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2008 Music Awards Nominees 

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Alt-Country/Folk/Singer-Songwriter
Brought to you by Gordon Biersch

Sean Hayes
As far as folk music Helens go, Sean Hayes' Elizabeth is relatively inconspicuous, but no less affecting. In "Elizabeth Sways," from 2007's Flowering Spade, lust-tinged aches go global: "When Elizabeth sways her hips, the whole world goes mmmmmmm." With Hayes, primal, everyday passion is transformed into something epic. His characters don't take deep breaths when life boxes them in — they aim high and consult the Icarus cookbook (one example: "She found a recipe for flying/And he's growing flowers to understand dying," from Flowering Spade's title track). But this songwriter also delivers a sense of levity in frisky guitar and banjo melodies, bits of baritone and bass clarinet, and wheezy accordion lines.

Emily Jane White
Emily Jane White's smoldering voice and whispering-in-your-ear candor invite close inspection, even if her wording warns you to keep her at arm's length. Song titles from her 2007 debut album, Dark Undercoat, include "The Demon," "Two Shots to the Head," and "Dagger." The latter track depicts a poor soul as fragile as the song's guitar melodies: "Oh, when you stumble/Every time you walk/Oh, when you stutter/Every time you talk." White's exploration of our hardscrabble existence — all done, fittingly, over blues and country tropes — forces listeners to indulge in self-analysis. "Everybody's got a little hole in the middle," she intones — yes, indeed, but music this beautiful closes those gaps just a bit.

Two Sheds
The cover of Two Sheds' self-titled EP is pretty telling. It features an anonymous 1970s desert scene with a young couple on the side of the road, looking nonchalant but trendy and presumably in no rush to get anywhere fast. On the five-song disc, Caitlin Gutenberger sings lazily in the foreground, foregoing enunciation for style, backed by slow-strummed guitars and heaps of Fender Rhodes keyboard flourishes. Put on your favorite vintage cowboy shirt, grab a PBR and a pair of headphones, and get ready for therapy: Two Sheds is sensitivity training at its finest.

Goh Nakamura
Goh Nakamura is a Berklee Music grad who has played in goth bands and can shred like a motherfucker, but he's best known these days for crafting wistful acoustic pop, as far from rockstar riffery as possible. On his 2003 debut Daylight Savings (rereleased this year) as well as new album Ulysses, the honey-voiced singer chases the ghosts of Elliott Smith, Elvis Costello, and Matthew Sweet, offering lyrics of longing alongside chiming guitars and delicate arrangements. It's no wonder his song "Weight of the World" was included in the rom-com Feast of Love — Nakamura's tunes have just the right amount of romance and melancholia.

Club Night
Brought to you by Vessel

Lights Down Low
When it comes to electro-age debauchery, the name of the game is Lights Down Low. For the past two years, resident DJs Sleazemore and Rchrd Oh?! have brought a decadent twice-monthly mix of dance-rock, disco, electro, blog-house, booty funk, mashups, and party jams to fashionable twentysomethings in the sweaty basement of the 222 Club (which recently closed). They've hosted performances by internationally known guests like Juiceboxxx, Krames, and Guns N Bombs. Earlier this summer, Lights Down Low became a global franchise, launching at Amsterdam's Club 8 to much acclaim.

The Saturday Night Soul Party
Every first and third Saturday of the month, the Elbo Room plays host to the Saturday Night Soul Party, when resident DJs Lucky, Paul-Paul, and Phengren Oswald pack the dancefloor to capacity. In this digital age, it's refreshing to still see those old 45s — a mix of vintage rarities and classic hits — spin on the turntables to such enthusiasm. This year, the party grooved to a new sartorial splendor as the Soul Party's dress code of swanky and soulful attire was not only encouraged, but also rewarded with half-price admission.

Tormenta Tropical
While living in Buenos Aires last year, Bay Area DJs Disco Shawn and Oro11 fell in love with electro-cumbia, a new club sound that mixed traditional accordions and guitars with house and techno beats. Upon returning to San Francisco, the duo started a new night, Tormenta Tropical, that showcases the Argentine music alongside electro, hip-hop, and postpunk. Over the past year, the club night has moved from 222 Hyde to Rickshaw Stop to its current home at the Elbo Room, offering wild DJ sets and live performances from such like-minded acts as Miami's South Rakkas Crew, Vancouver's Paul Devros, and Lisbon's Buraka Som Sistema.

[Kontrol]
Detroit and Berlin may be the world epicenters of techno, but monthly party [Kontrol] is the premier spot for quality minimal techno in San Francisco. Whether it's based at the Endup, Mezzanine, or Rx Gallery, the club night regularly attracts clued-in crowds. Launched in 2005, [Kontrol] has consistently brought top names in the genre to San Francisco, often for the first time; this year's coups include Dutch producer Speedy J and Germany's Triple R.

2008 Music Awards Program Guide
Casting Votes
The Host, Performers, DJ and Special Attraction

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