Away from the bubblegum, fast food factor of the major music award shows, the Mercury Prize has always thrived in its own corner, known for the credibility of its nominees and award winners. The focus being the artistic talent of British and Irish acts within the last 12 months, rather than mainstream success and record sales.

With previous winners being Skepta, Primal Scream, Sampha, and Arctic Monkeys - and this year's judges including Annie Mac, Gaz Coombes, Jorja Smith, Stormzy, and Tshepo Mokoena, the integrity of this year's choices is high. And with the nominees now announced, it's looking like the prize itself could fly in any direction.

This year’s shortlist is as follows:

Anna Calvi - Hunter
Black Midi - Schlagenheim
Cate Le Bon - Reward
Dave - Psychodrama
Foals - Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 1
Fontaines D.C - Dogrel
Idles - Joy As An Act Of Resistance
Little Simz - Grey Area
Nao - Saturn
SEED Ensemble - Driftglass
Slowthai - Nothing Great About Britain
The 1975 - A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships

Here is our break down on each nominee, ahead of showtime on September 19:

Anna Calvi - Hunter
Released in August 2018 via Domino Recordings, Calvi’s third album was produced by Nick Launay. Featuring Portishead’s Adrian Utley on keys, and The Bad Seeds’ Martyn Casey on bass, Mercury Prize has described the album as ‘'A wildly adventurous musical exploration of sexual identities and desires. Brilliantly arranged songs of passion, eloquence, and joy’. With her first instrument being the violin, in which she has a university degree, and being noted for her powerful, wide ranging operatic voice, Anna Calvi is certainly one to watch!

Black Midi - Schlagenheim
From the depths of South London, Black Midi are Geordie Greep, Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin, Cameron Picton, and Morgan Simpson. With their debut album, Schlagenheim, released in June 2019 on Rough Trade Records, and being produced by Dan Carey, Black Midi are ‘A guitar band with a difference… So wilfully resistant to following any obvious musical path that it is impossible not to enjoy the ride. A remarkable debut’.

Cate Le Bon - Reward
Cate Le Bon’s fifth album, Reward, was released in May 2019 on Mexican Summer. The album was co-produced by Le Bon, Samur Khouja, and Josiah Steinbrick; and features musicians Stella Mozgawa (Warpaint), Stephen Black, Josh Klinghoffer, and Kurt Vile. The Welsh artist offers ‘A breathtaking pop-inflected meditation on the sounds of solitude. Elegant, urgent and shimmeringly romantic’. Le Bon has been described as 'a ringleader who's prepared to stake out uncertain territory, always keeping you guessing, making the old traditions of guitar-oriented rock feel arbitrary.'

Dave - Psychodrama
With the odds well in his favour, Dave has had a whirlwind of a year already. His Glastonbury performance became an internet sensation after bringing a member of the crowd on stage to perform Thiago Silva ft. AJ Tracey with him. His debut album, Psychodrama - released in March 2019 on Neighbourhood Recordings - also rocketed straight to number one in the UK Album Chart, and became the most-streamed first-week British rap album in the UK. The album includes the singles Black, Streatham, Location, and Disaster; and has been described as ‘A powerful and astutely crafted memoir of Dave’s life and our times. Unflinching, graceful, and deeply moving’.

Foals - Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost
Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1, by Oxford four-piece, Foals, was released in March 2019 by Warner Music/Transgressive Records. The band’s fifth album was self-produced and reached number two in the UK Album Chart. Foals are: Yannis Philippakis, Jack Bevan, Jimmy Smith, and Edwin Congreave. With explosive live shows, and a loyal following, Foals fifth album has have been described as ’A musical soundtrack to the drama of climate change. Ominous, defiant, and gloriously atmospheric rock’.

Fontaines D.C - Dogrel
Proudly representing Dublin, Fontaines D.C. are: Grian Chatten, Carlos O’Connell, Conor Curley, Tom Coll, and Conor Deegan. Their debut album, Dogrel, was released in April 2019 on Partisan Recordings and reached number nine in the UK Album Chart. Produced and mixed by Dan Carey, the album includes singles Big, Hurricane Laughter, and Too Real. With the opening line being ‘Dublin in the rain is mine, a pregnant city with a Catholic mind’, Dogrel has been described as ‘Punk as performance art. Smartly written, impatiently driven. Irresistible reflections on urban change and loss’.

Idles - Joy As An Act Of Resistance
It would be rude not to give you our thoughts on who this year’s winners should be wouldn’t it? We at Headliner couldn’t be happier that Idles have made this year’s shortlist, and our fingers are crossed for them. Comprising Joe Talbot, Adam Devonshire, Mark Bowen, Lee Kiernan, and Jon Beavis, the five-piece Bristol band released their second album, Joy as an Act of Resistance, in August 2018 on Partisan Records. Charting at number five in the UK Album Chart, the album was produced by Space, and is ‘Everything the title promises. A bruising, uplifting guitar-charged defiance of austerity and hatred. A passionate and exultant album’.

Little Simz - Grey Area
Representing North London, Little Simz Released Grey Area on AGE 101 Music in March 2019. The album features the singles, Offence, Boss, 101 FM, and Selfish, and was produced by Inflo, Sigurd, and Astronote. It includes guest appearances by Cleo Sol, Chronixx, Little Dragon, and Michael Kiwanuka. Her third album is ‘Rap as self-reflection, vulnerability as power. Expert wordplay and sinuous flow set against subtle use of live accompaniment. Poignant and implacable’. Little Simz says it with her chest and doesn’t care who she offends.

Nao - Saturn
Saturn is the second album from East London-based NAO. Coining the term ‘Wonky Funk’ to describe her style, the album was released in October 2018 by RCA Records/Little Tokyo Recordings, and includes the singles If You Ever, Another Lifetime, and Make It Out Alive. SiR and Kwabs both feature on the album: ‘The excitement and dismay of romantic upheaval are elegantly captured by NAO’s beautifully crafted songs and buoyant vocals. An impeccable soul album’.

Seed Ensemble - Driftglass
Formed in early 2016, Seed Ensemble is a 10-piece band led by composer, arranger, and alto saxophonist, Cassie Kinoshi. The collective released this debut, Driftglass, in February 2019 on jazz re:freshed. Produced by Jason Yarde, and mixed by Eric Lau, ‘Cassie Kinoshi and her exuberant 10-piece band effortlessly combine homage to jazz history and celebration of today’s London’s jazz scene. Rousing and inspiring’.

Slowthai - Nothing Great About Britain
Slowthai, aka Tyron Frampton, is a rapper from Northampton. His debut album, Nothing Great About Britain, was released in May 2019 on Method Records, and went to number nine in the UK Album Chart. Frampton is well known for his notoriously gritty and rough instrumentals and raw, politically charged lyrics, especially around Brexit and Theresa May’s tenure as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. With live shows as powerful as his wordings, and and album featuring guest appearances by Jaykae and Skepta as well as production credits for Kwes Darko and JD. Reid, Nothing Great About Britain has become a collection of ’Absorbing, vivid stories of lives lived at the cultural margins, told with tenderness, rage, and humour. An urgent and profound debut'.

The 1975 - A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships
A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships was the third consecutive UK number one album from Matthew Healy, George Daniel, Adam Hann, and Ross Macdonald when released in November 2018 by Dirty Hit/Polydor Records. We believe that the 1975 are an example of what perseverance can achieve. The album features the singles Give Yourself A Try, Love It If We Made It, TooTimeTooTimeTooTime, and It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You). Mercury Prize has called it ‘Thrilling and thoughtful, eccentric and electric. Everything we expect from The 1975 and more. Magnificent!’

This year’s shortlist certainly makes us proud to be British! With Punk and politics rubbing each other up the right way, and a number of artists speaking ‘for the people’, The Mercury Prize has yet again proved its credibility and care for the artistic value of the UK. Long may that continue.