Sigh...when is the music world gonna retire the term "indie"? Its meaning has been through so many incarnations, who the hell knows what it signifies?

For the sake of argument, let's set down a general definition. If indie means independent in spirit; if indie means celebrating the legends of the past who cared not a whit about smashing drum kits or slurring sexily into a mic or wearing tight pants; if indie means rocking roller-coaster Britpop melodies, drifting up and down over guitars that sound like the Beatles through the Smiths through the Stone Roses through the streets of Deep Ellum, then the Valentines are certainly the Best Indie band in the 'plex. With their revved-up garage dance pop and bangs-in-the-face aesthetic, this is a crew that brings a touch of Manchester, Soho (both London and New York) and the Lower East Side to our fair part of the world. Had they been born in another place at another time, there's no doubt Factory Records' Tony Wilson and 4AD's Ivo Watts Russell would have had a fistfight over their collective soul. And no matter who won, the Valentines would have told them to piss off. —J.W.

Fair to Midland
Best Metal

Hailing from Sulphur Springs, Fair to Midland have taken their share of ridicule over everything from their name to their rabid, quickly expanding fan base. Although the members can be legitimately chastised for the former, the "haven't paid their dues" critique doesn't carry much weight in these days of the digital download, where MySpace has created an audience for bands yet to form.

Working in the oddly profitable progressive metal genre, Fair to Midland are currently in Europe, touring in support of the recently released and ponderously titled Fables From a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times Is True. Cultivating an international following, singer Darroh Sudderth, guitarist Cliff Campbell and the rest of this instrumentally nimble-fingered quintet just keep getting better, heavier and more popular. "Dance of the Manatee," the album's single, reached No. 19 on the Mainstream Rock chart as the band continues to draw an unlikely mix of geeks, jocks, and disaffected, pasty-faced youths to their lengthy performances.

For better or worse, Fair to Midland will always be linked to the Mars Volta, but that association, despite the snickering of critics, has increased the likelihood that these local boys will be confounding audiences all over the world for many years to come. And, as Sudderth notes, they are still Texans at heart: "We put some shit in our kick," he notes. And they certainly are kicking ass to boot. —D.S.

Best Producer
Salim Nourallah

"The thing that blows my mind day in and day out is how many ridiculously talented musicians play in this city," Salim Nourallah says. "This city has a huge, untapped potential that would explode somewhere else." A family man, Nourallah has a nurturing nature that seems perfectly suited for enhancing the sounds of the city's so-called untapped. "I feel really blessed that a few of these guys seem to be finding me." That's probably because you won't find Salim Nourallah's Pleasantry Lane under "recording studio" in the phone book. He doesn't advertise, and he doesn't need to. A prolific musician in his own right, Nourallah has had a hand in some of Dallas' recorded successes by way of knobs and dials. Among his recent client roster are Sorta, I Love Math, Carter Albrecht, J.D. Whittenburg, the Cut-Off and, soon, the Old 97's.

He remains as humble and enlightening a father to his projects as he is to his own son—reminiscent of the relationship of two of his pop favorites, father and son Neil and Liam Finn. Hopefully, unlike the elder Finn, Nourallah will be lauded by more than cult followings or those in his own city haunts, but it seems that wouldn't matter to him either way. "Being nominated and winning this is better than a Grammy to me," says Nourallah. "This is my home. These are my peers! That's what means the world to me. It isn't this ridiculous rock-star-famous trip. Leave that to the rest of the world. It's a wonderful thing." —M.M.

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