Elements of Choice


The shortlist for the Choice Music Prize for the best Irish album of 2009 was announced on Wednesday afternoon. Tony Clayton-Lea casts an eye over the list and, below, readers give their views

INSTEAD of using sales or airplay as criteria, the Choice Music Prize judging panel focuses, pure and simple, on the music. Inaugurated in 2005 by Dave Reid and Irish Timesmusic critic Jim Carroll, the Choice Music Prize is regarded as untainted by sponsorship or commerce. Since it was established, it has – bar a few bun fights and strong words – highlighted Irish albums that the judging panel, in their wisdom, regards as being the best in Irish music in the given year.

The winning act will receive a tasty financial bonanza of €10,000, provided by the Irish Music Rights Organisation (Imro) and the Irish Recorded Music Association (Irma). The winning act will also receive a specially commissioned award, courtesy of the Recorded Artists and Performers Ltd (Raap).

The overall Album of the Year will be selected by the judging panel at the Choice Music Prize live event at Vicar St, Dublin, on Wednesday, March 3rd. The event will also be broadcast live in a special Paul McLoone Showon Today FM. Tickets for the Choice Music Prize live event will go on sale from all Ticketmaster outlets on Monday, January 18th priced €27.


Season of the Sparks

Singer-songwriter Crowley has been on the shortlist before (Choice Music Prize for Best Irish Album 2007 for Long Distance Swimmer), and it’s no surprise at all that he makes it again. Crowley’s thing is quiet intensity wrapped up in a shawl of tightly knit threads and themes. A definite contender for first place.



Blue Lights on the Runway

Previously shortlisted for Choice Music Prize for Best Irish Album 2005 (for Flock), they received stick from various quarters for some of this album being overtly influenced by Talking Heads, but good songs are good songs, no? They won’t win, by the way. www.bellx1.com


Let The Truth Be Told

Izibor’s album is probably the oldest on the shortlist, having been scheduled for release by a couple of major labels since 2007. That said, it’s a pleasure to see this on the shortlist, as it’s a collection of super smart commercial soul/pop from an artist tailor-made for international success. Could this be the surprise win? www.lauraizibor.com


We Love You Dark Matter

There aren’t many bands that could get away with combining the electro rock of New Order and the electronic pop of Human League, but these Dubliners just about manage it (although sometimes it’s a very close call). The dark horse of the batch? Reckon so. www.darkroomnotes


Slow Dynamo

It’s gratifying to know that the judging panel know their onions from their carrots, and in selecting this expressive gem of a low-key debut album, they have made certain that Dubliner Francis will be a name even more people will recognise within a few months.




The winner of 2005’s inaugural Choice Music Prize. Here’s the thing: Pagesis an astonishing, different, idiosyncratic, eccentric and palpably intriguing album that should walk away with the big fat shiny gong. But will having won before sway the judging panel to choose otherwise? Hopefully not. www.juliefeeney.com


Strict Joy

The second album from Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová might not have the emotional resonance of their debut, but it’s nonetheless a solid gathering of true-blue folk/pop from a master of the form, ably assisted by a singer and songwriter who could well do a “Lisa Hannigan” in the near future. It won’t win, but it’ll come close. www.theswellseason.com


And So I Watch You From Afar

One of the most hotly- tipped Irish acts in years, this band from Co Derry uses surges of instrumental vehemence and tenderness that might pigeonhole them in the post/math rock genre if there wasn’t far more to their music than meets the ear. Could easily win. www.myspace.com/andsoiwatchyoufromafar


The Duckworth Lewis Method

One half of the DLM (Neil Hannon) has been nominated before, while the other (Thomas Walsh, of Pugwash) has been, curiously, blanked by former judging panels. The pair’s concept album (it’s about cricket, don’t you know) is a blast of perfectly formed and witty pop. Definitely in with a chance. www.dlmethod.com



For some critics, the best new Irish rock act of 2009. Certainly, both band and album burst with the kind of confidence it’s easy to be seduced by, but this critic is more resistant to their charms. Simply put, this is the least original album I’ve heard in an age. Did anyone mention Muse? Not a snowball’s chance in Hades, readers. www.myspace.com/codesofficial

Blog comments: Why does it bother people if Neil Hannon buys a kitchen?

- Good list. Better than expected. Pity theres no Holy Roman Army on there. They wouldve really benefitted from the exposure (unlike some Oscar winners…) - Ronan

- The list by and large shows that while it was by no means a bad year for Irish music, there was little that really captured the imagination. Surprised David Kitt didnt get a mention. - Joe

- Stunned to see Laura Izibor and Swell Season in there. - Jan

- Congrats to all nominees! Dont think Laura Izibor, the Swell Season, BellX1 or Duckworth made good albums last year, but I guess BLAME THE JUDGES for that. Would be happy if Adrian, Julie, Codes, ASIWYFA, Valerie or DRN took it, but if I had to choose, would love to see Adrian win. Pound for pound its probably the best (nominated) Irish record of 2009. Great to see multiple nominees too - Adrian and Julie. But if Hannon wins again and I don’t know, builds a conservatory or renovates his garage or something, I will lose my shit. - Una Mullaly

- Before all the fuming and childish bickering begins, I did really think that the likes of Kelleher or Bats were gonna get nominated, or SEBP. Most of that seems to be mainstream stuff with a decent push behind it. Though Im mildly pleased with ASIWYFA, Crowley, DRN Feeney, I didnt think it was vintage year and there certainly werent all-conquering albums of the standard of Ritual, Sea Sew or Tales of Silversleeve. You cant blame anyone in particular other than whoever chose the judges. - kDamo

- In one sense, its a great shopping list for albums that one probably should have bought last year - Darragh

- No Patrick Kelleher for crying out loud! No BATS, not surprised. No Hunter-Gatherer, disappointed. No TwinKranes, no Legion of Two, no Channel One. No Holy Roman Army, no Drunken Boat, no Groom. No imagination. No clue. - Naomi

- Pretty fair list in my estimation though naturally disappointed that David Kitt doesnt get some recognition and SEBP for a better album than what actually won it two years ago but thems the breaks. - Nialler9

- Ill be tipping And So I Watch You From Afar for the win. Huge bu- about them. - nerraw

- I am very pleased that Adrian Crowley got the nomination, hes my favourite to win. Also, thrilled that U2 arent included. - Tom

- Why does it bother people if Neil Hannon buys a kitchen? - Ian

- Because, although one is entitled to do whatever the fuck one wants with the money one wins, it would be nice if one spent it on something to do with ones music / creative endeavors. And also, its annoying. - Una Mullaly

- Who cares if the winner already has more cash than their pants can handle, and spends the winnings on bigger pants. Its completely irrelevant. Its an analysis of the (recent) past, not an investment in the future. - Farley McRusk

- The omission of Patrick Kelleher seems very ridiculous. - Aidan

- Any list like this will reflect what the judges are listening to, so its no surprise in many ways who were picked - sure if it was a list of bloggers wed all know who was going to be on it. – sweetoblivion

- Not MOTR enough for my liking. I mean, lets be honest here, none of these would ever win the Eurovision Song Contest. - JD

- Re The Kitchen. Am I the only person who thought this was typical Hannon humour/irony? - Tallie

- You could re-run the same comment debate on this awards list every year and just change the names of the acts.. As regards the presence of Bell X1, Swell Season and other more establshed names, my viewpoint would be that though they may arguably not need the money or exposure they do help to give the thing more weight with the press and public and thus draw more attention to the smaller acts on the bill. If you had a list of 10 totally obscure acts itd be hard to get anybody interested who isnt already a pretty dedicated music fan. At least this way the more casual observers have a hook to draw them in. - dermot

- Jeez Jim do you even remember the initial brief of the award, it seems to have drifted quite a bit. A reminder: the Choice Music Prize was established in 2005 in Ireland. It is a music award given annually to the best full-length Irish album based on artistic merit, regardless of genre, sales or record label. I think the shortlist falls way wide of the mark and I’m with John on this; you’ve got to take the lion’s share of the blame. I’ll admit I’m a bit disappointed I’m not on the list but in spite of my auspicious beginnings I’m well used to such minor disappointments at this stage and as long as the muse still visits on a regular basis I’m happy enough. Even if beans on toast and porridge have been on the menu a bit too much recently. – David Kitt

- David, in what way has the Choice Music Prize “drifted”? There are always omissions. It’s a list with space for 10 names and there are 180 albums (released in ’09) to fill that. There will ALWAYS be omissions. The world is not perfect. You’re as much part of the system as I am! - Jim Carroll

- Read more, including David Kitt and Jim Carroll’s full posts at www.irishtimes.com/blogs/ontherecord