Last Thursday, the Australian music industry got out the champagne (or a bottle of cheap red, or the Coopers, or the vodka – they’re a mixed bunch) and celebrated the 26th ARIA awards, with murderous-looking statues being handed out to winners left, right and centre.
As always, there were a mixture of reactions to how the whole thing went down (we found Bernard Zuel’s biting take to be one of the most accurate, at least from the perspective of those watching at home) but generally, it seemed like all the silver death pyramids went to the right homes. Gotye walked away with a number of them, Kimbra wore something incredibly out-there, the TV broadcast’s sound mixing was appalling: everything seems to go exactly as it was meant to.
But take a moment to think how it could have gone had the awards gone to different artists. Those artists who went home empty handed, save for the title of ‘ARIA nominee’: who were they? Were they perhaps more deserving than those who won?
Don’t get me wrong – all the winners were totally and utterly deserving of their accolades (except, perhaps One Direction, but hey, there’s always one), but there were also some fantastic runners-up that deserve your attention. In this week’s playlist, we remind you of some of the artists who might have walked away with the prize.
1. When The Moment Comes – Mia Dyson
Nominated Category: Best Blues & Roots Album
It’s never a surprise when this category rolls around and Jeff Lang wins it. With his long career and reputation as one of Australia’s best musos, it was almost a given that he would win the award this year.
However, Mia Dyson has been a remarkably solid act in the Blues & Roots category for almost a decade now, and she just keeps getting better. I love her raspy vocal, her magnificent sense of on-stage style and her energy. She’s got grit, she’s got guts and, as I learned a few years ago, a magnificent sense of humour.
If you’re yet to discover the magic that is Mia Dyson, go find yourself one of her albums and let yourself be taken away by some passionate blues-rock.
2. Act Yr Age – Bluejuice
Nominated Category: Best Video
I really don’t think anything I write here is going to fully encompass how much I love Bluejuice. Let me clarify: I don’t just enjoy their albums and their gigs, they are genuinely lovely gentlemen, who I will gladly travel significant lengths to see live.
They are also completely and utterly nuts, a fact that is not only demonstrated in their live shows, but also in their videos. While Missy Higgins’ winning video was beautiful and pensive and delicate, this video is hilarious and yet also quite challenging. On the surface, the whole thing is pretty ridiculous, but it’s also got an element of truth that is right there if you want to go looking for it. Why is a young man falling in love with a significantly older woman deemed funny? If they’re attracted to each other, they’re bound to make out. Why does that make people uncomfortable? What the director, Sam Bennetts, has done is create something that is remarkably clever without being obvious or smug about it.
That’s what I love about Bluejuice – they play up to the idea that they’re just a bunch of rascally scallywags, but at the same time, they’re making music and videos that are incredibly intelligent, allowing them to appeal to those out for a good time, as well as those looking for something a little deeper.
3. Oh Well, That’s What You Get For Falling In Love With A Cowboy – Lanie Lane
Nominated Category: Breakthrough Artist
360 dropped the first swear of the evening in his acceptance speech for this award, bringing a touch of ‘swag’ to the night’s proceedings. Ah well, somebody had to do it!
Nevertheless, I can’t help thinking things might have been a bit more stylish if Miss Lane had walked away with the prize. Her retro-western sensibilities may have impressed the likes of Jack White, but it seemed that ARIA were a little harder to convince, which is a shame, because her debut album is an absolute corker.
4. Holy Moses – Washington
Nominated Category: Best Female Artist
Kimbra was always going to be a shoe-in for this one, with her debut album Vows being one of the stand out releases of the last 12 months. But let’s be honest: she’s a Kiwi, ain’t she? (Not that we mind. She’s adorable and sexy and amazing and I have massive girl-crush on her so she can totally win, I don’t mind at all.)
If ARIA were a little more stringent with their rules as to what constitutes an Australian artist, however, the statue would most likely have gone to Megan Washington for her Insomnia EP, released as a companion to her debut record, I Believe You Liar. Her rich arrangements and magnificent voice are just like chocolate for my ears, and her ability to shift from the catchy yet spooky fare above to the softest of ballads demonstrates a talent that doesn’t come along very often. Yes, she’s so good, I’ve even forgiven her for being on The Voice. I love her that much.
5. Heart’s A Mess – Katie Noonan and Karin Schaupp
Nominated Category: Best Independent Release
When The Jezabels won this award, I actually squealed with delight and punched the air in celebration. They’re easily one of the best bands in Australia at the moment, as well as being absolutely delightful human beings, and were absolutely, completely and utterly deserving of the award.
That said, I have been obsessed with this Gotye cover for a couple of months now. Katie Noonan’s vocals are as clear and beautiful as cut crystal, and the arrangement, with the children’s choir and the string and all the good stuff, is just amazing. While the rest of the album was a bit hit and miss, this cover alone meant that had Schaupp and Noonan managed to pip The Jezabels at the post for this one, my reaction would have been this.
6. I’ll Change Your Mind – Kate Miller-Heidke
Nominated Category: Best Video
The Best Video category had me torn as to where to put my public vote. As I’ve already shared, Bluejuice had me firmly locked in a stranglehold of pure love, but Kate Miller-Heidke has really done remarkably well with this one. The first time I saw it, I nearly puked, it was so good. However, due to the violent nature of the piece, you probably don’t want to watch it at work. That said, it’s a fantastic video, subverting what sounds like a lovely little pop song and turning it into a truly sinister piece of work. It’s giving me the creeps, just thinking about it. Perfect!
7. What A Man – Jessica Mauboy (The Sapphires)
Nominated Category: Best Original Soundtrack/Cast/Show Album
As noted in previous posts, I really loved the winning album for this one: Straight to You – Triple J’s Tribute to Nick Cave. It was a fantastic show that I had the pleasure of seeing live in Canberra, and made a magnificent CD and DVD package, full of amazing performances of brilliant songs that I regularly revisit.
But if there was another Australian musical production that could have pipped it, it would easily have to be The Sapphires. God, I loved that film, as much as I loved the play when I saw it back in 2005. Seriously, if you haven’t seen it, you are missing out on one of the greatest Australian films ever, and a spectacular soundtrack to match.
8. Hello Happiness – Beccy Cole
Nominated Category: Best Country Album
This one went to The McClymonts, but if you wanted to give the award to an artist who has had a huge year and is also incredibly deserving, it has to go to Beccy Cole.
After years of touring and being one of the darlings of the Australian country music scene, Cole came out publicly as a lesbian in July, something that is pretty rare in that particular part of the scene, and one that could potentially have alienated some of her fans. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened, and Cole has been embraced as a fantastic role model, not only for those who may be questioning their sexuality, but by some names you wouldn’t expect, including 2GB announcer Ray Hadley, for being able to be comfortable with herself and who she is, opening up a chance for LGBTI individuals to have a dialogue with people they may have otherwise not felt like they could engage with.
If you ask me, a relatively solid album aside, she should have taken that award just for being awesome.
9. You Should Consider Having Sex With A Bearded Man – The Beards
Nominated Category: Best Comedy Release
Oh man. I hadn’t heard of Buddy Goode until he won this award, and I’ll be honest, I’m really not feeling the love for his stuff.
However, I do love me a bearded man or four, especially when they’re a novelty rock band based around the phenomenon of facial hair. Somehow, they’ve managed to make a one-joke act work across three albums, and are a crowd favourite on the touring circuit.
That, and they have beards. Seriously, how did you need to know any more than that?
10. I’m Not Singing – Rhys Muldoon
Nominated Category: Best Children’s Release
Guess who won this category. Go on. If you guessed “The Wiggles” with a dejected sigh, then you are correct and are also responding exactly the same way I did when I heard the news. Sure, we all loved The Wiggles as kids, and they deserve all the awards they get for revolutionising the way people view children’s entertainment, but really? They’re getting a bit tired, and the whole retirement/replacement thing is a bit odd and wrong and childhood destroying… Perhaps it’s time they made way for the next phase…
Rhys Muldoon’s brilliant album, I’m Not Singing, is that next step into the future. There are poo jokes and teddy bears and robots and football and special appearances from Tex Perkins and Kram. When I gave this CD to all my cousins for Christmas last year, I was immediately cemented in place as the favourite relative, and really, you can’t understand just how amazing this album is until you see a bunch of small children head-banging to “Doin’ Stuff“. Seriously, listen to it. You won’t be able to help yourself.
And don’t get me started on the genius that is “Bob The Bear”. Just know that Muldoon was robbed, and I will never be able to come to terms with the fact that ARIA got this so incredibly wrong.
What did you think of the ARIA awards in 2012? Did we miss any other worthy potential winners? Should 360 have sworn more? Who do you think will be front-runners next year? Do you prefer Gotye with or without a beard? Help us answer the big ARIA questions: comment below, or tweet, email or Facebook us!