Top acts vie for Choice Music Prize

Tonight will see the eighth annual Choice Music Prize awarded to one of ten Irish acts, half of whom have been nominated and/or won the gong before.

The event runs at Vicar Street in Dublin, and the winners will get a cheque for €10,000.

Julie Feeney won the inaugural Choice Prize in 2005, Adrian Crowley took it home in 2009, while Two Door Cinema Club won two years ago, to the surprise of almost everybody who had backed VIllagers’ debut to the hills (me!). The Cast of Cheers were also on that shortlist for their online-only and since deleted debut album Chariot.

Delorentos perhaps have the most storied history of the ten bands. Nominated for the Choice Prize in 2007 for their debut album In Love With Detail, they split soon after, reformed, released a pedestrian second album, but got their act together and made the album of their careers, Little Sparks, the favourite to take home the Choice Prize tonight.

The others up for tonight’s prize are Damien Dempsey (surprisingly, this is his first Choice Prize nomination), Wallis Bird, Heathers, Mumblin Deaf Ro and Windings.

None of the albums are debut releases.

A judging panel of 11, which includes this writer, will decide which act deserves the Irish equivalent of the Mercury Prize. According to its website, the modus operandi of the Choice Prize is to “encourage, highlight, showcase, and promote Irish music”. It “seeks to increase public awareness of music from Ireland annually”, and it is “ultimately to select the album which best sums up the year in Irish music”. It’s curious that the goal is not to decide the best Irish album of the year.

I’ve been blogging about music at for about three years and concentrating solely on Irish music for the last year. I think that what we have on this island is truly special and it’s more rewarding to see big things happening for a band from Cork, Dublin, Newbridge, or wherever (and good things are happening across the country) than trying to get excited about the next big thing from Brooklyn.

So it was nice to be asked to be a judge this year. There’s been the inevitable criticism of the shortlist. Steve Wall of the Walls, for example, gave out, claiming that the judges ignored his band’s latest album: “In fact we’ve never had a nomination for any Irish award. Surely that deserves an award in itself!” he ranted on Facebook.

This year the loudest calls have been that the judges forgot about the Spook of the Thirteenth Lock, Katie Kim, Lethal Dialect, and Owensie. Personally I would’ve liked to have seen Sunken Foal, Bats, and Cork artist Bantum up for the award.

But all this goes to show the strength of Irish music. Already this year there have been a couple of albums that should be on the minds of the judges for next year’s prize. I am the Cosmos’s debut release Monochrome is an amazing piece of work — the central track ‘Esque’ is the best thing I’ve heard in 2013. You can be assured that Villagers, who tour Ireland later this month, will appear on the shortlist again. Girls Names, from Belfast, have also made a fine second album. And Solar Bears release their second album in a few weeks, one of the most anticipated albums of the year, Irish or otherwise.

As for this year, I’ve been listening incessantly to all the nominated acts, what they’ve done before, made notes on each, and found some new favourite songs. I’ve narrowed who I want to win down to one or two acts. Now how do I convince the other judges who should get the €10,000?

* @tpoeblog

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