January 3rd, 2011

2010 Bestus Prospectus: Local Albums of the Year

If there is one thing that we’ve learned over the course of the last year is that Texas (and in a greater sense, Houston) is it’s own beast. That’s why we have chosen to profile some of the artists born and bred in our home city and state that made 2010 a joyful listening experience. Tell us what we missed in the comments. Make sure to check out our list of our favorite music of the year by national acts.

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10] Transference by Spoon (Austin)
After a brief affair with more complex arrangements on 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Spoon returns to their simplistic style on Transference. None of that dabbling from three years ago really applies on this record. Not that it makes a return to form unwelcome. Spoon certainly explores some new heights in minimalism on Transference. That fact just makes it less of a redefining effort and more of a reaffirming one for long-time fans of the band. (Paul)

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9] The Courage of Others by Midlake (Denton)
Anxious. That is how I would describe the feeling invoked by Midlake on The Courage of Others. It consists of one haunting tantra chant after another making you question your past decisions, future life plans and what you’re doing this very moment. Courage is both difficult to listen to and absolutely inspiring for those reasons. Each song shows an annoying amount of patience making you wait for it to unfold. Acoustic guitars simply pluck along as you creep closer to the edge of your seat even though the album is more mellow than anything else released this year. You will be left with forebody, yet melancholy, record in your repertoire once you pick up Midlake’s second album, which is something everybody needs in their discography. (Paul)

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8] The Jukebox in Your Heart by Mike Stinson (Houston)
It isn’t that Mike Stinson is the only artist recording honky tonk music. He just happens to be the best one worth paying attention to on the Houston scene (and probably further reaching). There’s nothing like a good tune for you to slip into that pint glass you’re sharing with nobody but the bartender on a lonely Tuesday night. The Jukebox in Your Heart is full of songs like that. Is it a glorification of alcoholism? No. It just happens to strike a chord with the alcoholic that you try to hide from the rest of the world. Now, where did I stash that bottle of Jack? Is it in the sock drawer or behind my copy of War and Peace?

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7] Hippies by Harlem (Austin)
The second album by the Austin trio, Harlem, sounds like it was recorded in a tin can factory. It’s hollow. It’s gritty. It’s presented without production or flare. Those are some of the reasons that makes Hippies so good. Harlem boils down to drums vs. bass vs. guitar. In fact, they are much in the same vein as their Austin brethren, The Happen-ins. They practice a throwback garage band sound that might hearken back to a slightly earlier day. In two-minute jaunts they ramble through hooks galore. (Paul)

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6] Suburban Nature by Sarah Jaffe (Denton)
I’m a sucker for a singer-songwriter with a guitar. And Sarah Jaffe makes me remember why. Her riveting voice coupled with songs that make you feel like she really gets it will reel you in and keep you pressing repeat. Oh, and she’s only 24, which means we’ll hopefully get to hear much more from her. She’ll be at the Mucky Duck on January 20. Do yourself a favor and check her out. (Sarah)

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5] The Grand Theatre Volume 1 by The Old 97’s (Dallas)
The Grand Theatre is a return to the Old 97’s that we’re used to hearing. The energy we are used to getting out of the Dallas foursome is back and we couldn’t be happier. Nearly all pre-production was done at the Sons of Hermann Hall with the band performing their entire repertoire over a few shows. Doing so seems to have lit the fire in the hearts of the band members and it comes through in this first disc of the two-disc set. (Stephan)

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4] Film Noir by Andrew Karnavas (Houston)
From the first moments of the lead track, “I Didn’t Mind”, you realize you won’t be able to escape the haunting voice of Karnavas. The accompanying steel guitar helps to drive that point home. Karnavas’ first tryst with a solo album, Film Noir seems to be peppered with instruments that only accentuate the leading man of Runaway Sun’s vocals. Rich cellos and violins and a stand-up bass compliment the lead man on the album on nearly every song. There is a certain mystery that Film Noir exudes throughout the folksy blues album that you are left wondering when the mid-20s Karnavas has had time to experience so much life and heartache. (Paul)

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3] The Happen-ins by The Happen-ins (Austin)
Reach for your father’s stack of vinyl and you very well may come across one of the many influences of The Happen-ins. They are steeped in the ways of the old rock n’ roll. Their self-titled debut sounds bluesy sometimes and country others, but make no mistake, it’s all just fun rock. Not only do they play the part, they look it when their on stage. They are half hipster and half superfly. Sweating as they scream out coarse vocals, you can tell The Happen-ins take just as much enjoyment in creating their music as you will listening to it. (Paul)

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2] Skin Collision Past by Wild Moccasins (Houston)
Wild Moccasins’ nine-song album leads off with the title track with vocal harmonies that drift off into the distance and a surprisingly fast pace. As Cody Swann and Zahira Gutierrez trade off duties leading the quartet, Skin Collision Past doesn’t so much take risks as it shows all the progressions toward the potential they showed with their EP, Microscopic Metronomes. If there is any negative to their first full-length album it’s that it could be longer. It cuts off with the effervescent “Zylophone” and only leaves you wishing that there were more. If anything, Wild Moccasins have affirmed the reason why so many Houstonians had fallen in love with them with nothing more than a few live shows and six songs under their belt before the May release of Skin. And you know what? We finally forgive them for not including our t-shirt in the video for “Psychic China”. (Paul)

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1] True Love Cast Out All Evil by Roky Erickson with Okkervil River (Austin)
I was stuck in rainy traffic in Seattle when a song came on the radio that made me even more homesick for Texas than I already was. I hadn’t heard the song before, but it took me from bundled-up and sulking and transported me to flip-flopped and smiling on a warm night at the West Alabama Icehouse. I was intrigued and wanted to keep on listening. After it finished, the deejay said it was “Goodbye Sweet Dreams,” a tune from a forthcoming album by Roky Erickson with Okkervil River called True Love Coast Out All Evil. “Ah, both out of Austin. Makes sense,” I thought with a sense of pride and deep craving for queso. Give it a listen. Better yet, give it a listen while roadtripping to Austin or after having a few Shiners at the Tall Texan. You won’t be disappointed. (Sarah)

Other Staff Picks
Heart of a ChampionPaul Wall (Houston)
Fall 2010 (EP) and Spring 2010 (EP) – Kyle Park (Austin)
Black RibbonsShooter Jennings (Austin)
RABDARGABFat Tony (Houston)
Codename: RondoGhostland Observatory (Austin)

— The Loop Scoop

Comments

Jason — Monday, January 3, 2011 11:56 am

3 you should know…

Shearwater – The Golden Archipelago
Winter Wallace – Holiday
HISD – The Weakend

Paul — Tuesday, January 4, 2011 11:44 am

Winter Wallace and Shearwater were both on our radar, but we never did get a chance to pick them up. We’ll make amends in 2011.

Fat Tony — Friday, January 7, 2011 12:47 pm

Thanks for listening!

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