San Diego Music Awards is a numbers game

By Peter Holslin

Our preferences and predictions for the annual show

The San Diego Music Awards are kind of like San Diego's own Grammys. It's inevitable that people will disagree with who gets nominated and who wins, but all the gripes and guffaws are part of the fun.

Using a complex set of calculations related to buzz, hype and musical skill, I came up with predictions for five major categories. I also offered my thoughts on who should win. (Last year, I went three for five.)

Best Hip-Hop

Nominees: Blame One, Black Mikey, El Gun Legro, Odessa Kane, Orko Eloheim, Parker & The Numberman, TheBRE- AX, Vokab Kompany

Who should win: The hip-hop community has long criticized the San Diego Music Awards for overlooking veteran San Diego rappers. But this year, the "Academy" of local movers-and-shakers that picks nominees (disclosure: I'm a member) did a fine job. Of course, Orko Eloheim deserves the prize: Fierce and influential, he's been going strong for more than 20 years, and his duo Left Handed Scientists put out perhaps the best local rap album so far this year, Kill Your Present Future.

Who will win: Since non-album and non-song categories are decided by public vote, the winner invariably has the most friends, fans and automated voter bots. That means the trophy will once again go to Vokab Kompany, who have a crossover sound and a sizable fan base.

Best Jazz

Nominees: Erika Davies, Gilbert Castellanos, Ian Tordella, Mattson 2, Rob Thorsen, Steph Johnson, Peter Sprague, The Trunks

Who should win: Joshua White! Oh, wait, he's not on this list. That's funny. You'd think a jazz pianist as talented as White, who's had a 12-month run as successful as White's— he won second place in the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition last September, getting props from Herbie Hancock and The New York Times, and regularly plays with San Diego's best players—would've been a shoo-in for this list. Nope. Maybe next year, dude.

Who will win: Gilbert Castellanos commands much respect in the local scene, but young bucks are not to be underestimated. I'm going to say surf-jazz duo Mattson 2 has this one.

Best New Artist

Nominees: Bunny Gang, Hills Like Elephants, Mrs. Magician, The Black Sands, Tropical Popsicle, The Lonesome Georges, Wild Wild Wets, Ko Ko

Who should win: As much as I love Tropical Popsicle's cheeky psychedelics and The Black Sands' rustic vibes, this award must go to up-and-coming surf punks Mrs. Magician. They're not exactly "new"—they formed in 2010—but they've had an amazing year, touring with Cults, recording an excellent album with John "Swami" Reis, Strange Heaven, and getting a song placed on the trailer for IFC Films' Why Stop Now. Oh, yeah, and their songs are catchy as hell.

Who will win: The Black Sands have tons of friends / connections, and Mrs. Magician has the backing of the great and powerful "Swami," but something tells me Hills Like Elephants have enough buzz—and have hyped their nominations enough—to achieve victory.

Album of the Year

Nominees: Gregory Page, Shine, Shine, Shine; Cattle Decapitation, Monolith of Inhumanity; blink-182, Neighborhoods; Crocodiles, Endless Flowers; Delta Spirit, Delta Spirit; Jason Mraz, Love is a Four Letter Word; Steve Poltz, Noineen Noiny Noin; Rob Crow, He Thinks He's People

Who should win: The utterly hip Endless Flowers has me pining for passionate riffs, the profoundly serious Neighborhoods leaves me nostalgic for juvenile dick jokes and the excessively sappy Love is a Four Letter Word makes me want to punch Jason Mraz in the face. But Shine, Shine, Shine—now that's something special. With the help of the Brad Steinwehe Jazz Orchestra, Gregory Page's vintage big-band songs ooze with enough swooning, love-struck charm to send a single tear trickling down my cheek.

Who will win: Sorry, Cattle Decapitation, I don't think the Academy judges are quite ready for your stomachchurning death-metal, awesome though it may be. Blink- 182 will get this prize, I'm sure of it. A comeback album that mature can't possibly lose.

Artist of the Year

Nominees: Crocodiles, Gilbert Castellanos, Little Hurricane, Sara Watkins, Slightly Stoopid, Switchfoot, The Silent Comedy, Unwritten Law

Who should win: Little Hurricane and The Silent Comedy both work their asses off, get tons of buzz and have great fashion sense. At South by Southwest, Little Hurricane opened for The Shins and got a write-up from Rolling Stone; meanwhile, The Silent Comedy played at least a dozen shows, six on one day alone. I'd be happy if either of them won. But if I had to choose—well, I'd go for The Silent Comedy. With their relentless touring schedule and mind-blowing live show, it's high time they get the recognition they deserve.

Who will win: Alas, when it comes down to voter turnout, neither The Silent Comedy nor Little Hurricane stands a chance against Switchfoot, who won last year. With legions of disciples behind them (see: 1.8 million Facebook likes), they're sure to bag another trophy.

The San Diego Music Awards take place on Monday, Aug. 13, at Humphreys Concerts by the Bay.

Email or follow him on Twitter at @peterholslin.