Villagers: dark horses or also-rans in Mercury race?
Mercury Prize judges like to stand apart, stun the punters, floor the music press. Well, here's an idea: this year drop the biggest bombshell of the year and give the Prize to Villagers.
A bombshell because nobody would appear to give the Irish band a hope in hell of winning.
'Awayland', the second album from Conor O'Brien and his mates, is one of 12 albums on this year's Mercury Prize shortlist, but you'd hardly know it from the coverage of the story online and in the UK press.
Writing in the Daily Mirror, Tom Bryant managed to pen a detailed analysis of this year's shortlist without any mention of Villagers.
And in The Telegraph, Neil McCormick - who really should know better - appeared to forget the Irish band altogether. 'All of these extremely talented British musicians can turn up to the awards ceremony next month justifiably pleased to be recognised for their outstanding contributions in a very good year for music,' he wrote.
Last year's Mercury Prize shortlist incurred the wrath of critics for being 'too obscure'. No fear of that this time out, with David Bowie, Arctic Monkeys, Laura Marling, Jake Bugg, Disclosure, Foals, Rudimental, James Blake, Laura Mvula, Savages, Villagers and Jon Hopkins in the list.
Only London producer Hopkins, who is nominated for fourth solo album 'Immunity', would attract the label 'obscure'.
Both the bookies and the hacks agree that this year's runaway favourite for the Mercury Prize is 66-year-old Bowie who surprised the world with the release of 'The Next Day' with zero pre-publicity earlier this year.
Arctic Monkeys are also thought to be serious contenders with 'AM' which was released only last week, on the final deadline day for awards eligibility.
Villagers, who also made the 2010 shortlist with debut album 'Becoming A Jackal', are considered outsiders, but nothing is ever certain in the Mercurys.
All will be revealed at a ceremony in London's Roundhouse on October 30.
New Ross Standard