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Who should be on the Mercury Prize shortlist?

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<b>1. Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can </b><br/>
On her second album, Laura Marling "continues to demonstrate why she's such an exciting singer-songwriter", according to The Independent's chief music critic, Andy Gill. At the forefront of the nu-folk generation that has seen the rise of associated acts Mumford & Sons, Noah and the Whale and troubadour Johnny Flynn, Marling was perhaps too young to have won the Mercury when she was nominated in 2008. Instead, she has been allowed to grow as an artist since her debut album, Alas I Cannot Swim, and has produced an impressive follow-up. Now 20, she incorporates themes of death, revenge and reproach and combines guitar, organ, banjo and strings in her folk ballads.

<b>1. Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can </b><br/> On her second album, Laura Marling "continues to demonstrate why she's such an exciting singer-songwriter", according to The Independent's chief music critic, Andy Gill. At the forefront of the nu-folk generation that has seen the rise of associated acts Mumford & Sons, Noah and the Whale and troubadour Johnny Flynn, Marling was perhaps too young to have won the Mercury when she was nominated in 2008. Instead, she has been allowed to grow as an artist since her debut album, Alas I Cannot Swim, and has produced an impressive follow-up. Now 20, she incorporates themes of death, revenge and reproach and combines guitar, organ, banjo and strings in her folk ballads.

&lt;b&gt;2. Johnny Flynn - Been Listening &lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
A well-publicised past as a Shakespearean actor could be an inauspicious beginning to a musical career, but this second album proves Johnny Flynn's talents as a rising folk singer- songwriter beyond being an afterthought to acting. He's had lots of radio play for the lead single, &quot;Kentucky Pill&quot; ? not that a lack of radio play affected the sales of his debut, A Larum, which sold more than 40,000 worldwide, and saw him sell out venues across America where he is on the Lost Highway label, alongside Willie Nelson and Ryan Adams. This follow-up is bolder and brassier than his debut, introducing Americana and Afrobeat to his fragile, folksy acoustic guitar. Commercially, he's still behind Laura Marling, Noah and the Whale and Mumford &amp; Sons, to whose London nu-folk scene he belongs, but a Mercury win would push him ahead.

<b>2. Johnny Flynn - Been Listening </b><br/> A well-publicised past as a Shakespearean actor could be an inauspicious beginning to a musical career, but this second album proves Johnny Flynn's talents as a rising folk singer- songwriter beyond being an afterthought to acting. He's had lots of radio play for the lead single, "Kentucky Pill" ? not that a lack of radio play affected the sales of his debut, A Larum, which sold more than 40,000 worldwide, and saw him sell out venues across America where he is on the Lost Highway label, alongside Willie Nelson and Ryan Adams. This follow-up is bolder and brassier than his debut, introducing Americana and Afrobeat to his fragile, folksy acoustic guitar. Commercially, he's still behind Laura Marling, Noah and the Whale and Mumford & Sons, to whose London nu-folk scene he belongs, but a Mercury win would push him ahead.

&lt;b&gt;3. Cherry Ghost - Beneath This Burning Shoreline &lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
Named after a line from a Wilco track, and steeped in the Americana of Vic Chesnutt and Johnny Cash, Cherry Ghost began as the alter-ego for Bolton-based Simon Aldred's solo project, then morphed into a full band. They were a quietly instant success: one of the few bands to be invited to perform on Later... with Jools Holland before they had released anything, the single &quot;People Help the People&quot; won an Ivor Novello, and their 2007 debut, Thirst for Romance, made the Top 10. This is a tremendous follow up ? from the beautiful, waltz-paced indie-rock of &quot;Diamond in the Grind&quot; to &quot;We Sleep on Stones&quot;, whose locomotive rhythm calls to mind their Heavenly label mates Doves' &quot;Kingdom of Rust&quot;. Andy Gill says: &quot;With songwriter Simon Aldred maturing at an alarming rate, Beneath This Burning Shoreline suggests the Bolton combo may be the Tindersticks of their era, mining the subtle twists of emotion in his songs through arrangements that deftly balance grandiosity and pathos.&quot;

<b>3. Cherry Ghost - Beneath This Burning Shoreline </b><br/> Named after a line from a Wilco track, and steeped in the Americana of Vic Chesnutt and Johnny Cash, Cherry Ghost began as the alter-ego for Bolton-based Simon Aldred's solo project, then morphed into a full band. They were a quietly instant success: one of the few bands to be invited to perform on Later... with Jools Holland before they had released anything, the single "People Help the People" won an Ivor Novello, and their 2007 debut, Thirst for Romance, made the Top 10. This is a tremendous follow up ? from the beautiful, waltz-paced indie-rock of "Diamond in the Grind" to "We Sleep on Stones", whose locomotive rhythm calls to mind their Heavenly label mates Doves' "Kingdom of Rust". Andy Gill says: "With songwriter Simon Aldred maturing at an alarming rate, Beneath This Burning Shoreline suggests the Bolton combo may be the Tindersticks of their era, mining the subtle twists of emotion in his songs through arrangements that deftly balance grandiosity and pathos."

&lt;b&gt;4. Wild Beasts - Two Dancers &lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
There is one camp who understandably find Hayden Thorpe's half-falsetto, half-tenor voice too irritating to bear and another who instantly put the Wild Beasts' album Two Dancers in their best-of-2009 lists. I'll admit that I was with the former, that is until I saw them play live. There's an energy behind this dance-guitar music and some urgent, insistent melodies that keep persuading you to return to this second album from the Kendal quartet. It also sounds truly original ? although its idiosyncrasy is likely to divide the judges.

<b>4. Wild Beasts - Two Dancers </b><br/> There is one camp who understandably find Hayden Thorpe's half-falsetto, half-tenor voice too irritating to bear and another who instantly put the Wild Beasts' album Two Dancers in their best-of-2009 lists. I'll admit that I was with the former, that is until I saw them play live. There's an energy behind this dance-guitar music and some urgent, insistent melodies that keep persuading you to return to this second album from the Kendal quartet. It also sounds truly original ? although its idiosyncrasy is likely to divide the judges.

&lt;b&gt;5. The XX - XX &lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
Graduates of the Elliott School in Putney, whose famous alumni include Hot Chip, Burial, Adem, The Maccabees and Four Tet, the young south London trio's self-titled debut album wowed critics with its minimalist indie-pop. Their stripped-back arrangements, featuring the most skeletal of guitar motifs, sparse drum-machine beats and the sultry male/female vocals of Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft, are mesmeric. Compelling from start to finish, it instantly creates a distinct atmospheric sound while conjuring up the spectre of minimalist late-70s electro-indie band Young Marble Giants' album Colossal Youth.

<b>5. The XX - XX </b><br/> Graduates of the Elliott School in Putney, whose famous alumni include Hot Chip, Burial, Adem, The Maccabees and Four Tet, the young south London trio's self-titled debut album wowed critics with its minimalist indie-pop. Their stripped-back arrangements, featuring the most skeletal of guitar motifs, sparse drum-machine beats and the sultry male/female vocals of Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft, are mesmeric. Compelling from start to finish, it instantly creates a distinct atmospheric sound while conjuring up the spectre of minimalist late-70s electro-indie band Young Marble Giants' album Colossal Youth.

&lt;b&gt;6. Peter Gabriel - Scratch My Back &lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
Gabriel brings a refreshing perspective to each of the 12 familiar songs in this collection of covers, which includes Paul Simon's upbeat &quot;The Boy in the Bubble&quot;, given a melancholy twist. Andy Gill says: &quot;Gabriel's approach pays dividends by casting new, unexpected light on familiar material. The charming piano and brass arrangement brings a bruised nobility to Bon Iver's &quot;Flume&quot;, while the interlacing violin lines applied to Talking Heads' &quot;Listening Wind&quot; deftly evoke the refracted sensibility of a newly politicised terrorist summoning the strength to act.&quot; He abandons guitars and his typically thundering drums for an orchestra arranged by former Durutti Column member John Metcalfe to winning effect. Scratch My Back is the first offering of a two-part project, the latter part of which will be released later in the year. Its title? I'll Scratch Yours.

<b>6. Peter Gabriel - Scratch My Back </b><br/> Gabriel brings a refreshing perspective to each of the 12 familiar songs in this collection of covers, which includes Paul Simon's upbeat "The Boy in the Bubble", given a melancholy twist. Andy Gill says: "Gabriel's approach pays dividends by casting new, unexpected light on familiar material. The charming piano and brass arrangement brings a bruised nobility to Bon Iver's "Flume", while the interlacing violin lines applied to Talking Heads' "Listening Wind" deftly evoke the refracted sensibility of a newly politicised terrorist summoning the strength to act." He abandons guitars and his typically thundering drums for an orchestra arranged by former Durutti Column member John Metcalfe to winning effect. Scratch My Back is the first offering of a two-part project, the latter part of which will be released later in the year. Its title? I'll Scratch Yours.

&lt;b&gt;7. Gorillaz - Plastic Beach &lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
Damon Albarn's virtual group returned, five years after their last album, Demon Days, with Plastic Beach, a new hip-hop album pumped full of keyboard grooves and studded with guest vocals from Mark E Smith, Lou Reed, Snoop Dogg, De La Soul, Mos Def, Bobby Womack, Kano, Bashy, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon. Still, it's unlikely to make the list as the group rejected a nomination for their debut in 2001. The album was the bookies' favourite to win when they were taken off the shortlist after cartoon bassist Murdoc described the nomination as &quot;like carrying a dead albatross round your neck for eternity&quot;.

<b>7. Gorillaz - Plastic Beach </b><br/> Damon Albarn's virtual group returned, five years after their last album, Demon Days, with Plastic Beach, a new hip-hop album pumped full of keyboard grooves and studded with guest vocals from Mark E Smith, Lou Reed, Snoop Dogg, De La Soul, Mos Def, Bobby Womack, Kano, Bashy, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon. Still, it's unlikely to make the list as the group rejected a nomination for their debut in 2001. The album was the bookies' favourite to win when they were taken off the shortlist after cartoon bassist Murdoc described the nomination as "like carrying a dead albatross round your neck for eternity".

&lt;b&gt;8. Paul Weller - Wake Up the Nation &lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
A few years ago, Weller was deep in the terrain of Dadrock. But two years ago, he sacked his band and returned with his most experimental album in a decade ? the sprawling, pastoral folk-led 22 Dreams. Then, into his sixth decade, he returned with Wake Up the Nation, an even more arresting record with its 16 tracks hurtling by in less than 40 minutes. This tenth studio album keeps rock and soul at its heart, and takes fans back to his early days with The Jam - no coincidence that he got the Jam bassist Bruce Foxton on board. As Andy Gill states: &quot;Everywhere you search there's something intriguing going on here - and if you don't get on with one track, another will be along to replace it before you can reach the skip button.&quot;

<b>8. Paul Weller - Wake Up the Nation </b><br/> A few years ago, Weller was deep in the terrain of Dadrock. But two years ago, he sacked his band and returned with his most experimental album in a decade ? the sprawling, pastoral folk-led 22 Dreams. Then, into his sixth decade, he returned with Wake Up the Nation, an even more arresting record with its 16 tracks hurtling by in less than 40 minutes. This tenth studio album keeps rock and soul at its heart, and takes fans back to his early days with The Jam - no coincidence that he got the Jam bassist Bruce Foxton on board. As Andy Gill states: "Everywhere you search there's something intriguing going on here - and if you don't get on with one track, another will be along to replace it before you can reach the skip button."

&lt;b&gt;9. Teenage Fanclub - Shadows &lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
The Glasgow band's ninth studio album, and their first in five years. Its bittersweet, harmony-laden melodies owe much to Sixties folk, but are nonetheless captivating. &quot;This latest collection has a quiet, undemonstrative beauty, that will please fans but probably not win them new ones, despite the charm of songs like &quot;Into the City&quot;, which recalls Gene Clark in the way it seems to glisten from within, and &quot;The Past&quot;, in which banjo and electric guitar arpeggios intertwine elegantly over organ.&quot;

<b>9. Teenage Fanclub - Shadows </b><br/> The Glasgow band's ninth studio album, and their first in five years. Its bittersweet, harmony-laden melodies owe much to Sixties folk, but are nonetheless captivating. "This latest collection has a quiet, undemonstrative beauty, that will please fans but probably not win them new ones, despite the charm of songs like "Into the City", which recalls Gene Clark in the way it seems to glisten from within, and "The Past", in which banjo and electric guitar arpeggios intertwine elegantly over organ."

&lt;b&gt;10. Corinne Bailey Rae - The Sea &lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
Her first album since the death of her husband, The Sea has an elegiac, reflective feel to make the listener tear up. It's much more compelling than her debut, as Andy Gill says: &quot;Her beige-soul debut positioned Corinne Bailey Rae as a Linda Lewis for the new millennium, its rose-tinted attitude aptly conveyed in the single &quot;Put Your Records On&quot;. Since then, Rae's husband, Jason, has died, a calamity that toughens the singer's emotional responses on The Sea, which as a result more closely resembles the work of such as Laura Nyro and Joni Mitchell.&quot;

<b>10. Corinne Bailey Rae - The Sea </b><br/> Her first album since the death of her husband, The Sea has an elegiac, reflective feel to make the listener tear up. It's much more compelling than her debut, as Andy Gill says: "Her beige-soul debut positioned Corinne Bailey Rae as a Linda Lewis for the new millennium, its rose-tinted attitude aptly conveyed in the single "Put Your Records On". Since then, Rae's husband, Jason, has died, a calamity that toughens the singer's emotional responses on The Sea, which as a result more closely resembles the work of such as Laura Nyro and Joni Mitchell."

&lt;b&gt;11. Four Tet - There is Love in You &lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
Acclaimed by some as a career high, Kieran Hebden's fifth album arrives five years after his last full-length studio release. During that time, the DJ, producer and remixer has made four collaborative records with the contemporary free-jazz drummer Steve Reich and co-written a track for the Quantum of Solace soundtrack with David Arnold. This dance album plays to his strengths as the creator of distinct electro tunes with a heart. In parts it's blissed out, euphoric, and as a whole, very enjoyable.

<b>11. Four Tet - There is Love in You </b><br/> Acclaimed by some as a career high, Kieran Hebden's fifth album arrives five years after his last full-length studio release. During that time, the DJ, producer and remixer has made four collaborative records with the contemporary free-jazz drummer Steve Reich and co-written a track for the Quantum of Solace soundtrack with David Arnold. This dance album plays to his strengths as the creator of distinct electro tunes with a heart. In parts it's blissed out, euphoric, and as a whole, very enjoyable.

&lt;b&gt;12. Paloma Faith - Do You Want the Truth Or Something Beautiful? &lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
The most underrated among the many female solo singers to have emerged over the past couple of years, Paloma Faith deserves a nod for her impressive debut. The 24-year-old, who was a singer in a burlesque cabaret (where she was first spotted by an A&amp;R man), a life model and a magician's assistant, applies vampish theatricals to retro-soul stylings that have seen her compared to Amy Winehouse. She missed out on any Brit recognition (Pixie Lott, Florence &amp; the Machine and La Roux were nominated instead), but her debut, boasting singles &quot;Stone Cold Sober&quot;, &quot;New York&quot; and &quot;Do You Want the Truth Or Something Beautiful?&quot;, could be recognised here

<b>12. Paloma Faith - Do You Want the Truth Or Something Beautiful? </b><br/> The most underrated among the many female solo singers to have emerged over the past couple of years, Paloma Faith deserves a nod for her impressive debut. The 24-year-old, who was a singer in a burlesque cabaret (where she was first spotted by an A&R man), a life model and a magician's assistant, applies vampish theatricals to retro-soul stylings that have seen her compared to Amy Winehouse. She missed out on any Brit recognition (Pixie Lott, Florence & the Machine and La Roux were nominated instead), but her debut, boasting singles "Stone Cold Sober", "New York" and "Do You Want the Truth Or Something Beautiful?", could be recognised here

<b>1. Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can </b><br/> On her second album, Laura Marling "continues to demonstrate why she's such an exciting singer-songwriter", according to The Independent's chief music critic, Andy Gill. At the forefront of the nu-folk generation that has seen the rise of associated acts Mumford & Sons, Noah and the Whale and troubadour Johnny Flynn, Marling was perhaps too young to have won the Mercury when she was nominated in 2008. Instead, she has been allowed to grow as an artist since her debut album, Alas I Cannot Swim, and has produced an impressive follow-up. Now 20, she incorporates themes of death, revenge and reproach and combines guitar, organ, banjo and strings in her folk ballads.

This year's Mercury Prize nominees are announced next week with 12 acts set for a boost in sales as a result.

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Here, Elisa Bray presents her pick of the twelve albums that deserve to be on the shortlist.

On Tuesday, the panel of Barclaycard Mercury Prize judges will reveal their shortlist of the 12 albums of the year. You can be sure that it will include those which have made commercial impact (Mumford & Sons, Plan B, Ellie Goulding), an idiosyncratic act (These New Puritans, Wild Beasts), jazz (Portico Quartet), folk (Laura Marling, Johnny Flynn), indie (Editors) and classical (McAlmont and Nyman).

Since 1992, the annual prize has set out to provide a platform for the best albums by British and Irish artists, with a criterion of excellence rather than sales performance. Last year's winner, London rapper Speech Debelle, had sold just 3,000 copies of her winning debut, Speech Therapy, before her nomination for the award. All artists that make the shortlist enjoy a surge in album sales – Speech saw a 4000 per cent rise of her debut album on the day after claiming her prize.

Sometimes the awards get it right – as in the case of Elbow, whose Seldom Seen Kid won them a much-deserved prize 20 years into their career in 2008. Sometimes it's downright contentious, as in the case of M People's win over Blur's Parklife in 1994. To qualify, albums have to have been released any time between mid-July last year to this Monday, the day before nominations

Belfast Telegraph