Leon Bridges Proves Himself The Better Man At No. 2

Just as we have at the end of the last two years, the Central Track staff has once again spent the last week reminiscing and pouring pretty tirelessly over the best locally-tied songs of the year. By now, of course, most folks expect as much from their local culture publications. Unlike in previous years, though, we've decided to do things a little differently in 2014. For one, the influx of notable tunes this year prompted us to double the length of our list — from the Top 50 to the Top 100 local songs of the year. At the same time, we didn't want to overwhelm our readers with a huge list of 100 tracks to take in all once, either. To that end, we're going to roll the thing out in daily chunks, unveiling more songs every weekday through the end of the month. It should serve to make the thing a little easier to digest — and give you time to check out the embedded streams of anything you might have missed throughout the course of the year. Really, though, you should give each of these songs a spin. They all deserve at least that much.

If it seems like Leon Bridges has come out of nowhere this year, that's because, well, he kinda has.

We only really first started seeing the throwback crooner's name appearing on bills earlier this summer, mainly in an opening capacity and predominantly in Fort Worth. Even then, though, he seemed poised for bigger things. From his seemingly endless wardrobe of vintage turtlenecks and high-waisted trousers to the way he was able to hold the attention of noisy clubs armed with just his guitar and emotive vocals, it was apparent from Day One that Bridges was something special.

The thing is, Bridges isn't, by any stretch, a technical wizard on his instrument. Still, even on nights when he's not joined onstage by his Texas Gentlemen backing band, his performances are the definition of encapsulating. There's just a naivety about him that really helps sell the particular brand of retro soul he puts down. It's what makes his fastidiously selected vintage attire, carefully curated social media presence and inescapable Sam Cooke influence feel undeniably authentic — despite the fact that, in the hands of a lesser man, the same set of variables could easily come off as a meticulously crafted commercial ploy.

SEE ALSO:
THE TOP 50 LOCAL SONGS OF 2013. // The Official Central Track Staff List.
THE TOP 50 LOCAL SONGS OF 2012. // The Official Central Track Staff List.

For Bridges, though, everything appears to come naturally. And for their part, people have begun to buy in. To wit: Around the time we first began noticing the soulman's name first appearing on bills, White Denim guitarist Austin Jenkins caught a Leon Bridges solo set at Magnolia Motor Lounge and, soon after, approached him about producing his debut record. Then, in October, a pair of tracks from those Fort Worth recording sessions were posted to Gorilla vs Bear along with some pretty lavish praise. Those tracks included “Coming Home,” which appears at No. 22 on this list, and “Better Man,” which now finds itself in the No. 2 hole.

Over an understated, reverb-heavy backing track featuring a complete horn section and chorus of female backing vocalists, Leon Bridges pleads over top, imploring his ex-flame to give him another chance. It's a soulful performance that leads one to want to personally hunt this lost lover down and do some begging on Bridges' behalf: “Can't you see this guy is in, like, some real pain?!” we'd lament. But one gets the that feeling our hunt would be in vain, as this breakup likely happened back in the '60s, before Bridges time-traveled to the present day to show us what real heartache is all about.

The lone pair of tracks Bridges has released thus far sound less like somebody successfully mining the sounds of the past as the contents of a long-buried seven-inch that was recently discovered in the attic of some forgotten '60s record producer during an overdue spring cleaning session. Hey, he does it well — so well, in fact, that on Christmas morning Leon Bridges inked a deal with Columbia Records. As meteoric as his rise has been to this point, the Columbia news is even more impressive considering it's based predominantly on the two songs he's released online.

We can't really blame the label, though. If we held any sway with a label, we'd have signed Leon Bridges on the strength of this one song alone.

The Full List: The Top 100 Local Songs of 2014.

100. Blank-Men — “Mole-Man Therapy”
99. Snow tha Product — “1 Time”
98. Goodnight Ned — “50,000 Years”
97. Pageantry — “Spine”
96. Lou Charle$ — “RiCH KiD$”
95. iill — “Surface Friend”
94. Ghost Image — “The Way”
93. County Lines — “City Between Two Cities”
92. B. Anderson — “Peer Pressure”
91. Wesley Geiger — “As the Crow Flies”
90. Somebody's Darling — “Bad Bad”
89. Radioactivity — “Danger”
88. Bobby Sessions — “Buckle Up”
87. This Will Destroy You — “Invitation”
86. Final Club — “No Regrets (M.U.R.P.H.Y.)”
85. Vincent Neil Emerson — “Hesitation Blues”
84. Lecrae — “Say I Won't”
83. Luke Wade — “The Runaround”
82. Convoy & the Cattlemen — “My Window Faces South”
81. Centro-matic — “Salty Disciple”
80. Bad Mountain — “Union Hill”
79. Dorrough — “Beat Up The Block “
78. The Longshots — “Me or California”
77. The Paychecks — “Prison Bars”
76. Dead Flowers — “I'm Leaving”
75. Birdflower — “Bish at the Beach”
74. Bad Beats — “Floor of Love”
73. Rigor Mortis — “Flesh For Flies”
72. Yung Nation — “Molly on My Chest”
71. Black Milk — “What It's Worth”
70. Fishboy — “Bury My Body”
69. Sugarfoote & Co. — “Long Gone Daddy”
68. Sexual Jeremy — “Square Eyes”
67. Blessin' — “Green Song”
66. Mink Coats — “Another Notch in the Bible Belt”
65. -topic — “Pocket Dialed the Queen”
64. Unconscious Collective — “Kotsoteka”
63. Hot Coffins — “I H8 Black Magic”
62. Cashmir — “Numbers”
61. Fever Dreamer — “A Month of Sunshine”
60. The Fox & the Bird — “No Man's Land”
59. Street Arabs — “Maltese Falcon”
58. Power Trip — “This World (2014)”
57. Zach Witness — “Amen Love”
56. Terrence Spectacle — “Futon”
55. Nighty Nite — “Temporary Custodian”
54. Bethan — “Low Expectations”
53. Baring Teeth — “Mountain”
52. Sealion — “Heavy Fizz”
51. Various Artists — “Dallas vs. Everybody”
50. Bummer Vacation — “Aye Mas Tiempo Que Vida”
49. Moonbather — “Stars From Planes”
48. Kacey Musgraves — “The Trailer Song”
47. Catamaran — “Weekdays”
46. Buffalo Black — “Bad Seed”
45. Mountain of Smoke — “Wise Owl”
44. Chambers — “Inner Room”
43. The Phuss — “Straight Line Impala”
42.Dripping Wet — “Yearbook”
41. Sarah Jaffe — “Defense”
40.Madison King — “Saved By a Son of a Gun
39. Ish D — “Keep Moving”
38. Wild Party — “Chasin' Honey”
37. Gollay — “Fight or Flight”
36. Blue, the Misfit — “Trillionaire”
35. Old 97's — “Nashville”
34. Party Static — “Poor Baby”
33. TEAM* — “I Like It”
32. Nayah — “Let it Go”
31. Oil Boom — “The Sneak Tip”
30. Spooky Folk — “Disheveled”
29. Parquet Courts — “Instant Disassembly”
28. Blackstone Rangers — “Frozen Echo”
27. Cozy Hawks — “L.A. Girl”
26. Brandon Fxrd — “Everything On Me”
25. Daniel Markham – “Disconnected and Flying”
24. Mystery Skulls — “Magic”
23. Sudie — “Heartattack”
22. Leon Bridges — “Coming Home”
21. Analog Rebellion — “Hot Shit”
20. Eat Avery's Bones — “Proboner”
19. Lily Taylor — “Across the Hills”
18. Booty Fade — “It Goes Down
17. A.Dd+ — “INNISHO”
16. Old 97's — “Let's Get Drunk and Get It On”
15. Howler Jr. — “Oh Dear”
14. Son of Stan — “The Lady That's Around Me”
13. Natural Anthem — “Paranoid”
12. St. Vincent — “Digital Witness”
11. Lord Byron — “Posh”
10. Danny Diamonds — “Hot Summer”
9. The Cannabinoids ft. The Outfit, TX — “Spic & Span”
8. Sealion — “Automobile”
7. Alsace Carcione — “Juke Joint”
6. St. Vincent — “Birth in Reverse”
5. Picnictyme — “Lift Off (feat. Sam Lao)”
4. Seryn — “Disappear”
3. Blue, The Misfit — “All Systems Go”
2. Leon Bridges — “Better Man”
1. ?????

Cover photo via Leon Bridges' Facebook page.

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