Welcome to our 2011 Dallas Observer Music Awards breakdown, wherein we'll use the weeks leading up to the DOMA showcases on Saturday, October 15 (which is also when voting ends), to explain the nominees in each category Today, we look at the nominees in the Best Group, Best Blues and Best Hard Rock categories and how each of the nominees got to this point. Read up on them, follow the links to hear their music and, if you're impressed, shoot the band some support in the first of a text vote sent to 61721 (see codes for each band below their names).
Why They're Here: Air Review are still a relatively new band. But, in their short existence, they've taken a non-traditional approach: Before ever playing a show, they recorded and released their debut album, Landmarks. That album earned the band three nominations on last year's ballot; their follow-up EP, thanks to the heavy rotation of their 2011 song "America's Son" on KKXT-91.7 FM KXT, has earned the band another three nominations this year.
Why They're Here: Calhoun almost weren't here at all this year. Last year, in the wake of 2008's Falter.Waver.Cultivate, they announced a breakup. Shortly thereafter, lead singer and Dallas music veteran Tim Locke and guitarist Jordan Roberts quietly started work on 2011's Heavy Sugar, a subtle and beautiful indie-pop record that was worth sticking around for.
Why They're Here: Lead singer/guitarist Ryan Thomas Becker, after whom the group is named, is prolific. RTB2, the duo he leads with drummer Grady Sandlin, is one of his many musical outlets. But it's also his most popular and most energetic one, too; the songs are gritty, bluesy and explosive, working as well on Granada's big stage as in someone's living room at a house show.
Why They're Here: If you ask someone from Paste Magazine that question, you'll get a gushing answer -- they've given this Denton band more than its share of national exposure this year. The answer you'll get from us won't be too far off of that, though: The band's impeccable harmonies and moving, emotive performances make them a deserving nominee.
Why They're Here: Telegraph Canyon has had a bit of a quiet year. Their brilliant 2009 record, The Tide and The Current, was one of the best of the year -- good enough to keep them in this category two years later. Really, though, it's the band's live show that makes them deserving of this nomination. It's energetic and emotive without being overly sincere.
Why They're Here: True Widow's slow-grinding stonegaze makes for a trippy live show. And the record they released this year, As High As The Highest Heavens And From The Center To The Circumference Of The Earth, is as good as its title is long-winded -- so much so that the band's name continuously popped up in the national press all year long.
Why They're Here: Dim Locator's experimental blend of country and blues has a lot of old-school blues fans scratching their heads. Truth is, it's one of the few bands in town pushing the limits of the genre. Will Kapinos (Jetscreamer, Dove Hunter) may not have licks like Stevie Ray, but he certainly deserves a spot on this year's blues ballot.
Why He's Here: Speaking of licks like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Hunter Hendrickson takes a more popular, less experimental, approach to the blues. What makes him stand out, though, is that he's only 20 years old. Even more impressive: He's been a headlining act since he was in high school.
Why They're Here: Oil Boom has often been compared to The Black Keys and The White Stripes (see our review of their debut, Black Waxy). That's hardly a bad thing; the band's blues-riffing pop record was produced by the experienced Stuart Sikes, and the band regularly headline rooms all around town.
R.L. Griffin And The Blues Palace Show Band
Why They're Here: This is an act that even the staunchest old school blues guys would have trouble denying. R.L. Griffin and The Blues Palace Band are the house band at the longstanding South Dallas venue, R.L.'s Blues Palace #2. They're a well-rehearsed set of blues showmen that are most deserving of a spot on this ballot.
The Red 100's
Why They're Here: The music of The Red 100's is a lot like a bull in a china shop. While other bands of their ilk use a little more finesse, this one likes to grind it out. As a result, you get a sweaty blend of blues, rock, and psychedelia.
Why They're Here: Last year, Tweed EQ helped make a name for themselves by recording a spontaneous cover of Air Review's "Chasing Corperate." They transformed the slick brit-pop song and turned it into a CCR-like number. It's that kind of creativity that has landed the band a place on this year's ballot.
Why They're Here: Descender has earned a good name for itself as a more experimental hard rock act. As we wrote back in March, their new album Dark Water acted as a reboot for the band, who were trying to live up to the hype they created with their 2010 debut, Army Of Elephants. If their nomination on this ballot is any indication, they already have.
Fair To Midland
Why They're Here: Fair To Midland has long been a frontrunner in the Dallas hard rock scene. They've never been afraid to experiment, as they proved once more on this year's impressive Arrows & Anchors.
The House Harkonnen
Why They're Here: The House Harkonnen didn't always rock as hard as they do now. Almost half a decade ago, they were considered a little more emo and even once covered Weezer's Pinkerton all the way through at Double Wide once. Nowadays, they've firmly settled into a harder sound, and have becoming one of North Texas' favorite veteran hard rock acts.
Why They're Here: In some ways, Record Hop has been grandfathered onto this year's ballot. They've been one of the most consistent punk-based hard rock bands that North Texas has had for the last decade. Mostly, it's just hard to imagine a Hard Rock ballot without this Denton act.
This Will Destroy You
Why They're Here: This Will Destroy You is still somewhat new to the Dallas scene, thanks to the their recent additions of North Texas-based members Alex Bhore and Donovan Jones. They're a welcome addition, too. Their 2011 doomgaze record ,Tunnel Blanket, features plenty of cymbal crashing and dark, hard rock.
Why They're Here: On top of getting plenty of national press this year, True Widow does what every great hard rock band has to do: They just put on a great, enticing show when they perform live -- kind of a new thing for the band, which wasn't always the tightest live outfit. That's changed these days. Now when you catch them live, you can expect things to be slow, dark and gloomy. And it will definitely rock hard, which is why they're a big contender on this ballot.