"If we have radio success, that'd be cool. But we're just trying to make good music and tour and make some fans along the way." —Pete Freedman

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In the year since the release of Sarah Jaffe's breakout Even Born Again EP, the Denton singer-songwriter has seen her star rise from being the local opening act at small club shows to performing on the Austin City Limits digital offshoot ACL Stage Left and being asked to perform at the upcoming Austin City Limits Music Festival.

For acts hell-bent on making it to "the big time" and having their picture splashed on every music magazine in the world, two appearances under the Austin City Limits banner would be enough to have them slobbering with anticipation of finally being on the cusp of breaking through. But Sarah Jaffe manages to keep a level head about everything and remain gracious at the attention she's getting locally and regionally.

"I feel honored," she says about just being nominated for this year's Dallas Observer Music Awards. "It's nice to have people love what you're doing; I'm so happy."

And she'll remain happy, she says, so long as she's making music on her own terms: "I didn't start out expecting to be on the cover of Rolling Stone and go into it with those kind of expectations," she says. "If I end up being on more of an underground scene as opposed to more people knowing about me, either way I'm still being me."

Part of Jaffe being herself is exploring new sounds. She has a new album scheduled for release this fall—hopefully before she performs at the Austin City Limits festival, she says. The new album was again helmed by Best Producer nominee John Congleton of The Paper Chase. While Even Born Again was meant to have a raw, intimate sound, Congleton pushed Jaffe to explore a broader sound this time around.

"He kind of looked at me to go crazy creatively," Jaffe says. "We kind of brought more to the table, and it all came together. It's different. When it comes out we'll see what people have to say."

One thing you can count on: The new album will continue to showcase confessional songwriting and a voice that drips with honesty and emotion.

"I'm on the path of growing with my audience, and [that's] what I want to do," Jaffe says. —Lance Lester

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After the Paper Chase’s enthralling performance (on second thought, scratch that adjective—it’s redundant) at South by Southwest earlier this year, a prominent local music journalist who had seen his share of Big D bands turned to a fellow scribe and proclaimed, “Best live band in Dallas.” There may be a few other bands that could vie for that title, but when it comes to naming the best album to come from a Dallas-area band in the past year? Well, there’s no question. Some Day This Could All Be Yours, Vol. 1 also happens to be the best in The Paper Chase’s decade-long career. All 10 songs on the disc touch on the theme of calamity, an idea that mastermind John Congleton initially kicked around as the inspiration for a solo album during a time when the future of the band was up in the air. Thank God the band stuck it out, though, as it’s hard to imagine the songs without Sean Kirkpatrick’s trademark house-of-horrors piano, or without the start-and-stop-on-a-dime rhythm section of longtime bassist Bobby Weaver and new drummer Jason Garner, who lock into a groove as if they’ve been playing together for years. No song better sums up the combination of gallows humor, apocalyptic fervor and the weird contrasts—between chaos and beauty, melody and discord, even death and life—than “What Should We Do With Your Body? (The Lightning).” It has everything we’ve come to love about The Paper Chase—those herky-jerky rhythms, creepy samples (in this case, an emergency broadcast system test and monstrous barnyard sounds) and Congleton’s cartoonish wailing. Personifying the titular lightning, he sings, “I’m the single flashing curse/That finds you in the universe.” The sentiment that death—be it in the form of lightning, flooding or the common cold—will find you no matter what is the thesis statement of the album. But what makes the album so great is that such a grim sentiment is set to triumphant, exuberant and even (dare we say it) melodic rock and roll. The exaltation makes perfect sense because, as Congleton put it in a May Dallas Observer interview, it’s “a relaxing feeling to just accept the fact that these things are going to happen, and there’s really not much you can do about it.” Vol. 2, scheduled for a 2010 release, can’t get here soon enough. — Jesse Hughey

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Taylor Young and John Pedigo seem to have been part of the Dallas music scene forever. And that's because they have. Just not together and not as the alt-country duo known as The O's.

Young and Pedigo have previously been involved with such luminary local acts as Slick 57, Boys Named Sue, Rose Country Fair and THe BAcksliders. Since deciding to go it as a duo last June, the pair has made an immediate impact, releasing a killer debut album (We Are The O's), playing incessantly around our area (and beyond) and generally making a drunken nuisance of themselves whenever possible.

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