The winner of this award will receive $1,000 from The Overcast, a slot in the 2015 Halifax Pop Explosion, and they will play the closing night party of the ECMA’s Eastlink East Coast Music Week in St. John’s this April.
The goal of the Borealis Music Prize is to recognize uncommon talent, potential, or striking originality in any genre of local music, with an aim to give the winning act some career-enhancing exposure.
Borealis is a contraction of Aurora Borealis, a fitting term for an album that manages to shine brightly enough to stand out among the 200 albums recorded each year in Newfoundland. Many of the longlisted albums were within 1 or 2 points of making this shortlist.
A Few Too Many Moons by Boat Haus emerged as the most commonly picked album among jurors, and brother and sister Jake Nicoll (Run to the Rocks) and Ilia Nicoll tied for 6th place for their respective albums. Alas, here is the shortlist:
Steve Maloney is a classically trained singer whose original take on the singer-songwriter genre knows no bounds. From foot-stompers to emotionally stirring ballads, this self-titled album is far too sophisticated and solid to be a debut, and yet it is. Clearly Steve Maloney’s music career has more promise than a wishing well, and based on the longlist jury’s votes, Maloney is the favourite to win – he had 30 more points than any other shortlisted band.
As for Jon Hynes, many locals know this jack of many bands for his time in a popular St. John’s act, Trailer Camp. But since moving to Ontario, he’s been a busy multi-instrumentalist for other revered Canadian bands, recording and touring with the likes of The Hidden Cameras, Evening Hymns, Hey Rosetta, and The Wooden Sky. Jon dropped his solo debut in June, and given his background, it’s no surprise Watchful Creatures shines. His album skirts many genres, marking and reinventing each with his own signature sounds.
GREEN AND GOLD
It is no surprise to see Green and Gold’s The Body Knows on the list; they’re arguably the city’s hardest working band and it’s paying off. In August, Overcast readers voted them the best band in town and their album the best of the year. The band write with great care, and follow every rule in the recording bible handbook, to craft properly built songs that win listeners over more and more with each consecutive listen, making their album impossible to tire of.
SHERMAN DOWNEY AND THE AMBIGUOUS CASE
On Sherman Downey and the Ambiguous Case’s The Sun in Your Eyes, it’s clear these Corner Brookers have perfected their penchant for catchy – really really catchy singalong songs. The distinct sound they’ve cooked up over the years is a mix of many genres, from the boom-bah-bah waltz of trad Newfoundland music, to the nearly yodeling vocals of bluegrass . And they’re clever enough to know a good album, like a good book or movie, needs some diversity via twists and turns in tempo and pacing.
This shortlist is rounded out by a young musical savant, Aaron Powell, who records under the moniker Fog Lake. Innovation is the sign of a natural born songwriter, and there wasn’t an album on the longlist as strikingly original as Fog Lake’s brooding album, Virgo Indigo. Ambient and pounding with atmosphere, these quiet, subdued, lo-fi recordings are haunting and evocative. As one juror said, in a good way, “I can’t even listen to that Fog Lake record because it makes me feel too many feelings. Some songs actually hurt my stomach.” That juror is not alone – Fog Lake has YouTube videos with more than 200,000 views from people all over the world.
THE WINNER of the award will be announced as the cover story of our December issue, but two nights before that issue hits stands, they will open for Mark Bragg and the Butcher on November 29th at The Ship. No one will know who has won until they take the stage.