Many commentators expected Adele to take home the 20th annual award for Best Album, after she dominated album and single charts across the globe with her sophomore release 21.
However, on Tuesday evening, Harvey was presented with a check for £20,000 ($31,885) by show host Jools Holland and, if previous form is anything to go by, will now enjoy dramatically increased sales of the critically acclaimed Let England Shake.
Accepting her award in a figure-hugging white dress, the Dorset-born musician recalled winning her first Mercury for album Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea a decade ago.
“When I last won, which was 10 years ago on September the 11th 2001. I was in Washington D.C. watching the Pentagon burn from my hotel window, so it’s good to be here.”
The shortlist, which was initially made up of over 240 albums, was whittled down to 12 in July, before the Chair of Judges Simon Frith and a selected panel of musicians and industry insiders picked their final winner on the night.
Let England Shake was recorded in a Dorset church and features three of Harvey’s long time collaborators: Mick Harvey, John Parish and Flood, all of whom contribute to a collection of songs that touch upon the futility of war, what it means to be English and British history.
It was released in the U.K. in February 2011 and includes the singles “The Glorious Land” and “The Words that Maketh Murder” – the second of which Harvey performed during the ceremony.
“This album took me a long time to write and it was very important to me,” said Harvey onstage. “I wanted to make something that was meaningful not just for myself, but for other people and hopefully to make something that will last.”
The Barclaycard Mercury Prize celebrates the last year in U.K. music, providing a snapshot of the British scene across numerous disparate genres.
The event has been held annually since 1992, when Scottish rockers Primal Scream took home the inaugural award for Screamadelica. Previous winners also include Pulp (Different Class) in 1996, Dizzee Rascal (Boy in da Corner) in 2003 and Arctic Monkeys (Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not) in 2006.
This year’s nominee list in full: Adele – 21; Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi; Elbow – Build A Rocket Boys!; Everything Everything – Man Alive; Ghostpoet – Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy; Jam Gwilym Simcock – Good Days At Schloss Elmau; James Blake – James Blake; Katy B – On A Mission; King Creosote & Jon Hopkins – Diamond Mine; Metronomy – The English Riviera; P.J. Harvey – Let England Shake; Tinie Tempah – Disc-Overy.