Gig of the Week: Choice Music Prize

Who will win Irish album of the year? We predict victory for one of the two hip-hop acts

Absent friend: Rejjie Snow. Photograph: C Brandon/Redferns

Absent friend: Rejjie Snow. Photograph: C Brandon/Redferns

 

Awards season isn’t over yet. On Thursday, March 7th, 10 acts compete for the Choice Music Prize, for the year’s best Irish album. Nine of the nominees will be at Vicar Street, Dublin, where they will hope to succeed last year’s winners, synth duo Ships.

It’s one of the most open Choice shortlists to date and welcome evidence Irish music has aspirations beyond its ongoing infatuation with sanctimonious arena rock. Among those performing on the night will be relative newcomers such as Cabra rapper Kojaque, indie band Just Mustard and harp-keyboard double act Saint Sister. Up against them are seasoned campaigners Villagers, Delorentos and folk singer Lisa O’Neill, along with the (arguably less fancied) O Emperor, The Academic and Wyvern Lingo. Absent will be rapper Rejjie Snow, shortlisted for his convention-defying debut Dear Annie but otherwise engaged on Thursday.

Who will walk away with the gong? Predicting a Choice winner is always fraught. Snow’s Dear Annie is perhaps the most critically acclaimed record to make the cut. But with the rapper away – he begins an Australian tour in April – he would be the first recipient of the award crowned in absentia. Also in with a shout, surely, is Kojaque, aka Kevin Smith. His day-in-the-life concept album, Deli Daydreams, achieves what might reasonably have been considered impossible in lending a hazy glamour to the convenience store sandwich counter.

Kojaque aka Kevin Smith. Photograph: George Voronov
Kojaque aka Kevin Smith. Photograph: George Voronov
Delorentos: Kieran McGuinness and Rónan Yourell. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Delorentos: Kieran McGuinness and Rónan Yourell. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Saint Sister
Saint Sister
Lisa O’Neill
Lisa O’Neill
Wyvern Lingo. Photograph: Ruth Medjber
Wyvern Lingo. Photograph: Ruth Medjber

A bigger surprise would be a win for Just Mustard, a four-piece from Dundalk. Their dense guitar sound has drawn comparisons with previous Choice nominees My Bloody Valentine and other veterans of the 1990s shoegaze scene. As with the best awards ceremonies, space is found for some curios, too. O Emperor’s Jason is an unconventional but absorbing swan song from a band that has decided to bow out in barking fashion (if you locate a tune somewhere in there, do let the band know).

More traditional are rockers The Academic and Delorentos, their albums brimming with agreeably boisterous riffs. And the Irish songwriting tradition is represented by Lisa O’Neill, the Co Cavan folk singer, and by Conor O’Brien’s Villagers, whose second album triumphed at the Choice six years ago.

As to the likely champion … with Snow absent we foresee that Kojaque’s Deli Daydreams will sweep to the podium instead. That would be a victory for the underdog, making Smith the second hip hop artist to receive the award following Limerick’s Rusangano Family in 2016.

This year marks the 14th anniversary of the prize. The event was first held in 2005, when Julie Feeney triumphed. Winners receive a trophy and €10,000 funded by the Irish Music Rights Organisation.

A separate award for song of the year, decided by public vote, will also be announced at Vicar Street. Nominees include punk group Fontaines DC for Too Real and One Direction’s Niall Horan for On the Loose. The ceremony will be broadcast live on 2FM from 7pm to 11pm, with a televised airing broadcast afterwards on RTÉ2, hosted by Eoghan McDermott and Bláthnaid Treacy.

The full list of shortlisted acts is: The Academic (Tales from the Backseat), Delorentos (True Surrender), Just Mustard (Wednesday), Kojaque (Deli Daydreams), O Emperor (Jason), Lisa O’Neill (Heard a Long Gone Song), Saint Sister (Shape of Silence) ,Rejjie Snow (Dear Annie), Villagers (The Art of Pretending to Swim), Wyvern Lingo (Wyvern Lingo).

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