Last year was another stellar one for independent music in Shanghai. Bands, producers and DJs continued to release quality albums, many with innovative packaging approaches, and collaborate on shows and other such events. No small amount of new bands and other creative forces emerged, while longstanding veterans continued to forge ahead with stellar albums and memorable performances. Shanghai received a brand-new music festival, several Shanghai-based bands journeyed to other countries, and a host of noteworthy touring acts came here to perform. All in all, not a bad year.
The Fever Machine’s Dan Shapiro took it upon himself last year to poll a wide range of writers, producers, artists, promoters, venue proprietors, as well as many of the musicians themselves, to get their thoughts on the year’s highlights. See the results here. This year, it’s me handling the polling, and here’s how it worked. Judges were asked to select their top picks as well as up to two runners-up for each category. Winning picks received two points, while runners-up merited one. I’ve tabulated the results, but before we get there, let’s take a moment to meet our judges.
“It was quite a 2011 for them. They got picked up by Maybe Mars, recorded and released a good album, found out they were playing SXSW, got some run internationally (Noisey), and they're considered geniuses at home. So you can't really argue this one, I'd say.” – Zack Smith
“Had to be this. I've written about Duck Fight Goose before, and Sports pretty much exemplifies everything I've ever said or thought about them. It's more lush than... Probably any album I've heard from anywhere all year. It's absolutely packed with musical ideas, as everyone expects of DFG, but the ambitious and weird lyrical ideas that makes Sports feel more substantial than their previous EP.” – Tim Dodds
“It's the epitome of the BCR formula, and it's been stuck in my head more than any other new song this year.” – JC Heinbockel
BCR - The Knitting Song
Runner-up: Rainbow Danger Club – “Enduring Love”
Honorable mentions: Battle Cattle – “Bank”; The Instigation – “No Way Out”; Conrank – “Wo Yao (Remix)”; Friend or Foe – “Snortin’ Clorox”; Death to Giants – “Anyone Can Learn How to Count In Chinese”; Stegosaurus? – “Stinky Tofu”; Rainbow Danger Club – “Enduring Love” and “Babies Grow On Trees”; Pairs – “Cloud Nine” and “No Regrets”; Duck Fight Goose – “This Is the Circus”, “Glass Walls” and “History”; Sonnet – “了了上海伐老乱哪能立得牢脚”; The Song Dynasty – “Ambition”; Tim Wu – “扭一扭PP”; Moon Tyrant – “Cities”; X Is Y – “2 of Us” and "Never Sever"; The Fever Machine – “Dance With Deviance”; Next Year’s Love – “She Wanna Hurt”; AM444 – “Eye Wonder” and "去海边 (Qu Hai Bian)"; The Horde: “Beijing Sucks”
My pick: Boys Climbing Ropes – “The Knitting Song”
Best New Band
Winner: Death to Giants
“No questions. Two super-skilled musicians making super-awesome noise. More Disney covers, guys.” – Bren Geringer
“He's a master craftsman and an inspiration to the DIYers that make Shanghai special. He's my teacher and takes care of those he works with. He's a blogger and supporter of the scene. On top of it all, he's probably the most versatile guitarist in the city. Adam is a DIY superhero, technical wizard and innovator. I'm scared to think what kind of tasty things he could do when given a proper studio.” – Dennis Ming Nichols
Runner-up: Rainbow Danger Club CD release @ Live Bar
Honorable mentions: Die!Die!Die!, Yantiao, and Pairs @ Yuyintang; Midi Festival; Azari & III @ Shelter; Pairs CD release @ Yuyintang; Black Rebel Motorcycle Club @ Mao Livehouse; Top Floor Circus’s 10-year anniversary @ Mao Livehouse; Bob Dylan @ Shanghai Grand Stage; Trash-A-Go-Go presents The Morlocks @ Yuyintang; ROM CD release; DJ Shadow @ The Mixing Room; Black Rabbit Festival; Halloween @ Yuyintang; The Illumin8tors present Solar/Lunar @ Mao Livehouse; Cave Singers @ Yuyintang; Ken Stringfellow @ Yuyintang; World’s End Girlfriend @ Mao Livehouse; Duck Fight Goose CD release @ Yuyintang; Jeffrey Lewis & Xiao He @ Yuyintang; Frosty Eve, Fearless and Screaming Savior @ Yuyintang; Picnic @ Yuyintang; The Whitest Boy Alive @ Dream Factory
(Note: As DJ B.O received many nominations on his own in addition to his membership in Trash-A-Go-Go, I've combined their scores)
Winners: Split Works
“Black Rabbit Fest, Chad Valley, Hanggai, They are just always setting the bar higher in regards to bringing in talent to the city.” – Jordan Small
Runner-up: Trash-A-Go-Go/DJ B.O
Honorable mentions: Double Down Productions, The M, Heatwolves, Playful Warrior, The Fever Machine and Friends, S.T.D., Otakrew, Abe Deyo/LegalGrey Promotions, Subculture, Xiao Zhong
My pick: Split Works
Best Album Packaging/Cover Art
Winner: Friend or Foe – My Claw Is Never Limp!
“These guys have put a lot of thought into their image and narrative, and everything about MCINL! reflects their over-the-top raucous music.” – JC Heinbockel
Runner-up: ROM – ROM
Honorable Mentions: Androsace – Demo, Battle Cattle – Kenny Is Not Dead, Pairs – Summer Sweat, Rainbow Danger Club – Where Maps End, The Fever Machine – Living In Oblivion, Duck Fight Goose – Sports, Pause – Pause, JUE compilation, AM444 – Eye Wonder
My pick: ROM – ROM
That does it for this year’s awards! Congratulations to all the winners! I’d like to thank all the judges for participating and sharing their thoughts, and an even bigger thanks to all the winners, runners-up, and nominees for giving us all such wonderful things to do, hear, and look at in 2011.