Kasabian among favorites for Mercury Prize

Odds also good for Florence & the Machine

LONDON -- 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 on Tuesday morning. Albums by British and Irish artists released between July 2008 and July 2009 were eligible for the prize.

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-member 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 2; Laverne will present the programme, while musician and BBC TV/radio presenter Jools Holland will host the actual ceremony.

The full list of nominees and odds follows:

Bat for Lashes, "Two Suns" (6-1)
Florence & The Machine, "Lungs" (5-1)
Friendly Fires, "Friendly Fires" (8-1)
Glasvegas, "Glasvegas" (6-1)
Kasabian "West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum" (5-1)
La Roux, "La Roux" (6-1)
Led Bib, "Sensible Shoes" (10-1)
Lisa Hannigan, "Sea Sew" (8-1)
Speech Debelle, "Speech Therapy" (8-1)
Sweet Billy Pilgrim, "Twice Born Men" (10-1)
The Horrors, "Primary Colours" (8-1)
The Invisible, "The Invisible" (10-1)