Rappers, rockers and shoe-gazers: Choice Music Nominees

Judges on tonight’s Choice Music Prize face a tough task trying to select a winner from a diverse range of strong albums. Eoghan O’Sullivan runs his rule over the nominees

The Academic – Tales From The Backseat

By the numbers guitar-pop debut album that’s been a long time coming from Westmeath quartet. They’ve been a radio mainstay for a couple of years and there are a couple of good songs in this collection, ‘Bear Claws’ being the obvious highlight.

Will it win: It’s a particularly strong Choice shortlist this year so this album could be among the first to be culled.

Delorentos – True Surrender

One of two previous Choice Prize winners (in 2013 for Little Sparks), the Dublin four-piece have seen it all in their 15 years together. They dumped an album created in Spain because they knew they could do better — the results, True Surrender, perhaps aren’t as good as Little Sparks but it’s still got some big highlights and preaches a positive message to keep on keeping on: ‘Islands’ and ‘In Darkness We Feel Our Way’ are growing stompers while Richie ‘Jape’ Egan worked his magic on the likes of closer ‘Just Like Everybody Else’.

Will it win: Delorentos are like the Academic’s bigger, wiser, seen-it-all older brothers so should be in with more of a chance, but it would be a surprise.

Kojaque – Deli Daydreams

A rap concept album, self-released on Soft Boy Records, about a deli worker in the lead-up to the staff Christmas party doesn’t scream album of the year but “northside DC baby” Kevin Smith aka Kojaque makes you care about every little facet of this 27- minute magnum opus. A searing opening track, the aptly named ‘White Noise’, takes aim at a broken Ireland, before Kojaque sticks a foot out the Skoda and forgets his problems, later summing up the millennial angst, “I don’t know what I want and I’m willin’ to die to get it.” ‘Eviction Notice’ completes the gamut of emotions, featuring a heart-rending vocal from Kean Kavanagh.

Will it win: The Soft Boys are here to take over. This is the album that Ireland needs in 2019.

Lisa O’Neill – Heard A Long Gone Song

The Cavan singer gets the now traditional, er, trad nod for the Choice shortlist. Her vocal is as marmite as ever - if you don’t admire it you won’t get very far with this album, released on Rough Trade imprint River Lea.

There’s little else going on in this sparse recording to distract you, some plucked acoustic here, a subtle banjo there. ‘Rock The Machine’ is a powerful call to arms, though.

Will it win: It’s easy to admire Lisa O’Neill but alas it’s hard to fall in love with the music.

O Emperor – Jason

The Waterford via Cork band are near unrecognisable from their 2010 majorlabel, Mumford & Sons-indebted debut album, Hither Thither. Formed from hours-long jamming sessions in the studio, Jason is a swirling, rhythmic mess/masterpiece, depending on your viewpoint. In debt to the deepest, darkest cuts of the 1960s and ’70s, the likes of ‘Bogey Wonderland’, ‘Girl’ and the rollicking ‘Make It Rain’ are undeniably fun. It’s O Emperor’s third and final album — unlike their early days, they’re going out on nobody else’s terms but their own.

Will it win: The most enigmatic of the ten albums here, Jason deserves a lot of love, but it will likely leave too many judges scratching their heads wondering what they’re missing.

Rejjie Snow – Dear Annie

With 20 tracks spread over an hour, the Dublin rapper Rejjie Snow meanders too much. When Dear Annie, an album very much in love with the idea of love, is good, it’s great, like the irresistible pop leanings of ‘Egyptian Luvr’ and the Republic of Loose-sampling ‘Charlie Brown’, which wakes the lacklustre second half of the record from its slumber. But Snow seems absent a lot — it’s hard to know how good his rapping chops are as he’s outshone by most of the guest vocalists.

Will it win: It would be a surprise if this is the rap album that the judges plump for. He’s also (not that it should count for anything since it’s an award for album of the year) only one of the ten acts not performing at the live ceremony on Thursday.

Saint Sister – Shape Of Silence

Radio friendly, critically acclaimed, and with success outside of Ireland, Belfast duo Saint Sister tick all the right boxes with their debut album Shape of Silence. It’s a delightfully pleasant listen, gentle harp strings easing you into proceedings. ‘Twin Peaks’ is the standout track and features the sadly anthemic line “all my friends are in Berlin now” which will resonate with many in their twenties. The likes of ‘Madrid’ act like a warming hug on a freezing day, when it’s needed most. It’ll be a little boring and one-dimensional for some, but Saint Sister have a finely crafted masterpiece in their hands.

Will it win: It’s going to be in the final reckoning and Morgan and Gemma may well be the last ones standing.

Villagers – The Art Of Pretending To Swim

Four albums, four Choice Prize nominations for everyone’s favourite Dublin troubadour. Conor O’Brien has written the best album of his career, again challenging himself with its creation. Made in the attic of his Dublin city centre apartment, this is a record that charts the creative process and the highs and inevitable lows that come along with that. However, it’s also his most fun album to date — check the soul sample on the swoonsome ‘Love Came WIth All That It Brings’.

Will it win: Villagers are the second act here to have won the Choice before and they’re among the favourites again. The judges might have to flip a coin between this and one of Kojaque and Saint Sister.

Wyvern Lingo – Wyvern Lingo

This is one of six debut albums on the shortlist and it’s the most unabashedly fun of the lot. Together since their school days, the Bray trio Wyvern Lingo channel 1990s r’n’b for a masterclass in vocal harmonies. ‘I Love You, Sadie’ is the slick highlight while ‘Used’ and ‘Snow II’ are the tearjerkers.

Will it win: Wyvern Lingo peters out a bit but expect to see them back on a Choice Prize shortlist again soon.

Just Mustard – Wednesday

These Dundalk five-piece shoegazers had enough people talking about them, thanks to a face-melting live show, at the right time for a nod on the Choice Prize shortlist. They’re the biggest surprise here, mainly because this sounds so unlike the other nine albums. It was recorded mostly in their home studio — and it sounds it. They’re part of the growing guitarsare- back movement in Ireland (chief noiseniks Fontaines DC are up for song of the year at the Choice ceremony) but there’s something too pedestrian about Wednesday to take it seriously.

Will it win: Just Mustard are probably too lo-fi to be classed as serious contenders in the Choice shake-up.

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