Little Scene: 2010: The Year In Local Music

What a year for local music. Looking back, 2010 was packed with vibrancy and excitement not felt for a long time in music in general, and our Little Scene just doesn’t seem that little anymore. For starters, 15 local releases of note is a big year, let alone a Top 15 local releases. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get to it.

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1. The Burning Hotels – Novels

I picked this up at Central Market during the spring, not knowing it wasn’t out yet… officially. As a matter of fact, I grabbed all The Burning Hotels I could get in one fell swoop.  I came home, ripped them all to my computer and put them away. I knew I liked the band (although I had always just caught the tail end of their sets with their “big brother” – Black Tie Dynasty). I was glad to have helped them out in any way I could. I kinda figured I would get around to listening to the record at some point, and put no more thought into it.

I finally got around to pulling it out a month or so later (at least) while doing some cleaning around the house. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon; I had the windows open and was making quite a bit of progress. Then it happened. I realized this was a pretty good record, and even commented to my girlfriend that I was digging on it, which she confirmed in that “I liked them well before you did” sort of way. I restarted the album as she went to run some errands and sat in my favorite chair and for the first time in a very long time, just listened to a record. Not driving. Not passively in the background as I did something else, front to back just listened. What I had was extraordinary. This is LOCAL. I hadn’t been excited about a LOCAL in a long time.

There was to be no more progress on the apartment that day.

Over the next couple of months it came out to me that it hadn’t even been released properly yet when I picked it up, and that the band had been sitting on it for God knows why for over a year. A YEAR prior to finally releasing it. Why they would do that was beyond me and still is, for this is the kind of record people needed to hear and be a part of. Withholding it was just a crime. This is why The Burning Hotels and their album Novels tops this list. New wave influences that aren’t so much throwback or ripped-off as much as they just stylistically accentuate their music, solid songs, and the ability to end a song. Well. Listen to their endings. Inventive, not always relying on fadeouts or just riding the riff to an end, or ringing out the last note to silence – it’s just as important as the meat of the song, and a very mature thing for a band to know how to do.

I no longer view them as the little brother band to Black Tie Dynasty. This is one of Fort Worth’s finest, ever. The Burning Hotels easily stand on their own on the front lines of a Fort Worth music scene that’s more in tune with itself than ever before, and if you aren’t familiar with this record, please do so before their next one hits you from out of nowhere.

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2. Toadies – Feeler

The 13 years these songs stewed and brewed in Interscope’s vault without release ended up being a treat for fans this year for sure. The Feeler material stands up much better in 2010 than it did in 1997, and recording techniques caught up with what these songs needed. I had said in my original review that I thought it was the most honest and best representation of the Toadies as a recorded unit, and I hope that re-visiting this material is evidenced in the newer material they are supposedly working on for 2011. I still stand behind this statement. If so, look for this band, Fort Worth’s favorite export, to release the album of their career next year.

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3. Doug Burr – O Ye Devastator

Denton’s Doug Burr caught me a bit off-guard. I’ve had a couple of friends touting him to me for a while and I have to admit, it just took me about 3 years or so to get with the program. But I certainly did. The warmth of this album surpassed anything I expected, and spent the remainder of the year including it in the same breath as my favorite albums for 2010.



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4. The Orbans – When We Were Wild

I turned 40 this year. It takes quite a bit to get me into a packed club for anything or anyone where I haven’t some sort of room or at least an escape from the crowd. Unfortunately, Fort Worth’s The Orbans CD release party was just that sort of affair at Lola’s this summer, but it did not keep me from going to the door, and paying the cover to pick up a copy of their brilliant debut album only to turn and leave the show immediately, CD in hand. I regret missing the show, but don’t regret purchasing my copy of this record. Their Americana drenched brand of rock is not so far removed from their predecessors, but the songs are so strong you don’t think of them as followers, they come off as peers.

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5. Sarah Jaffe – Suburban Nature

Denton’s Sarah Jaffe is another I had to be brow-beaten into, and coincidentally she had her CD release party the same night as Doug Burr’s. Whereas I did not make either, the same brow-beating friends returned with copies of both their records for me the next day. I still have yet to see Ms. Jaffe live, which might be why she appears 5th on this list, but I can assure you, each time this record is played, I love it even more. She had a phenomenal year outside the area, and could be D/FW’s next big breakout artist. God knows she would deserve it.

6. The Cush – Between The Leaves

What more do I have to say about The Cush. Returning to the area after roughly a decade in Vermont with their latest album in hand, their psychedelic indie leanings are fitting onto interesting bills proving quality shows over quantity is the way to go for those artists whose music speaks for itself. Between The Leaves demonstrates a maturity and strength that might not have been realized had they stayed in D/FW during the seemingly stagnant mid to latter portion of the ‘00’s, and I firmly believe this is the act to watch for in 2011. Great things loom. Great things.

7. MalevellerAstronomer’s Fyre EP

This Dallas based thrash quartet comes complete with indie-rock pedigrees and a whole lot of volume. Supposedly they were holding back when I saw them with our friends from Birth School Metal Death in November; we’re rapidly approaching the New Year and my ears are still ringing. Their 3 song EP is a real treat, and am excited about their full-length that’s in the works.

8. White Drugs – Gold Magic

It is fitting this was released on iconic 90’s indie label Amphetamine Reptile. If it looks like noise, and sounds like noise, it’s because, well, it is noisy indie rock a’la the mid-90’s. And they’re from Denton. Find it if you can, it was limited to 300 copies on LP, with a download code attached.

9.Whiskey Folk RamblersAnd There Are Devils

Second album from Fort Worth Americana/Country/Mediterranean/Italian influenced act – yet another example of how Fort Worth has fully come around and is becoming a full-blown powerhouse of musicality.

10. Nervous CurtainsOut Of Sync With Time

Debut release from The Paper Chase keyboardist Sean Kirkpatrick’s cabaret infused indie project provides a fun, frolicking jaunt through a possibly unfashionable genre.

11. The Broadsiders – Pressed To Kill EP

Drawing from several strains of the punk rock, Dallas based Oi! act The Broadsiders released their second project this year, the vinyl only 8 track Pressed To Kill EP.

12. The Light Fantastic – The Mayfield LP

Red Animal War/Saboteur’s Matt Pittman and Justin Wilson team up with former Flickerstick/Doosu timekeeper Todd Harwell and release their surprise emo leaning indie rock debut album online… for free.

13. DescenderArmy Of Elephants

Former Burden Brothers alumni Casey Hess (Doosu) and Zack Busby (Slow Roosevelt) pick 90’s alternative guitar rock where it left off, snagging up former Floor 13/Slowpoke/Mousetrap drummer Duncan Black in the process. The results remind us why these acts were so popular around town a few years back on their debut 7 track release.

14. Chris Holt – A Cosmic Joke

Drawing from any number of acts he has been involved with in the Dallas area (Sorta, The Slacks, Olospo) laid back singer/songwriter’s second outing, the Salim Nourallah produced A Cosmic Joke springs to life evoking Nick Drake, Elliott Smith and Pink Floyd.

15. WarbeastKrush The Enemy

Remember when Joe’s Garage and The Basement ruled the N. Texas metal scene? Then you should be thrilled with this one. Members of Texas thrash metallers Rigor Mortis and Gammacide keep the early 90’s metal vibe alive with their debut album, Krush The Enemy, for Phil Anselmo’s Housecore Records label.


How long has it been since there could be a full list of 15 local releases, solid local releases in Dallas/Fort Worth? Of course in years past there have been a handful of notables, the now defunct Dove Hunter or The Great Tyrant, or errant releases The Boom Boom Box, The Polyphonic Spree, Toadies, Record Hop or The Paper Chase but for the most part, as far as I can tell, the past 6-7 years have all been transitional building years for our scene.  There have been others I am glossing over at the moment, those are just the few I’ve pulled out from ‘03-’10 to mention.

2010 saw Fort Worth coming on strong, as Telegraph Canyon, The Orbans, The Burning Hotels, Calhoun and The Whiskey Folk Ramblers pulled into the forefront of the towns conscious. The Cush moved back from Vermont to set up not in Dallas, but in Fort Worth. I firmly believe they are the band to watch for 2011.

Several solid punk bands made their marks around the area as well. Dallas’ Homewrecker, The Broadsiders, Kansas City Faggots, and Elvis Took Acid injected life into the scene, with anticipation broiling for a new Here Holy Spain record, while The Dang-It’s, The Phuss and The Me-Thinks along with upstarts Perdition – who are emerging with a pretty nice little 3 song EP they passed out at shows – were keeping Fort Worth in check.

Doug Burr, Sarah Jaffe and Seryn expanded the depth of Americana folksy-singer songwriters/artists and M.V.P.’s of every weekend, Eleven Hundred Springs, soldiered on as D/FW’s PREMIER country act. Josh Weathers and Luke Wade flew their blue-eyed soul flags with their rock-n-blues drenched shows.

Then there’s heavy metal, which is a wholly different beast entirely. Arlington’s The House Harkonnen blew everyone’s frontal lobes and ears out with a stellar opening set with the Toadies at the Palladium, Vorvon gave us dueling bassists, Garuda found themselves back together as did Rigor Mortis, Warbeast emerged, and Maleveller completely blew my eardrums out.

All this and Pinkish Black too? Whereas The Cush is the band to watch for in 2011, Pinkish Black will most likely continue to be the most creative act around these parts. I dare the duo of Daron Beck and Jon Teague to bore us. Just can’t happen.

KXT gained more ground playing a bevy of local music integrated in all of their playlists. I do not intend to downplay the importance of KTCU and most importantly stalwarts and supporters The Good Show, but having an entire radio station in town that plays interesting music while promoting the scene has been lacking for some time, especially non-corporate station(s) battling as to who can break the next “Toadies” or “Drowning Pool”.

In the live realm more music got out to people than ever before, thanks to the array of events happening in the area. Fort Worth’s climate allowing First Friday on the Green, Central Market’s Thursday night shows, Modern ‘Til Midnight and series’ saw growing crowds, as did the Arts Goggle events on Magnolia, and the Dallas Observer/FW Weekly awards showcases brought out hoards of people for local music. The newly rebranded 35 Conferette grew by leaps and bounds this year, even presenting The Flaming Lips and Midlake for free to any and all who could get into Denton and presented a keynote speaker named Steve Albini and full lineups throughout the 3 days. Clubs came and went, Longhorn Saloon and Lola’s Stockyards are gone, but The Rail Club is open and helping to take the slack off of the newly purchased and soon to be renovated and invigorated Ridglea Theater’s heavy metal presence. Casa Manana also jumped into the fray, presenting one of the best shows of the year, Dawes and Telegraph Canyon. If I could only see Telegraph Canyon in this setting every time, I would be ecstatic, it was perfect for them.

I know I have skimmed over several things, like a new album from The Old 97’s, The Grand Theater Vol. 1, or the resurrection of Oak Cliff’s gorgeous theater, The Kessler, or the Fort Worth Music Co-Op and its affiliated Outreach Program, Bottletree Media, Prekindle ticketing, Chelsea Callahan just in general, but you get the jist. This is the most vibrant time of the Dallas/Fort Worth/Denton music scene I can remember, and that includes the boom periods of ‘85-’89 and ’92-’98.

We may have seen the passing of one of the FW scene’s most important figures of the past, Axis/Mad Hatters/Engine Room/Impala co-owner Kelly Parker, who for the most part kept Fort Worth alive throughout 1989-1998, but his ripple effect lives on. This is our scene. The time is now. Capitalize on it and get out to shows and buy records from any and all of these acts and dozens more I just didn’t have room to mention. I encourage you to stay in touch with what’s going on around town, not just through The Synaptic, but through blogs/pages Birth School Metal Death and But I Just Like Music, and also local promoters bringing events to town, Parade of Flesh, Spune, Sierra Bravo, and so many more.

2011 is going to be an exciting year in this area.

Mark my words. Don’t miss it.

~ by thesynaptic on December 17, 2010.

One Response to “Little Scene: 2010: The Year In Local Music”

  1. Sarah plays Lolas on Jan 22…just saying……

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