The Friday Free For All relays albums, artists, videos and vibes the Houston Press Music staff has been grooving to over the past week.
U.S. AIR GUITAR CHAMPIONSHIPS
Want to visit Finland on someone else’s dime? If you can shred an air guitar better than anyone you know you have at least a fighting chance to get there by competing in tonight’s U.S. Air Guitar Championships qualifier at AvantGarden. We were on hand for last year’s madness and can vouch for what a good time the event is. It’s free to attend and the event organizer promises lots of swag for those who stop by to see their fellow Houstonians compete. Word is this year’s competitive field is a bit thin, so the odds are good to advance to nationals in Austin, all along the way to an expenses paid trip to Oulu, Finland for the world event. If you’re the perfect cross between Marcel Marceau and Yngwie Malmsteen, get to AvantGarden tonight and make air-guitar history. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
It hasn’t been a great year for TV series set in the music business. ABC’s Nashville, where the backstage drama was always more exciting than the made-for-TV music, was canceled after four seasons only to be resurrected by CMT (return date TBD). HBO’s ‘70s-set Vinyl had all the orgiastic excess of co-creator Martin Scorsese’s films but none of their profanely hilarious wit, and bombed big time. Even Fox's Empire lost a lot of buzz. Showing promise after only three episodes is Showtime’s Roadies, which follows the misfit family that is the production crew for the fictional Staton-House Band, arena-level rockers beginning to show early-onset signs of that deadly slip into nostalgia-act territory. Created by ex-Rolling Stone whiz kid and Oscar winner Cameron Crowe (Singles, We Bought a Zoo), Roadies is a true ensemble piece whose multiple storylines include the will-they-or-won’t-they chemistry between production manager Shelli (Carla Gugino) and tour manager Bill (Luke Wilson), the “parents” of this misfit family; or the ongoing initiation of Reg Whitehead (Rafe Spall), the youthful Brit financial adviser who swings the ax when he has to but secretly yearns to be liked by the cool kids. Standard stuff, but engagingly told. The soundtrack is as wonderful as you’d expect from a Crowe project, and the premise – like Spinal Tap couldn’t keep a drummer, the SHB can’t keep an opening act – has so far created well-used screen time for The Head & the Heart, Reignwolf and best of all Lindsey Buckingham, whose solo hit “Big Love” made a spot-on backdrop for the psilocybic misadventures of last week's guest star Rainn Wilson, as a haughty big-shot music blogger shot into mind-orbit (and humility) by an especially potent espresso. Roadies is a must-see for Cameron Crowe fans — a fun game is “spot the Pearl Jam reference/soundtrack song” — but really for anyone who has ever been lured into the bittersweet trap of loving something you know will eventually break your heart, such as television shows and in this case rock and roll itself. CHRIS GRAY
OLIVIA NEUTRON JOHN
Most everyone agrees that there was a golden age for music, but what they won’t tell you was that it snuck in around the turn of the millennium and consisted of stark, seemingly hastily-constructed electro. Which is exactly why this track, “16 Beat,” by Olivia Neutron John, floats my boat despite the fact that it’s a newer piece of music made by a newer artist, with all the caveats that usually trot beneath that flag. As a rule, I’m hesitant to embrace puns or mashed-up celebrity references (with my pointy dunce cap off to the long-ago Houston act DJ Cuba Gooding, Jr. by way of an exception) but as O-N-J makes clear, genius doesn’t always heed the rules. In fact, this sounds like nothing so much as the production depravity of Glass Candy’s Johnny Jewel gone to seed in the fields of the onetime reigning queens of Houston music, Rua Minx, before they became a she and the music became art and avant-garde fashion. It’s all presets and blocks of tone, sound, and mystery. TEX KERSCHEN
The editors at Sounding Out!, a weekly publication dedicated to the field of sound studies and the cultural politics of sound and listening, is a trove of deep cuts for the sonically-minded. If you're looking for surface-level hot-takes on fleeting musical moments, keep looking. This blog is wealth of carefully peer-reviewed long-form articles, with topics ranging from the politics and aesthetics of trap music, contemporary Brazillian sound art, and the perils of preservation for indie labels. While dense and academically minded, Sounding Out! is a phenomenal resource for anyone looking to explore all the facets of the power of sound. Their editors were just in Houston for a writer's retreat, so here's hoping they write some Gulf Coast inspired pieces soon. KATIE SULLIVAN
Writing an article on Houston's tribute bands got me all nostalgic this week, so I went back and listened to classic tunes from the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd (I did not include KISS on this list, as KISS is a terrible band). I've been making an effort of late to get more into new music, but it was nice to dust off the old vinyl records and give them a spin. Listening to Fleetwood Mac, something always gets me when the guitar starts wailing as "Go Your Own Way" draws to a close. And Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" tugs at the heartstrings every time. Point being, this is what music does to people; it makes them feel and takes them back to certain places and times in their lives. I'm a big believer that life is better spent looking forward, but every now and again, it's more than fine to look back. CLINT HALE
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KEMO FOR EMO
Back in February, we shared a pair of songs from the latest Kemo For Emo release, calling it some of the best music we’d heard that month. The tunes from A Picture Perfect Romance were featured in an extended video that served as half of a four-part series telling an entire story based on the album. Last week, Chapter 3 was shared by the band, a visual for the song “No Tell,” and it’s pretty enthralling. Director (and K4E front man) Larry Fenix taps into the seedy, lonely side of depression with an engrossing and believable performance by lead actor Kessler Micksch George II, whose character, John, can't move past losing his girlfriend, Camille (Jules Hurd), to a tragic event. Joining them are a supporting cast of well-known faces from Houston's punk community. The entire enterprise supports an evocative song that straddles the line between sinister and enlightening and concerns the rooms we hide in when life becomes too challenging. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
SPOTIFY'S 'DISCOVER WEEKLY'
Spotify's Discover Weekly has become my reason to wake up every Monday. Heading into yet another workweek used to bog me down, but the music app's curated playlist — which is created by some fancy algorithm that keeps track of my listening habits — gives me reason to smile as I sit in the first morning traffic of the week. This week's playlist was so good, I've barely listened to anything else. It included a few bands I've never heard of — Masked Intruder, Sunrise Skater Kids and Trevor Sensor — as well as a few older favorites, who have released new music I hadn't yet heard: Trae, Snoop Dogg and Brand New. I don't mean to sound like a shill for Spotify, but I've always been a fan of this band, and Discover Weekly has added some effortless variety to my music-listening experience throughout the week, which has been pretty awesome. MATTHEW KEEVER