It's been an exciting year for Dallas music. If there were any room before to doube whether the local scene was on the rise, there should be none left after 2014. There are plenty of ways to judge that, from the reemergence of Deep Ellum to the artists who've gotten national attention, be it from major labels of festival slots. Most nights of the week, there's a great show with a local artist happening in almost any neighborhood.
But of course it all boils down to the songs -- and there, too, Dallas is in rude health. From hip hop to punk rock, dance tracks and deep album cuts, there were dozens of memorable songs from local artists in 2014. Today we've picked out 20 of the best.
A.Dd+ -- "INNISHO"
DiveHiFlyLo: Every Man Is King was a mostly somber and contemplative record. Lest we ever forgot that A.Dd+ knows how to party, the duo opens their Nawf EP with "Innisho." A wild saxaphone boogies along as Paris Pershun and Slim Gravy announce that they are in fact in this hoe, the function, the shindig. "Innisho" shows this duo in top form: having a little fun and not sacrificing the sanctity of fiery bars for a party record. H. Drew Blackburn
BeMyFiasco -- "Summertime Fine"
As with most rhythm and blues, BeMyFiasco and her smooth voice went slightly under the radar this year. That doesn't depreciate "Summertime Fine's" value as one of the most charmingly soulful songs to come through this city since the Queen of the Scene, Badu herself. "Summertime Fine" exudes the archetypical summertime activity: a cookout. It's the perfect backdrop for the affair in which your Jesus sandal wearing uncle is hovered over the grill and the beers and margaritas are ice cold. HDB
Blackstone Rangers -- "Frozen Echo"
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Back in February, just as North Texas was just beginning to thaw out from the grips of an exceptionally cold polar vortex, dark-wave synthgaze aficionados Blackstone Rangers released this brooding track on their "Descendant" EP. Adhering to haunting ethereal themes a la '80s post-punk staples Cocteau Twins, much to the suggestion of its title, this track's melody echoes on amidst warm synthy tones. Ruth Smith's voice exists almost as its own instrument, adding another ambient layer to this song's ghostly composition. It is a standout track from 2014, a year that began amidst a frozen landscape, and let's face it, we're all a little down when the days are shorter and the temperature dips down below tolerable levels. Aaron Ortega
Blue, the Misfit -- "No Care in the World"
If there's any question about Blue, the Misfit's day-to-day life, "No Care in the World" clears all that up, real quick. This banner year has had Blue partying, mobbing and living without care in Dallas, racking up award nominations and critical praise. The song's slow, clicking beat swells under Blue's laidback cadence and sums up his entire mindset in one song. He takes care to live careless, he's been working hard to hardly work. He's not going to get bogged down by the little things, he's still got the digits / he's winning. Matt Wood
Buffalo Black -- "War Paint"
"War Paint" has been floating around for a while, but the brilliant crimson soaked music video that dropped at the top of the year gave it a new life as a single. Black emphatically demands that throw on the "war paint we risk it all for love." It's a great picture of the passionate rapper who had a great run this year along with his equally compelling single "Bad Seed" from REDPILLwondrland release and "Enter The Void," which caught the eye of Spike Lee and will end up in his next joint, Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus. HDB
Centro-matic -- "Every Mission"
The second track on what we'd find out would be the final Centro-Matic album might perfectly encapsulate the softer side of the band. The instumentalization is lush, and surrounds Will Johnson's vocal like a safety blanket. Fans of the band recognize what their getting from the opening lines, something ponderous, something driving, a story told in four minutes, that's just a chapter that's apart of the larger story that's the album. It might be apart of a larger picture, but damn if it doesn't stand on it's own. Jaime-Paul Falcon
Danny Diamonds -- "Hot Summer"
Leave it to Danny Diamonds to make the cheeriest song of all time that's about a conversation about contemplating suicide. A steady fuzz guides you through the paces of discussing the consequences of ending it all, complete with a shout along bit, and a guitars that are aching to break loses and blow amps. It's just another great effort from one of North Texas' most talented individuals, and it's all done with a knowing smirk. JPF
Howler Jr. -- "Oh Dear"
Two minutes into Howler Jr's "Oh Dear" the song gives it's self over to it's base line, and it becomes this glorious little throwback that makes you think you're a teenager in love in the 60s. Then the drums and guitar kick in and everything merges perfectly together when the beat picks up and vocalist Spencer Kenney starts lamenting on the microphone. It's nothing new musically, but it feels fresh because it's part of the new crop of Dallas artist exploring the past, and who're making it their own. JPF
Leon Bridges -- "Coming Home"
When you first hear this it makes you wonder exactly where it came from, perhaps you struggle to put the music in a proper setting. But this slow stirring rhythm and blues would appeal to anyone anywhere. The lyrics are simple, but everyone knows how it feels to miss the person you care about most. Bridges gives an incredible vocal performance, but the vocal track is not standing in front of everything. The producers carefully mix it in with the guitar and piano to achieve a textural sound. This is modern soul music. But the R&B, gospel and pop are tied together so carefully that Leon Bridges has been compared to none other than the creator of soul, Sam Cooke. Jeremy Hallock
Lily Taylor -- "Across the Hills"
"Across the Hills" makes a graceful exploration of "themes of Diaspora, longing, reflection, and possibly regret"--in Taylor's own words. Her vocals, layered and aerial, have intense clarity, standing still against the soft dancing of the well-executed panoramic instrumentation. Drawing you in by the stirring grip of its vibraphone's continuance, Taylor has a voice that can't be ignored, unfolding like a simple poem of somber emotions. Eva Raggio
Mystery Skulls -- "Magic"
Even on paper, it's impossible not to want to dance to "Magic." Dallas' Luis Dubac relocated to Los Angeles and landed a deal with Warner Bros. for the release of November's Forever, which included the impossibly fun "Magic." It's no coincidence that it sounds like the kid brother to Daft Punk: Nile Rodgers, from the 2013 smash "Get Lucky," provides the vocals here over Mystery Skulls' joyful bounce of handclaps and synth. Throw in Brandi Carlile and you have a recipe for one killer party. Jeff Gage
Oil Boom -- "The Sneak Tip"
"Come on let's dance!" shouts Ryan Taylor about mid-way through "The Sneak Tip" and while it's a fun lyric it's not needed, because no one listening to the band's best single from their latest album Red Metal is standing still. The song's just that infectious, the rhythm doesn't allow you to not bob your head, and dance a little even if your alone, and there's now way in hell you're not dancing with everyone else if you're in a group while at a show. Oil Boom's getting a lot of national attention, and fun tracks like "The Sneak Tip" are why they're going to keep getting it. JPF
Old 97's -- "Let's Get Drunk and Get It On"
For great reason, much has been made of how Most Messed Up, the spring-release from the Old 97s isn't merely the best 97's album in years, but it is their most adult (read: vulgar, profane, rambunctious, realistic) album arguably throughout the venerable crew's twenty year career. While every song gets to its respective point pretty quickly with cutting, no-bullshit lyrics, it's the real-as-real-gets number "Let's Get Drunk and Get it On" that sums the album up perfectly. The title indeed says it all, but the whole song deserves attention as it's a feverish, punk-infused country romp that wonderfully relates what all of us really mean during those late bar-hopping nights but rarely actually say. Kelly Dearmore
Party Static -- "Poor Baby"
There's no band in Dallas that's more fun to see right now than Party Static, and there's no song in their catalog that proves that point better than "Poor Baby." From the shouted opening lines -- "Stray cat and my cat/Fight! Fight! Fight!" -- this song about a poor soul who loves to give hugs starts off over the top and never lets up. Between the scrambling guitar lines, the tambourine shakes and the giddy vocals of Laura Harrell and Kjersten Funk, "Poor Baby" is two minutes of pure, joyful chaos. JG
The Phuss -- "Straight Line Impala"
The Phuss have been on a tumultuous ride this year to say the least. But in overcoming harrowing accidents they produced "On the Prowl," an unapologetic party record that opens with "Straight Line Imapala." The song is the hair trigger that ignites a powder-keg album that never dips below 90 mph, never compromises. When it growls to a finish, you know exactly what kind of album you're getting into and know for certain that The Phuss have no interest in turning down. "Straight Line Impala" is best played turned to 11 followed by a wicked hangover the next day. MW
Picnictyme -- "Been a Minute"
Picnictyme has served as a member of Erykah Badu's all electronic everything backing band, the Cannabinoids, produced for the aforementioned songstress, Kid Cudi, Scarface, and A.Dd+, and is one half of the ass shake facilitators, Booty Fade. It's with welcome arms that we accept this seasoned musicians solo project, Sea Monsters. A sampling of what we can expect is "Been A Minute" a spaced out psychedelic soul track that enlists the help of Dallas' resident cooley fooly funk trio, The Outfit, Tx. HDB
Sarah Jaffe -- "Lover Girl"
In May, months before Sarah Jaffe triumphantly released Don't Disconnect, her best album yet, in August, she used her sundown-slot at the Homegrown Fest in downtown Dallas to debut a new song. As Jaffe said, "Here's a new song called 'Lover Girl,'" more than a slight murmur excitedly made its way through the throng. In the least shocking discovery of the year perhaps, "Lover Girl" was simply killer. The moody beat and tempo mixed with the song's sexy plea let everyone know, months before we would hear for certain, that Jaffe would only continue her reign as the fierce queen of Dallas music. KD
Son of Stan -- "Loseyomind"
Built on a murky, underwater groove, "Loseyomind" is Son of Stan's tribute to a night of too many drugs, too much Keith Sweat and oh-so-predictable dance moves. Jordan Richardson's vocal is both soothing and sarcastic, a mix of calm reassurances and mocking observations -- perfect to instill a little paranoia. It marches along until the bridge hits, when the key shift makes it feel like anything is possible -- even getting your life together. Oh, and that sax solo? Yes. Very yes. JG
Sudie -- "The Vicious Kind"
Sudie Abernathy's recorded body of work is still small, but based on "The Vicious Kind" you'd never suspect as much. The song is built up, piece by piece, into a slinky groove with a real wail of a foundation: her voice. The keys and percussion help fill in the open spaces, give the song some shape, but it's all a mere backdrop. Sudie's dripping with sass, and it's a pure joy to watch how confidently she explores the range of her voice, from the brush-of-the-shoulder attitude to the laughing asides. JG
Sudie Abernathy's recorded body of work is still small, but based on "The Vicious Kind" you'd never suspect as much. The song is built up, piece by piece, into a slinky groove with a real wail of a foundation: her voice. The keys and percussion
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-topic -- "Don't Forget to Stretch"
Always the one to be concerned with good living, -topic gives us a very valid piece of an advice: If you're about to ball, do not forget to stretch. "Don't Forget To Stretch" is one of the stand out tracks from his January release Be Good & Do Well thanks in part to the effortless swagger showcased on the track. But, first and first mostly the coda ushered in by triumphant horns that warrant the most scrunched up of stink faces is what puts the icing and cherry on top. It's a moment to remember. HDB
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