DFW Music News

The 20 Best Local Albums of the Year

From left: Guyton Sanders, Dustin Fleming, Cory Graves, Josh Fleming, Travis Curry and Mark Moncrieff are the Vandoliers.
From left: Guyton Sanders, Dustin Fleming, Cory Graves, Josh Fleming, Travis Curry and Mark Moncrieff are the Vandoliers. Cal Quinn
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

click to enlarge Yusuke Okada (front) and Jeff Burke (center back) formed Lost Balloons in 2015 after meeting in Japan. - COURTESY THE ARTIST
Yusuke Okada (front) and Jeff Burke (center back) formed Lost Balloons in 2015 after meeting in Japan.
courtesy the artist
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.

"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

click to enlarge Bobby Sessions - MIKEBROOKS/COMMIEBIKE.COM
Bobby Sessions
MikeBrooks/Commiebike.com
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

click to enlarge Pearl Earl - MIKEBROOKS/COMMIEBIKE.COM
Pearl Earl
MikeBrooks/Commiebike.com
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

click to enlarge Sarah Jaffe performs at the Nasher Sculpture Center. - KATHY TRAN
Sarah Jaffe performs at the Nasher Sculpture Center.
Kathy Tran
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

click to enlarge Henry the Archer - MIKEBROOKS/COMMIEBIKE.COM
Henry the Archer
MikeBrooks/Commiebike.com
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

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Dallas Observer Music Staff