The Best Houston Music We Heard in January

Jason James
Jason James
Photo by Scott Council/Courtesy of New West Records

Note: We recently asked the Houston Press music staff to tell us the best local music they've heard within the past month — not necessarily brand-new, but not too old, either.

JASON JAMES
Jason James (LP)
Jason James’s John Evans-produced self-titled LP on New West came out five months ago, but somehow eluded me until I heard “Pullin’ Out the Suit” on KPFT’s Lone Star Jukebox last Saturday (thanks, Rick!). If honky-tonk had an SAT, James’s album would ace both parts — the uptempo boot-scooters and sorrows-drowning ballads alike — because he’s definitely working at an advanced level. The echoes of past greats like Hank Williams, George Jones and even Kevin Fowler are pretty strong throughout, even verging on overwhelming once or twice, but James is no retread. He's in his twenties (early twenties, maybe?), and it should be fun to see how he develops. Catch him tonight at Cottonwood or at the Continental a week from Saturday with the Beaumonts and Hard Luck Revival. CHRIS GRAY

ROME HERO FOXES
“Hunters”
My favorite song by a Houston band is "Hunters" by Rome Hero Foxes. It's a perfect snapshot of why I like the band so much: It's emotional, it's dynamic and it's catchy as all get-out. Seriously, sometimes when I'm alone, I just sing the big guitar line that comes in at the start of the song. Their new album, For When You're Falling Backwards, feels like a good step forward for the band, both in terms of recording quality and proving that they've got some serious songwriting chops. A must-listen for anyone who has ever loved emocore, post-hardcore or any of the other associated -core genres out there. CORY GARCIA

HAYDEN JONES AND THE ROOSEVELT HOUSE BAND
"A Waltz Through Houston"
The first time I saw Hayden Jones perform he was playing solo on the corner of William and Nance, between Houston House of Creeps and Last Concert Cafe. His boyish good looks and beyond-his-years voice made him the most interesting variant on the graph that night. "A Waltz Through Houston" isn't an especially new song; but, it does have a new YouTube version available this month. And, it might be new to you, which is really more important to Jones and his group of skilled players than how many times I've heard it. Give it a chance and you'll be humming the "la-da-das" of Jones's waltz,or giggling over how a waltz through Houston is halted by 5:30's "shit ton of traffic." Getting to know them now means you'll be fully prepared for their debut album release at Continental Club February 26. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.

MUDDY BELLE
Recording session
I had the pleasure of sitting in on a recording session at Sugar Hill Studios with the multifaceted group known as Muddy Belle. With tunes that made my ears buzz and my head groove to the beat, this ensemble is sure to please with an upcoming release that will feature not only a horn section but a guest vocal track by none other than Kam Franklin of the Suffers. You can catch Muddy Belle at their next live performance at Walters February 20 or at SXSW. KRISTY LOYE

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DISTANT WORKER
“Animal Data” (recording in progress)
Though we live in an age of technological marvels, and the Bandcamp label (where you can find various gems, including parts of this one) leads the digital pack in artist payouts and audience variety, here I wheedled a CD-R off the band. I’m becoming a relic, the stereo in my van even more so, and both of us have spent the past weeks with this dense, marvelous puzzle of a recording on repeat. The lyrics are a mix of agit­prop and inspired mod inanities, the rhythms duck and dodge behind whizzing nebulas of guitar non sequiturs, and the overall feeling is of being drowned in a bog in Samuel Beckett’s back 40. Are you sold yet?

Distant Worker is Richard and Jennifer Kimball, formerly of Fiskadoro, joined by David Robinson, ex of a million bands; the nearest and dearest to my heart was the Entertainment System. And while the music Distant Worker makes draws from the same cryptic pool of muffled beatnik dub as Fiskadoro, the dense, dense, nearly genius production work and scrappy Prince­playing­guitar­with­three­broken­hands vibe here somehow reminds me of the Entertainment System’s Decibel Hunter, an album that I’m always glad to remember. So what am I saying? You may have missed Fiskadoro, or the Entertainment System before them, but you still have a shot at falling in with Distant Worker, so don’t sleep on it. TEX KERSCHEN

THE NEW OFFENDERS
If you haven’t heard the New Offenders, then you are truly in for a treat. Speaking about his band, front man Hunter McKithan offered up a unified vision of Southern roots rock and roll. Impressively earthy, raw stuff. Fresh from playing Music Fest in Colorado, the boys are ready to entertain some good ol’ Texas audiences. With their newest album set for release in March, keep an ear open for this seriously rocking four-piece. KRISTY LOYE

THE SUFFERS
"Peanuts"
Can you believe we're a month away from the Suffers' debut album? Can you believe that the Suffers are actively pulling for couples to get their lives in order to figure out what's best for them? Kam Franklin onstage is a treat, a magnetic, show-stopping presence. When backed by the Suffers, she turns into a superwoman, a relationship guru stronger than any book, listicle or makeshift guide. "Peanuts" is a kiss-and-make-up song, something that takes the burning simmer of feeling angry all the way down to zero. Plus, Kam advocates for settling things over breakfast. Meaning, yes, go to bed angry, but I'll be damned if we don't settle this right here and now. BRANDON CALDWELL


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