Sunday, May 6, 2012

Tough calls at Boston Music Awards

BOSTON MUSIC AWARDS 2011

With Moufy, Viva Viva, Bloco AfroBrazil, Roy Sludge, Freezepop, and others.
At: Liberty Hotel, 215 Charles St., Boston. Sunday, 7 p.m. Tickets: $20-$99. www.bostonmusicawards2011.com

On Sunday the 24th edition of the Boston Music Awards takes over the Liberty Hotel again this year to showcase the best in Boston music. With performances from a dozen-plus of the nominees throughout the venue, it’s a one-stop chance to catch up on all the home-brewed talent you fell in love with this year, or to discover what you’ve been missing out on. We broke down some of the top awards categories below with who we think should win, who has an outside chance, and why.


ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Nominees: David Wax Museum, Dropkick Murphys, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, Mean Creek, Slaine
Our pick: Mean Creek
Dark horse: Slaine
In a category packed with three winners from last year in the Americana, folk, and live artist categories, reaching across the entire genre spectrum of Boston’s best - not to mention the most iconic Boston band of the past decade - there’s no easy choice in this one. Our tip of the hat goes to multiple nominees Mean Creek, who already cleaned up in the Boston Phoenix music awards this year, with their soaring, tuneful guitar bombast.

ALBUM/EP OF THE YEAR
Nominees: “R.E.K.S.,’’ Reks; “A World With No Skies 2.0,’’ Slaine; “Hemophiliac,’’ Mean Creek; “Imaginary Friends,’’ Freezepop; “Too Drunk to Truck,’’ Roy Sludge
Our pick: Freezepop
Dark horse: Roy Sludge
A strong showing from two of the names putting Boston hip-hop on the map this year is hard to ignore, and the throwback honky-tonk of Roy Sludge could surprise, hitting the voters’ soft spot for early country rock authenticity, but it’s the retro-futurism of Freezepop and their romantic, danceable, and perfectly crafted electro-pop that won our hearts this year.

NEW ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Nominees: Earthquake Party, Karmin, Moufy, Spirit Kid, Streight Angular
Our pick: Karmin
Dark horse: Spirit Kid
It’d be tough for a young group to have a more, let’s say, eclectic, year than coed Berklee duo Karmin, who racked up near 100 million views of their quirky keyboard and guitar takes on hip-hop hits from the likes of Chris Brown and Nicki Minaj, appeared on MTV, “Ellen,’’ “On Air With Ryan Seacrest,’’ had one of their songs featured in the NBA Finals commercials, and performed on stage with the Roots. Although Roxbury’s Moufy and his crossover sports-hit “Boston Lights’’ will put up a tough fight.

DJ ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Nominees: Frank White, Knife, Kon, Leah V, Paul Foley
Our pick: Kon
Dark horse: Paul Foley

One of the most respected names in the game among serious beat heads and crate diggers, DJ Kon has been repping Boston everywhere from Singapore to Moscow with his classic disco, soul, and hip-hop re-edits and originals, but still finds time to rock an intimate Saturday night at the Middlesex Lounge. His recent “Earthbound’’ EP is an appropriately glitchy trip.

ELECTRONIC ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Nominees: André Obin, Bearstronaut, Big Digits, Freezepop, Stereo Telescope
Our pick: Bearstronaut
Dark horse: André Obin

Another category that’s almost too close too call, especially considering the slew of international genre hotshots remixing André Obin’s atmospheric washes of late. Bearstronaut may ride the line between indie-rock and electronic, but hey, we didn’t do the category breakdown here, and since their joyously danceable, electro-disco track “Roger Was a Dancer’’ would have been our choice for song of the year, they’ll do just fine.

JAZZ ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Nominees: Miss Tess, Esperanza Spalding, Grace Kelly, Club d’Elf, Omar Thomas
Our pick: Esperanza Spalding
Dark horse: Club d’Elf
This one seems like a lock, the only question is for who? Two-time BMA winner, Berklee saxophonist, and bandleader Grace Kelly, who also picked up the best jazz artist award in the Phoenix the past three years, has toured the world behind the six albums she put out by the time she’d turned 18. On the other hand, the jazz bassist and vocalist Spalding won a Grammy this year, infamously besting a certain Mr. Bieber, for best new artist, which we’re told is kind of a big deal.

FOLK ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Nominees: Antje Duvekot, Banditas, Rose Polenzani, Kris Delmhorst, Lori McKenna
Our pick: Banditas
Dark horse: Banditas
McKenna and Duvekot are past category winners, and Polenzani and Delmhorst are both equally accomplished, worthy contenders with multiple, well-received records to their names, but our pick also happens to be the one that seems the lesser-known of the bunch in the folk realm, the ethereal, stripped-down, haunted harmonies of the reverb-plying Banditas.

HIP-HOP ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Nominees: 7L and Esoteric, Moe Pope and Rain, Moufy, Reks, Slaine
Our pick: Slaine
Dark horse: Reks
The depth of the nominees here, from veterans like 7L and Esoteric to brash young upstarts like Moufy is a testament to our vibrant hip-hop scene in recent years. The lineup mostly sticks to what Boston hip-hop does best: gritty vibes, throwback beats, intelligent lyricism that maintains its hard edge without crossing over into genre stereotypes. That pretty much sums up “A World With No Skies 2.0’’ from Slaine - who’s also putting together a burgeoning Affleck-centric acting career - in a nutshell.

INTERNATIONAL ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Nominees: Bloco AfroBrazil, Debo Band, Dub Apocalypse, Mamadou Diop, Zili Misik
Our pick: Debo Band
Dark horse: Bloco AfroBrazil
Dub Apocalypse took the award last year, and the sprawling, party-fueling South American stew of samba, funk, and bossa nova of Bloco AfroBrazil could easily prove victorious this year, but the smart money is on Debo Band. The Boston collective recently released a live recording of their travels to Ethiopia - the country whose pop music history shapes their infectious, horn-driven sound - and just announced they’ve signed to indie stalwart label Sub Pop, which should further broaden their crossover appeal.

ROCK ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Nominees: Dirty Dishes, Dom, MMOSS, Township, Viva Viva
Our pick: Dom
Dark horse: Dirty Dishes
There are certainly more “rocking’’ bands on the list here, like the classic-rocking guitar heroes of Township, the gritty bar rock troubadours of Viva Viva, even the dreamy excursions of MMOSS, or the beautifully skewed artsy squalls of Dirty Dishes, but following up last year’s song of the year win with a jump to the big time and a new fuzzy, pop-sick EP on Astralwerks with its blog-hyped hit “Happy Birthday Party’’ should seal the deal for Dom. At least we hope so, if only so we can see what shenanigans they get up to at the party.




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