Atlantis Music Prize Short List 2009

Like the Polaris Music Awards for Canada, the Atlantis Music Prize is a juried award judged on artistic merit, without regard to sales or genre.

An independent group of more than 40 journalists, musicians, and people recognized for their appreciation of local music recently submitted their top picks to us for the best album released between November 1, 2008 and October 31, 2009 in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The winning album, decided by a group of six judges, will be announced on Thursday, December 17th at the Rock House here in St. John’s. For more information, visit

Below is the Atlantis Music Prize Short List, in alphabetical order.

Amelia Curran – Hunter, Hunter

Obligatory genre classification:

Heartwrenching, introspective

Answers by Amelia Curran:

Could you tell me a little about Hunter, Hunter?
It’s the only album I’ve ever recorded in St. John’s, which is special in and of itself. It took 20 months, three or four locations, including a couple nervous breakdowns. We recorded 20 songs, 12 of which made it to the album… It was necessary for me to come home. It was time, and making an album here was so exciting. To get to work with Sandy Morris, Jeff Panting, and The Once, George Morgan… it’s amazing, I’ve been watching most of these folks my whole life. To have people like that so willing to come into the studio was was very exciting.

What’s your favourite track on the album?
I really like “Ah Me.” I also like “Hands on a Grain of Sand,” which one of the last songs that was written for the album. As I write more I’m getting better at sticking with a point, and straying from metaphors, which young writers tend to stick with. I think I’m becoming a better writer, and as my harshest critic, I think that these two songs are proof that I’m becoming a better writer.

Chris Kirby – Vampire Hotel

Obligatory genre classification:

Funky, witty, theatrical

Answers by Chris Kirby

What do you like best about how Vampire Hotel came together?
The coolest thing about how this record came together is all the fantastic people I got to meet and work with in the process. Of course, Gordie Johnson [of Big Sugar fame] has always been one of my music heroes so having him produce and play on my record was quite a gas.

What’s your favourite track on the album?
Lately, my favourite track is “Heavy Rain.” I think it’s the best-mixed tune out of the lot. There’s a part where the bass drops out and the suspense that builds before it comes back in is just incredible. I get this sort of floating-in-mid-air feeling every time I hear it. Recording this tune was so easy. The band and I had the bed down pretty quickly, and then we just threw free and improvised parts on top of it.

Curtis Andrews – The Offering of Curtis Andrews

Obligatory genre classification:

Surprising, uplifting, ­spontaneous.

Answers by Curtis Andrews

What do you like best about how The Offering came together?
The thing that I find amusing is that I actually had no intentions of ever making an album! Selling, marketing, promotions, bios, self-aggrandizement. Some may say it is part of being an artist—but homey don’t play like that. But after playing some of this music live, the feedback was extremely positive and the amount of financial support for music in this province is unlike anywhere else in Canada—or the world probably—so I took the opportunity and applied for a piece of it. Now I have quite a nice little collection of music to share.

What’s your favourite track on the album of late?
Favorite track? C’mon… that’s like asking “what’s your favorite cloud?” It’s always changing. Anyhow, one of my faves these days is “Genghis Khanda Blues.” It was a group effort, live off the floor, no overdubs, no edits and done in very few takes… it has a real freshness and liveliness to it… humor as well. And the dueling trumpet and sax solo has some nice peak moments. I think it was one of the earliest tunes in the whole process which opened up the gates for the others to fall into place.

The Class War Kids – Reflection! Rage! Rebellion!

Obligatory genre classification:
Punk rock

Fast, angry, fun

Answers by Davey Brat

What do you like best about how the album came together?
I was really happy how fast the album came together. Sean Dubs just joined the band three weeks prior to recording, but he’s an amazing drummer and just made it all meld well together. We had to rush it as we where about to leave for a 10 week cross Canada tour at the end of June, so we finished 14 tracks and ended up writing about half of the material in the studio. I think from start to finish, we got it all done in two weeks time. Pat and Kyle spent hours working on harmonies, adding texture and layers that really paid off. We are super happy with how the backing vocals turned out. They would be whoa-ing their little hearts out in my basement till 5am some nights.

What’s your favourite track on the album?
My favourite track is “Cherry Popping Conservatives.” The song came together really fast and I was giggling the whole time I was writing it… Totally pokes fun at uptight Christian conservatives and their prude stranglehold on North American society. It’s about overcoming sexual limitations, how we look at gender and sexual preference… Breaking down the walls of homophobia and sexism… I got the idea from a Henry Rollins spoken word piece about a bisexual magazine based out of San Fransisco called “anything that moves” and how fucked up the way we look at sex in North America. Domination rather than sharing passion and love. Either way, conservatives just need a little bum play.

The Dardanelles – The Dardanelles

Obligatory genre classification:
Traditional folk

Vibrant, raw, friendly

Answers by Tom Power

What do you like best about how the album came together?
Well about two weeks before we went recording, we had some personnel shifts, so to speak. Meaning, essentially, that we got a new member. He had to learn all of our arrangements, and help in the collaborative process. So for about a week before we went into the studio, we spent five to eight hours a day playing these tunes, non-stop. Then we went into the studio and did it all live off the floor. So maybe what I like best about how the album came together is that the process turned us all from individual players playing together into a band.

What’s your favourite track on the album?
I like track two, [“Boyd’s Cove Singles”]. We had all of our tunes ready to go to record, and then about three days before we were scheduled to go into the studio, Duane Andrews (who produced the record) said, ‘well, I tell you one thing the album is missing… a set of singles’. Singles being a Newfoundland dance tune inherent only to the province. And we didn’t have a set!

So Aaron dug out a bunch of tunes that he collected from an old accordion player out in Boyd’s Cove, that, to our knowledge, had never been recorded before, and we put together a set, all of us working collaboratively. And I believe the take that’s on the record is the first take we made of it.

Errand Boy – Cape Disappointment

Obligatory genre classification:

Meditative, cinematic, layered

Answers by Bryan Melanson

What do you like best about how the album came together?
My major source of pride is how I can hear small changes I made to my song-writing process in each song. I decided to record this album for the RPM Challenge just to try to break a couple of bad song-writing habits by forcing myself to this deadline, and each song I tacked on a secondary goal to write with only one instrument—or to use no samples—or to write something happy for a change. I like that I hear small breakthroughs all over the album.

What’s your favourite track on the album of late?
“Ghostride the Relationship” is the best thing on there to me, because it’s one of the only songs I’ve written that’s basically free of any kind of melancholy, and I’m glad it was the song I wrote at the start of the month, becase if I was depressed at the start, writing the rest of the album would’ve been like dragging a piano uphill. Producing it was like rushing into the project and being as forceful as possible, just to break my writer’s block and still have time to finish the rest of the songs in a month, so I just recorded all of the guitar super-fast and got over my distortion anxiety a little. The end result sounds a lot more like what I listen to—I don’t have a lot of electronic music on my computer.

Kujo – Kujo

Obligatory genre classification:
Classic rock and roll

Gritty, psychedelic, driving

Answers by Victor Lewis

What do you like best about how the album came together?
We’re just happy with the fact the album came together, period, because we’re so goddam lazy. It would’ve been easier to just watch re-runs all summer and pretend we were recording something wicked.

What’s your favourite track on the album of late?
“Slumber Party” is our favourite track. It sounds so greasy. We messed with Craig’s bass ‘til it crackled, Adam found the noisiest cymbal clang, and me and Brad worked out the most obnoxious dual guitar parts I’ve ever heard. Actually, we barely got through the harmonized guitar solo because we were laughing so hard. Then there’s Craig’s falsetto backing vocals. Pure dirt.

Map to Temenos – O! Sweet Guillotine

Obligatory genre classification:
Progressive punk

Atmospheric, intricate, frenetic

Answers by Peter Andrews

What do you like best about how the album came together?
I think my favourite thing about how the album came together is how natural and organic the whole thing feels. Especially since I didn’t think it would ever actually be released. A lot of the credit for this has to go to Jon Hynes.

We wrote all of these songs… within two months of being a band, and played them seamlessly as our set for probably the first six. O! Sweet Guillotine is in fact the third time we have recorded this album, having been dissatisfied with the first two attempts, which we were doing on our own.

For the third attempt we decided to bring in Jon, to help us put everything together the way it should be. His eyes and ears were exactly what we needed…

What’s your favourite track on the album these days?
My favourite song on the album would definitely be “-Orro-” …It took the longest to perfect. This is where the painstaking recording process has really benefitted us, I think. Out of every failed recording attempt, we were able to pinpoint exactly what it was we were unhappy with.

“-Orro-” is a song which changed every time we recorded it. From the time we first prepared the song for live performance, to the final version, which is gravely different, we spent about 18 months writing the song.

But by the time we were going into the recording session with Jon, the song was finished, and I believe we got the bed track done in a single take, and the overdubs came along extremely quickly as well.

The Novaks – Things Fall Apart

Obligatory genre classification:
Rock and roll

Catchy, saucy, driving

Answers by Mick Davis

What do you like best about how the album came together?
We made this record in 14 days, and at the time it represented our live sound. Elliot, Mark, and I played together live off the floor on every track… there are overdubs, but a minimal amount. There was no click track used, auto tuner, etc. so it’s quite an honest album. Eventually, I imagine, we will make a Beatlesque record and really make use of the studio, but thus far this hasn’t been in the cards. The record industry is upside down, and we wanted to make an album that we could perform confidently on stage. The live show is where it’s at for a band like us. I feel that more than ever right now, as we’ve just played our most successful string of shows on the west coast of this country.

What’s your favourite track on the album these days?
“Worm In The Apple.” We get stuck with the “Straight-ahead rock” or “Classic rock” label quite a bit. We play rock and roll. And like blues or jazz or country, it is steeped in tradition. However, the lyrics on this record—and particularly on this track—are quite modern, as they pertain to my present feelings and opinions. We have no interest in rewriting “Rock and Roll All Nite” or “Slow Ride” or whatever. There isn’t a “Cock-Rock” song on this record. “Worm In The Apple” almost didn’t make this album—we ran out of studio time (and time with our producer, Gordie Johnson), so we completed this track at Great Big Studio with Mark as engineer. No one outside the band really believed in this tune, so we finished it on our own. That makes it special, I guess.

The Once – s/t

Obligatory genre classification:

Delicious harmonies; earthy but other-worldly

Answers by Phil Churchill

What do you like best about how the album came together?
It feels like a real album. Not just a bunch of songs recorded and slapped together in some random order. It has a flow. It has peaks and valleys and it makes sense as a complete piece of work. We are proud and happy to play each and every track on it.

What’s your favourite track on the album of late?
“Maid on the Shore.”

It’s easy in this band to feel a little soft, a little laid back sometimes, and this one let’s us rock out. We play it together as a band and it is who we are now, but it’s built on our individual backgrounds: Geri really stretches out as a singer and shows her innate ability for harmonies. Andrew stretches out and proves that he is a true multi-instrumentalist that can play within a song not just on top of it. And Phil gets to tap into his rock and roll side and turn his electric guitar up on stun.

This was a track where having rock afficianados Mark Neary and Don Ellis made recording it a breeze. Hearing each layer was more exciting than the last and every move, every note, every idea seemed obvious but not in a contrived or predictable way. This one really made us feel like a band. The live performance of this song as we play it now is directly the result of what we produced in Don Ellis’ Fat Tracks Studio. It wasn’t even on our list of tracks to record on the album. The band cut it and Neary convinced us that it should be on there.

For more information, visit


“Foam Dinosaur” by Back to Copenhagen

A great example of how to approach the RPM Challenge: have fun and don’t be afraid to experiment.

13 February 2012

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    holy CRAP. is anyone else continuously amazed and impressed by the constant flow of beautiful, creative cover and poster art these days?!

  2. Sofi Martinez · February 13, 2012

    Amazing Cover!!!! No words…. just AMAZING

  3. Elling Lien · February 13, 2012

    Winner of the Atlantis Music Prize announced:

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