On Thursday afternoon, the 14th Australian Music Prize will be presented in Melbourne after judges (including me) break each other’s bones, eight artist’s hearts, but not the rules, to select a winner from the highly accomplished shortlist of 9.
In that Shortlist for the best Australian album of 2018 are:
Abbe May – Fruit
Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
Dead Can Dance – Dionysus
Grand Salvo – Sea Glass
Gurrumul – Djarimirri
Laura Jean – Devotion
The Presets- Hi Viz
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs
Sam Anning – Across A Field As Vas As One
Back in 2011, as the 6th AMP was to be awarded, Melbourne musician Eveyln Morris, then working under the name Pikelet, was nervous as hell having made the Shortlist for the first time.
It was the year after Lisa Mitchell surprised many, not least those who had decried the AMP as the home for unreconstructed indie rock fans, by winning the prize and its $30,000. All of a sudden, many more things seemed possible for an award beginning to be recognised for its policy of – shock horror! – choosing quality over (sales) quantity.
Coincidentally, this past week the last music to be released under the name Pikelet by Morris, now identifying as they/their and working under the name Eveyln Ida Morris (whose 2018 self-titled release was a genuine AMP contender), has begun appearing ahead of a full, farewell album.
The timing seemed too good to miss and in this preview of the 2011 announcement Morris talks nerves, a band manager/label head talks respect, and everyone speculates about the eventual winner.
While waiting to hear if her album Stem, released under her nom- de-music, Pikelet, would make it on to the short list for the 6th Australian Music Prize yesterday, Evelyn Morris “was sitting there with my heart pounding in my chest, almost coming out of it”.
Pikelet’s Stem did make it as one of the nine shortlisted albums selected from almost 200 Australian recordings submitted in 2010. Heart pounding might be appropriate given that one of the nine will take home the single richest prize in Australian popular music of $30,000 when the winner is announced on March 3.
But more than the money, it’s the prestige of an award which is judged by a panel of fellow musicians, critics and retailers which made such a nervous wreck of Morris, whose album was described in one review as a mix of wheezy carnival frivolities and spooky beauty.
"I care a great deal because this is one where all the people on the [judging] panel are people I know and respect," she said. "It's a big deal. And I've never won anything before."
Created to emulate the success and influence of the similarly independent Mercury Music Prize in the UK, the Australian Music Prize describes itself as based on quality rather than sales, airplay or financial backing. To that end, excluded from the judging panel are managers, record company staff and booking agents.
While last year’s winner was the high selling major label act Lisa Mitchell, those album buyers who are more likely to watch the ARIA Awards than listen to non-commercial radio might struggle to recognise some of the nominees who include previous winners Gareth Liddiard (whose band the Drones won the first AMP in 2005) and Eddy Current Suppression Ring alongside Sydneysider Sally Seltmann and Blue Mountains psychedelic rock band Cloud Control, who are considered one of the favourites.
Some may also wonder about the names not on the shortlist, such as the multiple ARIA-winning, Angus and Julia Stone.
But a perspective on the difference between the AMP and the ARIAs was offered by leading manager Andy Cassell who said "in terms of credibility and relevance, there definitely appears to be an inverse relationship between the AMP and the ARIA Awards”.
“The more the ARIAs suck, the better the AMP looks,” Cassell said. "Consequently, and thanks largely to the car-crash we all witnessed at the Opera House last year, I think this year more than ever people will be looking to the AMP to restore more than a little ‘cred’ to the Australian music industry."
The 6th AMP Shortlist*
Pikelet – Stem
Cloud Control – Bliss Release
Gareth Liddiard – Strange Tourist
Holidays – Post Paradise
Tame Impala – Innerspeaker
Dan Kelly – Dan Kelly’s Dream
Sally Seltmann – Heart That’s Pounding
Richard In Your Mind – My Volcano
Eddy Current Suppression Ring – Rush To Relax
*On March 3, 2011, Cloud Control’s Bliss Release was named the Australian Music Prize’s album of the year.