Sam Lao's SPCTRM marked a welcome return for the rapper, two and a half years after her last EP.EXPAND
Sam Lao's SPCTRM marked a welcome return for the rapper, two and a half years after her last EP.
Kathy Tran

The 10 Best Dallas-Fort Worth Albums of 2016, So Far

Everyone knows that 2015 was a big year for North Texas albums, thanks in no small part to the international attention that Leon Bridges' Coming Home garnered. But there was much more to it than just Bridges, of course, and the proof lies in the stellar output of new music to come DFW during the first six months of 2016. This year's output may be even deeper than last year's, so which are the best local albums, EPs and mixtapes to be released so far? 

10. Prosthesis by Mind Spiders

Mind Spiders' fourth LP in five years continues down the trail frontman Mark Ryan started after the dissolution of the Marked Men. Prosthesis clocks in under a half-hour with eight songs that develop the band's blend of surf rock, garage punk and sci-fi dystopian movie soundtracks. Songs like "No Filter" and the title track could easily inspire you to watch Blade Runner or Scanners yet another time. Much more synthetic with programmed drum beats and layers of keyboards, the core sound of the band remains intact. Prosthesis proves how Mind Spiders remains one of the more thought-provoking rock bands around these days. Eric Grubbs

9. Disintegrator by Daniel Markham

Disintegrator is yet another release from the ever-prolific Daniel Markham (who even has a metal-singing alter-ego to help get all those ideas out), but make no mistake about it: It’s not just another record. When added to the offerings from his collaboration with Claire Morales and that black metal alter-ego, Larry Legion, Disintegrator is Markham’s fifth release in the past three years and it's easily the finest of them all. The driving power-pop spirit of 2014’s excellent Pretty Bitchin’ remains alive here with an addictive dash of Creation Records-style fuzz and dreaminess. More than most, Markham doesn’t seem to ever have to worry about choosing quantity over quality.  Kelly Dearmore

8. Fjord by Jacob Metcalf

Fjord, Jacob Metcalf's debut album, wasn't the work of a moment, and it shows. A collection of beautifully brittle melodies, the former Fox and the Bird member had spent as long as a decade working some of these songs into just the right, glistening state. But it paid off: Like the wash of horns that come through midway on "Ein Berliner" or the waltz-step that kicks in on the title track's choruses, every note on Fjord feels perfect, every thought well-considered, and it made for an almost breathtaking work. Jeff Gage

7. August 26 by Post Malone

Post Malone’s August 26 mixtape is more than just the teaser for his upcoming full-length; it's his declaration as an artist. Its 10 tracks feature a who’s-who roster of hip-hop artists including 2 Chainz, Jeremih, Lil Yachty, Larry June and ILoveMakonnen. Malone proves he can effortlessly deliver catchy hooks and shows off a heightened sense of self-awareness through his lyrics. More importantly he ventures outside the norm and experiments on tracks like “Hollywood Dreams/Comedown” and “Oh God.” Malone's still developing his sound, but more importantly August 26 reignited anticipation for his debut album, which is the real point of a mixtape. Mikel Galicia

6. Cosmos by Cygnus

Cosmos is the fifth long player from electro maestro Cygnus. For this release, Cygnus steps out creatively a bit for more soundtrack-like pastures. It's less a collection of floor-friendly DJ tracks and more like incidental music to an anime about cyborgs; if robots had easy listening music, it might sound a lot like this. Bellowing pads and arpeggiated leads take center stage in the music over the understated 808s. The focus on cybernetic melodies over stomping beats makes Cosmos Cygnus’ most accessible release yet. Wanz Dover

5. Far From Away Vol. 1 by the Dividends

This first batch of many songs from an ongoing collaboration with singer-songwriter Sarah Jaffe and platinum producer S1 exceeds all expectations. The first track, “Miles,” starts with ominous horns before Jaffe’s angelic voice arrives and S1 starts tossing around a deceptively simple beat that could be from an early arcade game. “People” uses plainspoken lyrics to convey a socially relevant message. “Sign Off” is moody and cinematic, one of the best singles out of DFW this year. S1 and Jaffe explore a plethora of sounds on Far From Away Vol. 1 without ever giving genre any consideration. Jeremy Hallock

4. El Astronauta by Quaker City Night Hawks 

This Fort Worth quartet's latest album starts by directly addressing the listener with the lyrics, “Good evening from Fort Worth, Texas.” But it sounds creepy enough to make you sit up straight and wonder if it’s the Grim Reaper calling. Quaker City Night Hawks' filthy blues-rock is lucid, visceral and haunting enough to draw comparisons to Tom Waits’ Blood Money, music that may seem suitable for a dark dive bar in the sweltering summer. But after endorsements from Marc Maron and Jimmy Fallon, Quaker City may be the next big thing out of Fort Worth. Today’s attention spans are so short that albums may no longer be relevant, but El Astronauta is a strong case against that argument. JH

3. Until the Horror Goes by John Congleton and the Nighty Nite

Prior to this year, John Congleton had not released any new material in five years. He had a really good reason: His workload as a producer and engineer has been insane. He finally got around to releasing Until the Horror Goes, and the wait was worth it. The LP is made of 10 songs that show Congleton expanding what he can bring as an artist. His main instrument, guitar, is relegated to a supporting role here. Songs like "Animal Rites" and "The White Powerless" feature more keyboards and programming with the deathly melodies he's known for. He's made a statement as a solo artist here, and it's the showing of even more promise down the road. EG

2. Hero by Maren Morris

Arlington native Maren Morris has been around the block more than the average 26-year-old. Singing on stages around North Texas since she was in elementary school, Morris has already honed her skills in the country music-making machine of Nashville — and all that experience is brought to bear on her impressive debut full-length, Hero. She may tip her hat to Hank and Cash, but Morris isn't out to be the next country savior; cuts like "My Church" and "'80s Mercedes" shimmer with crossover appeal as much as they're roots in old-school sensibility. But it's the wry, shit-talking swagger of "Drunk Girls Don't Cry" that lets you know how tough and wise for her years Morris is — and that she's likely just getting started. JG

1. SPCTRM by Sam Lao

Dallas hip-hop missed Sam Lao in 2015. She was still here, of course, but by the time her debut full-length, SPCTRM, dropped in February, it had been two and a half years since she'd released new music — and last year, in particular, would've benefitted from her voice. Artists like Buffalo Black and Bobby Sessions confronted issues like police brutality head-on, but what was missing was Lao's swaggering femininity. "Reminder (Bitch I'm Me)" is the opening salvo, delivered over a post-modern death march beat, a Minaj-like reminder that she may well be the best rapper in Dallas. Her social commentary can take more metaphorical turns, such as her shoulder-brush to hypocrisy in "Fool's Gold," but when when she declares, on "Pineapple," "Yeah I got it/Yeah I own it/It's all mine and I can flaunt it," there's no mistaking it: Lao's got it all, and SPCTRM is the album we've all been waiting for. JG

Newsletters

All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories
    Send:

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >