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Music | Review: Villagers claim Irish Album of the Year at Meteor Choice Music Prize

Villagers picked up the award for Irish Album of the Year on Thursday night at a sold-out ceremony in Vicar St.  Their album {awayland} was the second album from O’Brien and Co. who had previously been nominated for the award in 2010 with debut “Becoming a Jackal”.

The awards were hosted by Today FM’s Paul McLoone and featured performances from seven out of 10 acts nominated for album of the year.

Girls Names kicked off proceedings with their Joy Division sound in track ‘Pittura Infamente’ , along with a performance from Cavan songwriter Lisa O’Neill. After the two performed, host McLoone returned to announce the winner of Song of the Year as voted for by the public, with The Original Rudeboys claiming the title with latest single ‘Never Gonna Walk Away‘. 

MCMPBut for anyone who was lucky enough to witness the other acts on show, there were other positive moments that came with the celebrations.  It is in fact the shortlist, the sold-out showcase of Irish acts, many of whom have been on top form for the previous 12 months promoting their records at home and abroad.  Whether it was the first nomination or the fourth, each act played a couple of songs like it all came down to this moment.

It started with O Emperor‘s performance, where by a member of the audience shouted “We love O Emperor “, frontman Paul Savage acknowledged by saying “We love you too” before breaking into tracks ‘Contact’, ‘Holy Fool’ and ‘This Is It’ from second album ‘Vitreous’.

Kodaline‘s video montage was up next, as Steve, Mark, and Vinny told the story of chart-topping debut album ‘High Hopes’.  The band (may) have had a fair excuse for not performing on the night, since they were flying the flag in the US on tour.

Bell X1 arrived as an acoustic trio, each carrying an acoustic guitar and laying bare tracks ‘Feint Praise’, ‘The End is Nigh’ and ‘Careful What You Wish For’ from latest long player ‘Chop Chop’.  As documented in the short video beforehand, Paul and Dom explained how the album was recorded in a fortnight period due to clashing schedules of the producers they wanted to work with.  Which is quite the feat when knowing you have a short space of time to work with.

Although My Bloody Valentine did not perform, vocalist and guitarist Kevin Sheilds was in attendance, which Mr.McLoone pointed out as an act of banter between audience and host.

Up next were Little Green Cars, a band who have a charming set of harmonies in their ranks.  Singer Steve Appleby pointed out what others like Lisa O’Niell had done earlier that evening about  “giant versions of ourselves” before they obliged in performing.  It seemed the ‘Harper Lee’ songwriters proved ‘too hot’ by setting off Vicar St’s fire alarm during ‘The Kitchen Floor’, the band continued despite “an impromptu keys solo from Kev” as Appleby remarked.

Greystones beat-maker Niall Mannion was up next proving to be the only DJ/producer performing on the night.  Touring as Mano Le Tough, Mannion is expected to have a big 2014, which some might add is influenced by the scene of Berlin where he currently lives.  Debut album ‘Changing Days’ is a substantial dance album of well crafted songs but not exactly floor fillers.

Belfast instrumental rockers And So I Watch You From Afar may not have been in attendance, but another fair excuse might be made since they were in Singapore on tour.

Final performance on the night was left to Villagers who went to claim the top prize.  A more than pale-faced Conor O’Brien took to the stage with the band and performed ‘My Lighthouse’, ‘Nothing Arrived’ and ‘The Waves’ to all round applause.   As soon at they were off stage for what seemed like a breather, they returned to pick up their trophy.

For Villagers and The Original Rudeboys, winning the two categories was certainly sweet.  Not to mention the novelty sized €10,000 cheque that comes with the Album of the Year title.  Consistency seemed to be key in the judge’s decision.  The radio friendly Song of the Year category was slightly tame given the lack of ‘critics choice’ in the decision, but it did offer balance in the judging platform by including audience and fan participation.

There will always be criticism about act omissions from shortlists, but that’s always the way with awards.  Aside from that, the nominees all round for the Choice Music Prize were a testament to a healthy Irish music scene in terms of acts.  Roll on next year!