Coldplay and Radiohead are at the head of the shortlist for this year's prestigious Mercury Music Prize.
Coldplay are nominated for their second album
Two of the UK's biggest rock bands, the pair will do battle with 10 other artists from soul and folk singers to hip-hop and garage innovators.
Also nominated are hot new Irish band The Thrills, stadium rockers The Darkness and rising UK garage star Dizzee Rascal, who was recently stabbed in Ayia Napa.
But there was no place for Blur, whose latest offering was tipped to be among the contenders.
Who should win the Mercury?
Dizzee Rascal 2.69%
The Thrills 7.03%
The Darkness 19.68%
Lemon Jelly 7.14%
Terri Walker 0.88%
Martina Topley-Bird 2.48%
Eliza Carthy 3.37%
Soweto Kinch 1.71%
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion
Neil McCormick, music critic for the Daily Telegraph, told BBC News 24 it was a shortlist of bands and artists "chosen from the margins".
Soul duo Floetry, who have enjoyed more success in the US than the UK, and have worked with Justin Timberlake, are nominated for their debut.
Martina Topley-Bird, who found fame as Tricky's singer, is on the list with her first solo release, while young jazz performer Soweto Kinch is among the lesser-known nominees.
She said the Mercury "will draw some attention to the album which is wonderful", adding: "It's great when anyone has got something good to say about what you have been doing."
Soul diva Terri Walker said she was "overwhelmed" to be on the shortlist.
"It's one of the best pieces of news to be recognised by people in the industry," she said.
Jazz musician Soweto Kinch said he jumped "10 foot into the air and had to be brought down by helicopter" when he had heard he was on the shortlist.
He told BBC News Online: "It's great to be associated with an award which rewards innovation and risk-taking."
The nomination would mean "hopefully establishing myself on a slightly different echelon", he said.
The Darkness' frontman Justin Hawkins said his ban's nomination was a vindication for their music.
"We fly in the face of everything in the industry but we still have a presence. We have done it through bloody-mindedness and not being told what to do by the record industry."
Judging panel chairman Simon Frith said: "Most of these debut albums are astonishingly assured and you don't think they you are listening to first albums.
"Virtually every act had a clear sense of the music they wanted to make and just made it."
McCormick said he was shocked by the list and said the shortlist did not reflect "the best of what has been a very good year".
He told BBC News 24 that the judges had ignored major bands such as Blur and Super Furry Animals who had produced some of their best work in the last 12 months.
But he added Coldplay were "the critics' choice and the public's choice".
Coldplay and Radiohead, who have both been nominated before but never won, have been installed as joint favourites by bookmakers.
Last year, Ms Dynamite walked away the winner with her album A Little Deeper.
Her win cemented her reputation as one of garage's music's rising stars, although this has not translated into huge album or single sales.
A panel of judges drawn from the music industry will initially choose their 12 albums of the year, before announcing the overall winner on 9 September.
Dizzee Rascal: Recently attacked in Ayia Napa
The winner receives a £20,000 cheque along with the prestige of being named Mercury Prize winner, which can boost the profile of artists to a wider audience.
Coldplay's latest album A Rush of Blood to the Head has already picked up a Brit and an Ivor Novello songwriting award.
But previous form is not always a marker for advantage as their equally successful debut album Parachutes missed out on the Mercury in 2000 when it was won by Badly Drawn Boy.
The shortlist in full:
Radiohead - Hail to the Thief
Dizzee Rascal - Boy in Da Corner
The Thrills - So Much for the City
Soweto Kinch - Conversations with the Unseen
Floetry - Floetic
The Darkness - Permission To Land
Coldplay - A Rush of Blood to the Head
Martina Topley-Bird - Quixotic
Eliza Carthy - Anglicana
Athlete - Vehicles and Animals
Terri Walker - Untitled
Lemon Jelly - Lost Horizons