Nicholas Altobelli managed to charm our panel with his lo-fi folk tune. 

Nicholas Altobelli managed to charm our panel with his lo-fi folk tune. 

Our panel this week includes pop music critic Hunter Hauk, Guidelive’s Tiney Ricciardi, FD’s digital editor Christopher Mosley, the News’ writer and editor Dawn Burkes, and Briefing’s Jamie Hancock. Agree? Disagree? Share and weigh in on Facebook or Twitter.

Lord Byron, “Monstrous” 

The Dallas rapper recently hosted a listening party for his new collection, Digital Crucifixion.

HH: While glitchy beats and unorthodox samples might be jarring at first to someone who limits their hip-hop consumption to passive radio listening, one doesn’t have to look too hard for the groove. And Byron’s beat-riding lyrics are clearer in the mix than on other tunes’. It’s nice.

CM: After attending Lord Byron’s album listening party it’s clearer than ever that he operates outside of most of what constitutes Dallas hip-hop. His work is more strongly tied to visual art and unconventional electronic music. “Monstrous” had a video backdrop of an alienated Godzilla battling Mechagodzilla and you could feel Byron’s frustration. He ditched the listening party aspect and just started accompanying himself.

TR: I’ve been a fan of select songs from Lord Byron before. This one gives me the ‘meh’ though. Extra points for the Mario coin grab noises.

DB: Grrr. It was a hard push through the distorted early part of the song to even get to the clever wordplay and I breathe hip-hop. Music should challenge, but I threw up my hands. No mas. (At least until I go back and strip the layers.) I need another one, though, because he can talk.

JH: I tried to get into this guy's flow, but as a listener of pretty generic and old-school hip-hop, I couldn't. Wait - did I just score some gold coins in Super Mario Bros.? Oh no, that's the song. It's not what I'm used to, but maybe that's a reason I should listen to more music like this.

Delta Maze, “Oh No Don’t Go” 

Delta Maze is the pop music project of Dallas’ Andrew Meals. Read more about his debut EP in this Friday’s Guide.

HH: The chorus has a repetitiveness and simplicity to it that would give it a great chance to live alongside the hits on Kiss 106.1. And that’s not a knock in any way -- many a songwriter would tell you that the catchiest stuff is the most difficult to create.

CM: This is remarkably cynical radio pop, which is an essential approach for the genre.The verse almost got me with the minor-key chord progression. It sounds like something Miley Cyrus would execute successfully and maybe Mr. Meals should be ghostwriting for her.

TR: This song fits among loveable, guilty pleasure pop bands like Walk The Moon or All American Rejects -- a huge departure from Meals former project Weekend Hustler. I think it has potential to capture a wide array of listener, though it’s not my personal cup of tea. I’d love to hear the rest of the album to see if there’s something a little less bubblegum.

DB: Calling The WB. If this doesn’t show up in plenty of TV shows and commercials, then they’re not listening. I’m not judging -- “Don’t judge,” my little one would tell me -- but this song proves that simple may be best.

JH: This immediately struck me as radio-friendly. The lyrics are pretty unoriginal (Imma be all right...yeah I'll be fine...no I can't keep you out my mind), but it has that peppy vibe that's all over pop radio these days. With their sound, they could probably piggyback on the popularity of the big hit last summer by Magic, "Rude."

Claire Morales, “Caravan” 

The Denton singer-songwriter released her debut album, Amaranthine, in February.

HH: These lyrics make me realize that Lana Del Rey doesn’t even scratch the surface of true  summertime sadness. The tune itself isn’t something I’d return to often, but I’d likely pull it up on a Mazzy Star kind of morning.

CM: Morales waits until the second verse to tell you she’s lonely (with someone else, of course). But you know that from the second the music starts. This captures a very distinct mood, a sort of folky North Texas despair, and it’s a perfect way to make your Braum’s-in-a-parking lot-alone moment that much more dramatic.

TR: This song charmed me from the first note. It has this Weepies-like cadence that I am just a sucker for, but credit is due to Morales, who you can tell has a deep understanding of her voice and what she wants to convey with it.

DB: Get me a lighter, stat. Fiona Apple- and Joan Osborne-like vague lyrics that can mean what the listener wants them to mean means this is right in my wheelhouse. I feel like crying, and that’s a good thing. I think she done him wrong and she’s feeling some type of way about it.

JH: I liked this right away. Her voice has a bit of a Chrissie Hynde quality to it. Maybe it's one of those songs you can like without fully understanding its meaning - she's being carried through the desert via caravan, with a guy who sees her as a goddess, but she wonders if it's worth the bother? I'd probably enjoy the melody and her unconventional voice no matter the lyrics.

Nicholas Altobelli, “Searching Through That Minor Key” 

The song comes from an album of the same name released in July by the Dallas singer-songwriter.

HH: Altobelli’s lack of vocal emotion is one of the things I like about him -- he lets his words do most of the work. That’s the case here, and the concept of the song speaks to his constant efforts to freshen up the indie-folk formula. Wordplay on lock.

CM: The double-tracked vocals have been overdone in folk music, but Altobelli is so polite here that it’s inoffensive. The piano part feels like a nervous child at a recital, which is why it’s surprisingly effective. The unsure tinkling is tender in a way that Altobelli’s vocal performance is not.

TR: Not sure how I’m working two Weepies references into one day, but this has “World Spins Madly On” written all over it. It’s mildly unfortunate I can only think of other bands’ songs when listening to it -- like I swear I’ve heard this before -- but I’ll play it enough it will become a reference point for future songs, guaranteed.

DB: I love that this is made with no artifice. The piano does just what it’s supposed to do, lift and make the hearer of the words as hopeful as the delivererl.

JH: Altobelli says he writes sad songs. I didn't get that feeling from this particular song, and the simplicity of his voice, the guitar and the piano appealed to me. Short and sweet.

Nervous Curtains, “Devastator” 

“Devastator” is a single from the Dallas band’s upcoming album, Con, coming out in early October.

HH: The first half is ice-cold and stylish, with occasional brassy flourishes, and the second half builds toward something much warmer thanks to synth chords and refrains from singer Sean Kirkpatrick. Can’t wait to hear it live. Fog machine required.

CM: Lead singer Sean Kirkpatrick is getting into some 70s art rock territory here. There’s something very confident about the performance and you could see him strutting around the stage if he weren’t glued to his keyboard. The sounds are always great, but Nervous Curtains never goes entirely off the rails like I wish they would. A remix by a 22-year-old Tumblr DJ might work wonders.

TR: This song sounds like it’s having an identity crisis in the best way possible. One moment it’s eerie sort of prog synth, the next it’s horns and keys leading the charge in vintage funk style. The lead singer’s voice doesn’t even seem to fit either one of those, but somehow the vocals tie everything together. I feel like I should hate this song with all it’s moving pieces and feels, but it works. No idea how, but it works. Dig!

DB: I am not mad at them for this. I could play this on a loop and drive all night long...to a party. Great title, great band name.

JH: My first impression of this song was that it sounds like something a college kid on Adderall would play while swiftly and methodically cleaning his dorm room. That said, I enjoyed the synthesizer, as well as the piano toward the end, and I could see this being part of a workout playlist.

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