The Meteor Choice Music Prize takes place at Dublin's Vicar Street this Thursday evening, where the artist judged by a panel of twelve media types to have made the 'Best Irish Album of 2014' will receive a gong and a cheque for €10,000.
The show is sold out, but will be broadcast live on Today FM. Delorentos, James Vincent McMorrow, We Cut Corners and The Riptide Movement will perform live on the night.
Today, we'll take a look at the nominees and their chances of victory - and scroll down for the albums that we think should have been included on this year's shortlist.
APHEX TWIN - 'SYRO'
This album's inclusion has generated a lot of chat and controversy, and with good reason. Apparently Aphex Twin, aka Richard D. James, was born in Limerick, making him eligible for inclusion - but he has never discussed his Irish background (or lack thereof) or identified as Irish, ever. There's no disputing that Syro is a progressive, forward-thinking and often exciting electronica album, but we're inclined to agree that his eligibility is a bit of a stretch. It would be like Ronan O'Gara being nominated for 'American Athlete of the Year' because he was born in San Diego. It smacks of desperation somewhat.
Chances: If he wins, there will be ructions – but not everyone on the panel will be as taken with electronica as the judges who voted for its inclusion, so he won't.
DELORENTOS - 'NIGHT BECOMES LIGHT'
Delorentos have grown into a fine band with lots of muscle and melody over the last few years. This is their second nomination; they previously won the prize for their album 'Little Sparks'. 'Night Becomes Light' is not quite as – excuse the pun, sparky – as its predecessor, but it's a solid, enjoyable indie record and they have a reputation for being liked by media types across the board.
Chances: There are better albums on the shortlist, but this might be worth a cheeky punt. If the judges can't agree on an album, it may provide a safe consensus.
THE GLOAMING - 'THE GLOAMING'
It's true, The Gloaming are the trad band that hipsters enjoy namedropping. Yet it's also true that theirs is an undeniably gorgeous album; uplifting in places, tempered by melancholia in others, bound up in a certain magic that makes it such an easy album to re-listen time and time again. The calibre of its architects – all superb musicians in their own field - was bound to produce something special, and it has.
Chances: It would be a worthy winner, but the track record for 'genre' albums winning the Choice Music Prize isn't great. Unlikely.
HOZIER - 'HOZIER'
This is the album to beat, without a doubt. The world-beating 'Hozier' been the bookies' favourite since day one and it's not difficult to see why: that voice (that voice!), well-crafted lyrics, brilliantly diverse songs that nod to soul, blues and pop without ever sounding like cheap imitations. It's a class album by a class act. The most surprising thing? Take Me to Church is not even Hozier's best song – not by a long shot.
Chances: It's the favourite and the album that should rightfully win – but the favourites don't always fare well when it comes to the Choice Music Prize. Andrew Hozier-Byrne's victory is not guaranteed, by any stretch.
JAMES VINCENT MCMORROW - 'POST TROPICAL'
This album came out at the very beginning of 2014 so had drifted from the forefront of peoples' memories by the time that December's End of Year lists rolled around. It saw Dubliner McMorrow trade in the sparse, delicate, Bon Iver-esque folk tunes of his debut for a record that cracked open an insular sound for something altogether more ambitious. (Err, a bit like Bon Iver's second album, then). It deserves to be on the shortlist.
Chances: Another record well worth an outside bet. It probably won't win - but like Delorentos, if the judges can't agree on a winner this might be the one they grudgingly settle upon.
SINEAD O'CONNOR - 'I'M NOT BOSSY, I'M THE BOSS'
O'Connor has been enjoying something of a purple patch of late. Her album 'How About I Be Me (And You Be You?)' felt like the beginning of a new era for the singer, and she's brought that feeling into this record, her tenth studio album. There are some really fantastic songs on this album – most notably 8 Good Reasons and Take Me to Church - but it doesn't quite work as a record from start-to-finish for us.
Chances: It would be a surprise if this album won, and it doesn't deserve to.
DAMIEN RICE - 'MY FAVOURITE FADED FANTASY'
Pegged as Damien Rice's 'comeback' album, it was the Kildare man's first album since 2006 and only his third overall. Was it worth the wait? Mostly. This was the sort of album that impressed on the first few listens, but quickly began to wilt. It's not an album that we've gone back to much in recent months. There are some really lovely songs, but no real killer tunes to fixate upon. Rice worked with producer Rick Rubin, and it really feels like they both could have done more to push the envelope after such a long absence.
Chances: It's a good album, but not a great one and there are more deserving winners on this shortlist alone.
THE RIPTIDE MOVEMENT - 'GETTING THROUGH'
Say what you like about The Riptide Movement, but you cannot question that they Dubliners are grafters. They've gone from Grafton Street buskers to a very fine, tight live band and their third album is a solid, consistent listen. Yet their rootsy, indie-based brand of rock 'n' roll may be too plain for every judge's taste, which will work against them.
Chances: Victory for this album would be a surprise, but stranger things have happened.
U2 – 'SONGS OF INNOCENCE'
A U2 album is a perfect excuse for grizzled old musos to have a good old moan, especially when they released it in the manner that they did – via a stealthy iTunes manoeuver. I mean, how dare the biggest rock band in the world give their album away for free! The cheek! Who do they think they are?
The harsh, cold reality: it's a good rock album. Not a great rock album, but a good one. It's certainly not U2's best, but who expects another Joshua Tree or Boy, or even another All That You Can't Leave Behind? At the risk of being accused of being a U2 apologist by the haters, it's a decent snapshot of where U2 are now: a band in their mid-fifties, who've been together for almost four decades, and who certainly have more dignity and fresh ideas than many other musicians in the same position.
Chances: It won't win, but part of us would love it to just so we could sit back, grab the popcorn and enjoy the indignant foot-stamping.
WE CUT CORNERS - 'THINK NOTHING'
We Cut Corners are The Little Band That Could – not, as one churlish music journo recently described them, a project "put together by two Dublin-based primary teachers in their spare time". Ouch. Well, if this is what a hobby band sounds like, sign us up for lessons now. One of the most exciting Irish bands out there at the moment, the duo's simplistic drums-and-guitar approach yields some novel tunes and original ideas that nod to their heroes without ripping them off. This album sidesteps 'novelty' and self-indulgence and is a short, sharp, jolting exercise in indie-rock.
Chances: We wouldn't complain if it won, but which judge(s) can shout the loudest and are willing to campaign for its victory above the favourites?
AND 8 IRISH ALBUMS THAT SHOULD HAVE MADE THE SHORTLIST…
Although this year's shortlist has taken a more mainstream bent, there were some shock exclusions, too: for example, big name acts like The Script, The Coronas, Sh*t Robot, Mick Flannery, Wallis Bird and Gemma Hayes all released records this year, but no nominations.
Otherwise, here are eight Irish albums that could – and perhaps should – have been nominated.
Godknows + mynameisjOhn (now known as Rusangano Family) – 'Rusangano/Family'
A brilliant, insightful incursion into contemporary Irish hip-hop.
Paddy Hanna – 'Leafy Stiletto'
One of the best Irish indie albums released last year; scuffed, melodic brilliance.
Ginnels – 'A Country Life'
The kind of album that grows and grows; a superbly-paced collection of dreamy, jangly indiepop and spiky indierock.
Adrian Crowley – 'Some Blue Morning'
Surprising that this album wasn't included, as Crowley is a previous winner of the Prize and deserved to be shortlisted for this beautiful collection of songs that saw him diverge from the singer-songwriter blueprint (sorry). Using new instrumentation and even incorporate a female voice (that of Katie Kim's) to complement his own, it made for a stately, elegiac and often surprising record.
Jennifer Evans – 'Works from the Dip and Foul'
Beautiful, mystical late night electronica-infused songs that take in influences from jazz to Portishead. Sometimes she sounds a bit like tUnE-yArDs, sometimes she sounds a bit like St. Vincent. All of it is great.
A Lazarus Soul – 'Last of the Analogue Age'
Evocative, '80s-influenced indie-rock from a band that are nowhere near as lauded as they should be. On this album – and after a couple of 'almost-there' records - they hit their stride in emphatic fashion.
September Girls – 'Cursing the Sea'
Surprising that this album wasn't included and you get the sense that if it had been another year – or just another group of judges with an ear for more leftfield stuff – it would have made the list. Dark, blustery, atmospheric goth-pop-indie-girlgroup-rock.
Tim Wheeler – 'Lost Domain'
We can only imagine that this album either wasn't pushed enough or was simply overlooked by the judging panel, because there is no question that it belongs on the 2014 shortlist. Tim Wheeler might be best known for his lighthearted escapades with Ash, but he crafted a really beautiful solo debut that was hugely influenced by his late father's battle with Alzheimer's. Do check it out.