11th-hour stand-in makes shortlist for the Mercury Prize

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Now the singer-songwriter K T Tunstall has bolstered her reputation as a rising star in the pop world by making it on to the 12-strong shortlist for the Nationwide Mercury Prize.

Tunstall, who grew up in St Andrews in Scotland, is nominated for her debut album, Eye to the Telescope, which features "Black Horse" and the "Cherry Tree", the song that wowed the audience at Holland's BBC2 showcase.

Tunstall said yesterday: "I used to lust over a Mercury nomination as a busker on the dole in my twenties. It's been a great year for music and this is a great line-up of albums. It's fantastic to be a part of it all."

In a list ranging from Seth Lakeman, a 28-year-old folk violinist from Dartmoor, to Coldplay, Tunstall is a standard bearer for the female sex on a strongly male shortlist. But the 30-year-old singer-guitarist, who studied music at the Royal Holloway College, London, did have some female competition on the shortlist announced yesterday.

MIA, a former art school student who fuses music from hip-hop to bhangra, is in contention with her debut album Arular. But it was the Kaiser Chiefs and their debut, Employment, who were immediately named 4-1 favourites to win this year's £20,000 prize in September.

The Leeds quintet have had a successful summer, which included a performance at the American Live8 concert. Ricky Wilson, the lead singer, said: "It's a weird thing to say, but somehow I feel quite vindicated. This time last year we didn't have a record deal. This time we do and we're nominated for the Nationwide Mercury Prize. It's a big deal."

Simon Firth, chairman of the judges, revealed that one of the panel's most contentious decisions was including Coldplay and their third album, X&Y. But he said that while it was more exciting to discover new bands, the prize should not exclude bands simply because they were big.

Sean Gannon, who with his sister Angela, and other siblings Romeo and Michele Stodart, make the four-part harmonies of The Magic Numbers, thought Antony and the Johnsons would win. He added: "The album we made is brilliant, but there's lots of other good stuff out there as well."

The nominations

* ANTONY AND THE JOHNSONS 'I Am a Bird Now'

"He has the most extraordinary voice, high and low, black and white, male and female. Of all the records on the list, it's the most unplaceable."

* BLOC PARTY 'Silent Alarm'

"The most arty of the new wave of Britpop. There's an immense air of confidence about them."

* COLDPLAY 'X&Y'

"You feel they've thought, we're going to have to play these songs to huge audiences. They incorporate that sense of space."

* THE GO! TEAM 'Thunder, Lightning, Strike'

"Hugely entertaining. It's a record that just brings out that sense of party. It's perfect for summer."

* K T TUNSTALL 'Eye to the Telescope'

"She has a kind of maturity. You feel she's been around and has interesting things to sing about."

* HARD-FI 'Stars of CCTV'

"It's classic teenage music about being bored in a place you want to get out of. It draws on a bit of punk, a bit of ska, a bit of two-tone. It's very British."

* KAISER CHIEFS 'Employment'

"A wonderful pop band. They're another bunch of guys with guitars but they write the most fantastically catchy songs."

* THE MAGIC NUMBERS 'The Magic Numbers'

"They celebrate live music-making. There haven't been many bands since the Mamas and the Papas that have been about that kind of harmony singing."

* MAXIMO PARK 'A Certain Trigger'

"They're a young guitar band from Newcastle with a clever use of lyrics and carefully crafted, persuasive songs, representing a provincial bohemianism."

* MIA 'Arular'

"Impossible to pigeonhole. She throws into the mix every conceivable urban sound. It's incredibly good pop music."

* POLAR BEAR 'Held on the Tips of Fingers'

"This is just a great jazz record made by people who listen to lots of aspects of dance music. They understand about sampling."

* SETH LAKEMAN 'Kitty Jay'

"He's obviously a folk singer but could be regarded as a singer-songwriter who is interested in drawing on folk traditions. An incredible violinist."

Simon Frith

The author is the Nationwide Mercury Prize chairman

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