Hindsight is 20/20 and typically it's useless, except when it comes to previously released music. You can always go back and enjoy albums you weren't aware of, or ignored, when they were first released. So let's acknowledge the best local albums that flew under the radar in 2018.
Ting Tang Tina, Love Is Trippy
Released in March of last year, the album by Fort Worth jangle poppers Ting Tang Tina demonstrates a hell of a lot of musical and emotional maturity for a band so young. An all-female four-piece, Ting Tang Tina's music can easily fall into the realm of "emo-revival," a term used to distinguish the genre from what My Chemical Romance made people think it was. Focused on more meaningful expressions of emotion, the band's dueling lullaby lead and rocking rhythm guitars deliver carefully crafted lyrics straight through the ear drums and into the heart.
The brilliance of Bloom is its return to elements of R&B circa early to mid-2000s. LaVoyce embodies
the glowing spirit of Amerie, and the soulfulness of Keisha Cole. Those traits, combined with a writing
style that's both eloquent and relatable, position her to be a breakout star in the world of R&B. Her
skillful songwriting is evident on "Invisible," a clever story about internal and external stressors that can
consume you from the moment you wake up. LaVoyce shows the depth and range of a seasoned
veteran both vocally and conceptually on "Lions & Tigers." The expansive soundscape begs for a big
room trance remix or a live performance with a multi-piece band.
The Grand Damns, Part Time Punk
In the summer of 2018, The Grand Damns released their latest work, Part Time Punk, through Distrokid to be played on whichever streaming service listeners prefer. The Grand Damns are a punk band, but more in the vein of Social Distortion than The Casualties, with an attitude that is completely their own. Fueled by gasoline and Lone Star beers, the band makes music for punks who want to mosh a little slower and with a bit more guttural passion.
7um Shotz, 7um Shotz
7um Shotz's self-titled album is a stellar trap music creation. His song "At Least" reminds people to be
grateful for what they still have, even in difficult times, and is also a testimonial of the artist's own
perseverance. He candidly divulges painful events from his life, including his incarceration and the death of his father. "Population Control," produced by Mousequake, is a display of lyrical prowess over an instrumental break punctuated by a sinister beat drop (especially at the 1:44 mark) that's worth playing back multiple times. 7um Shotz has described himself as a dark horse within the North Texas hip-hop community, and the fact that the exceptional quality of his music has yielded little attention supports his claim.
Sarah Ruth, The Shape of Blood to Come
Taking a break from her work with They Say the Wind Made Them Crazy, Sarah Ruth came out with The Shape of Blood to Come last October. Never afraid to experiment with the limits of sound and voice, Ruth's haunting vocals possess the album featuring nontraditional instruments, like the dulcimer and the harmonium. An album that is not for the faint of heart, it challenges listeners to bring music out of the background and actually experience it.
Momo, XO, 2wice, Jroc Obama, Niine, Thomas Who, PAEME/GMG Presents: The Best Show In Town
On track one, verse one, Jroc Obama raps "If Dallas, Texas had a diary, I'd be the best secret on the last page" – and he couldn't have penned a truer statement.The lyrics also apply to the entire PAEME/GMG collective, currently the strongest team in Dallas hip-hop, whose music is a legitimate movement. The chemistry between the group and frequent collaborators Shun On Da Beat and Monstah Beatz results in a distinctive brand of trap music infused with potent lyricism. This compilation also features a bevy of quality verses from Oklahoma City rapper Thomas Who. Aside from the title track, other standouts include "Glory," "Another Level," "Chemistry,"
"The Land" and "I Party."
Mountain of Smoke, Gods of Biomechanics
After adding a pedal steel guitar and synth to their former lineup of a bass, drum and Stone Cold Steve Austin samples, sludge metal band Mountain of Smoke released an absolutely face-melting masterpiece in July 2018. Epic in the reach of its music and devastating in the attack of its vocals, Gods of Biomechanics absolutely establishes Mountain of Smoke as a force to be reckoned with in the Dallas metal scene. Just try to listen to "Orion's Shoulder" without wanting to press the gas pedal straight down to the floorboard.
Van Gammon, Destiny Can Wait
Van Gammon's reputation as an elite battle rapper is matched by his ability to write hip-hop verses that still
possess a pop appeal. On this album, released in July of last year, he seamlessly shifts gears between both styles. The production was orchestrated by producer Reezy Tunez who, along with a select team of beatmakers,
created a symbiotic relationship between instrumentals and lyrics. Electronic production fans will replay
"Mighty" on a regular basis to deconstruct it and marvel at how effectively the complex soundscape fits
together. On "Hurry Up" and "4 Tha Culture," the beat transitions through futuristic elements that would make
Timbaland proud. Instrumentals are easily overwhelmed with too many lyrics, and, conversely, cluttered beats can drown out the words. Neither occurs in Destiny Can Wait, which keeps beats and words in unison.
Fissionary, the moniker of writer and producer Charlie Stubbs, put out his first 9-track album Descriptions last November. An album about criticism, self-improvement and self-preservation, Fissionary has created an electronic album with a message and purpose along the same lines as Yeasayer or LCD Soundsystem. Whether it's a start-to-finish head rush like "Simpleton Eraser" or a slow-builder like "WinRAR," Descriptions bounces from sound to sound with effortless elegance, creating a sense of energetic urgency to dance the pain away.
Buffalo Black, Be Like Water
Yes, we remember nominating Buffalo Black for a Dallas Observer Music Award as a Best Hip Hop Act contender last year. But despite that bit of recognition, Be Like Water was mostly overlooked by critics and fans. The project should have been the catalyst to propel Buffalo Black's career to ascend to a new tier, especially considering the number of local hip-hop artists who signed with major labels last year. The album is stacked with hits that cover a wide spectrum of sound, yet it's still cohesive. "Infinity Girl" was ready-made for heavy airwave rotation and had all of the sexiness and party vibes of Timberlake and Pharell's "Señorita." The production of "Hustle" seizes your attention while its lyrics inspire ambition. Tracks such as "Wolves," "Black Market," "The Example" and "No Regrets" make some of the best songs that Buffalo Black has made over the course of his eight-year career.