The shortlist for this year's RTÉ Choice Music Prize for Best Album was announced earlier today. We take a look (and listen) back to the Irish Album of the Year winners over the past decade.
Set up in 2005 by music manager Dave Reid and journalist Jim Carroll, the Choice Prize has become one of the highlights of the Irish musical calendar; it's awarded to the Irish Album of the Year, as chosen from a shortlist of ten releases by a panel comprised of twelve Irish music media professionals and industry experts. The winning act receives €10,000.
2005: 13 Songs by Julie Feeney
Supernaturally talented multi-instrumentalist Feeney won the inaugural Choice gong for her splendid self-released debut; she also produced, arranged and played eleven instruments, including keyboards, alto recorder, treble recorder, harmonium, accordion, violin, harmonica, melodica, xylophone and a clock!
2006: Victory for the Comic Muse by The Divine Comedy
The title of Neil Hannon's ninth Divine Comedy record quotes E.M. Foster's novel A Room With A View, and was primarily recorded in live takes over a two-week period - an impressive achievement before you take into account Hannon's penchant for sophisticated orchestrations. That said, after two highly-strung Choice winners in a row, it was time to mix it up a bit...
2007: Super Extra Bonus Party by Super Extra Bonus Party
Perhaps the most controversial winner in Choice history to date, the enigmatic Kildare collective seemingly came out of nowhere to bag the prize in 2007, before disappearing back to relative obscurity - back in the day, they infuriated many, possibly due to their decision to perform in animal heads and/or pyjamas, but hey - there's been nothing quite like them before or since.
2008: Ritual by Jape
Crumlin man Richie Egan confounded the bookies with his win in 2008, topping a strong field that included career-best work from David Holmes, Lisa Hannigan and Fight Like Apes - that said, the Choice judging panel have never been afraid to confound expectations, and the Jape record was an absolute diamond.
2009: The Season of the Sparks by Adrian Crowley
Galwegian crooner Crowley bested the likes of The Swell Season, The Duckworth Lewis Method and Bell X1 (who, despite multiple nominations, have yet to bag the prize) to win in 2009 with his unmistakable brand of achingly beautiful melancholia - frequently compared to the likes of Leonard Cohen, Scott Walker and Bill Callaghan, he remains one of the most consistently brilliant Irish artists around.
2010: Tourist History by Two Door Cinema Club
Many thought that Conor O'Brien's Villagers had it in the bag in 2010 with Becoming The Jackal, but Alex Trimble's Bangor upstarts (then barely out of their teens) took home the prize with their infectious debut album, still their finest hour to date - what's more, they donated the €10K prize to charity. More of that.
2011: Oceans of Frequency by Jape
Three years after Ritual, Richie Egan became the first act to win the Choice Prize twice with this magnum opus, the epic successor to Ritual - a fine record, but truth be told, we probably would have gone for Cashier No9's magnificent To The Death of Fun. But what do we know?
2012: Little Sparks by Delorentos
After a DIY campaign that saw them open pop-up record shops across the country, and the best reviews of their career, guitar heroes Delorentos saw off previous winners Julie Feeney, Adrian Crowley and Two Door Cinema Club to win in 2012 - they'd be nominated again two years later for Night Becomes Light.
2013: Awayland by Villagers
Their first two albums were nominated for both Choice and Mercury prizes; it was Conor O'Brien's crowning statement as Spokesman For A (Highly Sensitive) Generation that finally bagged them the former. Lyrically oblique and sonically audacious, Awayland is a thing of beauty, and a great headphones album. The band's secret weapon, guitarist and co-producer Tommy McLoughlin, would return to the podium two years later - see below.
2014: The Gloaming by The Gloaming
Arguably the most acclaimed Irish record (and band) of the past decade, the nu-trad supergroup became the first traditional music act to win the Choice with their incandescent debut set, besting heavy-hitters like U2, Sinead O'Connor, Damien Rice and Aphex Twin (born in Limerick) - it's fair to say they're in with a decent shout of making the shortlist again this time out with the equally magnificent sequel.
2015: before we forgot how to dream by Soak
For their 10th anniversary outing, it all came full circle as another utterly unique solo female debutant bagged the Choice accolade. Derry wonder woman Bridie Monds-Watson officially became the youngest Choice winner (at 19) with an album created in deepest, darkest Donegal with Villager Tommy McLoughlin, and a rather magnificent one at that.
The shortlist for this year’s RTÉ Choice Music Prize, Irish Album of the Year 2016 (presented in association with IMRO & IRMA) will be announced on Wednesday 11th January; in addition, the shortlist for the Irish Song of The Year prize will be announced on February 1st - more here.