By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
15. Doug Burr
O Ye Devastator
On his latest release, Doug Burr stays on the course that's turned him into a local folk hero and earned him accolades across the country, despite a lack of touring outside of the region.
To that end, O Ye Devastator is appropriately akin to Burr's 2007 On Promenade release, which is to say that it's a deliberately paced collection of somber tales, all told through an 1800s looking glass. But there's some progression to be found here, too, courtesy of Austin's Monahans, who backed Burr in the studio for this disc's recordings and joined him on various occasions throughout the year in live performances. Their efforts seem to have pushed Burr along here, adding a wall of sound to his repertoire and pushing him to incorporate more electric elements into his songwriting.
Perhaps no other regional release is as dense a listen as Florene's debut full-length, Homemade Extacy, which comes off as exactly what it sounds like—if you don't mind a little industrial house music experimentation.
By blending eight-bit sounds, countless synthesizers and various drum machines, Florene's created a capable soundtrack for a post-apocalyptic acid trip on this disc, filling the disc's almost 50-minute runtime with twists and turns aplenty.
13. Leg Sweeper
You want fun? Leg Sweeper will give you fun—enough spirit to turn your whole day around, in fact. And the band only needs the four three-minute-or-so tracks included on this debut EP to prove as much.
Really: Fun's all this irreverent punk duo knows. Look no further than "Sexy Weekend," the band's infectious ode to having a few days off from work to spend with your significant other. No, the band's themes and offerings aren't the most complicated you'll come across, but, three-chord punk rock never hasn't sounded this fresh in decades.
12. Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights
(F-Stop Music/Atlantic Records)
The major-label debut from this long-haired local collective opens with a jet engine roar, setting the stage for what promises to be a rocking 45-minute affair. True to form, this disc finds common ground between frontman Jonathan Tyler and his rowdy band's Black Crowes, Lenny Kravitz and AC/DC influences.
That aesthetic has paid off quite well for the band, whose songs have been placed throughout the television world, popping up on HBO ("Devil's Basement" scored a trailer for Boardwalk Empire), FOX ("Hot Sake" and other tracks played in various episodes of the Dallas-based The Good Guys) and even ESPN (where "Young and Free" has scored several college football game broadcasts, coming in and out of commercial breaks).
11. The Secret Handshake
Night & Day
(Triple Crown Records)
Luis Dubuc, the man behind The Secret Handshake, is hardly the first artist to mine a Motown aesthetic for new material recently. But his efforts, recorded on the very same tape machine that Berry Gordy and Co. used in their Detroit studios back in the day, still manage to stand out amongst the clutter—mostly because they aren't trying to make photocopies of past hits.
His poppy collection is a shamelessly sunny listen—Dubuc's tunes on this album sometimes come off like the soundtrack for an as-yet-unmade Disney cartoon set in 1970s Detroit—but, considering his Dubuc's mall-punk roots, that's more than understandable. Dismissible, too, when you consider how enjoyable this collection really is.
10. Mind Spiders
Mind Spiders EP
Mark Ryan knows what he's doing: A behavioral psychologist by day, the punk rocker who co-fronted Denton's legendary Marked Men has gone more cerebral on his latest project, adding a wall-of-sound edge to his long-revered garage-punk writing abilities.
Recorded entirely at home, this debut EP, which finds Ryan backed by a supergroup of current Denton punk favorites (including members of Bad Sports and The Uptown Bums), only amounts to some 10 or so minutes of music. But, over the course of that time, Ryan makes quite the impression, coming off like a punk rocker frustrated with the direction of the genre and coming out of retirement to make things right.
9. Spooky Folk
(I Love Math Records)
As diverse a listen as any regional release in 2010, Spooky Folk introduces itself more than admirably on this, their self-titled debut. Fueled by the vast songwriting abilities of frontman Kaleo Kaualoku, the album incorporates elements of baroque pop, Americana and even some New Wave into its intoxicating blend.
Unafraid of changing paces, the disc charms from start to finish. And tying it all together is the dark cloud that hovers over much of Kaualoku's songwriting. He mines themes of disappointment and the distinctly unique, as if he's aware of an impending doom but still wants to appreciate what he can, while he can.
Ashley Myrick is a self-taught pianist and singer, but you'd never guess that much from listening to her brazen first album, which finds the singer's fingertips running the length of her keyboard and her voice fluttering atop that noise in jaw-dropping fashion.
It's truly a stunning debut, filled with timeless, dark piano-pop tracks beefed up with alt-country arrangements provided by backing players from The Beaten Sea, RTB2 and other outlets. Fitting for coffeehouse listening and reverent theater crowds alike, Devil's Nest introduces the 24-year-old Myrick as a thoughtful, tasteful songwriter whose vocals are as pleasing as they are thrilling.