No place for U2 but six debut albums show there's no shortage of fresh talent


Up-and-coming acts rub shoulders with Choice Music veterans such as Julie Feeney and BellX1

THE SHORTLIST for the fifth Choice Music Prize for Irish Album of the Year 2009 was announced yesterday afternoon on Tony Fenton’s radio show on Today FM.

The Choice Music Prize is co-organised by Irish Timesmusic critic Jim Carroll and Dave Reid. “There are six debut albums on the shortlist, which is good news for emerging Irish acts,” says Dave Reid. “Such an outing provides great exposure.”

With the likes of BellX1, Adrian Crowley and Julie Feeney (the event’s inaugural winner in 2005) having appeared on previous years’ shortlists (not forgetting Duckworth Lewis Method’s Neil Hannon, who in his Divine Comedy guise won the prize for Best Album of 2006 with Victory for the Comic Muse) is there not a danger that the pool of Irish acts to choose from is a small one?

Not so, says Reid. “I would like to think that the list still provides a good spread of Irish acts.”

If the judging panel (a dozen Irish music media professionals representing print, radio, online and television; see list) regards an album as good enough to be on the shortlist, argues Reid, “then that’s fine with me”.

The 2009 shortlist is a strong one, and although there will be the usual complaints from the usual people of albums included on and albums missing from the list, to these eyes (and ears) the albums shortlisted constitute a fair enough representation of the best of 2009.

An omission that stands out like a sore thumb, however, is U2’s comparatively underachieving No Line on the Horizon, an album that was critically lauded in the UK and USA but not in Ireland.

“It is a notable omission,” agrees Dave Reid, “but it’s all down to the judging panel. If they don’t think any particular album is good enough to get on to the list, then it doesn’t go on.”

One person who is thrilled at being shortlisted is Dublin singer Valerie Francis, whose debut release, Slow Dynamo, is the kind of album that begs for greater exposure. “I’m delighted that the record has been shortlisted, I really couldn’t have hoped for more. I work as a sound engineer, as well as in a restaurant and deli, so anything that gives me a chance to work full time on my music is brilliant.”

The winning act will receive €10,000 – a prize 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 Street, 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.