We're officially halfway through 2015 (watch out, the days are already getting shorter), and one thing is clear: it's been a pretty good (half) year for North Texas music. So good, in fact, that it started back in 2014, when news broke that Fort Worth's Leon Bridges had been signed to Columbia Records. That's inevitably been the big story of the past six months, but it leads us to another, much murkier question: Which local release is the best so far this year? There were too many strong candidates to count, but we narrowed them down to our 10 favorites albums of 2015 — so far.
10. Blessin' — Go EP
Denton's charming indie pop group Blessin' has gotten plenty of attention in the past two and a half years. Their music is all about that cutesy college rock haze, along the same path as Slumberland and K-Records bands like Literature and Beat Happening. The new Go EP is a handful of their most polished songs written with tried and true themes of broken-hearts and tweenage alienation in an age of modern convenience. Opening track "Rough Draft" sums this up pretty nicely as guitarist and vocalist Alex Naughton muses, "Stuck in the same routine again/I can't compute/Still can't compute." Bummer that the band is going on a hiatus after this summer — maybe for good. Their last show is at Rubber Gloves with Pearl Earl and No Touching. Pablo Arauz
9. Hawk Vs. Dove — Divided States
Hawk Vs. Dove returned this spring with Divided States, the follow-up to their 2013 self-titled debut. Divided States taps into a distinct early '90s style of noise heavy music that hearkens back to the legendary Amphetamine Reptile record label. Hawk Vs. Dove straddle the fine line between acid drenched metal and noisy punk, inhabiting a niche of heavy music that is not nearly as common as it used to be. The title track is a true standout of the album, in all of its 11-minute, psychedelia-drenched glory. Building up from a smoldering haze, it often recalls hints of prog rock without all of the self indulgence and with a lot more fuzz. Wanz Dover
8. Yells at Eels — In Quiet Waters
Dallas’ first family of the avant garde is back for the 10th Yells at Eels album, In Quiet Waters. It's a dizzying work that, while firmly planted in the finest tradition of modern improv and free jazz, still explores the craft from a multitude of fronts. Compositions like “Lorca” and “Perpetual Gallows for Consecutive Selves” would feel right at home in an artsy Italian horror film score, but then they explore a whimsical vibe on the tune “Restless Debauchery." Over the course of the album, Yells at Eels reaffirms their grip on controlled chaos while still being able express emotional depth. WD
7. Pearl Earl — Karaoke Superstar EP
Genre revival is a perilous venture. Pearl Earl could've just gleaned bits and pieces from their psychedelic forefathers (and mothers) and called it a day. But on Karaoke Superstar its clear they won't settle for mimicry in their tireless pursuit of reality-warping rainbow-fuzz rock. The recent addition of keyboardist Charlie Beaman rounds out their sound perfectly, adding haunting synth organ to create moody melodies. Singer/guitarist Ariel Hartley also flexes her versatile voice, flipping between an aggressive yet monotone approach on "Witches Brew" to warbling wails on "If." Pearl Earl may be a veritable jack (or jill?) of all trades, but they've still managed to master them all. Matt Wood
6. Film Noir - Pink Polo EP
Medasin, the precocious teenage Dallas producer, teamed up with Virginia-based singer Masego to create a duo with chemistry that rivals Danny Glover and Mel Gibson on screen. As Film Noir, they’re absolutely a lethal weapon. Medasin’s production is dubbed as trap-house jazz throughout the project. There's an abundance of deep bass and 808s, but it doesn’t exactly have any leanings toward the sense of industrial hopelessness and doom found in your modern day trap song. The production throughout the Pink Polo EP is bright, free, smart and soulful. A central theme here is a constant groove. I bet you can’t make it a minute though “Girls That Dance” or “Bounce” without breaking into at least a head nod and smile. I’ll put 10 bucks on it. H. Drew Blackburn
5. Party Static — My Cat Doesn't Like That EP
The insouciant preferences of felines aren't the first thing you'd think of at a Party Static show (unless your cat is manic and possibly schizophrenic). Regardless, My Cat Doesn't Like That is a thoroughly Party Static record, with clashing spoken-word dialogue by lead singers Laura Harrell and Kjersten Funk and dissonant, grimy guitar riffs. Each song feels both tense and wildly untamable, and the madness is only amplified by lyrical barrages that border on the absurd (See: "Mr. Sexy Pants"). You can practically feel the band's members losing their shit on the record, mirroring their renowned live reputation to a startling degree. Be wary of listening to the album in public: You might just try and start a mosh pit at the DMV. MW
4. Jake Paleschic — Again, At Last
As the leader of promising countrified act Patriot, Fort Worth's Jake Paleschic had long established himself as a songwriter with enormous talent and a gift for crafting tunes that eschewed formula. But with this year's release of the addictive Again, At Last, his latest solo record, Paleschic has gone from merely an on-the-rise performer to inarguably one of North Texas' finest singer-songwriters. The twang of his previous efforts is intact, but it's layered with noir-ish nuance and with a tight confidence of delivery. His striking, limited release EP, Cowboy Songs, released just prior to Again, At Last, was probably good enough to have landed Paleschic a spot on this list as well. Kelly Dearmore
3. Sudie — Sudie EP
"Heartattack," Sudie Abernathy's opening statements of sorts from last summer, sketched a portrait of a young artist growing into her own skin, riddled with anxiety, self doubt, even specters of death. Of course, her gifts as a musician — namely, her bold, dusky voice, fine-tuned by an education in classical music and jazz — would seem to suggest otherwise, and on Sudie, her first EP, lays out a startlingly ambitious vision. The record is all abstraction, rising and falling on texture and rhythm, its apotheosis the spine-tingling notes that close out "Moog." Abernathy plays everything on the record herself too, which is apt; Sudie is a singular statement. Jeff Gage
2. Lord Byron — Digital Crucifixion
Delusions of grandeur are persistent in the generation birthed of Kanye West, he who manifested his destiny through the power of arrogance. Ask Lord Byron if he’s the best rapper alive and he’ll tell you he is. His positioning as the best in a robust field of talented and gifted wordsmiths is questionable at best, but with Digital Crucifixion Lord Byron’s made it quite clear that he’s a talent that demands attention. His lyrics are sharp, clever and evocative. However, the production throughout the album is so forward thinking and creative that it’s easy to get lost in the layers and artistic choices made on the boards. Whether he's shining on a subdued track like “Lambs for Children” or reveling at the soundscape on “Hell/Flowers for Algernon,” Digital Crucifixion is Lord Byron walking the walk. HDB
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1. Leon Bridges — Coming Home
We'd love to be able to spring a surprise in the No.1 slot, but come on. Let's not try to be clever. Coming Home is the record that got Leon Bridges signed to Columbia Records, and now that we can hear it in its entirety — on vinyl, playing on a record player, as it should be heard — it's easy to see why. More than a throwback, this is a record that relies on the most time-tested of practices: good song craft, a painstaking attention to detail and a hell of a lot of talent. It soars highest on singles like the title track and "Better Man," but it's the gritty charm of "Twistin' and Groovin'" or the yearning simplicity of "River" that keeps things grounded — rooted, even, in truth. JG