News January 31, 2019

Final contenders for the Australian Music Prize announced

Final contenders for the Australian Music Prize announced

From the original 400 nominations to the 85 on the Longlist, and this morning the Australian Music Prize unveiled its final nine.

Throughout the process, what stood out was the sheer diversity of what makes up “Australian music” these days.

But these final nine show a devastating skill and confidence

On March 7, the 21 judges – artists, journalists, retailers, programmers and more – meet in Melbourne to decide who should win the $30,000 prize in the AMP’s 14th year,

The winner will be revealed at a ceremony in Melbourne on the same day.


Why It Should Win: after a slow start in capturing her musical identity, the Perth native threw abandon to the winds and finally embraced her inner nui-soul … something her fans always knew was there.

That it was her first record after she came out make her dig into her psyche a little more, facing the “private shame” she felt to the unrestraint she felt going public with the intimate details of her love life.

Trivia: It took May four years to put this record together.


Why It Should Win: Courtney Barnett hung on for dear life in the whoosh of her career taking off around the world.

At one point she looks at her following and mumbles that they seem to know more about her than she does.

Tender, vulnerable, paranoid, tentative and eager, she’s all of these things on this record.

But the music remains triumphant and you can imagine how many young females will pick up guitars and songbooks as a result of hearing this.

Trivia: “Nameless Faceless” was inspired by an online troll who sneered, “could eat a bowl of alphabet soup and spit out better words than you.” Her response in song: “But you don’t.”


Why It Should Win: little wonder that Dead Can Dance’s lofty ambitions focus on detail (they spent two years researching the Dionysus character, Greek god of wine), skill in storytelling and ability to create an atmospheric freeze-frame of its own, make them the beloveds of film makers.

Trivia: the ninth full-length release for the musical project of Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry includes instruments as the zourna, gadulka, bowed psaltery and the Southeastern Europe bagpipe, the gaida.


Why It Should Win: Melbourne baroque folkie Paddy Mann, creator of Grand Salvo, tends to pick a theme and investigates it with richly allegorical drifts through a prism.

This ranges from the inevitable passing of time and impending death on “in The Water” to the closing “Standing On The Sea,” a dreamlike journey on the beach that uncovers “a shard of sand smoothed emerald glass / and a change in the light.”

Trivia: the seventh Grand Salvo instalment was made with a number of non-western instruments including qanun (Persian dulcimer), kora (African harp), koto (Japanese stringed instrument) and Indian percussion, with a heady female chorus (Laura Jean, Lisa Salvo, Hannah Cameron, Michelle Surowiec) reprised throughout the album, “woven through the narrative like a recurring dream.”


Why It Should Win: for someone who spent his life juggling ambition and global reach and cultural duty and pride in language, Djarimirri was simply Gurrumul’s astounding achievement of the pieces actually falling.

It melds traditional songs and harmonised chants from his traditional Yolngu life with dynamic orchestral arrangements with a surety and dexterity that makes you connect with the spirit of music.

His collaborator Michael Hohnen remarked, “People are claiming it’s like nothing they’ve ever heard before.

“But it is. It’s just our attempt at a creative meeting place where both our cultures continually mirror each other and both win out.”

Trivia: it took four years to make, and completed weeks before his before his passing in 2017, after he heard and approved the final mix.


Why It Should Win: in a dazzling display of story telling skills, the 36-year old casts her mind back to her teenage days which she described as “eccentric” and “romantically-unfulfilled.”

Her recollections of stolen glances, envy of the popular girls and her sadness of bullying someone, gives Devotion an immediacy of a rites of passage record.

But Laura Jean’s memories are multi-dimensional and the depth comes from the way she splashes complex emotionality to those distant days and constantly uses the exercise to evaluate her self-worth.

Trivia:  Lorde praised Devotion’s lead single, “Touchstone,” for its eloquent “communication of the spooky, all-consuming nature of feminine love.”


Why It Should Win: the duo’s first album n six years was marvy in the way it built up from their breakthrough.

Using a pastiche of current EDM noises and a “people want heroes” ethos, it was both commercial and anti-commercial, and its use of outsiders as Kirin J Callinan on guitar and Touch Sensitive on bass gave a collage of sounds that made Hi Viz flow within and without the elements that will prevent it from dating like many of its rival releases.

Trivia: is ‘Downtown Shutdown’ the “flipside” to their immigrant ode “My People” as Hamilton and Moyes themselves have suggested?


Why It Should Win: this is a masterclass on how three individualistic singer-guitarists – Tom Russo, Fran Keaney, and Joe White— develop their own song approaches but without ever losing the chemistry and momentum of the band as a whole.

Very few bands reach this point at such an early stage of their career.

Trivia: while they were working out the different tempos and alternate takes of the first song, “An Air Conditioned Man”, they used drummer Marcel Tussie’s dad as the litmus test.

If he danced during the playback, they were on the right path. If he didn’t, it was back to ye olde drawing board.


Why It Should Win: The jazz bassist/ composer surrounded himself with some remarkable jazz talent on his third tide as a bandleader and allowed them to help him push the boundaries.

The lyrica experiences range from Balkan women singers to wreckage of planes in flower-filled fields.

But Anning’s strong emotion gives them a grounding and purpose which makes for repeated listening.

Trivia: he describes the “two simple chords and nice melody” of “Sweethearts” as “a sort of rebellion against the dense and complex harmonic and melodic homework of my masters studies at the Manhattan School of Music!”

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