Top 15 Texas Albums of 2011

Oh man, is 2011 over already?  It is indeed, which means End of Year list time!  Of course, that means it’s time for you to tell us where we went wrong, but on this list, we’re thinking we got it pretty right on.  You’ll notice we expanded our list to a Top 15 of Texas Artists, as we thought our state did a great job, musically (not politically) speaking this year.  I’ll admit, it might be a little Austin-centric, but we’re based in the town, so get the Austin word a lot faster.  Apologies to Houston and San Antonio, as your scenes weren’t represented, but it’s nothing personal.  Feel free to leave us a comment to yell at us or tell us we were right on.  But, that being said, remember this is just the OPINION of a few dudes keeping it real in Austin.

Disclaimer: Band with EPs, singles, 7″s were left off, unfortunately.

15. Guns of Navarone – Prize and Battlefield

This band is one of the few local alt-country groups that create extremely well composed creative songs.  Sometimes the genre is just watered down in Texas and it’s nice to find a group that can combine traditional elements of country and blend it nicely with rockabilly and country-punk.  Lead vocalist Cory Reinisch crafts superb story telling songs and provides a voice intended for nothing but country music.


14. The Blurries – Paper Cuts

Dallas often gets a lot of slack for the commercial/plastic appeal of the city, but that doesn’t apply to this excellent album by the Blurries.  There’s angular chops and steady drumming that serve as the backdrop for a record designed to provide you with effortless cool and energetic bursts.  If you can’t sing along to this album, then I’m sorry to hear about your vocal chords; they must be broken.


13. Flesh Lights – Muscle Pop

Texas seemed dominated by guitar bands this year, bands that weren’t afraid to just bang out a quick track and have a bit of fun.  Austin’s Flesh Lights encompassed all that and more on their record, Muscle Pop.  At times, it’s a bit sloppy, but in an endearing way that reminds you we all started out enjoying music for every bit of fun that it provided us.  If you’re looking for something energetic and punk rock, you better get your hands on this.


12. The Sour Notes – Last Looks

This little group just keeps getting better and better with time.  Several years into their career in Austin, the band keeps putting out song after album after song, never really seeming to falter.  This year, they seemed to hit their stride, releasing this excellent gem amidst a busy schedule on the road and in the real world.  If you’re looking for quality tracks that take hold of you, then burst and bloom, you’ll want to start here.


11. Leatherbag – Yellow Television

Listening to Leatherbang will find you somewhere between Paul Westerberg and Bruce Springsteen, and seeing all the love those guys get, I’m not sure that’s a bad thing in the minds of any of our readers.  The songs are well-written, with lyrics you can easily discern upon the first listen.  Personally, I like the fact that the record doesn’t sound much like anything going on in modern music–so it’s clear they’re just having fun doing their own thing.


10. Jim Ward – Quiet in the Valley, On the Shores the End Begins

What else needs to be said about Jim Ward? As the guitarist for Sparta and ATDI, he’s earned his credibility, and this record shows his continued growth as a songwriter.  There’s a bit of a dark edge to his writing this time around, and with hints of Texas country all over it, I couldn’t help but fall head over heels for this record; it’s a different Jim Ward than I’ve known, but one I’m happy to meet.


9. The Great Nostalgic – Hope We Lived Like We Promised

We’ve championed this band since their inception here in Austin, and despite multiple changes in the line-up, the songwriting remains as strong as ever.  Abram Shook’s vocals have a certain wavering quality, almost unsteady, but combined with the elegance of the construction on this album, you’ll find you can’t get it out of your head.  Proud to see these guys continue to push themselves, creating their strongest effort to date.


8. Tiger Waves – Only Good Bands Have Animal Names

It says it all in the name.  This little known band is on their way, I hope, to establishing themselves in the constructionist pop movement of the masses.  Every note on this record seems to have been carefully placed, without a single misstep visible throughout.  You’ll find yourself completely lost listening to this record, but lost in the sense that you’ll never want to get out of the inner folds of this masterpiece.


7. Quiet Company – We Are All Where We Belong

Let’s face it, Quiet Company have been on the cusp of breaking through to the masses for some time, and with this new record, it seems that all their dreams will finally come to fruition.  Every song has something to offer, either a hook or a melody or a memorable lyric, and that’s precisely what we all look for in great bands, and great records too.


6. Bill Callahan – Apocalypse

Bill’s still at it, still writing whispering tunes with a country bent.  There’s something in the way he tells a story, something that begs you to listen closely as you sit around a campsite with your friends.  We probably don’t need to say much more about Bill here, as his work speaks for itself.


5. Centro-Matic – Candidate Waltz

Will Johnson is perhaps one of our favorite Texas songwriters, and when you throw him in with a full band behind him, there’s no telling where his songs will go.  Luckily for us, his whiskey-affected vocal provides the central focus for a record that continues to grown on us.  With songs like “All the Talkers,” it’s a pretty rocking adventure, and one that rewards you time and again.


4. Bad Sports – Kings of the Weekend

In a year where I feel back in love with punk rock, there wasn’t too much that I considered better than Bad Sports.  Guitars are lighting fast, drums are steadily pounding, and vocals are distinct and anthemic.  These are like the bastard sons of the Ramones, giving you balls out punk rock to get you pogoing around your bedroom for years to come.


3. Okkervil River – I Am Very Far

Damn you Will! Every time you put out a record I feel like there’s nothing else out there for me to listen to, at least for a couple weeks.  After a few albums that came across with a bit of sheen, the group seemed to be a bit on edge here, which benefited the band greatly, providing that sense of darkness, if in sound only, to the work as a whole.  As the band pushes forward, they continue to excel where other bands have failed–writing great album after album.


2. Pure X – Pleasure

This is a fairly divisive album for us at ATH, but when it boiled down to it, this sleepy gem really garnered repeated listens for several of our writers (excluding RayRay).  Whether hiding bits of sunny melody beneath layers of reverb or taking you on an atmospheric jaunt in your own brain, repeated listens only reveal the great craftsmanship that went into this record.


1. Mind Spiders – s/t

The minutes I put this DFW band’s album on, everything made sense again.  It was as if the stars aligned, my fists pumping to the rhythmic pounding of the drums.  You’d probably call this a little bit of a punk rock record, but for me, it’s just a solid rock record that punches you in the face with a ferocious attitude.  No matter what song you’re on, it’ll find its way into your brain.  There weren’t too many records that spun as much as this one did in our offices in 2011.


That’s it folks, the completed list of our best records from Texas artists.  Did we miss something? Was our order wrong? Don’t be afraid, tell us what you think. And while you’re at it, go support these great acts by getting your hands on their albums.


  • I may be biased but… Wild Child (Pillow Talk)? Good list, though. 🙂

  • A lovely list! That Okkervil River album is one of my favorites for sure. They just keep getting better.

  • Guns of Navarone – these guys rock!!!

  • Glad you’ve enjoyed The Blurries. I cannot get enough of that album. Total ear candy !

  • Yeah, I got it a bit ago. It’s replaced the void left by Hollywood Gossip.

  • Centro-matic’s album is #1 in my book.

  • I was going to write to suggest that your title is misleading but you obviously know that. How can you title something Top 15 Albums of Texas when you are admittedly ignoring so much of the state? Obviously because it reads better than “Top Mostly Austin albums I’ve heard this year.”

    No, instead I’m writing because I have to ask you what the hell the phrase “so get word a lot faster” means. I’ve tried to parse the sentence below and for the life of me, it makes no sense. I’ve tried reading it in crazy accents (French, Spanish, Italian, etc.), 70’s B-Movie Jive, even using the Frankenstein monster voice and I get nothing. Throw me a bone here. What does this sentence mean?

    “I’ll admit, it might be a little Austin-centric, but we’re based in the town, so get word a lot faster.”

  • Oh man…we got some great Texas bands on here like The Blurries and Mind Spiders and Bad Sports, but yea, a wee bit Austin-centric.

    Sorry for the confusion on that sentence…too much playing with appositives. I fixed it so it reads that we get the Austin word sooner. Thanks for checking it out. If we’re missing some solid Texas acts, fill us in.

  • Ha, mystery solved. Thanks for fixing that, that was driving me crazy. 🙂

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