Manic Street Preachers, Gruff Rhys and Gwenno up for 2018 Welsh music prize

Not just Welsh language … Gwenno’s shortlisted album, Le Kov, has songs in Cornish.
Not just Welsh language … Gwenno’s shortlisted album, Le Kov, has songs in Cornish. Photograph: Sergione Infuso - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

Manic Street Preachers, Gruff Rhys and Gwenno are among the nominees for the 2018 Welsh music prize. The award, now in its eighth year, champions diversity in Welsh music and traditionally highlights more left-field albums than the British Mercury prize.

Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys won the inaugural award in 2011 for his third solo album, Hotel Shampoo. This year he is nominated for his fifth solo effort, Babelsberg, which satirises American values and features the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

Manic Street Preachers’ 13th album, Resistance Is Futile, is also nominated. Lyricist and bassist Nicky Wire described the record, with its lyrics about memory and loss, as a counterpoint to the group’s famed polemical work. “I just can’t navigate myself through the digital hysteria and political insanity of the current times. I’d be lying if I said I felt that absolutism of my youth now,” he told Noisey.

It is the first year that the prize, which frequently highlights Welsh language music, has included a Cornish language album among its nominees. Le Kov, the second solo album by Cardiff’s Gwenno, may indeed be the world’s first Cornish language synth-pop album, with lyrics concerning Celtic futurism, the importance of preserving endangered languages and Brexit isolationism. It missed out on a widely expected Mercury nomination. Gwenno won the Welsh music prize in 2015 for her debut album, Y Dydd Olaf.

Another album on the list, The Longest Day, by 12-string guitarist Toby Hay, has links with the south west, recounting his travels to the US via Cornwall.

Some names on the list may be familiar to fans of British alternative music. Llansteffan-based Alex Dingley’s Beat the Babble was recorded on America’s west coast with assistance from Welsh guitarist Cate Le Bon and her Drinks bandmate, California’s Tim Presley.

Cardiff’s Boy Azooga have received acclaim from NME and BBC 6 Music, and released their nominated debut album, 1, 2, Kung Fu, on noted independent label Heavenly. The punk-grime outfit Astroid Boys have also been recognised for the political message of their debut, Broke.

The prize’s founders hope that its long list may introduce listeners outside Wales to less familiar acts showcasing the breadth of the country’s musical output. There is tumultuous indie-rock from Pembrokeshire-born Bryde, off-kilter indie pop from Wrexham’s Seazoo, melodic post-rock from Eugene Capper and Rhodri Brooks, and Welsh harp and Senegalese kora from Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita.

Mae’n Hawdd Pan Ti’n Ifanc, the debut album by Aberystwyth trio Mellt, won the Welsh language album of the year prize at the 2018 National Eisteddfod.

Peter Leathem, chief executive officer at supporting body Phonographic Performance Limited, said: “Wales has an exceptional musical heritage that is recognised around the world.”

The Welsh music prize was founded in 2011 by BBC Radio 1 DJ Huw Stephens and promoter and activist John Rostron. Previous winners include Gruff Rhys (2011), Future of the Left (2012), Georgia Ruth (2013), Joanna Gruesome (2014), Gwenno (2015), Meilyr Jones (2016) and the Gentle Good (2017). This year the ceremony will include a second prize, the Welsh music inspiration award, or Gwobr Ysbrydoliaeth Gerddoriaeth Gymreig.

The full Welsh music prize 2018 shortlist

Astroid Boys: Broke
Boy Azooga: 1, 2, Kung Fu
Bryde: Like an Island
Eugene Capper and Rhodri Brooks: Pontvane
Alex Dingley: Beat the Babble
Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita: Soar
Gwenno: Le Kov
Toby Hay: The Longest Day
Manic Street Preachers: Resistance Is Futile
Mellt: Mae’n Hawdd Pan Ti’n Ifanc
Gruff Rhys: Babelsberg
Seazoo: Trunks