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Mercury Prize 2023: Here’s a breakdown of every nomination, from Arctic Monkeys to Young Fathers

 (ES Composite)
(ES Composite)

This year’s Mercury Prize ceremony takes place tonight — and following last year’s proceedings, which saw Little Simz storm to victory with Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, the prestigious award is back in full swing.

As might be expected, the standard is sky-high, and the judging panel have the tricky task of whittling things down to a shortlist of just 12 albums that showcase the very best in British and Irish musical talent. With this year’s batch of nominations now announced, we’ve broken down every stand-out record, from the grandeur of Arctic Monkeys’ recent album The Car, to welcoming in newer faces, like Irish folk outfit Lankums.

Here are all the nods for this year’s Mercury Prize.

Arctic Monkeys – The Car

Granted, if we’re talking about fan-favourite albums, this one might not rank that highly as an Arctic Monkeys classic. Saying that, The Car remains a great effort, with the Sheffield rockers venturing into grand, shimmering sounds. Gone are the days of Alex Turner singing about late-night pub bust ups – the polished band are now exploring the world of sophisticated psychedelic rock, with tracks like There’d Better Be A Mirrorball showcasing a slower, steadier Arctic Monkeys in similar vein to 2018’s Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (which was also Mercury-nominated).

Ezra Collective – Where I’m Meant To Be

Jazz innovators Ezra Collective have made a name for themselves with their contemporary and energetic takes on the genre. Richly deserving its nomination, their latest record Where I’m Meant To Be infuses their sound with Afrobeat, jazz sounds and reggae, and is stacked with dynamism. It also boasts some starry collaborations including Kojey Radical and Emeli Sande.

Fred again.. – Actual Life 3 (January 1 - September 9 2022)

One of the most talked about projects of the last year, Fred again..’s Actual Life 3 brought the well-connected DJ to the forefront of dance culture. Fusing the sounds of ambient techno with the catchy hooks of mainstream pop, the album was well received by critics and clubbers alike, with his seamlessly smooth production and euphoric melodies making a significant impact on the dance scene. Like him or not – the project is well-suited for Mercury recognition.

J Hus – Beautiful and Brutal Yard

This album only came out a couple of weeks ago, but such is the quality of the project, it has already nabbed rapper J Hus a Mercury Prize nomination. The nomination is no surprise: J Hus is one of the most pivotal rappers of this generation. In Beautiful and Brutal Yard, he showcases his strength of being able to ride off any sound, bringing a diverse and melodic blend of hip-hop and Afrobeat to the table.

Jessie Ware – That! Feels Good!

Lead single Pearls was perhaps the first hint that Ware meant business with That! Feels Good! - a fun, strutting feast of nu-disco pop that builds on the popularity of 2020’s What’s Your Pleasure? Ware then took things to the next level on this next LP, and you can tell the singer felt at ease throughout the recording. Her vocals are at their best, her personality oozes cabaret. It has been one of the standout projects of the year.

Jockstrap - I Love You, Jennifer B

Jockstrap may be lesser-known in comparison to some of the huge names on this list, but they’re not to be underestimated. The London-based, Guildhall-trained duo released their ten-track debut album I Love You Jennifer B in 2022, and it was mind-blowingly good. Jockstrap’s sound is difficult to pin down, and their wildly experimental sound escapes labels. This feels like a strong contender in the dark horse catagory.

Lankum – False Lankum

Another act that may be newer to audiences, Lankum fufil the Mercury Prize’s now-traditional shortlist spot for a niche act from an even more niche genre. This Dublin band combine the foundations of folk with the sonic onslaughts you might associate with an unforgiving wall-of-sound rock band like My Bloody Valentine. Oozing mystique, False Lankum’s gothic vibe makes for an unpredictable but enchanting listen.

Loyle Carner – Hugo

Loyle Carner has already built a loyal fanbase due to his honest and story-telling style of music, with the London rapper combining his ear for a narrative with jazz and blues influences. With his latest album Hugo, released late last year, Loyle Carner took himself to another level. Its old-school production and raw tracks make for a standout album, especially Hate, which started as an appreciation track of his success and quickly went on to address racism and issues in society he fears.

Olivia Dean – Messy

Olivia Dean only released her debut album, Messy last month, but the sheer quality of the project has led to an early career Mercury Prize nomination. In it, the 24-year-old singer-songwriter carefully crafted soul-infused pop tracks – with tracks like UFO and Ladies Room showing her ability to experiment musically.

RAYE – My 21st Century Blues

RAYE has been a constant on the UK charts with her blockbuster singles including You Don’t Know Me, while debut album My 21st Century Blues saw the artist stepping out as a fully-fledged solo prospect and carving out a full creative identity. Her battle to move on from chart collaborations, as well as the issues she experienced while signed to a major label, paved the way for an emphatic, honest and independently released album, oozing R&B and hip-hop influences and exploring depression, insecurity and addiction. It features her first UK number one single ESCAPISM, and leaves a lot of questions for the industry to answer.

Shygirl – nymph

Shygirl originally forged a name for herself by experimenting with pop music, memorably sampling Three of A Kind’s Babycakes for a collaboration with Mura Masa, PinkPantheress and Lil Uzi Vert. Her debut album, meanwhile, features heavy-hitters like Shlut and Heaven, the South London singer’s unique sound pinning together an unconventional but polished hyper-pop debut album that experiments with everything from trap music to UK garage.

Young Fathers – Heavy Heavy

Previous Mercury winners Young Fathers tapped into a stroke of genius on their fourth album, Heavy Heavy. Released back in February this year, the album was lauded by fans and critics alike, with the bands emphatic and ecstatic sound ever-present throughout, with massive hooks and enchanting, rich production reeling you in for an unmissable listen.

This year’s Mercury Prize winner will be revealed on September 7