The race to find the next big thing in local music never ends.
But in the rush to crown the buzziest act, deserving musicians are often either overlooked or ignored, leaving lots of worthwhile music on the margins.
So, in that spirit, here are five acts that have captivated me so far this year.
Never miss a local story.
The one thing they all have in common — apart from living and creating in North Texas — is that their music is very deserving of your attention.
Anna Robyn Thomas
This 19-year-old singer-songwriter from Denton first came to my attention back in March, when I was bowled over by her debut album, Symptoms. “These 10 amazingly assured tracks … are like boarding a sleek roller coaster, full of hairpin turns hurtling these alt-pop songs in vivid new directions,” I wrote six months ago. I’ve returned to Symptoms several times since then, still floored by the confidence and polish of Thomas’s first album. Whatever’s next will no doubt be ambitious, and Thomas ranks among one of the sharpest songwriters working in North Texas.
You can’t swing an acoustic guitar anywhere in town without hitting a male or female troubadour. More so than most anywhere else in America, it’s simply a condition of living in Texas. But rarely do you encounter a band like Margot Dunn (assembled by singer-songwriter Lauren Hagood), which stirs some interesting flavors into a familiar brew. Drifter, the group’s debut EP, was released back in February, and at the time, I observed “Hagood’s comfortable, immediately arresting facility with melodies stopped me cold, leading to repeated listens to the five-track ... EP.” What was true then is true now: Drifter lingers.
Fort Worth rapper Tawaine Hall has been steadily grinding since the 2013 release of his full-length debut, Failure. He just released a new EP, Lost, earlier this year and the seven-track effort showcases not only Hall’s formidable flow but also a handful of area compatriots, like Da Deputy and Brandon Marcel. From the no-nonsense lead single The Oath through the gentle soulfulness of Never Ending Story, Hall stakes his place as a rapper of consequence in a scene nearly filled to overflowing with talent. As he told DFW.com two years ago, “I’m speaking with a purpose. I got something to say.”
Dallas-based singer-songwriter Holly Peyton, who performs as LEV, first turned my head back in June, with the release of her debut EP, Fear No Evil. “This five-song pleasure bomb marks Peyton as a child of the ’80s — glimmering synths and gated drums abound — but one able to evoke the past without simply recycling what came before,” I wrote earlier this year. Then as now, the EP-opening Shadow is aural crack — no matter how often I play it, I will always listen to it at least four (OK, probably five) more times before I force myself to move onto something else. One of my favorite local songs of the year.
Another strong local debut, this one from a Fort Worth trio that kicked the door open with its first EP, Caffeine Daze, back in June. “The go-for-broke opener, Begging for Disease, fits neatly with the band’s self-described Nirvana-meets-Motorhead aesthetic, and the intensity only ratchets up from there,” I wrote upon hearing Daze earlier this year. Vocalist/guitarist Dylan Owens, bassist Derek Harper and drummer Mike Surdel have continued to play steadily around town since Daze’s release, and will perform Sept. 11 at Arlington’s Caves Lounge.
To hear samples from these artists, visit DFW.com/music.