In a year when Kickstarter efforts have ballooned from humble requests to egocentric slaps in the face, the recording, funding and distribution of albums has taken on a different hue, as the chasm between what you can do "yourself" and what labels are offering gets wider and deeper. A few of the artists on this list made Kickstarter work for them, and it will be interesting to see what other options spring up in 2013. Below, some albums DC9 At Night writers enjoyed this year.

Things of Earth

Old Millennium Pictures

Snow Tha Product, party monster
Snow Tha Product, party monster

Things of Earth, as of this writing, still has not played a live show. Regardless, this five-song freebie EP is a nice introduction to their post-hardcore. All five songs are instrumental (some feature soundbites from Network and Ronald Reagan), but they don't sound like Isis, Explosions in the Sky or Godspeed You! Black Emperor castoffs. If you miss what made Hum, Far, No Knife and Pelican great, check out this jam. ERIC GRUBBS

Snow Tha Product

Good Nights & Bad Mornings

On the strength of a devoted YouTube and Twitter following, and 2011 mixtape Unorthodox, Snow Tha Product landed a deal with Atlantic Records this year. Her label debut, Good Nights & Bad Mornings, was just released, and it features no guest verses, no skits, just Snow rapping like a beast, from night to morning. Look for big things in 2013. AUDRA SCHROEDER

Blackstone Rangers

Into the Sea

Dallas Distortion Music released this five-song debut, and Salim Nourallah mixed it. Sort of appropriate, actually, as the trio found ways to balance their love of '90s distortion and reverb with pop structure. AUDRA SCHROEDER

Smokin' Joe Kubek

Let That Right Hand Go

Featuring a gaggle of impressive side players, Smokin' Joe Kubek's Let That Right Hand Go is the best local blues album released this year. The guy has been a North Texas legend for nearly half a century, much of that with other half Bnois King, and Right Hand may well be his most seminal effort. Songs such as "It Ain't No Use" and "Black Snake Crawlin' On the Floor" channel everyone from Lightnin' Hopkins to ZZ Top, and Kubek's vocals and guitar skills have rarely sounded as powerful and focused. DARRYL SMYERS

Pinkish Black

Pinkish Black

A recent in-studio tweet from recording engineer Matthew Barnhart hinted at what Pinkish Black's next album might sound like (Gary Numan and Kyuss), though that description could also apply to their full-length debut. Since the May release, the Fort Worth synth/drum duo has signed to Century Media and toured the country, and there have been a few comments as to how "metal" Jon Teague and Daron Beck's music is. Perhaps open your mind to what metal can be in PB's case, aggression and grief are tempered with Beck's symphonic restraint, as Teague circles and waits for the moment to strike. Not all metal has to scream in your face. Sometimes it's better when it breathes down your neck. AUDRA SCHROEDER

John Singer Sergeant

John Singer Sergeant

The "collaborative" album can be difficult to pull off, especially when it feels more like a vanity project than a collaboration. This year, John Dufilho employed a different approach and took a backseat to the artists he invited to his debut as John Singer Sergeant. Sir Earl Toon, Sarah Jaffe, Ben Kweller, Marcus Striplin and more all guest on vocals, and while not every song works, the concept signals some bigger thinking about what collaborations can be. AUDRA SCHROEDER

Vanessa Peters

The Burn The Truth The Lies

Speaking of John Dufilho, he guests on drums on Vanessa Peters' latest album. The Burn The Truth The Lies pinpoints what a great storyteller Peters is, her lyrics never too flashy or heady, just observational and emotionally weighted, the poetry that drives the narrative of the album. AUDRA SCHROEDER

Mind Spiders

Meltdown

Do we call Meltdown punk? Lo-fi? Garage rock? Meltdown's 11 tracks drive home the band's elusive nature, as ex-Marked Man Mark Ryan leads his group on a wild adventure that sees them jumping from sound to sound. There wasn't a better record from a North Texas artist this year, and you could expand that statement to whole state if you wanted to. If anyone tries to challenge you, just play "Skull-Eyed" for them. JAIME-PAUL FALCON

Leon the Professional

(B)east

Certainly, plenty of Dallas rappers are putting their own spin on overtly Southern influences, taking aesthetic cues from hip-hop schools of thought cultivated largely in Atlanta and Houston. Dallas' Leon the Professional trades that for something far more East Coast. He's spent 2012 carving a successful niche for himself, his (B)east winning the 2012 DOMA for Best Mixtape. "But are you a different animal and the same beast?" we're asked in one of the interludes. Keep an eye out for the next evolution, made all the more interesting coming from an artist clearly rooted in the history of his medium, but still subverting expectation all the same. DEB DOING DALLAS

Unconscious Collective

Unconscious Collective

Guitarist Gregg Prickett, bassist Aaron Gonzalez and drummer Stefan Gonzalez make up Unconscious Collective, and the collective influence of their free-jazz and experimental backgrounds digs a nice, dark rabbit hole on their Tofu Carnage Records debut. Prickett is one of the best guitars in North Texas, and the Gonzalez brothers have their own psychic twin thing going on. AUDRA SCHROEDER

Zhora

Zhora EP

First single "The Hold" might suggest some early Madonna influence and provides a pop sound lacking in the current regional sound wave. The four-song EP flirts with a spacier, wilder aesthetic found in Zhora's live performance, which suggests their full-length will go bigger, more psychedelic, while still retaining elements of dance pop. At a recent performance, their cover of Corona's "Rhythm of the Night" had me itching for a version I could play in my car. DEB DOING DALLAS

Somebody's Darling

Jank City Shakedown

By embracing their country-rock roots, Somebody's Darling created a sophomore effort that should help break the band nationally. Jank City Shakedown is a loud and proud salute to blues and country that never wavers in intensity or hayseed credibility. Vocalist Amber Farris is the band's secret weapon and producer Stuart Sikes allows her plenty of room to show her stuff. DARRYL SMYERS

Grant Jones & the Pistol Grip Lassos

Saints, Sinners & Liars

Concept records in which the concept is relatively loose are tricky. Grant Jones made such unpredictable terrain impossibly easy to navigate. Saints, Sinners & Liars unflinchingly reveals the seedy underbelly of drug-addled relationships and small-town folks with little left to lose. A take on Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" is as fitting here as a tortured love song to amphetamines. KELLY DEARMORE

Bad Design

Bad Design

This charming Denton four-piece would like to remind you about 1999. Not the Prince song or how many times platinum N*SYNC or Limp Bizkit went that year. Instead, a time when post-rock, jazz and math rock could hang with emo. The band recorded their debut live, and it's a spot-on recreation of their live show. And "The Whale" is one hell of a catchy song. ERIC GRUBBS

Ronnie Fauss

I'm the Man You Know I'm Not

Fauss' long-anticipated full-length debut not only lived up to expectations, but represents a full-circle effort in terms of including tunes from his back catalog of EPs. Taking his Normaltown Records deal for a proper test spin, he and label mate Lily Hiatt (John Hiatt's daughter) even provide a fresh take on the Gram Parsons classic "Sin City" and come out sounding like winners. KELLY DEARMORE

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