South by Southwest has announced the recipients of the festival’s second annual Grulke Prize: The ever-eclectic Damon Albarn has received the award for Career Act, while two breakout acts – New Romantic synth-pop outfit Future Islands and Irish blues-rockers the Strypes – have been named Developing U.S. Act and Developing Non-U.S. Act, respectively.
Albarn is certainly a fitting choice for the Career Act: A veteran of bands like Blur and Gorillaz (among many other side projects), the British songwriter-producer showcased his new solo album, Everyday Robots, at this year’s SXSW. And though they’ve been around since 2008, Future Islands fit the bill for Developing Act: Their upcoming fourth LP, Singles, is out March 25th, and they made their jaw-dropping national TV debut earlier this month on The Late Show With David Letterman (with frontman Samuel T. Herring showcasing his trademark swivels and unique vocal range).
Meanwhile, the teenage Strypes have a famous fan in Elton John: The singer-songwriter’s management company, Rocket Music, signed the band after seeing one video. “They have a knowledge of R&B and blues at 16 years of age that I have only amassed in my 65 years,” John says in a press release. “They’re just like a breath of fresh air.”
The Grulke Prize was established in honor of SXSW Creative Director Brent Grulke, who died in August 2012. He’d previously worked in various positions throughout the music industry – from sound engineer and tour manager for local Austin bands to music editor at The Austin Chronicle. According to the press release, this year’s jurors for the prize included “music critics, industry professionals and SXSW staff who knew and worked with Brent over the years.”