Plan B and past nominee Richard Hawley are joint favourites to win the UK's Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize as the shortlist of 12 was announced for the highly-valued award.
Established acts such as The Maccabees and Field Music will also battle it out against lesser known names and emerging acts such as Django Django and Alt-J who have won critical acclaim.
Rapper Plan B - whose real name is Ben Drew - is the first artist to make the list for a soundtrack album, with Ill Manors, which accompanies the gritty film of the same name which he directed.
Hawley, at 45 the oldest artist on the shortlist, was previously nominated in 2006 for Coles Corner and had been a hot contender, although he lost out to Arctic Monkeys.
When Monkeys frontman Alex Turner collected the prize for his album Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, he announced: "Someone call 999 - Richard Hawley's been robbed."
The list fails to recognise notable commercial successes such as Coldplay and Florence + The Machine, as well as Emeli Sande who landed the Critics Choice award at the Brits and has had acclaim and huge sales following her performances at the Olympic ceremonies.
Under a new deal with UK TV's Channel 4, many of the shortlisted acts will be playing special shows before the November 1 awards ceremony.
Django Django and Alt-J have built a huge buzz around their debut albums earlier this year, as has fellow nominee Jessie Ware.
Field Music, featuring Sunderland brothers David and Peter Brewis, are nominated for their album, Plumb. As well as their releases together, the pair also each released albums of their own in 2008.
Michael Kiwanuka finds himself on the shortlist after being given a boost by topping the BBC's Sound of 2012 list at the start of the year.
The nominations almost invariably include a nod to the worlds of jazz and folk and this year is no exception. Folk is represented by both Sam Lee and Ben Howard, while drum, guitar and sax act the Roller Trio fly the flag for jazz.
The prize gives a huge boost to sales for the victor as well as valuable publicity to all nominees.
Simon Frith, the chair of the judging panel, said the shortlist "showcases a wonderful variety of musical voices, emotions and ambitions".
He went on: "There are eight debut albums on the list and four albums from more established artists.
"The sheer range of music here celebrates the abiding ability of British musicians to find new ways to explore traditional themes of love and loss while making an exhilarating soundtrack for life in 2012."
Last year saw the first time a previous winner take the prize for a second time, when PJ Harvey picked up the award for her Let England Shake release, while other past winners have included Dizzee Rascal, Pulp and Klaxons.
The prize is open to UK and Irish acts who have released albums over the past year.
The nominees are as follows:
Richard Hawley - Standing At The Sky's Edge
Sheffield's Hawley tasted success with Longpigs and Pulp before he embarked on his solo career. His sixth album, whose title once again includes a reference to his home city, was co-produced with Colin Elliot and sees a marked change of direction with more of a psychedelic rock groove. He was previously shortlisted for Coles Corner.
The judges said: "Big sky, big sound, big star."
Field Music - Plumb
Brothers Peter and David Brewis have been releasing albums together under the name of Field Music since 2005. Plumb, their fourth, was recorded at their studio in Sunderland, although they have also released albums separately under the names School Of Language and The Week That Was.
The judges said: "Playful harmonies, quirky rhythms, the stop-start sounds of everyday life, love and daydreams in today's British city. Gripping and affecting."
The Maccabees - Given To The Wild
Formed in south London in 2004 but now Brighton-based, five-piece The Maccabees released their third album earlier this year. They took their name from a Jewish rebel army after the band came across the word in the Bible. One early song Latchmere was inspired by the wave machine at a leisure centre in Battersea.
The judges said: "Inventive, lyrical, epic. The Maccabees make their move onto the main stage of British guitar music."
Plan B - Ill Manors
Plan B, aka Ben Drew from east London, found huge commercial success with his second album, the soulful The Defamation Of Strickland Banks. This third release is a return to his gritty urban rap roots and forms the soundtrack to his film Ill Manors which he wrote and directed, and features contributions from Labrinth, Kano and punk poet John Cooper Clarke.
The judges said: "A brilliantly visceral soundtrack to an angry, troubling and harsh picture of life on the underside of London in 2012."
Lianne La Havas - Is Your Love Big Enough?
Raised in Tooting and Streatham, south London by Greek and Jamaican parents, La Havas has provided backing vocals for Paloma Faith on tour. She released her debut, which was recorded in Los Angeles, London and New York, in July and it went on to make the top five.
The judges said: "Heartfelt songs beautifully written, brilliantly sung and inventively arranged. Lianne La Havas brings a subtle and powerful new voice to British soul music."
Jessie Ware - Devotion
Ware has featured as a vocalist for releases by SBTRKT and Sampha. Her debut album was recorded with producer Dave Okumu who has been a Mercury nominee with his band The Invisible.
The judges said: "An album of sensuous and emotive pop deeply imbued with the spirit of British club culture."
Alt-J - An Awesome Wave
The genre-hopping electronic quartet met five years ago at the University of Leeds and went on to relocate to Cambridge. Their name is the command on an Apple Mac keyboard which creates the Greek symbol delta. Their debut album features singles Breezeblocks and Tessellate.
The judges said: "Alt-J make music that tantalises and delights. Unexpected shards of sound, mesmerising layers of rhythm. Irresistible."
Roller Trio - Roller Trio
Roller Trio formed while studying at Leeds College of Music and use a tenor sax, guitar and drums line-up for their recordings and performances. The group, in their early-20s, have already been garlanded with the Peter Whittingham Jazz Award.
The judges said: "Raucous funk-infused jazz from a dynamic young trio. Bursting with melodic riffs, rhythmic jams and sonic urgency."
Michael Kiwanuka - Home Again
The London-based singer-songwriter already made a name for himself as the one to watch this year when he topped the BBC's Sound Of 2012 list of top newcomers. He worked on his album with Paul Butler of The Bees - Mercury-nominated for their Sunshine Hit Me album. Kiwanuka's album reached the top five after its March release.
The judges said: "A debut album of rare authority. Soulful songs and a sublime voice. Utterly convincing."
Sam Lee - Ground Of Its Own
Lee trained at Chelsea College Of Art and claims to have had a spell teaching survival skills before he turned to folk music. He is also a music promoter and visiting lecturer. His album assembles traditional songs from Traveller communities.
The judges said: "Folk singer Sam Lee brings magical new life to the dignity and mystery of old songs. Unadorned singing, adventurous instrumentation. An album of singular charm and beauty."
Django Django - Django Django
Originally founded at Edinburgh College Of Art, the quartet are now housed in east London and have been a name to drop for months. Their art pop mixes rock and electronica and, as they point out, has nothing to do with the jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt.
The judges said: "Kaleidoscopic pop superbly reprogrammed for the contemporary dance floor. Vivid, pounding and joyous."
Ben Howard - Every Kingdom
Brought up in Totnes, Devon, he was raised listening to classic records by Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. After a stint studying journalism he turned to music full-time. His album, released through Island Records to which he signed because of the label's association with Nick Drake and John Martyn, was released in October.
The judges said: "Intriguing tales from a modern troubadour. Emotionally charged and involving music."
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