The Best Dallas-Fort Worth Albums Of 2015 (So Far).
Thanks to one Mr. Leon Bridges, the eyes of damn near the whole music world, it seems, is focused squarely focused on North Texas these days.
And even though he's all about anyone around here ever talks about anymore, Bridges is just one of a few dozen local acts that have put out hype-worthy full-lengths, EPs and mixtapes so far this year.
Names like Chucho, Smoke Paint, This Will Destroy You, Claire Morales, Alsace Carcione, The Cush, LEV, Jonas Martin, Pyramids, The Demigs, Valise, Bosque Brown, Fungi Girls, Year of the Bear and Tunk? Those are just a few that come to mind.
Of course, there have been plenty of others, too. So as we get ready to blow past the halfway mark of 2015, we thought it was time to highlight 15 of the best local albums released so far this year.
Artist: The Rodeo Brothers.
Album: In Love Again.
What we've already said: “Headed up by Elm Street Tattoo artist Chris Erickson and his Dwight Yoakam-esque vocals, the outfit's first effort finds it pulling off some pretty convincing '70s country.” — Cory Graves
What else you should know: Sure, their busy schedules may prevent them from playing out all that often, but Erickson and the rest of his rag tag crew are certainly worth seeking out when they do. There's some real sorrow in his voice in this collection of tunes — something that's been missing from country music for far too long. Of course, if anybody knows about pain, it'd be a guy that sticks people with needles for a living.
Recommended if you like: Tears in your beers.
Album: Go EP.
What we've already said: “Less poppy is the new one from Denton lo-fi indie rock act Blessin', which released its Go EP this week. Along with Dripping Wet's new EP, these albums make up the two sides of a new split cassette released via Dallas Distortion Music.” — CG
What else you should know: Blessin's latest album is a series of contradictions. It's lo-fi, but boasts some serious polish. It's chilled out, but still bears plenty of jangle and pop. It's probably the best thing the band has ever done, but its members are still planning on temporarily splitting while they head to different parts of the country for school. Oh well, 'tis better to love and lose, we suppose.
Recommended if you like: Admitting you like Mac DeMarco.
Artist: Sarah Jaffe.
What we've already said: “Recent Grammy winner Symbolyc One has remixed a song from Jaffe's 2014 Don't Disconnect LP, which will appear on her new VISION EP that'll earn its release in conjunction with her Friday night show at Trees. The EP will also include remixes from Mystery Skulls and Blue, the Misfit, as well as a new Dividends track, and the new, McKenzie Smith-produced title cut that also features Sam Lao and Zhora.” — CG
What else you should know: For a couple albums in a row now, Jaffe's been trying to move past her coffee shop folk beginnings, gradually incorporating more electronic elements and driving grooves into her material. Hell, the lyrics to the title track pretty much come right out and say as much. With this collection — which features a handful of remixes of Jaffe's songs by bonafide electronic musicians, as well as a new Dividends track and a previously unreleased single called “Vision” — the ever-dominant Ms. Jaffe hasn't just fully ingrained herself into that world, but proved herself one of its biggest assets locally, bringing together folks like Blue, the Misfit, Zhora and Sam Lao in the process. That shit is tasty.
Recommended if you like: Reinventing yourself every few years.
Artist: Party Static.
Album: My Cat Doesn't Like That.
What we've already said: “Following up last year's This Isn't Music EP and the band's subsequent ascent to becoming one of Dallas' favorite live acts, Party Static is now gearing up to release its sophomore EP, the hilariously entitled My Cat Doesn't Like That, and teases that impending release with a track that the group first played live at our two-year anniversary bash last February. Oh shit, indeed.” — Pete Freedman
What else you should know: Like its live shows, Party Static's second EP is, at times, chaotic. Even at its most challenging points, though, the band's cheeky dual vocals and driving dance-punk rhythms are relentlessly fun. It takes some gall to call yourself something like Party Static these days. Fortunately, this EP proves the band is more than up for the challenge.
Recommended if you like: Annoying the ever-loving crud out of your pets.
Artist: Pearl Earl.
Album: Karaoke Superstar.
What we've already said: “Only some eight months into its existence, Denton newcomer Pearl Earl is already asserting itself as one of that city's standout acts. Unlike a lot of other Denton-based outfits, the all-female psych-rock trio has already expanded its reach well beyond just the little D, frequently playing in Dallas and having its tunes released on a Pittsburgh-based compilation. Hell, tonight not only marks the release of the band's new Karaoke Superstar EP, but the a kickoff, of sorts, for a three-week West Coast tour.” — CG
What else you should know: The best rock 'n' roll is often some of the most simple. These gals boil things down to its essence — big smashing drum grooves, bouncing bass lines, ballsy synth leads and gang vocals. Who could ask for anything more?
Recommended if you like: Singing like nobody is watching.
Artist: The Birds of Night.
What we've already said: “Denton America's The Birds of Night is a band that makes nostalgically glazed Rock 'n' Roll. Their songs are made from sun-drenched guitars, reverberating vocals and loosely tightened drums. Since its jangly, Strokes-y debut, the band has evolved into much darker outfit, a fact which really rears its head on the pseudo Sabbath-y new album.” — Lauren Rushing
What else you should know: Over the course of a handful of albums, Birds of Night has tweaked its sound a few times, finally landing on a formula found on its most recent self-titled effort that doesn't sound like it's trying too hard to rip anyone off. Needless to say, this heavier take on the band's sound won't be accused of being “Strokes Lite.”
Recommended if you like: Guitar solos.
Artist: Sad Cops.
Album: Best Friends EP.
What we've already said: “Coppell isn't just the suburb that young musician Grayson Harris calls home. It also plays a big influence on his music. Initially written and recorded solely by Harris, Sad Cops' debut EP explores common suburban high school experiences and incorporates into its lyrics places he knows dearly. The album's first track, for instance, takes its name from a park near Harris' house. Regardless of where you grew up, though, there's familiarity in Sad Cops' universal and easily recognizable tales of adolescence transitioning into adulthood. In turn, Sad Cops, which has since been fleshed out into full trio, somehow manages to stand out from within the suburban sprawl it has come.” — Lauren Kuehmeier
What else you should know: There's part of us that still doesn't believe these guys are in high school. The slightly emo batch of indie tunes are just too well-arranged. More impressively, the lyricism shows an awareness of the human experience that usually takes about twice as long for most people to figure out than Grayson Harris and Co. took. Whether they ultimately decide to pursue music post-high school, some bright futures lay ahead for these kids.
Recommended if you like: Watching Saved by the Bell reruns.
Artist: Lord Byron.
Album: Digital Crucifixion.
What we've already said: “Since meeting him last summer, we've been fairly consistently floored by brash young Dallas rapper Lord Byron — but not as floored as the man born Byron Neal has been. These days, the East Dallasite is, as it were, feeling himself. And when it comes to his newest material in particular, dude's been especially proud — something he'll tell anyone who'll listen.” — PF
What else you should know: You can boast all you want online, calling yourself the greatest local rapper on Twitter or sending not-so-subtle shots at your naysayers and contemporaries. More than likely, you'd be a huge asshole for doing so. When your assertions also happen to be true, though, the point becomes harder to argue. Ain't nothing wrong with a bit of well-placed braggadocio. Hey, it's what the foundations of hip-hop were built on in the first place. All that is to say that Digitial Crucifixion manages to live up to the hype — even if most of that hype did come from Byron himself.
Recommended if you like: Yourself.
Artist: Doug Burr.
Album: Pale White Dove.
What we've already said: “Earlier this month, Doug Burr officially released his fifth LP, Pale White Dove, a raw and electrified batch of tunes that stands in stark opposition to the frail, folkstuff of 2010's O Ye Devastator.” — CG
What else you should know: Burr has been long acknowledged for his honest and well-honed songwriting chops. Most times, he uses these traits to put out collections of emotionally-charged ballads and downtempo heartstring-tuggers. There's a couple of those here, too, but the rest of the disc marks a more than refreshing change of pace for the Denton vet. A little grit never hurt anybody.
Recommended if you like: A much-needed kick in the ass.
Artist: Tony Q & Plain Jane Francis.
What we've already said: “OLDKIDS is more than just a collection of loosies tied together with a bow. Though they'd each released music on their own previously, the release finds each act at the top of his creative game: On it, Plane Jane Francis (born Kalan Briggs, who, full disclosure, is a former Central Track intern) firmly establishes himself as a clever, adaptable emcee and honestly raw lyricist; Tony Q (born Tony Quarles), meanwhile, showcases greatly his own impressively nimble and controlled vocal talents, as well as an obvious knack for earworm hooks.” — PF
What else you should know: Even if not for the immaculate selection of samples and hyper clever stream-of-conscious lyricism found on this collection, this twosome outworks everyone else in town here. Over a span of 20 weeks last fall, these guys released new music videos for 20 straight weeks. Fortunately, all that work wasn't for naught; this mixtape might be the best front-to-back assembly of hip-hop songs anybody in town has put out so far this year.
Recommended if you like: Shout-outs to local websites.
What we've already said: “The six-song short-player finds Sudie flashing the same lilting vocals and elegantly alluring productions we've come to appreciate from the young artist already — only now as part of a full set… Either way, it's a must-listen. Because, like we've said before, even if you don't know Sudie just yet, you will. That much just seems inevitable at this point.” — PF
What else you should know: While she might have scored a Dallas Observer cover long before ever officially releasing any albums, the 23-year-old put to rest any doubts that the honor was deserved when her eponymous debut EP dropped in February. With her background in opera and proclivity towards jazzy keys licks, the singer brings a little something new to the electronic pop spectrum. It's uniquely interesting, catchy as all get out and full of a charming innocence at the same time.
Recommended if you like: Shower singing.
Artist: Rhett Miller.
Album: The Traveler.
What we've already said: “You may recall the self-perpetuated narrative going around this time last year, in which Old 97's frontman Rhett Miller said he'd approached his band with two batches of songs, one made up of “really pretty or sad” songs, and the other that ultimately became the band's gloriously raunchy Most Messed Up LP. Well, turns out the pretty stuff didn't get tossed by the wayside completely… Providing the delicate backing touch here is the Portland-based bluegrass outfit, Black Prairie, which shares four of its members with The Decemberists. Then Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey of R.E.M. came along and provided some additional overdubs.” — CG
What else you should know: We've never previously found Miller's solo efforts all that interesting. Sure, they're always expertly crafted and full of wit, but nothing exciting ever happens musically — nothing that holds up to the brash fun of his other outfit, anyway. Here, though, Miller lets up on the reigns a bit, allowing some of the best musicians in the country inject some much welcomed musical acumen into the equation. There's no question in our minds that The Traveler is his best solo record to date.
Recommended if you like: Letting Jesus take the wheel.
Artist: Jake Paleschic.
Album: Again, At Last.
What we've already said: “While the subject of Leon Bridges is still fresh, we should probably bring up the fact that his roommate, Jake Paleschic, has been tapped to open a handful of sold-out tour dates for Bridges starting on April 29. It's good timing for Paleschic, who just released his first solo album, Again, At Last over the weekend. In a recent Fort Worth Weekly feature, Paleschic describes his sound as 'subtle rock,' and we tend to agree. The eight-track LP sounds every bit like the best batch of Chris Isaak covers Midlake never recorded. In case it wasn't clear, that was supposed to be a compliment.” — CG
What else you should know: While he's yet to achieve the level of stardom as his roomie Leon Bridges, Paleschic's own debut record is just as worthy a listen — especially if you're kicking yourself right about now for not jumping on Bridges' bandwagon a year ago. It's not soul music, no, but the Patriot record that never was is still a remarkable jumping off point for the “subtle rocker,” and one that finds him already eclipsing his previous outfit.
Recommended if you like: Being the most humble person you know.
Artist: Andy Pickett.
Album: It Happens Every Night.
What we've already said: “The debut solo full-length finds Pickett soulfully crooning R. Stevie Moore style over plodding keys and a backing band that includes a who's who of Fort Worth music scene folk. Produced by The Theater Fire's Britt Robisheaux, the 11 tracks are smattered with a richness in talent, including Telegraph Canyon's Chuck Brown and Tamara Cauble Brown, who handled the bass, horn and violin duties between them; Panther City Bandits' Brian Shaw and Rivercrest Yacht Club's Lucas White on drums; and Brenton Carney of Unlikely Candidates on a guitar track. Elsewhere, Ginny Mac plays the accordion, Tom Kreuder of the Buffalo Philharmonic lends his viola and Priya Patel and Brady Roberts each contribute vocals to the LP.” — CG
What else you should know: It's crazy to think that this is Pickett's first real album. It's even crazier to think that he had never really performed any full-band solo shows before playing the album release party for this remarkable debut. In spite of all this, his relative inexperience is completely absent from this record, which finds him soulfully crooning and plunking piano keys like an old pro.
Recommended if you like: People-watching in Near Southside.
Artist: Leon Bridges.
Album: Coming Home.
What we've already said: “Despite not performing at the festival — or even having released a proper album to date — Leon Bridges was the talk of this year's CMJ Music Marathon in New York after Gorilla Vs. Bear teased his debut tracks. No surprise there: The throwback production quality, top-notch musicianship from members of White Denim, among others and Bridges' own gut-wrenching, Sam Cooke-esque vocals are enough to convince even the most jaded soul.” — CG
What else you should know: As we recently heard pointed out in this podcast, lots of North Texas musicians have played the late-night talk show circuit over the years, but Leon Bridges is probably the only one that's ever done it twice before his debut album was even released. There was plenty of anticipation leading up to this album, which was finally officially released earlier today, and from people all over the country. Like so many others have already written today, Bridges' major label debut totally delivers.
Recommended if you like: Thrift shopping.