The Barclaycard Mercury Prize hopefuls sharpen their elbows

The shortlist of albums nominated for the Barclaycard Mercury Prize has been announced and it's the usual mix of the so-hot-right-now (La Roux, Florence & The Machine) and the my-kingdom-for-a-Wikipedia-entry (Sweet Billy Pilgrim?). So who should you be dropping a casual fiver on?

It's tough to call this year, partly because the prize is famously contrary (M People over Blur in 1994, Roni Size/Reprazent over Radiohead in 1997) and also because there are some unexpected surprises in the running. First up is Bart Simpson-voiced Speech Debelle's fresh and original debut, Speech Therapy; then there's the first solo record from Lisa Hannigan who sang harmonies for Damien Rice and - we're told - stitched her own album cover; and of course Kasabian, who ditched the "lad rock" tag with the weird, wonderful and strangely-titled West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum.

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The complete list is as follows (click on the artist's name for their MySpace page):

Florence & The Machine - Lungs

Kasabian - West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum

Speech Debelle - Speech Therapy

Friendly Fires - Friendly Fires

La Roux - La Roux

Bat For Lashes - Two Suns

Glasvegas - Glasvegas

Led Bib - Sensible Shoes

Sweet Billy Pilgrim - Twice Born Men

The Invisible - The Invisible

Lisa Hannigan - Sea Sew

Last year we made a pretty confident call on Elbow and in the spirit of online journalism (ie. if you make a mistake you can just delete it and pretend the whole thing didn't happen) we predict this year's prize will go to Florence & The Machine, Kasabian, Bat For Lashes! The winner will be announced in September.