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

Even the greatest bands make a bad album here and there, but that doesn’t mean we have to listen to them.

None of the first three bands receiving nominations for this award should come as a surprise to any of you. It’s not that I hate Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, or Animal Collective. Hate is such a strong word. Rather, I find them all to be supremely over-rated, some more over-rated than others, of course.

I’m not asking for much here. All I ask is that people pause and question those assertions which claim an album is the best album of the year when an album, like, let’s say, Merriweather Post Pavilion, for example, is released during the first month of the year when such claims should be laughable. Plus, I’m asking you to question whether Grizzly Bear have a pulse and whether Dirty Projectors could hit a melody if it hit them over the head with a rusty shovel. I’m asking those things, too.

Oh, and speaking of over-rated, how can we forget WAVVES. You remember WAVVES, right? There was a time not to long ago (March this past year), when WAVVES appeared to be the next best thing since Animal Collective.

The Nominees:
*Dirty Projectors
*Grizzly Bear
*Animal Collective

…And the Winner Is…WAVVES

The Keith Richards Un-Memorial Award for Rock ‘N’ Roll Longevity

While none of these artists are as ragged and weathered as Richards, they’ve all been around for a few years, and they’ve all found success late in their careers. The Keith Richards Unmemorial Award honors the veteran musician who still can rock toe to toe with the young ‘uns.

The Nominees:
*Robert Pollard and Boston Spaceships
*Dinosaur, Jr
*Mission of Burma
*Yo La Tengo
*Flaming Lips

For this writer, the big story of 2009 should have been the number of veteran acts releasing albums which not only equaled their landmark works, but in some cases, may have even exceeded them. The Flaming Lips, Dinosaur, Jr, Yo La Tengo, Mission of Burma, and Robert Pollard all enjoyed a late career renaissance in ’09, and even if Pollard’s ’09 solo album, Elephant Jokes, and two Boston Spaceship’s albums (The Planets Are Blasted and From Zero to 99) don’t quite live up to the terrific trio of Guided by Voices albums (Propeller, Bee Thousand, and Alien Lanes), there’s little doubt that they do represent the best of his post Guided By Voices work to date.

…And the Winner Is…Robert Pollard and Boston Spaceships

The “My Other Band Plays Arenas” Award

Awarded to the best side-project or collaborative album of 2009.

The Nominees:
*Shrinebuilder (Melvins, Sleep/Om, Neurosis, St Vitus)
*Them Crooked Vultures (Led Zeppelin, Foo Fighters/Nirvana, Queens of the Stone Age)
*Pyramids with Nadja
*Pink Mountaintops (Black Mountain)

…And the Winner Is…Shrinebuilder

The Golden Axe of Odin Award

Did Odin even own a golden axe? I don’t know, but if Odin did have a golden axe, and he was inclined to present his golden axe as an award, I am certain he would give it to the best guitarist of 2009.

The Nominees:
*J Mascis of Dinosaur, Jr
*Stephen O’Malley of Sunn O)))
*Brian King of Japandroids
*Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo
*Josh Homme of Them Crooked Vultures

…And the Winner Is…J Mascis

The Solid Gold Easy Action Award

This award goes to the record label who in an ideal world, one where the public bought music, and one where the public bought only the best music, would have had their office walls adorned with gold albums from the records they released in ’09.

The Nominees:
*Matador Records
*Audio Eagle Records
*Southern Lord
*Drag City

…And the Winner Is…For the Second Year Running, Matador Records

The Grand Michael Stanley Band Award

A legend to some, a joke to pretty much everyone else who don’t consider him a legend, The Grand Michael Stanley Band Award is named after the man and the band responsible for the Cleveland anthem, “My Town.” It acknowledges the best Northeast, Ohio musicians and artists.

The Nominees:
*Mystery of Two
*All those Black Keys side projects (Dan Auerbach, Blakroc, Drummer)
*Unsparing Sea
*Bill Fox

Cleveland’s Mystery of Two and Unsparing Sea both released very solid second albums, while Dan Auerbach and Pat Carney of The Black Keys cranked out side projects at the pace of Robert Pollard, but the best story of the Cleveland underground during 2009 had to be the unexpected return to the stage by singer/songwriter, Bill Fox.

…And the Winner Is…Bill Fox

The We Jam Econo Award

Named after the Minutemen’s slogan, this award recognizes the best live performance of the past year.

The Nominees:
*Yo La Tengo
*The Jesus Lizard
*Dinosaur, Jr
*Fucked Up

…And the Winner Is…Yo La Tengo

The LL Cool J Don’t Call It a Comeback Award

‘Cause LL Cool J’s been there before. So, have these bands, but we didn’t expect these bands to be making relevant records in 2009.

The Nominees:
*The Horrors
*Robert Pollard and Boston Spaceships
*Dinosaur, Jr
*Flaming Lips

While the late career work of Robert Pollard, Dinosaur, Jr, and The Flaming Lips provided a chance for ’90s survivors like myself to relive the days of flannel and Doc Martens, perhaps no band surprised more in 2009 than The Horrors. Who could have foreseen their transformation from buzz bin also-rans to a serious studio band with a kick-ass album in hand?

…And the Winner Is…The Horrors

The New Kids on the Rock Block Award
Hey, it could be worse. My best new artist award could be named after Milli Vanilli.

The Nominees:
*Wizzard Sleeve
*Kurt Vile

…And the Winner Is…Japandroids

The Rusty Shovel
Sometimes talking isn’t enough to get a message across. Sometimes you need something a bit more blunt, like a rusty shovel upside the head. The Rusty Shovel seeks to inject common sense into the artist who needs it most.

The Nominees:
*The Black Lips
*Animal Collective Fans

At the end of the day, I could award The Rusty Shovel to any of these three groups and feel really good about myself. First, there’s Weezer, a once well-respected band who never met a meme they didn’t like, and who themselves are becoming nothing more than a meme. Next, there’s the Black Lips. Where do I start with these dudes? I’ll start with the phony catastrophe of their India tour, which many in the press bought hook, line, and sinker. They were in such grave danger! The Indian authorities wanted to lock them away! Then they just happened to find a safe haven at the home of King Khan and just happened to have time to record a new album. Then, there was the infamous (not a) fight at the Cleveland gig, and the indie tabloid pissing match with the dude from WAVVES. This is one act that is getting old. Lastly, there’s the fans of Animal Collective, many of whom happen to write for other publications. We started the year with Charles Aaron of Spin, writing how Merriweather Post Pavilion could be a historic album, merely days after it first hit store shelves. The year ended this shot from The Fader’s Peter Macia, “As of this writing, it has been exactly 309 days since Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion officially came out, and by the time you read this, every major music publication and website—except the ones just trying to be funny—will have named it the Best Album of 2009.” Note to Mr Macia, I wasn’t trying to be funny when I picked The Flaming Lips’ Embryonic as the album of the year, but I am now, as I threaten to hit you over the head with a rusty shovel.

…And the Winner Is…Animal Collective Fans

The Excellence in Awesomeness Award
This award goes to the outstanding artist of 2009.

The Nominees:
*Yo La Tengo
*Sunn O)))
*The Flaming Lips
*Robert Pollard/Boston Spaceships

The credentials of this year’s nominees are impressive:

Yo La Tengo released their top album of the decade, Popular Songs, and followed that up with a performance in Cleveland which many consider to be the best show of the year. I’ll remember that 20-minute, ripping rendition of “I Heard You Looking” ’til the day I die. It was that good.

With Monoliths and Dimensions Sunn O))) proved they could play more than one growling note. They could make music, wondrous music, which challenged the very notion of drone.

Uncle Bob, I mean Robert Pollard, released three albums in 2009. Actually, he probably released something like seven or eight albums. What’s important here is that his three albums which mattered (Elephant Jokes, From Zero to 99, and The Planets Are Blasted) were three exceptional albums.

The Flaming Lips rebounded from the so-so At War With the Mystics with the wildly engaging Embryonic, re-establishing themselves as the emperors of odd rock.

…And the Winner Is…Yo La Tengo