By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
It's that transforming and transfixing talent that allows Pendleton to tackle David Bowie's "Win" and turn it into the sort of swoon that sounds like it was made especially for her. As less-enchanting female vocalists (see Tori Amos) caterwaul themselves to commercial and critical successes, it's easy to understand why Vibrolux's devoted fans hope the band keeps reaching for more. So while Pendleton's third best female vocalist award may seem a meager honor, we know it's the least she deserves. --Bret McCabe
Winner for: Producer
So what does a producer actually do? Well, he presses the record button, turns knobs, slides switches, checks microphones and combines individual tracks to piece together the songs and tracks. That's the technical version. We hear the work of producers every day on radio programs, albums, TV shows, movies and commercials. So what makes Matt Pence a better producer than the other four men nominated? Chances are, unless you have first-hand experience in a recording studio, the answer probably is "his name's on good stuff" or "he makes bands sound good." And that's true; it is and he does. Three of the best album nominees were recorded by Pence (The Deathray Davies' The Return of the Drunk Ventriloquist and All the Falsest Hearts Can Try and South San Gabriel Songs/Music by Centro-matic, the band whose drum kit he sits behind). But there's more to producing than just twiddling with expensive audio equipment. There's magic. No, really, we're sure of it.
Just spin any Centro-matic disc and hear the many different things a producer can do. There's "the band's live in my living room" sound. And there's the "Help! Will Johnson's trapped at the bottom of a well" sound. (We're sure Pence has more technical terms for these qualities.) Either way, a producer is probably doing best when you don't notice him. Then no one's thinking, "What the hell happened to [insert band name here]? They sounded so much better live." And Pence, who also won this award last year, realizes that, making each band sound like the best possible version of itself.
Don't expect him to stop now. Pence and fellow nominees Quality Park Records' Matt Barnhart and Dave Willingham (who co-owns Two Ohm Hop and now lives in Austin) are partners in The Echo Lab, an industrial-looking studio down a rocky dirt road in Argyle. They're currently renovating the studio, adding a new control room, live room, isolation booth and lounge. And once they finish the construction in May or June, they'll have even less free time than before. Don't be surprised if all three find themselves nominated again next year. --Shannon Sutlief
Winner for: Rock/Pop
There are bands you want to listen to, bands you want to hang out with, bands you want to make part of, well, the soundtrack of your life. And then there are bands you just want to be in. You see them onstage, plugged in and jacked up, and you wonder what it must be like to have that much fun, to wear that stupid-goofy-giddy grin, to hit that note on the keyboards, to jump that high with a guitar strapped around a gangly frame, to make that sound that lingers into the rest of the night and maybe even the next morning or the next week. There's not a drop of cynicism or irony spilled on the stage, no sound made between quotation marks. But who has time for smirks when everyone in front of you--the audience, your fanatical fans who love you so much they're willing to jump up and down and bob their heads like broken spring-loaded dolls and look so effin' silly in the process--sports only satisfied smiles? I want to be in Chomsky, just because I want to know how it feels to have that much fun making music with the new new-wave. (Full disclosure: I also want to be in Britney Spears, just because I want to know how it feels.)
I'd never felt that way till hearing the band at South by Southwest last month, as they popped and rocked on a Sixth Street stage so tiny it barely held five grains of sand, much less five full-grown men and their instruments. How guitarist-singer Glen Reynolds found room to pogo and windmill twixt frontin' frontman Sean Halleck and keyb dweeb Don Cento is a subject currently under investigation by physicists and mathematicians. Rare is the SXSW shindig full of audience members digging the tunes--usually, it's three out-of-town rock critics, two label lackeys trying to run up the expense account and a bunch of other jive bastards talking louder than the band's playing--but the kids were out in force that night, singing along to songs they'd never even heard before. (A good chunk of the set consisted of selections from the band's forthcoming Onward Quirky Soldiers, to be released at an unspecified time by an as-yet-unspecified label; it's yours for the asking, if you've got enough money in the bank to cover expenses for travel, and just think of the coin you'll pocket when some label comes sniffing around trying to lure Chomsky to the Promised Land of Signanddrop.) Chomsky (which also includes bassist James Driscoll and drummer Matt Kellum) were the men of the hour that night--Rock Stars in the making, Rock Stars for the taking if only some A&R dude could have opened his ears and pocketbook. It was that kind of night, one of those times when you realize how lucky you are to live in a town where this kind of thing is available on a weekly basis; I'd see Chomsky every night. If they came to my house.