Mercury Music Prize this week – our predictions…

This shock bonus Sunday evening music post has come about because I've just realised that the Mercury Music Prize announcement is on Thursday this week, and of course I have to give my esteemed readers the benefit of my huge knowledge and experience to predict the result.

I think there are four possible winners this year, and Alt-J are the most likely with An Awesome Wave, which thoroughly justifies its role as favourite in the betting.  As you may remember from our rave review here, I love it, and it is probably my favourite UK album of the year. Quirky, original, hard to categorise yet commercial - the new Radiohead?

Then we have Django Django - another album I loved, and if the judges want something a bit less overtly intellectual, this would be a great choice. A combination of the Beach Boys, surf guitar, dance rhythms and a sense of humour, it's another tremendous debut.

Then we have Jessie Ware. Bringing a touch of dub-step sensitivities to a more traditional female soul / pop singer songwriter vibe, and yet again a debut, it looks to me like a pretty good outside bet.

Why do I reject the others? Well, with so many exciting young artists, the judges would look hopelessly middle aged to choose Richard Hawley, even though it's a good album and he is becoming a national treasure. And no-one wants that, do they. Then we have the comparison test. If they want clever indie, Alt-J beat Field Music (even though they are very talented and come from Sunderland, my home town). If you want dance-pop-indie, Django Django beats the Maccabees - just. And Jessie Ware trumps Michael Kiwanuka and Lianne La Havas, even though again they're good and very promising debut albums form talented singers.

Roller Trio (thrash jazz) and Sam Lee (folk) look like the token representatives of their minority genres. The one who could prove me wrong is Plan B - I can appreciate what he's doing but it doesn't feel like a Mercury winner to me.

If you're following carefully, you'll notice I've only mentioned three of my four possible winners. Despite being a real outsider, I would not be surprised to see Ben Howard coming through on the rails with Every Kingdom. The album is a real grower, and if I had to pick one of these that we'll still be listening to in 20 years time it would be this. Classic song writing - Nick Drake, Van Morrison, David Gray, and a real character and individuality to his sound as well. I also have a sneaky suspicion that, having chosen the strong favourites for the last two years, the judges might just want to do something different this time...

Now let's get financial. Alt-J are ridiculously short priced on Betfair, basically evens.  Whilst I think they are the favourites, I'm not sure there's value at those odds. I'm looking to see whether I can get into a situation where if I bet on those four, I win, whichever one of them comes through. If not, it may be a fiver on the other three and ignore Alt-J.

Having laid myself open to huge loss of credibility on Friday, we'll see what transpires......

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