David Bowie came back from his retirement/hiatus completely unannounced this January, when he released the video for the single 'Where Are We Now,' and managed to catch everyone off guard with his birthday announcement of a new release and the subsequent quality of his first album in a decade.

David Bowie
This is Bowie's first Mercury nomination

The Next Day made the critics swoon after Ziggy Stardust once again and now, five months after he released his twenty-fourth album, Bowie is still being fancied by critics as he emerges as the front-runner to win this years Barclaycard Mercury Prize.

The Next Day is one of the twelve albums shortlisted to be in contention for the award, sitting alongside the likes of the Arctic Monkeys, Foals and Laura Mvula. The final twelve are made from a 220-strong collection of releases from UK and Irish artists released over the course of the last year, each vying for the coveted award and the $20,000 that comes with it. The rest of the shortlist for the British and Irish album of the year is completed by Disclosure, James Blake, Laura Marling, Rudimental, Savages, Jon Hopkins, Jake Bugg and Villagers.

"It's been a great year," BBC 6 Music DJ Lauren Laverne said during the unveiling of the shortlist on Wednesday, 11 September, "It's always a challenging task to decide a shortlist of just 12 releases and that has been made all the more difficult by the sheer volume and quality of music that's been released."

Arctic Monkeys
The Arctic Monkeys are also favourites for the award

This is Bowie's first Mercury award nomination, and his inexperience with the award is matched by only five other newcomers, as a number of prominent British and Irish bands made their return to music with the help of some warm critical reception. Released only this week, The Arctic Monkey's AM sits alongside The Next Day as the favourite for the award, but being an award renown for ignoring the favourites in favour of the next big thing, the smart money would be on debutants Disclosure with Settle or Mercury returnee James Blake's second album, Overgrown.

Electronic artist Blake spoke with the BBC about swimming in the same pool as Bowie, saying that his inclusion in the list is a testament to his artistic resonance. He said, "It's surreal to be on the same shortlist. But its a testament to how inventive and effortless [he is]. But what would be better out of meeting him and winning the Mercury? Winning the Mercury."

James Blake
James Blake has his eye on the prize

Full list for the 2013 Barclaycard Mercury Prize nominees:

Arctic Monkeys - AM

David Bowie - The Next Day

Disclosure - Settle

Foals - Holy Fire

Jake Bugg - Jake Bugg

James Blake - Overgrown

Jon Hopkins - Immunity

Laura Marling - Once I Was An Eagle

Laura Mvula - Sing to the Moon

Rudimental - Home

Savages - Silence Yourself

Villagers - Awayland

David Bowie Soho
Can 'The Next Day' win?