Another year, another batch of Choice nominations for Irish album of the year. My ego has been well and truly stroked, with eight of my top-10 Irish albums of 2009 making the grade:
Valerie Francis -- Slow Dynamo
Codes -- Trees Dream in Algebra
Bell X1 -- Blue Lights on the Runway
Adrian Crowley -- Season of the Sparks
The Duckworth Lewis Method -- The Duckworth Lewis Method
Julie Feeney -- Pages
Laura Izibor -- Let the Truth be Told
The Swell Season -- Strict Joy
The line-up is completed by Northern Irish post-rock band And So I Watch You From Afar for their self-titled album, and Dublin indie outfit Dark Room Notes for We Love You Dark Matter. The former's inclusion doesn't surprise me in the least; the latter's does.
I'm disappointed not to see the wonderful David Kitt getting a nod for his album, The Nightsaver, and I think that little-known outfit U2 should have been acknowledged too.
No Line on the Horizon is a good album -- that may not be a popular opinion among Irish critics, but there you go.
For my money, Valerie Francis' gorgeous debut should win it.
The album will be selected at a live event in Vicar Street on Wednesday, March 3. As ever, it's picked by 12 random media professionals, with Sophie Gorman, editor of this publication, on the panel this year.
- Regular readers will be aware of my regard for one of those nominees in particular, Codes, so I'm delighted to see them included in HMV's Next Big Thing concerts in London next month.
The Darragh Anderson-led four-piece will showcase songs from their debut album alongside some of the UK's big hopes for 2010, including Marina and the Diamonds and Rox.
If you're in London town on the night of Wednesday, February 10, and at a loose end, check out the band, at the Relentless Garage venue in Highbury. They're supporting Suffolk indie upstarts, The Cheek.
- It's been seven years since David Bowie (right) last released a studio album. Reality came just a year after the well-regarded Heathen and it looked as if he would enjoy a very creative decade. But it wasn't to be, with a succession of health scares -- including heart trouble -- confining the veteran star to the odd collaboration.
Now, at least, fans will be able to enjoy live cuts from his 2003 tour on a double album, A Reality Tour, which will be released next Friday. The tour called to Dublin's Point and I was lucky enough to attend both shows. Remarkable career-spanning gigs, they have burned themselves into my memory.
Hardened Bowie fans are likely to own the live DVD filmed at those shows, and this fresh live document will be eagerly anticipated.
- Beyonce has been far quicker out of the blocks when it comes to releasing live material. A double-disc album and DVD recorded in Las Vegas last year captures some of her sassy magic. As her shows at The 02 last summer demonstrated, this is a lady who has improved exponentially as a live performer.
- Tune into Dan Hegarty's 2FM show at 9pm tonight to hear Choice nominees And So I Watch You From Afar play live from their sold-out EuroSonic Festival 2010 gig in Groningen, Holland.
- Here's one show in 2010 that's not to be missed: The Antlers play The Academy on Monday, May 24. Their pre-Christmas performance in the unlovely sister venue Academy 2 was one of the late highlights of 2009. If any band is likely to do a National, it's these. Tickets cost €16.50.
Their latest album, Hospice, makes for sobering but utterly compelling listening.
- Twenty unsigned acts have been shortlisted for the JD Set 2010. They will battle it out in heats in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford from February to April, with the final taking place in the Village, Dublin, on Thursday, April 29.
The winning band will receive advice from 'JD Set Icon' Tim Burgess of The Charlatans, studio time in Grouse Lodge, inclusion of tracks on an official album on the cover of Hot Press, and PR support. The shortlist can be viewed at www.thejdset.ie.