By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Not to get all nostalgic, but 2009 really was a fantastic year in Dallas-Fort Worth music.
There are various reasons why and, last week, we handled the news-side of it all. But this week's a little closer to the heart. This week really matters. Because, well, the music mattered around here in 2009.
Really—I'm not blowing smoke. This year saw almost an embarrassment of riches around here; paring this, my list of picks for the best records from the region in 2009, down to just 10 proved a painstaking task. It was a deep year, for sure. A bunch of area products even earned national attention. That's not why they're on this list—but, hey, that extra attention's a good thing anyway. All of these records deserve it, really. It'd be a shame if more people didn't listen to 'em. Yes, I mean you.
10. Air Review, Landmarks
One of the more ambitious releases of the year, Landmarks is a statement record from a brand-new area five-piece—a band that, for better or worse, had enough balls to toss out an arena-ready album in its first go-round. "This could be our only chance," the band sings, demanding attention on its 9-to-5 kiss-off, "Chasing Corporate." And deservedly so.
9. The O's, We Are The O's
A no-frills debut record from no-frills local bluegrass duo The O's, We Are The O's features John Pedigo and Taylor Young, a banjo, an acoustic guitar, a kick drum—and not much else. Turns out harmonies, strums, plucks and stomps are all this duo needs for its sugary sweet sentiment to tug at one's down-home heartstrings.
8. Sleep Whale, Houseboats
The fact that Sleep Whale can capably and beautifully reconstruct its complex sonic landscape in a live setting has proved a marvel unto itself since the band's introduction to fans under its former name of mom. And on Houseboats, the band offers up a study in why that's such a difficult task—if the layer-upon-layer of acoustic guitar, cello, violin and now (on occasion) vocals aren't complicated enough, the background bells and whistles—proverbial and literal—are.
7. Xrabit & Damaged Good$, Hello World An intoxicating blend of electro-house and Southern hip-hop swagger, Hello World is, in the simplest definition, a party record. But it's more than just another hipster-hop affair; producer Xrabit's beats offer heavy lifting, but local duo Damaged Good$'s sing-along hooks and punch-line-packed verses will find you craving repeat listens.
6. Bosque Brown, Baby
It'd be easy to pin singer Mara Lee Miller as the main draw of Baby. Her voice, after all, is among the region's most heart-stopping and magnetic, immediately recalling an older, better, slower-paced time through the drawl that reins in her striking range. But Baby is far from another singer-songwriter showcase; rather, this timeless disc is a fastidiously prepared one, curated around both Miller's vocals and her band's strong sense of spare Americana arrangement.
5. The Paper Chase, Someday This Could All Be Yours, Vol. 1
The first of two planned natural disaster-themed discs from the twisted brain of John Congleton, The Paper Chase's fifth full-length, Someday This Could All Be Yours, Vol. 1, finds the avant-garde rock outfit at its most anthemic yet. Still as dark, angry, jagged and dissonant as ever, the album also finds the talented players in The Paper Chase's lineup seemingly at their most confident to date.
4. Neon Indian, Psychic Chasms
2009 found DFW-bred electro wunderkind Alan Palomo and his latest set of collaborators focusing on the '70s for inspiration. The resulting record still features the dance bent for which Palomo made his name, but its dance angle is of a refreshingly different, summer-soaked and drug-addled tone.
3. Teenage Cool Kids, Foreign Lands
Teenage Cool Kids made its name as a group of rousing punks in the Denton house circuit. But what's most surprising about Foreign Lands is the fact that it's not really a punk record at all. Owing more to acts like Built to Spill and Dinosaur Jr. than anyone of the three-chord set, Foreign Lands still finds the band sonically reveling in its lo-fi comfort zone, but more confidently than ever. As such, this disc's 12 tracks burst out of the gate, just begging to be heard.
2. St. Vincent, Actor
St. Vincent's Actor is a brilliant album of dualities: Dallas native Annie Clark's songs focus on dark subject matter, hint at an underlying dangerous streak and cover it all in a cherubic wash. Credit producer Congleton of The Paper Chase for upping the reverb and angular melodies found throughout the album—a move that's helped Clark earn a reputation as a bona fide guitar hero—but don't discount Clark's own talent or vision.
1. Telegraph Canyon, The Tide and The Current
This Fort Worth-based seven-piece has always had a knack for hyper-literate folk-rock, but with the band's 2009 effort, The Tide and The Current, the outfit has proved itself something even greater. The 10 tracks of this phenomenal effort are as rousing and inspiring a collection as we've found in 2009. If Arcade Fire chose the Texas sun over Canadian cold, it would write this record—but it would likely disappoint; The Tide and the Current is as detailed and complete a record as any released in 2009.