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Like Taylor Swift, willowy singer-songwriter Leah Lou writes and sings about what dicks guys can be. But instead of wallowing in grief, Lou chooses to move on, singing about her clean apartment and recalling all the shitty things her ex did (like puking on her shoes). The music she makes with her band the 2 Left Shoes is spare and folksy, with her cheery voice guiding the way.
Staff Pick: Kira Leyden
Kirby's a busy guy. When he isn't doing the singer-songwriter thing with his rootsy original songs or leading his band the Lost Fortunes, he plays Stonesy-style alt-country with the Jack Fords, Gram Parsons covers with the New Soft Shoe, and Christmas songs with the Ohio City Singers. All that playing out has made him one of Cleveland's most versatile and prolific musicians.
Staff Pick: Neil Zaza
Best Cover Band
Tricky Dick and the Cover-Ups
When you're out drinking with your friends and checking out that hot boy/girl across the club, you don't want the cover band onstage throwing too many surprises at you. These four guys stick with the hits you want to hear, playing everything from Neil Diamond's drunken sing-along "Sweet Caroline" to LMFAO's horndog anthem "Sexy and I Know It." And they do it all with chops and winks.
Staff Pick: Motorhead USA
Cleveland alt-rockers Via the Sun's massive anthem packs a solid rock crunch that's all about the head nod and fist pump. The quintet's debut album, Theatrics, is filled with songs that reach for the cheap seats. "Cliff Diver" is the highlight, a scorching mid-tempo rocker that buzzes around furiously inside your head.
Staff Pick: "Wild Boy" (Machine Gun Kelly)
City of Curses
On their debut album, the Missing channel a couple decades' worth of music that Clevelanders like best: clobbering punk, face-slapping hardcore, blustery metal, and straight-up rock & roll. Most of the songs on City of Curses fire from the start, recklessly spraying piercing guitars, rolling drums, and throat-shredding vocals. It's all so positively Cleveland.
Staff Pick: Attack on Memory (Cloud Nothings)
Now That's Class
No surprise that a club that prides itself on fast, loud, and noise-strewn music would have a jukebox loaded with old-school punk songs by the Dead Kennedys, Flipper, and MDK. What is surprising is how great all those songs sound when you're sitting at the bar sipping a cool one and talking to the person sitting next to you about how much mainstream music blows.
11213 Detroit Ave., 216-221-8576, nowthatsclass.net
Staff Pick: Prosperity Social Club
Best Record Label
This Cleveland-based label, studio, and production company headed by the Missing's Christopher Marinin was formed six years ago. Since then, it's released a handful of records by alternative trio Cantankerous Dingos, noisy punks the Snotrockets, and Marinin's own various projects. Last year's Ghost Laboratories Records Arcade Volume 3 compilation featured more than two dozen songs by some of Cleveland's most abrasive bands.
Staff Pick: Heads Up International