KATIE LYNN CAMPBELL
The raucous rumble of hard rockers C'mon would have less of its foundation-cracking power if not for the anchor-weight basslines provided by Campbell, each note blasting from barroom speakers like a 10-pound medicine ball aimed at your gut. We were originally going to say '10 kilogram,' but will forgo the metric system to make the New Orleans-born player feel even more welcome in Toronto, where she's lived with bandmate/boyfriend Ian Blurton for years.
Best dancehall/ reggae/calypso
Ever since Kardi and Jully Black's Money Jane featured the previously unknown reggae flows of Sean Paul, Toronto's held a claim to the man who comes up with some of the most ridiculously infectious vocal lines in the genre. Still, he never seems to compromise, coolly carrying club-thumping bangers about legalizing it to number one like there's nothing to it.
Although Glenn Milchem's percussion prowess is hard to top, when Jeremy Finkelstein's in the right frame of mind onstage powering No Dynamics, his ferocious attack is frighteningly awesome. Finkelstein's approach, more about brute-force battering than subtle finesse, may not impress smooth jazz and New Age fans, but no other T.O. drummer comes close to the maniacal majesty of Finkelstein flailing at full bore.
When he's not pontificating on Viennese Actionism, subversive symbolism or 'the omega point for cultural capitalism,' the too literate guy known as 10,000 Marbles plays a very mean-sounding distorted guitar for hardcore head cases Fucked Up. As the band's main songwriter, Haliechuk does the Malcolm Young quiet-genius-in-the-background kind of thing. But don't think he can't blaze a hell-bound Angus solo if the situation demands.
Best hiphop artist
The characteristically self-deprecating Owen 'Anonymous Twist' Chaim could probably run down a long list of popular local artists he'd say are more worthy of accolades, but the release of his superdope double-sider Royal Flush b/w Dollars In Fists (Do Right)12-inch single suggested Twist had come a long way from his early scratch DJ competition triumphs. If you've ever seen him spit fire while cueing, cutting and beat juggling on the wheels of steel, then you know why this insanely skilled Toronto b-boy is at the top of the heap. Watch his new Respect That joint with Planet Asia blow up.
Best jazz artist
No Toronto-based act made a more impressive splash internationally this year than the Elizabeth Shepherd Trio. Bolstered by the rock-solid rhythm section of bassist Scott Kemp and drummer Colin Kingsmore, Shepherd's considerable talents as a composer, piano-player and vocalist came into full bloom on her breakthrough Start To Move (Do Right) album, which signalled the arrival of a promising new star on the global stage.
Perfectionist and innovator in the form of a virtuosic pianist, Hilario Durán injects a passion into the language of his compositions that reflects both the heat of his Cuban roots and a unique creative spark in his imagination. Eventually the Junos recognized his talent, naming his New Danzón (Alma) album
Best contemporary jazz.
Durán continues to bless the city with just that.
Best live band
Okay, not the most musically proficient group, and their songs won't bring peace to the Middle East, but for thrills, spills and sheer rock 'n' roll excitement, you can't beat the Brutal Knights' nuttiness. It helps having a cream-pie-target of a frontman like singer/comic Nick Flanagan willing to take the odd beer shower, and thanks to frequent gigging they've become a surprisingly kick-ass combo. They don't really need the goofy antics, but who's complaining?
Best live gimmick
Dollarama's value-added concept is all about democracy. Eric Warner and Aaron Bronsteter invite all attendees to bring noisemakers, climb onstage and be part of their band. The only rule? No instrument can cost more than a loonie (plus tax), leading to a crazy cacophony composed on everything from marble-filled Tupperware to plastic hockey sticks.
Best local label
Wholly independent, Baudelaire does what any good local label should by throwing resources and support behind emerging Toronto talent (the Diableros), boosting long-time scene stars who need an extra push to break out (Tangiers) and fostering projects like Josh Reichmann and Jeremy Finkelstein's Jewish Legend from the ground floor. Choosing to release locally beloved Jon-Rae & the River's latest disc is yet another savvy, community-promoting move by a label that has loads of potential.
Best music program
REGENT PARK SCHOOL OF MUSIC
Located right in the community that needs it the most, the program provides at-risk kids with massive self-confidence and the opportunity to express themselves in incredible ways. More than just a keeping-kids-off-the-streets, after-school activity, mastering a musical instrument can be life-changing for a kid struggling to find his or her place. Continued cuts to public school arts funding make initiatives like this not-for-profit org crucial.
JOHN KAMEEL FARAH
Farah occupies a fairly idiosyncratic (and possibly lonely) place as a keyboard player. He's classically trained and technically proficient, but also steeped in experimental improvisation, and he consciously integrates non-Western traditions and ideas while also freely borrowing from electronic dance music. Not many would try to play cascading harpsichord figures over top of skittish experimental drum 'n' bass rhythms, but we're glad he does, as few others have the chops or the creativity to pull it off.
Best place to see a rock show
722 College, 416-588-4MOD www.themodclub.com
Yeah, you may have to sell your own blood to be able to afford enough booze for a nice buzz at the College Street joint, but as far as the full rock experience goes, you can't do much better than the clear sightlines, consistently good sound and clean bathrooms of the Mod Club. It's the perfect size for bands that aren't quite ready to fill the Phoenix or the Opera House, and they even pull off a passable light show.
Best promoter (club)
It's only in the last couple of years that 10-year-old Emerge has established itself as a rock-show force. Scoring the massive V Fest contract this year -- and using it to expose underrated local bands like Ohbijou and Mean Red Spiders to a huge audience -- exemplifies Emerge's ability to balance a commitment to the T.O. scene with corporate savvy. Their incorporation of an online blog to post crucial up-to-the-minute gig information is genius.
Best promoter (event)
Inspired by last year's Wavelength anniversary town hall about the state of the T.O. music scene, Ryan McLaren developed a community-oriented project that aims to bring together different disciplines and increase access to awesome indie music outside the bar circuit. This summer's Dufferin Grove park party, featuring a scavenger hunt, fab bands and more, was a clear example of what ALL CAPS! can accomplish.
Best punk band
Punk's most difficult children. No glossed-out Myspace site, a belligerent refusal to tour Canada, endless parades of limited-edition esoteric wax-only offerings, but not a single accessible full length CD -- until now, five years after their inception. The only way get away with this kind of shit is when you're band is that good. Hidden World (Jade Tree) is their defining record and will probably go down as a Toronto hardcore classic.
Best R&B act
Chances are you won't ever hear a Jay Douglas tune on Flow, but since coming to Toronto from Montego Bay some 40 years ago, Douglas has never stopped singing. It just took the fab Jamaica To Toronto archival project and subsequent Harbourfront showcase (for which Douglas served as musical director) to demonstrate the lasting power of this charismatic performer's soulful voice. See him in action at Snug Harbour in Port Credit, where he regularly holds court.
Best rock band
Despite releasing the rip-snortingly awesome After Dark (Dead Astronaut) album earlier this year and putting on some of the most unhinged displays this side of the Brutal Knights, Anagram are still largely a Toronto secret, just as they were when fraternal-twin terrors Matt and Willy Mason formed the group upon arriving from Oshawa. That's fine by us, we're happy to have them all to ourselves.
Best roots/country act
All of Canada's premiere western swing orchestra's rehearsals, gigging and recording over the years finally culminated in the release of their career-Best album Canadian Dance Hall(independent), a heartwarming salute to the sound and scene that gave the Bebop Cowboys' brand of western swing it's uniquely Canuck accent.
All classic country songs spin a story that sticks with you, and man, does Justin Rutledge know how to tell 'em. The fast-rising singer/songwriter really hit his stride with this year's The Devil On A Bench In Stanley Park (Six Shooter), a collection of incredibly vivid character snapshots full of precise and resonant details.
Best string player
There are a handful of decent fiddle players for hire in the string-loving indie rock scene, but how many of them can actually concoct a full-on mini-symphony all on their own? A jury of Canadian music critics rewarded Owen 'Final Fantasy' Pallett's most recent He Poos Clouds (Blocks Recording Club) disc with the inaugural Polaris Prize for a good reason. This disc is as intelligent as it is pretty.
Best singer, female
The breadth and depth of Whiteley's phrasing and interpretation are phenomenal, whether she's flirting hillbilly-style in an upbeat banjo-plucked number or channelling quiet devastation in a heartbreaker ballad. She's also the rare backing vocalist who can hold her own with a lead -- Whiteley's molasses-thick harmonies with longtime pal Amy Millan, both live and on record, are as crucial to the tunes as the lead melodies.
Best singer, male
It's true that more has been written about the instrumental aspect of Shawn Hewitt & the National Strike's music, a curious concoction of Afrobeat, Krautrock, soul, indie rock and folk; however, it's his onstage charisma, rich tenor and versatility as a vocalist that really sell his musical vision. You hear references and elements from his entire spectrum of influences, compiled into a vocabulary that's uniquely his. At times gravelly and world weary, at others soft and smooth, and sometimes snarling and powerful, but always arresting.