Not too pumped about getting on those New Year’s resolutions, are you? So fuck it, let’s cling to 2013 a little longer! With that, I present the annual Underground Awards …
Best new area acts: American Party Machine (a retard-rock juggernaut that’s Orlando’s Valient Thorr); E-Turn & SPS (she’s one of the purest new hip-hop voices; he’s a DMC turntable champ); Fortune Howl (Relief in Abstract’s next thoroughbred); Join Hands (good old-fashioned American indie rock done right); Meiuuswe (dynamic and curious drums-and-keys duo); Moon Jelly (Orlando’s weirdest pop band); Moonmen From Mars (ridiculous costumes, righteous punk rock); Niko Is (fresh new indie-rap figure); Rot Guts (freaky outsider punk); Slag (aggressive, boundary-blasting metal duo).
Best area breakouts: Qualitatively, our best national wave-makers this year were XXYYXX, Roadkill Ghost Choir, Flashlights, Day Joy, Saskatchewan and Fortune Howl.
Best local star-slinger: Relief in Abstract. Last year, I named them “best new label/scene.” But this year, they’ve gone national and beyond with attention-grabbing output by XXYYXX and Fortune Howl.
Best area releases: Solillaquists of Sound – The 4th Wall (a huge finale for the most original, groundbreaking and important hip-hop group in Orlando history); Hollow Leg – Abysmal (hellfire from Florida’s most overlooked heavy band); Fortune Howl – Earthbound (electronic dreams with a beatmaker’s punch); No Qualms – Hyenas EP (probably the best powerviolence to ever blast from Orlando); Saskatchewan – Occasion (dream-pop alchemy that spins ’80s cheese into gold).
Best album product: The physical Solillaquists of Sound album (The 4th Wall) is so exceptional that it warrants a separate category. With its hardcover book casing, binding and finish, this is really the most beautiful packaging of any album this year. It also just happens to be local. In a soullessly digital era, it’s a material work of art and a real collectible.
Best concert conceptualization/experience: John Vanderslice at the Acre by Dave Plotkin. It’s the rare instance where the show organizer bested even the performers in imagination and execution. And it was the year’s coolest, most immersive engagement.
Most progressive concert presenter: The Civic Minded 5. They probably deserve this every year, but I tuned in more this season and can now attest firsthand that they’re light-years ahead in taste and originality. They bring an enlightened underground that’s thoroughly big-city.
Worst scene development: City Hall’s tilted, tone-deaf and anti-culture attempt to rewrite downtown’s nightlife rules.
Best scene development: The city’s real nightlife builders showing up at City Council en masse to shut that shit down.
Best love letter to Orlando: Matt Pond’s “Hole in My Heart” video. Excellently filmed by local filmmaker and Pauses member Jason Kupfer, it’s the indie bard’s visual ode to his recent residency here. It spotlights the hip, real Orlando and, best of all, features a great bike-wreck/ass-bust at the two-minute mark!
Best fest: Total Bummer Fest. There wasn’t much competition this year, but this art-minded, electronic-leaning indie festival was much improved.
Top local mercenaries: Andrew LaCour, Tierney Tough, Ranson Vorpahl and Tre Hester. These Orlando talents were recruited as official players by first-rate national acts, LaCour by KEN Mode and the others by Matt Pond (even making a national TV appearance on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon).
Best backup for a local: Chuck Ragan’s band for Bartender Brian. While the above locals are backing up other heavyweights, Bartender Brian can boast about being summoned onstage at this year’s Revival Tour by Ragan himself, where they all commenced to perform one of Brian’s songs.
Best listening club: A Record Club (second Monday every month, 8 p.m., Lil Indies). Founded by game-changing former OW music editor (and current contributor) Jason Ferguson, it’s the only public club, really. But one exists now! And it’s always populated by some of the city’s smartest music fans.
Best local producer/remixer: Sleazy McQueen. The local nu-disco leader did two official remixes for Bryan Ferry this year and is currently working on a song with the one and only Blowfly.
Best local resurrection: The music of Sam Rivers. With two buzzed-about autumn performances at Will’s Pub, the new Sam Rivers Rivbea Orchestra gave hope that the jazz legend’s music may once again be alive on the city’s stages.
Best beard: Cartel Buzzard (sound engineer about town).
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