Har Mar Superstar hits Mango's on Wednesday night a week before his newest album, Bye Bye 17, hits physical and digital shelves. The collection of songs are heavily-influence by vintage soul and R&B, but still have his cheeky, lovelorn swagger going for them.
He recorded the album in Austin at Public Hi-Fi with Spoon's Jim Eno co-producing. Eno, a co-founder and the drummer of Spoon, opened the recording studio in 1998.
"This is the first Har Mar album I wrote primarily on guitar, so that dictated a lot of the outcome," says the artist, whose real name Sean Tillman. "I wanted the album to sound really live, old, and futuristic. I think we accomplished that."
The record achieves all three objectives, and lead single "Lady, You Shot Me" is a hot Billy Preston injection, if such a thing exists. It is definitely a different spin on Har Mar's signature sound.
On the surface, the suicide ballad "www" is a happy organ-drenched jam, but darkness prevails. "Everywhere I'm Local" should be the second single if there is any justice in this world.
Whereas Har Mar's previous catalog has consisted of the kind of sweaty, hypersexual R&B that would make R. Kelly smile in approval, his new sound has its roots in the Al Green and Bill Withers universe.
The players on the album hail from all over the music scene, with members of Polica and the Grupo Fantasma Horns stopping by. Noted session guitarist JP Bowersock, known for his work with Ryan Adams and the Strokes, added extra flourishes to the album.
The last time Har Mar was in Houston, he was opening for friend Josh Tillman's Father John Misty project at Fitzgerald's. The new record was laid down before that tour, though.
"We were both playing each other our albums in the demo stages the year before the tour, and I continue to learn a lot from him," HMS says.
"The dude is a genius and a great friend," he says of the other Tillman.
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The material on Bye Bye 17 seems more formal, so does this mean HMS will be (reasonably) clothed during this tour? He's known for performing in only tight undies during his sets to the delight of male and female fans.
"I'm still getting a feel for that. Some nights the pants stay on and others they don't. I guess it is all about the vibe in the room at this point," Har Mar says. "I don't feel an intense need to dance around in my underwear, but sometimes you gotta give the people what they want."
"The stage clothes will continue to evolve and devolve."
With Knights of the Fire Kingdom, 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 17, at Mango's, 403 Westheimer.