Mercury judges opt for eclectic shortlist

· No dominant sound in UK music, says chairman
· Arctic Monkeys installed as favourites for award

Last year's winner described it as "like a contest between an orange and a spaceship and a potted plant and a spoon". But this year's shortlist for the Nationwide Mercury music prize is probably more eclectic, with nominees ranging from an influential post-punk artist on the comeback trail to a self-produced British rapper and a former dance music star who now lives in a commune and records acoustic folk music.

Alongside nominations for Scritti Politti's White Bread Black Beer, Sway's This is My Demo and Lou Rhodes' Beloved One, the Arctic Monkeys bandwagon kept rolling. Their album Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, the fastest-selling debut in British chart history, was made joint favourite for the annual prize alongside The Eraser, the recently released solo album from Radiohead's lead singer, Thom Yorke.

In recent years the list has confirmed the resurgence of British guitar music, reflected this year by nominations for the Joy Division-influenced Editors and the bombast of Muse, but this year's shortlist was a more diverse selection. "There's no dominant tendency in British music; there's no movement. The thing I was really struck by this year was the songs and the songwriting," said Simon Frith, the judges' chairman.

Scritti Politti, the name under which singer Green Gartside has sporadically recorded since the late 70s, enjoyed their longest spell of chart success in the mid-1980s. The new album, Gartside's first in seven years, draws on his diverse range of influences and showcases his "beautiful voice", said Mr Frith. Rhodes, formerly one half of dance duo Lamb, described her nomination as "an amazing opportunity".

Traditionally the most commercial bands on the list have often foundered. But NME editor Conor McNicholas said it would be hard for the judges to look beyond the Arctic Monkeys, who shot to fame via the internet. He said he would be "flabbergasted" if the band didn't win.

Last year's winner, Antony and the Johnsons, saw sales of I am a Bird Now soar by 900% as a result. It became the latest in a line of controversial triumphs since the prize was launched in 1992 to reward British musical creativity. Some questioned whether Antony Hegarty, born in Chichester but raised and residing in the US, was eligible.

The shortlist

Arctic Monkeys Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan Ballad of the Broken Seas

Editors The Back Room

Guillemots Through the Windowpane

Richard Hawley Coles Corner

Hot Chip The Warning

Muse Black Holes and Revelations

Zoe Rahman Melting Pot

Lou Rhodes Beloved One

Scritti Politti White Bread, Black Beer

Sway This Is My Demo

Thom Yorke The Eraser


Owen Gibson, media correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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