Running the Numbers

In the end, all you're left with is the numbers. Sifting through and counting up the nomination ballots for this year's Houston Press Music Awards, the raw material for the ballot you see below and may begin voting on in July, the bottom line is that somewhere around 3,400 people bothered to fill one out — many of them partially — at all. Out of a city of 5 million.

Doing the math, that's less than .01 percent of the population. Significantly less. If this were a scientific survey or Harris Poll, that infinitesimal number wouldn't even constitute a representative sample. Not even close, really.

Cue the familiar moaning and hand-wringing those of us in the local music scene know all too well, right? Nobody loves us (not even our neighbors), how can any local artists get to the next level if their own town won't support them, no wonder Dallas and Austin get all the good touring shows, etc., etc. You could look at it like that if you wanted to; those numbers are pretty small.

But not so fast. In a world increasingly measured in "hits," page views, market share and texted-in reality-show votes, numbers still aren't everything. Look at it this way: Those 3,400-something people are still enough to fill up every live-music venue in Houston except for the very biggest. More importantly, they're more than enough to fill up the rooms where this year's nominees most often ply their trade — the Continental, Mink, Walter's, Notsuoh, Rudyard's, Warehouse Live's studio, Mango's, Fitzgerald's and so forth — several times over.

And that's what really counts. The people who took the time to fill out a ballot are not only the musicians themselves, they're the ones going to shows, buying albums and merchandise, playing and requesting them on the radio and podcasts, blogging about them — in short, the ones who keep the scene alive. These nominations, and the awards that follow, are for them. Tourists welcome, but hardly necessary.

In compiling the nominees, Noise tried to honor the voters' wishes wherever possible. An executive decision was occasionally necessary, particularly when the nominations were obviously padded — in other words, when such-and-such band or artist was the only one appearing on that ballot. And no matter how hard we try, some people Just Don't Get It, so for a laugh he threw in one completely clueless response per category.

Noise has annotated a few of the following categories to help explain his reasoning, but for the most part they speak for themselves. Congratulations to all the nominees (and eventual winners), and regrets to those who didn't quite make it. It really is nothing personal.

It gives me great pleasure, then, to unveil this year's Houston Press Music Award nominees, the cream of the scene. Don't let the numbers fool you: It's a good one.

Best Local CD/LP

Nominees: B L A C K I E, Wilderness of North America; Bun B, UGK for Life; Hayes Carll, Trouble In Mind; Little Joe Washington, Texas Fire Line; Born Liars, Ragged Island; Young Mammals, Carrots

Notes: This category was the most fun to choose and most difficult to narrow down, and the one that makes me happiest I'm ineligible to vote. Hayes Carll's alt-country blockbuster and Bun B's heartfelt Pimp C valediction versus the venerable Little Joe, late-night garage creepers the Born Liars, B L A C K I E's fuzz-clouded thinkbomb and Young Mammals' lovable psych-pop? A toss-up if there ever was one.

Get a Clue: "Carrie Underwood," "Meet the Beatles," "Rush Live in Rio"

Best Local EP/7-inch

Nominees: Homopolice, "Assfucker"; McKenzies, McKenzies; News on the March, Glory Be!; Ozeal & the Eulypians, Joyful Struggle; Benjamin Wesley, Geschichte; Wild Moccasins, Microscopic Metronomes

Notes: The Homopolice's leather-clad S&M ravings crash a party where Benjamin Wesley speaks shadowy truths, the Eulypians' jazzy hip-hop has everybody dancing and the three-headed "H-pop" hydra grins from ear to ear. Another tough one.

Get a Clue: "my boyfriend"

Best Local Song

Nominees: American Fangs, "Le Kick"; Hayes Carll, "Bad Liver and a Broken Heart"; Mechanical Boy, "She Does"; Miss Leslie & Her Juke-Jointers, "Between the Whiskey and the Wine"; Nosaprise feat. Kam, "Intervention"; The Last Place You Look, "Don't Make It So Easy"; Benjamin Wesley, "Have You Ever Died?"

Notes: Could have easily had twice this many nominees. An iPod shuffler's dream.

Get a Clue: "In Da Club"

Best New Act

Nominees: BOLT; Cavernous; Hollywood FLOSS; Muhamid Ali; Neon Collars; Pasadena Napalm Division

Notes: Maybe the category that best shows how fertile, regenerative and degenerate the present Houston scene really is. Good luck.

Get a Clue: "Blaggards"

Songwriter

Nominees: B L A C K I E, Hayes Carll, Nick Gaitan, Miss Leslie, Nosaprise, Benjamin Wesley

Get a Clue: "Producer"

Local Musician of the Year

Nominees: Beau Beasley; B L A C K I E; Hayes Carll; Kam; Kristine Mills; Little Joe Washington

Notes: A cross-section of Houston's best musicians — and busiest. Beasley and Kam are both in too many bands to count, Carll spent the entire year on tour, Mills released two albums and Little Joe, who only bounced back from near liver failure, should be here every year.

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