Tyler Hicks

Walls can talk, at least through murals, and Dallas loudly expressed its solidarity with Black Lives Matter this year through its street art. With homages to police brutality victims painted across downtown, the words "Black Lives Matter" painted on the road across from City Hall, performance art and other statements of support, local artists turned up to support change. One work by Jammie Holmes stood above the rest — at least physically speaking. The Dallas painter held a multi-city aerial presentation with banners that read the late George Floyd's last words. The plane that flew over Detroit had a banner that read "Please I can't breathe" while Dallas' read "My neck hurts."

Mike Brooks

We picked this album before front man Riley Gale died, and we doubly stand by it now. These Dallas thrash metal lords put on some wicked shows, and they're at the height of their game with Live in Seattle: 05.28.2018. Released in June, this live album is perfect for getting all your coronavirus-induced sorrow and/or aggression out. With eyes closed, curtains drawn and the volume turned way up, it almost feels like you're at an actual Power Trip concert — ah, if only. Rest in power, Riley; you were the real deal.

Roderick Pullum

Talk about the feel-good hit of the summer. Bobby Sessions, a Dallas native, offers a platinum-worthy track with his new single, "Made a Way." With a major-chord backing track and groove-inducing beat, Sessions delivers optimism at a time when people need it most. Don't worry, y'all: It's been a hard year, but Sessions is here to remind you that you'll get through. The song's so fire that it was included in the trailer for EA Sports' FIFA 21. It's just a matter of time before Sessions makes his way to superstardom.

This video is like a masterclass of radical, retro-inspired video effects, and it doesn't hurt that the song slams. Front man Jordan Richardson and co. are at it again with a single that meets this totally strange moment. It's an end-of-the-world banger that the replicants in Blade Runner would party to, with some Steely Dan-esque yacht rock breaks thrown in for good measure. In other words: totally out of this world. Meanwhile, video editor Rickey Kinney's visual effects look like how it'd feel to trip balls inside the internet, where Illuminati-inspired imagery and bikini-clad women seamlessly coalesce. Far out.

Levi Leveridge

Take that, Gov. Greg Abbott! After the governor issued a bar closure mandate for the second time, Chris Polone, owner of Fort Worth's The Rail Club Live, geared up to fight back. Instead of accepting yet another blow to his business, Polone opted to organize what he calls "the largest bar protest in Texas history," Freedom Fest. He said 797 bars registered to participate in the grandiose July event, during which they operated under stringent safety guidelines. It was a roaring success, Polone said, but the battle to reopen is far from over.

Drive-ins have made a solid comeback ever since the pandemic effectively shuttered concert venues. Fear not, live music-starved friends: Armadillo Ale Works in Denton has you covered. The craft brewery created the Last Ditch Drive-in Concert Series, a weekly local music show dedicated to infusing a pinch of normalcy into everyone's weekend. After purchasing tickets, fans park in a large lot where they can sip beers, take in tunes and eat phenomenal Latin street food from the neighboring restaurant, Boca 31. It's like one big, socially distanced tailgate party. What's not to love?

Everyone and their mom has a podcast these days, so it's hard to keep up even with just the local ones. But true crime comedy podcast Sinisterhood by Dallas comedians Heather McKinney and Christie Wallace hits all the high notes. Yes, it's possible to laugh at the same time as being scared shitless, a discovery made thanks to these ladies' ingenuity. Sinisterhood is so good it's made it on iTune's Top 10 U.S. comedy podcast list. Plus, lawyer McKinney helps break down the legalese behind complex cases, which helps a ton. Listen, if you dare.

Meredith Lawrence

This is the guy to watch, y'all. Joshua Ray Walker is an incomparable crooner who's well on his way to country legend status. His sophomore album, Glad You Made It, would make Townes Van Zandt proud. The Observer isn't the only outlet that recognizes Walker's gifts; Rolling Stone has also penned some favorable reviews of both his solo work and his band, Ottoman Turks. His guitar playing is top-notch, and he can hit all the high notes with perfect precision. Don't believe it? Listen to "Voices," the first song off his latest album.

Kathy Tran

Ro2 Art always offers interesting exhibitions of contemporary art, but they have been a particular delight to art lovers during the pandemic, opening their virtual doors to those desperate to get back into gallery spaces. Summer 2020 saw their exhibitions From a Distance and My Corona with the first exclusively online and the second tentatively opening to real-life visits. Their exhibits do what art does best: respond to the outside world in a way that is all at once disturbing but also calming and reassuring. When we see art that is focused on the struggles of our lives, they can be painful reminders of what's actually going on, but they can also be comforting reminders that we are not alone in our suffering and that we have the opportunity to fight against it with our fellow sufferers.

Earlier this year, Dallas dancer Genea Sky became famous after she was filmed falling from a tall pole during her routine. From there, haters trolled her on the internet and derided fundraising efforts to help her pay for jaw surgery. Instead of letting them keep her down, though, Sky took the high road, even appearing on an episode of The Wendy Williams Show. During the segment, Williams gifted the former dancer with $10,000 to finish beauty school. Now, Sky has attracted upward of 200,000 followers on Instagram, where she posts clips from her work as an up-and-coming esthetician.

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