Albums by the Streets and Franz Ferdinand are the leading contenders for the 2004 Nationwide Mercury Prize, which celebrates the best of British and Irish music. Other newcomers with albums on the lis

Albums by the Streets and Franz Ferdinand are the leading contenders for the 2004 Nationwide Mercury Prize, which celebrates the best of British and Irish music.

With odds of 3 to 1, bookmakers William Hill have made U.K. garage act the Streets' sophomore set "A Grand Don't Come For Free" (679 Recordings) and Domino-signed Franz Ferdinand's self-titled debut album joint favorites to win the album of the year prize. The albums are among 12 shortlisted for this year's award.

Newcomers feature highly on the list. Along with Scottish alternative rock act Franz Ferdinand, other debutants include Keane's "Hopes & Fears" (Island), the Zutons' "Who Killed ... The Zutons" (Deltasonic), Amy Winehouse's "Frank" (Island), and Joss Stone's "The Soul Sessions" (Relentless).

Elsewhere on the shortlist, British dance is represented by Basement Jaxx's "Kish Kash" (XL Recordings) the follow-up to their 2001 Mercury-shortlisted XL set "Rooty." R&B artist Jamelia and rapper Ty are nominated, with "Thank You" (Parlophone) and "Upwards" (Big Dada Recordings), respectively.

Northern Irish/Scottish act Snow Patrol's third set "Final Straw" (Fiction) is also on the shortlist, as is Scottish pop act Belle & Sebastian's "Dear Catastrophe Waitress" (Rough Trade). Veteran artist Robert Wyatt's first album in six years, "Cuckooland" (Hannibal/Rykodisc), is also shortlisted.

The prize is voted for by a panel of music industry experts, journalists and music artists, based on a list of albums nominated by labels. This year, 180 albums were put forward.

The winner will be announced at a Sept. 7 gala that will be broadcast on national TV channel BBC Two, digital TV channel BBC Four and BBC Radio.

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