It’s also good to see a few ringers in with the more predictable names. All five of the singer/songwriters are new to this poll; all write literate and dark-toned songs that ask, and reward, closer attention than the average pop single. Three Day Threshold bring some punk leanings to the Best Local Roots category, this year featuring (with Frank Smith) two bands with a lead banjo. UV Protection aren’t on the same headline level with the rest of the Best Live Act winners, but their techno-conceptual shows are indeed some of the more distinctive in town. By now it’s feeling like Mission of Burma have never been away, and they squeak in as the fourth-best Live Act — not a bad showing since they played exactly one local show (at Somerville Theatre) since last year’s poll. If they only play one show in the coming year, and it’s anywhere near as intense as the forthcoming album The Obliterati (Matador), they should be a shoo-in next year as well.
Burma’s influence lives in Cave In, who rebound from that time-honored rite of passage, getting dumped by a major label, to top the Metal/Hardcore category — a feat in itself for a band that’s not really either metal or hardcore. Still, we didn’t have a category for “Best Loud Guitar Band Dipping Into Prog, Emo, and Jagged Post-Punk,” so this will have to suffice.
One thing that never changes is a local preference for bands whose strongest suit is their songwriting. Everyone who finishes as Best Local Act is largely a songwriting band, even if the styles range from sleek modern pop (Aberdeen City), to abstract pop (Apollo Sunshine again), to the glitter-R&B mix of the Rudds. Likewise, frontman Thom Moran from the proudly literate and ambitious Bon Savants takes the Male Vocalist category from more established names like Jake Brennan and Aaron Perrino.
A message to the people who run the official Boston Music Awards: you don’t have to keep filling the female-singer category with names like Aimee Mann, Tracy Bonham, and Tracy Chapman when there’s plenty of terrific frontwomen who didn’t leave town a decade ago. Along with obvious winner Amanda Palmer, we have four strong examples in our Female Vocalist category: one well-respected veteran (Juliana Hatfield), two punk-pop upstarts (Michelle Paulhus and Noelle LeBlanc), and one relative vet (Mona Elliott, as fourth runner-up), who’s lately getting the recognition she’s deserved since early days in Spore. And an aside to people who dis the Phoenix for its continued support of Hatfield: she makes a good new album every nine months, challenges herself at every turn, and doesn’t even play her mid-’90s hits anymore, so get over it.
Is late-’60s/early-’70s soul the new blues? At least it’s the latest form of roots music that’s inspiring a generation of rockers, as anyone who’s wandered into ZuZu on a weekend night can attest. Best Local Blues/R&B Act the World’s Greatest Sinners have only been around for about a year, but grabbed a lot of people at first sight — for me it happened when I wandered into an early Abbey gig and singer Jordan Valentine was nailing one of my favorite soul nuggets, “I Spy for the FBI.” Meanwhile, runners-up the Scissormen, led by Phoenix contributor Ted Drozdowski, would probably argue that the new blues is, well, blues.