The Sounds Of The City
Real Best Of Detroit 2010
Best DJ: DJ Graffiti
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The Michigan mix-tape king is rapidly becoming a Detroit staple. Graffiti has an insanely positive attitude and exhibits an overwhelmingly romantic ideal of hip-hop progress and community. Aside from being our town’s premier DJ, he has graduated from the University of Michigan’s Business and Law school. He's the co-owner of the successful marketing & management firm A-Side Worldwide, and pretty much takes the cake as the most motivated and inspiring artist we've encountered in a very long time. Best DJ/Role Model could have just as easily been the category Graffiti excelled in.
Best Local Songwriter: Kelly Jean Caldwell
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Kelly Jean is an endearing, stoic and talented spirit with a love for ironic humor and a heart about as big as the U.P., where she hails from. According to Caldwell, her lovey-dovey lyrics twinged with dark and gore are "pretty much exaggerated autobiographical stuff." Inspired by childhood memories from up north — nature, wilderness, the woods and beauty — she writes and belts out some of the most interesting and beautiful notes we've ever heard. It's no surpise she's a Real D reader favorite and Detroit folk staple.
Best Record You Haven’t Heard Yet: The Silent Years' Spider Season
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We here at Real Detroit number among the lucky few who have had a chance to get a sneak peek at Spider Season, the forthcoming album from local luminaries The Silent Years — and when we say "lucky," we're talking pot-of-gold lucky. A month-long sojourn to the City of Angels to record definitely did this band’s body of work good. What they’ve brought back with them is an album overflowing with energy, intricacy, beauty, accessibility and (most importantly) extreme pop craftsmanship. When a record dominates our rotation for months on end we know we’re onto something amazing. Unfortunately, with no release date set in stone, we’re playing the part of rock-tease right now — but man oh man do you have something to look forward to, Detroit. Catch ‘em live in the meantime; you never know what new noise might show up in the set list …
Best Electronic Artist: Kyle Hall
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This 18-year-old prodigy has been in the game since he was 11, and his list of upcoming shows reports that in the next two months he will be performing in Detroit, Toronto, Amsterdam, Geneva and Miami — making him, quite clearly, more than just a man about town. Hall’s style is born from an astute love and understanding of deep Detroit house music, but has grown into an experimental and progressive electronica that almost demands a new classification. Some of his beats are fusion-jazzy and some seem like a direct nod to early-'90s video game scoring. Kyle has a keen awareness of mood and an admirable talent for manipulating it.
Best Male Hip-Hop Artist/Group: Guilty Simpson
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Guilty has a blog post that states: “TAKE NOTICE....Guilty Simpson has never had a ghost writer..mfs say the lamest shit ever sometimes..don’t wanna give me props on my rhyme, so they say my dog wrote it..yeah right...you message board losers need to get outside more.” This Detroit rhyme hall-of-famer has been doing shit right, and staying relevant for years, alongside our finest hip-hop visionaries including J Dilla, Emenim, Obie Trice and Proof. He just wrapped up his OJ SIMPSON project with Madlib and it's expected to drop in the near future. We here at Real can't wait ...
Best Band: Will Sessions
Also known as The Motor City Funk Night House Band, The Black Milk Big Band, The Phat Kat Big Band, The Guilty Simpson Big Band — Will Sessions has easily earned their title as best band this year. “Make it funky” is this group’s credo, and funky they make it, like George Clinton after a month without a shower. This band is as eclectic as they come, but the underlying theme of every single note they drop is “get up off your ass and dance.” Find them wherever you can and get that head bobbing — expect the rest of your body to follow suit.
Best World Music Group: Odu Afrobeat Orchestra
This ensemble cast of groove masters was formed and is conducted by Adeboye Adegbenro — a direct disciple of the late great Fela Kuti. This is not fusion; this is not some sort of contemporary amalgamation or bastardization of afro-beat. We would place Odu in the category of “No Friggin Joke” afro-beat. The true spirit of Fela lives on in this orchestra, and we should all consider ourselves lucky to share our hometown with them. Odu is currently making waves as a phenomenal live band, and plan to reward us with recordings in the near future.
Best Jazz Band: John Arnold Trio
John Arnold is an alumni of Wayne State’s music theory program who has perfected his skills as an electronic producer and a man of jazz. That's a good match in a city that has an incredibly strong footing in the roots of both genres. This man has had his name mentioned in the same breath as Parliament, J Dilla, Carl Craig and Black Milk, along with myriad other greats from all over the musical map. His vivacious approach to making music sealed his fate as one of Detroit’s under-appreciated visionaries. This is our attempt at rectifying that.
Best Rock Band: Awesome Color
What a perfect rock band this is. First of all, they're called Awesome Color. That should actually be just about enough of a reason for them to earn our prestigious title, but wait, there's more. They adamantly oppose authority, grooming, gentrification, silence ... and not skateboarding. They envelop the perfect aesthetic to accompany the raw, youthful, distorted rock madness with which they assault the listener. We have just learned that these young rebels have already toured with Dinosaur Jr. in Canada ... We are now too jealous to keep writing. Get Awesome!
Best Indie Rock Band: Tyvek
This unorthodox collection of nerds is creating music that sounds like Guided By Voices and Husker Du, if they joined forces with the Minute Men and the Dead Milkmen and just said, “Fuck it.” This brand of indie rock, with its precise ambivalence to detail, has been overwhelmingly vacant in our town for several years. Tyvek has all the potential in the world to successfully rouse the brows of our young and precious intellegentsia. Catch them on tour this month with Best Rock Band winner: Awesome Color.
Best Live Performance: Child Bite / Monica Blaire
The catergory's final tally came in as one of this year's few ties. But both the avant-punk freight train of Child Bite and the rich, soulful unifying presence of Monica Blaire are equally overqualified to receive this year’s title of Best Live Performance. The Bite bombard your lobes with seemingly chaotic energetic antics as graciously as Blair extends her wanting hand and proposes that you join her in the performance of life. These two acts couldn’t possibly be more different, but any human with proper objective senses will find enjoyment in their presentation.
Best Solo Artist: Aran Ruth
Aran Ruth's bio is written a little more like an excerpt from a fantasy novella about her life than a chronicle of her past years. One line in particular crystalizes the description of this hauntingly beautiful, otherworldly creator of songs: “The world depicted in these songs feels distressingly unsafe. Everything is temporary in Ruth’s songs; there’s sunshine, but it casts tall shadows large enough to hide monsters.” There's a prevalent fantastical energy that is projected when Aran performs. Her style reminds us of early Songs: Ohia records, or some Will Oldham incantation, but her voice sounds like the girl from Hello Saferide meets the girl from That Dog with maybe a thimble's worth of Fiona Apple — aka super cute and rad. She carries herself with a sort of humble innocence that is most admirable. This girl has all the passion, poise and pipes you could ever want from a solo artist.
Best Folk Artist/Group: Catfish Mafia
Usually, when it comes to performing bluegrass, the majority of players are stubborn purists, scoffing at inappropriately placed key changes and basically any influence that doesn’t stem from the root of the bluegrass bible. This is not true in the case of the Mafia. These extraordinarily talented musicians push the bar by incorporating elements of soul, rock, Motown and country — creating a diverse product for all but the purist apologist. There are points where it feels like Eric Burdon playing with the Soggy Bottom Boys. Check them out live if you know what is good for you.
Best Blues Artist/Group: Dale Beavers
Dale Beavers is a true-blue blues believer. He incorporates every element that you can possibly desire out of blues music. Born in Arkansas to a Baptist piano player and a honky-tonk bar owner, he was raised in the warm embrace of American music's heavy soul. If this man took a wrong turn while babysitting and ended up on stage with a combative Albert Collins, he would have no problem leaving the place. Dale performs around town quite often, so give him a listen and get the lead out.
Best Cover Band: Mega 80’s
I can’t help but feel bad for every other sweet cover band operating in the Motor City. We're sorry, but the M80’s are just too damn good. If you have not had the opportunity to see this band live, then you really have not been paying very much attention. Seriously ... if this band were around in the 80’s they would simply be called: Music. They pull out every '80s jam you could ever ask for, and if you close your eyes for a second, you cannot tell the difference. Appearing regularly at the Magic Bag (see more about the Bag, Detroit's best concert venue in "It's Showtime") and consistently pulling in herds of party people dressed in their '80s best, we're not surprised to see 'em win.
Best Hard Rock Band: Critical Bill
These dudes are Detroit’s quintessentially abrasive tough-guy rap rock band. Fronted by Powerdise, and accompanied by Michael Scott on guitar, Phil Thacker on Bass, Mark “C-Bass” Causley on Drum, and Tom Sawyer on the Turntables — Bill have released four full-length records since 2002 with their post-graduate album, Underground Kingdom, set to drop this year. Check out Critical-Bill.com and experience the intense gravitational pull that is to be expected from the heaviest band we’ve got.
Best Dressed Band: American Mars
You weren't kidding, voters — these guys are sweet looking. Their style is kind of like The Godfather meets your Godfather on Easter Sunday. Add in a sprinkle of dreamy English teacher and a dash of confident vintage chic. These boys are always looking classic in their dress suits. They opt to don or loose the tie based on their whims; and who could blame them? It would be impossible to find a critic that would call their attire pretentious, and at the same time, they will never be turned away from any establishment enforcing a dress code.
Best Local Record Label: X! Records
Bringing the underbelly of raw detroit creativity out of the woodwork and putting it right where it belongs in the overbelly, X! Records is a virtual dream cast of the purely psychedelic, strange, dirty, loud, excessive, self destructive and beautiful. Their cast of characters includes Druid Perfume (new 7” out now!), Fontana, Frustrations, Heroes & Villans, Human Eye, Johnny ILL Band, Little Claw, The Mahonies, Odd Clouds, Tentacle Lizardo, Terrible Twos, THTX, Tyvek, and Michael Yonkers. We're guessing these many bands' many fans helped guarantee X! Records this year's number one spot in the Best Local Record Label category. Get more info at x-recs.com.
Best Female Hip-Hop Artist/Group: Invincible
Not too long ago, while blissfully driving through downtown Detroit, we heard this piece on Invincible on NPR. We subsequently drove past the building we were looking for when they played the beat to what we would learn later was her badass song “Shapeshifters” that was produced by Waajeed. We were mesmerized. This woman is powerful and undeniably owns her rhymes with a confidence of ownership on par with MCs like Black Thought, Ghostface and early Eminem. Experience her talent, power and gritty grace.
Best Club DJ: DJ Captn20
You can experience the extensive musical spectrum of this handsome hometown spinner at one of his weekly residencies at MBarGo and Commune Lounge. After getting his start with a gig at The Corner in Birmingham, 20 has solidified his name as a major player in the area by forming a music collective known as Basement Beats Productions, and continuously wowing club-goers all over town. He has worked with national acts such as DJ AM, DJ Skribble, Kevin Scot and DJ Shift, just to name a few. He is currently working on his debut solo record.
Best Local Band Name: Kommie Kilpatrick
Kommie is a punk rock band whose influences include “punk bands, and not punk bands,” as their Myspace page states. To us, they kind of sound like a more fun-loving, more apathetic Dead Kennedys. If you cannot understand why they have been so obviously chosen as the Best Band Name, then you have probably been in a coma for the past year. We are sorry to hear about your coma, if we have offended anyone. Once you regain your balance and cognizance, you should understand immediately.
Best Place to Record Your First Album: Tempermill
Tempermill has been the birthplace of recordings by such Detroit greats as The White Stripes, Kid Rock, G Love and Special Sauce, Loretta Lynn, The Hard Lessons, The Muggs and, well, about 90 percent of all local bands you have ever heard of. Their gear is extensive, their engineers are proficient, their atmosphere is inviting, their prices are affordable and the history of the room is inspiring. Ask anyone you know in a band, odds are they have recorded here ... or they at least know owner Dave Feeny.
Best Local Music Video Producers: Single Barrel Detroit
It would have been so hard to choose any one of the number of great videos produced by this collective of ambitious artists and videographers, so it's much easier to simply award Best Video Producers to these proud Detroit go-getters. “Part urban explorer and part filmmaker, we bring you the sights and sounds of Detroit. With colliding passions for music and location, we capture live music performances in unique and inspiring locations around Detroit.” Go to Singlebarreldetroit.com and watch performances on location by some of Detroit’s favorite break-out artists including “Best Of” winner: Aran Ruth, as well as Ohtis, Rodriguez, Daniel Zott, Alan Sheurman, Charlene Kaye and an awe-inspiring performance by Prussia. Keep em coming, y’all.
Best Band You Haven’t Heard: Secret Twins
The Twins have a sort of old-timey vibe that grabs our attention like a pair of Siamese streakers. These self-proclaimed DIY folk-punkers mix the soft and sweet with the urgent and carefree. You really owe it to yourself to lend your ears to this outfit. They're actually a trio and have no right being veiled in such secrecy. The band has also referred to themselves as “Lotion for your ears.” We are super into this metaphor, and decided to include it for your reading pleasure. Now go lotion up and listen!
Best Digital Record Label: Exchange Bureau
Daz-I-Kue, Chris de Luca, Jeremy "Ayro" Ellis, Phat Kat, Paul Randolph, Guilty Simpson, Simbad, John Arnold, Ibex, Dial81, Midnite Jackers and others make up the roster of this savvy young digital label. Exchange Bureau seems to quietly and efficiently conquer its quest to “unite the organic and electronic with a new collective of established and up-and-coming, Detroit-based musicians and producers all under one organization.” Artists on this label are some of the finest in house, funk, broken beat, techno, hip-hop and electro performers this city has to offer. "We really surprised ourselves with the vast amount of good music that we have released from Detroit," Exchange Bureau co-founder Joshua Adams says, "and also the amount of attention from European producers wanting to join the label has been great." EXB has put out a total of 20 releases boasting almost 100 tracks in 2009. We bless the collective heart of the Bureau for bringing their innovation, brilliance and drive to our iTunes libraries.
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