We're just back the Barclaycard Mercury Prize shortlist announcement, and we're stunned to say, we're pretty happy with the choices. It's not surprising after what has affectionally become known as the Speech Debelle debacle last year, but still we're shocked to discover that we'd be fine to see almost any of them win. Still, we're not here to sit on the fence, so here's the top five of who from the shortlist we'd like to see triumph in September, when the main prize is announced.
1. Wild Beasts - Two Dancers
Though William Hill doesn't fancy them particularly (they're on at 8-1), this eccentric foursome from the Lake District have delivered an incredibly intriguing album that blooms a little more on every listen. Full of Haiwatha drumming, tremulous falsettos and intriguing lyrics about girls from Rodean and Whitby, they'd be first on the bill at The Madhatter's tea party.
2. Biffy Clyro - Only Revolutions
We have a feeling the Biff may not do it (and so do the bookies — they're at 8-1) as their impassioned rock may not be chin-strokey enough for the Mercury panel, but as the nicest men in rock we'd be very pleased for the trio from Ayrshire to bag it. They've been building momentum for years now and Only Revolutions, their fifth album no less, is a rollicking triumph.
3. The xx - xx
The xx's debut album has been yabbered about all year, so it's predictable that the mysterious black-clad London three-piece are joint favourites at 4-1. Their debut album is undeniably beautiful — simmering, mournful lo-fi electronica — but it'll be interesting to see whether they can shake things up a bit soon. They can sound a little like dinner party material (though admittedly for a dinner of manic-depressive poets).
4. Foals - Total Life Forever
The Oxford band certainly surprised a few people with their sophomore album, for which they received their nomination. It has an otherworldly, ethereal quality without being all-out proggy indulgence (aherm, MGMT). William Hill have them at 8-1.
5. Dizzee Rascal - Tongue N' Cheek
Dylan Kwabena Bills has been a perennial Mercury nominee (he won in 2003 and was nominated in 2007, though missed out to the somewhat inebriated Klaxons) but it's his continual ability to surprise that sees him on the list again: this is a man who saw fit to record a World Cup rallying song with James Corden, after all. Some people think he's bonkers, but we think he's a worthy joint favourite at 4-1.
The other nominees are diminutive Dubliner Conor O'Brien aka Villagers for Becoming A Jackal at 10-1 (who gave a very assured performance at the launch); posh folk stompers Mumford & Sons for Sigh No More at 6-1; Corinne Bailey Rae who has showed incredible resolve in the face of personal tragedy to record nominated album The Sea at 6-1 (and also performed an impressive live number — and is also tiny); Paul Weller for his rather maverick Wake Up The Nation at 6-1; the indie boys' sweetheart Laura Marling for I Speak Because I Can at 6-1; Mancunian mainstays I Am Kloot for Sky At Night at 10-1, and Golden by the Kit Downes Trio, the obligatory noodley jazz ensemble (of whose existence, we must confess, we have just been alerted) who are also at 10-1. Place your bets!