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Taking a Look at the Best Local Releases in 2011 So Far

Oh, how fast we forget.

Just the other, night, I was hanging out at a bar on Henderson when I ran into a local musician and, as things tend to do when I run into local musicians, we started talking about local music. Him being from Denton and all, we started there.

"Kinda slow these days," he admitted.

Then we talked about Dallas.

"There was that whole Ishi thing," I said. "But, yeah, kind of slow around here, too."

Finally, we moved on over to Fort Worth.

"Kinda killing it lately," I said.

"Definitely," he agreed, before we proceeded to rattle off the list of Fort Worth bands we'd recently taken a shining to—Quaker City Nighthawks, Epic Ruins, the suddenly resurgent Calhoun.

It felt like an important conversation, like we knew something that few others were privy to. We totally understood the scene. Later, though, when I got home, I realized how many awesome songs and albums released in just the past few months we'd forgotten.

That's the thing about music these days. It's very much a "What have you done for me lately?" game. Blame the Internet, blame Attention Deficit Disorder, blame consumer culture, blame short-term memory loss, blame whatever you want. But, fact is, with the times moving oh-so-quickly in the modern music world, we tend to forget the things we loved even two weeks back, let alone the albums that came out at the very beginning of 2011. Man, sure feels like forever ago, doesn't it?

So, on that note, and also just because summer tends to make us nostalgic for the immediate past, let's take a quick look back at the past year in regional releases, recalling the best of the best, of which there has already been a ton.

Best Album That Was Worth The Wait

Seryn, This is Where We Are

For months, we were told that the debut album from this folksy Denton upstart was "coming soon," which is nice and all but a little disconcerting. Questions arise in these scenarios. Namely: Why the delay? Still not sure, actually. No matter: The baroque sounds of this debut whisk away all concerns. A stunning debut of uplifting harmonies and intricate arrangement, Seryn's debut full-length—for all the praise that's come the band's way—lives up to its hype.

Best Appropriation Of Someone

Else's Strategy

Air Review, America's Son EP

Soon after the folks at Good Records Recordings announced plans to re-launch their label and to do so by releasing singles as opposed to albums, the guys in Air Review borrowed the idea for themselves—and, in turn, beat the notoriously lethargic Good folks to their own punch. The strategy has worked, too; as the band slowly posts for download songs teasing their upcoming fall short-player, their reputation continues a steady upward climb. It helps, of course, that the songs showcase similar growth: "H" and "America's Son," the two tracks released to date, are deliberate, folky affairs that find the Muse-like outfit turning down the bombast in favor of tasteful play.

Best Song

The Mohicans, "Fa Shiggadow"

The latest in a surprisingly long line of area hipster-hop duos, The Mohicans might still boast that new car smell, but their swaggering ways sound decidedly veteran—and especially on "Fa Shiggadow," which finds the duo of Kashus Klay and, uh, Dave, glorifying the death of the D-Town Boogie.

Best Return From The Brink

Calhoun, Heavy Sugar

In May 2009, Calhoun announced that their run as a band was over. Terrible news, too, since the band had just released Falter.Waver.Cultivate, a gorgeous collection of pop-rock paeans. Turns out, though, that there were still a few rounds left in the chamber: In March 2010, co-songwriters Tim Locke and Jordan Roberts announced that they had been writing again and were returning to the studio; then, this spring, the band released the fruits of those labors via an album entitled Heavy Sugar. The songs included very much live up to that name, packing a heavier punch than previous Calhoun material, while miraculously not losing a single ounce of the ear candy that made the band such an area favorite to begin with.

Best "Oh, Hey, Remember Us?" Album

Eisley, The Valley

It had been four years since the Tyler-based DuPree family had released an LP under their Eisley name. Blame personal issues and an awkward (at best) relationship with Warner Bros. Records. The good news: In 2010, the band announced a split from Warner Bros., and, this year, they finally released their third full-length, a disc called The Valley for Equal Vision Records out of New York City, that finds the family band still proffering their sweeping aesthetic and knack for impressive harmonies. Only, this time, it all came with an added confidence.

Best Soundscape

Datahowler, Slowdrifter

Ross Edman, the mashup artist formerly known as Objektiv One, wanted to reinvent himself, so he changed his name to Datahowler. Changed his sound, too—and rather beautifully. Slowdrifter is a gorgeous collection that blends chillwave, funk and even a little jazz into its mix—all under the guise that it's an album built for space travel.

Best Punk Album From A Band You Still Haven't Seen

Mind Spiders, Mind Spiders

Mark Ryan's always been deemed a punk, but the former Marked Men co-frontman has always been more than that. In short: Dude knows his way around a power-pop hook, too. And he's proved it on the self-titled debut full-length from his new outfit, Mind Spiders. Fast, furious and gloriously glistening in Denton punk's characteristic lo-fi sheen, Mind Spiders practically begs for repeated listens.

Best Sophomore Release

The O's, Between the Two

If nothing else, Between The Two is the best album to include a reference to East Dallas' Tietze Park. Fortunately, there's plenty else; The O's, who are set to return from a European tour any day now, are Dallas' Favorite Folk Rock Duo until proven otherwise.

Best Rap Album That Dallas Has Ever Seen, Front to Back

A.Dd+, When Pigs Fly

Paris Perhsun and Slim Gravy made us wait for this release—and the name of the duo's debut LP didn't exactly leave us confident that we'd be hearing it any time soon. Then, in February, it finally came. And with a head full of steam, too, thanks to the odd couple pairing of Paris' lighthearted bounce and Slim's streetwise slinging. Just the other week, I ran into the album's producer, Picnictyme, at a show. "Best rap album Dallas has ever seen," I gushed. "Maybe," he replied, blushing a little bit. I clarified: "Front to back, I mean." "Front to back?" he asked. "OK, yeah, I'll agree with that." As well he should.

Best Debut EP

Soviet, Forever Today EP

Brazen seems the most fitting way to describe Soviet, Dallas' long-awaited answer to Denton's long-standing regional punk rock prowess. Inventive, brash and vehemently in-your-face performers, John Spies and his ragged bunch of fellow young brats burst onto the scene way back in January with this four-track, free download of so-obviously-true-it's-almost-awkward offerings; no, Spies isn't lying when he snarls about the fact that apathy lost him his college scholarship in "Kids In My Backyard."

Best Album With The Worst Name

True Widow, As High As The Highest Heavens And From The Center To The Circumference Of The Earth

Perhaps it's fitting that the most awkwardly named album Dallas has seen in some time is also the year's best to date. Roadblocks, always. There are worse fates. Loud, chugging and in no rush to get anywhere, A.H.A.T.H.H.A.F.T.C.T.T.C.O.T.E is exactly the follow-up everyone hoped the band would produce in the wake of its stunning self-titled 2008 debut. Now with more harmonic interplay between co-vocalists Nikki Cage and Dan Phillips, True Widow's new album scores because it follows the ever-important, unwritten rule of heavy music—that you can play as loud as you want, so long as there's some actual melody underneath it all. Don't let dark song titles like "Skull Eyes" and "Blooden Horse" fool you; this is pretty music dressed down in all black attire.


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