The 10 Best Dallas-Fort Worth Albums of 2015

Playing it cool: Leon Bridges became a star in 2015, but where does Coming Home land on our list?
Playing it cool: Leon Bridges became a star in 2015, but where does Coming Home land on our list?
Erin Rambo

When it comes to the best albums made by North Texas artists, it was a year of extremes. Some, like Slobberbone frontman Brent Best's Your Dog, Champ, took years and a seemingly endless series of ordeals, to see the light of day. Others, like Leon Bridges' Coming Home, were the foundation for overnight success stories on fairytale levels. And while several veterans like Best also put out some of their best work to date this year, or made surprising changes of direction, there were just as many upstarts like Bridges who gave the old hands a run for their money. The question is, could anyone hang with the runaway success of Coming Home? Here are our picks for the 10 best Dallas-Fort Worth records of 2015.

10. Pinkish Black, Bottom of the Morning

With their third album Bottom of the Morning, Pinkish Black find themselves at the top of their game with their most focused effort yet. They tend to get lumped in with metal bands even though they have always been more psych and prog. Echoes of classic Krautrock permeate ominous synths and propulsive rhythms. Vocalist/keyboardist Daron Beck channels his inner Scott Walker and unlike previous efforts pushes the vocals right up front where you can hear his lyrical gymnastics that manage to be surreal, morbid and melancholy all at the same time. Wanz Dover

9. The Vandoliers, Ameri-Kinda

We may or may not know what a Vandolier really is. And we sure as heck-fire have never known how to properly define Americana music (and anyone who claims he can is full of Trump-levels of crap). Fortunately for those of us here in North Texas, about a year ago or so ago, the Phuss’ Josh Fleming began a solo project that soon became the Vandoliers, the most exciting new roots-rock group in town, and titled its debut album Ameri-Kinda. Filled with a properly grizzled, frenetic twang, it’s of little surprise that longtime members of the Dallas rock and Americana scenes turned Fleming’s country tunes into one of 2015’s best albums, regardless of our inability to define their sound. Kelly Dearmore 

8. Buffalo Black, Surrilla

Surrilla was the album that Buffalo Black was meant to record in 2015. How could it have been any different? Long before police brutality had become part of the national conversation, even before men like Eric Garner were killed before our very eyes, Black was laying bare his experience as a young African American. And with songs like lead single "1984," he wrapped the Orwellian terror of current events and newspeak sloganeering inside a suffocating beat. But more than self-serious analyzing, Surrilla is an album of soul searching, as Black looks beyond the events around him to contemplate how to stay true to himself — and on songs like the all-too-short "Anomalies," he finds moments of simple beauty. Jeff Gage

7. Rahim Quazi, Ghost Hunting

Rahim Quazi's third solo album has garnered a lot of praise this year, and justifiably so. Recorded mostly in New Orleans with Rick G. Nelson, the 13 songs have a dreamy quality while still being direct and catchy. Quazi went through a second divorce and was taken to the cleaners during the making of the album, but came out of the situation in a much better place, spiritually and mentally. Songs like the title track, "Relax, Believe," and "The Things We Do" are some of the standouts. For a record about dealing with the ghosts of the past, including falling out of love and being the victim of child abuse, Ghost Hunting is a celebration of being alive, happy and unafraid of a better future ahead. Eric Grubbs

6. Brent Best, Your Dog Champ

Five years in the making, Denton native and Slobberbone frontman Brent Best released his first ever solo album, Your Dog, Champ, over the summer. Each song narrates a different but related story, mostly of a dejected, morosely experienced life. The forlorn harmony of Best’s harmonica mingles perfectly with the heartache of the lyrics, casting an eerie shadow every time you hear his raw and grainy voice paired with the self-mustered instrument. During the summer, Best sold out Dan’s Silverleaf to play the album in its entirety — a night that truly went down in the books of remarkable live music in Denton. Sara Button

5. Radioactivity, Silent Kill

Radioactivity's sophomore album, Silent Kill, was easily the best local punk release of the year. The album features another collaboration between the members of popular local punk bands Marked Men (Jeff Burke, Mark Ryan) and Bad Sports (Daniel Fried, Gregory Rutherford) so it’s not too much of a surprise how well the music ties together. What is a surprise is how much the music has evolved from those previous inspirations into something new and unexpected. Burke set the tone of the album by writing songs that focused less on power pop hooks and more on a darker, more aggressive sound that finds itself closer to their distinctive Denton garage band roots. The cohesion and vision that plays out over the short 12 tracks borrows from the legacy of the band’s previous experiences, but forges an entirely fresh identity for itself. Brandon Mikeal

4. The Outfit, TX, Down by the Trinity

When the Outfit, TX released their last group project, Starships and Rockets: Cooly Fooly Space Age Funk, in 2012, Mel Kyle, JayHawk Walker and Dorian Terrell were three college kids in Houston making old-school, Houston-inspired rap music who just happened to be from Dallas. Upon returning to the Triple D, they’ve not only ingrained themselves in the local music scene and garnered national attention but they’ve gone through sonic evolutions with a number of solo projects and collaborative EPs. The release of 2015’s Down by the Trinity sees the group at its newest peak, and whereas with other projects it was easy to lazily compare them to other Southern ensembles like UGK, Three 6 Mafia and Outkast, these days the Outfit, TX are in their own lane producing their own brand of dark, brooding hip-hop with a social awareness previously unheard. The ambitious stylings produced one of the best local albums of the year, highlighted by the tracks “Revelations” and “Wild Turkey/Gold Teeth.” Mikel Galicia

3. Lord Byron, Digital Crucifixion

This album is one of the most progressive hip-hop albums you’ll ever hear. It’s as simple as that. On Digital Crucifixion, Byron forgoes any and all trends and puts together an album wholly unique to him. With Byron’s first-class wordplay and lyrical skills, it’s easy to overlook the ear the East Dallas rapper has in his beat selection, but for that the album maintains a dynamic range of sonics that keeps the listener around, and it’s a treat to hear him work atop the wide array of sounds. Byron has a braggadocio reputation but Digital Crucifixion finds him going deeper than that and exploring insecurity, injustices and his personal life. The end result is a unique and complete hip-hop album that offers plenty of replay value. MG

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2. Leon Bridges, Coming Home

Leon Bridges charmed the nation this past year with his retro aesthetic and Sam Cooke-esque soul music. From a local perspective, it was highly rewarding to observe his meteoric ascension from unknown Fort Worth open-mic performer to sharing a stage with the surviving members of the Beatles and performing on nearly every late-night program in existence. It’s a romantic story, really. On the album, the sincerity and innocence in Bridges’ voice is piercing and produces an air of authenticity and delightfulness that the retro instrumentation only adds to. Bridges is a pure talent and as much as the tracks, the clothes or vintage-styled press photos attempt to pile onto his aesthetic that he’s worked hard to perfect, it’s his unique voice and charm that make him so special and will keep him around for years to come. Nonetheless, Coming Home is a remarkably easy, nostalgic listen that is not only one of the best local albums of the year but also one of the best albums released this year, period. MG

1. Bobby Sessions, LOA

When Bobby Sessions released "Black America" on Martin Luther King Day, it was a statement of intent for the album — his first — that would drop 10 months later. But if that song was bleak, and its subject matter (police brutality) reinforced with depressing frequency throughout the rest of the year, then LOA used it as the basis for a grander, more ambitious vision. "Black America" might be the reality of Sessions' world, but LOA is the expression of his aspirations to overcome it, to reach his dreams, to achieve greatness. Conceptually tight and pulled together with the help of a host of guest spots and producers, including fellow rappers -topic and Blue, the Misift, LOA winds from the death march crackle of "Black Neighborhood" to the D'Angelo-channeling groove of "Am I Dumb?" with slinky ease. Which is the neatest trick that Sessions pulls off: LOA is one of the most ambitious albums of the year, but he executes it in such a way that you can believe anything is possible — even when so much of 2015 has suggested otherwise. JG

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