Alt-rock acts Florence & The Machine and Kasabian have emerged as the bookmakers' favorites for the 2009 Barclaycard Mercury Prize, the U.K.'s album of the year award.

The two acts were quoted at odds of 5/1 by leading U.K. bookmaker William Hill when the shortlist for the 2009 award was announced by radio/TV presenter Lauren Laverne at central London's Hospital Club this morning. Albums by British and Irish artists released between July 2008 and July 2009 were eligible for the prize.

The full list of nominees and odds is:
Bat for Lashes, "Two Suns" (Parlophone/EMI) (6/1)
Florence & The Machine, "Lungs" (Island/Universal) (5/1)
Friendly Fires, "Friendly Fires" (XL Recordings) (8/1)
Glasvegas, "Glasvegas" (Columbia/Sony Music Entertainment) (6/1)
Kasabian "West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum" (Columbia/Sony Music Entertainment) (5/1)
La Roux, "La Roux" (Polydor/Universal) (6/1)
Led Bib, "Sensible Shoes" (Cuneiform Records) (10/1)
Lisa Hannigan, "Sea Sew" (Hoop Recordings/Absolute) (8/1)
Speech Debelle, "Speech Therapy" (Big Dada) (8/1)
Sweet Billy Pilgrim, "Twice Born Men" (Samadhisound) (10/1)
The Horrors, "Primary Colours" (XL Recordings) (8/1)
The Invisible, "The Invisible" (Accidental Records) (10/1)

According to a spokesman for leading bookmaking firm William Hill, "This has been a year of musical excellence with these superb albums representing a diverse range of genres from British and Irish artists. This quality is highlighted by the odds we've given to the 2009 Barclaycard Mercury Prize 'Albums of the Year,' which are the closest ever."

This year's award is the first to be sponsored by Barclaycard -- an arm of global financial services provider Barclays -- under a four-year deal that has replaced the previous sponsorship agreement with building society Nationwide, which had sponsored the event since 2004.

The annual U.K. "album of the year award" was launched in 1992, backed by labels body the BPI and the British Assn. of Record Dealers (now known as the Entertainment Retailers Assn.). It provided a model for similar awards in the United States (The Shortlist), Canada (the Polaris Prize) and Australia (the Australian Music Prize), where albums are judged purely on creative criteria.

The winner will be chosen by a 12-strong panel representing artists and the media during a televised ceremony in London on Sept. 8 at which several of the nominees will perform live. The ceremony will be broadcast live on national TV channel BBC Two; Laverne will present the programme, while musician and BBC TV/radio presenter Jools Holland will host the actual ceremony.

"Normally, when the shortlist is announced, you feel there are one or two stand-out names that have a serious chance of winning, but this year it really does feel more open than ever before, and it's going to be pretty difficult to second-guess the judges on this occasion," said Rudy Osorio, entertainment retailer HMV U.K. & Ireland's head of music, in a statement.

"If there is to be a story in the making this year, it could well be around the rise of so many successful female performers, who are dominating the charts right now - a trend reflected in the nomination of the likes of Florence and the Machine, La Roux, Bat For Lashes and Lisa Hannigan."

Previous Mercury winners include Suede, Dizzee Rascal, Arctic Monkeys and Klaxons. Alt-rock band Elbow took the 2008 prize with "The Seldom Seen Kid" (Fiction/Polydor).

Osorio added: "All of the shortlisted artists - particularly those who are not that well known to the wider public, can now expect a real jump in sales of their respective albums - sometimes by as much a three or four-fold, as the Mercury spotlight is shone on them. The eventual recipient of the award, however, can look forward to an even bigger boost as they connect with the wider record-buying public. Last year's winners, Elbow saw sales of their acclaimed album 'The Seldom Seen Kid' rise by nearly 700% in the week that followed the award ceremony."