By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Jaffe's such a talent, she needs two managers (of course, the soft-spoken artist would never put it that way) in the form of Kris Youmans and Amanda Newman, both of whom have been around the musical block in their years.
Jaffe credits her escalating success in part to these two, more mentors than show-biz handlers. "It's been awesome," Jaffe says, "especially in the last year and a half; with Amanda and Kris as my managers, I started meeting really cool people. I'm really grateful."
Maybe the Dallas music community should be grateful, as Jaffe's intense songs have brought a touch of Jolie Holland and Joanna Newsom to a testosterone-y, plugged-in scene. As Newman said of a sound guy who once insisted on drowning Jaffe's vocals in reverb, "Uh, Sarah Jaffe doesn't need atmosphere."
It's true—she brings her own damn atmosphere, and that's why she swept every category in which she was nominated, this quiet young lady in glasses and T-shirts and corduroys. As she continues to hone her craft, we have no doubt: Sarah Jaffe is going to be famous. Not, like, Beyoncé famous, but more like Cat Power famous. Which is exactly how it should be. —Jonanna WidnerBlack Tie Dynasty
There's no other way to say it: Black Tie Dynasty kicked loads of ass this year. They also kicked the ass of these awards, topping the DOMA charts with more wins than anyone else. Between their fans' slavish devotion to BTD's new wave, '80s-throwback sound and the inevitable backlash—the haters dubbed them a Killers rip-off that wrote only radio-friendly songs—they had enough buzz that even the local-music ignorant were aware of who they are.
It probably didn't hurt that all their MySpace friends were bombarded with a blitzkrieg of campaign bulletins asking for votes. (Thanks, guys. Now I can finally see what other people are posting.) That, along with radio play on the Edge and shows all around the metroplex, garnered them the Best Act in Town as voted by fans and readers. "This year has been amazing. We toured a lot, and that's helped us and given us lots of momentum," vocalist Cory Watson says. Said momentum landed them a spot on the Edge Christmas show at Nokia, allowed them to tour the West Coast and will soon take them to Vegas, Kansas City and back to California. "We want to be out on the road all the time," he stresses. "Touring is a big priority for us this year. We just got back from our West Coast tour and started booking the next one. There was a lot of good feedback out there, so we're going to keep hitting it and gaining some industry buzz."
All that touring helped promote their first full-length release (for Idol Records in 2006), Movements, which boasted two local hits ("Tender" and "I Like U") that played well in KDGE-102.1 FM The Edge rotation and placed in the top 10 on local singles charts. "We didn't expect to get any radio support, so anything we got was shocking and exciting," Watson says. "We don't classify ourselves as a radio band. Radio is not the goal for us. We just want to write good music." All around, Movements is an upbeat gem of '80s-infused indie rock with a danceable abandon that distinguishes the band from all the other alternative jock rockers who bask in the expired shadow of Seattle grunge. And thank goodness. A break from the emo seemed to be the reprieve fans were looking for. And probably much to BTD's chagrin, Movements could very well have a few more—ahem—radio-ready singles. We're not really sure how the title came about, but we here at the Observer must admit that we snicker each time we mention it. Movements. Tee-hee.
Dallas found two of BTD's members outstanding in individual categories. As the driving rhythmic force behind the group, drummer Eddie Thomas is a powerhouse foundation who tricks the listener into following his heavy beat, only to disrupt it with an extra fill effective to the song and Watson's vocals. Get comfortable with him on "Once Around," follow him on "Lakes" and try keeping up with him on "Antarctica" (a song I keep thinking is about mating penguins but I may be wrong). He moonlights as the drummer for local pseudo-supergroup The Crash That Took Me, where his muscular drumming is evident (not to mention rockin') to great extent on "Star-Shaped Octagons."
Against Thomas' backdrop, along with bassist Blake McWhorter and keyboardist Brian McCorquodale, Watson was voted Best Male Vocalist. He eerily re-creates the almost monotone yet cogent vocal range of Depeche Mode, Echo and the Bunnymen, and Psychedelic Furs, never straying too high or low but never needing to either. "I never really wanted to be a singer. It was only till recently that I really gained a confidence in singing," he admits. Really? Because those long vocal runs on the CD and the oozing sex appeal he shows off while singing live could have fooled me, not to mention the haunting understated vox-work on "Devotion." "There's a passion that I exude when I'm singing. Passion is really the main statement that comes from my vocal styling. I know that every word I sing I'm believing it and not just singing to fill a chorus. The emotion comes first and everything kind of follows. That's what adds to making the song really powerful," he admits, lending to his star quality as the Freddie Mercury/Prince of the Dallas scene.