LOS ANGELES (AP) - Icelandic quartet Sigur Ros
took home the inaugural Virgin Megastore Shortlist Prize for Artistic Achievement in Music
- a fledgling new music award -- at the Knitting Factory in Los Angeles on Monday (Nov. 19).
The introverted, camera-shy band, which sings in a made-up language that its members call "Hopelandic," as well as its native tongue, was recognized for its outstanding sophomore effort A'g?tis Byrjun. "We're not very good at making speeches," said bassist Georg Holm in accepting the prize and its $10,000 paycheck. "I guess we will say the two very important words: Thank you."
The Shortlist Prize recognizes the most creative album of the year. A'g?tis Byrjun, originally released in Iceland in 1999 and distributed in the U.S. in 2001, beat out efforts from fellow nominees Ryan Adams, Air, Bilal, Nikka Costa, Dandy Warhols, Jay Dee, Gorillaz, P.J. Harvey, Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek (allstar, Oct. 4).
The winner was chosen by a panel of music industry big wigs, including Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, Macy Gray, Beck, Foo Fighter Dave Grohl, and producer Ross Robinson, among others.
Before the winner was announced, Costa, the Dandy Warhols, Kweli, and Sigur Ros performed abbreviated sets showcasing the music for which they were nominated.
Highlights included covers of the Beatles "Eight Days a Week" and the Rolling Stones' "The Last Time" by a mellow, unplugged Dandy Warhols; Kweli's straight-outta-Brooklyn hip-hop set, which included a guest appearance by panel member Mos Def; and Costa's high-pitched soulful wails on single "Like a Feather."
However, the packed house was clearly waiting for Sigur Ros, which did not disappoint. The band captivated the crowd with three absolutely haunting new tracks, shifting the party atmosphere left by Kweli into something more resembling a candlelight vigil. After the winner was announced, the band returned for an encore of its recent single "Svefn-G-Englar."
Backstage after the show, the band was not sure what to make of all the fuss. "We do this anyway, so it doesn't really push us to do something better - we always do that anyway," Holm told. "If this award makes people pay more attention to us then that's great because we want our music to get to more listeners anyway."
As for the $10,000 paycheck (which is also being matched by Virgin Megastore and given to a Sept. 11 charity fund), well, let's just say flights from Iceland to Los Angeles don't come cheap.
"The money actually doesn't even pay for our flights over," laughed Holm.