By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Well, it's officially list-making season again. Everyone's doing it, listing their top songs and albums of the year and/or decade and whatnot. So, too, are we.
Online, on our DC-9 at Night blog, we're counting down our favorite local songs of the year, one a day, till we get to No. 1 on our list on December 31. And in next week's paper we'll list our favorite albums of the year. And the week after that? Our favorites of the decade.
But, first, something else: When we look back at 2009, what will we remember as the biggest DFW music stories of the year?
Let's count 'em down, shall we?
9. The Boogie Backlash and The Rise of Hipster-Hop. 2008 saw the rise of the so-called D-Town Boogie and its club-inspired, instructional dance-fueled movement. While the proprietors of that sound inched toward some actual legitimacy in the eyes of the national media (more on that later) in 2009, it also saw other local rappers lash out against it. Enter a different style of dance-inspired local hip-hop. Offered up by high-energy local performers with a taste for underground electronica over radio jams—artists like Damaged Good$, galleryCat, Dustin Cavazos and Sore Losers—the sound grew from the hipster hotbeds of Denton and Exposition Park, quickly amassing a sweaty, skinny-jeans-wearing following. And while each of these artists deserves kudos for pushing the boundaries of local hip-hop, they also deserve props for something else: creating an innovative sound that's unabashedly catchy and fun.
8. Reuniting and It Feels So Good. Seemed like we couldn't go a week over the past 12 months without some sort of reunion show happening around town. First came '70s punk outfit The Nervebreakers, drawing a big crowd to the then-open Club Dada. Then came more of a late-'90s explosion: Rock favorites Slow Roosevelt and Ugly Mus-tard took the reunion bait, as did folk duo Jackopierce. And, as the year came to a close, it was the '80s that got its due, with reunions for long-shuttered music venues the Hot Klub and Theatre Gallery pulling numbers to rival the draws of any current room. It can be plenty tiring to hear of "the good ol' days"—believe me, I know. But it's tough to argue with these turnouts.
7. Denton Punks Move Out of the House. For a couple of years now, the best-kept secrets in Denton were hidden in the basements and living rooms of the house show circuit. But 2009 finally saw a couple of the college town's best punk bands step out into the limelight—and to great results. After a killer Dallas Observer Music Awards set, Bad Sports became something of a darling in Dallas, playing to packed houses at The Cavern and The Double Wide. Teenage Cool Kids, meanwhile, braved a lawsuit from Chicago hip-hop duo The Cool Kids and released one of the year's finest albums—local or otherwise—with Foreign Lands. And Fergus and Geronimo, featuring TCK's Andrew Savage and Jason Kelly of Wax Museums, earned major Internet props for its lo-fi punk rock-meets-Motown blend.
6. Promise for Local Radio? Maybe? There was a palpable buzz to the November launch of KKXT-91.7 FM, the new music-only sister station to KERA. And though the station hasn't yet lived up to all of our expectations in its young life, it's tough to complain too much about the existence of a station that plays more local music than any other frequency on the local AM or FM dial. Oh, and speaking of local music popping up on the radio: KDGE-102.1 FM The Edge's Mark Schectman deserves a medal for expanding his Sunday night show "The Local Edge" beyond the local modern rock also-rans the station used to play in that time slot.
5. An Explosion of Electronic Arts. Ever since he burst onto the scene in 2007 with his now-defunct Ghosthustler project, it was pretty evident that Alan Palomo was a star in the making. 2009 proved as much as not one, but two Palomo-helmed projects, VEGA and Neon Indian, became blogosphere darlings. And for good reason: The former's '80s-inspired dance hall tracks are irresistible, and the latter's '70s-influenced psychedelic trance-pop is beyond alluring.
4. Trees and the Potential Return of Deep Ellum. Back before Clint and Whitney Barlow reopened the much-revered Deep Ellum venue Trees in August, there was a substantial amount of doubt as to whether the new owners could draw crowds to the space. Five months later, the venue's proven itself as a home to a variety of shows, good and bad. But, more important, it's open. And with a couple of new restaurants also recently opening in the neighborhood, plus a couple more music venues on the way (2826, La Grange), Deep Ellum's future's looking bright. Or, at the very least, brighter than it has in a long time.
3. A Festivus for the Rest of Us. For years, Chris Flemmons has been running a South by Southwest showcase for Denton artists called North by 35—or NX35 for short. 2009, however, saw the next phase of Flemmons' master plan come into play as he turned that concept into a four-night, pre-SXSW affair held at venues around Denton Square, pairing a slew of touring acts en route to Austin with a roster of the region's finest musical products. From the fan's perspective, Year One was a rousing success. But Year Two looks to be even better—whether or not any of the unsubstantiated rumors we've been hearing about potential national headliners come to fruition.
2. If a Stadium Opens in Arlington, But No One Can Hear the Bands, Does It Make a Sound? Kinda tough to argue with the power packed by the first four headliners booked to play shows at the new Cowboys Stadium out in Arlington. George Strait, The Jonas Brothers, Paul McCartney and U2? No wonder we were all drooling at the prospects of this supposedly state-of-the-art venue. Then we went to the shows—and we left feeling only so-so about the whole thing. Why? Because of the sound, stupid. In retrospect, we probably should've expected shows in this cavernous space to be reverb-addled. Still, there are ways to improve that part of the equation. And there's no denying the impact the stadium's already had on the routing of major national tours; by comparison, the American Airlines Center may as well be The Lounge on Elm Street.
1. Dorrough and the Increased Legitimacy of the D-Town Boogie. The local radio-centric rap scene was doing a commendable job of keeping local listeners interested in the output of local artists, thanks to the efforts of The GS Boyz, Lil Wil, B-Hamp and others. But those artists' songs, it seemed, were all a little gimmicky, each one preying on the instructional dance craze that was sweeping through local nightclubs. Then, out of nowhere, along comes a fresh-faced rapper named Dorrough, a Lancaster native with a song about, of all things, a car with a flashy paint job. A catchy song paired with a crisp, high-production video led to spins on BET, MTV and radio outlets around the country. A performance at the 2009 BET Hip-Hop Awards alongside Snoop Dogg only cemented Dorrough's rising-star status. Then, all of a sudden, "Ice Cream Paint Job" boasted 500,000-plus digital downloads, and The New York Times pronounced that the national hip-hop party had officially "landed in Dallas." Convenient timing too: With the NBA All-Star Game coming to town in, oh, about a month and a half, it seems we've only seen the tip of this iceberg.