Various Artists - Mercury Music Prize 2004

The Mercury Music Prize is one of this country's most prestigious and important award ceremonies. The winner not only receives a large cash prize, but welcome press attention, a renewed interest in the album, a raised profile and hopefully a wider fan base as a result. It's also notoriously controversial. Some past winners have been branded too commercial, too obscure or not worthy of the prize. The point of the Mercury is to celebrate the best in British music and it's the quality alone of the album, not how many units they've shifted or how long their career has lasted.

It's interesting that the last two winners have been urban acts, Dizzee Rascal and Ms Dynamite while in previous years indie favourites Badly Drawn Boy and PJ Harvey have won. This year as usual the competition is strong with bands as diverse as Basement Jaxx with their "Kish Kash" album, Keane's "Hopes And Fears" and Snow Patrol's "Final Straw" with feisty female Amy Whinehouse's "Frank". A good selection of albums, all unique in their own way and quite rightly nominated.

I have chosen four albums from the competition which I think have a strong chance of winning:
1. Belle & Sebastian - Dear Catastrophe Waitress
No one was as surprised as me when this Scottish band won the Best Newcomer award at the Brits many years ago so why not the Mercury. Produced by Trevor Horn with top single "I'm A Cuckoo" a highlight, these romantic sensitive souls of bedsit land just keep getting better and deliver the goods time and time again

2. Ty - Upwards
British hip hop is going from strength to strength. Not as popular as Dizzee or Skinner, Ty is just as good. This is the London based rapper's second album and with a succession of acclaimed club appearance under his belt, his good reputation is sealed.

3. The Zutons - Who Killed The Zutons
The brilliance of their live shows is transferred seamlessly to CD. These Liverpool lads play rock, soul, pop and blues with a female saxophonist to boot. "You Will, You Won't" their fab single says it all

4. Joss Stone - The Soul Sessions
Much has been made of her tender years and resemblance vocally to older American black soul singers, but her natural god given talent and choice of covers produced by the legendary Betty Wright means she can do no wrong.

Article by Nick Godkin

Is this a good representation of the British music scene in 2004?
What albums were you surprised didn't make the list?
Should Keane and Snow Patrol really be on the shortlist?
Who do you think will win this years prize?
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