The Mercury Prize is upon us once again and, since I had such fun blogging the shortlist last year, I’m going to do it all again this year. The shortlist has been announced today; so, without further ado, here it is:

Bat for Lashes – Two Suns
Florence and the Machine – Lungs
Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires
Glasvegas – Glasvegas
The Horrors – Primary Colours
The Invisble – The Invisible
Kasabian – West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum
La Roux – La Roux
Led Bib – Sensible Shoes
Lisa Hannigan – Sea Sew
Speech Debelle – Speech Therapy
Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Twice Born Men

Now, that is an interesting list, not least because I don’t even know what half of it sounds like; actually, I’ve listened to precisely none of these albums all the way through.

Still, some initial observations:

There’s a distinct lack of any really big names, certainly more so than last year.

Historically, the Mercury shortlists (and winners) have been dominated by male acts; this year  the shortlist is almost  a fifty-fifty split between male and female, and the favourites to win are all female.

As for the nominees themselves: there have been quite a few hotly-tipped female acts to emerge this year; they’re represented here by La Roux and Florence and the Machine. I’ve yet to hear anything by either of them which is as good as Little Boots, but time will tell.

Of all the established ‘indie’ bands who released albums in the past year, I would not have anticipated that Kasabian would be the one to make it on to the shortlist, but that’s all part of the fun of the Mercury.

Friendly Fires and Glasvegas are both new ‘indie’ bands: I’ve heard a couple of songs by the former, which I quite liked; I know I’ve listened to the latter, but can’t remember what they’re like.

Bat for Lashes is the only one of this year’s shortlist to have been nominated previously. I’ve meant to listen to her album properly, and now I will get around to it — likewise Lisa Hannigan’s album.

The Horrors are on their second album; I’ve heard of them, but don’t know what they sound like.

The rest, I’d never even heard of until today. I gather that Speech Debelle is a female rapper, and Led Bib are a jazz act. I’m going to let the sound of The Invisible and Sweet Billy Pilgrim be a surprise.

Normally, I would not get into the game of ‘X should have nominated instead of Y’, because I don’t know the nominated albums and am in no position to judge things like that (yet). But there is one album I’ve heard this year that I thought could match up to The Seldom Seem Kid, and that’s Doves’ Kingdom of Rust (I meant to blog about it before now, and still plan to at some point). It’s a shame not to see that album in contention for the Mercury; but maybe there’s an album on the shortlist which is as good. I’m looking forward to finding out.