By Rob Brunner
Updated September 07, 2011 at 04:11 PM EDT
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The nominees for the 2011 Mercury Prize—awarded by a panel of judges to the year’s best British album—were a typically quirky bunch, with some familiar names (PJ Harvey, Adele, James Blake, Elbow) and a bunch of must-be-big-in-England? picks like Metronomy and Ghostpoet.

While it’s never easy to predict the winner (past victors include puzzlers like Ms. Dynamite and Klaxons), Adele seemed like a good bet, given her uniformly strong reviews and massive sales.

Nope! PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake has won the prestigious award this year. (Her Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea earned the prize a decade ago.) Personally, I think they made the right choice. Adele will have her moment at the Grammys, which love to reward those sorts of classy-and-massive good-taste albums.

Let England Shake is something else entirely: a dark, eccentric, and deeply serious take on war and history that’s as unsettling as Adele is comforting. “Death was in the staring sun,” she sings on “All and Everyone,” “fixing its eyes on everyone/It rattled the bones of the Light Horsemen/still lying out there in the open/as we, advancing in the sun/sing “Death to all and everyone.”

Hopefully now more people will give this difficult album the time and attention it deserves. What do you think of this year’s winner? Should Adele have taken the prize?

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