Welcome to weekly series The Singles Life, where known experts Katie Parker and Hussein Moses peruse, ponder and pontificate on the latest and (maybe) greatest in New Zealand music.
This year’s APRA Silver Scrolls are going down tonight, with Street Chant, Tami Neilson, Thomas Oliver, Lydia Cole and The Phoenix Foundation making up the top five finalists for the main award. Last year it was a song about a first-hand experience in polyamory that took out the prestigious prize so, if we’re being realistic, anyone could win. To get in on it all, Katie Parker and Hussein Moses did some judging of their own.
Street Chant – Pedestrian Support League
Hussein: First things first, some facts: while the top 20 was hand-picked by local music critics, who seem to forever remain anonymous for a reason which is lost on me, the actual winner of the main award at the Silver Scrolls is decided on by votes from APRA members (of which there are about 10,000 of them). It lends an unpredictability to everything, which could be good or bad depending on how you look at it. Good = LIPS winning in 2012; bad = Avalanche City taking it out a year prior with a song that basically sounds like a rip-off of Owl City. (Remember them? lol)
What does that mean for Street Chant? To me, they’re the one true contender amongst a group of finalists that sometimes don’t even feel like they belong in the conversation to start with. (More on that in a sec.) “Now feels like the right time to end it in a good place,” Emily Littler wrote of Street Chant’s indefinite hiatus. If all was right in the world, we’ll be sending them off tonight with the award. Whether that will actually happen is anyone’s guess.
Katie: That Owl City dude made me so mad. Insomnia is bad not romantic, you fool.
Pedestrian League Support is just such a good song. Listening to it makes me want to see it live and reading Emily Littler’s amazing Pantograph Punch piece about it makes me really want to see it live with special guest Suzy Cato.
The Phoenix Foundation – Give Up Your Dreams
Katie: I actually quite like this! Pessimistic message: yes! Monsters of Folk-esque sound: yes! Still hot Brett McKenzie vehicle video: yes! Weird spoken word bit towards the end: hmm.
Hussein: It seems almost cruel that The Phoenix Foundation have been shortlisted four times, yet never won. Also, Brett McKenzie looks washed.
Tami Neilson – The First Man
Katie: I can’t be a dick about this. It’s too sad and sweet and if she took it out it would be a totally deserved. It’s not the kind of thing I’d listen to all the time, but I don’t think it’s designed to be. New Zealanders can be bad at feelings, but this is totally self-assured. She knows what she’s doing.
Hussein: While my heart says Street Chant, my head says Tami Neilson. The First Man, co-written with Neilson’s brother Jay as an ode to their late father, is easily the most powerful song in the top five, even if it borders on being a little too sincere for some (me). Neilson took out the Silver Scroll only two years ago for Walk (Back Into Your Arms), so there’s always the potential for a repeat. Plus, it could always be worse...
Thomas Oliver – If I Move To Mars
Katie: I’m sorry, but this is like The Martian crossed with Jack Johnson and I can hardly imagine anything more ghastly.
Hussein: This song should not be anywhere near the top five.
Lydia Cole – Dream
Hussein: The most low-key finalist entry, but also maybe the most boring? I’m growing increasingly cynical as I type this out, I know. It’s Cole’s second time in the top five and while I can’t say I’m fully on board with this one, the best part of the awards show is getting to see other musicians cover the songs of the five finalists. Maybe a different take on this one will help me appreciate the original?
Katie: I totally did not know that about the Silver Scrolls! Cool, I hope Lorde covers the Mars guy’s song.
I see what you mean with this being boring. It’s quite slow and sedate and walking a fine line between subtle and forgettable. But she’s got a beautiful voice and it’s the kind of thing I can see growing on you. I don’t know that it’s the best – Tami Neilson or Street Chant seem like the obvious choices here, but this is confident and atmospheric and generally inoffensive.
But yeah, I have no idea.