Review- Picking favourites from the award winners of 2015

Given that it's almost the end of the year, it seems like a good time to have a quick scan over the various award winners of the year and pick out some of the best.

Front of mind is the New Zealand Music Awards which took place recently. The Stuff website has a full list of winners, but rather than give more breath to the big winners (e.g., Broods), let's dig a bit further down the list.

First up, the Critic's Award winners, Bespin. The band are named after the cloud city on 'The Empire Strikes Back' and the group's dreamlike, psychedelic sound fits the name perfectly...

Marlon Williams was the winner of Best Male Solo Artist and Breakthrough Artist of the Year, as well as being in the shortlist for the Silver Scroll Awards (as well as being a nominee for "Best Blues and Roots Album" at the ARIA awards in Australia). His self-titled debut album is firmly based in the folk music, but the songwriting is strong enough to breath some new life into this tradition and the album was recorded by Lyttelton music scene stalwart, Ben Edwards.

Here's a creepy little tune he wrote about a man living in a house that seems to be filled with ghosts ever since his wife died. The video also features Williams's girlfriend, Aldous Harding, and they seem to just be a pair of hobos fooling around until the final twist...

The act that beat Williams at the Silver Scroll Awards was Unknown Mortal Orchestra, who recently released their third album. The outfit is led by Reuben Neilson from the Mint Chicks, though the recording also features his brother (Kody, who now plays as Silicon). The awards was given to UMO's tune, "Multi-Love", but I have to admit a preference for their tune "Keep Checking My Phone" and this live version (on Conan O'Brien) sounds great and shows Reuben dropping a nice dance move at the end...

Casting an eye across the Tasman, also shows a few worthy winners emerging from the Australia's ARIA awards. The psychedelic music revival is just as strong over there and Tame Impala has showed he is still ahead of the pack on his second album, Currents, which saw him win "Best Rock Album" and "Album of the Year." Equally deserving was Courtney Barnett who won "Best Breakthrough Artist" for her critically adored album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit. This tune about the unaffordability of local real estate should strike a chord with a lot of Aucklanders!

And last but not least, let's look even further northward and check out the winner of the UK's prestigious Mercury Prize, which has the occasional ability to shine a light on a upcoming talent that most of the country hasn't heard of. This year's winner was Benjamin Clementine, who grew up in London but was discovered by a French music label while busking on the streets of Paris. This led to his debut album, At Least For Now, being released back in the UK, though his real breakthrough wasn't until he scored a surprise slot on Later ... with Jools Holland.

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