One Man’s Opinion: The Best of The Year
Photo: Mario Villeda
Well, these are a lot of words; but don’t let that dissuade you from looking it over. Below are just some of the best from my side of things. When I started out with FPH, I felt like an outsider looking in, and in the past year; I still feel like it’s just getting started. This was an especially hard list to compile, especially with the local albums. Some I wish I had more time with or that I had the chance to see the bands who made them live, more than just once. The “worst” local albums of the year will be in the FPH “Worst Of” edition in January. For now, take a look and enjoy this list of the best that I saw, heard, and experienced this last year.
I only saw one movie in the cinema, and it was the Michael Keaton film “Birdman.” It’s insanely well done and full of human emotion that keeps you locked in from start to finish. I’m not a film critic, but I went off of M. Bergeron’s review and found him to be on point with this movie.
Best New Opening
I’m not gonna’ lie when I say that over in the Warehouse Live part of town, there’s not much away from the destinations. There was just a convenience store opened that’s ironically owned by the people who had the old Conoco across from Fitz, before it was turned into a really crappy Tex-Mex joint. But after the Todd Barry show, I escorted the comic with some Warehouse Live higher ups over to Neil’s Bahr and I was impressed. A wall of comic books, a Nintendo 64 attached to an oldschool TV, and comfy seating make this a definitely rad spot to hang. The name is nerd induced and that’s not faking it; it’s definitely “for realz.” There aren’t crazy drink names or a bunch of scenesters; just those who used to be able to afford living in the Montrose. However the best part is not having to be around those who have taken over most of your favorite spots with talk about their BMW’s and crappy shows you didn’t know existed.
Best New Enterprise
Wonky Power Records is trying something that feels pretty cool, while also being pretty cutting edge. The label, home to Bang Bangz, operates from a warehouse where they also put on shows at. If that weren’t enough, they also stream live videos of artists who perform one off shows there via the web. I don’t know who will get releases from them in the coming year, but this could be a game changer in how the future of Houston music gets presented. So far they’ve hosted shows or webcasts with FLCON FCKER, Bang Bangz, George West, and Gio Chamba. That’s just the tip of what they have done, and they’re definitely a group to watch in the future.
I don’t eat out much if not for the fact that I’m a weirdo about my weight or the fact that I just like to cook; I can count how many times I did so this year. It’s fair to say that it happened a little over one hundred times if that. So these aren’t new spots, but places I finally ate at.
Best Food Truck
Geez…I feel like people told me about the Eatsie Boys truck for so long, that I almost felt it call my name when I finally stepped up for a bite. I liked the “No Sleep Till’ Philly” so much that I came back two more times. One the second trip, I had “Frank The Pretzel” that was like this hotdog like thing that made me feel guilty for liking it so much. The third trip; I won’t lie, I sought the truck out and tried “Da Bomb” chicken only to realize that I can’t follow this truck on social media or I’ll become their best customer. If you can’t find their truck, then hit up their brick & mortar location just for the Beet Fries….seriously, they’re pretty epic.
If you said, “no man, there’s a restaurant attached to a grocery store and the food is great,” I would have laughed at you. But in realizing that spots like Lankford and Stantons, who I both adore, originally had storefronts; maybe my thinking was off. So, after attending a bunch of varying shows at Phoenicia MKT Bar, I should tell you that it’s all pretty damn great. They don’t mess around with food. Things I rarely eat out like chili are even great there with Haig’s Chili. Their pizza has quickly become one of my favorites, while the sliders have these spices that you can’t put your finger on; but boy are they tasty. Whether you go small like Chickpea Fries or big with Chilean Sea Bass, it’s all pretty great and definitely worth checking out.
Best New Article
Because I’m self involved, I don’t look at a bunch of other people’s works. But also because I like print media, I do read a bunch of different papers. It’s going to seem like back patting, but I really like the idea behind and the execution of Badvice. Marini has figured out a way to not only give some bad advice, but also a way to shoot the confused straight. Between the levels of advice that don’t seem like the best idea are these nuggets of truth about dating, relationships, and the sexes. An example of this would be when someone asked why their boyfriend had a Tinder account, and the answer was, “show me a person who uses Tinder for making friends, and I’ll show you a liar.” It doesn’t get better than that; and it’s the kind of straightforward words that I feel so many people need to hear.
I feel like no one really talks about poster art like they should. This year, I saw some amazing art that seemed to really raise the bar on what show posters should look like. Below, I picked my favorite Houston artists, and their best works.
Best Large Scale Event Poster Art
Jermaine Rogers really hit it out of the park this year with his FPSF artwork. It was like he found a way to include all of the elements of his universe, with a nod to past FPSF art into one trippy and over the top piece.
Best Small Scale Event Poster Art
I’m sure some people will read this and thinks that it may have to do with Shelby’s FPH involvement, but this year Shelby Hohl was on fire. We saw more art from him in 2014 than I can remember in a long time. This year, he did the poster work for a show where only fifty people could attend, the Youngblood Booking July 6th Boat Bash. The art, looked like something from the fifties era of “hound dog pop art” while still being something of Shelby’s design. It’s like Tex Avery dropped acid and went crazy.
Best Single Show Poster Art
Again, I have to go to the Shelby Hohl well. While I really liked Eric Castorena’s art for The Tontons show at Fitz, it was Hohl’s art for the Black Lips & King Khan and BBQ Show at Fitz that really blew me away. The poster for a show on 09/11 could have gone so many ways, but he kept it classy by doing a bit of acid dripped titles mixed with characters that appeared to have been a part of Beavis’ peyote laced dreams.
2014 saw so much in the world of music. You’ll more than likely notice that there are some bands who were left off of here and some that you may or may not have heard of. For me, what makes an album great is not only the craft but how much I find myself listening to it. The honorable mentions list should clear up any confusion while also nodding that good is good, but great is what gets mentioned.
Album of The Year
I don’t know if I convey this much more than just stating it, as there were some albums I wanted to sound a certain way that did just that this year. However, there was one album that blew me away from start to finish. I try to keep a policy of only reviewing albums of artists who I’ve seen live. I always try to explain that it’s due to the fact that it’s so easy to use computers to make the “perfect” album nowadays. If you think that’s BS, go see MGMT live. There was one album that I just couldn’t stop listening to, and actually still haven’t. That album is “Primitives” by Roger Sellers. I’ll leave out the fact that when you catch Sellers live, he becomes entranced by the music he creates; though he’s a force to see in a live setting. No, I think the best way to convey why I love this album so much, is that it’s electronic, but it isn’t. Sellers recorded all of the instruments minus a single drum track, and then in some cases; looped them. But, that aside, the fact that “Primitives” is electronic and yet it conveyed so much emotion. That alone, is worth mentioning in that I haven’t really experienced that on a primarily electronic album since “Violator” by Depeche Mode. There are moments where Sellers conducts like a mix of Frank Zappa and Brian Wilson; but it never feels formulaic or phony. It’s such a strong album that I can’t even pick a song I like better than another on the album. The bells on “Appeals” immediately catch your attention, while the guitar on “Spectrolite” grab your ears in a way that you can’t let it go. Even the complexities of instrumentation on “Steps” should be enough to lay claim to the greatness of the record. The songs are great on their own while sounding like a grandiose masterpiece as an album when played in sequence. For me, the mark of a great album is when it commands another listen. And with “Primitives,” the commands are still coming with every play.
Five Great Albums
I’m pretty sure if you know me, or if you pay any attention to me; then you will know that I’m a big fan of S/P/O/O/N. I contend however, that if you want an honest review; you’ll never ask a fan. In an attempt to be transparent, I’ll admit that I always wanted “A Series of Sneaks” Part 2, and I got it with “Transference.” And, maybe that’s why I hate that album so much. Every Spoon album that came before it, felt like a progression. But it was almost like a step backwards. So, when I heard that the band was recording again, and this time for an imprint of Universal; I was happy and a little shocked. This album would have to sound like a mix of Spoon and Divine Fits for it to be great, successful, and relevant. Luckily, “They Want My Soul” did just that. From the old school Spoon sound of opener “Rent I Pay,” to the future sounds/Divine Fits vibe of “Inside Out;” Spoon really outdid themselves this time and it really showed. For the first time that I can remember, Britt’s lyrics have more relevance than that of previous albums. The best verse I found was “Auction off what you love, it will come back sometime…” from “Let Me Be Mine.” If this is Spoon on a larger imprint like Loma Vista; though not part of Universal anymore, then I say keep them coming.
There’s a good chance that many of you don’t remember Wild Flag, and an even greater chance that you’ve never heard of Helium. But, both of those bands featured Mary Timony. I wasn’t sure of what to make of Timony’s new band Ex Hex when I heard the 7” they released earlier this year. Then, they dropped their amazing full length, “Rips” and my mind was a little blown. Blaring guitars, well written lyrics, and hooks for days coupled with head bopping structures are what this album is all about. I mean, can you find fault with an album that echoes the pop side of Linda Ronstadt with the heavy riffs of Joan Jett? Away from the fact that there isn’t a bad song on the album, there are moments that could have been GoGo’s songs like “You Fell Apart.” Or parts where you’d think the songs were penned by Benjamin Orr like “How You Got That Girl.” The whole album is a home run, and it’s one that everyone should own or at least listen to on repeat.
There must be something to a deeply personal album that brings out the best in people. One of the year’s best, the most personal, and the best of this band’s career was “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” by Against Me!. I was a little scared as to what this album would sound like after the smoke cleared on the Tom Gabel to Laura Jane Grace news. However, I shouldn’t have doubted her, as Grace wrote such a heartfelt and hook laden album that hearing it’s lyrics alone almost brings me to tears. There’s not a bad track at all on the release, and from the album’s opener to the final song, Grace takes us on a journey of self discovery, pain, and rebirth that feels like it’s been brewing for decades. Somehow Grace tells us these tales and conveys these packaged in an amazingly well crafted tune. “Unconditional Love” is just one of these kinds of examples. I feel like Grace might be the most punk rock in attitude on this album, and by playing a song called “Fuckmylife666” on Letterman; she proved that element still exists in this band that feels like it’s just getting started.
It shouldn’t be a shock that pretty much anything involving Omar and Cedric from Mars Volta/At The Drive In can be great. However, after the fall out of the post Mars Volta argument, it seemed like the two were not to be. Then, out of the blue, a new project called Antemasque was unveiled. What came forth was the most creative and energetic sound that the two have created together. The self titled album, “Antemasque” is littered with energy, creative runs on the fretboard, and a sound that these two hadn’t done yet…a straightforward one. That straightforward sound is one that when you hear it, you wish they had attempted in the past. Gone are the bizarre song titles, the prog progressions, and the experimentations with the bizarre. What’s left is a very “punk rock” meets Santana vibe that permeates throughout the entire release. There were moments in Mars Volta where Omar had these amazing guitar parts that were hampered by pedals and various surrounding instruments; but that’s all gone. Now it’s all just two guys make amazing music at the pace of two kids in their garage; and that’s not a bad thing at all.
Maybe it was how I got the album handed to me, or maybe it’s because I like an underdog..but the Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas album, “Secret Evil” was one that stayed on my repeat daily after I first heard it. I was told that it was like Amy Winehouse, though I felt like it was much stronger than most of Winehouse’s catalog. The album displays elements of pop on tracks like the opener “No Place Left To Hide” and “Sorry I Stole Your Man.” It also brings in elements of soul and doo wop on songs like “Cry Cry Cry” and “Neck Tattoo.” However you slice it, good is good, and Hernandez’ epic voice seems to fit on the multitudes of genres that come forth in every song. There are so many hooks on the release, that there’s nothing short of at least five possible singles, if not six or seven. The fact that this album wasn’t released on a major label just shows how behind the eight ball the major label system is today.
Four Pretty Damn Good Albums
I’m not a Keith Morris guy. I do like Circle Jerks, but I never loved them. When I think of Black Flag, I only consider Henry Rollins and not Morris. But, amidst all of the drama surrounding that band, Morris founded another band called OFF!. It’s basic, it’s old school, and it’s the kind of punk rock I miss. The kind of punk rock I wish still existed in a world of Blink 182 and Green Day pop BS that never seems to stop getting released. So, when I first listened to “Wasted Years” by OFF!, I felt like someone answered my prayers to bring punk back to those who understand it. This album is bombastic, it has 17 songs where only one clocks in over the two minute mark, and it brings politics back to punk in a big way. These guys covered big brother and big business alongside corruption in the police force and everything else while keeping their dirty sound in tact. The opener “Void You Out” covers the pace of what most of the album had in store. While songs like “Hypnotized” and “Death Trip On The Party Train” changed things up. This album is best summed up by the fact that most of the songs begin with a feedback squeal that reminds me of my youth enough to leave the album on a daily play from the first listen.
I think it’s bizarre to hear Houston artists I know talk about this guy they know named Steven in casual conversation. There are a ton of critics who are saying that this guy Steven, made one of the best albums of the year; and while it was good, I guess it’s the fact that I can hear very similar stuff locally as to why it just gets a mention. I also feel like I heard this seven, five, and three years ago, done by other artists. But, Steven’s album, “You’re Dead!” under his stage name, Flying Lotus was pretty well done. I could’ve done without the guest spots from Kendrick Lamar on “Never Catch Me,” or Snoop Dogg on “Dead Man’s Tetris;” and just let the jazz and hip hop instrumentals take over. But maybe that’s just me. I also will note that though I liked the album and felt that it was one of the best of the year, I’ll also say that the press’ fascination with the album wasn’t a factor for me. Though it’s great, I felt like I heard this formula before, so I liked it cause it was well done, and not for the reasons everyone else seemed to. My favorite song on the album was the trippy and multilayered “Moment of Hesitation,” that felt like a jazz dream on acid.
It wasn’t until I saw Run The Jewels at Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, that I realized that this dynamic duo dropped an insanely great album this year with “Run The Jewels 2.” From the slow jam vibe on “Blockbuster Night Part 1,” to the collaboration with RATM’s Zack De La Rocha, “Close Your Eyes,” these guys somehow made a futuristic hip hop album that saluted old school rap at the same time. There’s something to a duo that throws me back to the days of Eric B. & Rakim, and El-P. & Killer Mike did just that on this album. The album’s closer “Angel Duster,” brought the future in line with a time when hip hop was about flow and less about where rap seems to be headed.
It took to almost the end of the year for this album to come out, but “Burn Your Fire For No Witness” by Angel Olsen was truly a thing of beauty. In a year where I had to hear bullshit from Taylor Swift about Spotify, and for Wayne Coyne to almost call Miley Cyrus a genius; Olsen made this wonder lust filled world with self doubt and and hopelessness. From the album’s opener, the Elliott Smith-esque “Unfucktheworld;” Olsen pours her heart out over lo-fi guitar and does so with more emotion that any tearjerker penned by Swift. She switches it up by adding a distorted guitar and simplistic drums on the following track, “Forgiven/Forgotten.” She even drops gems of pop supremacy and heavy hooks with “Hi-Five” and “Stars;” while echoing the sounds of Mary Lou Lord and Emmylou Harris within each emotionally filled track. In eleven songs, Olsen can make you forget about the vapid world of the female lead pop revolution and make you a fan at the same time.
I think I almost had a small seizure when I heard that there would be a new Sunny Day Real Estate song coming out this year. And even though it would be purchased on a Record Store Day 7” split with Circa Survive, I still muscled my way through the lines to get a copy. What I got raised more questions than anything, as “Lipton Witch” was so good, I wondered why the band couldn’t make a whole album. When I heard Jeremy’s voice back in line with William’s drums and Dan’s guitar, it was like there was hope for the future of the band. Then Nate was saying the sessions dissolved and this was all we’d get. Maybe 2015 will bring something, as the song sounds like a band who could drop an amazing album with or without all of the original members.
Best Single From An Album
Because the SDRE song was a one off, I only felt it appropriate to drop a single from an album, or in this case; and upcoming one. My heart sunk a little when I found out that not only would Sleater-Kinney be reuniting, but that they’d be releasing new material. When out of left field they dropped the lead single off of “No Cities To Love,” I was pretty happy. However, when the second single hit, I knew that though “Bury Our Friends” was welcomed, “Surface Envy” stated ‘They’re Back.’ The old pace of the band mixed with the hooks of the latter days just signaled that the trio isn’t taking this reunion lightly. Complete with an upcoming tour, 2015 might be the band’s best year to date.
Bob Mould “Beauty & Ruin”, Caribou “Our Love”, You Blew It! “Keep Doing What You’re Doing”, Braid “No Coast”, Marianne Faithfull “Give My Love To London”
Worst Album of The Year
I was all set to proclaim that “Sonic Highways” by Foo Fighters was the worst album of the year. However, The Smashing Pumpkins released an ever worse album called “Monuments To an Elegy.” Minus the opening track, “Tiberius,” the rest of the album should’ve been left on the recording studio floor. It felt like a mix of Billy Corgan going through the motions and an artist releasing a bad album under a moniker in hopes that it would get purchased. Keep in mind, I’ll argue to anyone that “Siamese Dream” is one of the best albums of the nineties, but with lackluster songs like “Being Beige” and the early era Erasure sounding, “Run2me;” the album sounds like it might be time for Corgan to lay this band to rest. It’s definitely proof that when a band is run by a dictator; the results can be deafening.
Best Local Album of The Year
I would guess, that if you asked yourself, “what does it take to make it in the music industry,” that you’d have almost no idea what the answer was. However the hustle, the songwriting, and the image are just the beginning. A great product to push, a tight live show, and taking the right steps to reach the next level at every opportunity also comes into play in the vast expanse that is the recording industry. One band this year who seemed to get all of that, as well as having a great product to push, was Catch Fever. This three piece played strategic shows, got on CMJ Fest, and made an album that is almost a blueprint for what to do in hopes to make music your primary job. That album, “Shiny Eyes” embodied every element of what any industry insider would deem good. From the opener “Stay Tonight” with it’s pop rock structure, to the electro pop vibe of “The Machines,” these guys made as close to a perfect album as pretty much anything I heard all year. Songs like “Naysayer” where the band incorporates enough hooks to keep the song in your head well after the first listen, to the perfect rock structure of “Fool For A Con;” Catch Fever did everything right in just seven songs. Utilizing electric piano and dual vocals within the traditional three piece roles, the band found a way to make an album that was so original, that it sounded like no one prior, but still felt relatable and relevant.
Five Great Local Albums
The best thing I was told all year from a friend was, “I didn’t get how that B L A C K I E album was hip hop.” In all honesty, I don’t expect too many people who aren’t musicians to see how it is like modern day hip hop; because B L A C K I E has always been far ahead of everyone else. The album, “Imagine Yourself In A Free And Natural World” was just another step in placing Mike about five years ahead of the rest of the music industry. Where what most people think hip hop should be, lyrics atop an R&B beat; this was hip hop at it’s core…completely re-imagined. Hip Hop has always been poetry set to music, but this was poetry set to free form jazz; which is what made it so far ahead of what everyone else is doing today. In just under forty minutes, B L A C K I E makes it obvious that the guys in Death Grips and even Kanye’s “Yeezus” were just as we all thought them to be…unoriginal copycats.
I feel like we all know the members of Wild Moccasins enough to admit that they’re a band that has some “legs” to their craft. When I found out that their latest release, “88 92” took a while to make, I wasn’t surprised. The album seems to embody so many different vibes of disco, electronica, pop rock, and indie structures that for the first time in a long time, Zahira and Cody’s voices are just another magical element to the sound. Songs like the funky “Sponge Won’t Soak,” the late era Blondie sounding “Emergency Broadcast,” and the hook heavy “Gag Reflections” are just a hint of the great tunes on this album. There were times in the year where I’d find myself humming some of the songs after not hearing them for a while. And in a time where I hear more music in a week than most people hear in a year; that’s saying a lot.
Since I got my advance copy of “The Senseless & the Sound” by A Sundae Drive, I can’t really stop jamming it. There are elements of pop rock, indie rock, and emo core all over this record. The way the album is done, there are times that remind you of early Sonic Youth, middle era Dinosaur Jr, and most of Jawbreaker’s existence; yet the whole release sounds fresh and individualistic to A Sundae Drive. From the opener “T-Shirt of the Year,” the squeal and sing song nature of “Here,” and even the pop hook driven “Ten Night Us,” A Sundae Drive rarely let up and the album has the feel of a sound that the music industry desperately needs right now….a band who echoes the good of the past while ushering in a new era that’s all their own. If there were a band who dropped an album that the record industry should pay attention to, then this is easily it.
In the Houston hip hop game, you have to be able to hold your own if you want to get anywhere. Like I said when I reviewed it, “Rap, Trap, and Drums” from Houston’s Guilla was one of the more innovative things I heard all year. Guilla used his own backing vocals as his backing tracks in a way that felt more futuristic than commonplace, and he mixed in various forms of beats and bass to set the work further apart. Drooping nerd rap topics like Linkedin and Old Spice cologne while keeping a steady rhyme flow going was pretty impressive. Plus, his remixed use of Bjork’s vocal tracks as the background music on “I Love Him” gave him that trap feel, and set him on a path that’s far from that “screwston” sound that’s emanated Houston’s hip hop scene for years.
I don’t think I’ll get much argument from the city when I say that BLSHS had a pretty great 2014. Appearances at more than one festival, more articles in one year than most Houston acts get in ten years, and a live show that evolved right before all of our eyes. Their album, “Abstract Desires” reminded us all of that 808 State sound without sounding too dated. Everytime you think that it’s a mix of early era Depeche Mode, or latter era Kraftwerk, Michelle’s voice takes you to someplace completely different. There were moments of sheer synth pop alongside songs that would get even the staunchest proponent to dancing in their small town, out on the dance floor.
Four Pretty Damn Good Local Albums
Sometimes, I can admit that I was wrong, and my initial feelings about how Deep Cuts sounds; were off. This was especially thrown when I got an advance copy of “Love Grows.” It was one of those EP’s where I found myself deeply immersed in the world these guys create with their Gulf Coast meets Latin hipster sound. There’s a magic that happens within these six songs where the band distances themselves by their past work, while keeping things similar; but completely different. It’s one of those albums that works great when it’s Sunday and you’re on your fifth mojito, or if you’re stuck in traffic and you just want to get outta’ town.
There’s a pretty good chance that you know local musician Jordan Brady. He was in Children Of Pop, he is the drummer for Dpat, and he kind of has a hand in more than most people. He has this band with Stefan Mach called Lisa’s Sons who dropped a release back in May called “Bummed Out.” On it, the duo covers pretty much every genre from pop punk to electronica, and does so in a fun and endearing way. It’s almost like if they figured out a way to include the pop elements from five different genres on the album which took roughly six years to make. There are moments that sound like old Weezer, old Green Day, and every video game you’ve ever heard. It’s a 15 song epiphany of power pop that’s pretty enjoyable from a band that only seems to play about three times a year.
Sometimes bands who have always made good albums, can go out and make a truly amazing album. So, when I was told that Houston’s Young Mammals were set to drop a new album, what I got was something that I still listen to no less than once a week. Easily the best album that the guys from Young Mammals have ever made, “Alto Secco” was a more stripped down sound that showed how strong this four piece really is. There were moments where they felt like early Superchunk mixed with early Replacements. There were times where they sound like The Cure mixed with That Dog. But no matter how you think they sound, this album was proof that for some guys who have played together all this time; that Young Mammals might really just be getting started. Slower and intensely dark songs like “Alto Secco,” or “Not The Guy” are mixed in with pop gems like “Build A House” and “Rabies;” just setting these guys further apart from so many bands going today.
Many of you might know Lucas Gorham, or at least you’d know what he looks like. The more I get to know him, and the more I find out about him; the more I’m amazed by all that he’s done and all that he does. This year, his latest incarnation The New Mercies dropped a two song EP called “Activated.” In just two songs, Gorham takes you on a journey of disco funk electronica, that really steps up what Houston would have to live up to in the EDM genre. Keep in mind that in a live setting, The New Mercies are technically a one man band. Gorham gets feet on the dance floor for the pop laden opener, “Activate Your Body,” in a way that even the two gents from Daft Punk would be proud. He mixes disco and funk with a bit of talk box vocals and piano in a way that makes you wanna’ dance the night away under a club filled with disco balls and sweaty bodies. On the other track, “Could you look worse when you see me?” Gorham mixes soul, hand claps, and a funky guitar to create a sound that feels like the Motor City circa 1970. I jammed these two songs pretty regularly from the moment they came out in mid-July up until the day I wrote this.
Best Local Single
I watched plenty of Fat Tony shows this year that made me wonder why he’s not one of the biggest hip hop artists going right now. I mean, an intense live show, a pretty hefty touring schedule, and a mix of rap underground and hip hop sounds should be more than enough to solidify his place in fame from Houston. This year, he dropped a pretty dope 7” single called “No More,” where he shifted things to a slow tear jerker of a jam. Though the B-side was more upbeat, I found that the slow tempo of “No More” was just a little too catchy to ignore. In just a little over four minutes, Tony not only drops a catchy chorus you’ll remember, he speedily drops rhymes with the intensity of a seasoned veteran. Give it a spin, I promise you’ll be humming it for days after just one listen.
Best Local Single From An Album
I’m not sure how many people in this town have had the chance to listen to Quiet Morning & The Calamity or not; but this band could easily be bigger than the sum of their parts. Lead by Sean Ramos, the band put out a pretty great EP called “Son Of The Sad Soul.” The opener, “27 Years” had the vigor of a Tweedy written Uncle Tupelo song, with the twang of an Old 97’s song. The beauty of this roots based alt country, is that it’s the type of sound that could be played in pretty much every honky tonk across Texas and beyond. And if they keep writing barn burners like this, they could go further than that and actually go somewhere that’s elevated past the pop country we’re stuck with nowadays.
Nathan Quick “The Mile“, Kristal Cherelle “Fighter“, The Tontons “Make Out King and Other Stories of Love”, Some Nerve “Some Nerve”, Giant Kitty “Giant Kitty EP”, Mark Drew “Sleepwalking Through Reality”
Best New Acts
PuraPharm keeps getting called “space rock” or “psych.” And while they do have those elements, they’re really more like British rock from the nineties. I don’t mean that in a bad way, just that if you weren’t aware of acts like Lush, The Cocteau Twins, and Siouxsie; then I can see how you’d pigeonhole them as psych. How about this..let’s just say that they’re good, because they are. Trippy lights, tons of pedal use, and a saxophone/clarinet player means they’re different in the good way.
George West brings a bunch to the table when he performs. I mix of percussion done live, and sweeping notes that sway in and out, West plays every show like it’s his last; and his show at Wonky was just a little insane. His crazy mixture of eye popping notes and choppy drums makes this guy who was always a drummer, definitely one to keep an eye out for.
I’m starting to wonder if James Templeton is human. He was in the emo math band By The End Of Tonight, he’s done a Ted Talk, and he has the wizzard like electronica act LIMB. When I first heard his latest act, Black Kite; it was obvious that it was something different but also similar. Paired with Vicki Tippit, the duo uses electronics, James’ drums, and a mixture of varying vocals to create one of the most unique sounds you might hear in a good while. Vicki’s sweet and powerful voice is only magnified by James’ drumming and their use of piano and various sounds. They could seriously be huge, and bigger than anything the two have done apart.
Moji has that certain something that translates to soulful sex appeal that you can’t ignore. Maybe it’s their drummer’s rhythmic pace, their guitarist’s swaying slides, or singer Moji Abiola’s crazy set of pipes—but actually it’s the mix of the three that makes them so intriguing and fresh sounding. Their mix of R&B with soul and jazz is new and different while reminding you of the past while you dance to the strand of sounds they create.
Kristal Cherelle isn’t a household name yet, but I’d be lying if I said that she didn’t have the talent to be really huge. This year she dropped a great album, she got out in front of some decent crowds, and her sound, which is like a mix of Tracy Chapman and India.Arie; was one of the most inventive I’ve heard in that genre. If you don’t check out everyone on this list, then at least give her a listen, as her brand of soul and R&B is pretty cool, and definitely something different.
Bands To Watch in 2015
The following bands are slotted to release albums next year:
New York City Queens, Buxton, Moji, Android Genius, Another Run, The Suffers, Yung Slutty, We Were Wolves, Gio Chamba, Giant Kitty, iLL Liad, Second Lovers, Josiah Gabriel, Only Beast, Catch Fever, Fat Tony, FLCON FCKER, Brand New Hearts, and Fox & Cats, BLSHS.
To pull just a few of these, I’ll start off with Buxton. I feel like New West is really gonna give their upcoming album the old college try, and really put some energy behind its release. We all know that Sergio can write some killer songs, so this should be one to look out for.
I think Houston isn’t the only place that’s eagerly awaiting the debut album from FLCON FCKER. If he stays true to what I heard, then this will be the craziest album and album launch all year. This guy is a big deal all over the place, he gets to collab with heavy hitters, and his live show is just part of what sets him apart from the rest in the EDM world.
The same could be said about Giant Kitty who just inked a big management deal and who is getting ready to start recording with a big name producer. They had a pretty strong 2014 that will probably only get stronger in 2015.
Gio Chamba might have one of the hottest live shows going, with his mix of Latin rhythms and crazy lights. A true mix of the past, present, and future, Gio is one of the few guys who can make me get down just with a handful of notes; so his EP is definitely one to watch out for.
Best Local Show
I saw more shows last year than anyone I know who doesn’t also work at a venue. I saw so many great shows, but the best lineup I saw was this recent Dpat show at Walters. The show not only featured the slow jams and Grammy nominated sounds of Dpat, but a great cast of performers prior. The hip hop swagger of Fat Tony, the soulful funk of The New Mercies, the trap based fervent sounds of Josiah Gabriel, and the hustle and flow of Guilla with Android Genius as DJ and a guest spot from Mark Drew….not to mention a DJ set from Children of Pop…it was insane. It was like seeing Houston’s future all in one night.
Mineral was always a band that kept things low key, and when I heard that the band was getting back together, it came out in a low key fashion. You should be proud that these guys, who were from Houston; got back together and sounded better than they did the first time around. Catching them at Fun Fun Fun Fest was pretty amazing, especially that they were leaner and stronger. These guys could have a strong 2015, and if fans are lucky; maybe some sort of new music will come forth. But even if that doesn’t happen, it’s always nice to see bands get the crowds and reaction to their music, they should have always received. The fact that they were from Houston, is just icing on the cake.
Houstonian of the Year
I got the chance to meet so many people in 2014 who were doing so many amazing things. Musicians, artists, and mostly creative types who foster and breathe their art and help our city thrive. But, I think when I saw the duo behind Fuck You, Houston’s Awesome; I knew that they were the best of what our city has to offer. The two, Anthony Gassnola and Adria LeCrone, have built their business on the idea that they don’t care what anyone says about this place we all call home. It’s one thing to say you love Houston, but it’s something else to make that sentiment the name of your business. NASA, Bum Phillips, Marvin Zindler, and Syrup are all just a small sample of how much these two “get” what Houston is all about. They even have artist collabs with the likes of Dual, Eyesore, and Ack! & Katie Mulholland in a Houston artists series. These two rep Houston at every large scale event and happening, and they just seem to be getting better with each new silkscreen.
So, that’s about it. I heard some amazing music, I saw a ton of great shows, and I met some amazing people. 2015 should be a great year for all of this, and if you disagree with any of this; just remember that it’s all just one man’s opinion.