This year’s Choice Music Prize nominations arguably provides the strongest lineup of nominees ever, writes Paul Fennessy

January and February marks a time in the arts calendar when awards ceremonies are rife. The Brit Award nominations have just been announced and film fans are on tenterhooks for the Oscars. Closer to home, we have the Choice Music Prize, which celebrates the best in homegrown Irish music.

The prize was started in 2005 and aims to encourage the best in Irish music. Since its inception, winners have included The Divine Comedy, Jape and Super Extra Bonus Party. Moreover, this year, it is inarguably the preeminent Irish music award show, considering the recently announced cancellation of the Meteor awards.

This year’s prize looks set to be hotly contested. 2010, while being a disastrous year for our economy and international reputation, was an excellent year for Irish music. Nominees for the 2010 prize include Adebisi Shank’s This is the Second Album of a band called Adebisi Shank, The Cast of Cheers’ Chariot and Cathy Davey’s The Nameless.

At first glance, it is incredibly difficult to know which act is most deserving of the title. With a mix of established artists such as Imelda May and relative newcomers like James Vincent McMorrow, it provides an excellent distillation of the current Irish music industry.

The fan favourites are clearly Two Door Cinema Club. The band have enjoyed a highly successful year, with hits such as ‘Undercover Martyn’ and ‘I Can Talk’ providing the perfect soundtrack for what it’s like being a twenty-something, living and loving in the big city.

Meanwhile, the critics would undoubtedly prefer Villagers’ Becoming a Jackal to acquire the coveted prize. Conor O’Brien is clearly one of a kind, as his idiosyncratic debut proves. Not only did it enable him to break from the shadow of his former bandmates in The Immediate, but it also led to acclaim across the water in the form of a Mercury Prize nomination.

True to music critic form, this writer would suggest that the judges could do far worse than to award Villagers the prize. Given that the judging panel comprises solely of music critics, the other nominees might as well not bother showing up. On the other hand, I could ramble on about how art is subjective and each individual perceives it in a unique way for paragraph upon paragraph, but I’ll spare you the pain.

Finally, we’d like to give a shout-out to our some-time columnists Fight Like Apes. Success for The Body of Christ and the Legs of Tina Turner would inevitably be toasted over a pint or two in o-two towers.