Choice Music PrizeVillagers win The Meteor Choice Music Prize

By Roisin Peddle

Indie favourites Villagers’ second release {Awayland} scooped the Meteor Choice Music Prize for the best album of 2013 last Thursday evening, February 27, at Vicar Street, Dublin.

Frontman Conor O’Brien, who “glammed up” in white face-paint, thanked the judges and their fans, adding it was “brilliant” that “you’re vaguely interested in listening to my weird little songs.”

O’Brien paid tribute to the other acts nominated. “Tonight is a celebration of the diversity of Irish music, long may it continue,” he said.

The band gave a stirring performance of three tracks from the album, drawing some of the biggest cheers of the night. The beautiful ‘My Lighthouse’ had the room in total hush, and the lead single from {Awayland}, ‘Nothing Arrived’ was greeted as an old friend. The set concluded with an intense rendition of ‘The Waves’, one of the strongest songs from an excellent album.

Villagers have also received €10,000 cash prize as well as the award, and the accolade is sure to boost album sales.

Song of the Year, which was decided by a public vote, went to Dublin hip-hop outfit ORB (formerly Original Rudeboys) for their song ‘Never Gonna Walk Away’.

“It’s pretty special to come out as song of the year when you’re up against these guys,” the band said, before launching into a performance of the winning song.

The entire evening was a testament to O’Brien’s comments, with excellent performances across a diverse range of genres and styles. MC Paul McLoone, of The Undertones, brought a wry and sardonic tone to proceedings, which would be instantly familiar to any fans of his week-night radio show. The entire ceremony was broadcast live on Today FM on the Paul McLoone Show, and RTE2 also showed a one-hour highlight package on Sunday evening.

The event kicked off with Belfast four-piece Girls Names, who demonstrated the scuzzy lo-fi rock that made their nominated album The New Life such a thrill.

Waterford band O Emperor have evolved to a more twisted, surfer sound on their second album Vitreous. The band gave a storming rendition of ‘Contact’, the highlight of their set.

Kodaline couldn’t make the awards due to commitments in Los Angeles (“a shabby excuse” according to Paul McLoone, tongue firmly in cheek). And So I Watch You From Afar are currently touring in Singapore and couldn’t make it either. Despite their nomination for their comeback album, MVB, My Bloody Valentine were also unable to perform. However, Kevin Shields was said to be wandering the venue, to great general excitement.

Even these no-shows could not put a dampener on the evening. Bell X1 treated the audience to a good-humoured, stripped down set featuring the band and three acoustic guitars. All three songs were excellent, but ‘The End is Nigh’ displayed lead singer Paul Noonan’s vocal chops to stunning effects.

Little Green Cars literally set the stage on fire- a fire alarm went off during their set (or it could have just been their mischievous keyboard player). Neither this, nor an errant guitar strap, could stop the young Dubliners’ gallop. Their stomping set comprised the barnstorming ‘Harper Lee’, the eerily beautiful ‘Kitchen Floor’, and the poignant ‘My Love Took Me Down to the River to Silence Me’.

An excellent set by Wicklow-born Berliner Mano Le Tough wrapped up the nominees, and Cavan singer Lisa O’Neill showcased her distinctive voice and beautiful tunes. All in all, it’s as Conor O’Brien stated- the Meteor Choice Music Prize is a testament to the wonderful diversity of the Irish music scene.