Best Musician: Gung-ho, God-fearing, sonic multitasking
John Ringhofer of Half-Handed Cloud
The liner notes for Half-Handed Cloud's Halos and Lassos, the latest blast of childlike, delicately Christian-overtoned twee-pop from the shape-shifting Berkeley group, credits frontman John Ringhofer for the following: "vocals, piano, soprano + bass melodions, prayers, guitar, trombone, bass guitar, marimba, bell-kit, hand-claps." Odds are this demurely omits a half-dozen additional instruments. Ringhofer is the world's most delightful multitasker, and in concert, he yelps his cheerleadery tales of Biblical intrigue while playing maybe six different things per song, shifting gleefully and/or awkwardly from guitar to toy piano to trombone to a variety of noisemaking toys in a chaotic-looking (yet carefully orchestrated) display of jack-of-all-trades virtuosity. On CD, he's merely catchy as hell, beguiling even the most agnostic of critics with tunes like "Feed Your Sheep a Burning Lamp" and "You've Been Faithful to Us Clouds." With symphonic wunderkind Sufjan Stevens garnering national praise in hipster circles, it's only a matter of time before Ringhofer's far less laborious, far more elated brand of godlike, God-fearing pop excellence makes him bigger than Jesus.