Albarn favourite for Mercury Prize
Damon Albarn's solo debut and chart-topping duo Royal Blood head the shortlist as favourites for this year's Barclaycard Mercury Prize.
The acts are among 12 in the running for the high-profile award which this year has largely shunned mainstream names, instead including acts such as FKA twigs, GoGo Penguin and the acclaimed poet Kate Tempest.
Appearing for a second time on the shortlist are jazz act Polar Bear, singer-guitarist Anna Calvi and Nick Mulvey, who was previously in the running as a member of Portico Quartet.
Albarn, who has been on the list a number of times in the past with his bands Blur and Gorillaz, is nominated for his album Everyday Robots.
Bookm aker William Hill puts Albarn at 4/1 joint favourite with Royal Blood, whose unusual rock format of just bass and drums saw them achieve a number one with their self-titled debut just days ago.
The prize is open to British and Irish acts who have released albums over the past 12 months, and the judges - headed by regular chairman Simon Frith - have sifted through more than 220 entries to draw up the shortlist.
Their choices also include Bombay Bicycle Club for So Long, See You Tomorrow - the band's fourth album which went to number one earlier this year - and electro-funk act Jungle for their eponymous release.
The Mercury is often criticised for having a "token jazz" performer but this year, alongside Polar Bear, the judges have chosen a second - the Manchester based trio Gogo Penguin, with their v2.0 album.
Mulvey, who was a jazz performer when previously nominated, playing the hang in Portico Quartet, has turned to folk music as he returned to his original instrument the guitar for his solo album, First Mind.
Tempest is being tipped as one of the UK's most important poets and is also a playwright and novelist. She has been nominated for her debut music release as a rapper, Everybody Down.
FKA twigs is shortlisted for LP1, Polar Bear are up for In Each And Every One and Calvi competes with One Breath. The list is completed by East India Youth for Total Strife Forever and Young Fathers with their album Dead.
Frith said: " This year's Barclaycard Mercury Prize shortlist confirms that these are fascinating times for UK music.
"There are seven outstanding debut albums here, and five records by more established artists, all pursuing exciting new directions. What most impressed the judges was the inventive passion with which musicians explore music and emotional possibilities, refusing to be pinned down by rules or genre."
William Hill spokesman Jon Ivan-Duke said: "It's a great shortlist and we think it will be a tight race. Our early betting suggests that Damon Albarn and Royal Blood are the artists to catch this year but last year's winner James Blake was a 25/1 outsider, so everyone is in with a chance of winning."
The shortlist was announced at an event in London's Hospital Club. The winner will be announced at a ceremony staged at the Roundhouse in London on October 29 .
The shortlist is as follows (with William Hill odds in brackets)
:: Damon Albarn - Everyday Robots (4/1)
:: Royal Blood - Royal Blood (4/1)
:: Bombay Bicycle Club - So Long, See You Tomorrow (6/1)
:: Kate Tempest - Everybody Down (6/1)
:: FKA twigs - LP1 ( 7/1)
:: Nick Mulvey - First Mind ( 7/1)
:: East India Youth - Total Strife Forever ( 8/1)
:: Jungle - Jungle ( 8/1)
:: Young Fathers - Dead ( 8/1)
:: Anna Calvi - One Breath ( 10/1)
:: GoGo Penguin - v2.0 ( 10/1)
:: Polar Bear - In Each And Every One ( 10/1)