Rock veteran Robert Plant squares off against teenage singer/songwriter Adele on the 12-album shortlist for the 2008 Nationwide Mercury Prize, announced in London this morning.

The list reflects "a remarkably rich year for British music," according to chair of judges Simon Frith.

"I think [this shortlist] shows how much musicians still do treat the album as a significant, formal way of making music," adds Frith. "Whatever anyone says about people don't listen to albums, they download tracks. Most of these bands have deliberately made albums, which you couldn't do any other way."

However, there was no place for such multi-platinum albums as Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" (Parlophone/EMI) or Duffy's "Rockferry" (A&M/Universal) on the list, selected by a panel including representatives of the media, academics and musicians.

The shortlist, chosen from an entry of over 240 albums by British artists, was announced by radio/TV presenter Lauren Laverne at London's Hospital Club. The 12 nominated albums are: Adele, "19" (XL); British Sea Power, "Do You Like Rock Music?" (Rough Trade); Burial, "Untrue" (Hyperdub); Elbow, "The Seldom Seen Kid" (Fiction/Universal); Estelle, "Shine" (Atlantic); Laura Marling, "Alas I Cannot Swim" (Virgin/EMI); Neon Neon, "Stainless Style" (Lex); Portico Quartet, "Knee-Deep In The North Sea" (Vortex); Rachel Unthank & The Winterset, "The Bairns" (EMI); Radiohead, "In Rainbows" (XL); Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, "Raising Sand" (Rounder/Decca); The Last Shadow Puppets, "The Age Of The Understatement" (Domino).

The Mercury judges will select their album of the year from the shortlist at a ceremony held in London Sept. 9. The ceremony, which will feature live performances from various nominees, will be announced live on national TV channel BBC 2, which will also broadcast the awards show on Sept. 12.

Those programmes will be fronted by radio/TV presenter Lauren Laverne. The show itself will be hosted on the night by musician and presenter Jools Holland.

British Sea Power bassist Neil Wilkinson said: "I wasn't expecting it, I'd forgotten all about it."

He added: "We try to keep the standards high and it's paid off."

Duncan Bellamy from jazz outfit the Portico Quartet said: "It's really exciting, I'm really looking forward to it [the ceremony] - we'll meet lots of interesting musicians. I really like the 'Burial' album."

The shortlist was praised in a rare joint statement by U.K. labels bodies BPI and the Association of Independent Music. According to BPI chairman Tony Wadsworth, it is "a great snapshot of our current vibrant music scene and the rich choice available to music fans."

He added: "in a fractured media age, when standing out from the crowd is difficult, a shortlisting can help a great record attract enough attention to become a modern classic, rather than a buried treasure."

AIM chair/CEO Alison Wenham described the Prize as being "of particular importance to the Independents as it is inclusive of all genres, and the criteria of nomination is simply one of quality rather than commercial success -- and for that, the prize is much coveted."

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