The Choice Music Prize ceremony for Irish Album of the Year will take place at Dublin's Vicar Street this Thursday, March 5th.

Ten acts have had their albums nominated for the annual prize, and seven of those acts will perform live on the night.

The Choice Prize has been running since 2005 and it's safe to say that there have been more than a few upsets over the years.

Although there may be clear favourites – i.e. albums that have been generally well-received by the press and well-regarded by the public – that doesn't always mean that they'll triumph on the night. When the judges get together in a room to debate who should win, everything could change amidst the shouting and the verbal fisticuffs/polite debate that takes place across those few hours.

Still, part of the fun is in the guessing. With that in mind, we've run through this year's nominees to try and figure out who'll be hoisting aloft the glassware and bundling that big novelty cheque for €10,000 into a taxi in the wee small hours of Friday morning.


Daithi – L.O.S.S. (Strange Brew)

You may know Daithi O Dronai as a purveyor of banging electropop tunes, but his second album took a much more meandering pathway to the beat. A meditation on love and loss featuring guest vocalists like Bell X1's Paul Noonan, it's a wonderfully atmospheric album with real depth and heart. But is that enough to convince a panel of eleven judges? Unfortunately, we reckon not.


Mick Flannery – Mick Flannery (Rosaleen Records)

The Cork songwriter has got better with every album and his sixth album doesn't buck that trend. A loose concept album based on the tales of a successful musician struggling to cope with fame and fortune, his knack for spinning the ordinary into the extraordinary came alive on songs like 'How I Miss You'. It's a really beautiful album that sets Flannery apart from so many of his peers, and would be a worthy winner. File under 'dark horse'.


Fontaines D.C. – Dogrel (Partisan Records)

The clear favourite of the bunch, Fontaines DC's success both in and outside of Ireland has given them a major profile boost over the past year. Luckily, they have the goods to back it up: this is a sublimely self-assured indie-rock album. It's dripping with '80s indie nostalgia, but has the snarl and firepower to go toe-to-toe with any of their contemporary peers. If this album doesn't win, we'll be surprised. (Mind you, that's not saying much when it comes to the Choice Music Prize: we're surprised most years.)


Girl Band – The Talkies (Rough Trade Records)

2019 was a seriously great year for Irish rock (see above). That said, 'The Talkies' could be released any year from 1990 until now and it would be hailed as a classic. 'Visceral' is a word that's used a lot to describe the Dublin band, but it's befitting of them on this occasion. This album harnesses noise-rock, indie, experimental punk and god-knows-what-else to make something completely off-the-wall. We think it's brilliant but we can also see why others would be put off by it: it's A LOT. For that reason, it's hard to see eleven individuals (or six, as the case may be) agreeing on it.


Jafaris – Stride (DFL)

Irish hip-hop has been enjoying a purple patch for a while now; this can be reflected in the fact that numerous hip-hop albums have both been nominated (Rejjie Snow, Kojaque) and won (Rusangano Family in 2016) the Choice Prize in recent years. And young Dublin rapper Jafaris thoroughly deserves to be on this list with this eclectic, slick debut offering, too. Percy Chamburuka's flow on songs like 'Invisible' are testament to his skill and versatility as an MC. That said, this album hasn't had the visibility and profile of some others on the list, and that – fairly or unfairly - can make a big difference. We'd be surprised if this wins for that reason.


Junior Brother – Pull The Right Rope (Strange Brew)

There was once a time when the idea of a young man playing folk songs on an acoustic guitar would send people scuttling for cover. Thankfully, Ronan Kealy managed to put his own distinct stamp on the genre and spin it into something mesmerising thanks to the gorgeous cadence and rhythm of his voice and his simple melodies. The fact that the Kerryman's been supporting a band like The Murder Capital on their recent UK tour goes to show how versatile a performer he is – but even we'll admit that there's a Marmite quality to his style. Traditionally, folk albums haven't fared as well as other genres at the Choice Prize, so unfortunately it's unlikely that he'll be taking the trophy home to the Kingdom.


Lankum – The Livelong Day (Rough Trade Records)

If Fontaines DC are this year's favourites, this album will give them a serious run for their money. You'd be a fool to bet against Lankum's fourth record scooping the plaudits, considering how it's been hailed as both visionary and as redefining trad as a genre. Hysterical hyperbole aside, The Livelong Day really is a fantastic, powerful album. We certainly wouldn't be upset if it won – but who knows what controversial trad-hating judge(s) may throw a spanner in the works on the night?


Soak – Grim Town (Rough Trade Records)

This is Bridie Monds-Watson's second run out at the Choice Music Prize – and considering that she's only released two albums, that 100% record is pretty impressive. She also won the Prize for her 2015 debut 'Before We Forgot How to Dream', but its follow-up was a different beast, veering away from tender folk and toward a more fully-formed pop and rock sound. It's a great album that might have a real shot any other year – but given the strong competition in 2020, it's unlikely that the Derrywoman will be victorious.


Maija Sofia – Bath Time (Trapped Animal Records)

There are usually a few surprises in the mix most years with the Choice shortlist, and Maija Sofia's debut album is this year's curiosity. We certainly don't mean that in a condescending manner, by the way: there is something about the low-key vibe of the Galway native's sound, but many people were wondering who she was when the shortlist was announced. Her album's songs are woven around stories of oppressed women in history and she captures a righteous sense of injustice without sounding preachy. Will it win? Nope - but if nothing else, it's brought her music to a wider audience.


Sorcha Richardson – First Prize Bravery (Faction Records)

Now, this is an album that really ought to have been huge. Dubliner Sorcha Richardson started out as a writer of low-key folk-pop songs, but really found her feet in recent years with a quirky band-led indiepop sound. Given the right push, the easygoing songs on this record could compete with acts like Courtney Barnett, Phoebe Bridgers, Big Thief et al on an international stage. If she wins – and we'd be surprised but delighted if that happened - it could make a difference to getting her name out there on a wider scale.

VERDICT: We're going with Fontaines DC as the winners, but hedging our bets with Lankum and Mick Flannery.