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Rip It Out

The coming year in Houston recordings.

Only in Houston

Bagheera: This slick, funky electro-duo has a huge year in store that only starts with a collaboration with Twin Shadow hooked up by Red Bull's Sound Select Program. Bagheera's Aidan Kennedy says he's still figuring out what to do with the songs he has stockpiled, but knows he'd rather "get the right people involved" rather than release the music themselves.

"We're in no rush, and we're having a blast with all of the live-show support and opportunities we've been given over the past year," Kennedy says. "We have some really awesome festival plays this year that we aren't allowed to share yet, but we could not be more excited."

Electronica duo Bagheera is starting off 2014 with a Twin Shadow collaboration.
Mark C. Austin
Electronica duo Bagheera is starting off 2014 with a Twin Shadow collaboration.
The Tontons poured lots of soul into their new LP The Make-Out King and Other Songs of Love.
Julie Worsham
The Tontons poured lots of soul into their new LP The Make-Out King and Other Songs of Love.
Peter Beste

Catch Fever: This indie-rock trio, whose melancholy and melodic sound recalls anything from Depeche Mode to Band of Horses, hope to have their album out at the end of February. The three members are all Houston natives, came together about two and a half years ago, and touch on anything from love and war to drug addiction and the local music scene in the album's seven songs.

"We try to maximize our creativity with only three people," says Josh Wilson, who plays bass and piano, and sings. "The album has a lot of vocal and instrumental layers, and is comprised of very dynamic and different-sounding tunes."

Robert Ellis: True, Robert Ellis technically has moved to Nashville, but he'll always be a Houstonian to us. Plus, The Lights on the Chemical Plant, his second album for New West (due February 11), is mostly about Houston.

"Photographs was very much first-person from my perspective," Ellis says of his previous album, released in 2011. "Much of the material on Chemical Plant is based in character studies or in fictional stories. Stylistically, we wanted this one to be a little bit more ambiguous and try to develop what will hopefully become our own sound people think of when they think of us."

Featherface: After releasing their first vinyl single, "Ourselves Together/The Cosmic Draw," these mellow psych-rockers also recently completed a video for "Cosmic Draw." They hope to have a second LP to follow 2012's Actual Magic out by the end of the year, but admit it's early to start talking about that.

"The way it's turning out so far, we're really excited about the sound of what we're working on," the band says. "I think people will be surprised. They can definitely expect some new songs turning up in our live shows as we get closer to the album coming out. Wish I could get more specific, but like I said, it's pretty early on in the writing process for us."

We understand. See Featherface live at our Houston Press Artopia party on January 25.

Chase Hamblin: The Beatlesque retro-rocker says he hopes to release two 7" singles soon and a full-length, more "groove-driven" followup to 2013's VAUdeVILLE later on in the year. "The last record was fairly rootsy and very '60s," Hamblin reckons. "I'd say the upcoming material will be more psychedelic and more modern but with a clear connection to what I've done previously, both in vibe and lyrical content."

Craig Kinsey: The Sideshow Tramps front man and Honky Tonk Blood co-star says American Roots and Blood, the followup to 2011's The Burdener, is meant to highlight America's musical history...all of it. That includes early-American church music, Sacred Harp singing, Southern gospel complete with a ranting preacher and full choir, garage-rock, a "pop-type song that sounds like Weezer," and his epic 14-minute Civil War ballad, "Gettysburg." It's due in early spring.

"It was not intended to be a concept album, but it looks like it is," Kinsey says.

Knights of the Fire Kingdom: The KISS-loving stoner-rockers are hoping to release their nine-song album in March, on vinyl/digital only. They would have had it out sooner, but thought better of it.

"The first time, we stepped back and weren't very happy with what we had," explains Knight Jeoaf Johnson. "So we scrapped it all and did it over from scratch." Good call — he let us preview the album, and it's a doozy.

Mystery Loves Company: A trio employing the unusual orchestration of guitar, cello and clarinet to create beguiling acoustic pop, Mystery Loves Company is an example of the fact that what happens at an open-mike night sometimes lasts much longer than a song or two. In October 2012, self-taught songwriter Carlos Machado met cellist Madeline Herdemean at one such night at the Mucky Duck; they were just starting to play out as a duo when they met clarinetist Alauna Rubin at AvantGarden the next May. By that summer a Kickstarter campaign was under way, and the trio unveiled their debut LP, A Mystery Yet Unknown, about a month ago.

"A Mystery Yet Unknown represents our thoughts about what a record should be — a single meaningful experience from beginning to end — as well as a good indication of what to expect from us in a live setting," Machado says.

Omotai: Fresh Hell, the super-heavy sludge-metal quartet's followup to 2012's Terrestrial Grief, is now available to preorder via Bandcamp and will be released in February. Its seven songs include "Get Your Dead Straight," "Giant Pygmy" and "Throats of Snakes," so be sure to take a long shower afterward.

Runaway Sun: The bluesy Americana-rockers plan to release a series of digital singles this year, starting with the horn-heavy ballad "Song for You," says front man Andrew Karnavas. In an effort to get all four members to write songs, each of them can introduce any song he wants at practice for two months at a time, "a way for us to explore the band's writing possibilities from all angles," Karnavas offers. They also plan to record an acoustic EP at No Label Brewing Company on February 7, an event open to the public.

Meanwhile, Karnavas's kids-oriented project, Andyroo, will release the album Color Your World and perform for the second time at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

Some Nerve: This hardcore group formed in late 2012 and expects to release its 11-song debut full-length during the first quarter of 2014. Mixing punk-rock roots with skills that reflect most of the members' metal/progressive-rock backgrounds, the band says the album was recorded "completely DIY to completely preserve the musical ideas of the band without any outside influence."

The Suffers: After becoming an elite Houston band in 2013, the Suffers are hard at work trying to top themselves. Singer Kam Franklin says they're still prepping the first full-length album they hope to release in the second half of this year. "As the songs come together, we will continue to drop singles," she allows. Much sooner will come a video for their most recent single, "Gwan."

thelastplaceyoulook: The bruising, anthemic and bearded quintet has just issued a new EP, Rip It Out, due on iTunes in late January. It's their first significant release since 2009 LP See the Light Inside You. Guitarist Derek Young says TLPYL is also planning to release a series of videos for covers such as "Man of Constant Sorrow," Stereophonics' "Maybe Tomorrow," Eric Church's "Drink in My Hand" and whatever else their Kickstarter donors have suggested.

The Tontons: The soulful rockers' first full-length LP since 2009's The Tontons, Make-Out King and Other Songs of Love, is due February 18, with a release show set for March 1 at Warehouse Live. They've been accepted into SXSW, and recently Rolling Stone premiered the first single, "Magic Hour." Things are happening.

"It was definitely a very difficult album for us to record," says guitarist Tom Nguyen. "It took several months between tours, and I think that shows on the album. It's a very honest record. Originally, there was no concept for the album, just a couple of songs, but I think it all came together."

Venomous Maximus: Gregg Higgins, singer of this much-tattooed doom-metal crew, says to look for the followup to 2012's Beg Upon the Light, Firewalker, in the summer. "The subject matter is about the sun, so we are trying to release it to match the season it's about," he explains. "On this record we tried to do everything the opposite. The last record was about being in the dark — this record is about illumination and flames!"

"We really wanted to go after some of the biggest influences in rock and roll and tackle epic songs," he adds. "When I was young, I never thought I would be in a band that would be playing music like Fleetwood Mac [and] Alice Cooper, as just megabands of that era. But that's what we are going for."

The Wheel Workers: Steven Higginbotham says his socially conscious, melodic indie-rockers' third album is in some ways a continuation of last year's Past to Present. Some songs on the new one just weren't developed quickly enough to make that one, he says.

"It's also looking to be a pretty uptempo effort, with some of our most frenetic, intense material to date," Higginbotham adds. "The sociopolitical content is still very much present, but there will also be more songs of a personal nature."

Wild Moccasins: At last, the Moccasins are all set to release their sophomore New West album, the groove-laden art-pop of 88 92; it's due February 4, with a release on February 8 at Numbers with Young Mammals, Young Girls and DJ Bagheera. Whereas singer/guitarist Cody Swann says its predecessor, Skin Collision Past, reflected how his and partner Zahira Gutierrez's actions affected other people, 88 92 — an appealing synthesis of New Wave acts like Talking Heads and contemporary electronica-pop — is about the way others have affected the couple.

The title track comes from Swann's memories of his mother's stay in a psychiatric hospital: "My mother was required to create a password for visitors to enter the floor and chose '88 92' as hers," he says. "The numbers themselves are mine and my brother's birth years combined."
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We Want the Airwaves

Grudge Match
Houston's two rap stations aren't playing nice.

Brando

A growing nastiness is brewing between Houston's longstanding rap-radio standard-bearer, KBXX 97.9 The Box, and the recently reformatted KKRW 93.7 The Beat. However, much of the venom has come from the new station.

The latest salvo in Houston's brand-new radio war came on January 7, barely a week after 93.7 switched formats from classic rock. Trae Tha Truth, Houston rap's leading outlaw thanks to his 2009 banishment by The Box, had a song of his played on the radio.

"Hold Up," a brutish piece of bravado punctuated by braggadocio from not only Trae's gravelly voice but Diddy, Grand Hustle capo T.I. and Young Jeezy, became the first song of his in more than five years to crack Houston's radio airwaves. It was the lead single from his I Am King mixtape, a project the Houston Press selected as one of the ten best rap releases of 2013.

Trae's "ban" from The Box, which was never officially confirmed by the station, has been discussed at length. Its origins stem from comments the rapper made about a Box personality at the time who critiqued his music in the wake of a 2009 Trae Day shooting. It was of course idiotic and silly, and sent Trae's career to a peculiar crossroads, but the end result saw him craft some of the best music of his career while he was in exile.

Now he can assert a small victory in the feud, thanks in large part to the brand-new station that also has a gripe with The Box.

Of course, the news was met with a huge fervor on social media, which repeated and retweeted the hashtag #937TheBeatSupportsTrae as often as possible. The man himself was humbled by the notion, saying on Twitter, "This Shit Feel Like When We All First Heard Me On 104.9 For The First Time!!! #NoLie... Now I Can Continue Makin The World Respect Texas."

It's not just that the new station has been calling out The Box by sending not-so-subtle messages to new listeners about "stepping outside the Box" and being here to "beat the Box up." It almost feels like someone inside 93.7 has been listening to the complaints of radio-listening rap fans inside the Loop and figured they'd do something about it.

In less than a week, The Beat established itself as direct competition to the Box in more ways than just its format. It wanted to make a wave, and this was a big start: fully embracing the "king of the mountain" mentality rife in Houston's underground scene.

For now, The Beat is doing everything right for a city that was starving for competition. Now it's got the city's best-known "asshole" on board as well.
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Ask Willie D

Motel Time Again
Does catching your man at a motel automatically mean he's cheating?

Dear Willie D:

One night my boyfriend didn't come home, so I called him and he never answered. I asked the Lord to show me a sign that he was cheating, and on a hunch I checked his credit card statement. It said: Woodland Inn. So I went up there blowing the horn, then I put his tires on flat. I never saw him but he said he heard me, and was scared to come outside.

Deep down I feel like he's full of shit, but he swears on his grandmother that no one was in the motel room with him. He really wants me to put it in the past, but the situation is too new. Do you think I should believe his ass?

Deep Down:

Of course you should believe him because that was not a motel. It was a rooming house in a bad neighborhood, and he was only there because he was checking out a retirement spot for his dear grandmother.

When he heard the horn blowing and saw it was you, he panicked not because he had done anything wrong, but because that's what a man does when his woman pulls up blowing her car horn, slices his tires and demands that he come outside. That could've been about anything. Better safe than sorry.

Ask Willie D appears Thursday mornings on Rocks Off.

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