Blur frontman and fresh faces in Mercury shortlist
Blur frontman Damon Albarn joined a diverse and obscure array of up-and-coming artists as the Mercury Prize on Wednesday announced an eclectic shortlist for best British or Irish album.
Albarn was by far the most recognisable name among the nominees for best album with his debut solo work "Everyday Robots", which marks a departure from his trademark Britpop sound and features more personal ruminations on technology and loneliness.
But the nominees for the award, which will be announced on October 30, were largely more obscure artists, with indie rockers the Bombay Bicycle Club the only other big name.
Judge chair Simon Firth said that the nominations show the "fascinating times" for British music.
"What most impressed the judges was the inventive passion with which musicians explore music and emotional possibilities, refusing to be pinned down by rules or genre," Firth said.
Rising stars in contention include Anna Calvi, known for her intensely charged guitar and soaring vocals, for her second album "One Breath". Calvi was also nominated for a Mercury for her self-titled debut in 2011 and served on the jury the next year.
Another repeat nominee was Polar Bear, the jazz band which takes an experimental direction by bringing in electronic elements.
The poet Kate Tempest was nominated for "Everybody Down", in which she turns to rap in her thick south London accent, with each song linking to a chapter in her upcoming novel.
FKA twigs, an accomplished dancer who merges her R&B singing with trip-hop, was nominated for her first album "LP1", while East India Youth received the nod for his home-recorded debut "Total Strife Forever", in which he sets his minimalist vocals to keyboards that sometimes take on the aura of organs.
Other nominees were the psychedelic-influenced funksters Jungle, jazz trio GoGo Penguin, Cuban-trained singer Nick Mulvey, rockers Royal Blood, and Young Fathers, an experimental hip-hop trio with African roots from Scotland.
The relatively obscure nominee list came after past criticism that the Mercury has endeared itself to mainstream artists.
Albarn was involved in one of the biggest spats over the Mercury in 2001 when his light-hearted virtual cartoon band Gorillaz asked to be taken out of the nominations, saying the award would be like a "dead albatross" around their necks.
Albarn did not seem upset at the recognition of his more intimate solo work, with his Twitter and Facebook pages both making note of the nomination.
© 2014 AFP