The Mercury nominees

Simon Frith, chairman of the judges, gives his verdict
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Basement Jaxx ­ Rooty. Odds: 4-1

This is "up" dance music. These inventive impresarios bring together an ideal bill of sound and song. They are the upbeat side of club culture ­ a colourful head-rush of dance-floor energy.

Ed Harcourt ­ Here Be Monsters. Odds: 14-1

The dominant sound here is, unusually, the trumpet. The whole album is very cleverly sequenced, telling a succession of stories ­ almost as if he invents the melodies as he goes along.

Elbow ­ Asleep in the Back. Odds: 12-1

In one sense, this is a kind of classic, contemporary rock album. The sound is rather majestic and it has a simplistic quality. I'd describe it as rather poignant.

Goldfrapp ­ Felt Mountain. Odds: 8-1

The artist uses her vocals like a musical instrument to imply there is a narrative without there actually being one. The sound she's making is far more important than what she's saying.

Gorillaz ­ Gorillaz.

Odds: 3-1

Without a doubt this year's pop album. It's a collection of traditional, catchy pop songs of all styles. A calculated concept; they've recognised the soundtrack is the most important element of any good animation.

PJ Harvey ­ Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea. Odds: 7-1

My personal favourite. She's a visionary who has never compromised her music to articulate fashion or commercial trends. This has real emotional power.

Radiohead ­ Amnesiac.

Odds: 4-1

Clearly the best-known group on the list and they are there because they are still doing new things with a guitar. Not always easy to listen to, often unpolished but with real creativity.

Susheela Raman ­ Salt Rain. Odds: 14-1

The least-known artist on the list. Her voice is more folk than rock although that's probably not how she would describe her music. She has created a new hybrid of contemporary folk music.

Super Furry Animals ­ Rings Around the World. Odds: 7-1

The album is a tribute to British rock. They use the latest technology and are wonderfully witty. I wanted their last album on the shortlist but no one understood it.

Tom McRae ­ Tom McRae. Odds: 14-1

Another singer-songwriter but the genuine article. The album is emotionally intense and you sense he only knows how to articulate through his songs. This is one about how to deal with pain, loss and anger.

Turin Brakes ­ The Optimist LP. Odds: 8-1

This one is interesting because it's a duet. Great vocal harmonies and unlike anything else on the shortlist. They sing to each other and there's real zeal to it. Very exhilarating music.

Zero 7 ­ Simple Things.

Odds: 12-1

They've taken the easy-listening Latin Jazz music of the Fifties and bought it to the fore. These musicians are engineers and you can't help but smile when you listen to them.