Mercury Prize: Arctic Monkeys, Lily Allen and Jorja Smith on shortlist

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Arctic Monkeys, arguably Britain’s biggest rock band, are among the 12 nominees for the 2018 Mercury Prize.

Their space lounge concept album, Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino, earns the band a fourth nomination for the award, established in 1992 as a high-minded alternative to the Brits.

But the quartet face stiff competition from the likes of Jorja Smith, Lily Allen and Florence + The Machine.

Other nominees include Wolf Alice, Noel Gallagher and jazz act Sons of Kemet.

Last year’s winner, Sampha, also features on the soulful Everything Is Recorded, a collaborative album put together by the head of XL Records, Richard Russell – aka “the man who signed Adele”.

The Arctics, Gallagher and Florence are 4-1 favourites at bookmakers William Hill, with Wolf Alice, Smith and Allen given odds of 6-1.

Several of the shortlisted albums are overtly political. Both Nadine Shah’s Holiday Destination and Everything Everything’s A Fever Dream address the rise in nationalism and xenophobia, coupled with a decline in empathy.

London MC Novelist, meanwhile, delivers a strong anti-violence message on his self-produced debut album, Novelist Guy; and Sons Of Kemet’s Your Queen Is A Reptile celebrates powerful black women who’ve been overlooked by history.

“It was really important to document the times we’re living in,” Shah told the BBC.

“As a Muslim woman [living during] a rise in Islamophobia, I’m scared. I’m genuinely scared. So I needed to speak about that.”

Other nominees turn their attention inwards, with Florence + The Machine displaying a new level of vulnerability on High As Hope; and Jorja Smith chronicling the bumpy road to adulthood on her streetwise debut Lost & Found.

Pop star Lily Allen receives her first ever nomination for her fourth album, No Shame, an emotional depiction of her marital breakdown and struggles with self-worth.

“Making this record was really tough and it was a slog,” she told the BBC.

“I felt very disconnected from myself as I was making it. I was trying to find me in and amongst it all. The fact it’s connected to other people, it just feels really great.”

The full shortlist for the 2018 prize is:

  • Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino
  • Everything Everything – A Fever Dream
  • Everything Is Recorded – Everything Is Recorded
  • Florence + The Machine – High As Hope
  • Jorja Smith – Lost & Found
  • King Krule – The Ooz
  • Lily Allen – No Shame
  • Nadine Shah – Holiday Destination
  • Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Who Built The Moon?
  • Novelist – Novelist Guy
  • Sons of Kemet – Your Queen Is A Reptile
  • Wolf Alice – Visions of a Life

The 2018 shortlist was drawn up by a panel of judges including musicians Marcus Mumford, Jamie Cullum and Ella Eyre, alongside broadcasters Clara Amfo and Mistajam, and a handful of music critics and journalists.

They said the nominees held a “shared belief in the importance of music for navigating life’s challenges – whether personal or political, falling in or out of love, growing up or looking back, angry or ecstatic.”

Although the award has a reputation for rewarding up-and-coming acts, there are only three debut albums on this year’s list, alongside two number one records and five former nominees.

Radio 1’s Huw Stephens welcomed the inclusion of artists on their third, fourth or (in Noel Gallagher’s case) 10th albums.

“Hopefully it says that we’re not as flash-in-the-pan as we have been in the past and that artists have time to build and to grow.”

“Artists like Arctic Monkeys and Florence + The Machine are being allowed time to develop. They don’t always have to go to number one and sell out stadiums and headline Glastonbury. They can just work at their craft for years.”

Multiple nominations

Arctic Monkeys, who won the prize for their debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, are now the second most-nominated act in the Mercury’s 26-year history.

Only Radiohead have more nominations, with five, although they’ve never taken home the trophy.

PJ Harvey also has four nominations – and is the only artist to win the award twice, for Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea in 2001 and Let England Shake in 2011.

This year’s winner will be unveiled at London’s Hammersmith Apollo on 20 September.

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