By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Wolf Eyes, Human Animal
Wolf Eyes & Anthony Braxton, Black Vomit
Wolf Eyes just blew the field away this year. It's hard to fathom how anyone could have better control over broken machines, creepshow thuds and squelching electric currents and weave it all together with such powerful restraint and reckless fury. Human Animal alternates between harrowing and mind-melting, and the live set with avant-jazz legend Braxton is just pure magical intensity, a redefinition of what music might be.
Envy, Insomniac Doze
A Japanese combo that sounds like Explosions in the Sky playing black metal. Totally gripping.
Alan Sparhawk, Solo Guitar
Low's Alan Sparhawk takes a surprising left turn into meditational Krautrock. Beautifully patient instrumentals with an ancient, almost menacing edge, well-tempered with minimalist layers of soothing drones and loops.
March of the Carpenter Ants, Us>Jesus EP
This is my random MySpace discovery of the year. A Columbus, Ohio, duo who breathe more life into mangled electronics and circuit-bend textures than Sonic Boom could ever do alone.
Sunn 0))) and Boris, Altar
Not always all it's cracked up to be, but nevertheless, locking in and listening to this frappé of low-end doom and hushed gossamer dream states is like peeling away the layers of a fascinating eternal fruit from the great beyond.
Black Happy Day, In the Garden of Ghostflowers
Featuring members of Stone Breath and Lycia, an eerie shotgun wedding of folksy medieval dirges and magickal ambiance from the dark side of Stonehenge.
Mission of Burma, The Obliterati
Boston postpunk pioneers are one of the greatest still and possibly—could it be?—even more convincing and passionate since their re-formation.
Isis, In the Absence of Truth
Not nearly to Panopticon levels, but even a mild disappointment is a score for the best "ambient metal" band on the planet.
The Melvins, A Senile Animal
The Melvins with two drummers? Hard to beat.
TOP LOCAL ALBUMS
(in alphabetical order)
After all these years, they have toned down the volume, but Andrew Huffstetler's odd bombast and intensity still remains, as does the band's proclivity for hiding dissonant bits inside Newbery Medal-winning songs. Well, if they gave Newbery Medals to songs.
Centro-matic, Fort Recovery
Indie-rock perfection can be off-putting to some, but not when Will Johnson's honest, gritty and idiosyncratic songs are at the heart of it all. Johnson's Austin-based now, but the rest of the band still parks in North Texas.
Ghostcar, Too Strong/The Art of Transition
There has been a sighting of the first-ever studio Ghostcar album after all these years, and it smells vaguely like Miles' carcass, mixed with the ashes of the Rhodes piano these guys set on fire in the middle of redefining electric jazz for the devil-may-care improv-rock set.
hotel, hotel, allheroesareforeverbold
My Education played my wedding, but I want these guys to play my funeral. Austin/Denton/Arizona plus violin/guitar/drums drifting in an early Kranky Records atmosphere.
The Paper Chase, Now You Are One of Us
John Congleton's angular, psychotic, noisy/catchy concern got weirder again on their second Kill Rock Stars effort, thank god.
THE NEXT FIVE LOCAL ALBUMS
(in alphabetical order)
Chris Garver, e4/e5
Intimate, folksy lo-fi offering from Denton conjures Skip Spence, Elephant 6 and other far less cool artists, amongst a titanium-strong batch of songs.
Blonde Girls, "Husky Deluxe" 7-inch
Stop/start, push/pull, vertigo punk from these inarticulate two-minute Fort Worth trashers. Laconic genius.
Dennis Gonzalez Yells at Eels, Geografia
Internationally acclaimed trumpet player and Dallas treasure Dennis Gonzalez leads another circus of mind-blowingly precise, spirited, adventurous jazz that's free in spirit if not structure as well.
Stumptone, Gravity Suddenly Released
Years in the making, Chris Plavidal returns with another far-out reconciliation of tantalizing psyche-folk gems and loopy noise-rock genius. Finished, but still being shopped to labels.
Violent Squid, You're on Vacation
Airy, incidental recordings with a pastoral, acid-folk circa '74 Krautrock feel from these unpredictable Denton madcaps.