Joe Newman, Gwil Sainsbury, Thom Green and Gus Unger-Hamilton of Alt J win the Barclaycard Mercury Prize (Reuters)
Joe Newman, Gwil Sainsbury, Thom Green and Gus Unger-Hamilton of Alt J win the Barclaycard Mercury Prize (Reuters)

Indie act Alt-J's winning of the 2012 Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize was announced on Channel 4 last night, who dedicated a whole five-minute slot to the prestigious ceremony.

The interest following the award couldn't have lasted much longer.

For the third year running, the winning act has gone to the bookies' favourite, following PJ Harvey's Let Shake England last year and The XX's self-titled debut album in 2010.

There's no arguing An Awesome Wave isn't a very strong and mature debut album and deserves its nomination.

Its mixture of jangling guitars and electronic music combined with ambitious arrangements has seen the Leeds outfit hailed as the next Radiohead (perhaps a better comparison would be with 2010 nominees Foals).

The problem is the album ticks so many boxes in what is a typical Mercury-worthy winner, and was the obvious choice from the day the nominations were announced.

There was a time when the announcement of the winner of the deliberately contrarian award was met with some surprise. Albums were once instantly dismissed from winning the award if they fell into a certain category: It's already successful and doesn't need extra attention and praise. It's the best album so will be declared so elsewhere. It's by Radiohead.

1997 was the year middle aged Guardian readers bought their first ever drum-and-bass album after Roni Size won the the award.

Two years later a second, more obscure drum and bass artist, Talvin Singh, received the nod for his debut album OK - a decision met with a confused glance, shrug of the shoulders and the album subsequently soaring into the charts at number 41 (even though it sold only 90,000 copies, far fewer than many previous winners).

And let's not forget the mandatory mention of Gomez.

The tradition of the more obscure album winning has appeared to have completely ground to a halt. After the triumphs of mega-selling-skinny-white-boys-with-guitars acts Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys in 2004 and 2006, the ceremony went in a completely opposite direction in 2009 by giving the award to the debut album from Speech Debelle, Speech Therapy.

The album flopped. Given that, every year, people discuss how album sales for the nominated acts increase, the fact Speech Debelle only managed to sell around 15,000 copies - roughly one tenth of the sales for PJ Harvey's 2011 winning album - was seen as a disaster.

Since then all the winning albums have been safe, widely acclaimed and both the critics' and bookies' favourites. You could have predicted the winners without even listening to any of the nominated albums.

Martin Talbot, chief executive of the Official Charts Company, described An Awesome Wave as "almost an identikit Mercury winner", a description which was not meant to be a compliment.

The only opinion I've read which describes the win as a surprise is from associate editor of Q magazine Paul Stokes, a magazine for people whose entire music collection was purchased at a supermarket.

Before the announcement, two acts were suddenly being heavily tipped to win the award with albums I would be surprised would make it into the top 20 of any 'Best Albums of 2012' lists in the coming months.

People began screaming for Richard Hawley to given the award, not because his album Standing at the Sky's Edge is a work of genius which will stand the test of time for decades to come (or even the best Richard Hawley album) but mainly because they believed it's a crying shame he hasn't won it already.

"Someone call 999, Richard Hawley's been robbed," said Arctic Monkeys singer Alex Turner during their acceptance speech in 2006.

There has been a surge of writers over the past few days announcing that northeast heroes Field Music are now a national treasure, mentioning their name in the same breathe as the Velvet Underground and Captian Beefheart.

Their album Plumb received a mixed, albeit mainly positive, reception (generating a 7.2 average on music review aggregator It was not the bookies favourite, not commercially successful and, crucially, not actually the best album of the year. If this was their debut album, and released 10 years ago, it would have been a shoe-in.

People would also have been excited about the decision.