Its aim is to be like The Mercury Prize - and other international prizes that are awarded for artistic merit; rewarding a collection of music for being good, not for sales, Facebook-likes and so on.
This year the finalists have been chosen. There are seven.
Andrew Keoghan, Arctic Tales Divide
David Dallas, The Rose Tint
She's So Rad, In Circles
The Bats, Free All the Monsters
Tiny Ruins, Some Were Meant for the Sea
Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Unknown Mortal Orchestra
You can read more about the award here - including the names of the judges for this year. Music magazine and website editors, radio people, the usual suspects.
The winner will be announced on April 20 at a thing somewhere in Auckland. That's also on the link. And PPNZ Music Licensing stumps up with the price, $10,000 in cash-money. A good score.
Almost remarkably the seven finalists were whittled down from an absurd list of about 80 entrants. Did you know we had that many people releasing music last year and so sure that what they were doing was decent? On the one hand we can say that the industry is healthy and all that usual empty-gesture carry-on or we can be deeply troubled that a bunch of people hacking about releasing terrible rubbish think that it's good enough to score some free coin.
Anyway, it's down to seven now. And it's down to some judges. Some experts will make the call.
But I thought that before they got to have their say we could all have a punt - make our selection as it were. Let's pick the best of the bunch as we see it.
Well Andrew Keoghan's album is out for me. I thought it was a ghastly thing. People seemed to get right behind this fellow and fell in love with his finger-plucking violin styles. I would rather go directly to the source (Andrew Bird). And I think this album is artistically bankrupt.
Beastwars - well I gave you my thoughts on the album and the band here last year. And I've continued to enjoy the album. I like that this band has built its reputation the old-fashioned way, word of mouth, playing gigs, releasing an album that delivered on the back of the hype. I see them as having a good chance.
David Dallas is worthy. He deserves the win for releasing an impressive album; for doing it in a bold way too. The Rose Tint was given away free - released later as a "deluxe edition" CD (with extra tracks). He has had success touring in America, licensed a track for use with WWE and built on his reputation. I interviewed David Dallas a couple of years ago. I found him to be great to speak with, intelligent, passionate, aware. I wasn't that keen on his debut solo album - it was nice but not great. The Rose Tint is a different story.
She's So Rad is okay. But it's really nothing new or exciting. It's a no from me. Feels like something that's slipped in by being part of the Auckland scenesters. Typical. I'm sure a friend or two on the judging panel will give it the nudge.
The Bats are a decent band and I like the new album but I'm just not feeling it as being the best within this list. A solid effort, B+ probably. But I don't think it's any great surprise that a decent band delivered a decent album again. That's consistency. But it's not a prizewinner for me. I'd not be disappointed if they won but I wouldn't give the album my prime vote if I was a judge for this caper.
Tiny Ruins - nice voice. And if I don't have any Jolie Holland handy then I will listen to this. Sure. But it's not a prizewinner. At least I hope not. Similar feelings toward this as with The Bats. Nice enough album, good job done. But nothing above and beyond.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra played a pretty sweet gig before Christmas. But as I said here, this is not a Kiwi band. There is a Kiwi in the band. But he took the money from an American label - and all the press-kudos that came with that. Then called in with his New Zealand address when it was video-funding time. Our desperate-to-appear-hip and tragically clueless funding body - The Joke That Is NZ On Air - decided that UMO should definitely get some money. Why? Because a NZ On Air logo would look great flashing up on a video that might get looked at online by some of the band's American fans, that's why. It could go in the next report that we all pay for.
So it's a no to Unknown Mortal Orchestra for me. I enjoyed the album, liked seeing the band live but I don't feel they fit the criteria. I would not be disappointed if Tiny Ruins or The Bats won the award - their albums are certainly not terrible. She's So Rad - well, it's a no from me. Don't hate the album but don't see or hear anything special (i.e. award-winning) in it. If Andrew Keoghan wins I'm calling for a riot. Plain and simple.
So it's down to Beastwars and David Dallas. Both are worthy, for my money. I would really like to see either of these acts win. I like that both acts are very different. But they've built their reputation and fan-base the same way: hard work, clever marketing, strong presence. And decent music, the crucial factor in the end.
I'd like to see Beastwars win because the metal/hard-rock genres are blatantly uncool. Particularly when it comes to awards. Good on them for standing proud, doing the job and bringing the noise.
I'd like to see David Dallas win because I think he's a class act. I also think we have some really terrible hip-hop in New Zealand masquerading as the real thing. It would be nice to see the real thing celebrated for what it is and what it is worth.
But I shouldn't sit on the fence - so my call is Beastwars, because I think that would be the biggest surprise. Well, the biggest pleasant surprise.
What's your call? Who do you think will win? And who do you want to win? And what do you think of the lineup; are these the best seven albums/artists for us to be honouring in 2012? Who do you think was unlucky for not making it as a finalist?
And follow Off the Tracks to read 'The Vinyl Countdown' - an album-by-album review of my record collection.
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