Entertainment & Arts

Mercury Prize 2014: The nominees

Edinburgh-based hip-hop trio Young Fathers have won this year's £20,000 Barclaycard Mercury Prize.

Announced on 29 October, the prize was judged by a panel of 12 critics, DJs, musicians and other industry figures who often use the shortlist to champion left-field choices.

Here is a guide to their winning album and the 11 other records that made the 2014 shortlist.

YOUNG FATHERS - DEAD

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This was the first nomination for Young Fathers, an internationally-flavoured, alternative hip-hop group formed in Edinburgh in 2008.

Alloysious Massaquoi is originally from Liberia, Scots-born Kayus Bankole has Nigerian parents, while G Hastings hails from Drylaw in the north of the city.

The trio has developed a reputation for making a unique blend of music, utilising diverse influences that reflect their different backgrounds.

Their EP Tape Two was named best Scottish album in June this year, beating Biffy Clyro and Edywn Collins to the title.

In its review of Dead, the band's debut album, website Clash Music said they "possess that which makes the best British acts truly special: a singular identity born of multinational mixology".

Watch Young Fathers perform Effigy live.

DAMON ALBARN - EVERYDAY ROBOTS

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Albarn's first proper solo album saw the Blur and Gorillaz guru in wistful mood, taking stock of his life and whether or not our collective well-being has improved since he was a lad.

Everyday Robots is the most personal record of his 25-year career. The song Hollow Ponds recalls the hazy English summer of 1976; You and Me touches on his Britpop-era heroin addiction; and The Selfish Giant tells of partners who have lost their spark.

There are also numbers like the title track and Lonely Press Play, which fret about the ability of smartphones and other technology to sedate, distract and perhaps even control us.

"When we're doing something creative, technology seems benign. But when we're doing nothing with it - and it seems to be doing a lot more with us - that's when it starts to become terrifying," he told the BBC News website.

"Albarn may be the most consistently impressive songwriter of the last couple of decades, and Everyday Robots is littered with evidence that his title should be safe," Clash magazine's Gareth James wrote.

BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB - SO LONG, SEE YOU TOMORROW

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So Long, See You Tomorrow is Bombay Bicycle Club's fourth album, but their first to top the UK charts, in February this year.

Sticking with BBC tradition, it reinvents the sound of its predecessor, A Different Kind of Fix, with their trademark dreamy vocals and harmonies layered over a more electronic sound this time round.

The London band - who are still only in their mid-20s - are named after an Indian restaurant chain. This album also happens to echo with Bollywood melodies, thanks to a trip front man Jack Steadman took to Mumbai, from psychedelic opener Overdone to woozy dance track Feel.

"We take a lot of time thinking about the album as a piece of art and how it should flow, rather than just be happy with 10 good songs and not really care what order they go in," Steadman told the BBC last year.

The fierce drums of Carry Me give way to beautiful guest vocals from Rae Morris on Luna before rousing summer single Come To, all highlights of the band's epic live sets at festivals such as Reading and Glastonbury this year.

"BBC's ambition was there for all to hear on their last record, but it is with So Long, See You Tomorrow that they have fully realised it," said Clash Magazine's review.

"What could so nearly have been overbearing or desperate to be loved is, in actual fact, sincerely captivating and euphorically playful."

ANNA CALVI - ONE BREATH

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Twickenham-born Calvi has experience with the Mercury Prize, having previously been shortlisted in 2011 for her self-titled debut album.

Recorded in Dallas, Texas and in the Loire Valley in France, the album is "definitely more personal than the first record" according to the 33-year-old singer-songwriter.

"For me, being creative is about going into the depths of your psyche where things are going to get a bit strange and ugly and weird," she told 6 Music's Lauren Laverne.

"That's really enjoyable for me. It's the only place where you can do that and not be ashamed of it."

Often compared to two-time Mercury winner PJ Harvey, Calvi's music combines her gothic sweep with elements of opera, Hollywood glamour and the torch-song confessionals of Edith Piaf.

The red-headed performer has admitted taking inspiration from experimental composers John Adams and Steve Reich while writing One Breath.

The result, wrote The Guardian's critic, is "truly cathartic" but could leave the listener "a quivering wreck".

Watch the video for Piece by Piece.

EAST INDIA YOUTH - TOTAL STRIFE FOREVER

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East India Youth is the stage name of electronic producer William Doyle, who turned to computer music after getting frustrated with life in an indie band.

He has impressed critics with his debut album, whose title is a play on Foals' Total Life Forever.

The album is a mostly instrumental suite of warm and dreamy synthetic soundscapes that occasionally breaks into pulsating techno or, when he exercises his vocal chords, gentle and melodic electro-pop.

"As much as I'm taking influences from electronica, I'm making pop music at the end of the day," he said.

The Skinny magazine said it was "a remarkable album of astonishing scope and beauty, with an effortlessly direct emotionality".

Drowned in Sound, meanwhile, called it "a masterly record which walks a unpredictable line musically, yet remains entirely consistent in quality".

FKA TWIGS - LP1

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Londoner Taliah Barnett earned the nickname Twigs growing up, thanks to the way her bones crack.

But despite the heavily stylised videos and album cover, don't go thinking FKA Twigs is an alter-ego she created. "Twigs and Tahliah are one and the same. 1 girl, 1 personality, 2 names," she recently declared on Twitter.

She's also a former backing dancer for Kylie Minogue and appeared in videos for Jessie J's Price Tag and Do it Like a Dude, mining the experience for her track Video Girl.

The singer graced several of this year's ones to watch lists, including the BBC's Sound of 2014, and did not disappoint critics with the arrival of LP1 in August.

She's not such a fan of the alt R&B label being bandied around though. "It's just because I'm mixed race," she told The Guardian.

"When I first released music and no one knew what I looked like, I would read comments like, 'I've never heard anything like this before, it's not in a genre.' And then my picture came out six months later, now she's an R&B singer."

Her moody, breathy, slightly eerie but definitely sexy vocals over synth-heavy, distorted beats have seen her likened to trip-hop originators Tricky and Portishead, as well as James Blake and label mates the xx.

In the words of Drowned in Sound's JR Moore: "Twigs' music is undeniably sexy, but in a somewhat distracted, apprehensive and paranoid way."

Watch the video for Two Weeks.

GOGO PENGUIN - v2.0

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v2.0 is the second album from Manchester-based GoGo Penguin, a jazz trio that comprises pianist Chris Illingworth, bassist Nick Blacka and drummer Rob Turner.

Their debut album Fanfare, released in 2012, was well-received by critics and was thought to be an Mercury contender in 2013.

Though it was ultimately omitted from the final shortlist, it was nominated for best jazz album at the World Wide Awards.

According to Jazzwise magazine, their latest offering sees them "maintain that album's flare for anthemic riffs and skittering grooves".

Speaking to Radio 2's Jamie Cullum earlier this year, they said their influences include Aphex Twin, Massive Attack, E.S.T and German techno group Brandt Brauer Frick.

JUNGLE - JUNGLE

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This west London electro-funk duo initially kept their identities secret as they unleashed a series of killer tracks onto the net, each accompanied by a simple but brilliant video and each ratcheting up the hype by another notch.

Funk, soul, synth-pop, hip-hop and darker modern electronica were all put into the mincer. Out came slick, melodic and infectious neo-disco tunes.

The pair have now been revealed to be childhood friends Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland, who said they simply wanted people to take notice of their music and videos rather than their identities and histories.

Their self-titled debut album went to number seven in the UK when it was released in July.

"Combining the pop world's two biggest current loves - forward-thinking dance music and throwback soul/funk - Jungle are ticking every box on the 'perfect debut' checklist," wrote Laurence Day of The Line of Best Fit.

Watch the video for Time.

NICK MULVEY - FIRST MIND

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Nick Mulvey has been Mercury nominated before, in 2008, as part of jazz outfit The Portico Quartet.

The percussionist made the hang - a large, modern, Swiss metal instrument - his signature, before leaving the band in 2011 to pursue a career as a solo singer-songwriter.

The resulting album brings another dimension to the 28-year-old's output, based on his vocals and an acoustic guitar. Yet his transformation was a gradual one.

Mulvey cut himself off from the music industry for many months, recalling: "All I wanted to do was play my instrument every day, to be in a room on my own and study my heroes."

He says he uses his guitar to create rhythm rather than strumming chords, with animation rather than complexity his watchwords, and insists there is a connection to his percussive work with the hang.

"Even though there's a surface-level difference between my music then and now, it's all the same to me. I do the same things on the guitar that I did on the hang. It's about repetition, hypnotic music, the groove."

The "trance-like hooks" of First Mind were praised by The Telegraph, which called it a "lovely, rewarding record".

POLAR BEAR - IN EACH AND EVERY ONE

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Polar Bear is a five-piece experimental jazz outfit, led by drummer Sebastian Rochford, who were previously nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2005.

That recognition came from Held on the Tips of Fingers, an instrumental record which saw them reap some crossover success.

In Each and Every One contains the band's first new material for four years, which they brand "more spacious and more intense" than their previous outings.

Nick Southall, writing in The Quietus, remarked that the new record is a departure from its "frenetic" predecessor, being "loose, strung-out and sparse" and offering listeners a journey.

The Guardian, meanwhile, praised Rochford's role in making the record seem an "integrated, large-scale work" whose "overall effect is eerily beautiful".

ROYAL BLOOD - ROYAL BLOOD

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The self-titled album by the drum-thrashing, bass-wielding two-piece has been one of the surprise hits of the summer.

Brighton-based Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher saw their blistering debut record top the album chart in its first week of release, becoming the the UK's fastest-selling British rock debut release in three years.

Not bad for a band who, just a year ago, were still looking for a record deal.

Royal Blood's wall of noise, created with just two instruments and a complex system of effects pedals and amps, has seen them compared to Led Zeppelin and Queens of the Stone Age.

The band featured on the BBC's Sound of 2014 list and played with past Mercury winners Arctic Monkey at their Finsbury park gigs in London.

Their short, riff-heavy songs, such as the pulverising Out Of The Black, make for a focused, taut record.

"I guess every song has its own personality," says Kerr. "Maybe these songs are such intense characters that they'd become too sickly if they were longer. You want a slice of nice gateau instead of scoffing the whole cake."

Drowned in Sound's reviewer said: "Damn it, have there been riffs this infectious since Rage Against the Machine?"

KATE TEMPEST - EVERYBODY DOWN

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Where is the line between spoken-word poetry and hip-hop? Wherever it is, Kate Tempest is happily hopping back and forth.

Eighteen months after winning the Ted Hughes award for innovation in poetry, her album Everybody Down is now nominated for one of the UK's most prestigious music awards.

Tempest began rapping on night buses in London before attending the Brit School, which was also attended by Adele and Amy Winehouse.

The 12 songs on Everybody Down are "chapters" in a story about friends stumbling through life and love in the seedy city. She is expanding Everybody Down into a novel next year; she is also a playwright who has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The Irish Times' Tony Clayton-Lea wrote: "Think Mike Skinner of The Streets channelling the lines of Allen Ginsberg's Howl, mixing and matching metaphors and sliding similes throughout topics that touch on consumerism, sex and the class system via a delivery that is, to understate it, vigorously expressed."

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