Are you so paralyzed by indecision that you haven’t yet submitted your vote for the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards? Well, friend, you’re in luck. First of all, take a breath and chill out because the deadline is January 15th. Second, good news: John Crowell and I compiled our picks for this year’s CEAs. (Another helpful tool: Kevin Bayer of You, You’re Awesome made this handy playlist to guide you on your CEA-voting journey.
Let’s get the logistics out of the way first.
The 16th annual Cincinnati Entertainment Awards
Hosted by Ted Clark of Ted Clark After Dark
Other major changes: This year’s New Artist of the Year nominees will perform at a CEA-sanctioned “New Music Showcase” on January 18th at Bogart’s. Try to swallow any disdain for Bogart’s because your attendance shall not be in vain; audience votes at the showcase will help determine the winner of the category. The other Critical Achievement awards (Album of the Year and Artist of the Year) will be determined by the CEA nominating committee.
Vote here: 2013 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards Ballot
Now, let’s talk about how we got to our picks. What should be taken into consideration when casting your vote? Do you choose based on talent alone? Notoriety? Work ethic? What about the band that hasn’t released an album all year, but goddamn if every show doesn’t makes your heart stop dead in your chest? It’s also hard not to root for the local, unsigned bands when they’re pitted against signed bands.
The Official ENS Guide to the 2012 CEAs
Caitlin’s Pick: The Harlequins
The Harlequins are consistently one of the best live bands in Cincinnati. Period.
Shiny and The Spoon
Josh Eagle and the Harvest City
The Kentucky Struts
Caitlin’s Pick: Young Heirlooms
John’s Pick: The Tillers
You, You’re Awesome
Caitlin’s Pick: You, You’re Awesome
John’s Pick: You, You’re Awesome
I feel genuinely bad for any electronic artists in Cincinnati who are not You, You’re Awesome, because in any comparison or contest, they’ll have the distinct disadvantage of not being You, You’re Awesome. I was inches away from choosing Moonbow in this category, partly because I really enjoyed their dreamily arpeggiated 80’s revivalist Identical Hand Twins this year but mostly just to be a contrarian.
However, when I play even a few minutes of a You, You’re Awesome track, I’m overcome by such a fulfilling sugary delight that the influence of all other Cincy electronic bands melts away. These guys are still kings of the mountain for electronic music here, and they’ve remained one of my go-to examples when out-of-towners ask me to name some exceptional Cincinnati bands.
Caitlin’s Pick: The Pinstripes
John’s Pick: The Pinstripes
I’ll also admit that I don’t listen to a lot of reggae or world music, but if you drench it in enough ping-ponging delay and hall reverb, I’ll listen to anything.
Seriously though, I dig how the Pinstripes push the limits of reggae while staying true to their deep dub roots. They sound like they’re throwing a dancehall party in a bottomless pit.
Valley of the Sun
The Mighty Swine
Caitlin’s Pick: Valley of the Sun
John’s Pick: Valley of the Sun
Jeremy Pinnell & The 55’s
Tex Schramm & The Radio King Cowboys
Dallas Moore Band
Caitlin’s Pick: Jeremy Pinnell & The 55′s
Jeremy Pinnell’s Honky Tonk Thursdays (currently making its home at Japp’s) is truly a highlight of my week. Glad to see country making its way to OTR.
John’s Pick: Jeremy Pinnell & The 55’s
I wish Mack West were on this list!
The Seedy Seeds
Caitlin’s Pick: The Yugos
THE YUGOS FOR PRESIDENT. But seriously, I think at least 75% of my posts on Each Note Secure this year were somehow tied to my love for The Yugos so I’ll let John take this one.
John’s Pick: The Yugos
It’s hard to definitively pick the best Alternative or Indie band in Cincinnati, since the phrases “Alternative” and “Indie” are two of the most thrown-around, and therefore meaningless, phrases in pop music. These bands are alternative . . . to what? I suppose they’re indie . . . because like most bands on this list they’re not signed to major labels.
The only thing I’m left with, then, is choosing a band who writes the catchiest and most compelling songs. All these bands are great, but I can’t get over how exceptional the Yugos are. Their sound isn’t revolutionary, but each one of their songs makes me grin like I’m flying a kite whilst riding a old-timey bicycle on a sunny Saturday morning.
And, yeah, although Why? is great, I can’t bring myself to choose them for this category. I do think it’s a little unfair to put them up against a bunch of bands who haven’t had their music featured on This American Life and their albums and music videos covered by the national music press. They’ve made some amazing music, but when half the people fairly familiar with your origin story would name Oakland as your home city, you do lose some points on Cincinnati’s “local” music scorecard.
Rumpke Mountain Boys
Comet Bluegrass All Stars
Ma Crow and the Lady Slippers
Rabbit Hash String Band
Caitlin’s Pick: Comet Bluegrass All Stars
For God’s sake, their portrait is hanging up in the Comet. Show some respect.
John’s Pick: Rumpke Mountain Boys
Caitlin’s Pick: Jeremy Pinnell
I don’t quite understand the singer/songwriter category. Most of the nominees are also in bands that are already nominated for CEAs in the Folk/Americana or Country category.
John’s Pick: Jeremy Pinnell
Martin Luther and the Kings
Caitlin’s Pick: SERIOUSLY, WHERE IS VACATION ON THIS LIST?!
Tweens didn’t make the cut either, but Tweens is also a fantastic new band featuring members of Vacation. Think Best Coast but louder, faster, and…well, no. They’re way better than Best Coast and their repertoire includes more than just kittens and weed and unrequited love.
John’s Pick: Horsecop
I don’t listen to a whole lot of straight-on punk, but these guys inspire me to start. I love their delightfully raunchy lyrics and chip-firmly-on-shoulder stances: the chorus of “You’re From Cincinnati? That Must Suck!” includes the joyously screamed line, “I don’t give a fuck about Chicago!” Angry hometown pride makes me happy.
These guys are one part amazing fun and three parts “go fuck yourself,” which is exactly how punk should be.
Caitlin’s Pick: The Natives
John’s Pick: Those Guys
Noah Wotherspoon Band
Leo Clarke Band
Caitlin’s Pick: Ricky Nye
John’s Pick: …
Honestly, as a delta-blues enthusiast from an early age, I find all of these artists obnoxious. Ricky Nye probably the least so, and he’s the most naturally gifted musician of the lot. So Ricky Nye, I guess.
This is old and possibly not politically correct, but it’s apropo to this list of nominees. http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/11/18/116-black-music-that-black-people-dont-listen-to-anymore/
Caitlin’s Pick: Grey Host
Full disclosure: I’m close friends with the guys in Grey Host. Still, I completely stand behind their music. The doom metal band has attracted a decent following despite the fact the band hasn’t released an album *yet*. Check out John’s profile on Grey Host for proof this band is awesome.
John’s Pick: Grey Host
Well, I just wrote an article about Grey Host where I called them one of the best bands in Cincinnati, so if I choose anyone else here I’ll make myself a liar. But they really are pretty great. Don’t just take my word for it – go see them live!
The Cincy Brass
The MJ’S Blues
Caitlin’s Pick: The Guitars
The band hasn’t released a non-Christmas album since 2011, but one listen to High Action puts me at ease that I’ve made the right choice.
John’s Pick: The Guitars
The Faux Frenchmen
Blue Wisp Big Band
Caitlin’s Pick: Us, Today
It’s hard to compare old school groups like Blue Wisp Big Band with fusion groups like Us, Today. Still, I’ve got to hand it to Us, Today for playing outside of the usual haunts like the Wisp and Stanley’s and trying to bring jazz to a younger crowd.
John’s Pick: The Faux Frenchmen
BEST LIVE ACT
500 Miles to Memphis
Walk the Moon
Caitlin’s Pick: Why?
John’s Pick: Why?
I talked a big game in my comments about Why? in the Alternative/Indie category, but they really are a sight to behold live. Credit where credit’s due, ya’ll.
**Critical Achievement Awards**
NEW ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Jeremy Pinnell and the 55’s
Caitlin’s Pick: Ohio Knife
I am continually blown away by the amount of talent here in Cincinnati, and 2012′s New Artist of the Year nominee list is proof. Every band on this list is amazing. My instinct is to hand another nomination to Jeremy Pinnell, but I have to send some love to Ohio Knife. The band seemingly came out of nowhere, and then suddenly they were making headlines with the 100 guitar drop at SXSW. They’re one of the few bands that make me want to slam a shot of whiskey.
John’s Pick: Jeremy Pinnell and the 55’s
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Bad Veins – The Mess We’ve Made
Buffalo Killers – Dig.Sow.Love.Grow
Culture Queer – Nightmare Band
The Happy Maladies – New Again
Hickory Robot – Sawyer
The Pinstripes – I
Rumpke Mountain Boys – Trashgrass
Wussy – Strawberry
Caitlin’s Pick: The Happy Maladies – New Again
John’s Pick: Buffalo Killers – Dig.Sow.Love.Grow
ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Alone at 3AM
Walk the Moon
Caitlin’s Pick: Walk the Moon
While the other nominees have had a great year, 2012 was the year of the “W” bands. Wussy toured with both The Afghan Whigs and Heartless Bastards, while Why? released their fourth full-length album, Mumps, Etc. on Anticon. Both bands also toured in Europe. Still, there’s no denying that Walk the Moon was an unstoppable force in 2012. This year alone, the indie pop stars released their self-titled debut on RCA, conquered the late night circuit (Conan, Letterman, and Carson Daily), played a set on MTV Unplugged, and toured Europe with Fun, whose single “We are Young” seems to follow me wherever I go.
John’s Pick: Walk the Moon