All nominees for I Rock Cleveland’s 2007 Awards Show were chosen by a committee of one, namely me. Similarly, all winners for I Rock Cleveland’s 2007 Awards Show were chosen by a committee of one. In other words, these awards are just one man’s opinion, man, and while they do reflect the opinions of I Rock Cleveland and its one man editorial staff, they’re not meant to be taken too seriously. While I do award a Rusty Shovel Award for the year’s performer most in need in common sense, you don’t think I would advocate striking a musician with an actual rusty shovel, do you?

Donnie Walberg New Kid On The Rock Block Award

Best new band

The nominees for 2007’s Donnie Walberg New Kid On The Rock Block Award are No Age, Vampire Weekend, and 1990s. The winner shouldn’t be a surprise to regular readers as this band released 2007’s Album of the Year, Weirdo Rippers.

The Donnie Walberg New Kind on the Rock Block Award goes to: No Age

Nebacanezer Never Rocked So Hard Award
The best record by a reunited band, or a veteran band, or any old band old enough to be your old man.

This year’s nominees for the Nebacanezer Never Rock So Hard Award are Dionsaur, Jr for their album Beyond, Buffalo Tom for Three Easy Pieces, and Nick Cave’s Grinderman for their self-titled release. Of these three releases, only one of them truly took me back to my slacker youth and my wasted days of getting wasted and listening to tunes while I thought about doing stuff and instead decided that doing nothing was my best option, and that band was Dinosaur, Jr.

The Nebacanezer Never Rocked So Hard Award goes to Dinosaur, Jr.

The Second Best Thing About The Internet Award

Best online music source not named I Rock Cleveland

To be honest here, I’m not that full of myself to believe that I Rock Cleveland is the best thing on the internet. Sure, it’s pretty damn good, but with my regular nine to fiver, I don’t have the time to make this a full time gig, so I totally understand if you find it necessary to use more than one online source to get your music fix. Three of my favorites are Paper Thin Walls, Idolator, Donewaiting.

And the Second Best Thing About the Internet Award goes to: Paper Thin Walls

The Sophomore Suck Award
It’s bigger than a sophomore slump, it’s a sophomore suck

The second album is often considered the hardest album of a band’s career. Do you give the listener more of the same? Do you bring in a big name producer? Do you trust your listeners to stick with you if you move in a new artistic direction? There’s so many questions, but no sure fire way to make sure your second album doesn’t suck. In the case of Art Brut, their debut album, Bang Bang Rock ‘N’ Roll, succeeded in large part to Eddie Argos’ razor sharp wit and self deprecating humor. So, when the follow up, It’s a Bit Complicated, was released and it was only kinda, sorta, ha-ha funny, it didn’t matter that they finally learned how to play their instruments like a real band. The jokes weren’t funny any more…Editors brought in noted producer Jacknife Lee to work on the follow up to their successful debut, The Back Room. Unfortunately for Editors, Jacknife Lee did as Jacknife Lee does, and jacked up the album by trying to make every number a big, anthemic, radio single. It worked well at first, I really dug the single, “Smokers Outside Hospital Doors,” but after the second, third, fourth, and fifth anthem, it got rather tiresome..Speaking of big anthems…if I didn’t know better, I would swear that Jacknife Lee had a hand in The Arcade Fire’s grand, awkward, over reaching album, Neon Bible, too. Subtlety be damned. Instead of relying on songwriting to make profound statements, they relied on lots of emotion and lots and lots and lots of instruments.

And The Sophomore Suck Award goes to: Arcade Fire

The Fool Me Once Shame On You, Fool Me Twice Won’t Get Fooled Again Award

Least listenable critically lauded album

Every year there’s a few albums lauded by notable critics that fall flat on my ears. Last year it was the grating, pretentious harp musings of Joanna Newsome. Man, that was one bad album, and I don’t mean bad as in good. I mean bad as in bad.

I rarely, if ever walk out of a concert early. Even more rare are the times when I walk out of a show because I can’t stand the sound. Yet, that’s exactly what I did during the Dirty Projectors show in Cleveland where they played songs from their latest album, Rise Above. When it was released a couple weeks later, it received one glowing review after another. It’s not that The Dirty Projectors are a bad band, all of them are very skilled musicians, they just have a very unique approach to pop music that isn’t instantly gratifying. Ultimately, I decided to give them another chance. After all, this was an album inspired by Dave Longstreath’s memories of Black Flag, so how bad could it be? How about nails scratching on chalkboard bad. My spine will never be the same…It hurts to put Wilco on this list as I celebrate their entire catalog, but what can you say about an album whose best track wasn’t on the album but was first released for a VW commercial?…My satirical review of The New Pornographers’ Challengers, in which I detailed a medical condition called Sky Blue Sky Syndrome that causes bands to release boring albums prompted one anonymous visitor to leave this gem in the comments section, “You could have saved a lot of words by just saying “waaaah, why wont you make the same record over and over??? you’re a smug dick.” I heart the internet.

And the Fool Me Once Shame on You, Fool Me Twice Won’t Get Fooled Again Award goes to: The Dirty Projectors

The Guitar Hero Hero Award
The best shredder

Marnie Stern’s album, In Advance of the Broken Arm was one righteous lick, and one shredding solo after another. While our second nominee, Dinosaur, Jr’s J Mascis, rediscovered the loud, grand, cascading guitar sound that (nearly) made him a star during the alternative explosion of the Nineties. Our last nominee, Nick Cave, never played guitar before his first album with Grinderman, and it’s his newness to the instrument, as well as his wreckless, emotional aggression that made his playing so powerful.

And The Guitar Hero Hero Award goes to: Nick Cave

The Grand Michael Stanley Band Award
Best band from Northeast Ohio

Every year in Cleveland we’re convinced we’re one band away from a scene explosion. The fact that no one has broken from this scene since The Black Keys isn’t from lack of talent. With a different zip code and/or some extra $$$, any number of bands from this town would resonate with the Pitchfork set. 2007’s nominees include the rough Rock ‘N’ Roll of Coffinberry, trashy, trailer art-punk from The Very Knees, and the ever expanding psych rock sounds of The Dreadful Yawns.

And The Grand Michael Stanly Band Award Goes to: Coffinberry

The We Jam Econo Award
Best live performance

I don’t remember where I read this story, but legend has it that one concert goer was so disappointed Jay Reatard’s set was only 20 minutes long that he went directly to Reatard to voice his displeasure. Jay’s reaction? We only played for 15 minutes. Well, the 15 minutes of Jay Reatard I saw, with the white flying V’s, bouncing mops of hair, and simple 1, 2, 3, 4 melodic punk songs, were some of the finest 15 minutes I’d seen all year…A Place to Bury Strangers didn’t do much for me on disc. I couldn’t get past all the references to classic bands, including the inescapable Jesus and Mary Chain comparisons. However, when APTBS play live, and they push the limits of the human hearing with a big room sound of metal grating on metal in a small club setting, one quickly forgets about their shoegazing and ear shredding predecessors… As much as I’ve already raved about Parts and Labor’s latest disc, Mapmaker, their glitchy future punk anthems were even more impressive live. Dan Friel and BJ Warshaw were like mad scientists stationed behind a lab of boxes, keyboards and guitars as they twisted, turned, and coaxed melody out of piercing screeches and howls. While ex-drummer, Chistopher R. Weingarten, put on one of the most intense, inhuman, and utterly exhausting performances I’d ever seen behind the kits.

The We Jam Econo Award goes to: Jay Reatard

The Greg Shaw Memorial Award
The best record label award named after the legendary founder of Bomp!

Let’s look at the numbers: Fat Cat released two of my top 10 albums in No Age’s Weirdo Rippers and Nina Nastasia and Jim White’s You Follow Me. They also had two more releases, Frightened Rabbit’s The Greys and The Twilight Sad’s Fourteen Autumns, Fifteen Winters, that were in serious contention for the top 25…In 2007 Merge records had new albums by Spoon, Oakley Hall, and Caribou as well as two Robert Pollard solo releases. However, their biggest release of the year was one I’d like to forget, Neon Bible…Our final nominee, Jagjaguwar continued their reputation as one of the most consistent indie labels with a release schedule that included Parts and Labor, Okkervil River, Lightning Dust, Sunset Rubdown, and The Besnard Lakes.

And The Greg Shaw Memorial Award goes to: Fat Cat

The Rusty Shovel Award
The musician who could best benefit from a whack to the back of the head with a rusty shovel

The purpose of the rusty shovel is not to cause bodily harm to a poor, wayward musician, rather, the rusty shovel is here to help. When all else fails — intervention, rehab, counseling, phone calls from mom, more and different drugs — a nice solid, but not too forceful, thwack from a rusty shovel can knock some sense back into an ailing mind.

Such a tough call. I feel for Amy Winehouse. The poor girl can’t keep her nose out of trouble. At the beginning of the year, I loved her booze hound image and the nudie tattoos. And she had songs, too, really good ones like “Rehab” and “You Know I’m No Good.” Then, as the year wore on and we learned that her persona wasn’t just a stage act, I winced as her life became one train wreck after another…I hate to keep picking on the Arcade Fire, but I cannot stand Neon Bible. Maybe a shot from a shovel will knock the Springsteen out of ’em…Lastly, we have Sufjan Stevens, who on the eve of opening his symphony about a bridge in Brooklyn, he proclaimed “Rock is dead.” Sure, I’ve heard that one before, but I’ve never heard anyone claim that they could kill Rock ‘N’ Roll with a symphony. Oh, my delusional Sufjan, don’t you have some songs about Wisconsin and cheese to write about?

And the Rusty Shovel Award goes to: Amy Winehouse

The Excellence in Awesomeness Award
Artist Of The Year

The merits of all three of the nominees: Jay Reatard, No Age, and Radiohead, have been noted in detail in these pages through the past year, and as much as I’d love to give the Excellence in Awesomeness Award to an underground shredder like Jay Reatard, or a DIY art punk band like No Age, there’s no denying the impact of the most talked about band of 07, Radiohead. Let’s cast aside the debate of whether Radiohead’s name your own price release was a preview of the future of the industry, or nothing more than a marketing gimmick. Let’s ignore the bellyaching about bit rates and physical release dates. Radiohead made the release of In Rainbows an event that more than one million people wanted to experience. That was no easy feat to accomplish in today’s leak culture where record releases are secondary to the day the album first appears on the internet. Also, let’s not forget the fact that In Rainbows was a damn fine rock record, too, and for that, 2007’s Excellence in Awesomeness Award goes to Radiohead.

More from I Rock Cleveland’s Year End Extravaganza Bonanza:

Top 25 Albums
Top 40 Tracks
Top 10 Northeast Ohio Releases
Rockers and Readers Respond