Alternative acts Kasabian and Bat for Lashes have both expressed their delight to Billboard.biz at being nominated for the 2009 Barclaycard Music Prize.

The acts were among the nominees present at the Hospital club in London today (July 21) for the unveiling of the 12 best U.K. and Irish albums of the past year, as chosen by the Mercury Prize judging panel.

This year's shortlist is a diverse collection with seven debuts but, with the notable exception of the self-titled debut "La Roux" (Polydor/Universal), no real pop acts. Lily Allen and Little Boots both missed out on nominations.

Bat For Lashes is the only act who has been nominated before. The prize will be awarded on Sept. 8 during a televised ceremony on national TV channel BBC Two.

Kasabian performed an acoustic version of "Underdog" from their nominated set "West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum" (Columbia/Sony Music Entertainment) at today's launch.

"I don't know," is Kasabian singer Tom Meighan's reaction as to whether the nomination will help the album, which has already sold strongly in the U.K. with the label claiming 250,000 sales since its release on June 5.

"I'm looking on the list and we're the biggest thing on there, which is hilarious," he tells Billboard.biz. "But it's good the Mercury Prize picked us. We made an obscure third album and we had the balls to go out there and do it, and now we've got this, so it's cool. That's why they picked us."

Simon Frith, chair of judges and professor of music at Edinburgh University, acknowledges that Kasabian is one of the acts that has gone "beyond what you ever thought they would be able to do."

"Kasabian is a well-established band who I thought I understood, but this record is not what I quite thought [it would be]," he adds of their inventive third album.

"It's wonderful," is Meighan's reaction to that critical verdict. "Everyone thought we'd do [previous singles] 'Shoot the Runner' or 'Clubfoot' again, didn't they? It just shows you can be diverse and a bit leftfield and underground still. It's just really beautifully done this album. I'm glad we're nominated, it's brilliant."

Although first-week U.K. sales of 98,400 fell short of their previous album "Empire" by 11,000, Kasabian's third album was No. 1 in the U.K. for two weeks and its 20-day total of 186,600 (according to the Official Charts Co) was bigger than their other albums over the same period.

Kasabian was immediately installed as 5-1 joint favorites by bookmakers William Hill alongside "Lungs" (Island/Universal) by alt-rock act Florence and the Machine.

Bat for Lashes' "Two Suns" (Parlophone/EMI) is 6-1 - alongside albums by alt-rock band Glasvegas and pop duo La Roux - and it is a second nomination for songwriter Natasha Khan. Her Bat For Lashes debut "Fur and Gold" was nominated in 2007 but lost out to Klaxons.

"It's really nice, I feel like this album's been pretty intense and hard work and I put my heart and soul into it, so I'm really happy to have been recognized again," Khan tells Billboard.biz of her sophomore set.

Of her second nomination among the other first-timers, she adds: "This year I feel like the old grandma who's sitting in the background - oh hello, I'm here again."

Khan is also in no doubt about the benefit of a Mercury nomination in the U.K. and beyond.

"The last nomination definitely helped me because I think I was quite unknown probably to lots of people," she says. "I had been working consistently for a couple of years but it was just really nice to get that breakthrough so lots more people could hear the music."

She believes that discerning music fans in the U.S. "take note of that kind of thing [a Mercury nomination] so hopefully it will help."

Irish singer/songwriter Lisa Hannigan's self-released "Sea Sew" (Hoop Recordings) is one of seven independent releases on the shortlist, a result that was applauded by AIM (Association of Independent Music). However, alternative act Sweet Billy Pilgrim's "Twice Born Men" (Samadhisound) will get a re-release in conjunction with EMI Label Services on Aug. 3.

But Hannigan - who also performed today - tells Billboard.biz she is planning to remain indie. The album is certified platinum in Ireland.

"The whole record is very homemade and the artwork, everything's got quite a homemade feel," she says. "So it suits the record really and it just feels right to do it this way. Getting this nomination is such a dream come true in terms of being an independently released record, it's just unbelievable."

There are currently no plans to license to a major anywhere; the album is licensed to ATO in the U.S. "We're happy with our little Hoop Recordings for the moment anyway," says Hannigan, who has already toured the U.S.

"We did a support tour with Jason Mraz and we've done a couple of tours by ourselves," she adds. "We're hoping to go back in the autumn for a couple of gigs but we haven't set them up yet."

Asked if she will benefit from the nomination in the U.K. and beyond, she adds: "I hope so - I imagine so, I certainly buy all the records that are nominated."

The five other independently-released nominees are alt-rock act the Horrors and indie-dance band Friendly Fires (XL Recordings), funk soul act the Invisible (Accidental Records), hip-hop newcomer Speech Debelle (Ninja Tune) and jazz outfit Led Bib (Cuneiform Records).

Frith, who has been chair of judges since the first prize in 1992, says the shortlist shows the increasing blurring of genres.

"The one theme I think there is [this year] is that I think that it's getting increasingly difficult to use good old fashioned genre labels," he says. "I'm not sure I can make a distinction between pop and rock anymore, which once upon a time in my academic career all was clear."

"We haven't got any band or record here that is so big that it makes no difference [to them]," he adds, predicting a benefit for all nominees. "We haven't got a Coldplay. Even somebody like Kasabian, who are very well established, this may get people who wouldn't normally think about them listening to them, a bit like [2008 winners] Elbow. So I suspect everybody will benefit and those [nominees] who people haven't heard of will definitely benefit."