The mercury's beginning to rise around here -- and I'm not just talking about the temperature. The local music scene is continuing to bubble over with talented bands. Here are five recent releases that you need to make this a sonic summer to remember. (You can hear brief samples from all five albums at dfw.com/music.)
Blackstone Rangers, 'Into the Sea'
I'll be honest: I can't stop listening to these five songs. At first glance, there's nothing especially remarkable about them, but upon repeated passes, it becomes clear this Dallas trio is onto something. Ruth Smith, Derek Kutzer and recent addition Dan Bornhorst wrote and recorded these tracks themselves (given a professional spit-polish by Salim Nourallah and Carl Saff), and released them with help from popular blog Dallas Distortion Music. Yet all that outside help falls away when considering haunting cuts like Mutiny at Toho Bay or the irresistible Hollyglen -- this is a singular effort from a band I pray is just getting warmed up. (blackstonerangers.bandcamp.com)
Keegan McInroe, 'A Thousand Dreams'
There's an appealing, unhurried nature to Fort Worth singer-songwriter Keegan McInroe's voice. He approaches his songs -- and on his latest album, A Thousand Dreams, there are 19 to choose from -- as though he's telling a handful of stories to a small, attentive audience. Breaking up his evocative tunes with brief instrumentals (often featuring stellar performances from locals like Ginny Mac or Michael Maftean), McInroe fashions a record tailor-made for lazy rainy days or intimate, sunset backyard gatherings. Produced by McInroe with Paul Williams, A Thousand Dreams is simply transporting. (keeganmcinroe.com)
Datahowler, 'Modern til Midnight'/Quaker City Night Hawks, 'Live at Magnolia Motor Lounge'
Thankfully, more local acts are embracing the idea of releasing live material. And though this pair of live releases couldn't be more different stylistically, each makes a compelling case for the talent of each act. Datahowler is a one-man affair (musical multitasker and Dallas native Ross Edman) stitching together atmospheric synths, drumbeats and smart samples to create intoxicating swaths of sound. He performed as part of the Modern's occasional "Modern 'til Midnight" concert series in April and now, you can download his 30-minute set just by going to his Facebook page (facebook.com/datahowler) and clicking on the "Exclusive Album" link.
The rowdy, devastatingly skilled Quaker City Night Hawks are enjoying an extremely productive 2012, having conquered South by Southwest and working on a follow-up to their killer debut ¡Torquila Torquila!. The band is a regular presence on the Magnolia Motor Lounge stage, and this six-track compilation (available on iTunes) demonstrates precisely why it's not crazy to suggest QCNH might be one of the state's best bands. (datahowler.com; thequakercitynighthawks.com)
My Wooden Leg, 'The Jealous Disco'
One of Fort Worth's more colorful acts (and a force to be reckoned with in concert), My Wooden Leg makes a unique impression with its debut full-length. Cramming its diverse sonic styles into songs unafraid of bizarre flourishes (Papusa features ghostly vocals howling in the background throughout), frontman Michael Maftean and his bandmates Jacob Martinez and Joshua Jones make this Disco a strange place to visit, but one you can't quite bring yourself to leave. (reverbnation.com/mywoodenleg)