2004 Dallas Observer Music Awards

You voted. We counted. It's your favorite local acts, amplified.

Polyphonic Spree
Avant-Garde/Experimental; Musician of the Year and Songwriter (Tim DeLaughter)

For three years it's been there, but suddenly it is everywhere: in the movies and on their soundtracks, on TV shows and on part of the ads between them. "Light & Day," done for a demo that became an indie release that became a Hollywood Records album, first saw the light of day pitching iPods and was then faintly heard on Jim Carrey's car radio in Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, on whose soundtrack the song is perched between E.L.O.'s radiant "Mr. Blue Sky" and Beck's bummer, "Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime." Gondry, famous for turning the White Stripes into Legos and putting Björk in the paws of a gorilla dentist, has even directed his own video for the song using scenes from his movie. Imposing someone else's moving lips onto images from his film, à la Conan O'Brien and his political goofs, the director creates a movie montage in which Carrey and Kate Winslet, and the occasional house and window pane and elephant, sing along to a song that once came out of cult leader Tim DeLaughter's mouth. The effect is at once creepy and kind of touching.

On April 20, at around 8:56 p.m., you can hear the song once more on network TV, when DeLaughter and his bright-white-robed Polyphonic Spree serenade the cast of NBC's Scrubs on a Very Special Episode--very special, because for the first time a show that uses pop music to tie together its myriad story lines has actually built one of those story lines around a band. In the show, set in a hospital populated by cute and wry surgeons prone to daydreams and one-night flings, a member of the band (an actor, really) is hospitalized and unable to go on tour with the Spree. One doctor, played by fetching newcomer Bellamy Young, wants to let him out; another, John C. McGinley's cranky Dr. Cox, demands he stay put. But Cox finally relents and brings the band to the hospital, where its two dozen members in white robes file into a room to play "Light & Day," which wafts through the corridors and through the episode's other plot lines.

Taz Bentley; Burden Brothers; Vaden Todd Lewis
Mark Graham
Taz Bentley; Burden Brothers; Vaden Todd Lewis
Slow Roosevelt
Mark Graham
Slow Roosevelt

"We're not like Beverly Hills, 90210," says Scrubs' supervising producer, Neil Goldman. "We don't have the Peach Pit, where we can just go, 'Ladies and gentlemen, the Flaming Lips.' In this case, the first inclination was just to use the song. As we usually do during pre-production, we all bring in our CDs, and everybody plays songs for everybody, and everybody gets ridiculed for the music. It gets pretty brutal, to the point where that's the most nerve-racking part of the process. It used to be having the nerve to pitch a joke or a story line, but now it's having the balls to get up there and put your song in the CD player and not just get completely creamed by the 11 other music geeks. But 'Light & Day' was one that everybody universally started bopping their heads to...and we loved the image of all these guys and gals pouring into a relatively small hospital room, sort of like a never-ending clown car. We just fell in love with that image and that joke and built a story line around it."

Yet even as the song spreads further 'cross the land, playing on a TV show that reaches some 9 million pairs of eyes and ears this week, the Spree prepares for the release of its second album, and first real one: Together We're Heavy, due for release July 13. The disc, with its 11 "sections" coalescing into 58 minutes' worth of feel-good and aw-right and golly-gee and glory-hallelujah, expands and expounds upon its predecessor till The Beginning Stages begins to sound genuinely unkempt. The new album, produced by Eric Drew Feldman (Tripping Daisy, natch), is anthemic and enlivening, a genuine up-and-down-and-side-to-side ride, as opposed to a collection of up-with-peeps choruses in search of verses. With its classical asides and narrative diversions and catchy chimes, it resembles less a compendium of pet sounds and soft-rock bulletins you can sing along with the first time you hear them and more like something stirring and singular and worthy of the swimming pools of critical ink in which the band has frolicked ever since David Bowie and the rock press adopted DeLaughter. In other words, baby, it's heavy. And light. But not day. --Robert Wilonsky

Burden Brothers
Best Song (“Beautiful Night”); Rock/Pop;
Male Vocalist (Vaden Todd Lewis);
Best Drummer (Taz Bentley)

As soon as I heard it, I knew it was a hit. Could feel it all the way from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. It was one of those things that's undeniably perfect, like a cold beer on a hot summer day or the form on Dirk Nowitzki's jump shot. One of those things where, the moment you're in its presence, you just sit back and enjoy.

I had plenty of time to do that because the Burden Brothers were in the middle of mixing the song in question, "Beautiful Night," on a not-so-beautiful evening in Deep Ellum at Last Beat Studio. With Paul Williams at the controls, Brothers Vaden Todd Lewis and Taz Bentley listened as the song played back over and over and over, so many times that, at the end of an hour, I was pretty sure I could play just about every note and I was positive I knew the lyrics even better than Lewis. And I was still sure it was a hit, because after that hour of combing through the minutiae of the track chord by drum fill by tortured scream, I still loved it. Only wanted to hear more of it.

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