We close out our Critic’s Choice series with David Okamoto’s Top 10 in Texas Music. Okamoto, a regular KERA commentator, works as a content production manager at Yahoo! in Dallas. His music reviews have previously appeared in such publications as Rolling Stone, ICE magazine and the Dallas Morning News.
2014 Critic’s Choice Series:
- Classical Music: Scott Cantrell, Dallas Morning News
- Visual Arts: Christina Rees, Glasstire.com
- Architecture: Mark Lamster, Dallas Morning News
- Dance: Manny Mendoza, Dallas Morning News
- Theater: Mark Lowry, TheaterJones.com
Listen to David Okamoto’s Top 10, which aired on KERA FM:
2014 turned out to be a bittersweet year in Texas music, as the last five months were clouded by the deaths of Houston jazz pianist Joe Sample, Beaumont blues legend Johnny Winter, Slaton-reared Rolling Stones sideman Bobby Keys, and Austin-based Ian McLagan of British band The Faces. But David Okamoto found solace in these 10 albums by Lone Star artists who embrace the legacy that those departed musicians made even richer.
At No. 10 is “South of Nowhere,” the debut by Spanish Gold. The trippy trio featuring Patrick Hallahan of My Morning Jacket, Adrian Quesada of Austin’s Grupo Fantasma and Dante Schwebel of San Antonio’s Hacienda casts life in Laredo against a thundering backdrop of psychedelic guitars, ‘80s hooks, and Latin rhythms.
My No. 9 choice is Jamestown Revival’s “Utah.” Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance migrated from Magnolia, Texas to the West Coast but they still come across as a high-energy version of The Band, if they had recorded Music From Big Bend instead of Music From Big Pink.
“The Big Picture” by Houston-born Kat Edmonson comes in at No. 8. Lyle Lovett’s former duet partner has channeled her Billie Holiday influences into a seductive pop style that celebrates the era of AM radio and James Bond soundtracks.
No. 7 is “All Rise” by Houston-raised Jason Moran, the only jazz pianist to ever cover both Bjork and Bach. Now he pays tribute to Fats Waller, re-imagining “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” and “Ain’t Misbehaving” with R&B grooves and post-bop flourishes.
My 6th favorite release is “And the War Came” from Austin’s Alejandro Rose-Garcia, who records under the pseudonym Shakey Graves. At 27, he’s an old soul with a youthful take on stomp-clap indie folk, pushing it on songs like “Dearly Departed” to be as raucous as it is tender.
Dallas legend Bobby Patterson’s “I Got More Soul!” lands at No. 5. Inspired by producer Zach Ernst, who helped resurrect local gospel act The Relatives, the 70-year-old singer recreates the pining Memphis soul of his ‘60s heyday in both sound and spirit.
No. 4 is Spoon’s “They Want My Soul.” Like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, this Austin indie-rock band’s most endearing quality is its consistency – what they have perfected is not a formula so much as a signature, an uncanny ability to continually stretch without straying.
No. 3 is “From the Wreckage” by The Wind and the Wave. The Austin duo drew the coveted spot opening for Bruce Springsteen’s outdoor Dallas concert in April, only to be ironically pelted with chilly winds and rain. But they soldiered on with the fierce resilience that marks such twangy life lessons as “My Mama Said Be Careful Where You Lay Your Head.”
The ambitious self-titled fourth effort by St. Vincent, the stage name of Lake Highlands High School graduate Annie Clark, is No. 2. Chilly yet thrilling songs like “Digital Witness” and “Rattlesnake” reflect alternative pop at its most jagged and jarring.
If I loved it as much as I admired it, that might have been my favorite album of 2014.
But that title goes to Miranda Lambert’s “Platinum.” The Longview, Texas superstar has been embraced by Nashville, even though she subversively defies its commercial conventions. Just listen to the roaring guitars and blunt force drama of “Bathroom Sink,” an unflinching song about staring down regret and insecurity, and you’ll realize that she’s not just getting bigger – she’s getting braver.