Have You Heard
The Real best of Detroit 2009
Best Indie Rock Band: The Muggs
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It doesn’t get much bigger then the year The Muggs had last year. The fact that they topped the heights they reached in ’07, puts ’08 almost nearly out of the stratosphere. After appearing on a national TV show, which everyone remembers the band getting unjustly kicked off of, The Muggs came roaring back home to Detroit with more steam than a locomotive. Plowing through all the barriers, the group released their long-awaited sophomore record, On With The Show, independently before having it released on vinyl by local label, Bellyache Records.
The album is a shining testament to the friendship of the trio’s members, guitarist/vocalist Danny Methric, bassist Tony Denardo and drummer Matt Rost, and shows that no obstacles can ever stop rock ‘n’ roll. Tracks like “Slow Curve,” “Somewhere Down The Line” and the title track are proof positive that the boys can still kick out a James Gang and Cactus inspired track like it’s as easy as tuning a guitar string. Defying the criticisms of the judges on the television show and other general naysayers, Methric’s guitar work was bold on the record and his voice even more flashy. In addition to On With The Show, the band again teamed up with Scotty Hagen at Bellyache Records and dropped a Halloween themed single, "Bite of the Weredog", just in time for the ghoulish holiday. Based on a C-grade horror movie the guys made once for fun, the group, as always, served up a reminder that rock music doesn’t have to be taken too serious all the time ... it can be fun as well.
Crowned in April with the dubious title of “Outstanding Rock/Pop Recording 2009” at this years Detroit Music Awards, The Muggs’ On With The Show has made this past year a gigantic one for the band. Now continuing on with their winning streak with a victory in Real D’s "Best Of" reader’s polls for "Best Indie Rock Band", The Muggs look to carry the momentum of '08 all the way through 2009. “This is one band that can’t be stopped no matter what they come up against,” St. Claire Shores native and Real D reader Maria says, “They just love making great blues rock ‘n’ roll.” | RDW
Best Cover Band: Mega 80’s
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Was there ever anything more fun than rocking out to the synth beats accompanied by guitar riffs and slammin’ drum solos of the ‘80s? The ever-popular cover band the Mega 80’s have figured out the formula to bring concertgoers back to the days of hairspray and leg warmers. Jason Gittinger, Mick Khzouz, Ron Abraham, Matt Webber and Carey Denha make up the Mega 80’s and have continued to build their expansive playlist throughout the years. The group also continues to add dancers, lighting and other little goodies to their set to make the experience that much more retro. Perhaps this is what makes the Mega 80’s a favorite of RDW readers year after year? All we know is it’s time to break out those acid-washed skinny jeans and rock ‘em at a Mega 80’s show near you. | RDW
Best New Record Label: Exchange Bureau Music
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Detroit music label Exchange Bureau Music may be the newest kid on the block, but its foundation has deep roots. Founders Joshua Adams and Paul Katcher have put their time in, as musicians, tastemakers and fans. Adams is adamant, however, about the democratic make-up of the funk meets electronic label. “People come up to Paul and I all the time saying that they heard about our label, or they like something from our label,” explains Adams. “We’re always like, it’s not just our label. It’s everyone’s. "EBM’s primary focus is to put out quality music and expose it to a global audience. | RDW
Best Band: The Hard Lessons
We know that love, whether good or bad, has been a constant source of songwriting fuel ever since the first time music appeared on the planet. Perhaps, this is why Augie and Korin Louise Visocchi of The Hard Lessons have created such perfect records in the B&G Sides and Arms Forest over the course of the past year. With the duo’s love at its core [Augie and Korin got married in ‘08], The Hard Lessons have continued to push themselves to the brink of superstardom with non-stop recording, non-stop touring and non-stop anything else you can think of or name. It’s easy to see why Real Detroit Weekly readers have claimed them our city’s best band.
Best Pop Act: Lightning Love
Lightning Love is a trio of nice suburb kids whose voices glisten like gooey honey on muffins softly tumbled onto picnic blankets in a sunflower field, yet their deceptively rhythm-heavy rock songs, hard cutting hooks and bitter existential lyrics that romanticize depravity and fuck-all-y'all attitudes. Their admirable self-released debut album November Birthday came out last year and got them several sweet opening gigs for the Von Bondies. As fans of Yo La Tengo, Fiery Furnaces and even that nearly-twee stuff like Heavenly — you can dig on this … everybody’s talkin’ about ‘em.
Best Artist To Get Signed To A Major Label: Mayer Hawthorne
Deeply immersed in the dusty reverence of record collecting, the smooth soul of Motown and the distinct bluesy style of classic R&B, 29-year-old Mayer Hawthorne is translating his studious youth (versed in the jazz and soul percolating through his Ann Arbor home) to a debut 7” that caught the attention of DJ aristocrats Peanut Butter Wolf (for a Stones Throw Release) and counts producer Mark Ronson and BBC1’s Gilles Peterson as early fans. “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out” is available now (on limited heart-shaped 7” vinyl). Look out for his debut album A Strange Arrangement in 2009.
Best Rap/Hip-Hop Solo Artist/Group: Guilty Simpson
Detroit hip-hop has many shining stars, but none as grimy as Guilty Simpson. Since releasing Ode to the Ghetto last year, Simpson has been busy touring and recording an original street album with producer Otis “MadLib” Jackson entitled OJ Simpson due out this summer on Stones Throw Records. Simpson has also been working with fellow Detroiters Sean Price and Black Milk on the much anticipated Random Axe Project. Keep your ear to the streets and you’ll hear what Simpson is throwin’ down.
Best Jazz Band: Faruq Z. Bey and the Northwoods Improvisors
It’s a shameful thing to admit, but Detroit neglects jazz and is even less mindful of the many talented people who bring this great music to life in our city. Belated and fitting acknowledgment then to saxophonist Faruq Z. Bey, whose skills blend so masterfully with those of his equally brilliant collaborators the Northwoods Improvisors. Jazz has always been known for its hidden charms and it takes genuine artistry to coax those secrets out. Bey and company don’t bother with coaxing — they seduce!
Best Local Songwriter: Melanie Rutherford
A true artist through and through, Melanie Rutherford graces the ears of listeners with a voice so pure and harmonic that she’s been compared to the likes of Ella Fitzgerald. She’s worked with such artists as Redman, Slum Village and Phat Kat, written for others, such as Faith Evans and released two of her owns albums. After releasing her second album, Relationships In My Own Words in 2007, Rutherford spent time touring to promote it, as well as playing with her band, Phat Greasy, on FOX 2’s Morning Show. Nowadays, you can find Rutherford in her native Pontiac writing, singing and running her own publishing company, Mellosmooth Publishing. Not bad for a girl who’s singing debut was in her kindergarten choir.
Best Live Performance: Terrible Twos
Terrible Twos do their best (and often succeed) in making the first few rows of standing room in any venue into a freight train caught in a cyclone. As unhinged as they are confident, the band bounces off both each other and the walls in some sort of psychotic, swaggering ballet of punk punched glory that combines the more stylistic freak-out confrontational approach of late '70s art punk, with the all-elbows shout-trounce of early '80s West coast hardcore — fried up with more nuanced underground punk and electronic influences. This seemingly natural live show is all thanks in part to the band's relentless touring schedule. The boys have pushed themselves to constantly move forward and this has led them to an unsurpassable stage show, that is unlike any other band in Detroit.
Best Local Album: Black Milk - Tronic
Detroit rapper Black Milk hit it big in '09 as the artist gained maximum exposure of his flashy production and rhymes with the release of his brilliant album, Tronic. In addition to releasing the record that Real Detroit Weekly readers deemed “Best Local Album,” Milk also unleashed a litany of other projects including The Set Up with Fat Ray and The Preface with Elzhi. Getting positive press from everyone, even Pitchfork gave him a 7.9, Black Milk has left other rappers in the dust and has critics like Ian Cohen saying, “Tronic could very well be the best end-to-end production job you’ve heard all year. It’s hard to talk about anything Black Milk does without evoking J. Dilla.”
Best Blues Artist: Jimmy McCarty (Mystery Train)
When a conversation about the blues in Detroit comes up, chances are it won’t take long for the name Jimmy McCarty to come up in the debate. Whether backing up Mitch Ryder or playing in his own groups, Cactus and Mystery Train, McCarty is a guitarist whose known for being technically proficient, while at the same time possesses the soul of the great blues musicians before him. Pure and simple; Jimmy McCarty rips like it’s no one's business. It’s no wonder that Real D readers picked Mr. McCarty as the "Best Blues Artist"? Once a ripper, always a ripper.
Best Electronic Artist: Jeremy Ellis
Jeremy Ellis is funky, no doubt about it. The singer/pianist/synthesizer specialist has thrown down some of the most memorable sets that Detroit has ever seen. His “freestyle” performances are legendary, flowing from original material to covers ... done properly, of course. While comparisons to Jamariquoi and Remy Shand may seem appropriate and sometimes unavoidable, Ellis has consistently created music that is unique and distinctly his. Aside from some offbeat clothing choices, Jeremy Ellis comes correct. Always.
Best DJ: Frankie Bank$
Tight jeans, fly shades and dope sneaks do not a DJ make. Fortunately, Frankie Bank$ has the skill to back up his hyper-hipster style. The Dearborn native began fiddling with turntables and beat-matching way back in '96, when “rave” was at its peak. Playing the rave-circuit allowed fans to taste Bank$’ techno flavor, but his future was elsewhere. After a stint in Chi-town, Bank$ came back to The D with a new sound. Flosstradamus, Cool Kids and Baltimore-beats are the new flavor for him and he’s taking it all the way to the bank.
Best Hardcore/Metal Band: Critical Bill
Combining the power of Metallica, the rap esthetic of Rage and the heaviness of some newer metal bands, Critical Bill are Detroit’s answer to the word “crossover.” Vocalist/rapper Powerdise is relentless in his lyric approach and can throwdown a verbal beatdown like there is no tommorow, but is also capable of laying down smooth vocals that Cee-Lo might approve of. His bandmates Mike Scott, Mark Causley, Tom Sawyer and Phil Thacker take the perfect approach to performing their music as it is a mix of catchy rock and more harder material.
Best Solo Artist: Deastro
Best described as “a kaleidoscope of musical colors,” Deastro’s music is full of dreamy twists and turns. Randolph Chabot (Deastro’s real-life alter-ego) has been dreaming of sounds since he was a teen. Maybe due to hormonal imbalances, this kid’s dreams had soundtracks. Today, Deastro is a master of creating spacey symphonies to accompany his visions; teen anthems populated by superheroes, doomed lovers and aliens. Really, he’s not high. Just visionary. Right.
Best Local Record Label: Ghostly International
Ann Arbor-based music label Ghostly International has scared up a huge amount of hits and fantastic artists since it started 10 years ago. Founded by Sam Valenti, the label has morphed into a multi-national organization that seems to be unstoppable. It can be said that G.I. single-handedly resurrected electronic music from a slow, painful death. Pushing the limits of what electronic music is, Ghostly International is alive and well.
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