In the pages that follow, our corporate overlords provide an alternative to gratuitous music writer geekdom and end-of-year lists, but being who we are, we threatened to burn down the building if we didn't get to make some kind of contribution to the list-making canon. Apparently, they like this building.
Since this ship's currently without a captain, what follows is a local top 10 by committee, with five of us picking the two local releases we fell hardest for in 2007. Obviously, getting some of us to pick just two was a challenge, and some great bands fell by the wayside—apologies to RTB2, 100 Damned Guns, Dylan Sneed, Twisted Black, Sarah Reddington, Dust Congress, Glen Farris and the others we lost along the way. In no particular order, here are our favorites of the year that was.
Bridges & Blinking Lights
Standing on the Same Stick
best of 2007 local music
Hot damn, I cannot and will not stop listening to this album. From the soulful scruff of Jake Wilganowski's tenor to the spot-on harmonies and strings that add bang to gang vocals, it's what the South and a little '70s irresponsibility would do to your favorite Guided by Voices. Bridges have achieved amazing consistency from song to song. Without so much as one skipper, these Denton boys have struck indie pop gold. Standing is one hit off the vaporizer during a good nature documentary and then a random dance party. It's strong, it's sensitive and I want it to hold me. —M.M.
Velvet Blue Music
Doug Burr is a perennial underdog in this town—too Americana for your average blogger but at the same time far too great to be stuck playing joints such as the Cavern for the rest of his life. On Promenade may not change all that, but it does make a case for Burr as one of Texas' best songwriters, with songs such as "Whippoorwill" and "Thought I Saw a Rose" evoking everyone from Slaid Cleaves to Mark Kozelek. It's the work of multi-instrumentalist Todd Pertll that seals the deal, however, coating Burr's perfectly crafted tunes in layers of atmospheric pedal steel that will have you convinced Daniel Lanois must have dropped by the studio. —N.W.B.
Hearing Chris Demiglio on The Demigs' impressive debut is almost as much fun as seeing him live. Big and bald with veins busting out of his forehead, the guy seems on the verge of dementia on each and every song. Somehow, Demiglio transferred that manic intensity into the studio and out came Yardling, a post-punk and Brit-pop nuptial that caterwauls its way to Pixies-inspired paradise. Tracks such as "Summer Spiders," "Throw Me Overboard" and "Dulce" are edgy, dissonant paeans to Frank Black and Bob Mould, songs that structure noise in all manner of catchy ways. —D.S.
Brand New Towns
Former circus musician and world-music vagabond Robert Gomez is further proof that Denton is kicking Big D's ass when it comes to rock-and-roll innovation. Gomez writes dark confessions of obsession and remorse, then accents them with melancholy accordion, horns and strings without ever making it sound showy or bombastic. Songs such as "The Leaving," with its sad-goodbye lyric, churning organ and twisting strands of clean electric guitar make Brand New Towns a more than worthy follow-up to his 2005 solo debut, Etherville. —J.H.
History at Our Disposal
Symbols in the Architecture
Tangled in spacey macrobiotic ambience, History at Our Disposal's Symbols in the Architecture blends organic acoustic instrumentation, bubbling electronic flourishes, warm quiet passages, jagged dissonant asides, seemingly unsystematic surges and carefully calculated movements with an expertly reserved hand. If The Books and Neutral Milk Hotel assimilated into a colossal Japanese fighting robot that performed funeral dirges for circus clowns, the sonic product might be almost as eerily wonderful as Symbols in the Architecture. Artful without being obnoxiously avant-garde, audibly accessible without compromising creative uniqueness, History at Our Disposal has created an atypical breed of album that is not content to simply add atmosphere; it constructs its own orbit. —G.J.
Hold Back the Curse
Seems like good, nay, great musicians always have to slightly mask their love of the metal with a touch of irony...or, in the case of Hogpig, songs involving teats and Camaros. And thank the Dio. Hogpig did something amazing when they recorded Hold Back the Curse. They rocked faces and pants, and they did it well ("Heatcar" and "The Switchback" are fine examples). Yeah, there may be some heshin' out and there may be some full-on screaming, but Hold Back is a seriously solid album deserving many a listen. Hogpig may be no more—itself a victim of that dying brand of rock...and overkill—but their swan song lives, er, rocks on. —M.M.
Turn on the Interference
The simplest way for me to judge whether an album makes my "best of the year" list is gauging how often I want to listen to it after forming my initial opinion. With the exception of Radiohead's In Rainbows, I found myself playing Sean Kirkpatrick's Turn on the Interference more than any other record this year—local or not. Its fantastic, guitar-free mix of warped melodies and dramatic piano pounding is sure to blow out all the junk between your ears. Amazingly, this is the first solo effort from the Paper Chase member and former Maxine's Radiator frontman. —J.H.
Pancakes for Mattie Records
A fittingly named band—since they make experimental music even your mom could love—this instrumental Denton duo first blew our minds at a Good Records in-store, appropriate since Little Brite's been among the top five local releases there ever since. You could chalk it up to the fact label owner and Mom cheerleader C.J. Davis works there, but then you'd be selling Little Brite short. Granted, at only six songs it's the shortest record on this list, but no other local record this year felt so complete—Little Brite plays like an electro-acoustic symphony, each track flowing into the next, full of delicate ebbs and tides, with Joel North's nimble acoustic notes darting like dragonflies, chasing the ghost of John Fahey through the hot summer air. —N.W.B.
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Johnny Cashin' In
Everything about Laura Palmer and her devious debut album, Johnny Cashin' In, is at once wickedly subversive and wonderfully warm. A cursory listen may belie the elegant balancing act at work, as romantic poetry and raunchy punch lines become indistinguishable in an orgy of ridiculously hummable country folk satire. Drugs and love are lost with equal remorse. Honky-tonk homophobes and hipster rapists are put in their proper place, aptly sharing the same sleazy corner. Within a single lyrical couplet Palmer swiftly swings from sweet to sardonic with the schizophrenic ease of a pornographic nun. God bless her and her pristinely vulgar craft. —G.J.
In Between Days
Former Chomsky guitarist Glen Reynolds must have been hiding away many of his best (and coherent) ideas for several years, as his solo debut, In Between Days, goes in directions never hinted at by his former band. Literate, lush and full of surprising nuances, songs such as "Hitchhike to Nowhere" and "Setting Sun" display a range of emotion and subtlety that speaks well for Reynolds' continued growth as a songwriter. Mature and melodious, In Between Days rocks when it's warranted, but it's also capable of a restrained beauty when it counts. —D.S.