By William Michael Smith
By Jef With One F
By Craig Hlavaty
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Sonya Harvey
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Nathan Smith
By Craig Hlavaty
Cory Garcia: excuseMesir were my big discovery at the Houston Press Music Awards, but there was a problem: They didn't have an album for me to listen to constantly. Luckily, they rectified that soon after with the release of With You in Mind, fully capturing the mix of Kelsey Lee Brand's vocals and the rest of the group's jazzy math-rock playing that won me over in person.
Chris Gray: Milton Hopkins's and Jewel Brown's eponymous CD that came out on Austin's Dialtone Records back in May should remind all you kids out there — he said, shaking his cane from the front porch — that there is a Houston scene out there far, far removed from Mango's, Walters and Fitzgerald's. These two seasoned Houston R&B performers poured about a century's worth of experience, give or take, into an album of what we call "grown folks' music," and it's good. Really good.
John Seaborn Gray: A tie between Benjamin Wesley's Think Thoughts and Second Lovers' Wishers, Dreamers & Liars. Think Thoughts is full of heart, smarts and insane creativity; nothing else sounds quite like it. Wishers, on the other hand, is the quintessential good old-fashioned folk-rock album. Perfect for the car ride home from the bar.
Jef With One F: Kathryn Hallberg's Nocturnal EP can calm the most restless minds. No matter what's going on in your life, with the soft sounds of "Move On" or "Nocturnal" — a quiet ode to nighttime contemplations — it just seems to make life hit a little less hard. I don't know what I'd do without her.
Matthew Keever: I choose the Manichean's Lovers. I've been of fan of these drama junkies for a few years now, and was ecstatic to hear Lovers. Like their previous EPs, Lovers has a distinctive air of mystery, as listeners follow a story arc that is sometimes difficult to grasp. But like abstract poetry, the music, lyricism and delivery are so on-point that you end up getting lost in it all the same.
Shea Serrano: I suspect it's The Niceguys' James Kelley, though I may be wrong. It might be Dustin Prestige's Plaid or Delo's HP3 or Le$'s Struggle... or The Outfit's SS&R or Killa's WTTFF or Undergravity's Underdawgs, or one of about seven others.
Nathan Smith: My vote goes to the Linus Pauling Quartet's Bag of Hammers. In addition to featuring the year's best cover art, it's chock-full of heavy, stoney grooves that sound equally great live and blasting out of the stock speakers of a used car.
Marco Torres: Grandfather Child's Grandfather Child was another case of an underappreciated talent who flew under our radar but were later signed and are now hopefully on their way to bigger and better horizons. Even after seeing them live more than a few times over the past two years, I never expected their self-titled debut to rattle me the way it did. The combination of the tearfully sweet wine of Lucas Gorham's lap-steel guitar and the country-blues vocals makes this album top-notch. My favorite tracks are "Can't Seem to Forget" (that breakdown is downright killer!) and "Magical Words."
KICK IN THE TEETH
Is it right for a band to use popular crowdsourcing site Kickstarter to fund an album?
Jef With One F
I do a monthly Kickstarter round-up on Houston Press arts blog Art Attack, because I really do think that crowdsourcing is a great way to get projects off the ground that might otherwise never see the light of day. Some wonderful independent video games, for example, exist because of crowd-funding, and it is certainly the only way the awesome-looking film Goon is going to get made — no studio in its right mind is going to finance it, because it will almost certainly not make very much money.
One thing I see on Kickstarter a lot is bands wanting to raise money to record albums. Frankly, every time I do I get a little angry, not least because they seem to want an ungodly amount of dough to lay down an LP — $8,000 and more in some cases for local bands. What the hell kind of music are you recording? Full orchestral scores?
Look, I know that my own work as a musician comes from a band that thought having to do a third take for a song was the will of Hitler, but I have put out three full-length albums and some EPs in a project that at its height boasted six members. The recording process never topped a grand, even including mastering. So when I see local acts seeking the equivalent of a basic-model Toyota sedan, it makes me think of a few things.
First, they are trying to play way above their station. Yes, you can go down to SugarHill and drop some serious cash on high-end recording equipment. You can also find people willing to do it for $25 an hour all over the city. But you don't inherit greatness from the studio itself, and home recording has never been easier, anyway.
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