Much to choose from

 

This year’s Choice Prize nominees include first timers and old hands, folkies and metallers, favourites and outsiders, writes LAUREN MURPHY

THE CHOICE Music Prize has always cast its net over a wide variety of genres – but this year, it’s really

lived up to its opinion-centric name. Next Wednesday, 10 records – èncompassing underground folk, indie-rock, mainstream pop, mind-blistering post-rock and more – will battle it out to claim the coveted Irish Album of the Year title. Who will prevail? That’s anyone’s guess – several past winners have been deemed “controversial” by some disgruntled musos, while others have been peeved by the apparent “omissions” on the shortlist.

Those who have been following the event since 2005, however, know that a bout of self-righteous fist-shaking is all part of the fun, and would argue that the cynics are missing the point somewhat.

The Choice is both a celebration of Irish music not necessarily covered by its glitzy contemporaries, and an event that frequently kickstarts a healthy discussion on the untapped underground. Let the games begin.


LAURA IZIBOR

Let the Truth Be Told

Laura Izibor is a strange one; having been touted as the apparent “next big thing” for the past five or six years, the soul-popstrel’s long- promised debut seemed to burst out of the traps, earn some decent radio play, then fizzle out just as quickly. It obviously made a lasting impression on some of the judges, although it’s currently languishing at the less fortunate end of the odds table. Odds 14/1


THE SWELL SEASON

Strict Joy

Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová will be hoping to add a nice piece of glassware to keep their Oscars company, but their victory is by no means guaranteed. In fact, the inclusion of Strict Joywas something of a surprise to many, who felt that the Frames frontman’s songs were some of his weakest to date. Still, could the duo pull off the biggest Choice shocker yet with a win? Unlikely, but not impossible… Odds 9/1


THE DUCKWORTH LEWIS METHOD

The Duckworth Lewis Method

The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon joined forces with Pugwash frontman Thomas Walsh last summer for the world’s first concept album about cricket. Sound ridiculous? Well, it’s certainly an unusual idea, but one that’s pulled off with indubitable aplomb. Jaunty, droll indie-pop with a big, bouncing heart, and a record with all-round appeal. Odds 11/2


VALERIE FRANCIS

Slow Dynamo

It’s not every day that a relatively unknown Irish singer is bigged-up by Kanye West (technically, it was the video to her lovely tune Punchesthat the rapper extolled), but Valerie Francis’s debut straddles the ambient, folk and pop genres, ties them up in a luxuriously produced bundle, and sends them on their way to critical acclaim. Another genuine contender. Odds 9/2


CODES

Trees Dream In Algebra

This quartet’s brand of indie- rock with a side order of emo impressed the bigwigs at EMI so much that they snapped the Dubliners up immediately. Don’t let that emo tag put you off, though; CODES write stadium-filling songs with choruses so soaring that Chris Martin should be shaking in his man-Uggs. A Choice win could give their profile a useful boost further afield. Odds 10/1


JULIE FEENEY

Pages

Could Galway’s chamber-pop mastermind do the double? Having won the first-ever Choice Music Prize in 2005, Feeney is back for second helpings with album number two. She’s an outside contender, but her airy, likeable arrangements and chaste vocals may provide a middle ground for an indecisive panel. Odds 14/1


ADRIAN CROWLEY

Season of the Sparks

One of four returning nominees on this year’s shortlist (Neil Hannon also counts!), this is Crowley’s most focused and resonant album yet. His deep voice lends these arrangements an oak-aged richness, while the themes of nature woven through this, his fourth album, enhance his organic approach to songwriting. Second time lucky? We wouldn’t bet against it. Odds 10/1


AND SO I WATCH YOU FROM AFAR

And So I Watch You From Afar

These post-rockers with a flair for eyebrow-singeing riffs came surging out of Belfast last year with a debut album of seriously accomplished tunes. Their record isn’t exactly radio-friendly, but acclaim from both niche publications and the indie/blog community puts them in a strong position for victory – they’re currently the favourites. Odds 3/1


BELL X1

Blue Lights on the Runway

They’re probably one of the most divisive bands on the shortlist – masters of charming guitar pop, or merely a cheap imitation of Talking Heads? In any case, they sure know how to write an infuriatingly catchy tune, if The Great Defectoris anything to go by. Foiled by the fiend Feeney back in 2005, the Bellies will be hoping to triumph with their fourth album. Odds 13/2


DARK ROOM NOTES

We Love You Dark Matter

Recorded in London with young production mensch Ciaran Bradshaw, this is an album that reveals new facets with every spin. Dark Room Notes’s particular brand of razor-sharp electro-pop with a dark underbelly has already seen their debut album picked up for worldwide distribution. A real contender for taking home the prize. Odds 8/1