This ‘AIM’ article was written by Alistair Ryder, a GIGsoup contributor
Tonight sees the return of the AIM awards, celebrating a year of diverse independent music and record labels across the UK. The awards were set up in 2011 by the Association of Independent Music in order to celebrate independent artists with a flair for creativity. The awards are also unique in that they bypass traditional categories; in addition to best independent album, there is a category for best difficult second album. Instead of a best band award, we have “hardest working band or artist”.
The nominees were decided by a panel of radio presenters and music journalists who champion independent music, along with 15,000 member of the general public who registered to vote.
The first award is for Best Small Label. The nominees are
- Erased Tapes
- High Focus
- Planet Mu
- Rocket Girl
Basick will win, as they wouldn’t exist without this year’s pioneer winner Digby Perason, whose Earache records has helped establish many metal bands on the independent scene in the UK.
Next up is the “Difficult” Second Album award
- Alabama Shakes – Sound & Colour
- Holly Herndon – Platform
- Nadine Shah – Fast Food
- The 2 Bears – The Night Is Young
- Young Fathers – White Men Are Black Men Too
This could be the first of two award for Young Fathers. Their sophomore effort is clearly the pick of the “difficult second album” bunch.
The next award is for Special Catalogue Release of the Year
- Cities Of Darkscorch Boardgame
- Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Inside The Pleasuredome
- Bjork – Coloured Vinyl Catalogue Reissue
- The Pretty Things – Bouquets From a Cloudy Sky
- Imogen Heap – Sparks (Deluxe Boxset)
- Oasis – (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? Reissue
Let’s face it, when looking at this list of nominees, your eyes are immediately drawn to the boardgame. After all, does an artist as influential as Bjork need another trophy in her presumably overflowing awards cabinet?
The Hardest Working Band or Artist is up next
- Little Comets
- Young Fathers
- Courtney Barnett
With his brother and Boy Better Know co-founder Skepta taking home the Outstanding Contribution to Music and a nomination for Best Independent Album under his belt, shouldn’t JME be rewarded for his equal contribution to the genre?
The Golden Wally award for Best Independent Festival is next on the card
- Barn on the Farm
- Brainchild Festival
- Pete The Monkey
- Truck Festival
The award will be handed to Pete the Monkey, a festival named after a monkey that shot to fame through a viral video of him washing dishes. As more and more festival-goers travel abroad for their summer music fix, this little festival in Normandy sounds like a treasure waiting to be discovered. See what you’ve been missing out on
The Nominees for Independent Breakthrough of the Year are:
- Courtney Barnett
- FKA Twigs
- Run The Jewels
- Sonhoy Blues
- Wolf Alice
This is a close call. I think FKA Twigs will make a big splash in the larger categories, so I can imagine this being handed to either Courtney Barnett or Run the Jewels. With hip-hop being rewarded so prominently this year, I’ve made the tough decision to go with Courtney Barnett over with her charming indie-pop, she manages to overcome occasionally twee lyricism to produce something heartfelt and anthemic. Her album Sometimes I Sit and Think and Other Times I Just sit is one of the best albums of the year
Next up is The Indie Champion Award, an award for the people who push and prod us to check out new and established independent artists
- Camilla Pia – BBC 6Music
- Marc Riley – BBC 6Music
- Peter Guy – Getintothis
- Rupert Morrison – The Drift Record Shop
- Tim Burgess – Songwriter & O Genesis Music Ltd
With all of the nominees living in big cities, Rupert Morrison’s Devonshire-based Drift Record Shop should bag him the indie champion award for helping to spread indie music to an area bands very rarely travel to.
Independent Video of the Year award
- Alt-J- Hunger of the Pine
- Flying Lotus- Never Catch Me
- GhostPoet- Sorry My Love, It’s Not You, Its Me
- Ibeyi- River
- Son Lux- Change is Everything
This could easily be retitled the “Why the hell hasn’t FKA Twigs been nominated?” award. Without her appearance, I’m going to give my vote to Flying Lotus, whose Never Catch Me clip perfectly encapsulates the playfulness and macabre of the You’re Dead album. This is helped by the excellent Kendrick Lamar on vocals. It is a video that manages to elevate an already great song into something even better, something which none of the other nominees manage.
Best Live Act is next
- All Time Low
- To Kill a King
- Twin Atlantic
With their passionate fanbase and quick meteoric rise to the top of festival bills everywhere, expect Alt-J to walk home with this award. With Alt-J ascending to arena tours thanks to the success of their sophomore album This is All Yours, they have now won over enough crowds to ensure that the award is all theirs. If you have yet to see them live, here is their full set at Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage
Best Independent Track is up next
- Alt-J- Every Other Freckle
- Courtney Barnett- Pedestrian at Best
- FKA Twigs- Two Weeks
- Jamie XX- Loud Places
- LA Priest- Oino
- Major Lazer- Lean on
- Mogwai- Teenage Exorcists
- Neck Deep- Can’t Kick Up the Roots
- Unknown Mortal Orchestra- Multi-love
- Wiley- On a Level
The award will firmly land with FKA Twigs. Already a unique figure in the modern pop landscape, Two Weeks should be rewarded for making the year’s most irresistible pop song out of purely experimental elements. There is nobody like her at the minute and there is certainly nothing like Two Weeks, the highlight of her debut, LP1. If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t seen it, you can check out the video at
One of the biggest awards of the night is Best Independent Album…
- Bjork- Vulcinara
- Enter Shikari- The Mindsweep
- Father John Misty- I Love You Honeybear
- Ghostpoet- Shedding Skin
- JME- Integrity
- The Bug- Angels and Devils
- The Charlatans- Modern Nature
- The Xcerts- There is Only You
- Wolf Alice- My Love is Cool
- Young Fathers- White Men are Black Men Too
With Skepta being handed the outstanding contribution to music award, it seems likely Young Fathers will be rewarded- they are an incredibly unique group who are conclusive proof of the diversity of the UK’s hip-hop scene. After scooping last year’s Mercury Prize for debut album Dead, the Glaswegian group’s quickly released sophomore album is even better- it bridges the gap between alternative hip-hop and pure pop catchiness in a way few artists manage, whilst retaining the abrasive lyrical genius that has ensured they are artists to treasure.
Independent Label of the Year is the next award on the night
- Erased Tapes
- Planet Mu
Setting aside the chart success Epitaph have had with Jamie T’s Carry On the Grudge album in the past year, this year’s nominees are all defined by their willingness to release uncompromising music in all manner of genres. With Ninja Tune being handed the innovator award, it seems likely the judges will recognise Planet Mu, who I think will be passed over in the “small label” category- their catalogue of unique electronic music wouldn’t exist without Ninja Tune’s completely independent pioneering approach to releasing innovative music in similar genres.
Most Played Independent New Act is up next
- FKA Twigs
- Ward Thomas
Ghetts and Ward Thomas better clear the field, as this is a two horse race between Jungle and FKA Twigs. Yet again, I would naturally go for FKA Twigs. Her music videos are so bizarre and so thrillingly cinematic they demand multiple views. Her music too equally demands repeat listens
Three awards were settled before this evening. The first is the Innovator Award. Handed annually to an artist or label who are pushing the boundaries of independent music. This year it goes to the founders of an influential independent label. Peter Quicke, Matt Black and Jonathan More, who are the founders of Ninja Tune Records. In its 25 years the label and its various offshoots (including Hip-Hop label Big Dada, Counter Records and Flying Lotus’ BrainFeeder label) has released music from artists unafraid to push boundaries, from Roots Manuva, Young Fathers, Pop Levi, Diplo, Coldcut, The Bug, Toddla T, The Invisible, Offshore and Run the Jewels to name a few. Here’s to another 25 years!
Pioneer and Innovator Awards
This year, the Pioneer and Innovator Awards is being handed to Digby Pearson, who founded extreme metal label Earache Records in Nottingham back in 1986. It has released music from artists ranging from Napalm Death to Bring Me the Horizon.
Outstanding Contribution to Music
And now the most prodigious award of the night. Following in the footsteps of Bjork, Edwin Collins and Billy Bragg, this year’s outstanding contribution to music award is being handed to Grime MC Skepta. First appearing on the underground scene in 2003, Septa and his brother JME briefly joined the ranks of rap outfit Roll Deep before disbanding and forming their own independent record label, Boy Better Know in 2006. He has since released four albums and had numerous UK top 40 hits, as well as independently releasing tracks from other Boy Better Know members Wiley and JME.
With this exhaustingly diverse range of music, a quick glance at the AIM awards nominees alone shows that the independent music industry is currently pushing boundaries in seemingly every genre. The AIM awards are truly the only awards ceremony worth paying attention to; this year’s ceremony takes place in London on Tuesday September 8th.