Love for the Local Music of 2007

It's a family affair.

As the "remember to vote" e-mails and requests for submitting Top 10 lists pile up in my inbox, I start to resent our collective cultural need to send out boastful report cards every year. I like to take stock of the year's offerings as much as anyone, but formalizing things with hierarchical lists and point systems is just the sort of nerdy nonsense that makes music-journalism haters deploy the term "dancing about architecture." However, like the urge to punch the titular star of I Love New York in the neck, or contemplating wearing blue sequins just because Feist can pull them off, it's an irresistible impulse. I figure the least I can do is make up arbitrary, localized categories that you probably aren't going to see anywhere else. Most Welcome Reissue Botch, American Nervoso (Hydra Head Records) Leave it to the hardened, heavy hearts behind Los Angeles–based label Hydra Head (home to former locals Big Business) to resurrect the debut album from one of our most sorely missed Northwest bands. Remixed, remastered, and repackaged with five bonus tracks, American Nervoso is a hardcore masterpiece richly deserving of a second life. Hardest-Hitting Drummer Kris Cunningham, I'm a Gun The guitar-and-drums two-piece featuring Cops guitarist Brandon Bay and Olympia-based drummer/producer Kris Cunningham may not be widely appreciated yet, but it will be soon by anyone who likes their punk rock steely-edged and concise. Cunningham is a startling blur of arms and legs whose style is a perfect meld of the melodic and brutal. Your next opportunity to catch them live will be at the Cha Cha on Jan. 13; they'll be heading out on a West Coast tour with Six Organs of Admittance soon after. Most Promising Local Label/Best Debut Release Pleasureboaters, ¡Gross! (Don't Stop Believin' Records) Label founder Megan Birdsall began releasing her friends' records two and a half years ago, when she put out the Pharmacy's first full-length release, but she really made a splash when she unveiled this year's well-received debut from local punks the Pleasureboaters. ¡Gross! was an engaging, aggressive hybrid of caustic, wall-of-noise experimentalism and smart, finely drawn song craft—and the record I had no trouble sticking in the No. 1 slot of my KEXP Top 10 list this year. Biggest Local Trend I'd Like to See Evolve The Increasing Profile of Women in Hip-Hop There's no arguing that the 206 hip-hop scene is a thriving, forward-thinking part of our sonic landscape now. But while impressive acts like the Blue Scholars, Common Market, Grieves, and Grayskul are breaking out, women still seem to be operating on the margins. Natural leader and MC/activist/historian Julie C is doing a great job of pulling the women up, and Ladies First offers an impressive women-only showcase, but I want to see broader recognition and success for female artists that's on par with the kudos earned by this year's breakout stars. Best Budding Local Music Activist/Biggest Potential Loss to Portland Amy Dials Whether she's at the Warped Tour signing up the 18–21 set to vote, urging community members to attend City Council hearings, or raising funds for local musicians facing health care emergencies, Ms. Dials is both effective and entertaining in her philanthropic endeavors. Along with her inexplicable fondness for adding the phrase "Woot, woot!" to the end of her rally-cry e-mails and texts, Dials just has a knack for finding creative solutions to sad situations. When former Fastbacks/Visqueen bassist Kim Warnick was hospitalized, Dials helped lead the charge with a "Drink for Kim" fund-raiser that included a Warnick look-alike contest and lucrative auction items from Pearl Jam. "Amy Dials gives me hope for the future," says fellow activist Kerri Harrop. "She is bright, kind, and bighearted. She understands." Now let's all just hope she doesn't make good on her current threats to move to Portland.

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