Dallas benefited from an influx of top-notch record stores at the end of last year, with Off the Record and Spinster throwing out some fresh twists on the tried-and-true brick-and-mortar concept. But it was Josey Records that really raised the bar for North Texas record stores, and they did so by focusing on the fundamentals — namely, a massive inventory hand-picked by some of the most respected crate diggers around. The addition of live music and seal of approval from no less than DJ Shadow helped, but the array of used and $1 vinyl were all any record head needed to fall in love.

Recently departed DISD Superintendent Mike Miles' legacy is complicated and controversial, but he leaves behind a handful of successes, chief among them Mata Montessori in East Dallas. The first in what was intended to be dozens of "schools of choice" — neighborhood-focused campuses with the specialty programs of a magnet but without the competitive admissions — Mata did a remarkable job of fitting the Montessori model of carefully guided self-direction into an often rigid DISD structure. Teachers and administrators there are passionate, energetic and wholly committed to students' success. A-plus.

Good Records

Pregame: It's the name of the, uh, game when it comes to "pro" concert-going. If you have real-ass adult responsibilities — like a kid you've arranged to be babysat — when you go to a concert you want to make a night of it. And knowing where to get a beer and a buzz before the show is a crucial part of the plan. Good Records has you covered there and then some, bringing in bands like TV on the Radio, Sylvan Esso and Waxahatchee for free in-store performances ahead of their in-town gigs as part of their Live from the Astroturf series. Oh, and they offer free craft beer and sometimes even free food — which (almost) creates a whole new problem: Why go to the show when you can go to Good Records?

UNT Dallas College of Law

UNT-Dallas opened its new law school at a shaky time for legal education. Tuition-hungry law schools had been convincing far too many students to rack up far too much debt in pursuit of jobs that didn't exist. And yet, despite the glut of lawyers, there remained huge segments of the population who were legally underserved, unable to access or afford necessary legal help. UNT-Dallas is focused on correcting that gap by curating public-service-minded students and giving them considerable hands-on training with the help of downtown law firms and the courts. Key to the school's mission is its cost, just north of $14,000 per year, which is less than half of other law schools. Without the crushing burden of six-figure debt for a degree, turning out lawyers willing to work serving underserved populations might actually be a possibility.

The Wild Detectives
Catherine Downes

When it comes to the Bard, our theater critic Elaine Liner is emphatic: If William Shakespeare were alive today, he'd write for The Daily Show. Too often when contemporary actors are tangling their tongues around iambic pentameter, it's all so classical and reverent. Pish posh, say the players of the much more informal Shakespeare in the Bar troupe. Much Ado about Nothing and Love's Labour's Lost have never been so infectiously amusing as they were when watched with a beer in hand from the porch of The Wild Detectives bookstore in Oak Cliff. The young troupe of actors who romp through Shakespeare in the Bar tackle a new (old) play about once per season, giving us a Will to live for.

Twilite has had legions of devoted patrons almost from the day it opened more than two years ago. How is that, one might wonder? Besides the award-winning jukebox selection, the down-homey patio, the comfy couches and the weekly costume party that is Good Luck Karaoke, we mean. Those things are nice luxuries, but there's something more important happening here. It's the friendly, attentive and oh-so-cool staff, which includes talented singer-songwriter Madison King and lumbersexual dreamboat Andrew Thompson. No matter how many people deep the bar is, they greet customers warmly and with zero pretension. Even if you're not at the bar, the roving servers seem to know when you want another drink before you do yourself. These people have the patience of saints, and they deserve your tips.

Dallas Contemporary

An exhibit at the Dallas Contemporary last fall used an intricate web of computer coding to create an immersive, interactive experience. The audio-visual installation called DreamArchitectonics produced dreamlike sequences based on the tone and emphasis of a human voice reading lines of poetic imagery by French philosopher Gaston Bachelard. New media artists Frank and Kristin Lee Dufour of the group Agence 5970 created DreamArchitectonics to explore the way the brain responds without the stimuli of sight or sound — unique moments of reverie bestowed by two pioneers of hyper-media art.

With her namesake troupe, Dallas choreographer Danielle Georgiou blurs the lines between theater and dance. Her shows combine original dialogue, live music and vibrant choreography — men partner men, women partner women — and explore topics focused on gender identity. With Georgiou's The Show about Men at the most recent Festival of Independent Theatres, she had her all-male cast singing and dancing about masculine anatomy as they stripped to their skivvies. In NICE, part of the Wyly Theatre's Elevator Project, she presented a moving movement study of female behavior as reflected in old etiquette manuals. Georgiou doesn't dance around controversy; she kicks it up a notch.

dgdgdancegroup.com

We complain about Uptown. It's too popular, too crowded. But it's got a lot going for it: grocery stores, navigable sidewalks, a plethora of restaurants and bars. Yes, and overpriced apartments. It's a real estate goldmine and the developers are moving in and building up. That palpable lack of personality is exactly what they're trying to sell in neighborhoods known for their authenticity. They're looking at you, Deep Ellum. They're coming for you, Lakewood. There are even designs for a West Village-style development in Oak Cliff. You can't avoid it much longer.

Liliana Bloch Gallery

Liliana Bloch moved her namesake gallery this year from a modest space in Deep Ellum to the more art-centric Design District. It was a shrewd business decision, but it also signaled a step forward for the gallery, which continues to book some of the most complex, thoughtful shows in the city. For the inaugural show in the new space, Letitia Huckaby presented a series of her large photographs of Sisters of the Holy Family Motherhouse in New Orleans, the first Roman Catholic order of African American nuns. These portraits and landscapes, printed on quilts and linens, gave this exhibition a breathtaking texture. Each of Bloch's exhibitions and her choice of artists, both local and international, are evidence of this gallerist's exquisite taste and sharp eye for curation.

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