Meteor Choice Music Prize - here's the lowdown on the top 10 acts for Irish Album of the Year
Ed Power's predictions on tonight's big prize
It will be a story of contrasts at Vicar Street tonight as 10 acts vie for the Choice Music Prize for Irish album of the year. At one end of the spectrum are world conquerers such as U2 and recently minted star Hozier, at the other the more obscure We Cut Corners and James Vincent McMorrow.
And in the middle, possibly scratching their heads over their presence on the shortlist, are curiosities such as hipster-beloved trad ensemble The Gloaming and Aphex Twin, an electronic composer from Cornwall with alleged ties to Limerick.
What all have in common is that they released an album in 2014 that has found favour with the Choice judging panel (a rag-tag of music media types). Though he won't be attending, bookies nonetheless believe Hozier already has one hand on the award and have anointed him favourite.
Conversely, U2 are deemed unlikely to be popping champagne corks come 10.30 pm tonight as they are 12-1 outsiders (they won't be in the house either, Bono's leg injury precluding the group from performing).
It would not be a shock, however, if one of the four shortlisted artists actually playing at the event had boosted their chances by turning up – certainly few would be surprised were soulful folkie James Vincent McMorrow to claim the gong, and the €10,000 winner's cheque...
It's been a big year for the lanky Wicklow native. His single Take Me To Church was the most streamed song in the world – yes, the entire world – in 2014: on YouTube alone the video has clocked up a difficult-to–comprehend 133 million views. The follow-up album, while enjoying nothing like the same profile, has quietly furthered his reputation, charting at number two in America and number five in the UK. In Ireland it of course shot straight to number one. All that and he has a Slane performance alongside Foo Fighters to look forward to.
The Gloaming, The Gloaming
Clearly for a realistic shot at The Choice it is necessary to release a self-titled record. Described by some as a 'super-group', The Gloaming is an alliance of Irish musicians Iarla O Lionaird, Martin Hayes and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Americans Dennis Cahill ( a long-time playing partner of Hayes) and Thomas Bartlett (a producer who has also worked with The National). They've certainly broadened their fanbase beyond the usual trad constituency – attendance at a three-night residency at Dublin's National Concert Hall last weekend was strikingly eclectic.
James Vincent McMorrow, Post Tropical
Controversially opting not to call his album 'James Vincent McMorrow', the Dublin/Louth singer nonetheless has an exceedingly decent chance of winning – for one thing he will be only one of four of the nominated artists actually at Vicar Street (the rest either touring or indisposed). While bearing a disconcerting resemblance to the sort of snooty barista who might put you off hipster coffee for life, in person McMorrow is thoughtful and humble – qualities that inform his lush and soulful second album, essentially a folk record with laptop whirrs and bleeps in place of the standard plangent guitars.
The Riptide Movement, Getting Through
These sometime buskers were surprise chart-toppers with their third album. Their first for a major label, it represented a shiny updating of the qualities that had made them so engaging as street-performers, being full of sass and enthusiasm."Our career… started with us busking on Grafton Street," singer Mal Tuohy told the Irish Independent. "That has been a huge shop window for the group. We've booked gigs across the Continent from passersby seeing us on Grafton Street and buying a CD."
Aphex Twin Syro.
Richard James is one of those divine odd-balls the music industry appears to have stopped producing. In his 25-year career as Aphex Twin, his music has veered between shimmering and gentle and blood-chillingly terrifying, while his video work with Chris Cunningham has a horror show quality (check out, if you dare, Windowlicker and Come To Daddy). He also once lived in a converted bank vault and used to own a tank. Tragically neither James nor tank will be at Vicar Street.
Damien Rice My Favourite Faded Fantasy.
It's unclear why the Kildare singer has received such unfavourable odds. After all, his first album in eight years went down well with critics while the backstory – the project was pieced together as he mourned the ending of his creative and personal relationship with singer Lisa Hannigan – is genuinely gripping. That said, his absence tonight may diminish his chances.
Delorentos, Night Becomes Light.
Delorentos won the prize in 2013, for their album Little Sparks, which yielded the hit Pertadu (you'll remember it from that sad AIB ad in which a train mopes across a bridge into Tara Street Dart Station). Night Becomes Light is their first release with a major. Delorentos actually briefly broke-up in 2009 but had second thoughts following a sell-out farewell tour. With their fanbase growing, in Spain especially, they will be glad they stuck around.
Sinead O'Connor, I'm Not Bossy, I'm The Boss.
The title was inspired by Beyonce's Bossy campaign, intended to reclaim the word from its use as a slur against out-spoken women. O'Connor actually only decided on the name at the last minute, having earlier opted for the more esoteric The Vishnu Room. "Acting like a boss or expecting to be treated like one is discouraged from the time you sign as a teenager," she explained on the LP's release. "It is cleverly designed to make you feel like everyone is doing you a favour. You don't stand up for yourself because you don't want to upset anyone."
U2, Songs of Innocence.
You probably missed it but U2 put out an album last year and one or two people were miffed to find it uploaded to their iTunes account without permission. Bono subsequently offered a wry mea culpa – but by then the iTunes controversy had become the dominant story and everyone had forgotten about the record. For what it's worth, the LP sees the band revisiting the Dublin of their youth, with songs about growing up on the Northside and attending punk gigs in dingy venues.
We Cut Corners, Think Nothing
How ironic that the best known and most obscure bands on the shortlist should find themselves at the back of the pack. We Cut Corners is a Dublin-based duo, consisting of school teachers John Duignan and Conall O'Breachain. The latter is both drummer and singer, another thing they don't have in common with U2.
Eoghan McDermott and Blathnaid Treacy will present coverage of the 10th Meteor Choice Music Prize on RTÉ2, Sunday 8 March at 10.50pm. The one-hour highlights show will include exclusive interviews with nominees Hozier, Sinead O’Connor and The Edge and Adam Clayton from U2.