Mercury Prize 2010: the nominees

The 2010 Mercury Prize which will be unveiled on 7 September. Here is a look at the 12 contenders for the £20,000 honour.

Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can

Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can
  • Highest chart position: 4

Twenty-year-old Laura Marling is already a Mercury Prize veteran. Her debut album Alas, I Cannot Swim was nominated in 2008.

Her second album I Speak Because I Can, was released to waves of approval on 22 March this year, landing straight in the top five at number four.

Critics praised the "collection of literary and emotional songs to have you whooping with joy or fighting off tears".

The album, which includes the singles Goodbye England, Devil's Spoke and Rambling Man.

The track What He Wrote was inspired by letters from a wife to her husband in the Second World War.

Read more about Laura Marling

The XX - xx

The XX - xx
  • Highest chart position: 31

The London-based three-piece formed in 2005 and released their debut album xx in August last year.

It made number two on the NME's best of the year chart and was praised by The Observer for "a lightness of touch at play that gives the XX a sophistication beyond their years".

The album's intro track was used by the BBC as the soundtrack to its 2010 election coverage - and the band performed it live on Newsnight.

The XX were selected by The Simpsons' creator Matt Groening to headline the All Tomorrow's Parties festival in Minehead, England.

Read more about The XX

Paul Weller - Wake Up The Nation

Paul Weller - Wake Up The Nation
  • Highest chart position: 2

A singer-songwriter with a longstanding musical pedigree, from post-punk outfit The Jam to the more soulful successor The Style Council.

The 52-year-old went on to become a successful solo artist, winning the Brit Award for best male last year.

He is shortlisted for the first time in 16 years for his 10th studio album, Wake Up The Nation.

Weller recently revealed that his all-time favourite album is Odyssey and Oracle by The Zombies.

Read more about Paul Weller

Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More

Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More
  • Highest chart position: 6

The London-based folk-rock quartet have won a following for their hearty, country-tinged anthems.

Formed in 2007, the multi-instrumental band emerged with the likes of Noah and the Whale and Laura Marling, for whom they often played as a support act.

Their debut album was released in October last year, making number seven in the chart and spawning two top 40 singles including Little Lion Man.

They have also made their mark in the US, appearing on Letterman's Late Show.

Read more about Mumford & Sons

Wild Beasts - Two Dancers

Wild Beasts - Two Dancers
  • Highest chart position: 68

Indie rock band Wild Beasts formed in Kendal, Cumbria in 2002 while they were still at school, and released their debut record four years later.

Two Dancers - their second album - has been critically well-received and led the foursome to embark upon extensive tours around the globe.

The band said their high point to date was playing between inspirations Thom York and Nick Cave at Latitude.

This eccentric indie outfit are lauded for their quirky lyrics and style.

Read more about Wild Beasts

Dizzee Rascal - Tongue n' Cheek

Dizzee Rascal - Tongue n' Cheek
  • Highest chart position: 3

It has been seven years since Dizzee Rascal's debut album Boy in Da Corner took the UK's music press by storm, introducing the wider world to Grime and scooping him the 2003 prize.

Dizzee, real name Dylan Mills, was nominated again in 2007 for his album Maths + English but lost out to The Klaxons.

His latest effort Tongue n' Cheek showcases a much more mainstream artist, clearly as comfortable recording pure pop chart hits like Dance Wiv Me and Holiday as he is playing in front of a festival audience.

It is also the best-selling record of Dizzee's career, shifting more than 300,000 units in the UK.

Read more about Dizzee Rascal

I Am Kloot - Sky At Night

I Am Kloot - Sky At Night
  • Highest chart position: 24

Sky At Night is the fifth studio album from the Manchester band.

The record has been produced by Mercury-winning Elbow frontman Guy Garvey - who produced the band's 2001 debut album Natural History - and bandmate Craig Potter.

Praised for his vibrant poetic lyrics, frontman John Bramwell was once a presenter on Granada Television and helped launch the career of Caroline Aherne's character Mrs Merton.

The album was praise for being "an elegant, brooding mix of barfly melancholy, cosmic inflection and self-deprecating regret".

Read BBC Music's review of Sky At Night

Kit Downes Trio - Golden

Kit Downes Trio - Golden
  • Highest chart position: n/a

Pianist Kit Downes, who hails from Norwich, plays acoustic jazz on this album alongside bassist Calum Gourlay and drummer James Maddren.

Classically-trained Downes won the rising star award at the BBC Jazz Awards in 2008 and has played with a number of musical outfits.

He cites influences as wide-ranging as Hungarian composer Bela Bartok to torch singer Rufus Wainwright.

Downes was called a "patient, choosy storyteller" by The Guardian.

Read more about Kit Downes

Foals - Total Life Forever

Foals - Total Life Forever
  • Highest chart position: 8

Oxford math-rockers Foals released Total Life Forever, the follow-up to the band's acclaimed 2008 debut Antidotes.

The cerebral title track is taken from the writings of American futurist Raymond Kurzweil - whose vision of the future sees humanity replaced by Artificial Intelligence.

The spiky, angular guitars of the first album gave way to a much richer sound, particularly on songs like Spanish Sahara.

In its review, the NME said the album is "so all over the place that only the most devoted won't find it initially maddening. But throughout is a braveness and naive sense of wonder."

Read more about Foals

Corinne Bailey Rae - The Sea

Corrine Bailey Rae - The Sea
  • Highest chart position: 5

Four years after she rose to prominence, soul singer Corinne Bailey Rae's second album has earned her first Mercury nomination.

The Sea reflects the Leeds chanteuse's recovery and re-emergence following the death of her husband in 2008.

Musically, it is more lustrous and complex than her self-titled debut, which earned three Grammy nominations. But there are fewer singlalong singles.

The Observer hailed it for its moments of "rare emotional eloquence".

Read more about Corinne Bailey Rae

Biffy Clyro - Only Revolutions

Biffy Clyro - Only Revolutions
  • Highest chart position: 8

The Ayrshire rock band, founded in 1995 by frontman Simon Neil when he was 15, have enjoyed a slow-burning success.

It was only with the release of their fourth album, Puzzle, in 2007, that the major chart plaudits came their way.

The trio are known for their intricate guitar riffs, unusual song structures, strong live performances and grisly rock looks.

The Observer said their album, named after a US conceptual novel, "could well be Biffy's finest hour".

Read more about Biffy Clyro

Villagers - Becoming A Jackal

Villagers - Becoming A Jackal
  • Highest chart position: 85

Villagers is Dublin singer-songwriter Conor J O'Brien, whose debut album was praised by NME for its "depth, sincerity and beauty in abundance".

With Rufus Wainwright and Robert Wyatt as influences, his skewed sensitivity has earned word-of-mouth acclaim.

"Everyone's got a crazy universe inside their heads. I just put it into songs," he says.

The album has been released by Domino Records, home of former Mercury winners the Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand.

Read BBC Music's review of Becoming A Jackal

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