Irish band Villagers face tough competition for Mercury Prize

Laura Mvula favourite among 12 finalists including Bowie and Arctic Monkeys

Dublin band Villagers have been nominated twice for the Mercury Prize. Photograph: Rich Gilligan

Dublin band Villagers have been nominated twice for the Mercury Prize. Photograph: Rich Gilligan


Dublin band Villagers face tough competition from soul singer Laura Mvula to claim the Mercury Prize,the Booker Prize of the music world, tonight .

Birmingham born Mvula is the bookmakers favourite to beat 12 other shortlisted acts including chart veteran David Bowie and previous winners Arctic Monkeys.

She is a 7/4 to win followed by electronic duo Disclosure, rockers Foals and Bowie who surprised fans by returning to music with his The Next Day album. Bookmaker William Hill has given Villagers outside odds at 50/1.

The 12-strong list for the event, formally known as the Barclaycard Mercury Prize, includes seven acts who have previously featured on the shortlist since the prize was launched in 1992.

Arctic Monkeys — who took the prize in 2006 — and singer-songwriter Laura Marling each make it on to the list for a third time, while Foals, James Blake and Villagers are among those who make their second appearance in the nominations list.

Bowie, who rarely plays live now, is the only one of the 12 shortlisted acts that will not perform at the event at the Roundhouse in north London. Instead, fans will see the video for his track Love Is Lost.

Bowie had withdrawn almost entirely from the public eye in recent years and had released no albums for a decade. But without warning earlier this year, he released the single Where Are We Now? and announced his comeback album, which was warmly received by fans and critics.

The list, which includes five debuts by the likes of 19-year-old Jake Bugg and Disclosure, was drawn from 220 albums submitted to the judging panel. The other first-timers are Mvula, Savages and Rudimental.

Villagers have been widely praised for their nominated album Awayland. The Mercury judging panel hailed it as “song writing at its most wilfully romantic – imaginative, inviting and musically adventurous”.

Villagers front man Conor O’Brien said last month of becoming the only Irish act to be nominated twice for the award: “We are surprised and honoured to be nominated for the Mercury Prize with Awayland ; we put a lot of love into this album and the attention that this will afford it is currently warming the cockles.”

Video: Villagers - Nothing Arrived

Video: Laura Mvula - Green Garden

Inclusion on the shortlist usually ensures an instant boost in sales for nominated artists, who hope to emulate last year’s winner Alt-J who triumphed with debut An Awesome Wave.

Other winners over the years have included Elbow, Klaxons and two-time winner PJ Harvey.

Electronica act Jon Hopkins was previously nominated for the Mercury for his collaboration with King Creosote, called Diamond Mine, but this is his first time in his own right.

The £20,000 (€23,000) prize is open to British and Irish acts and aims to reward the best album of the year.

Chairman of the judging panel Simon Frith said: ”This year’s Barclaycard Mercury Prize shortlist celebrates a fascinating year for British and Irish music, marked by a wonderful range of musical voices — urgent, reflective, upbeat and tender, acoustic and electronic, and all with something intriguing to say.”

The nominated artists and albums (with William Hill odds in brackets) are:

Laura Mvula (7/4)

Foals (4/1)

Disclosure (9/2)

David Bowie (13/2)

Laura Marling (10/1)

Jon Hopkins (16/1)

Arctic Monkeys (16/1)

Savages (16/1)

James Blake (25/1)

Jake Bugg (40/1)

Rudimental (40/1)

Villagers (50/1)