As 2015 winds down, our brains start wandering, our fingers get fidgety, and our eyes dash here and there -- mainly because we know it’s time to start reflecting on an entire year’s worth of awesome San Diego music for possible inclusion in our annual SoundDiego Music Awards. We’ve developed our own highly technical process of choosing the best of the best when it comes to handing out our (theoretical) awards: We send out the list of categories to our photographers, bloggers and contributors and tally up their nominations. The nominee(s) with the most votes wins. Simple as that. So, without further adieu, feast your eyes and ears upon the 2015 SoundDiego Music Awards.
Best Live Act
Although there are a ton of great live acts in San Diego, there are few that get our blood pumping like the three garage-rock fiends of Shady Francos. Frontman Joshua Kmak is positively manic in concert, and it's a wonder he can play anything at all while bouncing up and down like a human pogo stick. Always good times. [Check out their latest EP.]
Best New Artist
If you were at our June SoundDiego LIVE party at Gallagher's Pub, you understand why the Verigolds are our Best New Artist for 2015. Becoming a hot commodity in the local scene seemingly overnight, this Ocean Beach-based group sheds any and all pretense for supremely positive vibes, psychedelic wonder and indie-pop melodies over subtle electronic undertones. Don those shades, folks: crazy bright future ahead for this band. [Watch their new video.]
Concert of the Year (three-way tie)
Morrissey at the Observatory North Park
When the Smiths' iconic frontman announced a two-night stand in August at the Observatory, we were positively giddy. According to SoundDiego photographer Fatima Kelley, who shot the first night's show for us: "It was just pure magic to see one of the people whose writing has influenced most of my growth into adulthood. I feel as though he has, in a way, written the soundtrack to my life, and watching him perform allowed me to relive some of the most beautiful -- and in a few instances, most painful -- memories I hold dear." [See the SoundDiego photo gallery from the show.]
Savages at the Casbah
The hype surrounding the Stateside return of this UK post-punk quartet (who had never before played San Diego) reached feverish heights before their Aug. 23 show -- and they didn't disappoint. Our 91x compadre Tim Pyles positively gushed: "The singer reminds me of Siouxsie from Siouxsie & the Banshees, and the wall of sound coming from that stage that night made my bowels shake. So good, epic and powerful!"
Mana at Valley View Casino Center
The Guadalajara-based rock superstars sold out Valley View Casino Center with ease on June 10, and our own Dita Quinones was there: "That night, Maná performed like griots straight outta da pueblos. Their music activated everyone's hearts and hopes. Maná played the most captivating video imagery on their giant backdrop monitors, which took the live concert experience to another level. It undoubtedly left me uplifted." [See our SoundDiego photo gallery from the show.]
Unforgettable Moment of 2015
Prayers’ acceptance speech at the San Diego Music Awards
Who could forget Prayers frontman, Rafael Reyes, and his acceptance speech for the Best Alternative award at the Humphreys by the Bay ceremony? First of all, Reyes' stunning plus-one wore an extremely see-through outfit (that we haven't seen the likes of since Rihanna hit the 2014 CFDAs), and secondly, he brazenly called out the entire shindig when Prayers lost in a category earlier in the evening: "You...are in...the presence...of legends! I don't want to pull a Kanye on you, but I must say that I'm very disappointed that we did not win Best Music Video. We got over 300,000 views -- and the winner got 75? I know that San Diego's conservative, and you like to play it safe, but don't give me that s--- if you want to continue to see P-R-A-Y-E-R-S in this motherf---er! And f--- Donald Trump!" Pretty unforgettable if you ask us. [Head to their Facebook page to watch the video.]
Breakout Artist in 2016
After blowing minds at each and every show over the last three years, the Frights are finally getting called up to the big leagues in 2016. After signing to Dangerbird Records (current home of Minus the Bear, UME, the Dears, Butch Walker and Holly Miranda), and with upcoming headlining record release shows at SOMA and L.A.'s Echoplex, this surf-punk trio is in primo position to just take the whole damn thing over. [Order/stream their upcoming album.]
Album of the Year (two-way tie)
Birdy Bardot, self-titled
We raved about Birdy Bardot's "California soul"-icious debut album back when we included it in July's SoundDiego Record Club, and sure enough, Dustin Lothspeich's words still ring true: "Go ahead and put this on...during a lazy, sun-blanketed Sunday morning -- and lose yourself in the hazy notes, technicolor hues and resounding goodness." [Listen to/buy it.]
Luke Henshaw and Gabe Serbian, "Variations in the Key of the Afterlife"
When Luke Henshaw and Gabe Serbian (drummer for the Locust and Cattle Decaptiation, among others) dropped this instrumental album earlier this year, our own J. Smith summed it up best with his August review: "If Brian Eno was making music for airports, then Henshaw and Serbian are making songs for soundtracks. Full of rhythmic head-nodders, cinematic and big, with titles like 'Orbital Sequence' and 'The Chase Scene,' 'Variations' seems ready-made for a film. And just like any good movie follows a story arch -- conflict, climax, conclusion -- 'Variations' follows a similar model, with the sleepy haze of 'Drifting Back Home' closing out the album. It's quiet, calm and chill; the perfect backdrop as credits roll." [Listen to/buy it.]
Song of the Year
Matthew Logan Vasquez, “Everything I Do Is Out”
Who woulda thunk that Vasquez could shed the safe (and immensely popular) harbor of his main indie-rock-lovin' squeeze, Delta Spirit -- and emerge with a tune (and a solo EP) so feverishly great that it shook us to the core of our Velvet Underground/Stooges-loving core? Sometimes you just need to hear a leather jacket-clad, fuzz guitar-led, swagger-for-days jam, amirite? And hey, it's not hard to get behind a song with lyrics like, "rock & roll will never die." Live long and prosper -- and blast this. [Listen to it.]
Artist of the Year
We told you last year that Prayers were going to break out in 2015, and they did in a huge way. You've surely seen the documentary Vice did on the cholo-goth duo, the countless interviews and the music video for their latest single, "Young Gods," which featured a full-on, real-life street brawl. Since last year's SoundDiego Awards, they've teamed up with Travis Barker for their latest EP; performed at Viva Pomona, Beach Goth and Riot Fest shows all over the country; headlined the Roxy, Hollywood Paladium, the Irenic and the El Rey in January; and have become the de facto San Diego group to watch -- if for no other reason than to see what the hell they do next.