But judging by the longlist announced today, the scrap for the 2014 title could be the toughest battle to date, with a number of commercial and critical big hitters vying for the prize, not least Biffy Clyro’s epic, chart-topping double album Opposites, Mogwai’s deliciously eerie soundtrack for French TV drama Les Revenants and Frightened Rabbit’s Pedestrian Verse duking it out beside albums by respected veterans Edwyn Collins and The Pastels, acclaimed newcomers Chvrches, upcoming hip hop acts Young Fathers and Hector Bizerk and venerable ensembles the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Dunedin Consort.
This year’s longlist is nothing if not eclectic, encompassing electronica, indie, folk, rock, rap and a cluster of jazz and classical nominations hoping for representation on the shortlist. But the SAY organisers have no influence on what albums are selected. All they can do is supply a list of eligible entrants and canvas the votes of a suitably wide range of non-partisan promoters, journalists, broadcasters, bloggers, venue owners and record shops. Beyond this, it comes down to the tastes and enthusiasm of the nominators.
Last year’s winner, RM Hubbert, gets the nod again for his latest, Breaks & Bone, and Tommy Smith receives his second nomination, this time with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra’s In The Spirit Of Duke.
Notable by their absence are former Mercury Music Prize winners Franz Ferdinand, whose comeback album, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, has failed to make the cut.