A few years ago, the Boston Music Awards woke to the truth that Aerosmith needs no local recognition. Steven Tyler (and Aimee Mann, Donnie Wahlberg and Amanda Palmer) didn’t need another BMA statuette celebrating music known from Cambridge to Cleveland to Cologne. The awards refocused on the underdogs, and it was a wonderful move.
But even in the crowd of contenders for the 2017 BMAs, which go down at the House of Blues on Thursday, past winners can outshine young acts. Part of me wants Ruby Rose Fox, Will Dailey and the Ballroom Thieves to win everything every year. But there needs to be room for new stars. Here are five to look out for:
Julie Rhodes (nominated for artist, unsigned artist, live artist, Americana artist, video and female vocalist of the year)
Rhodes barely made this list. Not because she’s not good enough, because she’s too good. Last year, the roots music champion who ably jumps from blues to soul to jamrock won new artist of the year. The singer’s growth is reflected in six new nominations.
Where to start: “In Your Garden,” a tune with the garage grunt of Big Brother and the Holding Company and the tunefulness of the Tedeschi Trucks Band.
STL GLD (nominated for artist, album, song, video, live and hip-hop artist of the year)
Long ignored, the Massachusetts hip-hop scene has been on a tear (see Cousin Stizz, Latrell James, Michael Christmas and Joyner Lucas). But that boom has yet to help STL GLD go national. That needs to end. MC Moe Pope and producer the Arcitype’s “Torch Song” is an LP for today: In the first 10 minutes alone, they take on the legacy of slavery, police brutality and gun violence.
Where to start: Song of the year nominee “Good” attacks the idea of wearing trauma like a badge of honor instead of looking at how destructive it is.
Carissa Johnson (nominated for new artist, unsigned artist and rock artist of the year)
This is Johnson’s year. In the spring, Johnson beat out two dozen bands to become the 2017 Rock ’n’ Roll Rumble champion. She did it the same way she scored three BMA nods, with no-frills rock. You could call Johnson a mix of power pop, punk and indie rock with nods to new wave and hardcore, but why get fancy? Johnson doesn’t. She pens smart, tight, powerful rock tunes. That’s a wonderful thing.
Where to start: “Fuel Heart” opens with Johnson’s hypnotic bass and magnetic voice and only gets better from there.
Weakened Friends (nominated for artist, unsigned artist, song, live and alternative/indie artist of the year)
From Dinosaur Jr. to Speedy Ortiz, Massachusetts natives do noise rock better than anyone. Keeping our cacophonous legacy fresh, Weakened Friends have shown their skills and volume over two killer EPs.
Where to start: “Hate Mail” exemplifies the trio’s talent for mixing sweet melodies with crushing feedback.
The Rationales (nominated for song and Americana artist of the year)
Americana? The band does have a pedal steel player now. However the band is categorized, the Rationales deserve some love. Easily the best set of music the Rationales have released, the LP “Upstream” features songwriter David Mirabella crafting power pop choruses, arena rock hooks and downtempo bridges. If you like Americana (or rock or indie pop), you’ll find so many joys on the band’s 2017 album.
Where to start: The epic “Climb the Ladder” unfolds over nearly seven minutes, going from piano ballad to mighty guitar workout.
The Boston Music Awards, featuring performances from Bad Rabbits, Weakened Friends, STL GLD, Carissa Johnson and more, at the House of Blues, Thursday. Tickets: $30-$40; bostonmusic awards.com....Read more