This dark synthwave act seemed to gain quite a bit of traction in 2015. In addition to dropping a mesmerizing EP on Holodeck Records, the Latin electronic duo performed at both FPSF and Day For Night, and yielded the Mentiras EP that summer. Michael Stein of SURVIVE provided the audio production for the EP; perhaps that connection could get a track or two featured on a program like Stranger Things. In 2016, the eerie Netflix sensation helped BOAN and their Holodeck labelmates earn a writeup in Rolling Stone, while the duo shared bills with the likes of Jah Wobble. The dark mystique of José Cota silently standing behind the decks while Mariana Saldaña sways to his sounds begs to be seen and heard by more people across the country. JACK GORMAN
Blue Dolphin sounds a bit like a countrified Kleenex Lilliput, a bit like Flipper playing Really Red covers at a kid’s party. Like, it’s punk, but coming from some different angles, and that’s the best kind of punk. There’s a lot of Wipers in the mix, a little '90s riot-grrl quinine for what ails ya (the patriarchy, the inrushing epoch of near-total darkness, wet socks), and surely some love for MyDolls. It’s not just their name that’s sliding down with the rainbows; they’ve got swagger and swoon appeal enough for the hard times ahead. TEX KERSCHEN
Mysterious and enchanting, Dollie Barnes’s forthcoming debut LP, Caught In a Phase, captures on record the singular sound that has been turning heads toward stages across Houston for at least the past 12 months or so. Out-there enough to float in the Cocteau Twins’ stream of consciousness, Caught is also accessible enough to dangle Haley Barnes and her compatriots in front of the nation’s more progressive alt-country and college-radio stations. A pair of late-January road dates looms in San Francisco and L.A., but Houston fans can catch a glimpse this Friday at Axelrad (free show!) or January 14 with Santa Cruz alt-folk trio The Devil Makes Three. CHRIS GRAY
EROTIC TANGERINES (LA)
To my ears this sounds like Wicked Witch if they went in more nitrous and ’80s freestyle à la Pretty Poison, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, and Alvin & the Chipmunks. It’s bumptious and inept like Wicked Witch, with a bit of Cabaret Voltaire at their Big Funk silliest, all Seinfeld bass and Deliverance squeals. I can’t remember who first played this track for me a few months ago, but it kept evading discovery until I had the bright idea to search for "electrofunk + Houston" on the bandcamp label. They don’t seem to have much of an Internet thing going on (and I’m a veritable Encyclopedia Brown when it comes to these things), but my gift to you readers is that I’ve been hounding them via emails, and they’re talking about going public in 2017. TEX KERSCHEN
Wielding their guitars like medieval battle axes on a Molly Hatchet album cover, HogLeg — four scruffy dudes from the ranks of Born Again Virgins, Dixie Waste, Poor Dumb Bastards and Red Hawk — have become habitués of the Houston venues where elbows are known to be thrown (most often Rudz), slugging it out with Speedealer and the Satanic Overlords of Rock N Roll in November. “Whiskey Down,” a gut-punching track the band was kind enough to spill from their upcoming Montrose Records LP (due in March), spins Ozzy overtones around an AC/DC spine to produce a red-eyed Texas rawk tornado. CHRIS GRAY
The Houston Press recently spent an hour chatting and catching up with iLL LiaD for a feature you can read here later this month. The rapper rose swiftly to prominence thanks to big gigs with acts like Wu-Tang Clan and, more important, gut-wrenching lyrical content that swung the doors wide open on his fears and anxieties. While he was making moves upwards in Houston’s rap game, his personal life was a downward spiral. He took a necessary hiatus from everything to get his mind right, he said, and is planning to re-emerge in a more fit state in the approaching year. He’s written a new album and is working with the ubiquitous producer Mark Drew to bring the songs to life. Expect more hard truths from him in 2017, but all coming from a much healthier personal place. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
Punk rockers everywhere are predicting (read: hoping) that the genre will be robust the next few years thanks to the Trump presidency. By this logic, socially conscious hip-hop should also experience a boon, and in Houston one of its true veterans is NIKKHOO. The times might finally catch up with the rapper who cut his teeth performing for audiences of progressives/radicals at underground house shows and Houston Free Thinkers festivals. But it’s more than politics that makes us suggest a big 2017 for NIKKHOO. His proven skill set of pertinent lyrics and all-pro cadences had him performing alongside some of Houston’s most prominent rap acts in some premier venues last year. The new year gives him a chance to tap into his roots while continuing on the momentum he gained in 2016. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
In August, Nathan Quick released The Sound, a two-track EP that barely clocked seven minutes. It was the only new music the Houston blues and folk aficionado offered up to fans all year, but 2016 was still chock-full of accomplishments for him. Between booking his first performance at Free Press Summer Fest to becoming a regular at the Mucky Duck, Quick kept busy this year and remained a performance-driven artist whose live concerts continue to be a treat for longtime and newfangled fans alike. His forthcoming full-length, set for an early 2017 release, will feature singer-songwriter tracks, acoustic bluesy tunes and even some gritty rock and roll à la 2015’s stellar EP City Lights. Fans are salivating. MATTHEW KEEVER
This very new band shows much promise thanks to some painfully honest and frequently humorous lyrics. One song concerns 13-foot alligators, flesh-eating bacteria and other Galveston beach dangers — specialties of one Cat Darshad, not just one of two ukulele players in this duo but also a maritime-studies graduate of TAMU Galveston; she knows her stuff concerning this particular subject. Bandmate Brandon Walsh is better known for his Punk With a Camera filmmaking series, and he hams it up like Shatner doing Shakespeare live. Their song “Pop Punk Band” features the chorus “When you're in a pop-punk band, you gotta say 'Oh yeah...,'” which is followed by the crowd-response line “A bunch of times!” Bloggers TopPryoity recently compared them to Garfunkel and Oates, which seems about right. They’re tailor made for funny stuff at a venue like The Secret Group but can play it straight, too. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
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Last year was big for The Suffers. In support of their self-titled debut album, Houston’s favorite soul collective traversed the continental U.S., performing in California, New York and everywhere in between. Its ten members even made trips as far as Australia and Tokyo, showcasing their unique blend of soul, R&B and rock music to the entire world via The Daily Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live (following Letterman in 2015). Now the Suffers are hoping to capitalize on these accomplishments by turning 2017 into a jumping-off point. They have booked shows in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland during the first quarter of 2017, and even made mention of possibly releasing new music. MATTHEW KEEVER
BONUS: NEW YORK CITY QUEENS
Springing from Kingwood rather than Manhattan, these Queens steadily built up one of the area’s more loyal fan bases, helping the sparkling indie-pop of 2012’s Burn Out Like Roman Candles become one of the decade’s more successful local releases. The group abruptly called it a day after their set at Untapped Fest 2015, and so far has been coy about whether their January 20 reunion show at White Oak Music Hall with Young Girls and Camera Cult — which comes on the heels of “Coming Up Daisies,” the single the Queens premiered in October for Free Press Houston — represents mere closure or a new chapter altogether. Here's hoping it's the latter. CHRIS GRAY