Less than two years into his life as a major-label artist, Leon Bridges is almost running out of milestones to hit. He's toured the world, played every major late-night TV show, been in commercials, was nominated for a Grammy award and even shared the stage with not one but two Beatles (which makes for all the living members of the Fab Four). So it's probably been getting harder and harder for the Fort Worth phenom to find things to check off his bucket list (and no, jumping on a track with Macklemore probably doesn't count). But out of all the dream-worthy moments Bridges has had, one made his mother proudest: meeting President Barack Obama. Obama's a fan, of course — he included "Smooth Sailin'" on his summer mixtape — and during a Ray Charles tribute at the White House, he told Bridges as much. "I see you," Bridges later remembered the president saying. "An upcoming Texas soul star."

The music industry can be a notorious boys club, and that may never have been truer than in the case of hip-hop, a most hyper-masculine, misogynistic of genres. What the rap game and greater music world in general needs more of is people like Sam Lao, but for a while there, about two and a half years or so, there was reason to worry that she wouldn't fully capitalize on her considerable talents. That's how long it took for the follow-up to her debut EP, West Pantego, to come together, but from that troubled conception sprang the best album to come out of Dallas this year: SPCTRM. Smart, sassy and dripping with charisma, SPCTRM is Lao incarnate as she switches with ease between siren singer and best-rapper-in-Dallas roles on cuts like the middle-finger-to-the-haters "Fool's Gold" or body empowerment manifesto "Pineapple." But she never needs to make a statement on SPCTRM; all you need to know is that this is Sam Lao, and the boys have to play by her rules.

It's the epitome of the American Dream: putting Justin Bieber in a chokehold. It's apt, then, that Post Malone would get to do just that this year — because, well, the Grapevine native has really been living the dream. Plucked out of obscurity in 2015 when a Soundcloud recording of "White Iverson" went viral and landed him a label deal with Republic Records, Malone, who's based out of L.A. these days, had been touring almost nonstop. First it was with Fetty Wap, but then he really hit the big time when Bieber invited him on the mega-sized Purpose Tour. No wonder he turned down a spot on XXL's Freshmen Class. Malone and Bieber are BFFs, which is why they insisted that an incident at a Houston club — when the Biebs put out his cigarette on Malone's arm, which prompted Malone to put him in a chokehold — was all in good fun. Still, wouldn't you have wanted to be in Posty's shoes?

Anthony Gonzalez, the Frenchman who fronts the '80s-tinged synth-pop powerhouse M83, was thoroughly won over by Denton singer Kaela Sinclair's audition tape. Gonzalez had put out a call on Twitter asking for female applicants to tour with M83 on this year's Junk Tour, after the band had parted ways with its former keyboardist and backup singer. Sinclair, fresh off winning the Best Keyboardist award at the Dallas Observer Music Awards, took a chance and submitted a video. A few weeks later, she got a call from Gonzalez himself offering her the gig, and she's been living in a dream world ever since. Tour stops around the world, including one headlining The Bomb Factory, TV appearances, the works; it's time to hurry up, because Sinclair ain't dreaming, even if she might have to pinch herself sometimes.

In the annals of North Texas post-rock, names and albums don't get more mythic than the Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads. For the past 15 years, that stellar double album, was all that Lift to Experience's fans had to hold onto, constituting the Denton band's entire body of recorded work before they broke up in 2002. So it was with considerable fanfare that news of LTE's reunion broke last spring, even if the initial word pertained only to a one-off show in London. It didn't take long, though, for Josh T. Pearson and the gang to get the feel for those heady, noise-fueled days, and they added some Texas dates to the agenda, including a stop at Rubber Gloves. For a band that knows how to spin epic tales, the timing couldn't have been more perfect; as pure coincidence it proved the last-ever show for the Denton club, where Pearson had once helped build the patio.

All things may well pass, but that didn't make it any easier to sit through the demise of A.Dd+ earlier this year. In truth, it was a long time coming. While the Dallas duo had recorded a new EP's worth of material since dropping 2014's Nawf, Slim Gravy and Paris Pershun had been increasingly inactive as a live pair, particularly as Gravy forged ahead with various solo projects throughout 2015. It was still hard, though, when relations fell to an ugly and very public feud after Gravy — apparently without his partner's knowledge — announced that A.Dd+ was over. For a half-decade, they'd been the bridge between Dallas hip-hop's ringtone rap past and its forward-thinking future, and easily the most popular rap group in the city. Perhaps times changed too much even for A.Dd+, but their cheeky, cocksure brand of fun remains sorely missed.

North Texas has had no shortage of music talent on national TV in the past 12 months. Leon Bridges, Post Malone and Kaela Sinclair have all made the rounds, with Bridges and Demi Lovato both making star turns on the stage widely acknowledged as the toughest of them all, Saturday Night Live's Studio 8H. But none of them had quite the sense of occasion and discovery of Selena Gomez's SNL appearance last January. The bedroom choreography of "Hands to Myself" got the headlines, Gomez's official doing away with her former Disney star baggage. But the real highlight was a sizzlingly assured, all-but-a-cappella rendition of "Good for You" and "Same Old Love," in which Gomez — then hot off her second-consecutive album debut at No. 1, Revival — dropped the flash to showcase a young pop star coming into her own.

Lakewood Landing

Year after year, it's the same places that pop up on any short list of the best dive bars in DFW. That's how it should be: Years, decades, even generations are required for a bar to develop into a blue-ribbon dive. They get better with age, like a fine wine — well, OK, more like a not-so-fine well whiskey, but you get the point. So is it surprising for the Lakewood Landing to be the best dive bar in Dallas? Hell no. From its wood paneling to torn-up, sticky old leather booths to the air quality that's somehow still smoky even years after indoor smoking was banned, the Landing is a dive to make your grandfather proud, right down to a bar staff with a touchingly old-school mentality. Granted, Papa might not know what to make of the corn dogs, and he'd probably be just as well without the hipsters who frequent it, but even a true-blue dive has to keep up — a little — with the times.

Readers' Pick:

Lee Harvey's

Ship's Lounge

If you're not quite sure what to make of the newly resuscitated Ships Lounge, that's OK. After almost exactly a year with the lights out, the oldest dive in Dallas came back seemingly from the dead last July, under new ownership and with more than a few changes. Wine was added to the bar, bring-your-own-liquor was abolished and they started accepting credit cards. A whole upstairs area was built out. But some other key things have remained, like beloved bartender Pam Shaddox, the Wednesday night weenies and, most important of all, the jukebox. No bar in Dallas is more inextricably linked with its jukebox, in all its old-school soul, R&B and country and western glory. Without it, Ships would never be the same bar, and you'd know once and for all that Lower Greenville had given way to creeping Uptownization. So grab your change and spin 'em while you got 'em, Dallas.

A dimly lit bar with retro fixtures that hearken back to the 1960s would be, not surprisingly, the best place to forget the daily struggles of 2016. Tucked in a strip center in Lakewood that's just far enough removed from the madness of Lower Greenville, Cosmo's is off the beaten path, which makes it less likely that you'll run into your boss or an ex that you're trying to avoid. (They'll probably be next door at the Landing.) Cosmo's serves up an array of strong signature martinis and pizzas that are half-off on Sundays. It's easy to lose yourself in the mesmerizing flames of the indoor fireplace or outdoor fire pit, especially in those cold weather months. All the more reason Cosmo's is the best place to hide away from the world.

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