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The Mercury Prize 2016 shortlist

Meet the contenders for the biggest album award in British music

By James Manning

The Mercury Prize is one of the biggest awards in British music. Judged by musicians, critics and music industry bigwigs, it’s given for the best album made by a British or Irish artist in the last year. Previous winners include PJ Harvey (twice), Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand and Pulp. This year’s prize will be awarded at the Hammersmith Apollo on September 15 2016, with judges including Jarvis Cocker, Kate Tempest and Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell – and for the first time there’s a public vote as part of the process too, to help narrow down the shortlist to six before the judges choose the winner. Here are the 12 nominees this year.

Mercury Prize: the 2016 shortlist

David Bowie

David Bowie – ‘Blackstar’

Bowie’s farewell opus was never not going to make the shortlist, but that doesn’t mean it’s a sentimental choice – it’s certainly the best LP he’s released in the Mercury era, and a major contender for overall winner.

RECOMMENDED: David Bowie: from Brixton to ‘Blackstar’

Vicky Grout

Skepta – ‘Konnichiwa’

Of course he’s on there. It would have been a crime to keep the king of grime off the list in the year of his incredible comeback album, which hooked in major US stars and London scene stalwarts alike.

RECOMMENDED: Skepta: ‘I’m not a rapper, I’m an activist’


Anohni – ‘Hopelessness’

Anohni is a previous winner with Antony And The Johnsons, but this raging new album is surely the greatest record ever recorded by this unique talent.

Bat For Lashes

Bat For Lashes – ‘The Bride’

The ever-brilliant Natasha Khan is nominated for her dreamy concept album about a bride whose groom dies on the way to their wedding. It’s her third Mercury nomination.

Kano interview

Kano – ‘Made in the Manor’

The east London grime MC made a deep and forceful return earlier this year, but can he stand up to the might of Skepta, who’s also on this year’s Mercury shortlist?

RECOMMENDED: Kano on ‘Top Boy’, Drake and Y-fronts

The Comet Is Coming
Fabrice Bourgelle

The Comet Is Coming – ‘Channel the Spirits’

London sax hero Shabaka Hutchings gets a well-earned nomination for his band’s freaky space-jazz odyssey. Give it a listen before you start chatting about tokenism.

Jamie Woon

Jamie Woon – ‘Making Time’

The digital funk smoothie from Wimbledon took four years to follow his widely loved debut album ‘Mirrorwriting’, but it looks like his pains have paid off.

The 1975

The 1975 – ‘I Love It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It’

Matt Healy’s Manchester pop-rockers have broken a record here for the Mercury-shortlisted album with the longest title. They don’t really need the prize, but they could well smash the fan vote element with their massive following.

Laura Mvula

Laura Mvula – ‘The Dreaming Room’

Birmingham’s answer to Nina Simone gets her second Mercury nomination on the trot for another accomplished record of eclectic soul music.

Michael Kiwanuka, music

Michael Kiwanuka – ‘Love & Hate’

The easygoing soul strummer also picks up a second consecutive nomination for his long-awaited second album ‘Love & Hate’.

Savages interview
Rob Greig

Savages – ‘Adore Life’

With its moments of fury and rage as well as turns for the elegiac, the second album by the London four-piece also represents their second well-deserved Mercury nomination.

RECOMMENDED: Savages: seriously good


Radiohead – ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’

With a fifth nomination (‘OK Computer’, ‘Amnesiac’, ‘Hail to the Thief’ and ‘In Rainbows’ all got the nod), Thom and co are now the most shortlisted band in Mercury history. Their new album is a great way to break that record: a wonderfully cohesive LP with actual, proper songs and all. This could turn out to be the first time this great British band have actually taken the Mercury home.

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