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 panel of more than 30 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 2007 and November 2008 in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The winning album will be decided by a group of six independent jurors and will be announced on Thursday, December 4th at the Rock House in St. John’s. For more information, visit www.atlantismusicprize.ca
Here are the top ten nominees.
Interviews by Alex Pierson, Sarah Smellie, Elling Lien, and Adam Clarke.
Mini-intros by Elling Lien.
I Am A Ghostly Leech
Stream-of-consciousness rock album with plenty of weirdness and plenty of hooks. This one is a slow burner though—if it took you a couple listens to love Primus, it’ll take you a couple listens to love AE Bridger.
Answers by Alexander Bridger (vocals/guitar)
How would you describe Ghostly Leech?
I would describe it as multi-stylistic, and catchy… but with hooks. It does cover a lot of ground, and gets a bit extreme, but there’s lots of continuity on there. The style is kind of hard to pin down.
Who was a major part of the recording process?
Well, the idea was more about making it sound like a live performance, so most of it is just the band in a room, playing together. I am very pleased with that aspect. I did a few overdubs myself, and there were background vocals done by Tyler Lovell and Joshua Bourden. Peter Andrews provided most of the equipment, mics, and was pretty involved in recording the vocals also. My brother Dylan had a lot to do with it. He has a really good ear, and helped make a bunch of the songs happen. Certain parts he helped arrange and gave a bit of direction in spots as well.
What was your main inspiration as you were putting it all together?
The songs are pretty personal, in terms of the lyrics and content, but the concept was heavily influenced by William Burroughs and the whole Science Fiction thing. In terms of tone, I was really focused on the overall sound and texture. I find it’s very important to have a certain overall sound, a certain character.
Jazz-folk artist extraordinaire. It’s definitely not a surprise he made this list—he cleaned house at the recent MusicNL awards, winning everything from songwriter of the year to male artist of the year. This record is a great distillation of his live performance with some extra layers added on.
What inspired Raindrops?
After I finished my last album, Crocus, I was still continuing with this traditional Newfoundland music meets Django Reinhardt kind of sound, but I was also really interested in writing for a larger ensemble and bringing in different textures. And actually when I discovered Django’s music I was studying composition in France. So there are sort of three parts to me as a musician I guess you could say; there’s traditional Newfoundland music, there’s Django’s music, and there’s contemporary classical music. The previous two albums brought two of the elements together—traditional Newfoundland music and Django’s music—but with Raindrops I wanted to bring in more of that contemporary classical sound.
What’s your favorite song on the album?
I think “d.d.’s blues”. I wrote it when I was up at the Banff Centre for the Arts, doing a workshop with Dave Douglas, a trumpet player from New York. He’s “d.d.” It’s one of the tunes that features a string quartet, and I feel it really has all the elements that I’ve been trying to bring together. Some of the tracks on the album are trios, some of them are quartets, but “d.d.’s blues” is actually a nine piece ensemble. We’ve got the string quartet, two guitars, a bass, a trumpet and Bill Brennan playing the vibes.
Into Your Lungs…
Another epic recording. After collecting three awards at the recent MusicNL awards, including group of the year, it’s not a surprise to see these folks on the list either. They’ve been touring the country like maniacs, and the rest of the country is loving it.
Answers by Tim Baker (vocals/piano/guitar), Adam Hogan (guitar), and Josh Ward (bass).
How was the album to put together? What was the process like?
TB: A lot of the tunes had been around for a while. We just kind of chose our favourites.
JW: We worked it out on the road too. By playing them over and over we got a sense of how they were going to be. I feel like nothing solidifies what I do like doing it in front of people and doing it wrong. “That guy just frowned at me when I did that, so maybe I won’t do that next time.”
AH: It’s weird, yeah. Just because we’re playing it live doesn’t mean its always going to end up that way either. It’s always evolving until we actually record it.
JW: The tunes come together that way.
TB: For me there was a lot of editing… imagining what instruments could go where.
AH: Until you’re in the studio you don’t even know. A lot of stuff changes last minute.
If you want to dance, the Idlers are your go-to band. This collection of ska/reggae tunes is a popular favourite, so it’s no surprise this album made the list. There’s drive and funk to keep you moving.
Answers by Mark Wilson (lead vocals and trumpet)
What inspired this album?
I would say this album is the beginning. We’re just looking into recording another one right now, which I think is going to be really, really good. But, yeah, Corner is totally the beginning. It’s about turning the corner as musicians and forming our craft. We were trying to get our live show onto a recording, which is really difficult to do. And it was also inspired by the cultural and political situation that’s going on here in Newfoundland right now. I feel like it’s a really amazing time to be a musician in Newfoundland, the scene here is just exploding and that’s been incredibly inspiring.
Oh, and it was also inspired by our love of weed.
We’re a reggae band, we’ve got to throw that in.
I like “Little Man” a lot. It’s got Luke Power’s beautiful keyboard and just starts out on the right track. It’s got a forcefulness and a political commentary that we want to be producing in our music. It’s a really good example of what we’re all about and what we’re doing.
Man, it was so raw when we recorded that. I didn’t even know the words going into it; we’d barely ever played it. But it turned out really well.
Mercy, The Sexton
New wave meets sugar-coated pop tune. If you listen I almost guarantee these tracks will be rattling around on the edge of your brain for the rest of the week. With the band’s energy and Jody Richardson’s production, yer toast.
Answers by Luke Major (vocals/guitar)
How would you describe Another Month?
I’d say that it’s short and tight. I’d say that it’s well-crafted. It’s a pop record, and it’s pretty catchy without being shallow. It’s fun.
Personally I like to listen to it in the car.
What inspired the record?
Well, I wrote those songs over the course of a year, after a breakup. They’re inspired by being in your twenties in St. John’s, trying get though the winter… You know, feeling kinda lonely sometimes, and feeling happy at other times…
Anything unusual happen while recording?
We lost all the tracks once. That was really intense. We knew there was a problem with the hard drive, but it took about three weeks to find out that it was actually all gone. We had sent the hard drive off to data recovery and realized that even if it was recovered, it would cost $1500 to get them back. It was painful and hard to deal with the fact that we had lost a month of hard work.
But, you know, in the end, we came up with a bunch of stuff that we wouldn’t have come up with if we hadn’t lost them. There was definitely a bit of a silver lining to it.
That’s part of the reason why the record is called Another Month, because the recording process went on and on, and then that added another month to it.
Progressive rock that flows like water. This group has only played a handful of shows ever., and this record seemed to appear out of thin air. Engineered and mixed by Adam Tiller.
Answers by Adam Tiller
What inspired this CD?
Myself and Andrew Wicks and Josh Ward and Brad Kilpatrick all went to school together, as well as Steve who came on a little later, and had been jamming for years. Essentially, we just wanted to document what we had been doing. We really liked what we were doing.
How would you describe your sound?
See, I don’t really know. I guess that what’s appealing about it is that it’s hard to describe. It’s sort of silly but we all came to the agreement that we would call it post-progressive rock. I mean it’s totally contrived and terribly pretentious, but it sort of combines that 70s progressive rock—large scale forms, many different sections—with post rock… I feel goofy even saying that.
What’s your favourite thing about this album?
All this was recorded live off the floor. It’s essentially a live album and it was the day after a really successful gig. It was the first show where we really felt comfortable and had confidence in what we were doing, so we just piled into a room and jammed it, and this album really captures the interaction we have as a band. It’s very rare when you have five musicians who are all on the same page and everyone’s essentially reading each other’s minds.
La Marée Noire
A deeply personal and meticulous album from Cherie Pyne. Many of Cherie’s previous albums required multiple listens, but this one draws you in right away. I’ve heard a lot of comparisons to PJ Harvey.
What inspired La Maree Noire?
You know what? I think Daniel MacIvor inspired a lot of it through a conversation that I had with him over e-mail. I had been thinking about writing fiction, and I was writing to people I think were cool writers and asking them for advice, basically, for an amateur wanting to write a short story or novel. And he said, ‘Make a list of what’s fucked, and call it ‘Fucked’.’ … Everything that makes you furious and sad. And he said, “that works for me.” I wouldn’t say that was the starting point for the album, but a lot of the songs came from that place. It’s a really personal album. Probably the most transparently personal album that I’ve written.
What’s one of your favourite songs to perform from that album?
I really enjoy performing “Brooklyn” live, because people really shut up. I’ve even had people in the audience shout out “that was a really great song!” Which means so much more than “woo!” You know?
I think that song really hits something for a lot of people, and it feels really good to know that I made something that affects other people besides me, you know? Sometimes “Oh Helen” has that same effect, but I almost feel bad playing that song, because it’s so sad, and if people are affected by it, they’re affected in a bad way. I really just want to write dance numbers! But all that comes out of me is this black, depressing stuff! I wish I could just make it dancey, like Morrissey or Robert Smith, and then I would be fine. So I just have to get through all this writing sad, slow, depressing songs and then I’ll be able to write fun dance tunes that are about tragic events and I’ll be set.
The Human Soundtrack
Organs For Sale
An adventurous, catchy, folk rock technicolour dream. Layers and layers of sound, and clever, catchy songwriting.
Answers by Derek Pink (drums/percussion)
How did Organs For Sale come together?
I’m not sure… it’s a collection of a bunch of songs that (lead vocalist) Steve Haley had written. Some were written two or three years before we got in the studio.
Because some of the songs had been floating around, we had a chance to develop them from live shows over the years. So we knew what most of the songs would sound like before we ever got into the studio, but there were a couple that we weren’t as familiar with. “Yellin’ For Milk” was recorded without us ever having demoed it.
How would you describe the album?
A fraction of it is a concept album, but it’s not a Pink Floyd concept album. One time somebody described us as ‘Dystopian Rock’ and Haley was big into Margaret Atwood stuff. That’s when we realized the sound of the band: We wrote sounds that sounded happy musically, but the lyrics told a different story.
You should definitely start a new genre: Atwood Rock.
So many bands have bios like ‘we sound like so many different things, you can’t describe us’, Atwood Rock might work for us.
[MISSING CD ART]
Renovabis Faciem Terrae
Rockabilly punk with facepaint, and some of the crudest lyrics you’ve ever heard. It was a surprise to many people to see this one appear on the shortlist if only because it had just been released a week or so before the voting was cast. This one is tight and fierce.
Answers by Patty O’Lantern
How would you describe this album?
I would describe it as a surf punk experience.
What inspired this album?
Satan, the Dark Lord?
Yeah, we was our inspiration. Also trying to bring down any other kind of religious figure.
What particular aspect of Satan do you find so appealing?
I think the most appealing aspect of Satan is that he likes to party all night long.
What’s your favourite song on the album?
That’s a tough one. I really like “She Wants Me Dead”… and “Altar Boy” is also really fantastic. I like “She Wants Me Dead” because it’s a lot of fun, and I like a lot of vocals. There are a lot of background vocals on that one. “Altar Boy” I like mostly because it’s so dark. It gives the album a lot of weight.
Is this your first album?
This is the first album. We did put out an EP, which had six songs on it, last year. But, yeah, this is our first full-length.
Any plans for a second?
Yes, well, the Dark Lord is never satisfied.
Home recording wizardry and spot-on retro pop aesthetic. If you’ve heard it, you understand why it’s on this list.
Who was a major part of the recording process?
It was mostly me here at the house between November and January. It was done mostly in the mornings and the afternoons, because I work during the night. I find that’s the best time of day to come up with stuff. Bright and early.
What inspired the record?
I think it’s a winter record. That’s when I did it, and I really do think that recordings reflect the time of year more than anything else… a nice, bright, sunny winter day, crunchy snow, all that kind of stuff.
How would you describe it?
I’d call it a colourful pop record, in more of a 60s style. I tried to put a bit of ear candy on there, lots of fun arrangements. A pop record, the way they used to be. And should be.
What’s your favorite song on the record?
I don’t think I’ll ever top “Hail Kittannia” for just writing a pop song, for having so many hooks in one place. I don’t know how that one happened really. Even I don’t get tired of that one.