The 10th anniversary of Ireland’s version of the Mercury Music Prize takes place on Thursday March 5 with a special live event at Vicar Street that should feature performances from most of the nominees. One act who definitely won’t be performing are the sadly departed Adebisi Shank, whose superb swan song is curiously absent from what is ultimately a rather tame list. There’s no nod for Lethal Dialect either, despite his 1988 effort capitalising on the promise shown on earlier works. And while it was unlikely that a more underground act like Red Enemy were going to make the cut, it’s a shame not to see something more aggressive and challenging recognised.
Nonetheless, let’s go through the 10 acts who will battle it out for the coveted Choice Music Prize – and the small matter of €10,000.
Aphex Twin – Syro
Who? Proud son of Limerick Richard D James is Irish, don’tchaknow? He’s ours. We OWN him.
Why? Blimp and Deep Web-assisted marketing campaign or not, the very existence and release of a new Aphex Twin album is a noteworthy event in itself. Critics acclaimed, disciples swooned, newcomers shrugged and AT remained a niche proposition reserved strictly for those who get it, man.
…He’s not really Irish though, right?
Win? This year’s My Bloody Valentine. That’ll be a ‘no’, then.
Delorentos – Night Becomes Light
Who? Former Choice champions courtesy of the magnificent Little Sparks, Delorentos ‘did a Vampire Weekend’ and discovered august songwriting with album number three before establishing themselves as one of the country’s most engaging live acts.
Why? Voted HeadStuff‘s Best Album of 2014, Night Becomes Light built handsomely on the momentum of Little Sparks and though it may serve as a lighter counterpoint to that record, it boasts the triumph and conviction we have now come to expect from the versatile quartet.
Win? Though Jape’s 2012 victory gave the Choice its first two-time recipient, it doesn’t feel like the right time for Delorentos to join that club. Yet.
The Gloaming – The Gloaming
Who? According to their hot mess of a website, The Gloaming are a “group of extraordinary and virtuosic musicians”. Formed in 2011, they’re considered to be a “supergroup” that specialise in traditional Irish and Celtic music.
Win? It’s certainly possible and it’s hard to think of a compelling case against them. Could be a bit out there for the judges given trad isn’t exactly the sexiest of genres in this day and age, but there’s more genuine feeling in the opening chords of the first track than there is on all of something like…
Hozier – Hozier
Who? You know fucking well who.
Why? Because he’s Irish.
Win? Probably. All hail Emperor Bland.
James Vincent McMorrow – Post Tropical
Who? Velvet-voiced crooner who excels in crafting velvet-smooth soundscapes. Don’t call him ‘ethereal’ though, because it doesn’t really make any sense, does it?
Why? Post Tropical, though not a genre-defying reinvention, added some luscious new strings to McMorrow’s bow.
Win? There was an odd feeling of ‘came and went’ about McMorrow’s sophomore effort. The chance to re-assess it one year later may well result in shiny phone company-sponsored recognition.
Sinéad O’Connor – I’m Not Bossy, I’m The Boss
Who? High priestess, Miley Cyrus super-fan and general shrinking violet.
Why? Because she’s not bossy, she’s THE BOSS. And because she took the name of one of the biggest Irish songs in recent memory and wrote something much better.
Win? Just like when Al Pacino finally won the Oscar for the trite-but-memorable Scent of a Woman, a win here would feel like a cursory lifetime achievement award, so nope.
Damien Rice – My Favourite Faded Fantasy
Who? Lisa Hannigan’s ex.
Why? Well, it really is very good indeed plus the whole ‘Reclusive troubadour comes in from the cold after eight years’ thing.
Win? Rice doesn’t really give a shit about awards and may not even bother turning up. Fabulous album and a worthy winner, though.
The Riptide Movement – Getting Through
Who? Grafton Street grafters done good.
Why? The ‘Sure, why not?’ of the bunch. Incidentally, unless I’m missing something, the point of that there above video seems to suggest that if you’re struggling with particularly strong mental health issues you’re likely to be inspired by and enjoy the music of The Riptide Movement. Odd.
Win? Not a hope. This is more of a tip of the hat to a band who worked extremely hard to make a connection. Though their brand of knee-slappin’ back-of-a-pub ri ra agus ruaille buaille is relatively harmless, it would be a huge shock if they didn’t go out in the first round of eliminations.
U2 – Songs of Innocence
Who? Promising up and comers from the storied streets of Dublin’s fair city.
Why? Tremendous question.
Win? This Is The Third Album Of A Band Called Adebisi Shank didn’t make the cut and this did. Fuck all the way off.
We Cut Corners – THINKNOTHING
Who? Impossibly charming fellows John Duignan and Conall O’Breachain function as both art house project and raucous musical machine, favouring winsome short stories and full-pelt sonic assaults. Sounds awful but is actually glorious.
Why? Well, they deserve their inclusion for ‘Best Friend’ alone but THINKNOTHING is the perfect second act to the We Cut Corners story. Vibrant, haunting and clever, it raises their game in every respect. Seriously though, ‘Best Friend’. Tune.
Win? Good outside bet. The Choice likes to throw up the odd surprise and while We Cut Corners is far from a wildly unthinkable shout, it’s the kind of interesting swerve that may throw people when the victor’s name is read out.
SO, YOUR WINNER WILL BE…
THE GLOAMING. But maybe Damien Rice. But maybe James Vincent McMorrow. But probably Hozier. Yay.
YOUR judging panel:
BCC Radio Ulster
The Irish Times
Demelza De Burca:
The Insider, Irish Independent
Other Voices / RTE
The shortlist for the public-voted Irish Song of the Year will be announced on January 28.