None ranked among Billboard magazine’s top 10 artists for 2013, but commentator David Okamoto says the year was unique for Texas musicians, established and new.
10. Sam Lao, West Pantego - A riveting six-song calling card from a female Dallas rapper fuses booming beats, rapid-fire rhymes and inspired nods to Santana and Coldplay into intoxicating declarations of independence.
9. Radioactivity, Radioactivity - The band, a side project featuring Jeff Burke and Mark Ryan of Denton’s Marked Men, fires off 13 crackling punk-pop salvos in 30 minutes by keeping the chord count low and the exuberance high.
8. Okkervil River, The Silver Gymnasium - The Austin band lightens up after 2011's I Am Very Far, weaving lush textures and sunny ‘80s-pop hooks around leader Will Sheff’s nostalgic riffs on his New Hampshire youth.
7. The Relatives, The Electric Word - The first album of new material in more than 40 years from the reunited Dallas gospel act: Majestic vocals, trippy guitars and funky rhythms, forge a sound that is both heavy and heavenly.
6. Black Joe Lewis, Electric Slave - The Austin guitarist jettisoned his throwback R&B romps in favor of a bone-rattling, distortion-wracked ruckus that echoes the Black Keys more than James Brown.
5. Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Love Has Come For You - A quirky collaboration between the Oak Cliff native and the comedy legend turned bluegrass star born in Waco. Brickell's engaging voice serpentines around Martin's rustic banjo plucking as they zero in on the sweet spot between starkness and light.
4. Bill Callahan, Dream River - An Austinite formerly known as Smog, Callahan's hushed baritone doesn’t drive so much as drift through the wobbly arrangements, reminding us how Leonard Cohen might sound if he were from the Great Plains instead of the Great White North.
3. Slaid Cleaves, Still Fighting the War - The Austin singer-songwriter’s most moving effort since 2000’s Broke Down portrays returning soldiers and blue-collar workers with a keen eye and a compassionate heart.
2. Midlake, Antiphon - Guitarist Eric Pulido steps up after the departure of leader Tim Smith and helps the Denton band reinvent itself by expanding upon the ethereal grooves of ‘60s psychedelia and ‘70s progressive rock -- with all of the hypnotic beauty and none of the bombast.
1. Kacey Musgraves, Same Trailer Different Park - Her East Texas roots lend an irreverent edge to her introspective tales of small town dead ends and wilting relationships, and her honey-coated voice exudes grace and confidence. As the 25-year-old cleverly jabs at indifference and intolerance on Nashville hits like “Merry Go Round” and “Follow Your Arrow,” Musgraves doesn’t just sound fearless - she sounds like the future.
Commentator David Okamoto 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.