Best Songwriter - 2013
It took the threat of doing hard time to get Eric Pollard to prioritize writing songs, and it turns out he's damn great at it. In an impassioned couple of months leading up to a court date (he got busted for selling pot), Pollard banged out 70 compositions — which is about as many as Leonard Cohen writes in a decade. Six of these make up 2012's Lightning & the Wolf, an EP produced by his pal (and Retribution Gospel Choir bandmate) Alan Sparhawk. You can choose any track, really, but "Hydrant Eyes" is supremely poetic. Midway through he sings, "Your pretty painted face/Overhang dripping on your hydrant eyes/You're killing me with sway/Relay rapping on a Maggie May." He then packages these couplets and others like them into arrangements that recall Neil Young's sonic grit and Elton John's soaring glitz. Don't be surprised if experiencing Actual Wolf gets your own eyes a little misty.