Contenders Set To Battle It Out For The Choice Music Prize
Tonight, the Olympia, one of Ireland’s oldest and renowned theatres will play host to some of Ireland’s newest and rawest talent from the thriving Irish music industry. Independent Irish music is riding on the crest of a wave at the moment with live music echoing throughout the villages,towns and cities of Ireland. If you visit any bustling town or city in Ireland at the moment you will see a vibrant live music scene not only above ground but also underground. There is dubstep, indie, pop, dance, metal, electronica, hip hop, trip hop, grime and even some good old rock n’ roll to be found no matter where you go. You name it, the chances are it will be in a club pub or venue near you or coming soon. Whatever it is about desperate times, it seems to produce far from desperate music. The Irish music scene is in an extremely healthy state.
Belfast is churning out successful acts like Led Zeppelin did records in the 70′s crossing all genres and Dublin is a whole other column. There is a burgeoning music scene in the capital and it had been bubbling under the surface for many years. International acts now see Dublin as an important stepping stone to building a reputable fan base. Ticket prices are still a little too expensive but that’s another days work. Unfortunately the reason Dublin is a whole other columns work is because if you want to establish yourself in Ireland, that is where you need to be 9 times out of 10. You may be able to build up a minimal fan base touring the country but the crowds you yearn for and dream of as a performer, musician, singer are in Dublin. Trends are made and broken in the city by the Liffey. That is why most of the acts that will take to the stage in the Olympia tonight are based in Dublin. Tonight will see the 7th annual Choice Music prize take place at its new home. It has moved from Vicar St. down the road.
The Choice Music prize was set up by Irish Times music impresario Jim Carroll along with Dave Reid in 2005. Initially set up as an alternative to the Meteor Music awards it is now ironically sponsored by the very same Meteor. Put it this way, it is Ireland’s Mercury Prize or the closest you will get to that. Celebrating and championing the cause of Irish music and using it as a platform to showcase the finest Irish albums of each year for the last seven years, it has enjoyed relative success as the alternative music lover’s chance to celebrate the best albums of the year and can be considered the antidote to the mainstream drivel we hear on most radio stations every day.
This years judging panel will see the co-founder Jim Carroll handing over the reins to his colleagues and will watch with intrepid anxiety tonight as an album will be plucked from obscurity and hopefully propelled into the stratosphere. The judging panel for the 2011 awards is a veritable mix of DJ’s, journalists, producers and all manner of media professionals. There is 11 on the judging panel. Over the last number of years there have been a few surprises with perhaps the most surprising being Super Extra Bonus Party in 2007. There have been a notable number of acts whose profile was immeasurably enhanced by the prize which I forgot to mention is €10,000. Past winners include Julie Feeney, The Divine Comedy, Jape, Adrian Crowley and Two Door Cinema Club. The nominees this year include:
And So I Watch You From Afar (ASIWYFA)- Arguably one of the hardest working bands in Irish music right now, the Belfast band have experienced many line-up changes over the years but maintained their gritty alt-rock sound without fail and this is their first Choice nomination but second album called Gangs.
Bell X1- Almost the paternal group among the rest of the relative newcomers Bell X1 are stewards of the Irish music scene and are the most successful out of all the nominees, This isn’t their first nomination but they will be hoping their Bloodless Coup album will be the winning nomination. This is their fifth studio album.
Cashier No. 9- More natives of Belfast, these guys are considered among the favourites to go home with the accolade for their supremely laid back effort To The Death of Fun. Swirling, chilled out, pop tunes intertwined with a rustic feel and groove these guys have certainly given themselves a chance to cash in!
Lisa Hannigan- No longer referred to as Damien Rice’s sidekick, Hannigan has carved out a career of her own cementing herself as a singer songwriter of stature and note with profound ability to wrap charm around a note of sweet effervescent ear tingling lyrics. Her sweet, soulful voice could land her the prize for Passenger, a strong follow-up to 2009′s Sea Sew, a Choice contender itself in 2009. One of the favourites.
The Japanese Popstars: Their debut effort Control Your Allegiance could fit seamlessly into their back catalogue in years to come as an album that belied its years and with samples and contributions from Robert Smith, Lisa Hannigan and James Vincent McMorrow it feels and sounds like an album that was produced from a much more experienced outfit. Oh and it’s electronic/dance beats. An unusual nominee for the Choice prize given previous ones, however with the re-emergence of dance, not surprising. Another group from up North serving to underline the vibrant and healthy scene surrounding Belfast and neighbouring counties.
Jape: A previous winner it is unlikely his Ocean of Frequency will win but don’t be shocked if it does. Electro infused eclectic music is the staple sound of Richie Egan and don’t be surprised if the extremely talented musician is back in the future with another offering for the Choice Music Prize.
Patrick Kelleher and His Cold Dead Hands: An artist I am not overly familiar with and a genre I am not overly enthused about, synth driven 80′s weird drum machine hair-raising bleh, all signs and talk point to the outsiders tag for this album. Considered one of the more ‘alternative acts’ in a list of alternative acts could work for or against Kelleher but with an open-minded panel any one of these acts is in with a chance.
Pugwash: When I first listened to Pugwash, Supergrass popped into my head but I don’t know why because they are not very similar to Supergrass at all. They do however have their own brand of timeless pop that would make you whistle, hum and smile when you hear it because it is quite quirky. These guys have been around a while and not necessarily working together during that time-span but they are veterans compared to most of the field and perhaps for this alone they may deserve an award just for seemingly being fun. Everybody likes fun people right?
Tieranniesaur: A wife and husband duo who recorded this album at home I would consider these guys to be very strong outsiders but that may be because I love this album. She is the sister of Mick Pyro of Republic of Loose fame so is no stranger to the music business. They seamlessly fuse indie and funk together and seperate it again from track to track and for sheer creativeness, ingenuity and the enjoyment factor I am going to make this my tip for the Choice Music Prize.
We Cut Corners: Take two teachers. Put them in a blender. Pulse for 10 years or so and you get We Cut Corners. Probably my second favourite album of the year, these two teachers (still teaching) took a long time to realise they were musicians and musicians capable of coming up with an award-winning album. Albeit it is a very short album but there is no need to make it any longer with such panache and honed sounds attached to it with confident and loud lyrics to fuse the whole project together, Today I Realised I Could Go Home backwards is probably right alongside Cashier No. 9 as the favourite.
Just as a little bit on the side, I am going to be bold and daring and predict that at least some of the following bands will be on the Choice Music Prize list in the next year or two. Little Green Cars whose music I cannot get enough of recently, check out their Bandcamp page, Funeral Suits, Le Galaxie, The Minutes, James Vincent McMorrow (baffling that he isn’t already a winner), MMOTHS, The Cast of Cheers, Squarehead and Girl Band. Keep your eyes peeled and ears open. Good luck to all the acts competing for the prize, you are all winners in your parents and fans eyes.