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Aimee Mann, Funky Four +1 Perform, Slowdive Wins Big at Indie Libera Awards

The independent label sector is the wellspring of creativity in the music industry and fights hard for its market share, but for all that, it’s never really been big on celebrating itself. The annual Libera Awards, launched seven years ago by the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) trade group, are a rare exception to that rule, and they’ve become a sort of cross between a low-key Grammys and a high-class party for the indie community — a place where you see people dressed up who you ordinarily never see dressed up except at a wedding or in a year when one of their label’s artists has a Grammy nomination. The event, presented by SoundExchange in partnership with BuzzAngle, was held Thursday night at the Best Buy Theater in New York’s Times Square, capped A2IM’s Indie Week conference and confab.

The crowd was treated to stellar performances from singer-songwriters Aimee Mann — who performed a full set an hour later across the river at Celebrate Brooklyn — Natalie Prass, Raul Midon and Sam Outlaw, and a medley of pioneering early hip-hop hits from the Funky Four +1, who received the Independent Icon Awards and said it was the first award they’d ever received in more than 30 years. Most moving, though, was a tribute performance to the late indie soul singers Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley from Saundra Williams and Lee Fields, who were backed by members of the Dap-Kings and the Extraordinaires.

While the event was hosted by comedian Kate Wolff, the most amusing moment of the evening actually came via video from Tom Waits, who paid tribute to Brett Gurewitz, cofounder of legendary punk band Bad Religion, founder of indie labels Anti (which released Waits’ last several albums) and Epitaph and recipient of the Libera Lifetime Achievement award.

The two-minute video, which featured the singer seated in front of an aluminum-sided house, was vintage, inimitable Waits: “What is an independent man?,” he asked the camera. “A man who wears his underwear outside his pants? A superhero? A man who buys a rolls Royce and turns it into a chicken coop? All of the above,” he said. “So hats off to Brett Gurewitz” — and then, of course, doffed his hat.

It was a great year for the indie sector and the event’s big winners reflected that: Reformed British shoegazers Slowdive took home Album of the Year for their eponymous latest outing while Dead Oceans took home Label of the Year (with more than five employees); Nick Cave won Best Live Act. Elsewhere, Daptone won Best Label (with less than five employees) and indie label collective Merlin won Independent Champion Award — the full list of winners appears below.

2018 Libera Award Winners:

Best Live Act
Nick Cave

Best Hip-Hop/Rap Album
Shabazz Palaces – ‘Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star’
Sub Pop Records

Best American Roots/Folk Album
Aimee Mann – ‘Mental Illness’
SuperEgo Records

Best Blues Album
Benjamin Booker – ‘Witness’
ATO Records

Best Classical Album
Detroit Symphony Orchestra – ‘Copland: Symphony No. 3 & 3 Latin American Sketches’
Naxos

Best Country/Americana Album
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – ‘The Nashville Sound’
Southeastern Records /Thirty Tigers

Best Jazz Album
Kamasi Washington – ‘Harmony of Difference’
Young Turks

Best Latin Album
Chicano Batman – ‘Freedom Is Free’
ATO Records

Best Outlier Album
Moses Sumney – ‘Aromanticism’
Jagjaguwar

Best Metal Album
Converge – ‘The Dusk In Us’
Epitaph Records

Best Dance/Electronic Album
Sylvan Esso – ‘What Now’
Loma Vista Recordings

Best R&B Album
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – ‘Soul of a Woman’
Daptone Records

Best Re-Issue
Elliott Smith – ‘Either/Or: Expanded Edition’
Kill Rock Stars

Best Rock Album
The National – ‘Sleep Well Beast’
4AD

Best Sync Usage
Cigarettes After Sex – ‘Cigarettes After Sex’
Partisan Records

Best World Usage
Ibeyi – ‘Ash’
XL Recordings

Independent Icon
Funky 4 + 1

Breakthrough Artist
Princess Nokia – ‘1992 Deluxe’
Rough Trade Records

Creative Packaging
Bob’s Burgers – ‘The Bob’s Burgers Music Album’
Sub Pop Records

Independent Champion
MERLIN

Label of the Year (6+ employees)
Dead Oceans

Label of the Year (<5 employees)
Daptone Records

Marketing Genius Award
Run the Jewels – Call Ticketron! 646.846.RTJ3
Run the Jewels, Inc.

Video of the Year 
Perfume Genius – “Die 4 You”
Matador Records

A2IM Lifetime Achievement Award
Brett Gurewitz
2018 A2IM Libera Awards 

Independent Impact Award
Taylor Swift – ‘Reputation
Big Machine Label Group

Album of the Year
Slowdive – ‘Slowdive’
Dead Oceans

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