Today, late afternoon, the 18th Australian Music Prize will be announced, offering one of nine artists shortlisted for the award, a shed-load of recognition, a serious hunk of respect and, in no small measure, a pretty decent reward, as a cheque for $30,000 is handed over, courtesy of Soundmerch.
Who’s up for it? The AMP shortlist this year features not just a mix of styles, home territories and sexes but a two-time winner (already a rarity) looking to go there a third time.
1300 - Foreign Language Body Type - Everything Is Dangerous But Nothing’s Surprising Camp Cope - Running With The Hurricane Julia Jacklin - Pre Pleasure King Stingray - King Stingray Laura Jean - Amateurs Party Dozen - The Real Work Sampa The Great - As Above, So Below Tasman Keith - A Colour Undone
A decade ago the Prize had turned another corner, having a year earlier broken the pattern of rock and pop by bringing electronic/hip hop soundscapers, Hermitude, into the winners’ circle. If anyone thought the award was some niche event for a small list of approved acts, they were disabused of that notion.
Still, when a Melbourne art pop duo scored in the 2014 event - an event featuring some government/medical advice from an unexpected source - it was the winners who were most surprised. “Who? Us?”
A BAND WHO DARE TO SING about the terminally uncool Phil Collins have won the most prestigious music award in Australia.
Melbourne duo Big Scary were awarded the 9th Australian Music Prize as the best album last year for their second record, Not Art.Tom Iansek and Joanna Syme's album emerged from more than 300 albums submitted for the AMP.
"I always thought we were a band that didn't win awards," said Iansek, who said instead they thought it was about love, and the award "honours this love of music".
As well as love, Big Scary receive a cash prize of $30,000, the biggest album prize in Australia, provided by the PPCA, the non-profit organisation which licences the use of recorded music.
The AMP winner was announced on Wednesday by the celebrated English producer Steve Lillywhite, who has worked with U2, the Rolling Stones and the Killers and believes there is still life in the album, not least thanks to more liberal marijuana laws.
"While ever there is weed there will be albums," he said in his keynote speech.
For Tom Iansek and Joanna Syme, Not Art, with its mix of electronic, rock and hip hop caught up in marvellously produced pop music, was made as an antidote to their debut, Vacation.
"[Vacation] was a tormenting experience and there was no easy way out of it," Iansek said "I wanted to remove all that thinking and keep it emotional."
Even though, as Syme explained, Not Art was recorded over months broken up by touring, the core was never in doubt. The album's title therefore was a signal: this is not art, it's emotion.
"All music comes down to emotional and instinctual reactions," said Iansek.
Now in its ninth year, the AMP sticks out in an awards-heavy landscape for more than its rich prize. With a small pool of judges representing critics, artists and retailers, no input from record labels, management or promoters, and a policy of accepting entries across all genres and budgets, it might be the only awards where quality genuinely is the primary criterion.
Not that it has been without controversy and criticism. There have been complaints that it has favoured less commercial acts or sought to be some “correction” to the likes of the ARIAs and triple J awards by avoiding artists favoured there.
More seriously, in its early years there were also accusations that the AMP was resistant to both female artists and hip-hop, criticism which came from within as well as from outside the awards.
However, a growing representation from hip hop in the short list of nine albums in recent years – both this year and last more almost half the acts were either hip hop or electronic-based - not to mention wins by triple j favourites and rising stars the Jezabels in 2012, Blue Mountains electronic/hip hop duo Hermitude last year and even Lisa Mitchell in 2009, have quelled some of those complaints.
Instead, criticisms now tend to be either centred on the Sydney/Melbourne bias in winners – no other cities have provided a winner yet - or more along the traditional lines of the judges just being plain, boneheaded wrong.
For now Big Scary are just happy to have the money and the prize.
Previous winners 2005: The Drones for Wait Long By the River And the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By 2006: Augie March for Moo, You Bloody Choir 2007: The Mess Hall for Devils Elbow 2008: Eddy Current Suppression Ring for Primary Colours 2009: Lisa Mitchell for Wonder 2010: Cloud Control for Bliss Release 2011: The Jezabels for Prisoner 2012: Hermitude for Hyper Paradise