But make no mistake, the act hasn't gotten any less punk. Its old-school Ramones-style punk rock is still present, but it's been tempered with a heavy dose of rockabilly and even a little pop. But the band's most important realization of late? That it doesn't need broken bottles or blood to keep its crowds entertained. —Daniel Rodrigue

Best Indie Rock Act

Midlake

Ishi’s John Mudd
...
Ishi’s John Mudd
Members of Air Review and Ishi
...
Members of Air Review and Ishi

Since their inception, Midlake—dating to their debut with 2004's Bamnan and Slivercork—have been damned with the old "Big in Europe" tag. And that'd be a fairly frustrating fate—if it weren't also true.

Sure, the band saw some stateside praise with its 2006 breakthrough, The Trials of Van Occupanther, but domestic praise following the release of this year's The Courage of Others never came.

So, back to the drawing board, right?

Well, not entirely. Overseas, the band remains as big as it's ever been, sharing powerhouse bills with indie icons such as The National and Beach House. And, soon, Midlake will enjoy a romp through Australia and New Zealand.

Foreigners have no problems continuing to lavish the band with rightful praise—earlier this year British music magazine Mojo named Midlake the Best Live Act around—but here in the States, appropriate appreciation for Midlake has been harder to come by. Until, that is, these very awards, which serve as proof that even if the rest of the country can't keep up with Midlake's ever-deepening well of influence, we in North Texas enjoy it just fine, thanks. —Pete Freedman

Best Metal Act

Fair to Midland

Winning Dallas Observer Music Awards is nothing new for the members of Fair to Midland. Since the release of the band's last record, 2007's Fables from a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times is True, the band's been a mainstay in these celebratory pages, winning alternating Best Metal Act and Best Hard Rock Act nods.

Pardon us for the categorical confusion, but you try pinning a style on a band that blends elements of jam, prog rock, metal and hard rock into its head-spinning mix. It ain't easy—not for us, and, turns out, not for the band, either. For the first time since that last album's release, the Sulphur Springs-based quintet is actually in the region for this year's awards season, finally taking a break from its rigorous touring schedule to focus on finishing its long-awaited follow-up.

Meaning? For the first time since they started getting nominated, FTM are actually around to celebrate their victory.

"Well," drummer Brett Stowers said with a laugh when that point was brought up at this year's DOMA photo shoot, "you've got us there." —Pete Freedman

Best Funk/R&B Act

Fergus & Geronimo

While Andrew Savage and Jason Kelly's creation, Fergus & Geronimo, may not technically qualify as rhythm and blues in its strictest definition, the band's releases have surely incorporated influences from doo-wop to Midwest soul. And, by adding in some elements of punk to the mix, the Denton-based act's created a sound all its own. Their recent signing to the Seattle-based label Hardly Art (a sub-label of the mighty Sub Pop) coincides with the completion of their first full-length album—an 11-song LP completed back in January.

But we'll have to wait on that disc's arrival. First up is another EP, which, like their previous "Harder Than It's Ever Been" single in 2009, will come out on the burgeoning Woodsist label.

And while plans for Savage and Kelly to move to New York in September will likely take them out of the running for future DOMAs, that will likely coincide with the release of their debut LP. So maybe it won't be a total loss. —Rodrigo Diaz

Best Hip-Hop/Rap Act

Dem Southernfolkz

While heavily steeped in an undeniably hip-hop aesthetic, Thomas "Big B.E.N." Benjamin of Dem Southernfolkz wants to make it clear: His band is not your average, run-of-the-mill hip-hop group.

"We don't take a standard conventional hip-hop approach to making our music," Benajamin says.

Instead, the trio blends various elements into its mix—everything from funk to rock—and, clearly, this less conventional approach is working.

The act's debut album, The Message, made quite an impact shortly after its release in the fall of 2008, and, since then, they have toted their music, all of which is rich in soul, throughout the region. Good thing, too: Theirs is a message well worth receiving. —Catherine Downes

Best Jazz Act

Snarky Puppy

Seeing that Denton's Snarky Puppy have won the DOMA for Best Jazz Act the past two years now, it should come as no surprise that this large ensemble has achieved the three-peat by garnering this year's award.

Since forming in 2004, Snarky Puppy have been led by bassist and primary composer Michael League and, each year, the group seems to grow more adventurous while also somehow still finding new fans to add to its legion.

Maybe it's just the fact that League and his crew don't conform to the standard conventions of the jazz genre that sets them apart from many acts that have sprung from the musical wellspring that is the University of North Texas. Indeed, Snarky Puppy's ability to mix elements of funk and soul into their dense sound has consistently kept audience members (joyfully) out of their seats.

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