Last week, the 12 media professionals on the judging panel for the Choice Music Prize received an email telling them of the criteria they should bear in mind when voting for the Irish album of the year.
Apparently, choosing an album because you think it's the best isn't enough. "In broad brushstrokes, the Choice Music Prize is about the album on the shortlist which best sums up the previous year in Irish music," writes the organiser. "It's not about the best debut album or the best out-there album or the best pop album or the best album by an old-timer -- it's the album that you, the judges, believe best sums up the previous year in Irish music, made by the act you, the judges, believe best represents Irish music and the Choice Music Prize right now."
Two of the judges I spoke to expressed their bafflement at this instruction, saying it's near impossible to isolate any album as best representing Irish music. "What are they looking for? An album that sums up the recession?" one judge asked.
Seriously though, how can any album hope to represent the local scene? Irish music is a broad church, that's what makes the list interesting and infuriating at the same time.
Does the Halfset album, my favourite of 2008, "sum up the previous year in Irish music" any better than The Script's debut? Can any album on the list possibly hope to "best represent Irish music right now"? I don't think so. And even if it did, would that make it a better album? Hardly.
It simply serves to complicate what should be a very simple process. Each of the judges needs to argue about why such-and-such an album is worthy of being called the best Irish album of 2008, without having to qualify that decision in such spurious grounds as being representative of a time and place.
The prize will be announced at a live show in Vicar Street, Dublin, on Wednesday, March 4. Six of the 10 acts will be playing live. Lisa Hannigan, Oppenheimer and The Script won't be there on the night as they will be touring. And another nominee, David Holmes, does not play live.
"Please remember that the band's live show or absence from the live event has no bearing good, bad or indifferent on your decision," continues the mail to the judges, "that it is solely down to the album."
- For a man who is such a consummate pro when dealing with the so-called serious issues, Pat Kenny continues to show just how unsuited he is to the business of "light entertainment".
His excruciating interview with Pete Doherty on last week's Late Late Show was a case in point. Granted, the overrated, self-absorbed Doherty isn't the most scintillating interviewee, but Kenny should have done his homework.
Annoyed about being quizzed repeatedly about his drug abuse, Doherty suggested to the host that he would be unable to "name a song that I've written", to which the clearly flustered Kenny could only reply: "No, possibly not." Cue, a few agonising moments where Doherty pulls his Pilgrim Fathers-style hat over his eyes and refuses to answer any more questions. Kenny tries to salvage the situation by asking Doherty to play a song and the horribly self-indulgent performance caps this TV gold.
Mind you, the appearance of that very strange lady, Enya, afterwards didn't do much to rescue the reputation of the show or Pat Kenny.
- Hats off to Will Merriman of The Harvest Ministers for releasing an album quite unlike anything else you'll hear this year. The Light Of Which I Speak is inspired by the events of 1798 in which French troops landed in Co Mayo in support of the Irish uprising against British forces.
The subject matter is likely to have only minimal interest, but what makes the project more noteworthy than most is the fact that bandmate Padraig McCaul has created a series of evocative oil paintings that provide the backdrop for Merriman's songs.
The paintings, with the accompanying music, will appear at the Bad Art Gallery, Dublin, between February 19 and March 19, and Merriman will be taking his music on the road, too.
- Cillian Murphy has been talking about his short-lived music career, before Hollywood came calling.
"We were offered a record deal by a record company in London, but it wasn't the right time and I'm very glad in retrospect that we didn't sign because you kind of sign away your life to a label and the whole of your music," he told the Tune In To Revolver show on 2XM.
"Nowadays people can record in their bedroom and they can make something that's full of integrity and then license it to a record label."