No other awards ceremony gets people talking like the Nationwide Mercury Prize. The annual shortlist of 12 albums, which celebrates "musical creativity and diversity" in the UK and Ireland, never fails to surprise with its selections. While a nomination generally guarantees a boost in record sales, previous winners have experienced mixed fortunes in the long-term.
For every Dizzee Rascal or Arctic Monkeys, there's a forgotten flop like Ms Dynamite or Gomez. This year's shortlist, which was announced earlier today at a trendy members' club in Covent Garden, is as wilfully eclectic as ever, with choices ranging from mainstream staples (Last Shadow Puppets, Radiohead) to the regulation folk/jazz picks (Portico Quartet, Rachel Unthank).
The usual debates will rage as to whether Robert Plant or Radiohead really need the sales boost and £20,000 prize, or if it's possible to compare the sweeping sixties pop of Last Shadow Puppets with London-based dubstep artist Burial. However, the genuine surprises on this year's shortlist come from the pop entrants, Adele and Estelle.
Adele, who's already bagged a Brit Award this year, has failed to match fellow soul siren Duffy for hits or record sales, while Estelle's Shine LP, which features contributions from Kanye West, Cee-Lo Green, Wyclef Jean and will.i.am, sounds more American than Uncle Sam tucking into a big slice of apple pie.
Mystery Jets, Hot Chip, Ting Tings and Portishead can all consider themselves unlucky not to have made the final cut, but among the big guns and deliberately odd choices, two names stand out as deserving winners. Elbow's fourth LP, The Seldom Seen Kid, is a sterling, emotionally-charged record, while Gruff Rhys's '80s side-project Neon Neon are well worth their nomination, even if they're unlikely to be crowned winners come September.
What do you think of this year's Mercury Prize shortlist? Can you think of anyone else missing from the final 12? Leave your suggestions in the space below.