The year has rocketed by us, and here we are, a bit past the midway point. What better time to take a moment, and consider the local songs we just can’t hear enough?
Here are some thoughts from KXT’s on-air talent and contributing writers on our favorite North Texas singles we’ve heard thus far in 2023. (And before anyone cries foul, these lists are presented in no particular order.)
Revólvers, “Lentamente”: The debut single from the self-described “Texican rock band” is a fast-paced smoky western.
Corina Grove, “I’ve Been Here Before”: Grove was born in Italy and raised all over the U.S. before landing in Dallas. Her stop-you-in-your-tracks voice shines through on her debut release.
Dana Harper, “Daydreaming”: “Daydreaming” pays homage to the classic song from Aretha Franklin while managing to create a sound that is fresh, jazzy, and new – all while expressing the frustrations that come with a “situationship.” Harper’s name might sound familiar — she was “Team Blake” on season 11 of NBC’s The Voice.
TIGRIS, “Happy New Year”: TIGRIS is a four piece that splits their time between Nashville and Denton and are busy working on their debut album. The band says that they try to blend influences from The Cure, Radiohead, Mike Dean, Oasis, blink-182, and The 1975 into one experience. “Happy New Year” is a great example of this — the song pulls at the heartstrings while staying catchy and bringing total ‘90s vibes.
Varcy, “See Me Hya”: The Bahamian born artist is a total powerhouse. “See Me Hya,” produced by Jah Born and Jordache Grant, is a sultry reggae number that will put you straight into a groove.
Matt Tedder, “Growing Up”: “Growing Up” takes a playful look at the pains of transitioning into adulthood. The song is the first release from Tedder’s new album, I Can Dream You, which shows the bluesman adding a country twist.
Remy Reilly, “What Do Ya Know”: Reilly’s take on a love song is fresh, young and feels like dancing among the wildflowers in springtime while falling in love. Her relentlessly catchy songwriting keeps her playing in my head rent-free all day long. She’s one of those artists you need to catch locally before she goes global, and we never see her around anymore.
Dev Wulf & the Midnight Howl, “Doghouse”: Dev Wulf & the Midnight Howl’s live show is practically a spiritual experience, and the energy on “Doghouse” is cut from the same cloth. It’s perfect for a summer anthem as you float down a river or have a night out in Deep Ellum. The playful vitality of Wulf’s vocals pierce through this psychedelic soul banger.
Cure for Paranoia, “Shed It (Let It Go)”: Cameron McCloud’s musical journey gets condensed into 3 minutes as he raps about mental health and being diagnosed with schizophrenia, how music therapy is “pivotal to survival,” and carries the message of letting go everything that no longer serves you. Featuring Keite Young, this track is the one you bump in the car driving down the highway.
Abraham Alexander, “Déjà Vu”: Alexander’s riveting debut album SEA/SONS has been on repeat for me, but “Déjà Vu” simply takes me to another place that feels like I’ve been lifted off the earth. Featuring legendary Mavis Staples, this track is haunting and driving at the same time, creating a complex yet accessible composition.
Jake Quillin, “voicemail.mp3”: Quillin’s album Texas Medicine has been a culmination of four years of work since he moved to Texas from Tennessee, creating a tapestry of transition, pain, perseverance, and strength. This song is a standout among the collection — weaving affirmations, spirituality, and suicide prevention into positive expression.
Lorelei K, “Gucci Doom”: The Dallas-based dream-pop act is a total mood, as the kids say. Anchored by frontwoman Dahlia Knowles’ evocative vocals, the title track from the group’s forthcoming LP is a lush, moody stunner.
Nathan Mongol Wells, “Beulah Land”: Taking a breather from fronting Ottoman Turks, one of DFW’s rowdiest bands, singer-songwriter Nathan Mongol Wells finds a more contemplative, grittier gear with this ravishing lead single from his upcoming solo debut, From a Dark Corner.
Hannah Jadagu, “Admit It”: The Mesquite native calls New York home these days, but her sonically expansive debut LP, Aperture, is as gripping as when she was assembling songs in her suburban Dallas bedroom. This gorgeous track, underpinned by Jadagu’s ghostly vocals, fairly overflows with glitchy beauty.
CHROMA, “It’s Crunch Time”: The name CHROMA is fast becoming a guarantee of a good time, even before you’ve pressed play on the Texas trio’s latest banger. “It’s Crunch Time” is no exception — call it a bilingual pep talk about the value of chasing your dreams you’ll be helplessly shaking your hips to.
Cody Wayne Briggs, “The Heart Knows”: What sounds like a bit — a Grammy-winning producer for Erykah Badu, Common, The D.O.C. and N’Dambi embraces his inner George Strait — is anything but on Cody Wayne Briggs’s debut single, “The Heart Knows.” Briggs is a stage name for producer Madukwu Chinwah, who infuses the arresting track with genuine emotion and plenty of real-deal country flourishes.
Allison Ponthier, “Character Development”: All it took was a 30-second preview at one of our KXT Public Music Meetings in the spring to recognize this one as an indie-pop earworm – it has been heavy on the repeat button for me ever since. On “Character Development,” Allison Ponthier not only refuses to be diminished by the guise of “betterment” fueled by gaslighting, she counters it by torching that narrative altogether. And as always, she does it with a dreamy music video.
Liv.e, “Wild Animals”: Truthfully, you could close your eyes and throw a fingertip at anything on the tracklist from Liv.e’s sophomore LP, Girl In The Half Pearl — released earlier this year — and end up with a sublime blueprint for the future of alternative R&B. “Wild Animals” however, stands out with her rich, soulful tone set to a purring lo-fi beat and jazzy piano runs. Just one listen-through will have you feeling her effortlessly cool energy rubbing off on you.
P$O Kwama, “You Know Me”: P$O Kwama’s (pronounced P-S-O Kwa-May) latest single has been out for just a little over a month now and has not only cemented itself as a favorite so far this year, but also as one of his best releases to date. The multi-hyphenate artist has been known to carve through his catalog by experimenting with hip-hop and R&B, and “You Know Me” finds him stretching his creative legs once again with this infectious beckoning to the dancefloor.
Jacks Haupt, “Good Minute”: The title of this one is quite fitting considering rising Oak Cliff singer-songwriter Jacks Haupt dropped “Good Minute” all the way back at the top of the year. Yet, this song makes for a perfect addition to a soundtrack for the summer. As Haupt told KXT’s Preston Jones last year about her music, “it’s just an escape from reality.” Escapism translates well on “Good Minute,” as it sonically feels more like a bask in the glorious days of summer by the pool with a margarita, and less like our reality of feeling like we’re being slow-cooked over coal every time we step outside in Texas.
FIT, “Pleasure + Pain”: Even with just a handful of singles out, FIT has emerged as one of the most exciting bands to watch in North Texas over the past couple years. Their latest, “Pleasure + Pain,” presents somewhat like a thesis for their sound so far, which has flexed from alternative to dance-ready rock. Here, they’re again straddling a line of crushing sorrow and bittersweet acceptance – if lyrics like “sinking like a stone/slowly in the dark,” cut too close to a nerve, the gorgeous instrumental break toward the back half of the song will leave you with a soft smile through the aching.
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