Best in Rock: Broncho
Nobody in the metro regularly plays more exciting shows than pop-punk savages Broncho. When that guitar riff and ensuing solo on “Pick a Fight” revs up, audiences just know to start hopping, shoving and yelping along with singer Ryan Lindsey, who’s unafraid of pushing and kicking back, nor getting his ass slapped mid-show. They may not “Really Wanna Be Social,” but they’re gonna have to suck it up because we love ’em a bunch.
Best in Pop: Brianna Gaither
Last year, Brianna Gaither won this category by winning over listeners with her debut album, Love Is Patient. Apparently, her fans are just that, because here she is again. Gaither’s been testing out some new indie-pop tracks and — here’s some good news — last month recorded an intimate, live acoustic album for an audience of 50, to be minted as The Living Room Session. We’re there.
Best in Folk: John Fullbright
Back in January, our editor-inchief received an email from former Sen. Andrew Rice that, in part, sang the praises of Okemah musician and Blue Door regular John Fullbright, all of 23 years old. “I saw him play last night and he is amazing. Jimmy Webb said the kid ‘has it.’ He is embracing the whole Woody Guthrie tradition and populism in how he writes,” Rice wrote, and we couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Best in Jazz: Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey
Not long ago, we called the state’s reigning alt-jazz act “the QuikTrip of eclectic, often improvisational fusion jazz.” For the Tulsa-based Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, that label has long fit, but don’t dismiss the outfit as a novelty. The group’s most recent album dealt with the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 — heady stuff for (a different kind of) heady music.
Best in Metal: Rainbows Are Free
There’s no need to look into a crystal ball for the winner of this category, but — of course — demonic metal dudes Rainbows Are Free have one if you need it, per their heathen wont. Bad-ass, heavy rock songs that scream about the devil are their specialty, but they branch out into wizardry, bloody landscapes and the unnatural, all in good measure.
Best in Country: Ali Harter
Harter’s last album, No Bees, No Honey, may be two years old, but she’s still enjoying the buzz. The singer-songwriter from Choctaw toured her purty little heart out through most of 2011, but disc No. 3 should arrive this year. In the meantime, fans can download a free electronic remix album on her website, and when’s the last time a country artist did that?
Best in Blues: The Otis Watkins Band
Mainstays of the metro’s live music scene for decades, The Otis Watkins Band is nothing if not prolific, logging recent gigs at The Blues Saloon, Oklahoma City Limits, Big Dick’s Roadhouse in Yukon and Trump’s Tavern in Moore, giving blues lovers many options to get “Otified” up close. And if you can’t, well, the band recently completed a live CD as the next best thing.
Best in Hip-Hop: Josh Sallee
Not to brag, but we got an advance copy of Probable Flaws, Josh Sallee’s second album, and after a handful of listens, we’re pretty confident that the guy won’t be classified as a “local rapper” this time next year. This thing oozes with tons of different flows, and — we’ll admit it — we’re suckers for the anthem “OKC to KC.” It’s like Josh set our beloved Chicken-Fried News to hip-hop rhymes.
Best in R&B: Shortt Dogg
Billing themselves as “the Southwest’s best show and dance band,” the nine members of Shortt Dogg specialize in cooking up R&B jams with a distinct, old-school flavor. Audiences who catch the Dogg do its thing in clubs, casino floors or outdoor festivals can testify that the funk gets unleashed.
Best in Electronic: Chrome Pony
Yes, Chrome Pony’s been playing scores of solo acoustic shows around town of late, but if that’s the only side of the Pony you’ve gotten to ride, you’re missing out. Dozens of local musicians have supported Chrome’s full-band sets, which feature LCD Soundsystem-inspired dips into dance and cheesy pop.
Best DJ: DJ Neu
The Oklahoma Victory Dolls’ roller derbies have gotten especially rowdy of late. It’s not because Jem Reaper or Dolly Dynamite are skating any faster or knocking their opponents any harder — it’s because DJ Neu’s been spinning the beats. Nobody keeps the crowd more active.
Best Cover Band: My So Called Band
“You Oughta Know” that Norman-based ’90s covers act My So Called Band takes its craft seriously — at least as seriously as an act known for its ability to navigate The Toadies’ “Possum Kingdom” as skillfully as Beck’s “Where It’s At” or Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise.” So “Come as You Are” to MSCB’s next show.
Best Emerging Act: The Damn Quails
There aren’t a whole bunch of bands that regularly play The Deli that also are climbing the charts, but that’s the case with Shawnee-based Red Dirt dudes The Damn Quails. They hold down the Monday-night slot at the Norman venue, and their debut album, Down the Hatch, made it on the Americana Music Association charts in December. It remains there, as do the Quails in our honky-tonk hearts.
Best Record Store: Guestroom Records
Our defending Woody champs stepped up their game this year by opening a new Bricktown location in conjunction with ACM@UCO. It’s smaller than the other Oklahoma City store at 3701 N. Western and the Norman spot at 125 E. Main, but the quality of the stock still impresses, fielding a healthy combination of new national, local and vital releases to our ever-growing collection of vinyl, CDs and, yes, something called “tapes.”
Best Venue: Opolis
What concert hall is so versatile as to host as crazy a dance-party act as Girl Talk, locals both notable and not, and get all the best little-known up-and-comers in the country? It’s Norman’s Opolis, where Vampire Weekend and The National played before they could book Cain’s Ballroom, where Lightning Bolt shook nearby roofs, and where Laura Gibson cooed her way into listeners hearts through their ears.
Best Source for information (other than Oklahoma Gazette): Oklahomarock.com
Nobody’s more dedicated to tracking news on Oklahoma music digitally than nine-years-running institution Oklahomarock.com. Editor Ryan LaCroix and company maintain a thorough concert calendar and update the blog daily with new songs, videos and sundry news about Oklahoma’s most creative songsters.
People’s Choice Award: Skating Polly
Combined, Peyton Suitor and Kelli Mayo aren’t as old as any given member of Broncho, but their growly garage duo known as Skating Polly is just as popular, their distinct brand of guttural punk credited by their youth and all its pent-up angst. They’ve also got a friendship that’s knit tighter than a pair of black skinny jeans, as anybody who’s spent more than 30 seconds around the pair can attest.