Best Songwriter - 1999
Could be Alex Diaz lives in a parallel universe. His surreal songs certainly come from one. An alternate possibility is that he writes from the other side of the looking glass, which might explain why he sometimes bills himself as Xela Zaid. As he sings and strums (sometimes playing solo using bass as his instrument, other times plucking acoustic guitar, occasionally backed by a drummer or a full rhythm section), one variously hears echoes of Lloyd Cole, Paul Westerberg, Kurt Cobain, even Led Zeppelin in his guitarcentric tunes, which are full of unexpected rhymes and melodies lashed together with rich chording. Take "Honeycomb," which appears on his band Ho Chi Minh's 1997 album Motorama. It begins with a bright and bouncy guitar arpeggio: "Indeed, indelibly keyed, ode to my sweet honeycomb/Oh is that light in your head?" The paean then dissolves into a stormy, minor-key refrain: "Roam, the night as night shines/Hard upon as the river will storm/Creeds and deeds will make ends meet." Huh? Well, like so many semilucid dreams, songs too can have their own nonlinear logic. Diaz matches his mystical lyricism with prolificacy: his repertoire ranges from driving, head-bobbing rock to melancholic, cockeyed love songs, like "Poison Ivy," one of his latest creations (unreleased at press time): "I'll always remember the month of June/When all the kids are out of school/You know that summertime is near/It plays like a song you hope to hear/Then as my heart beats into your arms, I know who you are/You're poison ivy, how I want you still." Diaz creates absorbing, drug-trip songs best described as otherworldly.