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Best of Music 2006 

You like music. We like music. And everybody loves local music. you can see just how much in our annual readers’ poll that sums up the Best of the past year in local (and national) records, artists and other high notes. Voted by readers.

Best Canadian Male MusicianBest Local Male Musician Best Local Album La De DaJoel Plaskett

Joel Plaskett indirectly made a long-term investment to receive at least some Best of Music votes when he wrote “Love This Town,” a song about his love for his hometown Halifax.

“It used to be the question, ‘Do you know Sloan?’” Plaskett says from PEI where he’s doing pre-production for Two Hours Traffic’s new record. “But the scene has changed since those days and now it’s the place that people know, not the sound. And that’s good.”

Highlights for the troubadour in 2005 include the release of the lower-key La De Da, a tour with Kathleen Edwards in the US, a bassist change with the departure of Ian McGettigan and arrival of Museum Piece Chris Pennell, and a year-ending show that everyone is still talking about.

“Two thousand five was a great year, but pretty intense,” Plaskett says. “I was getting a bit burnt out. But then New Year’s”—at the Marquee, which featured a Thrush Hermit reunion—“was an amazing show. Then I had a little time off and now I feel a bit energized.”

Next up for Plaskett are a few west coast dates, another tour with Edwards, appearances at the ECMAs and Canadian Music Week, then a tour of Australia. Catch him in the whirlwind with the new Emergency line-up at the Pavilion on February 17.

“I still feel like I’m in a city big enough to do what I do but it’s like Cheers, everyone knows your name,” he says. “I’m flattered to live here and I try not to take advantage of it.”

Runners-up: (Canadian) Neil Young, Matt Mays; (Local Album) Wintersleep, Wintersleep, Dog Day, Thank You; (Local Male) Jon Epworth, Matt Mays

Best Canadian BandThe Tragically Hip

The fab five reportedly lost a ton of royalty money when radio stations pulled their oft-played hit “New Orleans is Sinking” from the airwaves in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. But, after 22 years, not even a natural disaster could stop Coast readers from selecting the pride of Kingston, Ontario, as “Yer Favourites.”

Runners-up: Arcade Fire, Nickelback

Best Canadian Female MusicianFeist

If there were any doubts as to her status on the Canadian music scene, they were officially destroyed after her recent weekend stint in Halifax. The two-time Juno winner put on the best shows of early 2006 with an amazing voice and breathtaking versions of material from Let It Die. “I guess because I was doing it for eight or nine or 10 years before I put this record out, I know that it’s so much about fluke and timing, right time and right place,” Feist told The Coast a few weeks ago. “I would never assume or want anything other than what I’ve been insanely fortunate enough to get.”

Runners-up: Sarah Harmer, Sarah McLachlan

Best Canadian AlbumNickelback, All The Right Reasons

It may not have won over critics but it certainly was one of the biggest albums of the year. Whatever the reasons for a Nickelback win—the marketing machine? Chad Kroeger’s hair?—it’s hard to deny the impact of the Alberta-bred, Vancouver-based band. A simultaneous number one album in Canada and the US meant Nickelback was everywhere in 2005 and a solid fan base converted into enough votes to win best Canadian album. Take that, Joel Plaskett!

Runners-up: Joel Plaskett, La De Da; Matt Mays and El Torpedo, Matt Mays and el Torpedo

Best Local Female MusicianJill Barber

While 2005 wasn’t an incredibly busy year for Jill Barber, the Port Credit, Ontario, native assures us that we’ll be hearing much more from her in 2006. “I’m just really pleasantly taken aback,” she says of her third consecutive win in this category. “It’s nice to know that even if I’m not out there, pounding the pavement and playing lots of shows in my adopted hometown, that people haven’t forgotten me and are being patient with me while I write and record my new record.”

Runners-up: Jenn Grant, Rebekah Higgs

Best New Local ArtistJon McKiel

Amherst singer-songwriter Jon McKiel moved to Halifax five years ago and has been playing around town for a while, but it wasn’t until recently that he started getting serious about music. “I felt like it was time to get my shit together and get the songs out there,” he says of his music, which has drawn comparisons to Brian Borcherdt and early Wintersleep. With a backing band comprised of fellow imports Cory LeBlanc and Josh Kogon, McKiel and company will have their debut album out in a matter of weeks. Stay tuned....

Runners-up: Be Bad, The Stance

Best Local DJSkratch Bastid

He now lives in Montreal, but Skratch Bastid AKA Paul Murphy still considers himself a Haligonian, travelling back to his hometown to play shows every month. He also stayed visible in 2005, releasing his first full-length of originals, Taking Care of Business, and placing second at the Canadian DMC DJ competition. It’s the mutual appreciation between party-going SuperCitizens and the talented turntable trickster that won him this award for the third year in a row. “The people just have this energy about them that pushes me hard,” Murphy says. “I guess it hits home and I know what level they’re on, you know? It’s my kind of energy.”

Runners-up: Kid Savini, DJ IV

Best Local MCJesse Dangerously

Although it’s been a great year for Halifax hip-hop regular Jesse Dangerously, he recently stumbled upon some bad luck, losing his job in property law. Hopefully his first win as best rapper in Hal-town will cheer him up. “I was fired yesterday, so I would say that rap is my living,” he says. “It’s quite the rollercoaster. This is definitely the yin to that yang.” Outside of this misfortune, Dangerously AKA Jesse McDonald has a lot to be happy about, releasing his third full-length, Inter Alia, in 2005, which earned him a MIANS award for best urban album. He has no plans to hold up in 2006, touring in the spring as well as playing the upcoming Canada Music Week festival. “There’s no financial concern that keeps me doing it,” Dangerously says about his sole occupation. “It’s strictly for the fact that it’s a great community. Sometimes it’s intensely gratifying to connect with people on an artistic level.”

Runners-up: Classified, Buck 65

Best Local Karaoke HostJackie Smith

According to Coast readers, the number one name in Halifax karaoke is Jackie Smith, and for good reason. A 30-year veteran of the music business, he’s by far the busiest karaoke host in town, with weekly events at Cheers (Mondays), The Parkside Pub (Wednesdays), The Colby Beverage Room (Thursdays, Fridays) and other special events. “I used to do seven shows a week in my younger days,” he says. “I thought it would last maybe six months, and here we are going on 16 years.”

Runners-up: Mimi Andriopoulos, Laurie the Guy

Best Local Cover BandShameless

Pardon the pun, but members from Shameless aren’t ashamed to share their band motto, “The more you drink, the better we get.” Or perhaps it’s the sheer hard work that makes the energetic cover band the best of its kind for the third year in a row. The group knows upwards of 100 songs and plays more than 200 times a year throughout Atlantic Canada and Ontario. “A good cover band plays the songs well and has a good time doing it,” says lead singer Shawn Birt. “There are times when it starts to feel like a job, but then you think, ‘Hey, it’s better than delivering pizzas.’”

Runners-up: Signal Hill, The Mellotones

Best Local Single of 2005Best Canadian Single of 2005Matt Mays and El Torpedo, “Cocaine Cowgirl”

More than any other east coast act, Matt Mays and El Torpedo gained the most exposure in 2005. One of CBC hockey host Ron MacLean’s favourite groups, the Torpedo single “Cocaine Cowgirl” hit number three on the most-played rock radio tracks of the year in Canada. The mysterious desert-themed clip found its way into heavy rotation on MuchMusic.

The band toured the US, Canada and Europe, and next month will head to PEI where they are up for five East Coast Music Awards. Expect the group to be present when the Junos are held in Halifax in late March. Still, international acclaim and awards nominations are all secondary to the hours the band put in to get to the podium.

“I don’t want to dismiss it because there’s a lot of great stuff that goes along with” awards and exposure, Mays told The Coast last spring. “Working this hard, it’s great to get recognition in the public eye, for sure, because we basically left our lives behind for three years to get things going. It’s finally starting to show.”

Next up is a solo gig for Mays with Symphony Nova Scotia on February 17 and a March appearance in Austin, Texas, at South by Southwest, the biggest music industry festival in the world.

Based on the laid-back demeanor of the group, it’s no surprise that the origin of the song that catpulted the shaggy-haired quintet into the living rooms and cars of a nation came from a more subdued place than the title implies.

“When you write a song, you can’t think—it just comes out,” Mays said. “You don’t think about them and hem and haw. As long as you can keep that happening, then that’s the main thing. It hasn’t been hindered yet, thank God.”

Runners-up: (Local) Wintersleep, “Danse Macabre”; Joel Plaskett, “Love This Town” (Canadian) Nickelback, “Photograph”; Arcade Fire, “Rebellion (Lies)”

Best Local Independent Record LabelDependent Music

For the third year in a row, you’ve named Dependent—the home of Jill Barber, Brian Borcherdt, Contrived, heavy meadows, Wintersleep and a slew of other local faves—as the Best Local Independent Record Label. “I think we just have a solid group of artists that release great records,” says Wintersleep’s Jud Haynes, who also handles some of the Dependent collective’s day-to-day operations. “The records we put out, we really believe in. There have only been 26 releases in 12 years—we’re taking our time.”

Runners-up: Divorce, Just Friends

Best Local Live Show of 2005Pearl Jam September 22 at the Halifax Metro Centre

It’s been a decade since Pearl Jam was in its prime, but that didn’t stop Halifax showgoers from buying all the tickets in a matter of hours. “It proved to me that they’re still a really great band,” says Mike D’Eon, who attended the show even though he doesn’t follow the band as much as he used to. “They were full-intensity—Vedder was climbing around everywhere and screaming a lot more than you’ll see on their DVDs. It was almost like the way they were way back in the Seattle days.”

Runners-up: (tie) Special Noise/Japanther/Gilbert Switzer at Halifax Pop Explosion / Buck 65 at The Marquee Club

Best Local Live VenueThe Marquee Club

The Marquee Club may not have a cabaret license anymore, but it’s found a niche in the Halifax music scene as the venue for special events. Some of the best shows of 2005 played out at The Marquee, including Broken Social Scene with Stars last winter; the K’Naan performance at the Halifax Pop Explosion; Matt Mays and El Torpedo; and perhaps one of the best shows of 2005, the Joel Plaskett Emergency/Thrush Hermit reunion on New Year’s Eve. Upcoming shows include Wintersleep and Sam Roberts. “Above it all, there’s a magic to The Marquee that I can’t even describe,” manager Ash MacLeod says. “There’s just something about the club. Some say it’s the decor, some say it’s the ambience. I think it’s everything.”

Runners-up: Stage Nine, The Attic

Best Local Music FestivalHalifax Pop Explosion

Mix a little K’Naan with some Ted Leo, add some Japanther plus a dash of Kate & Anna McGarrigle and what do you get? According to you, the Best Local Music Festival! “We plan on doing more work to expand the festival to include other genres,” says Halifax Pop Explosion Talent Director Ben Pearlman. “Halifax has a ton of vibrant scenes and I think that HPX should do as much as possible to include those interests while still delivering the indie-rock goods.”

Runners-up: Atlantic Jazz Festival, Evolve

Best Local Recording StudioUltramagnetic Studios

Charles Austin, co-owner of Ultramagnetic Studios AKA the Mullet, knows why his business wins time and again in this poll—he stays hella busy. The producer worked on almost 40 projects last year, recording material for a list of Halifax acts that reads like a guide to local musicians to watch, including Buck 65, Two Hours Traffic, The Maynards and Special Noise. “There are other studios in town that I go to do stuff that I can’t do in the Mullet, as size and odour are a serious consideration,” Austin says. “But I feel like if you work pretty hard people tend to acknowledge that. It’s affordable, we tend to have a lot of fun, and I think I know when to make a suggestion and when to stay the hell out of it.”

Runners-up: Sonic Temple, Denmark Productions

Best Local Radio StationCKDU

Diversity is a key ingredient for CKDU with news and spoken word programming, and music shows covering styles like Latin, Arabic, electronic, indie rock and more. The most visible public radio station in Halifax besides the CBC, CKDU garnered votes from dedicated listeners, some of whom are members of the station. Those who live outside the downtown core will appreciate moves made in 2005, which will establish the station as a high-powered broadcaster. The changes bring better reception throughout the HRM on the new frequency, 88.1, in the upcoming weeks. “The groundwork for most of this was laid in 2005,” broadcast technician Stephen Kelly says. “We had talked about it for a while, but this year it was like, let’s just go ahead and do it.”

Runners-up: Q104, C100

Best 2005 tour you wish came to HalifaxU2 Vertigo tour

While Halifax played host to some pretty sweet shows this year, we still missed out on some of the biggies. Despite continued rumours of an outdoor show on the tarmac at CFB Shearwater, U2 decided to avoid our part of the country. But that’s OK, they’re bound to make their way here eventually. It only took the Stones 42 years to make it to the Maritimes.

Runners-up: Rolling Stones, Nine Inch Nails/Queens of the Stone Age/Death From Above 1979

Best Local Band Most Likely to Move to TorontoBest Canadian Video of 2005Best Local Video of 2005 “Danse Macabre”Best local album artwork WintersleepWintersleep

Wintersleep ruled the Best of Music poll this year, nabbing five categories that highlight not only their music, but also their album artwork (created by James Mejia) and super slick video for “Danse Macabre” (directed by Sean Wainsteim of Ghostmilk Studios, who also made “Sore”), which just happened to contain a couple of visual similarities (when the band members weren’t running around a hospital with dancing skeletons).

“The album artwork was created long before the video,” says bassist Jud Haynes. “James actually created a couple of custom pieces to use in the video, though—the brain, tree and even a custom street scene that isn’t the same one used on the CD.”

As for the video itself, drummer Loel Campbell says that he enjoyed the experience more the second time around.

“‘Danse Macabre’ feels a lot more natural,” he says. “We had a lot more input and acted out the main parts ourselves. It was much more fun to shoot, for sure, however, it was a 16-hour day in a hospital that was shut down...except for the psych ward. That really made things...interesting.”

While the band spent the bulk of 2005 on the road and has filmed three of their videos to date in Ontario, don’t expect them to relocate to Toronto anytime soon.

“We’re on the road enough as it is,” says Campbell. “We don’t really need all that time in the big cities. We can be in Toronto in a few days, and we’re up there every few months. It’s not an issue right now.”

“It’s way more convenient being close to home,” adds Haynes. “That way, we finish a tour and everybody goes home and sees their folks. If we were living in one of those bigger centres, we wouldn’t get to do that.”

Runners-up: (Band) Shameless, Matt Mays & El Torpedo;(Album Artwork) Joel Plaskett, La De Da, Matt Mays & El Torpedo, Matt Mays and El Torpedo; (Local Video) Matt Mays and El Torpedo, “Cocaine Cowgirl,” The Hold, “War on the Streets”; (Canadian Video) Nickelback, “Photograph,” Arcade Fire, “Rebellion (Lies)”; (Toronto) Matt mays, mir


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