The movers and shakers of 2014
And now for the one column in the year that makes your average music journalist break out in a cold sweat and run screaming from his keyboard -- predicting what will break big in 2014. The straight answer would be to repeat screenwriter William Goldman's oft-quoted line about Hollywood: nobody knows anything.
That said, the BBC Sound of Next Year poll, which is traditionally revealed in December as a longlist of 15, with a winner chosen in January as the official Best Newcomer at the Brit Awards, is usually a good barometer of some of the sounds that will be ubiquitous over the coming 12 months.
The current list of candidates tipped for stardom in 2014 has come under fire from some quarters for its heavy bias towards solo artists at the expense of ye olde dyed-in-the-wool rock bands: there are seven male and five female solo acts vying for the prize -- with only one out-and-out rock act in the mix: Brighton's Royal Blood (and they're not even a four-piece but a duo).
Are there really no good bands to get excited about next year? Or does the skewed list suggest a conservative run-with-the-herd mindset on behalf of the industry cognoscenti?
For example, Cavan's teenage tyros The Strypes, who had an amazing 2013 that saw them perform on Later With Jools Holland and release an album that was lauded at home and abroad, failed to show up on the BBC's industry radar last year.
Irish artists are conspicuous by their absence on the longlist this year -- which is disheartening given how much of a boost local acts such as Little Green Cars and Kodaline received from their inclusion 12 months ago; the former headline the Iveagh Gardens in the summer while the latter headline The O2 in March.
But I confess my own soothsaying abilities leave a lot to be desired: I tipped Irish trad/roots collective The Gloaming to deliver a stunning debut album in 2013 -- a year on, the world is still waiting for it to drop. I predict, though, it will be worth the wait when it does finally land.
Other Irish acts to keep an eye out for are hard-rocking Wicklow brothers Children Of The Son who have just returned from a recording session in Los Angeles, and Mullingar's The Academic, who have that anthemic guitar thing going on.
In terms of live music, there are some mouth-watering gigs coming up over the next six months. Americana kings Midlake showcase their new album Antiphon in Vicar St in February; the artist formerly known as Smog, Bill Callahan, plays the Olympia in February, as does the ageless Suzanne Vega and the ever-popular Foals.
Ireland's answer to Bonnie Prince Billy -- James Vincent McMorrow -- plays two prestigious shows in the National Concert Hall in February.
Also, Ireland's love affair with the great John Grant continues in the Olympia in March -- the question is will Sinéad O'Connor join him on stage again like she did at the Electric Picnic and last year's Vicar St shows?
In the same venue in March two bands of the moment -- Haim and Chvrches -- will no doubt make spring a season to cherish.
All the single ladies and quite a few couples I imagine will be at The O2 in March to worship at the altar of Beyonce, whose four-night stand as part of her Mrs Carter world tour will no doubt include more costume changes than a Diana Ross Vegas residency.
And expect a lot of tongues to wag at the prospect of seeing Miley Cyrus twerking her way to the O2 in May. Somehow I doubt Sinéad O'Connor will be a special guest at this one.
The annual summer knees-up by the Lee that is Cork's Live at the Marquee series of concerts has an especially fine line-up this year with the Pixies, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, The Coronas, Tom Jones, Elbow, The Prodigy and Christy Moore. Back in the capital, Brooklyn noir-rock maestros The National play the Iveagh Gardens in July.
The one thing I can say for certain is that another excellent year for live music lovers is in store in 2014. Oh, and keep an eye on that Niall Horan fella.