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.

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 3/1, 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 as joint favorites to win the "album of the year" prize. The albums are among 12 shortlisted for this year's prize.

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

The latter is the best-selling album on the list. "We're very excited about the Mercury nomination," Relentless co-founder Shabs told Billboard.biz following Stone's nomination. Stone's album has shipped in excess of 2 million copies worldwide, including 650,000 copies in the United Kingdom, says Shabs.

Stone's sophomore album "Mind Body & Soul" is to be released internationally on September 27 and the following day in the United States. A U.K. single "You Hold Me Up" is released Sept. 13. The album, which features co-writes by Stone with Motown veteran Lamont Dozier and former Portishead vocalist Beth Gibbons, is "an organic development" from the Mercury-nominated debut, Shabs adds.

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) makes the shortlist, as does 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 gala on September 7, and there will be broadcasts on national TV channel BBC Two, digital TV channel BBC Four and BBC Radio 1.