Plan B and Richard Hawley lead Mercury prize 2012 nominations

London rapper and Sheffield singer stand out as favourites from a shortlist dominated by indie bands and solo artists

Plan B's third album may have involved a daring change of direction, from 60s soul to politically infused rap, but it looks like a risk that has paid off. His chart-topping soundtrack to the film Ill Manors leads the nominations for the 2012 Mercury prize, standing out among the indie bands and singer-songwriters dominating this year's shortlist.

The list of nominees, which was announced on Wednesday evening at a ceremony hosted by BBC 6 Music's Lauren Laverne, certainly appears to be less eclectic than previous years. The four guitar groups nominated are all of a similar hue: vaguely experimental yet unassuming. Of these, the Maccabees are perhaps the most well-known, their third album Given to the Wild gaining plaudits for taking rock music into fresh territory. Django Django's self-titled debut album shares a similar playful feel to that of Cambridge-based group Alt-J. Field Music are relative old-timers on the list with Plumb being the fourth album from the Sunderland band.

Joint favourite with Plan B to take the prize is Richard Hawley for his sixth album Standing at the Sky's Edge, which saw the Sheffield crooner venture out across heavier, psychedelic territory.

Hawley's inclusion is representative of a good year for solo artists. Of these, Jessie Ware is most striking – the south London singer's debut album, Devotion, is a restrained pop/soul affair with an understanding of underground club culture. Ware said : "I'm really happy, it was such a great surprise to be nominated. It's an album that came from the heart so hopefully that was recognised and is why I got nominated." Elsewhere, retro soul is represented by debuts from Michael Kiwanuka (Home Again) and Lianne La Havas (Is Your Love Big Enough?). The inclusion of Ben Howard's debut, Every Kingdom, tops off a fantastic year for the folk singer, whereas north Londoner Sam Lee also strikes a note for folk with his first LP Ground of Its Own. Roller Trio complete the list and ensure it is a strong year for debut albums – their self-titled effort showcases a love for rhythmic, funk-infused jazz.

Whether the nominations represent an upturn in the fortunes of guitar music is debatable. Critics may point out some omissions, such as Rustie's Glass Swords – a Technicolor rave-pop record that won the Guardian's first album award, or Evolve or Be Extinct, the latest grime offering from Wiley. There are no nominations for comeback albums from Kate Bush (50 Words for Snow) or Dexys (One Day I'm Going to Soar).

The Mercury prize will be awarded on 1 November at the Roundhouse in London. The winner will receive £20,000, along with an expected boost in sales.

Music critic Simon Frith said: "I realised this summer that the Olympics had given us all this great sense of Britishness and how we all became aware of where people come from in Britain. In a way this list reflects that - Richard Hawley is clearly from Sheffield, Plan B is from east London and Field Music from Sunderland."

"In terms of genres it might not seem so eclectic but I think in terms of the different personalities within the recording industry it really is. The aim is to draw attention to records people might not have heard but it gets a buzz and debate going even if you think the list is crap."


Tim Jonze

The GuardianTramp

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