But you didn’t have to have a synth and sampler to score votes in this year’s poll. Running neck and neck with Freezepop are another local band who just happen to have a song on Guitar Hero II, the monster-riff, guitar-(over)driven hard-rock sensation Bang Camaro. In fact, Bang Camaro finished right behind Freezepop for Best Local Act and Best Local Live Act. And, aside from the fact that both have unique and appealing conceptual foundations, the two bands are polar opposites. On the one hand you’ve got a female-fronted, minimalist synth-pop trio, and on the other a muscular, metallic, over-the-top riff-rock outfit with a choir of vocalists. And those vocalists (they tend to vary from gig to gig, but most are recognizable from other bands around town) did manage to win the Best Male Vocalist category on the local side of the slate. Sometime more really is best.
Representing the Boston contingent of the Amerindie nation, we’ve got Hallelujah the Hills, whose song “Hallelujah the Hills” won for Best Local Song, and whose debut album, Collective Psychosis Begone (Misra), came in a close second under Freezepop for Best Local Album. So indie rock is alive and well in Boston. And in the case of HTH, it’s even better than that. As song titles like “It’s All Been Downhill Since the Talkies Started to Sing,” Hallelujah the Hills come from the Guided by Voices school of smart, lo-fi pop spiked with almost as many hooks as words. Singer-songwriter Ryan Walsh is right up there with Bright Eyed Conor Oberst and Decemberist Colin Meloy when it comes to winding complex narratives through a song (he came in second for Best Male Vocalist), while the rest of the band make like the Arcade Fire, weaving little experimental quirks into the melodic fabric of those songs. It’s especially nice to see HTH get some notice this year, since Walsh’s former band, the Stairs, were here and gone before we actually had much of a chance to give them their props.
Our Best Local Female Vocalist, Holly Brewer, comes from a band, Humanwine, who defy easy classification by combining elements of neo-hippie and goth into a powerful politically fueled, theatrical style that’s made them fast friends with the Dresden Dolls, a local duo who have now graduated to the national stage. Meanwhile, our Best Metal/Hardcore Act, All That Remains, are on the verge of a national breakthrough in the metalcore underground, a reminder that Mass Metal is still flexing some serious muscle. And this year’s winner in the Blues/R&B category, Eli “Paperboy” Reed, looks like he’s got a shot at taking his vintage Stax/Volt act to more stages beyond Route 128 if he and his band the True Loves continue to gather momentum. There was no Internet back when half the songs he plays were written. And of course, Reed’s got a MySpace site with streaming audio and YouTube video.