By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Nominated for Best Act in Town, Best Album (We Hope You Win), Best Song ("That Girl"), Best New Act, Best Indie Rock, Best Male Singer (Levi Smith), Musician of the Year (Levi Smith, Daniel Hopkins)
When Radiant is on—which is often—the audience finds itself swathed in a blurry swirl of Brit-pop guitar, plaintive vocals and keyboard drones that rotate like a sonic tornado. Think a fleshed-out, less cloying Coldplay, minus the weird rubber bands, minus the whiny vocals, plus a dreamy mélange of pop. Listening to Radiant is like riding on a cloud.
Nominated for Best Experimental/Electronica (Wanz Dover)
The Frenz cannot be stopped. The Frenz cannot be contained. The Frenz...well, you'll just have to see for yourself. Think an iMac that's mated with an Atari. Think an extension of the current electronica phase that's taking over the universe. Think Kraftwerk played by a robot with a soul. Just think.
Nominated for Musician of the Year
Leading a hungry pack of talented, tough-as-nails musicians is a difficult task. Corralling all that kick-ass energy as the band swaggers through a set of Led Zep songs or stomps around like AC/DC is a thankless, challenging job. Especially when said musicians are, like, 10 years old. Uber-talent Marc Solomon is not just a musical man about town—he also heads up Zound Sounds, a Dallas rock 'n' roll school that puts Jack Black to shame. Expect the Cavern to shake with the mighty thunder of kids smaller than their instruments! In all seriousness, don't miss it—they're amazing.
Enormous Magic Verb
Nominated for Best Experimental/Electronica
To extend music. To think beyond the norm. To fuse smart, weird lyrics with smart, weird music. To fear nothing—not piano, nor peppering songs with saxophone. To keep heads nodding in time to fleshed-out pop. To find your inner Badly Drawn Boy. To master your songs, with their running piano lines, bursts of brass, and thick, full bass lines. To channel the good parts of Ben Folds.
Johnny Lloyd Rollins
Nominated for Best Album(Let's Be Poor Together), Best Male Singer, Best Indie Rock
Oh, it's so difficult to hear Johnny Lloyd Rollins without the ghost of Elvis whispering in one ear and John Lennon in the other. Which is OK—what better specters to be haunted by? Thing is, Rollins listens to his ghosts' advice, but only so far; the rest is all him. Rollins' output struts through genres with a seamless stride, cutting a path of rockabilly, country, pop and the nooks and crannies in between. His talent is borne of the mysterious inner drive of a record hound, all clever chord changes and turns of phrase.
Nominated for Best New Act, Best Instrumentalist (Eric Neal, Chris Holt), Musician of the Year (Chris Holt)
Could any project created by Chris Holt go wrong? Voted Musician of the Year for the past two years, Holt has resurrected his on-again, off-again group—this incarnation featuring Eric Neal, Tom Bridwell, Steven Luthye and David DeShazo—looks both back and forward, with bits of '80s rock (Joe Jackson, even!), happily punk guitars and reggae teases. Vintage keys provide the flourish, and a snappy rhythm sets the bedrock.
Nominated for Musician of the Year, Best Male Singer, Best Producer
Is there something this cat can't do? His deft, natural touch at the board can turn the most mundane of tracks into a masterpiece, which should make him a star in and of itself. But Nourallah—whose Web site calls him "the anti-Justin Timberlake"—also separates himself from the pack with a prodigious output of stunningly well-constructed songs. Mellow but not boring, in the spirit and tradition of the world's best songwriters, his tunes have just the right touch of reverb, understated vocal production and subtle lyrics. This is a man who knows his Lennon, but doesn't rely on him.
Inner City All Stars
Nominated for Best Jazz
You. Will. Not. Stop. Dancing. The best part about living in the '00s is the different genres of music that smash like atoms, creating a brilliant flash of energy. Such is the genesis of the Inner City All Stars, who slam together old-school funk, New Orleans jazz, rap from back in the day and blaxploitation wah-wah rock into one big booty-shakin' jam. If your ass ain't movin' by the end of their set, you better see a preacher, cuz you got no soul.
Nominated for Best Act in Town, Musician of the Year (Danny Balis, Chris Holt), Best Album (Strange and Sad but True), Best Song ("85 Feet"), Best Instrumentalist (Danny Balis, Chris Holt)
Building on a somewhat traditional base of acoustic guitar and melodies that ride the line between finely honed and charmingly ragged, Sorta plays like a California rock all-star group: low-key but not monotonous, equal parts alt-country and AOR rock. This is a popular crew with a penchant for writing hook-filled music for grownups. "85 Feet and Falling," perhaps their best-known song, is a true gem.