At the Dallas Observer Music Awards ceremony earlier this month, we asked eight local bands to cover songs by their favorite Dallas musicians. The songs chosen by 88 Killa, Starfruit and others were by artists such as rapper D.O.C. and indie rock-pop auteur St. Vincent.
In reviewing the best albums of 2017, we can't help but think that if we were to pose the same challenge 10 years down the road, some of the songs picked would be from albums on this list. This year saw the release of significant albums by Texas Gentlemen, Charley Crockett, Dark Rooms and more.
In no particular order, here are our favorite 20 albums by Dallas artists this year, which might just stand the test of time.
The Native by Vandoliers
Vandoliers are the modern face of cowpunk. For their latest album, The Native, they took everything fans loved about their debut, Ameri-Kinda, and turned it up a notch. All 10 tracks hit harder, keep the twang at a maximum and are just plain fun to listen to. The album keeps the listener around as it works through a wide variety of sounds that its hybrid genre affords, such as classic Tejano, western, rockabilly and punk. The storytelling is sharp, and the album makes an ideal soundtrack to a round of drinks. Mikel Galicia
Hey Summer by Lost Balloons
Lost Balloons is the newish project of Japanese musician Yusuke Okada and Jeff Burke, who plays with Denton staples Radioactivity and Marked Men. The duo recorded its second album, Hey Summer, at Burke's Tarrant County recording studio, Cool Devices, and released it in June.
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"The influence of the Beatles and the Kinks comes through more clearly on this follow-up," the Observer's Eric Grubbs writes. "There are open chords, walking guitar leads and slower tempos. Burke’s penchant for indelible melodies is on display." "Change Your Mind," "Paint," Feed the Pain" and "Numb" are standout tracks. Caroline North
Distraction Sickness by Dark Rooms
In January, alternative R&B group Dark Rooms departed Dallas for Hollywood, where frontman Daniel Hart has found lots of work as a composer. This year, he wrote the music for podcast sensation S-Town and theme to A Ghost Story, which stands a good chance of being nominated for an Oscar next month. That song, "I Get Overwhelmed," is the second track on Distraction Sickness, released in September. Both "I Get Overwhelmed" and opener "Polaroid" deserve best song of the year status. Caroline North
Grateful by Bobby Sessions
Bobby Sessions is one of the most thoughtful and deliberate lyricists in the city. After his critically acclaimed debut album, L.O.A. (Law of Attraction), Sessions’ 10-track sophomore album, Grateful, continues to lift up his listeners. Encouraging words of wisdom are heard on many tracks, including the lead single, “First World Problems,” which features another favorite local rapper, Sam Lao. The tone of the album is wonderfully soulful thanks to production from Picnictyme, Sikwitit, Jah Born and RC Williams. Mikel Galicia
Shattering Light's Creation by Tyrannosorceress
Tyrannosorceress is a black metal supergroup comprising members of several other local metal bands, and its debut follows through on the compelling aggressiveness of the band's 2011 demo. Nic Huber
Da Fat Crip by C. Struggs
Struggs rhymes with a Southern flare and so-honest-that-it-hurts mentality reminiscent of Scarface. People have been sleeping on him for a couple of years, but there is no doubt he will blow up if he keeps putting out solid mixtapes like this one and 2016's Why Not Hustle. Nic Huber
Remnants of What Was by They Mostly Come Out At Night
This album is a swan song for the Arlington post-rock/atmospheric sludge lords of They Mostly Come Out at Night. The band already broke up, but its posthumous debut album featuring four guitars and a cello is a brooding, beautiful arrangement of passion, pain and riffs. Nic Huber
Pearl Earl by Pearl Earl
Denton's Pearl Earl has had a banner year. The psych rock group, which comprises four women (Ariel Hartley, Stefanie Lazcano, Bailey Chapman and Chelsey Danielle), got its music to a larger audience in 2017. Getting tapped to open for Tripping Daisy at its blow-out reunion gig at Club Dada helped, as did the release of Pearl Earl's self-titled debut through Fort Worth's Dreamy Life Records. It was nominated for Best Album at this year's Dallas Observer Music Awards. Title track "Meet Your Maker" also earned a nod for Best Song. Caroline North
Bad Baby by Sarah Jaffe
Sarah Jaffe released her fourth full-length album in July, and it has gotten lots of airplay on local radio stations such as KXT. Bad Baby's electropop sound is in some ways a continuation of 2014's Don't Disconnect, but it also reveals a more mature, uninhibited artist. "With its fizzy, summery sound and more complicated lyrical underpinning, Bad Baby is the embodiment of the duality that Jaffe's known for," the Observer's Leah Pickett writes. "You’re having a bad night, but you go out and wear a sparkly jacket anyway." Caroline North
Zero Is a Number by Henry the Archer
Henry the Archer is the pop-punk project of Richard Hennessy, a New Jersey native who now calls Fort Worth home. The band released its debut album, Zero Is a Number, in May. Opener "Wi-Fi Pets" was nominated for Best Song at this year's DOMAsm and Hennessy walked away with the award for Best Male Vocalist. Caroline North
Lil G.L.'s Honky Tonk Jubilee by Charley Crockett
In September, local bluesman Charley Crockett revealed he'd been signed by Thirty Tigers, a Nashville-based entertainment company that boasts heavy hitters such as Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, Lucinda Williams and Turnpike Troubadours as clients. A few days later, he released his second album, Lil G.L.'s Honky Tonk Jubilee, a collection of 16 covers of country classics. "Crockett's cover of Tanya Tucker's 'Jamestown Ferry' showcases his raspy vocal style, which adds a Creole drawl to the familiar country twang," former Observer music editor Jeff Gage wrote in Rolling Stone. Caroline North
Lower Side of Uptown by the Toadies
Dallas rock stalwarts the Toadies released their seventh album this fall. Guitarist Clark Vogeler told the Observer's Jesus Jimenez in September that the album's sound came out heavier than expected. “When we got to the studio with nothing more than a pile of riffs, what came out of the band was really loud and heavy music,” Vogeler said. “So not only is this album louder than Heretics, I think it's louder and heavier than the last couple Toadies albums.” The band's cover of Jay Hawkins’ 1956 song “I Put a Spell on You" is a standout. Caroline North
TX Jelly by Texas Gentlemen
The Texas Gentlemen are often referred to as the Wrecking Crew of Dallas, and for good reason. The virtuosos led by Beau Bedford have backed up everyone from George Strait to Kris Kristofferson and Ed Sheeran. But their reputation is also evolving somewhat now that they've put out an album of original music, TX Jelly, and spent this year touring as a headlining act. TX Jelly is country with a psychedelic, jam-band twist, and it earned the Gents a Best Album award at this year's DOMAs. Caroline North
32 by T.Y.E.
T.Y.E.’s 32 is a remarkable debut, not just by local standards. It is theatrical, operatic and even epic at times. T.Y.E.’s style is unique and ranges from belting in a baritone register to delivering aggressive, growling raps. Tracks such as “Universe” and his breakthrough “La La Land” capture the full range of T.Y.E.’s talent.
Once you’ve absorbed the sonics of the album, T.Y.E’s transparent, piercing lyrics hammer home how exceptional this release is. The Oak Cliff native draws from his experiences of growing up in one of the roughest ZIP codes in Dallas and living with bipolar disorder. Leading up to the release of the album, T.Y.E. drew attention from major publications such as Pigeons and Planes, The Fader and Spin. He's quickly becoming the face of Dallas’ rap scene. Mikel Galicia
Trickle Down by Jesus Chris + the Beetles
Never short on confidence, the self-proclaimed “best goddamn rock ’n’ roll band in the world,” Jesus Chris + The Beetles, released one of the best albums of the year. On Trickle Down, it works through its brand of glam punk erratically, creating a completely different soundscape for each track on the album while remaining oddly cohesive. Mikel Galicia
Bobby by Loafers
Garage rock group Loafers has cemented its place in Dallas’ punk scene with Bobby and its split with Teenage Sexx last year. Originally from Waco, the four-piece wasted little time introducing itself, and the same is true on this four-song EP. The band gets to the point in just nine minutes. Mikel Galicia
Flawed Up Shawty by Fxxxxy
Fxxxxy’s style of music is an amalgamation of everything in vogue right now: downtempo R&B and hip-hop blended with barely there rap whispers. But the local does an extraordinary job of incorporating Southern hip-hop soundscapes into his brand of music. This is best heard on “Lip Service 6,” one of Fxxxxy’s biggest songs, which has become a favorite of the Complex music blog Pigeons and Planes. Mikel Galicia
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Nightmare Logic by Power Trip
Everything you loved about Power Trip’s debut remains on Nightmare Logic. It’s still soaked in the heavy riffs, guttural screams and breakneck-speed drums that made the Dallas five-piece the leader of thrash. More so than last time, the band addressed politics and corruption on tracks like “Firing Squad” and “If Not Us Then Who.” Mikel Galicia
We Kill Cowboys, So Death Rides a Horse by Lord Byron
We Kill Cowboys, So Death Rides a Horse is as avant-garde and layered as its title suggests, but it's also the most approachable music we’ve heard from Lord Byron since he debuted on the local scene almost four years ago with Dark Arts Vol. 2. On his previous releases, including 2015’s Digital Crucifixion, Byron's flows were dense and complicated. On We Kill Cowboys, his flow is more easygoing. His style on this album is an homage to Texas rap. Listen to “Post To Be” and “6leu DaVinci," and you'll see what we mean. Mikel Galicia
The Mesmerist by Midnight Opera
This sultry piece of dream pop is a solid debut from Midnight Opera, which is quickly becoming Dallas’ best new band. The six tracks are haunting, dark and sleek. The instrumentation is sharp enough to keep you captivated, but the lush vocals are just as likely to inspire daydreaming. The only drawback is that The Mesmerist doesn't completely capture the band's aura, which is meticulously crafted. During live shows, the band is costumed with matching stage design and choreography. In other words, make sure you catch the next one. Mikel Galicia