Here come the judges
Now that the shortlist has been announced for this year's Choice Music Prize, the countdown has begun to select the Irish album of 2006. As a member of the 12-strong judging panel this year, I should declare that I'm not an impartial observer of proceedings.
By and large, I think it's a strong list that shows the rich diversity of the music scene in Ireland - from the soaring stadium anthems of Snow Patrol's Eyes Open (Paddy Power's favourite at 6/4) to the streetwise hip-hop of Messiah & The Expert's Now This I Have To Hear (a 16/1 outsider); from the nu-folk picking of Fionn Regan's The End Of History (8/1) to the weird'n'wired electronica of Si Schroeder's Coping Mechanisms (14/1) via the cock-o'-the-walk white funk of Republic Of Loose's Aaagh!
Such eclecticism is to be welcomed, especially when it sometimes seemed as if the deluge of 'sensitive singer/songwriters' in our midst threatened to drown out other voices.