lyndsey Parker
Stop The Presses!

The shortlist of nominations for the Mercury Music Prize--Britain's most prestigious musical honor--were announced today, and there were a few surprises.

Here are the official 2008 contenders:

Adele - 19
British Sea Power - Do You Like Rock Music?
Burial - Untrue
Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid
Estelle - Shine
Laura Marling - Alas I Cannot Swim
Neon Neon - Stainless Style
Portico Quartet - Knee-Deep In The North Sea
Rachel Unthank & The Winterset - The Bairns
Radiohead - In Rainbows
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Raising Sand
The Last Shadow Puppets - The Age Of The Understatement

This may be the most obscure Mercury shortlist yet--and this is an honor that's been bestowed upon artists like Antony & The Johnsons and Gomez, mind you. It's a shocker that Coldplay didn't get nominated: All three of their past albums were shortlisted, and this year's Viva La Vida is their most critically acclaimed (read: Brian Eno-produced) release yet.

Maybe their huge iTunes success was a turnoff to voters in this very indie-leaning competition.

Many music fans, and probably many bookies as well, likely assumed that Kate Nash, Duffy, Portishead, and M.I.A. would be nominated too. Oh well.

Personally, I'm rooting for Elbow. Their fourth album, The Seldom Seen Kid, is the perennial underdog band's greatest artistic triumph (and is considered a comeback of sorts, after lackluster reviews for third album Leaders Of The Free World and the subsequent dissolution of their old record label, V2). And these melancholy Mancunians--who were Mercury-nominated in 2001 for their debut album, Asleep In The Back, but lost out to PJ Harvey--have had to deal with a lot of crap to get to this point in their rollercoaster career.

Here's an archive interview featuring three-fifths of Elbow discussing their many music-biz troubles:

But this is more than just a sympathy vote, here. The Seldom Seen Kid is a fine and deserving album.

Radiohead's In Rainbows also has a very strong chance, of course. They've been nominated three times before (for OK Computer, Amnesiac, and Hail To The Thief)--plus Thom Yorke was nominated for his solo album, The Eraser--and they have surprisingly never won. In Rainbows was such an indie landmark, too--self-released, made available online for free, etc.--that it to award it the Mercury Prize would be an important statement about the future of the increasingly digitally driven, DIY music business.

Plant & Krauss's Raising Sand has the power of two music legends behind it, but since the Mercury is supposed to go to a BRITISH artist, purists will protest if this album wins and Alison, an American, gets some of the Mercury glory. (Some people bitched when Antony & The Johnsons won, since some of Antony's backing Johnsons were Yanks.) And besides, if Raising Sand wins, that'll just encourage Robert to keep touring with Alison and postpone a full-fledged Led Zeppelin reunion tour indefinitely. And no one wants that.

Soul singer Adele has good shot--she snagged the Critics' Choice Brit Award this year before she even had an album out--but then again, her logical predecessor Amy Winehouse lost to the Klaxons last year.

And finally, the Last Shadow Puppets' album is a stellar debut, but since Shadow Puppet Alex's main band, the Arctic Monkeys, just won the Mercury in 2006, it's unlikely he'll get another trophy this soon.

So Elbow or Radiohead it is, then!

FYI, this year's Mercury winner will be announced at a ceremony in London on September 4. So stay tuned...

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