And the end-of-year celebrations roll on. Having started the month off with our biggest annual celebration of local music, the Dallas Observer Music Awards, we've continued to shine a light on some of our favorite goings-on from the year past over the last couple weeks: The best concerts in Dallas (and some of the not-so-great ones), the best songs from local artists, and the best country and metal albums.
Now it's time to tick off one of the other biggest categories of the year: the best Dallas albums of 2014. There were a lot of great candidates to consider, but we narrowed the field down to the 12 long-players that really shaped the local landscape this year -- and the ones we just couldn't stop playing.
Blackstone Rangers Descendant
While the ghost of the Cocteau Twins and other 4AD-era bands may be haunting just beneath the surface of each individual track on Descendant, the Blackstone Rangers achieve otherworldly ethereal textures all their own. They sway their melodic momentum between electro-pop and moments of beautifully constructed noise. This was the album that 2014 needed to bridge the gaps between modern indie rock, nostalgic pop and experimentation and everything in between. The rarity of enjoying an album from beginning to end and then all over again is a wonderful thing to discover, and once the final minutes of "Endless Sky" are over, you'll find yourself yearning to hear the warm currents of clamor on the opening track, "Descendant Of," once more. Aaron Ortega
Bludded Head Reign in Bludd
Reign in Bludd, the third LP from North Texas earthshakers Bludded Head, does something many metal records fail to do: It utilizes warm, natural tones to draw in the listener. Between the deeply resonant, sonically devastating doom passages, the band dials down the gain and lays back on the punishment, giving these songs breadth and clarity. The dynamics make for an engaging listen and a memorable album. At its core, though, Reign in Bludd is heavy as fuck, both sonically and emotionally. This album takes its toll on the listener, but it's a record that's as rewarding as it is challenging. Andrew Hawkins
Blue, the Misfit Child in the Wild
Blue, the Misfit's resume is long. He produced for Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Mac Miller and Dorrough, was an integral part of the group Sore Losers and the collective Brain Gang. Yet up until this year, the only solo work he'd released was an EP called Numb from 2011. Child in the Wild expounds, expands and builds upon the thirst for hedonism and recklessness expressed in Numb. The beats are experimental, yet don't tread too deep into unfamiliar territory. The raps are casual and fun. Child in the Wild was a coming-out party for one of the most interesting artists in Dallas and beyond. Hopefully the party never ends. H. Drew Blackburn
Buffalo Black RedPiLLwondrland Part 1
With all of the attention Blue, the Misfit received this year for his stellar Child in the Wild, it was easy to overlook that another rapper had produced an equally impressive (though very different) record. In fact, while Blue picked up five Dallas Observer Music Awards nominations this year, the same was true of Buffalo Black. And it was thoroughly deserved. Buffalo Black's RedPiLLwondrland is as lyrically smart and incisive as any released in Dallas this year, delving deep into themes of self-discovery and the realities of being a young black male in America. And the production matched it: heavy, clattering beats that leave no room for air. Jeff Gage