With the year (and decade) over and done with, it's about time we look back at the best that San Diego's music scene had to offer and dole out our 2019 SoundDiego Music Awards. Our highly scientific voting process (we ask our staff members and contributors) usually ends up with more than a few out-of-left-field nominees and a couple curveball winners. Unlike some other award shows, we mostly keep our categories whittled down to the bare essentials and since this is all online, we can skip the long-winded thank-you speeches completely. Ladies and gentlemen, without further adieu, the winners of the 2019 SoundDiego Music Awards are…
Most Surprising Moment of the Year: Without a doubt, this award goes to former Blink-182 co-frontman Tom DeLonge and his To the Stars Academy of Arts & Sciences for signing an agreement with the U.S. military in October to research "possible" alien technology. Raise your hand if you saw that coming! Call us crazy but we're kinda onboard with all this UFO stuff at this point — the truth is out there. [Read about it here]
Breakout Artist: Beach Goons and Author & Punisher (tie). OK, maybe a tie is a bit of a cop-out but it's undeniable that both of these artists have spent the last year doing bigger and bigger things and the momentum they're both carrying into 2020 is at a fever pitch: Beach Goons toured with SWMRS and the Regrettes, premiered their new video on Alternative Press, and are set to perform at Coachella 2020 in April; and Author & Punisher signed to Relapse Records and released an eardrum-assaulting new album "Beastland" at the end of 2018, which resulted in a ton of worldwide touring last year — and ultimately paid huge dividends considering he was tapped to open Tool's early 2020 tour dates (their recent Viejas Arena shows were simply astounding).
Best Live Act: The Frights. Normally, high-flying garage-rockers the Schizophonics would be an automatic shoe-in for this category (more on them later) — but we bet even they'd concede that someone else deserves some shine now and then. Enter this year's challenger. The Frights put on some of the most flat-out fun shows around and last year, they hit a Coachella stage, among others, with all they had (we were there — just look up at this article's main photo — and it was one of the high points of the entire event). [Read our interview with the band's frontman, Mikey Carnevale, here]
Concert of the Year: Lizzo at Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre. As usual, San Diego was graced by the presence of some true greats in 2019 (Paul McCartney, Elton John, Mana) and new greats (Travis Scott, Tyler the Creator, Billie Eilish, Angel Olsen). But after all the dust settled, there was no denying that the October 24 show by the Associated Press 2019 Entertainer of the Year was "good as hell" — and is absolutely 100% that pick.
Song of the Year: "Battle Line" by the Schizophonics. It's always hard to choose this category since there are so many great songs released every year, but for our money, "Battle Line" takes this one home since it's been on constant rotation in our offices ever since the band's sophomore garage-rock album, "People in the Sky," dropped via Pig Baby Records on Halloween.
Video of the Year: "Over/Under" by Wild Wild Wets [watch it here]. If there's one thing musicians should've learned over the last couple years, it's that music ain't movin' the needle without some high-quality visual accompaniment. Sharing just an audio track is basically pointless; everything needs a video. On that note, San Diego's premier psych-rock band — just don't tell them that — has been putting out a steady stream of great videos, of which our favorite is this Lynchian desert freak-out (oh and be sure to see 'em at our next free SoundDiego LIVE party at the Casbah on Jan. 23; RSVP here).
Album of the Year: Another tough one. Last year gave us some incredible albums by some amazing artists but perhaps none more so than "Black Beans" by National City hip-hop artist Choosey. In our April review, Dustin Lothspeich wrote: "The album is a nostalgic, sepia-toned masterpiece wired around the rapper's masterful wordplay and the warm, oldies-worshipping production courtesy of beat-maestro Exile (a legendary talent) ... That sound — where a treasure trove of dusty soul and R&B samples are chopped up and reworked with expertise — brings new songs to life from long-gone spirits." Read the rest of it here, and listen to the album of the year now.
Artist of the Year: Everyone has their own reasoning for who deserves this award every year but after looking at all the different factors, Choosey definitely earned this honor based on the sheer brilliance of "Black Beans," its influence and impression made on listeners (it ended up on more than a few other best-of-2019 lists) and his musical trajectory — which is set to skyrocket even more in 2020 and beyond.