The Best Local Albums of 2013 (So Far).
Things are about to get pretty crazy around here.
In the next few months alone, we can expect new LPs from such noted locals as Midlake, True Widow, Black Milk, The Polyphonic Spree, Spooky Folk and Calhoun. Just to name a few.
This futurecasting isnâ€™t, of course, meant to slight the many excellent albums that have been previously released this year. Not in the least, actually. Already, 2013 has proven itself a very strong year for local album releases — one that's featured everything from the welcome returns of long-adored favorites to the mind-blowing debuts of should-be household names.
Here, we take a look back at our 15 favorite full-length LPs to earn their release in the first half of 2013.
Give these albums a listen. Theyâ€™re each deserving of at least that much.
Artist: New Science Projects.
Album: Hard On [stream].
What we've already said: “NSP's [got a] pretty distinctive style, which mixes screaming punk vocals and folk instrumentals” — Stephen Young
What else you should know: Easily the most accessible of Dale Jonesâ€™ Denton-based New Science Projects outfitâ€™s releases to date, Hard On tones down the affected, accented vocals, the sophomoric double entendres and the overall aggression in exchange for — gasp! — an almost poppy sheen. Granted, the familiar lo-fi recording, courtesy of Gutterth Records label head Michael Briggs, remain in place. Same goes for the immediacy of the songwriting.
Recommended if you like: a little face-paint in your blues-punk.
Artist: Pink Smoke.
Album: No Party. [partial stream].
What we've already said: “What else would one expect from an outfit that sometimes masquerades as the country's best (and possibly only) tribute band to The Damned?” — Cory Graves
What else you should know: If it sounds like thereâ€™s a familiar North Texas punk sheen heard in No Party, thatâ€™s because thereâ€™s absolutely supposed to be. Produced by area garage punk legend Mark Ryan (Mind Spiders, The Marked Men), Pink Smokeâ€™s members here pay proper homage to the North Texas punks that have come before them, while leaning in a more early â€˜80s direction than the â€˜70s power pop-indebted styles so preferred by their contemporaries.
Recommended if you like: the idea of The Damned playing a house party in the Mid-Cities.
Artist: Dead Flowers.
Album: For You [stream].
What we've already said: “This multidimensional sound is one that just kind of comes naturally due to its members' diverse musical backgrounds and tastes.” — Cory Graves
What else you should know: Itâ€™s almost impossible to discuss Dead Flowers without mentioning the likeminded groups they so often join on bills around the region — Quaker City Night Hawks, J. Charles & The Train Robbers and The Roomsounds, among them. But, truth is, there very much is a new bar-rock scene bursting out of Dallas these days — and thanks to the well-constructed, instantly familiar-sounding songs on this debut LP from Dead Flowers, itâ€™s obvious that the proper hands are tending this garden.
Recommended if you like: the booze-filled soundtrack that plays over a jukebox in the wake of a bar fight.
Album: Kenneth [stream].
What we've already said: “A punkier-than-before sound.” — Jeremy Hughes
What else you should know: Sealionâ€™s always been a punk band, true. But, listen to Kenneth and Sealionâ€™s 2011 Keep The Camera Rolling debut back to back, and youâ€™ll definitely notice a harder edge on the bandâ€™s second go. That much isnâ€™t unintentional; part of the reason bassist John Warwick left this band back in December (bringing with him easily the best cooing backing vocals in town) was because of this ever-so-slight change in direction. But after years in various punk acts from across the region, Paul Hernandez, Warwickâ€™s replacement, keeps the band in the hands of some more-than-capable performers. Lead guitarist Cole Dentonâ€™s riffs remain insanely catchy, and frontman Hunter Moehringâ€™s vocals, if slightly deeper and more aggressive this time through, still provide listeners an obvious, fiery latching-on point.
Recommended if you like: d-d-d-dancing with yourself (and your closest friends).
Artist: These Machines Are Winning.
Album: Defender 2. [stream on Spotify].
What we've already said: “These Machines Are Winning's Facebook page describes the project as a 'full immersion of creative expression combining narrative film making, photography and graphic art.' It's combined, of course, with Silvers' synth-heavy music.” — Cory Graves
What else you should know: These Machines Are Winningâ€™s chops arenâ€™t up for debate. Featuring members of various Idol Records bands whose popularities seemingly peaked in the mid- to late-â€˜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 youâ€™d enjoy, youâ€™ll really dig this record.
Recommended if you like: the Josh Venable era of KDGE 102.1 The Edgeâ€™s Sunday night mainstay, â€œThe Adventure Club.â€
Artist: Birds of Night.
Album: We're a Family Now [stream].
What we've already said: “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.” — Cory Graves
What else you should know: Birds of Night pulls off the remarkable with Weâ€™re A Family Now. Though the insanely catchy album touches on the garage and blues influences so frequently mined in the national rock landscape these days, this effort hardly sounds like another Black Keys rehash. No, this is original music with just enough jangle and know-how to recall the sort of thing your parents mightâ€™ve irresponsibly and drunkenly jammed to at a college party back in the day.
Recommended if you like: the hazy sense of cool that comes with not giving a shit about what anyone else thinks.
Artist: Buffalo Black.
Album: Buffalo Black [stream].
What we've already said: “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
What else you should know: Jamil Kelley doesnâ€™t really sound like a Dallas rapper. Hell, he hardly sounds like a Southern rapper. He kind of sounds like a New York rapper. But, realy, he just sounds pissed off. And not like â€œMad Rapperâ€ pissed off, either; mostly, he just sounds urgent. As Buffalo Black, Kelley comes across as equal parts progressive and educated. His flows are tight, his lyrics rush past too quickly for you to really realize how deliberate each of his word choices are, and his beats are drenched in all sorts of glorious grime. Itâ€™s a good look for a city whose hip-hop entities can so often sound similar to one another.
Recommended if you like: hating on hipster-baiting party rap and feeling holier than your friends.
Artist: Daniel Markham.
Album: Ruined My Life [stream].
What we've already said: “Daniel [Markhamâ€™s] Ruined My Life just might end up as one of the top five local releases of the year.” — Cory Graves
What else you should know: Just when it seemed like Denton had upped and moved on from its obsession with the Centro-matic-perfected, fuzzed-up, rather straightforward rock â€™nâ€™ roll aesthetic, Lubbockâ€™s Daniel Markham showed up to the college town and almost single-handedly brought the sound back to life. Almost literally, too: Album opener â€œI Came Here To Rock â€˜nâ€™ Rollâ€ sets the table for this phenomenal effort, which isnâ€™t afraid in the least to get a little poppy (â€œNew Bloodâ€) a little country (â€œFavorite Bandâ€) or even a little introspective (â€œEyes So Darkâ€), either.
Recommended if you like: Centro-matic but think they could stand to employ some more pedal steel from time to time.
Artist: The Relatives.
Album: The Electric Word [stream on Spotify].
What we've already said: “With the help of producer Jim Eno, The Relatives ensured that their legacy would endure. They released their first-ever full-length, The Electric Word, via Yep Roc Records. ” — Cory Graves
What else you should know: Four decades in the making, this West Dallas gospel-soul outfitâ€™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 â€˜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: Thereâ€™s a real vibrant quality to the sometimes Temptations-like recordings captured here, and thatâ€™s no small praise.
Recommended if you like: a little â€œPapa Was A Rolling Stoneâ€ sprinkled in amidst your hymns.
Artist: Air Review.
Album: Low Wishes [partial stream].
What we've already said: “Throughout the new disc, Air Review proves themselves to be deft craftsmen and sound arrangers, especially on tunes like 'Waiting Lessons,' which are somehow initially understated and yet so overwhelmingly anthemic.” — Cory Graves
What else you should know: Air Review just might be the most professional band in town. And better yet, theyâ€™re a band thatâ€™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 â€“ 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 bandâ€™s own sheer volume drowned out the individual talents of Air Reviewâ€™s members in years past, Low Wishes rightly finds the bandâ€™s vast skill set thrust into the forefront.
Recommended if you like: blasting Muse but hate disturbing the neighbors.
What we've already said: “A.Dd+ has substance in their verses and bars, sure. But they're not all about that, either; their admixture of hedonism and consciousness is one of their strongest attributes.” — H. Drew Blackburn
What else you should know: Local fans of Dallasâ€™ favorite hip-hop outfit du jour have a one-up over the bandâ€™s fans from other locales. A.Dd+â€™s most recent effort, DiveHiFlyLo, earned its local release way back in January, you may recall, but the group is still waiting to release it on a national scale. Well, fans from elsewhere, hereâ€™s what you can expect: The new release is a little darker and a little more introspective than Paris Pershun and Slim Gravyâ€™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 â€œin the houseâ€ during the hook of the discâ€™s de facto lead single, â€œSuitcases,â€ itâ€™s tough to argue; as ever, the future remains bright for this outfit.
Recommended if you like: references to Lake Highlands in your bangers.
Artist: Quaker City Night Hawks.
Album: Honcho [stream on Spotify].
What we've already said: “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.” — Cory Graves
What else you should know: Even with a co-sign from the producers of Sons of Anarchy, the knock on Quaker City Night Hawks heading into their sophomore LP was that their recorded output just couldnâ€™t hold a candle to their live show. Thatâ€™s still probably true, to be completely honest. But matching this groupâ€™s raw on-stage energy and impeccable live harmonies would be a tall task for any group. Credit the band, though, for coming significantly closer this time around — and upping the memorable quotient on their songs, too. Even after a cursory listen to this disc, you wonâ€™t be able to shake singalongs like â€œLavanderiaâ€ and â€œFox In The Henhouseâ€ from your head.
Recommended if you like: to boogie.
Artist: Power Trip.
Album: Manifest Decimation [stream].
What we've already said: “It was, by the looks of it… just your run-of-the-mill Power Trip show, which is to say that it was loud, fast, filled with flailing bodies and crushing circle pits, and, well, a not insignificant notch above most any other live performances you'll see in the region.” — Pete Freedman
What else you should know: 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 bandâ€™s long-awaited full-length debut, as put forth this summer by the well-respected folks at Southern Lord Records. Fortunately, Manifest Decimation doesnâ€™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 Galeâ€™s vocals are just muddled enough to the point where you can sing whatever the hell you want over his bandâ€™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.
Recommended if you like: self-inflected concussions.
Artist: The Baptist Generals.
Album: Jackleg Devotional to the Heart [stream].
What we've already said: “On record, they're a band that knows exactly when to hold back and let 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.” — Cory Graves
What else you should know: Worth the wait? Definitely. The latest from Chris Flemmons and his merry band of Dentonâ€™s finest is an intricately arranged, remarkably multi-faceted release. As always, though, itâ€™s Flemmonsâ€™ warbling vocals that shine brightest. If youâ€™ve heard Baptist Generalsâ€™ music before, you already know that the guy boasts the most interesting indie rock voice this side of Neutral Milk Hotelâ€™s Jeff Mangum. When he opens his mouth and lets his voice out, itâ€™s damn near impossible not to pay attention. And boy is that attention ever deserved.
Recommended if you like: delayed gratification and singing in the rain.
Artist: Dark Rooms.
Album: Dark Rooms [stream].
What we've already said: “The band's tone is indeed darker than Hart's previous works, but it still that somehow maintains the resolute hopefulness Hart's personality and his sly smiles elicit.” — Richard Carpenter
What else you should know: Weâ€™ve said it before and weâ€™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 heâ€™s ever done before. Is it chamber pop? Is it electro? Is it R&B? Yes. All of the above. And itâ€™s glorious.
Recommended if you like: skipping foreplay and getting down to business as soon as possible.
Cover photo via Dark Rooms' BandCamp page.