Monkeys, Winehouse make Mercury shortlist

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LONDON -- The shortlist for the Nationwide Mercury Prize has been unveiled in London, featuring a typically broad range of musical tastes dominated this year by new, alternative artists.

The award, which highlights the best 12 British or Irish albums of the previous year, has previously been won by acts like Franz Ferdinand, Primal Scream and last year's victors, Arctic Monkeys.

Arctic Monkeys will defend their title, as their sophomore effort "Favorite Worst Nightmare" (Domino), is on the 2007 shortlist.

Another former winner, rapper Dizzee Rascal, also returns to the list with his "Maths + English" album (XL), alongside Amy Winehouse for her acclaimed "Back to Black" record (Island).

Arctic Monkeys and Winehouse have been installed by William Hill bookmakers as early joint favorites to take the prize, with odds of 4/1. Dizzee Rascal has odds of 8/1.

The other nominees, with William Hill odds, are: Bat for Lashes' "Fur and Gold" (Echo/EMI) (10/1); Fionn Regan's "The End of History" (Lost Highway) (10/1); New Young Pony Club's "Fantastic Playroom" (Modular) (12/1); Klaxons' "Myths of the Near Future" (Rinse/Polydor) (8/1); the Young Knives' "Voices of Animals and Men" (Transgressive) (10/1); Maps' "We Can Create" (Mute) (12/1); the View's "Hats Off to the Buskers" (1965) (8/1); Jamie T's "Panic Prevention" (Virgin) (8/1); and Basquiat Strings' "Basquiat Strings with Seb Rochford" (F-Ire) (12/1).

The winner, whittled down from a long list of more than 230 entries, will be announced Sept. 4 at a ceremony in London. The prize will be decided on the night by a panel chaired by academic Simon Firth.

Since its inception in 1992, the Mercury Prize has become an increasingly important event on the U.K. music calendar, generating sales boosts for nominated acts.

Zoe Rahman, a relatively unknown jazz pianist before her Mercury Prize nomination last year, says the positives of landing on the Mercury shortlist are long lasting.

"It's a amazing opportunity," Rahman, who is also on the panel of judges, tells Billboard.com. "There are a number of artists up there who I am really exited about, who are like I was last year. Now I have a manager and PR people. I've just come back from playing at one of the biggest jazz festivals in the world. And record sales [since Mercury Prize 2006] have been fantastic."
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