HPMA 2016 Spotlight: Best Sexytime Music
Houston, meet JERK. They'd like to turn you on.
Photo by Jeromy Barber/Courtesy of Noisy Ghost PR
Sure, we could have taken a bunch of traditional genre categories and determined the “best” local artists to fit them. That would have been easy enough, but it would leave out an important question: Which Houston artists make you feel the sexiest? So get ready to dim the lights, fire up some candles and soundtrack your foggy, blurry bedroom activities to these eight acts. And hey, when you’re done, don’t forget to vote in the HPMAs for the sexiest one.
Ah, the dark post-New Wave vibe. This is the sound that scored hundreds of '80s-set coke-fueled sex scenes. The lead singers of Bang Bangz also run Wonky Power Records, with which they deliver to us many of our city’s best new albums and artists — including several on this very list, as well as other award categories. Few things are sexier than contributing enormously to the artistic community, but here are a number of them: Atmospheric synth pads, a strong backbeat, and airy, dreamlike vocals. Well, I guess they’ve got it all then.
A mellow, driving country-tinged rhythm section chugs along in the background, ornamented by jangly guitar lines. Angelic melodies and harmonies wash over the whole beautiful thing. Listening to Dollie Barnes play is the musical equivalent of Wayne Campbell's finding his soulmate across the bar to the tune of Spandau Ballet’s “True.” Sparkles invade your peripherals. You have to do a Looney Tunes-esque head-shake to reset. You’ve found the music you want to spend the rest of your life with. Schwing!
The groove on a Jack Freeman track is almost always sparse and slow and demanding that your hips move. That R&B foundation alone would be enough to land a spot on this list, but then a voice enters. This voice is powerful yet vulnerable. Smooth and capable. Wielding it, he can heal the sick, comfort the brokenhearted and sexually excite the unexcitable. Hell, you may not even have time to get to an actual bedroom. With Freeman’s voice in control, any old room might have to do.
Owning hair that wild and red is not for the faint of heart. Nick Greer takes the implicit ferocity granted by his mane and blasts it through every piano chord, every confessional lyric and, most important, every impassioned yelp. His distinctive and powerful voice is the kind of thing that gets a point across in such a way that it’s impossible not to feel it. And in this case, “feeling it” involves love, loss and, of course, lust.
CHASE HAMBLIN & THE ROUSTABOUTS
Everyone knows the Beatles were easily the sexiest band of all time in their early years. Cross that with the rugged, down-home folksiness of modern acts like Phillip Phillips and the Lumineers and you’ve got Chase Hamblin & the Roustabouts. The name of his band in this case reflects that dichotomy as well: "Roust" means to get someone to start moving (meaning dancing and then some), while the full word "roustabout" refers specifically to oil-rig personnel. You can’t get much more classic sexy blue-collar Houstonian than that.
Movement is required while JERK is playing. This alt-pop band/singer-songwriter alter ego takes lessons from traditional dance genres such as disco and EDM. The rhythm is kept fairly simple and very heavy, often a four-on-the-floor drum pattern with bass synth playing octaves and minimalist guitar. None of this is meant to come across as dismissive in any way. JERK gets complicated right where it needs to be: in its chord progressions and mildly misanthropic lyrical content. And really, what’s sexier than hating everyone while you involuntarily bob your head?
To put this in movie terms, MNYNMS is the part of the sex scene where things are starting to get heated up. The camera cuts back and forth between two lustful gazes. Lighting is dim at best. All background noise is washed away like sand into the ocean. At this point you’re left with only the loving looks, and the music. Maybe you close your eyes, and suddenly it’s down to just music, but the feeling is still there. You’re there. You’re reminded of 50 Shades of Grey in all the best ways (i.e., the soundtrack and…yeah...just the soundtrack), and you’re an integral part of a magical, steamy, romantic moment.
Full disclosure: I submitted -Us. for nomination when the category was called “Bedroom Band” internally. When I hear that term I think of one-person, home-recorded “bands” along the lines of Tame Impala or Alex G. This definition fits -Us., also known as Avery Davis (aptly named @averyisus on social media), but as with any quality artist, it’s not the only appropriate category. Let’s break it down by sexiest instruments: Synth pads, check. Fat bass, check. Falsetto voice, check. That makes -Us. a double whammy as a bedroom band and he’s only one guy. Maybe that explains the name.
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