The 30 Best Texas Albums

Ranking the 30 best Texas albums of the past 30 years seemed like an impossible task. We did it anyway.

At the Drive-In,
Relationship of Command

El Paso's At the Drive-In was once as hot as molten lead. When Relationship of Command appeared in September 2000, nothing else in alternative rock sounded quite like it, a grisly prog-rock/post-hardcore pileup between Bad Brains, Pink Floyd, Drive Like Jehu and The X-Files. The album was so entropic that ATDI went on "indefinite hiatus" the next year and shortly splintered into Sparta and The Mars Volta, but Relationship of Command stands as a vivid souvenir of Y2K-era angst funneled into sizzling guitar rock.

Explosions in the Sky,
The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place
Temporary Residence

Explosions in the Sky took the cathedrals of electric guitar conjured by the likes of My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth, dispensed with the lyrics and won the hearts of jaded indie-rockers everywhere with awe-inspiring music of vast grandeur and deep humanity. The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place is almost a living organism, equal parts emotional and aloof, intricate and inscrutable. It flowed directly into the Austin quartet's soundtrack to the 2004 Texas-shot film Friday Night Lights, then the NBC series, then almost every TV drama of the past ten years.

Rodney Crowell,
The Houston Kid
Sugar Hill

After about 25 years as a top Nashville artist who sent an astounding five singles from 1988's Diamonds & Dirt to No. 1 on Billboard's country chart, Crowell took some time off and returned as a sort of transfigured prophet-troubador much too intelligent and dignified for mainstream country. With novelistic lyrics presaging 2011 paper memoir Chinaberry Sidewalks, Crowell recounts his rough east Houston upbringing through revolving sketches about his tyrannical father and the armed robber of "Highway 17," among others. The Houston Kid seals his reputation as the most perceptive songwriter ever to hail from the Bayou City limits.

James McMurtry,
Childish Things
Music World/ Compadre

When the jobs moved overseas, politicians sold us out and the circus moved on to another town, Childish Things fought postmillennial malaise with a wily, resourceful set of cantankerous roots-rock. McMurtry's withering snapshot of George W. Bush's America, "We Can't Make It Here," drew the most attention, but the more intimate dramas of "Six-Year Drought" (which recalls Springsteen's "My Hometown") and "Restless" retain a quiet dignity and stubborn perseverance when they could easily be hopelessly bleak.

Girls Can Tell

"Don't say a word," opens Girls Can Tell. "The last one's still stinging." Every note stings on Spoon's third album, which doesn't so much smooth out the jagged edges of the scrappy Austinites' first two full-lengths as sharpen them to an even finer point. Keyboards and strings accent Britt Daniel's more vulnerable side on "Anything You Want" and "10:20 a.m.," while Daniel's eternal guitar pas de deux with simpatico drummer Jim Eno — always one of the biggest reasons to love Spoon — approaches jazz-like precision on the strutting "Take a Walk" and noirish instrumental "This Book Is a Movie."

Lyle Lovett,

Pontiac presents Lyle Lovett as a sophisticated Sinatra-style crooner who happens to be a tried-and-true Texan. His troubled characters are consistently believable and complex, such as the regret-stricken rodeo cowboy of "Walk Through the Bottomland" or the sardonically resigned husband of "She's No Lady." But Pontiac doesn't feel fully three-dimensional until Lovett's minutely detailed arrangements kick in, whether widescreen country-rock ("L.A. County"), somber folk ("Simple Song") or lightning swing ("She's Hot to Go").

Old 97's,
Too Far to Care

Breakout Wreck Your Life gave the Old 97's every indication they were about to become big-time rock stars. Follow-up Too Far to Care is where they anted up with a set of songs that, ironically, was a little too savvy about the music biz to get big-time airplay. Still, it's tremendous fun, a sharp-witted and tuneful affair that charts a furious succession of gigs and one-night stands while pondering what leaving home for good truly means. As many hearts as the Old 97's were breaking (and having broken) in the process, Too Far to Care makes it obvious they were having the time of their lives.

Erykah Badu,

Erykah Badu appeared when R&B was dominated by street-tough divas and multi-octave ex-church soloists, but Baduizm puts out a strong enough bohemian Billie Holiday vibe to back up the reincarnation talk permeating songs like "Next Lifetime." This is no mere throwback, though, with a subtle hip-hop flavor and very '90s girl-power attitude. Creatively, Baduizm plays it fairly close to the vest compared to later albums like Mama's Gun and the New Amerykah twins, but its ultra-chill after-hours ambience is its own kind of cool.

Geto Boys,
We Can't Be Stopped

Rarely have three men minced fewer words than the Geto Boys do on We Can't Be Stopped. Whether the topic is sex, more sex, murder, drugs, poverty, paranoia or George H.W. Bush's Iraq war, almost every eye-popping lyric is as graphic as the infamous cover photo of the trio wheeling Bushwick Bill into the Ben Taub ER. Bolted to trunk-rattling beats and funky hooks that pushed "Mind Playing Tricks on Me" into the R&B Top 10, We Can't Be Stopped is still a little bit shocking and occasionally funny as hell.

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All White Boy bullshit. Who cares?


Great article, no matter the situation SPM is a great Artist and his Free SPM movement is bigger then all the "intelligent" individuals who are always telling other people how to be,'and where to go. I define Ignorance by assuming ones opionion is fact.

FattyFatBastard topcommenter

The fact that ArcAngels (formed after your #1 passed by Sexton and Bramhall) didn't even make the top 30 shows that you kids don't have a clue what you're talking about.

Simply pathetic that so many would forget such an obvious omission, and it's also very telling that SRV is simply a pity vote by voters who didn't actually listen back in the day.

Eric Walters
Eric Walters

Black Angels- Passover, nowhere in the top 60, but plenty o' Dixie Chicks? WTF ever.......

Houston Press Rocks Off
Houston Press Rocks Off

It's No. 42, impressive considering most people have probably never heard of Zeitgeist or the Reivers.

Caleb Fraid
Caleb Fraid

Zeitgeist/The Reivers * Translate Slowly is a gem.

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