They Are the Champions

Fine, fine, fine: You got to vote for everything this year--nominations, winners, the whole shebang--and I'm stuck here in my office with this lousy column and a 12-pack of Diet Dr Pepper. But two can play that game. (Well, technically, about 5,200 people can play that game, since that's how many voted for the award winners this year.) So I've come up with the following awards. My awards. These aren't "traditional," "scientific" or "fair" music awards. These are totally arbitrary, off-the-top-of-my-head best guesses. Like, no one voted on these whatsoever. I did, however, show them to a homeless person climbing out of the trash bin behind the office. He said I did a nice job--and then asked me for a dollar.

The One to Watch: Lance Yocum, Spune

Who is this guy? Why is he suddenly doing some of the coolest things in Dallas? How do you pronounce "Spune"? These are questions that have crossed my mind as artist-developer Lance Yocum, working through his Denton-based Spune Productions, sent me press release after press release about killer showcases (Midlake, Record Hop, John Lamonica and The Southern Sea was one of the New Music Festival's highlights), top-notch artists he signed (his roster includes Comet, Pitchfork darling Micah P. Hinson, The Earlies, LM5, The Silver Arrows) and the freaking big-ass Wall of Sound Festival. Lance, you and me: coffee, soon.

Best Not Quite Rock/Not Quite Jazz: Shibboleth

The Dallas Observer Music Awards are sectioned off in an imperfect manner--endless genres, sometimes paired nonsensically. (Roots and rockabilly? Um, I guess so.) Every year, bands slip through because they don't quite fit into any one category. This year, that band was Shibboleth. Are they a jazz band? But their poster explicitly states, "Shibboleth is not a jazz band!" Are they a rock band? But they're so, you know, jazzy. Regardless, Shibboleth almost made the cut and never quite did, but the group's endlessly likable, jaunty surf pop is like the best '60s game show theme song I've never heard.

Best Unexpected Performances: Marcus Striplin, Pleasant Grove

At the Granada tsunami benefit, he was the guy who grabbed the tambourine and jumped onstage. At Summer Break's South by Southwest showcase, he saved a rained-out set with some kind of bizarre acoustic show that was part performance art, part improv comedy.

Best Rock Hair: John Dufilho

I once threatened to give The Deathray Davies' John Dufilho a Best of Dallas award for Best Rock Hair. He laughed, because he's awful nice, and then he said: "Wow, I'm glad you didn't. I've been trying for years to be taken seriously as a musician, and that would kind of suck." So to Dufilho, I say, "Whoops!" To the rest of you, let me explain: Dufilho's hair is like the polar opposite of all these scruffy, sculpted mops slicked in place by gallons of gel, or Vaseline, or whatever the kids are using these days. Dufilho's hair is incredibly thick and black, and sometimes, it seems to be in the shape of a mushroom. It is this gorgeous, shiny mop that he flicks side to side as he plays--he's a bit shy, and I suspect he likes to hide behind it. It is instantly recognizable, it is beautiful, it is real. See? Best Rock Hair. Sorry, John.

Hardest-Working Musician: Salim Nourallah

Salim Nourallah did not put out one album this year. Salim Nourallah did not put out two albums this year. Salim Nourallah put out three albums this year (Polaroid, A Way to Your Heart and the Happiness Factor's Avoid Danger). As if that weren't enough, he worked into the wee hours as producer for bands like The Deathray Davies, whose upcoming The Kick and the Snare is an infectious, all-out pop assault that has been in my CD changer for weeks. Then, he spent six weeks in L.A. playing bass on Rhett Miller's upcoming solo album. Oh, and he pretty much plays around town at least once a week. In his spare time, he organizes tsunami benefits that raise $25,000. Whew. I need a vacation just writing about it.

Best Rock Attire: "Sarah Hepola Sucks" T-shirt

Finally--something I can show my grandkids.

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Sarah Hepola