The Official Central Track Staff List.

Somewhere over the course of the past several years, the concept of a publication painstakingly paring down and ranking their lists of the best albums released in a given year become less of a novel venture and, really, more of an obligation.

At this point, it’s almost more novel anomalous if someone who has taken the time to register a URL doesn’t conform to the annual list-making tradition.

Alas, as these things have become more and more common, we’ve noticed how alike most of these things invariably turnout as well. I mean, have you ever read an intro to one of these things that didn’t gush about the past year being an exceptionally strong one for music?

Still, in years like the one we just had — where so many of our favorite albums from locally-based musicians earned heaps of national praise from outlets like Pitchfork, Spin, Rolling Stone, among others, and even found their way onto some of those national “Best Of” lists in the process — it’s hard to argue against the fact that we indeed experienced an embarrassment of riches from the local music community in 2013.

See our full list of our favorite local albums from 2013 below, along with selected quotes from our coverage throughout the year where applicable.

See also: NATIONAL ALBUM RELEASES OF THE YEAR: 2013 // The Official Central Track Staff List.

30. The Satans of Soft Rock
Friend of Man and Beast Alike

“Sometimes, it’s not so much about what is being played as it’s about how it’s played. And, with songs like these, dynamics and arrangement are of added importance. Ferraro’s hired guns — which include Ryan Becker on guitar, Chris Gomez on keys, David Howard on bass and Justin Collins on drums — are perfect for executing the subtleties in his songs in this way, each having played in at least a half dozen other Denton bands, many of which have also included Ferraro himself.” — Cory Graves

29. The Polyphonic Spree
Yes, It’s True

“It’s a full, poppy release from arguably the fullest pop-rock band to ever come out of Dallas. At times, the album finds the band exploring some of the most experimental territory it’s ever touched upon; at other points, the band’s sound is poppier than ever. It’s a healthy mix.” — Pete Freedman

28. Midlake

“These days, waiting three-plus years between albums is more the norm than the exception for a band such as Midlake. But the profound perfectionists in this soft-rockin’ outfit have certainly proved at least this much over the course of their catalog: Whether you actually enjoy the band’s aesthetic doesn’t matter; musically, pretty much everything this group does is flawless.” — CG

27. Sam Lao
West Pantego

“Sam Lao, who recently dropped her ‘Pilgrim’ video and just released her West Pantego EP today, showcased a strong stage presence — and not just due to her height or wild, curly locks. Her flow is a straightforward spit, and she incorporates some note-hitting singing and spoken word into her act, too.” — Mariah Tyler

26. Ice Eater
Don’t Care

“[Ice Eater’s] raucous [catalog is] forever bordering on becoming unhinged, with the band adroitly reeling itself back in seemingly just in time, each and every time. — PF

25. War Party
Tomorrow’s a Drag

“Between the time that the doo-wop punks released a handful of EPs last year and began working on this, its first proper full-length at Eagle Audio, the band added a trombone to its already heavily trumpet-infused sound. On top of that, the piano and organ overdubs they added in the studio give War Party’s catalog a newfound focus and polish, but not at the expense of some of the rougher edges.” — CG

24. These Machines Are Winning
Defender 1

“These Machines Are Winning’s chops aren’t up for debate. Featuring members of various Idol Records bands whose popularities seemingly peaked in the mid- to late-’00s — [daryl], The Crash That Took Me and Black Tie Dynasty — this veritable Dallas supergroup, the brainchild of the also Polyphonic Spree-tied Dylan Silvers, is indeed a somewhat backward-looking, resurgent effort. But in, like, the best way: If emo-tinged synth-pop even sounds remotely like something you’d enjoy, you’ll really dig this record.” — PF

23. The Relatives
The Electric Word

“Four decades in the making, this West Dallas gospel-soul outfit’s full-length debut is well worth the wait — even if that wait meant an out-of-towner re-discovering a lost 45 of theirs from the ’70s in a nondescript record store bin and becoming so inspired by what he heard that he decided to convince pastor brothers Gene and Tommie West to give the whole music thing a second go. Thank goodness for that: There’s a real vibrant quality to the sometimes Temptations-like recordings captured here, and that’s no small praise.” — PF

22. Buffalo Black
Buffalo Black

“This is a dark, heavy, melancholic and spiteful release. [Jamil] Kelley’s quick to say that he’s heavily influenced by acts such as the electronically-minded Flying Lotus, and it shows. But, though his new album’s tracks also feature influence from such disparate genres as witch house and glitch, this album remains hip-hop to its core.” — Mikel Galicia

21. Mega Drive

“In July of 2012, a local producer by the name of Mega Drive rather nondescriptly posted a seven-song batch of ’80s-influenced and largely instrumental electronic cuts to Bandcamp — the first collection he’d ever worked on. The tracks didn’t necessarily receive too much attention then — still haven’t, really — but the collection, released rather appropriately under the ’80s-referencing album title banner VHS, boasted a definite allure all the same. They’re dark, tense and moody, they’re unapologetically futuristic and, most of all, they’re just so undeniably cool. Better yet, they turned out to be just the start, setting the table for what has turned out to be a rather interesting and now four-album-deep catalog from an anonymous, Dallas-dwelling mastermind with a uniquely dystopian aesthetic. — PF

20. Mind Spiders

When Mind Spiders debuted “Make Make Make Make” via Pitchfork, the site called the first single from the band’s then-upcoming third full-length “a two-minute burst of power.”
Three weeks later, the lo-fi Fort Worth rockers unveiled their synthy, horror-pop second single, “Inside You” via Spin. — CG

19. Pinkish Black
Razed to the Ground

“Some of most notable words of praise [for Pinkish Black] came from Pitchfork, who spoke well of the ‘stronger, more confident’ Pinkish Black in its review of Razed to the Ground. And while that review expressed a level of surprise that the band could churn out such a strikingly metal effort while eschewing both guitars and anything that might be construed as riffs, it probably shouldn’t be all that surprising at just how much the band has been thriving since signing its Century Media deal last year.” — CG

18. Lord Byron
Dark Arts Vol. 2

“As a rapper, Neal is a confident wordsmith who floats over track after track with the kind of flow one can only cultivate after studying the likes of an MF Doom or Jay Electronica. He sounds like Earl Sweatshirt, really, in both delivery and tone. For 16 tracks, the 21-year-old carries his new album without banal hooks, makes use of only one feature and simply offers up well-crafted bar after well-crafted bar.” — MG

17. Sealion

“Sealion’s always been a punk band, true. But, listen to Kenneth and Sealion’s 2011 Keep The Camera Rolling debut back to back, and you’ll definitely notice a harder edge on the band’s second go. Lead guitarist Cole Denton’s riffs remain insanely catchy, and frontman Hunter Moehring’s vocals, if slightly deeper and more aggressive this time through, still provide listeners an obvious, fiery latching-on point.” — PF

16. Calhoun

“To call it a departure from 2011’s Heavy Sugar is a gross understatement — and that’s definitely not a bad thing. Still present are Tim Locke’s recognizable vocals and songwriting prowess, of course. Now, though, it’s fused with a cross-section of Blondie’s dance-pop sensibilities and The Flaming Lips’ electronic know-how.” — CG

15. The Birds of Night
We’re A Family Now

“If Andrew Roth Rothlisberger’s decision to record the first two releases from his band The Birds of Night in the spare bedroom of a Denton apartment while using just three microphones and anachronistic equipment is, as the frontman likes to say, a nod to his love of toy cameras and their visual aesthetic, then the band’s latest effort is the aural equivalent of playing with Instagram. Recorded in part by Midlake guitarist Eric Pulido at his band’s studio and mixed by Pulido’s bandmate, drummer McKenzie Smith, at Denton’s Redwood Studio, We’re a Family Now plays out like a bass-ier, only slightly fuller take on the throwback, ’60s soul-meets-garage sound displayed on 2011’s Fulton St. EP and last summer’s Snaps LP.” — CG

14. Air Review
Low Wishes

“Air Review just might be the most professional band in town. And better yet, they’re a band that’s willing to evolve. Their 2009 debut, Landmarks was a rather bombastic, swamp-stomping affair — or, in other words, the polar opposite of Low Wishes. A couple years in the making — for a while there, the band was intent on ditching the album format, releasing a number of tracks that would find their way onto Low Wishes as standalone singles — this sophomore effort finds the band exploring more lush, delicately arranged territory than ever previously tackled, save for a quick dalliance here or there. Good thing, too: Whereas the band’s own sheer volume drowned out the individual talents of Air Review’s members in years past, Low Wishes rightly finds the band’s vast skill set thrust into the forefront.” — PF

13. Black Milk
No Poison No Paradise

“All eyes will surely be on Black Milk this fall. And, lucky for us, those eyes will now be directed toward Dallas — Black Milk’s new home. Make no mistake: His arrival is a major coup for the city. Having such a talented rapper and producer decide to up and move to Dallas — and one who’s doing it so well for over ten years and counting — is a huge deal.” — MG

12. Quaker City Night Hawks

“For the 41-minute duration of the disc, the band dabbles through the gamut of southern-influenced genres, mixing in a hard rock edge when they see fit, and tying the whole work together with their rowdy, yet impeccably executed, backing vocals and harmonies. Although they don’t necessarily tread any wholly uncharted territory on this journey, the band does manage to demonstrate a mastery of each new approach as they gallop through the 12 tracks on the album.” — CG

11. Cutter

“Cutter’s second EP starts with a bang, and spastically ping-pongs in and out of chiptune, electro-punk and synth-pop territories in its quick four-track run. It also ends quicker than you can burn three lives in Contra. And, like in that 1988 classic, this one will sucker you in again and again.” — CG

10. Party Static
This Isn’t Music

“If you’re going to potentially pigeonhole yourself with a word like ‘party’ in your band name, you sure as hell better exude the very ‘no fucks given’ essence that such a word implies. Fortunately, Party Static’s debut EP — which is full of impudent talk-y vocals, siren-like screams, fuzzy bass lines and songs that range from bratty (‘I Want’) to reckless (‘Sex in the Neighborhood’) — most certainly finds the band living up to its name.” — CG

9. Radioactivity

Though the band just released its debut effort in October, Vice‘s Noisey blog revealed that the outfit has already begun recording a sophomore effort that’ll be released sooner rather than later. That’s certainly good news for fans of Mark Ryan and Jeff Burke’s trademark brand of lo-fi rock — especially considering the fact that the blog called the group’s self-titled debut “so good that you want to listen to every song at the same time through two different stereos at once.” We’re inclined to agree. — CG

8. Rania Khoury
Stone Wolf

“Though the distinction gets thrown around a lot, nobody else around town currently deserves the ‘best artist you probably haven’t heard of but most definitely should’ tag more than Arlington native Rania Khoury. As prim and polished as the backing play on her 18-months-in-the-making, August-released debut, Stone Wolf is, it is Khoury’s voice that does much of the heavy lifting on the release. And live audiences will certainly be all the more impressed at her hopping back and forth between jaunty keyboard playing and plucky, finger-picked guitar work at this performance as she sets the perfect foundation for her spot-on vocal theatrics.” — CG

7. A.Dd+
DiveHiFlyLo: Every Man Is King

“The new release is a little darker and a little more introspective than Paris Pershun and Slim Gravy’s breakthrough When Pigs Fly mixtape, but still finds the talented twosome deftly rapping over a bevy of memorable beats from a variety of producers. When Slim raps that he and Paris are “in the house” during the hook of the disc’s de facto lead single, ‘Suitcases,’ it’s tough to argue; as ever, the future remains bright for this outfit.” — PF

6. True Widow

After signing to seminal metal label Relapse Records earlier this year, the Dallas stonegaze trio seemed destined for a share of the national spotlight this fall. Like their last two releases, the band once again opted to record their effort with Centro-matic’s Matt Pence at Argyle’s Echo Lab studio, and, to that end, their efforts proved to yield much of the same kind of epic, sludging riffs you’ve grown to expect from a True Widow release. Only, this time around, the rest of the world finally began to discover what us North Texas folks have known all long. — CG

5. Power Trip
Manifest Destination

“Catching a Power Trip live show is easily the most visceral experience one can indulge in around these parts, so, yeah, there was all sorts of anticipation — amongst a certain set, at least — in the lead-up to the release of the band’s long-awaited full-length debut, as put forth this summer by the well-respected folks at Southern Lord Records. Fortunately, Manifest Decimation doesn’t even come within the same zip code of disappointment. Combining thrash and hardcore elements into a stirringly brutal stew, Manifest Decimation is whatever the opposite of easy listening is. Its riffs are absurdly over-the-top, its energy is out-of-this world and frontman Riley Gale’s vocals are just muddled enough to the point where you can sing whatever the hell you want over his band’s backing music and it still works. The best metal-inclined album Dallas has seen in years? The best metal-inclined album Dallas has seen in years.” — PF

4. Daniel Markham
Ruined My Life

“Just when it seemed like Denton had upped and moved on from its obsession with the Centro-matic-perfected, fuzzed-up, rather straightforward rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic, Lubbock’s Daniel Markham showed up to the college town and almost single-handedly brought the sound back to life. Almost literally, too: Album opener ‘I Came Here To Rock ‘n’ Roll’ sets the table for this phenomenal effort, which isn’t afraid in the least to get a little poppy (‘New Blood’) a little country (‘Favorite Band’) or even a little introspective (‘Eyes So Dark’), either.” — PF

3. Son of Stan
Divorce Pop

“Considering he’s made his name mostly as a drummer, the tracks feature much more sparse percussion than one might initially suspect. In fact, there’s not a single cymbal used on any [of the album’s tracks]. This choice gives the tone of the record a sense of intimacy, while still leaving listeners with an unsettling feeling. Though the songs are pretty laid back, they still manage to drive the listener forward — almost against their will, and with a prevailing sense of urgency.” — CG

2. The Baptist Generals
Jackleg Devotional to the Heart

“On Jackleg Devotional to the Heart, this group has produced an album that culls from [its members] collective experiences. On record, they’re a band that knows exactly when to hold back and let [frontman Chris] Flemmons’ tremulous, penetrating vocals and delicate acoustic guitar playing shine. Other times, tape loops, electric instruments and an array of percussion add sweeping embellishments to Flemmons’ self-effacing song skeletons.” — CG

1. Dark Rooms
Dark Rooms

“We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Dark Rooms is the best new band in town. Really: Long-respected area violinist and songwriter Daniel Hart (Polyphonic Spree, Other Lives) has truly hit a special nerve with this new outfit, which mines darker, sexier, more synth-based territory than anything he’s ever done before. Is it chamber pop? Is it electro? Is it R&B? Yes. All of the above. And it’s glorious.” — PF

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