BEST SONG BY A LOCAL BAND
"Bismark," by Life of Pi
Five-and-a-half minutes of crashing, infectious, melancholy indie-pop perfection. While much of this Tampa quartet's set list immediately recalls alt-generation icons like Weezer and Pixies, this particular tune — the centerpiece of Life of Pi's great sophomore album, Pyrrhic Victory — tempers that familiarity with an original vibe that's both cinematic and somehow still intensely personal. Fragile guitar lines float in and out of the minimal verses, building to an oceanic chorus highlighted by creative harmonies. It should be in regular rotation on every FM station in the country. www.lifeofpiband.com.
BEST HIP-HOP SONG BY LOCAL ARTISTS
"You Ain't Seen It Comin'," Paradox, Feat. Celph Titled & High Collide
New York native and current Tampa resident Paradox gets some top-notch assists from fellow scene names Celph Titled (who splits his time between here and NYC these days) and High Collide (who, I've been told, now calls South Florida home) on this, the best Tampa rap track I heard this year. The production stands up to national offerings, and Paradox's apocalyptic, staccato flow is both contrasted and enhanced by Collide's tangible thuggish charisma and Celph's fast, smart, booming style. www.2wxparadox.com.
BEST USE OF AN EFFECTS PEDAL
I've only seen this up-and-coming, guitar-and-drums duo a couple times so far — and one of those shows was a bit of a glitch-plagued endurance test — but their knack for writing good, idiosyncratic tunes of almost every rock subgenre and their ability to fill a room up with sound impressed me right off the bat. Tight, expressive drummer Jimi-Bob provides snappy swing while Aaron Cook sings, plays guitar and does the effects-pedal dance, layering riffs and melodies to create an interesting, evocative whole. Expect to hear more from these guys over the next year. www.begintransmission.com.
BEST SHOW BY AN OBSCURE NATIONAL ACT
Riddle of Steel, New World Brewery, June 24
The night was moist. Sandwiched between new local supergroup Zillionaire and Ohio post-rock favorites The Six Parts Seven, a little hard-rock trio from St. Louis with the crazy-dumb name Riddle of Steel took to the New World deck and gave up the best set I saw this year. The crowd was a big one, partly because Tampa loves The Six Parts Seven and partly because promoter (and Planet senior ad coordinator) Jack Spatafora somehow managed to create a buzz about a band nobody had heard of six weeks earlier, and everybody pretty much went apeshit; headbanging, spilled beers and "metal fingers" abounded. The group didn't put on a show, but rather got across on the strength of amazing musicianship, great songs and a completely original sound. It was way more than enough. www.riddleofsteel.org.
BEST SHOT AT MODERN-ROCK RADIO
They came from Gainesville a few years back, bringing solid but somewhat generic modern rock. Since then, they've refined the hookier, more youthfully energetic aspects of their sound to the point that you can't listen to their latest EP, The Lives We Lived So Far, and not wonder why they're not booting shite like Nickelback and Hot Action Cop out of the Top 5 at 5 on a regular basis. Maybe they will before long, if they can resist the temptation to get all screamo on our asses. www.soulfound.net.
BEST NATIONAL-SHOW TREND
Old-School Hip-Hop, Jannus Landing
Snoop got his toke on, while the cops in the crowd laughed. Digable Planets had to be moved from the Tamiami outside to the courtyard, in order to accommodate the crowd. By the time you read this, L.A. group The Pharcyde will have come and gone, and hopefully there'll be another show on the schedule to bring together all of us who came of age during the days of A Tribe Called Quest and Straight Outta Compton. I've been going to Jannus for over a decade, and these recent rap shows are up there with some of the strangest, most fun and entertaining times I've had in the courtyard.
BEST CATEGORY-SMASHING SERIES
No, it's not just because they invited me to "curate" an installment several months ago — in fact, I think Tastemakers heads Deacon and Colonic were a bit nonplussed with the Faith No More and the tunes from Monty Python movies. For nearly a year, this twice-monthly Wednesday-night New World phenomenon has brought all styles of music together, and successfully drawn a crowd while doing so. Where else are you gonna get hip-hop, techno and power-pop one week, and alt-country, indie-rock and New Wave the next? Many kudos to the several local agencies (primarily USF radio station WBUL, WMNF, Aestheticized Presents, tampahiphop.com and the New World) who come together, juggle schedules and promote hard to keep this thing interesting. www.myspace.com/tastemakers.
BEST RAP COMING AT YA FROM THE STICKS
Spring Hill, yo. Out beyond the places most Bay area scenesters spend their time, Brazilian-born MC Laws is making clever, funny, idiosyncratic hip-hop. Though barely into his 20s — an age when many aspiring rappers are either aping the latest style or doing more talking about rapping than rapping — Laws has developed his own vibrant, lively style, and released several records well received within the Florida underground hip-hop scene. He's also associated with 352 Elements, an eclectic Central Florida-centric collective that brings together MCs, beatmakers and urban graphic artists of all styles. www.352elements.com; www.myspace.com/lawshiphop.
BEST MUSIC CRITIC'S NEW BEST FRIEND
Myspace.com might be the biggest usurper of cubicle-job man-hours since e-mail first came along, but it and Purevolume.com sure are handy when a band with no PR skills, or no taste for self-promotion in general, comes to town. Now that approximately 642 emo, screamo or metalcore bands play the Bay area each week, it's nice to know I can usually find a couple of tunes from each on one or the other of the online communities. Bands outside the usual hip indie genres are catching on, too. But the label infiltration has already begun; hopefully we won't run into an mp3.com situation, where the unsigned artists get squeezed out by too many majors buying their way into what they see only as a viral marketing tool. www.myspace.com; www.purevolume.com.
BEST NEW BAR THAT THE ORIGINAL-MUSIC SCENE SHOULD TAKE OVER POSTHASTE
It's perfect. Tucked away out in the Tyrone Gardens district of western St. Pete, this brand new little gathering place has everything we need to nurture it as a venue/clubhouse in the vein of The Voodoo Lounge, the Emerald and the New World. It's away from other nightlife. It's got a nice little stage, a friendly staff, a full liquor bar, an impressive selection of imported beer on tap, a pool table and an awesomely stocked jukebox. And most importantly, not all that many people are complete regulars yet, which means if we swoop in quickly and tip well, we'll be the regulars. And if the regulars want original bands, well... 974 58th St. N. (in the Tyrone Gardens Shopping Center), St. Petersburg, 727-343-0304.