The Official Central Track List.

It’s been a damn fine year for music, internationally. But let’s reel things in a bit, as this year also brought us some exceptional music on the home front. In 2015, Kacey Musgraves, Leon Bridges and Radioactivity kept that international audience entertained, while folks like Bobby Sessions, Charley Crockett and Sad Cops put in work in Dallas and all of the lesser cities surrounding it (kidding, but not really).

So, without to much pomp and circumstance or drumroll please, we bring to you on the last day of 2015 our picks for the best North Texas albums of 2015.

Happy New Year’s folks. New year, new you. — H. Drew Blackburn

25. Rhett Miller — The Traveller
“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.” — Cory Graves

24. Los Paganos Del Ritmo — Bop N’ The Blues
The ringleader of Los Paganos Del Ritmo, Mack Stevens, has allegedly released 45 records in his life, which is a hell of a lot. He’s flown under the radar for quite some time which is a damn shame. Los Paganos Del Ritmo’s (which translates to the Heathens of Rhythm) Bop N’ The Blues is DIY old school rockabilly and blues recorded in a kitchen in Argentina, where the Dallas resident’s wife is from. This low key gem of dirty old blues is one of Dallas’ best kept secrets that should be known like the juiciest bit of gossip flying around high school. We as heathens, who love rhythm, best get up on it. — HDB

23. Jake Paleschic — Again, At Last
“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.” — CG

22. Maren Morris — s/t
“All sorts of industry publications have predicted 2016 will be a breakout year for the now Nashville-based country singer-songwriter. She also landed on Billboard’s Heat Seekers chart earlier this month, a big indicator that all those proclaiming her one of the genre’s next big things are probably right on the money.” — CG

21. Blessin’ — Go EP
“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.” — CG

20. ghoulfive — Plastic Sex… Dance
It’s funny. Usually Lord Byron is mum as all hell on Twitter. You’ll hear about it if he’s feeling some type of way, and you will hear every nook and cranny about said thing. But, this collaboration project with Felix, we don’t really know much about it outside of three things; it’s lo-fi, it’s funky, and it’s a pretty damn good. Byron’s collaborator, Felix is a mystery, hopefully in 2016 we can learn more about the fellow and see a show or two. Selfishly, we don’t want him to keep all that talent secluded inside of a bedroom. — HDB

19. Jay Luse — Soulful Attraction
Outside of AV the Great and some short stints from a few members of Brain Gang, hip hop in Denton hasn’t exactly sizzled and popped outside of the town known for its punk and middle class music scenes. However, newcomer Jay Luse’s Soulful Attraction, which still has gotten less attention than it deserves, is a stellar debut project. Luse’s soulful production and ginsu sharp flow hasn’t gone unnoticed here, nor has it passed by his contemporaries. He scored a music video by Jeremy Biggers, production from Blue, the Misfit and a Mick Jenkins feature. Be on the lookout for what the Channel X(TEN) collective member has in store coming forward, the sky’s the limit here. — HDB

18. Vincent Neil Emerson — East Texas Blues
“Vincent Neil Emerson wears his influences on his sleeve. It’s a fact the Fort Worth-based songwriter doesn’t shy away from, either. Rather than reinvent the wheel on his debut LP, East Texas Blues, Emerson steers hard towards the sounds of his honky-tonk heroes…All this isn’t to say there’s not plenty of Emerson in this debut batch of tunes, though. Over the course of the album’s 10 tracks, Emerson drops plenty of wisdom, culled from life experiences beyond those of most 23-year-olds. After moving to Fort Worth a couple years ago for a girl, the East Texas native found himself in a tough spot when things didn’t work out between the two. What followed was a stint of couch-surfing and a brief homeless spell before landing a job washing dishes, renting an apartment and working towards making music his full-time gig.” — CG

17. Dead to a Dying World — Litany
“Rarely do you find sites with names like “Angry Metal Guy” ever agreeing on anything with the folks at NPR. Yet, in 2015, the Dallas metal band Dead to a Dying World managed to establish a common ground between these poles. One possible reason? The fact that metal is probably too lazy a descriptor for the epic, viola-laced symphonic sludge that this outfit cranks out…There’s enough kick-you-in-the-teeth ballsiness here to appease any kind of metal fan. But dig deeper, and there are a lot more subtleties at play for the symphony-loving NPR crowd to latch onto, too, just as they have.It’s a difficult wire to walk, but one that Dead to a Dying World pulls off in the most grandiose fashion imaginable.” — CG

16. Charley Crockett — A Stolen Jewel
Charley Crockett has been a wandering man. He’s traveled from Los Angeles to New orleans to New York trying to make the music thing happen, but he found himself back home in Texas, albeit a little far from his Rio Grande Valley roots. His album A Stolen Jewel is as bluesy with winks and nods to New Orleans and his Creole descent. A Stolen Jewel guides you through sepia toned soul of yesteryear in an unabashed manner, it even closes on a cover of a classic Yiddish song, “Bei Mir Bistu Shein.” They say nostalgia can kill you, boats borne back ceaselessly into the past and all, but this nostalgia is full of life. — HDB

15. Kacey Musgraves — Pageant Material
For Mineola native Kacey Musgraves, Pageant Material marked her fifth LP and her second major label release for Mercury Nashville.It debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Country chart and earned Musgraves her second straight Grammy nod for Best Country Album. It’s well-deserved, too, as the album marks a worthy follow-up to her big breakthrough effort, 2013’s Same Trailer, Different Park. — CG

14. Andy Pickett — It Happens Every Night
“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.” — CG

13. Herrick & Hooley — Famous Honey
Jazz, as cool as it used to be, is now basically classical music. It’s shit people throw on to create an ambiance like an aromatic and slow burning candle. Not too many Coltrane’s or Davis’ out there these days. But, certainly, there are a few contemporary musicians who breathe life into the genre and the precocious bunch that is Herrick & Hooley are undoubtedly that. Famous Honey’s blend of soul, jazz and hip-hop makes it one of the most exciting and forward thinking records of the year. Interestingly, because this trio is so young (seniors in high school when this record dropped), it wasn’t Chet Baker or anybody who turned these kids onto jazz…it was Tyler, the Creator. Ain’t that something? — HDB

12. Party Static — My Cat Doesn’t Like That
“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.” — CG

11. Erykah Badu — But You Caint Use My Phone
“Named after her classic 1997 cut ‘Tyrone,’ the mixtape is Badu’s first release since she dropped her New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh LP in 2010. Created over a 12-day period in Badu’s native Dallas, the new collection’s 11 songs were each recorded alongside Dallas producer Zach Witness. Each track also centers around a phone theme. In addition to Witness — called ‘Zach Witnessin’ in a press release that made the rounds earlier this week and that also teased the album’s so-called ‘TRap & B’ sound — two other guests show up on the mixtape. Most notably, Andre 3000, father of Badu’s son Seven Sirius Benjamin, shows up for a verse on the song’s final track, the Isley Brothers-sampling ‘Hello.'” — Pete Freedman

10. Sudie – s/t
“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.” — CG

9. Lord Byron — Digital Crucifixion
“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.” — CG

8. The Outfit, TX – Down by the Trinity
“As I sit with this crew, we discuss at length what the hell the confederate flag is all about, as well as the group’s third album, Down By The Trinity, which finds the group taking young manhood by the horns and exploring the emotions that come with it. Mel tells me the album, is a deep dive into the serenity that comes with adulthood. The album is considerably darker than previous releases like Starships & Rockets: Cooly Fooly Space Age Funk and Cognac/Four Corner Room. But, to JayHawk, it’s dark in the way that a second line in New Orleans is: ‘It’s pain, but we’re getting past this pain,’ he says. ‘This is the time where we’re getting all that pain off of our shoulders. And we’re fixing to celebrate that shit.'” — HDB

7. Pearl Earl — Karaoke Superstar EP
“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?” — CG

6. Birds of Night – s/t
“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.'” — CG

5. Radioactivity — Silent Kill
“After releasing a debut LP that landed on our list of the best local albums of 2013, we wondered what the vaunted Denton punks in Radioactivity were going to do to top it. I mean, Noisey 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.’ And that’s not all that hyperbolic a response! Fortunately for Mark Ryan, Jeff Burke, Daniel Fried and Greg Rutherford (different combinations of which make up the lineups of The Marked Men, Mind Spiders, Bad Sports, VIDEO, Wax Museums, The Reds and Grave City, to name a few), these guys never seem to run out of ways to keep making three-chord lo-fi rock sound fresh. — CG

4. Leon Bridges — Coming Home
“A lot can change in a year. When Leon Bridges appeared on our list of the top local songs of 2014 things were different, to say the least. While gushing about his song ‘Better Man,’ one of only two official recordings he’d released to that point, all we could talk about was how he seemed to come out of nowhere, quickly becoming one of the area’s most promising performers in just a few months’ time. A few short weeks after that piece, he began what turned into an unprecedented 2015 that saw him making seven televised performances, getting to share the stage with The Beatles, topping the Billboard R&B charts and earning a Grammy nomination.” — CG

3. Sad Cops — Best Friends EP
“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.” — CG

2. Masego x Medasin — Pink Polo EP
“The stand-out track in that project is ‘Girls That Dance,’ a song with more than 1.3 million plays on SoundCloud. As the first track on the EP, “Girls That Dance” sets the tone for the project with a modern-day disco vibe, bombastic drums, smooth talking and vocals. At the track’s midpoint there’s a crisp saxophone solo followed by Masego scatting about ‘ta-ta’s.’ Masego calls his music ‘TrapHouseJazz,’ but it’s not exactly that. Though it borrows from trap with hard drums, you don’t ever feel the horror or claustrophobia inherent in selling small quantities of drugs because you’re trapped into doing nothing else. Instead, this is just sweaty fun that demands you at least tap your toe, even if it also boasts the power to hypnotize you into doing a swing routine best-suited for a dank hipster bar in Los Angeles a la Swingers.” — HDB

1. Bobby Sessions — Law of Attraction
“The album has features from Slim Gravy of A.Dd+, Atlanta’s Jarren Benton, -topic, Freddy Sans, Zyah and Donny Domino, plus production from Smokey Got Beatz, Tone Jonez, Xes, Donny Domino, -topic and Blue, The Misfit. Let me tell you: This is a stellar project that solidifies Sessions as one of the best emcees in Dallas. And, quite frankly, LOA (Law Of Attraction) is one of the best rap records released in 2015, in Dallas and beyond.” — HDB

Cover photo by Jeremy Hughes.
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