By now you'll know who the winners were of the 2007 NZ Music Awards, The Tuis. Congratulations to The Mint Chicks who picked up the awards for Best Group, Best Album and Best Rock Album. Of course, we named The Mint Chicks best group last year - it's great that the rest of the music industry is finally paying attention to what we say. Now that the mainstream awards are out of the way it's time for the fame and the glory, the triumph and the tears that mark the accolades that really count - proudly brought to you by Counting The Beat and The Beach - The Alternatuis 2007. (Download or stream the 2007 Alternatuis radio broadcast or play the winning songs in the player at the end of this post).
Launched in 2006, The Alternatuis differ from other awards in two ways - firstly they are a way of recognising great New Zealand artists and songs that aren't getting the recognition they deserve, secondly there is no pretence of democracy or objectivity in this show. You get an award because we like what you do - any dispute with the judges decision will be treated with disdain (but we would love to hear your comments). So, drum roll please, onto the awards.
Single of the Year
A tough choice this year with lots of bands putting out songs that were around three minutes long, were catchy as hell and, most importantly, if you heard them on a juke box at the pub, they'd make you feel like jumping. Contenders were Surf City - Headin' Inside, The Situations - Hey Sister, and Pine - Hosanna, all songs that you should check out and buy. But at the end of the day there can only be one winner (we're not afraid of cliches around here, oh no). Alternatui for Single of the Year goes to Collapsing Cities for No Plans. It was the "weee -ooo"s that clinched it in the end.
Best Female Artist(s)
Last year there was a slew of great albums from solo female artists such as Flip Grater and Reb Fountain. This year, not so many, but still a couple of standouts. We're really quite taken with the teenage trio The Teacups, who, while they can be a little more enthusiastic than accomplished, are still one to watch. An outfit that are on top of their craft is Ragamuffin Children, two women from Christchurch who have put out a lovely album of folky tunes entitled Werecat Lullabies. They take out the Alternatui for Best Female Artist of 2007.
Best Male Solo Artist
Who's your favourite one-man band multi-instrumentalist psych noise outfit? Well ours is Pumice, the pseudonym of Stefan Neville. With his latest album Pebbles, Stefan has produced probably his most accessible work to date. The album has also won considerable international acclaim with one critic even declaring it amongst his albums of the decade. There is an on-line comic to accompany the album here.
Best Rock Album
The Demiwhores are fronted by Ed Gains, a prolific artist who exhibits a true DIY spirit, home recording and self releasing more than half a dozen albums. To be honest much of his back catalogue could have done with some prudent editing but this self titled band collection is great. We love the crunchy guitar sound and the "rock and roll is the devil's music" attitude but the main thing is that the songs are good - there's more going on than you pick up on the first listen. Take Coffin Car, the albums catchiest tune, a real toe tapper with a sing-along chorus, but take a listen to the lyrics and you realise it's about a driver of a crashed car watching his friends die around him. Also recommended is an acoustic set The Demiwhores recorded for National Radio. The songs translate well to a different interpretation, a true test of songcraft.
Breakthrough Act of the Year
Is 2007 the year roots music broke? A number of very promising nu folk acts such as The Teacups, Needles and Bees and Bear Cat have emerged in the last 12 months. The roots revival also encompasses country and blues influences. Earlier this year I was lucky enough to catch a live performance by a six piece outfit featuring pedal steel and fiddle, going by the unlikely name of The Vietnam War. They somehow meld hokeyness with a noughties indie sensibility. That night, admittedly a little drunk, I declared them my new favourite band. That still stands - The Vietnam War win the Alternatui for Breakthrough Act of the Year.
Instrumental Actof the Year
We're fond of instrumentals on Counting the Beat. In fact, some time age we did a special called Lost For Words. We've only heard two tracks by An Emerald City, both instrumentals that develop and then soar, in a manner not dissimilar to the great Australian band, The Dirty Three. But on the strength of Qing Song and A Thousand Stars At Night we have no hesitancy in awarding An Emerald City the Alternatui for Best Instrumental of 2007.
Album of the Year and Band of the Year
The Whipping Cats have been a revelation in the past year, a faultless EP, a cracking album and a hugely energetic live show. They draw on the blues, but given their age it's hard to tell if their influences are early Stones or the White Stripes. They are a three piece, playing drums, guitar, and harmonica with organ augmenting the sound on the recent album as well. The 4 track EP, The Gruesome Numbers is a great starting point for anyone wanting to hear this band, but the album, The Last Ditch Dance really delivers the goods. It has songs with the immediacy and pace of the EP, such as Lightning Savage Children, but also a broader range of tracks that reveal their appeal with repeated listens. Keep your eyes on these guys - they well deserve their two Alternatuis, but remember - when they win Best Band at the Tuis - that we championed them first.
And finally, honourable mention to Clench, now, sadly, defunct. Over recent months this foot-to-the-floor down and dirty rock 'n' roll outfit has brought a breath of fresh air to the Waiheke live scene, for so long dominated by solo bluesman. They weren't around for long but they'll be missed - Wham, Bam, Thank You Ma'am.
Congratulations to all of the artists who have picked up awards. While an Alternatui doesn't come with cash or prizes it is a true indication that we value and appreciate the music you are creating. Thank you from Counting the Beat and The Beach.