Alternative rock star Phoebe Bridgers and rap duo Run the Jewels were the top winners at the 10th annual A2IM Libera Awards, which were presented Thursday (June 17). The awards, now in their 10th year, celebrate the independent recorded music sector.
Both acts won three awards. Bridgers took record of the year and best alternative rock record for Punisher and best live/livestream act. Run the Jewels won best hip-hop/rap record for RTJ4, best sync usage for “Ooh LA LA” (from season 3 of Netflix’s Ozark), and the inaugural A2IM humanitarian award, which was presented to duo members Killer Mike and El-P as individuals.
Bridgers also performed “Kyoto” on the show, which aired on YouTube. Other performances were by Fantastic Negrito (“Chocolate Samurai”), Arlo Parks (“Hope”), Black Pumas (“Colors”), Mavis Staples (“Who Told You That”), Lido Pimienta (“Te Queria”), Lecrae (“Drown”), Yuna (“Don’t Blame It on Love”) and Stax Academy Rhythm Section (medley).
Staples received the independent icon award during the program. Staples, 81, fronted The Staple Singers, the famed gospel-turned-R&B family group, and has gone on to a significant solo career. Staples’ Grammy nominations span nearly the entire history of that awards show. She received her first, with The Staple Singers, in 1961 (the fourth year of the show) and her most recent this past year. The Staple Singers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (by Lauryn Hill) in 1999 and received a lifetime achievement award from the Recording Academy in 2005.
The founders and principals of Memphis-based Stax Records received a lifetime achievement award. The award was accepted by Al Bell, former co-owner of the legendary label; Jim Stewart, co-founder of the label; Doris Fredrick, daughter of the late Estelle Axton, the label’s other co-founder; and Deanie Parker, a former Stax executive who, in her acceptance remarks, said that the label’s success was especially noteworthy because it was “situated in the bigoted Deep South.”
The Stax Academy Rhythm Section performed a medley of timeless Stax classics including “I’ll Take You There,” “Theme From Shaft,” “Hold On, I’m Comin’” and “Memphis Train.”
Two awards were posthumous. Gil-Scott Heron, who died in 2011, won best jazz record for an album he recorded with Makaya McCraven. His award was accepted by his son, Rumal Rackley. The estate of the late record producer and rapper J Dilla, who died in 2006, accepted the award for best re-issue.
The best acceptance speech may have been the one made by Katie Crutchfield of the indie project Waxahatchee, which took best country record. “Thanks for having such a loose definition of country music,” she said.
The show ran a taut and seamless one hour and 45 minutes. The 2021 Libera Awards were presented by Merlin. This marks the second year that the awards were presented as a livestream ceremony.
Here’s a full list of 2021 Libera Award winners:
Record of the year: Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher (Dead Oceans)
Video of the year: FKA twigs – “Sad Day” (Young Turks)
Best live/livestream act: Phoebe Bridgers (Dead Oceans)
Breakthrough artist/release (presented by Ingrooves): Arlo Parks (Transgressive/[PIAS])
A2IM humanitarian award: Killer Mike & El-P of Run the Jewels (Jewel Runners, Inc.)
Best alternative rock record: Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher (Dead Oceans)
Best Americana record: Bonny Light Horseman – Bonny Light Horseman (37d03d)
Best blues record: Fantastic Negrito – Have You Lost Your Mind Yet? (Cooking Vinyl Ltd.)
Best classical record: Erik Hall – Music for 18 Musicians (Steve Reich) (Western Vinyl)
Best country record: Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud (Merge Records)
Best dance/electronic record: Caribou – Suddenly (Merge Records)
Best folk/bluegrass record: Angel Olsen- Whole New Mess (Jagjaguwar)
Best hip-hop/rap record (presented by Virgin Music): Run the Jewels – RTJ4 (Jewel Runners, Inc.)
Best jazz record (presented by Qobuz): Gil-Scott Heron & Makaya McCraven – We’re New Again – A Reimagining by Makaya McCraven (XL Recordings)
Best Latin record: Gabriel Garzón-Montano – Agüita (Jagjaguwar in partnership with Stones Throw Records)
Best metal record: Architects – “Animals” (Epitaph Records)
Best outlier record (presented by The Orchard): Khruangbin – Mordechai (Dead Oceans)
Best punk record: IDLES – Ultra Mono (Partisan Records)
Best R&B record: Thundercat – It Is What It Is (Brainfeeder)
Best rock record (presented by Mitchell; Silberberg & Knupp LLP): Fontaines D.C. – A Hero’s Death (Partisan Records)
Best spiritual record: Sun Ra Arkestra – Swirling (STRUT)
Best world record (presented by Redeye Worldwide): TIE: Altin Gün – “Ordunun Dereleri” (ATO Records) and Songhoy Blues – Optimisme (Fat Possum Records)
Best re-issue: J Dilla – Donuts (Jelly Edition) (Stones Throw Records)
Best sync usage: Run the Jewels (Jewel Runners, Inc.) – “Ooh LA LA” – Season three of Netflix’s Ozark
Creative packaging: Soccer Mommy – Color Theory limited edition back to school binder (Loma Vista Recordings)
Independent champion (presented by Merlin): Bandcamp
Marketing genius: Beggars Group – Supporting Indie Retail #loverecordstores Campaign
Label of the year (big–15 or more employees globally) (presented by ADA): Sub Pop Records
Label of the year (medium—6 to 14 employees globally): Light In The Attic
Label of the year (small—five or fewer employees globally) (presented by Spotify): Daptone Records
Independent icon: Mavis Staples
Lifetime achievement award: Stax Records