The RTÉ Choice Music Prize for Irish album of the year takes place this Thursday in Vicar Street. Tickets are available from €28 + fees.

As the same time as the 10 artists nominated take to the stage (and the popular vote-driven, less weighted song of the year winner is announced), the 10 judges will spend their time deliberating the merits of each album in a locked room, so the live performances have no bearing on the outcome. It’s an award that is hard to predict and comes down to the likes and dislikes of the ten particular judges in the room; how passionate they feel about certain genres, lyrics, sounds and what consensus about the best album from the list forms while they are that room.

Recent years have seen worthy wins for Rusangano Family , Soak, The Gloaming, Villagers and Jape. All the recent albums were deemed worthy winners by critics in advance, despite varying degrees of album popularity. So with that in mind, here’s a look at the runners this year.

We start with the list of actual judges who picked the 10 albums below.

Judging Panel

Kate Brennan Harding – Today FM
Martin Byrne – Music Consultant – Glasdrum / ex Other Voices
Stephen Byrne – GoldenPlec
Tracy Clifford – 2FM
Alan Donovan – Red FM
Dave Hanratty – Freelance journalist & broadcaster with NO ENCORE podcast
Hugh Linehan – Irish Times Culture/Arts/Ticket Editor
Ann Marie Shields – BIMM
Lilian Smith – RTE Radio 1
Danny Wilson – Totally Dublin.

As discussed upon the first announcement,  the lack of a Northern Irish judge on the panel has meant that there was less chance that records from Bicep, Joshua Burnside or ASIWYFA on the list (a regional judge would have been more likely to hear these records local to them by osmosis, and put them forward). Choice chairman Tony Clayton-Lea responded to criticism on Twitter about that saying they had an NI judge on the panel who pulled out and who wasn’t replaced due to short notice which is a real shame, and contributes too much Dublin bias overall. Parking that aside for now, let’s look at each album’s chances.

Shortlisted albums

Come On Live Long – In The Still


Come On Live Long’s second album In The Still is a fine record but it felt like it flew under the radar generally speaking with the band premiering the album on Nialler9 and with the band members living in different countries, live dates were few and far between to support the release. So it felt like a surprise that it made the list, especially as the album’s textured tracks are less immediate than the band’s previous album back in 2013.

Does it have a chance?
It feels unlikely that consensus would form in the room over a release that rewards patience and time over immediacy. It’s a good record for sure, but I can’t see this winning over a majority.

Favourite track: ‘In the Still’:


Marlene Enright – Placemats and Second Cuts

Another somewhat surprising but heartening addition to this year’s list that was also premiered on Nialler9. Cork singer-songwriter Enright was formerly a singer with The Hard Ground and her contributions were always a highlight of that band. On her own steam, Enright settles into a comfortable and pleasing groove of songs that bring in organ-lines, spacious arrangements, rolling rhythms to support Enright’s voice which carries a magnetic swirl and focus to it. It’s a charming record with warm tones and well-written songs.

Does it have a chance?
It may be the case that the judges will find this album pleasant but won’t argue passionately for it. One that may have to settle for the live Choice show experience and with an acclaimed album to build on.

Favourite track: ‘123’


Fangclub – Fangclub


The only album on this year’s list on a major label (Universal), Fang Club’s self-titled debut does one thing really well – mine grunge music of the past with updated modern production for an engaging if unvaried rock album.

Does it have a chance?
Grunge and rock aren’t dominant or as vital genres in today’s music landscape as they once were and the judges may inevitably end up comparing the band’s relevance in 2018 to the greats who have done it better 20 to 30 years ago.

Favourite track: ‘Bullethead’:


Lankum – Beneath the Earth and the Sky

The second album from folk miscreants Lankum (formerly Lynched) was released on Rough Trade and offers a slightly more polished take on their punkish trad sound. Here’s a band who are traditional in the way the genre intends covering folk songs of the past alongside new compositions in a gritty and youthful style that marks itself apart from the Dubliners and the Fureys of the world. There’s plenty to enjoy here especially the eight-minute state-of-our-nation ‘Deanta in Eireann’ and the evocative version of folk song ‘What Will We Do When We Have No Money?’ but as an album overall, it jumps between styles and tempos jarringly enough which may work against it as a whole album release.

Does it have a chance?
It certainly does, considering The Gloaming’s contemporary take on trad won three years ago, but it depends on the judges’ overall susceptibility to the band’s take on trad. It is an album of definite Irish extraction, which may help when choosing an Irish album of the year.

Favourite track: ‘Deanta in Eireann’


James Vincent McMorrow – True Care


The fourth album from James Vincent McMorrow arrived so hot on the heels on his previous album that it was a surprise  announced a week before release. As such, it was also made in a different way to McMorrow’s other long players. Made quickly and self-recorded over the course of five months, mean that the album is unburdened by any commercial expectation and features some of McMorrow’s most interesting work. The hasty production also means that the songs don’t burn as clear or as bright as his last album We Move, which had modern R&B production. True Care is more intimate, less concerned with big gestures and lyrically, more interested in home truths. So much so that the artist annotated the album’s lyrics on Genius in advance of release.

Does it have a chance?
The Choice judges have not proved to be people who traditionally award the prize to repeat nominees. McMorrow’s been nominated for every album thus far and has yet to win it. The Choice chairman will tell the judges that you decide on each album’s own merit but it may help sway the room in a year where there’s no one obvious winner. It also helps that the album is McMorrow’s truest creative expression in long-form yet. A really good chance this will win.

Favourite track: ‘National’


New Jackson – From Night to Night


David Kitt’s long-awaited debut as New Jackson didn’t disappoint for fans of his night-time analogue electronica. Kitt has constructed a deft collection of dancefloor-centric music that draws from the worlds of house and techno without sacrificing its own identity. It’s an album that has a soft nocturnal edge. Some of the best New Jackson songs thus far in my estimation, were released before or after the album on EPs and singles, like ‘Having A Coke With You’, ‘There Will Always Be This Love’ or ‘Sat  Around Here Waiting’ being personal favourites but the album overall works as a long-player of two sides.

Does it have a chance?
A full electronic dancefloor album is always going to have a hard time getting a winning consensus from ten disparate judges so it feels unlikely. A worthy inclusion on the list but unlikely to be first choice.

Favourite track: ‘From Night To Night’.


Otherkin – OK

The Dublin indie-rock band Otherkin feel like a band out of time with what’s going on around them. Here’s a band who write capable and catchy indie-rock songs with pop-leaning choruses but it feels in thrall to a scene and sound that has long since fallen out of favour – namely London and NME of the late 90s. The songs sound ripe for Rimmel London ad placements. While it’s a fun and highly-targetted listen, OK doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Lyrically, there’s not much more than a veneer of melody at play.

Does it have a chance?
A fine singalong indie rock album in a historic sea of them.

Favourite track: ‘Ay Ay’


Fionn Regan – The Meetings of the Waters

A curious release from Fionn Regan. Five years since his last full-length and it sounds like time away has left him with a renewed sense of purpose. The Meetings Of The Waters feels like a stepping stone to a new path for Regan as opposed to the final destination. Ditching the Dylan-influence completely, the album largely features meditative spacious folk music that sustains quietly like smouldering embers and a centrepiece of three tracks with more layered rock music-style songs.

Does it have a chance?
Doubtful. The album’s meandering style is miles away from the folk singer-songwriter sound that made his name, and while that is not a bad thing, The Meetings of the Waters feels like an artist in transition and I think the judges will recognise that.

Favourite track: ‘The Meetings of The Waters’.


Ships – Precession

Ships’ debut was my favourite Irish album of last year. Characterised by intricately-produced synthesiser-driven electronic pop, the songs here have groove, funk and space, which draws from the past and sounds very much of the now. Whether its the gleaming disco-funk of ‘All Will Be’, the psychedelic space-rock of ‘I Can Never’ which is reminiscent of Tame Impala, the deep peaks of ‘Around This World’ or the electro delay of ‘None Of It Real’, McGrath and Cullen deliver commanding vocal performances too that bury these triumphant tunes deeper.

Does it have a chance?
A dark horse contender for sure. It’s well-produced, engaging, unique and lyrically considered. I would love to see this win and it very well may.

Favourite track: ‘All Will Be’


Talos – Wild Alee

Cork man Eoin French’s debut as Talos makes towering glacial soundscapes that feel built for his falsetto voice to rest upon. At its peaks, the Ross Dowling-produced album has slow-building anthemic choruses and many moments of instrumental beauty in its midst, that draws on a perfect storm of swirling sonics, guitar, synths and electronics. French’s voice is a powerhouse too – a breaking, powerful instrument that needs little else at times to engage with the listener.

Does it have a chance?
It’s certainly a beautiful album and one that has been critically very well-received. I just have a feeling that overall, it may be viewed as not having quite enough for the judges to argue on its behalf when it comes down to whittling down the albums to a final three.

Favourite track: ‘Odyssey’


So who will win?

After considering every album on the list, I think it’s  James Vincent McMorrow, Ships or Lankum in that order.

Posted on March 6th, 2018

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The 10 nominees for this year’s RTÉ Choice Music Prize album of the year will perform at this year ceremony which takes place at Vicar Street on Thursday March 8th.

Nominees and performers include:
  • Come On Live Long
  • Marlene Enright
  • Fangclub
  • Lankum
  • James Vincent McMorrow
  • New Jackson
  • Otherkin
  • Fionn Regan
  • Ships
  • Talos

Tickets for the Choice Music Prize live event on March 8th in Vicar Street are available from Ticketmaster and priced €28 plus fees.

Posted on February 7th, 2018

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At the Shane McGowan 60th Birthday concert at the Nationaal Concert Hall this month, amidst a bewildering conveyor belt of high-profile artists who came out to sing, one of the highlights were Dublin folk-tradsters Lankum who did an acapella version of The Pogues’ ‘The Old Main Drag’.

The band have now recorded a video with Jamie Goldrick and David Knox of the band performing it.

If you ask me, Beneath The Earth and the Sky is my tip for the Choice this year.

Posted on January 26th, 2018

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The National Concert Hall is not a place you’d square with the debaucherous life and career of Shane MacGowan. But, The Pogues singer was never one to sty inside the lines and the national venue is taken over for one night for a 60th birthday show in his honour.

As Damien Dempsey says on stage during his first of many rousing performances that runs for nearly three hours with an interval, “They said that Shane wouldn’t see 30, then 40, then 50, nevermind 60,” he said. “Betcha many of those people are dead now,” he joked.

On the night, a bewilderingly large cast of his friends and admirers (and the President of Ireland Michael D) assembled to sing his own songs back to the man who imbued Irish folk and trad with a punk verve and energy.

If you thought this was going to be a stuffy recital in Earlsfort Terrace, this is Shane MacGowan’s night. A three-song Pogues rock set from Glen Matlock of The Sex Pistols, Clem Burke of Blondie, The Pogues’ Spider Stacy and Jesse Malin opened the show with a bast and made it clear that this was to be no seated event.

The audience barely had a moment to sit down such was the excitement as each new performer appeared on stage introduced by broadcaster John Kelly. A conveyer of serious talent joined a house band featuring members of the Pogues including Jem Finer, Terry Woods and Cáit O’Riordan playing alongside Sharon Shannon, Steve Wickham of the Waterboys and more as a rotating cast of singers like Damo Dempsey, Nick Cave, Imelda May, Glen Hansard, Bobby Gillespie, Carl Barat, Camille O’Sullivan, Finbar Furey, Cerys Matthews paid tribute while upcoming and younger musicians whenyoung’s Aoife Power, Lankum, Cormac Begley and Lisa O’Neill did Macgowan’s songs in a respectful and capable manner.

There were the unlisted guests, of course.

Bono sang ‘A Rainy Night In Soho’ (and Johnny Depp did his noodly guitar thing with him), Dubliners’ John Sheahan added great texture to the night.

The highlights were many. Sinead O’Connor surprised all with a devastating performance of ‘You’re the One’. Cait O’Riordan returned the favour by singing ‘Haunted By The Ghost’ which O’Connor previously sang with MacGowan, Lisa O’Neill duetted with Terry Woods on ‘Streets of Sorrow / Birmingham Six’ and later, channels Kirsty MacColl on ‘Fairytale Of New York’ on a duet with Glen Hansard. Damien Dempsey gets the closest to Macgowan’s folk instincts on his trio of performances including the rousing drinking song ‘Sally MacLennane’.

The accumulative effect of established musicians performing whiskey-soaked hymns and jams, the gig feels less like a birthday gig and more of a funeral for Ireland, such was the ability of MacGowan to bury himself into the Irish psyche by writing spirited barstool songs along with insightful lyrics informed by Celtic emigrant romanticism.

By the time Nick Cave sat down beside MacGowan, who made his appearance during the finale, and the pair sang ‘Summer In Siam’, and are joined by every member of the cast and the President, there are tears around the room. A spontaneous Happy Birthday leads the frail MacGowan to respond in kind with ‘The Wild Mountain Thyme’.

The National Concert Hall has never seen the likes of it. And likely neither shall we.

Damo at Shame McGowan's 60th Birthday gig. A conveyor of brilliance.

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What a night ! ❤️ #shane60 #damiendempsey

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Photos: NCH

Posted on January 16th, 2018

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The RTÉ Choice Music Prize have announced the 10 albums shortlisted for Irish album of the year today as revealed on Tracy Clifford’s 2FM show by Choice chairman Tony Clayton-Lea.

The winning album will be revealed at Vicar Street on March 8th after a judging panel deliberation.

The 10 albums shortlisted by the judges for Irish album of the year are:

Shortlisted albums

Come On Live Long – In The Still (self released)
Marlene Enright – Placemats and Second Cuts (self released)
Fangclub – Fangclub (Universal)
Lankum – Beneath the Earth and the Sky (Rough Trade)
James Vincent McMorrow – True Care (Faction Records)
New Jackson – From Night to Night (All City)
Otherkin – OK (Rubyworks)
Fionn Regan – The Meetings of the Waters (Abbey Records)
Ships – Precession (Ships Music)
Talos – Wild Alee (Feel Good Lost)

A Spotify playlist of nominated album highlights

Reaction?

A very strong list this year. Great to see Ships, Talos, Come On Live Long, Marlene Enright and New Jackson in there – many of which were featured in my Irish albums of the year. We live in a deluge of new music so for those albums to get even to judge’s ears now is no mean feat, not least make an impression. Independently-released albums have to swim upstream and rely on sites like this, word-of-mouth and hard graft to make a lasting impression beyond the week of release in the first place.

Missing from the list? Northern Irish acts didn’t get a look in once again. The NI Album of the Year from Joshua Burnside doesn’t feature, nor does the brilliant debut album from Bicep or And So I Watch You From Afar most notably. It seems the NI / ROI divide remains even if it has certainly improved in recent years.

2017 wasn’t a year that many Irish major label acts released an album save for U2, Van Morrison, Niall Horan, The Coronas and The Script. The Script was pretty much panned across the board and U2’s Songs Of Experience received mixed reviews. It’s December release date may not have helped.

One notable act whose huge success didn’t translate to a Choice Music Prize nomination? Picture This. They may be able to sell out big venues all over the country but this award is for album alone and the critics didn’t pluck for the Kildare boys.

No room for trad acts like Cormac Begley or Martin Hayes and Damien Dempsey fell short of the judges.

About the Choice Music Prize

The winning act will receive €10,000, a prize fund which has been provided by The Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO) and The Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA). All of the shortlisted acts will receive a specially commissioned award. RAAP, Culture Ireland & Golden Discs are also official project partners.

RTÉ Choice Music Prize – Irish Song of The Year 2017

The shortlist for the RTÉ Choice Music Prize – Irish Song of The Year 2017 will be announced on Wednesday 31st January 2018. A special event featuring exclusive performances from both Album of the Year and Song of the Year nominees will be held in Dublin’s Tramline venue that evening.

Choice Live Event – tickets

Tickets for the Choice Music Prize live event on March 8th in Vicar Street are available from Ticketmaster and priced €28 plus fees.

RTÉ 2FM Radio support

RTÉ 2FM will celebrate the announcement of the shortlist across its schedule throughout the day with All Irish Music All Day from 6am to midnight. Louise McSharry will present a two-hour special programme on this year’s RTÉ Choice Music Prize, Irish Album of the Year 2017 shortlist from 8-10pm this evening. RTÉ 2FM will continue to mark the announcement of the shortlist this week and beyond through a mix of airplay of tracks from the shortlisted albums, interviews with this year’s shortlisted artists and live performances.

Live event broadcast on RTE radio and TV

As part of the partnership with RTÉ, the event will be broadcast live on RTÉ 2FM in a special four-hour extended programme from 7-11pm and on RTÉ2 as part of a special RTÉ Choice Music Prize TV programme, approximately one week later.

Judging Panel

Kate Brennan Harding – Today FM
Martin Byrne – Music Consultant
Stephen Byrne – Golden Plec
Tracy Clifford – 2fm
Alan Donovan – Red FM
Dave Hanratty – Freelance journalist & broadcaster with NO ENCORE podcast
Hugh Linehan – Irish Times Culture/Arts/Ticket Editor
Ann Marie Shields – BIMM
Lilian Smith – RTE Radio 1
Danny Wilson – Totally Dublin

Previous winners of the Choice Music Prize

2016: Rusangano Family
2015: Soak
2014: The Gloaming
2013: Villagers
2012: Jape
2011: Delorentos
2010: Two Door Cinema Club
2009: Adrian Crowley
2008: Jape
2007: Super Extra Bonus Party
2006: The Divine Comedy
2005: Julie Feeney

Posted on January 10th, 2018

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Lankum, who released their second album this past Friday on Rough Trade and recently played a headline show in the National Concert Hall, are set to play a pre-Christmas show on Saturday December 9th.

Tickets priced €26 + fees go on sale this Friday 3rd November at 9am through Ticketmaster.ie & usual outlets nationwide.

Their new album is one of 5 recommended new album releases this week.

They are doing signings and playing a few songs on Thursday at 5pm at Tower records on Dawson Street.

Posted on November 1st, 2017

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With so many releases flying at you, here are recommended vetted listens from Nialler9 for you this week, as collated in the Nialler9 New Releases Spotify playlist, updated weekly.


1.

Julien Baker – Turn Off The Lights

21 year-old songwriter signed to Matador Records who was my new artist of the week for the Irish Times last week, hits some big highs on her second album, and the first that people are already paying attention to and she’s nailed it with big songs that burn with atmosphere and a voice that commands the release. The gig on November 9th is sold out.

Listen on Spotify


2.

Lankum – Between The Earth & The Sky

The band formerly known as Lynched release their first album (second in total) on Rough Trade Records. The phrase they coined about themselves still feels like the truest to apply to the band – folk miscreants. There are traditional tunes here but original ones too like the 8-minute ‘Deanta in Eireann’ that could be about nearly any time in Irish history but are applicable to the now – migration, a government who doesn’t care about the little people and using your Irish charm abroad but it turns the song’s gaze back on the homeland – if the Dáil are the pimps, then we are the whores” and in the end, you’ll want to stand up and declare the song our new antagonistic national anthem.

Listen on Spotify.


3.

Martin Hayes Quartet – The Blue Room

The Gloaming fiddle players’ latest project saw him convene in an 18th century house in Bantry with frequent collaborator Dennis Cahill (guitars) and New Yorkers Doug Wieselman (bass clarinet, Anthony & The Johnsons and Laurie Anderson) and Liz Knowles (hardanger d’amore), with a fire going at both sides of The Blue Room (the album is called after it) and the quartet’s recording process involved playing each traditional piece repeatedly and allowing something different to emerge in the process. The quartet are playing the album at NCH this Saturday night.

Listen on Spotify


4.

Fever Ray – Plunge

For her first Fever Rat album in 8 years, Karin Dreijer returns to the sound that made the now defunct band The Knife that she formed with her brother a going concern – that means it’s more dynamic electro pop with an edge than a haunted atmospheric album like LP1. More on the background of the album, the release of which was only announced yesterday.

Listen on Spotify


5.

Adrian Crowley – The Dark-Eyed Messenger

The Galway/Dublin singer-songwriter has been following a path of elegaic music making in recent years and his eighth album eschews his trusty guitar completely, thanks to encouragement from producer Thomas Bartlett (The Gloaming again). That makes for music that has new tones and colour to it. The only constant is Crowley’s barrelling baritone.

Listen on Spotify


Posted on October 27th, 2017

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Donal Dineen and Myles O’Reilly’s This Ain’t No Disco online music show has returned for a third episode and the 50 minute show features Brigid Mae Power, Rusangano Family, Lankum, Peter Broderick, Lisa O’Neill & RSAG. Peat and Lisa O’Neill duet on Irish traditional singer Margaret Barry’s song Factory Girl.

Press play up top.
First episode.

https://nialler9.com/villagers-nico-muhly-fortunate-child/

Posted on July 31st, 2017

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Next weekend sees the kickoff of Clonmel Junction, a multidisciplinary arts festival that draws music, comedy, dance, visual art and installation from all over the country to Clonmel and the wider South Tipperary area. A whole host of attractions are lined out for the festival, running from July 3rd to July 10th, and picking a handful of sights to see is tough, but here’s our personal selection of some must-see gigs happening throughout.

1.

Saint Caoilian

Thursday July 6th, 6pm @ Baker’s Bar, free

Everyone loves Caoilian Sherlock. Absolutely everybody. No exceptions. The handsomest boy in Cork music has worn many a hat in his time among the city’s musical rabble: as a DJ, one of the curators of Quarter Block Party, one of Southern Hospitality Board, and as one of the lads from Leeside psych-pop combo The Shaker Hymn. Criss-crossing the roads of Ireland on his lonesome for new project Saint Caoilian, Sherlock taps into his inner troubadour to sweet, injured, almost heartbroken effect.


2.

Lankum

Friday July 7th, 8pm @ Mulcahy’s, €20

The artists formerly known as Lynched have been on the ascendant in recent years, combining respect for a vast array of musical traditions with a distinctly relevant socially-conscious edge. They combine distinctive four-part vocal harmonies with arrangements of uilleann pipes, concertina, Russian accordion, fiddle and guitar. Having appeared on Later with Jools Holland following the release of their first album Cold Old Fire, the band were also nominated for three gongs at the 2016 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and have signed with Rough Trade for their second long-player.


3.

Loah

Friday July 7th, 8pm @ Mitchelstown Cave, €30, with Peter Broderick

Meanwhile, over at Mitchelstown Cave on the same evening, one of the vanguard of the new wave of Irish artists takes to stage. Sallay Matu Garnett, aka Loah, is a now well-established presence in Irish music. The Sierra Leonean/Irish singer has been a lifelong musician, classically trained in piano, violin and voice. Her time at Trinity College yielded collaborations with future members of the likes of Little Green Cars, Slow Skies and I Have A Tribe, while subsequent ventures have seen her co-write music on Hozier’s platinum self-titled record, and finish her debut E.P., showcasing her folkish brand of self-named “art-soul”.


4.

Wry Myrrh

Saturday July 8th, 6pm @ Phil Carroll’s, free

The improvisational project of musician/artist Irene Buckley and producer/GASH Collective head Ellen King (aka ELLL), Wry Myrrh weave together off-the-cuff electronica with brooding, foreboding drones and textures. Debuting in January of 2016 at Cork’s Community Print Shop, the duo have since shared a stage with Sophie Cooper, MMOTHS, and the Tor Invocation Band.


5.

Crash Ensemble & Sam Amidon

Saturday July 8th, 8pm @ Old St. Mary’s Church, €30

At the bleeding edge of contemporary Irish music for twenty years this year, Crash Ensemble have been pursuing a number of special events and collaborations. For this event Crash Ensemble will be joined by American folk artist Sam Amidon, who reworks traditional folk melodies into new, indie-friendly forms.


Tickets for all events above are available now at junctionfestival.com, along with info on the full programme.

Posted on June 28th, 2017

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