P.J. Harvey Wins U.K. Barclaycard Mercury Prize for Best Album

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Source: Mercury Prize via Bloomberg.

P.J. Harvey makes a speech of thanks after receiving the 2011 Barclaycard Mercury Prize. The singer-songwriter was honored at a dinner of music executives at the Grosvenor House hotel in London.

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Source: Mercury Prize via Bloomberg.

P.J. Harvey makes a speech of thanks after receiving the 2011 Barclaycard Mercury Prize. The singer-songwriter was honored at a dinner of music executives at the Grosvenor House hotel in London. Close

P.J. Harvey makes a speech of thanks after receiving the 2011 Barclaycard Mercury Prize. The singer-songwriter was... Read More

Source: Barclaycard Mercury Prize via Bloomberg.

Singer Adele picks up her Mercury shortlist award at a ceremony in London. She lost out to P.J. Harvey for the main prize and was unable to sing because of a throat infection. Close

Singer Adele picks up her Mercury shortlist award at a ceremony in London. She lost out to P.J. Harvey for the main... Read More

Source: Barclaycard Mercury Prize via Bloomberg

Anna Calvi, a U.K. singer and songwriter, performs at the Sept. 6, 2011, Barclaycard Mercury Prize ceremony. Calvi was seen by some critics as a frontrunner for the award. Close

Anna Calvi, a U.K. singer and songwriter, performs at the Sept. 6, 2011, Barclaycard Mercury Prize ceremony. Calvi... Read More

Source: Mercury Prize via Bloomberg

Members of the rock band Elbow pose with their Shortlist Award at the Barclaycard Mercury Prize ceremony in London on Sept. 6, 2011. The group has already won a Mercury Prize in 2008. Close

Members of the rock band Elbow pose with their Shortlist Award at the Barclaycard Mercury Prize ceremony in London on... Read More

Photographer: Seamus Murphy/RMP London via Bloomberg

P.J. Harvey in her garage before touring in support of her album "Let England Shake." The U.K. singer-songwriter has dates lined up in the U.S. and Europe. Close

P.J. Harvey in her garage before touring in support of her album "Let England Shake." The U.K. singer-songwriter has... Read More

Source: RMP London/Island Records via Bloomberg

The cover jacket of "Let England Shake" by U.K. singer P.J. Harvey. The CD is Harvey's eighth studio album. Close

The cover jacket of "Let England Shake" by U.K. singer P.J. Harvey. The CD is Harvey's eighth studio album.

P.J. Harvey won the 2011 Barclaycard Mercury Prize for best British or Irish album last night, beating other artists including Adele, Elbow and Anna Calvi.

The singer-songwriter, 41, is the first person to twice receive the U.K.’s top musical award, which started in 1992. Her CD “Let England Shake,” inspired by war and boosted by good reviews, was the favorite in betting.

A decade ago, she was the first female Mercury winner with “Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea,” a record based on her affection for New York.

“It’s really good to be here this evening,” she told the audience in London’s Grosvenor House hotel. Harvey was on tour and unable to attend when she last won on Sept. 11, 2001, “in Washington D.C., watching the Pentagon burning from my hotel window. So much has happened since then,” she said.

The winning album, on Island Records, is experimental rock with greatest resonance in the U.K., featuring state-of-the- nation titles such as “The Glorious Land,” “England” and “The Last Living Rose.” Harvey sings: “Take me back to beautiful England/ and the gray, damp filthiness of ages.” The judges said the CD is “gripping and profound.”

The Mercury has often been given to new or non-commercial acts and pits different genres against one another, ranging from folk and jazz to hard rock and classical. The winner receives 20,000 pounds ($32,310), although the boost from album sales can be worth much more.

The 12 shortlisted albums racked up an additional 400,000 sales between the list being announced in July and the ceremony, the U.K. Official Charts Co. said in an e-mail yesterday.

Musical Quality

The award focuses on musical quality and doesn’t take into account sales, media profile or live performances, according to a statement by the judges, a mixture of critics and music industry figures. Commercial acts such as Adele, Amy Winehouse and Robbie Williams have often lost out to cutting edge performers such as Harvey.

All of the acts performed at the ceremony apart from Adele, who apologized and said she was temporarily unable to sing because of a bad throat infection.

While the Mercury judges are known for their surprise choices, this is the second straight year that the favorite has won. Last year, London band the xx triumphed with its debut CD of understated indie rock. There were surprise winners in 2009 (Speech Debelle), 2008 (Elbow) and 2007 (Klaxons).

Information: http://www.pjharvey.net/ and http://www.mercuryprize.com/

Shortlist (with earlier betting odds from William Hill Plc):
Adele -- “21” (XL Records) 6/1
Anna Calvi -- “Anna Calvi” (Domino) 7/1
Elbow -- “Build a Rocket Boys!” (Fiction Records) 33/1
Everything Everything -- “Man Alive” (Geffen) 10/1
Ghostpoet -- “Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam”
(Brownswood) 8/1
Gwilym Simcock -- “Good Days at Schloss Elmau”
(Act Records) 50/1
James Blake -- “James Blake” (A&M Atlas) 5/1
Katy B -- “On a Mission” (Sony) 20/1
King Creosote & Jon Hopkins -- “Diamond Mine”
(Domino Records) 10/1
Metronomy -- “The English Riviera” (Because Records) 7/1
P.J. Harvey -- “Let England Shake” (Island Records) 6/4
Tinie Tempah -- “Disc-Overy” (Parlophone) 40/1

(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Mark Beech in London at mbeech@bloomberg.net or http://twitter.com/Mark_Beech.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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