UPDATED: Houston's Best Internet Radio Stations
Optimo Radio: Houston's one-stop rap shop.
UPDATE (Friday, 9:30 a.m.): Corrects Rock 101's mobile-app notation to "Yes."
Much like newspapers, radio has been irrevocably changed by the rise of the Internet. With broadband broadly available, there are fewer and fewer reasons to flip on the dial, so even giants like Clear Channel have added Web-based platforms like IHeartRadio to replace lost terrestrial listeners, offer more variety, gobble up even more revenue, or most likely some combination of the three.
Last week Apple took it even further by introducing streaming radio to its latest iTunes upgrade, and a few days before that the somewhat awkwardly named Musicradio Bop '70s station signed on as the newest member of the Houston-based Bop Radio family. As an Internet station, though -- no air breaks, no local ads -- of course you might never know it was based in Houston.
That got us thinking that it might be a good time to see how many other Internet stations we have in our midst, so the past few days Rocks Off has been seeking out and sampling as many as we can find. (If we missed one or two, just let us know.) Good thing, because our recent experiment listening to KRBE all day long might have put us off radio for good.
One caveat: some of these sites can be pretty buggy at times; at least they wouldn't do what we assumed they were supposed to do right away. So depending on your computer's firewall/security settings -- especially if you're trying to listen at work, like us -- tuning in may prove to be a tricky business.
But we figured it out, and we are what a good friend likes to call "last caveman to the fire" around technology. Soon enough even we were happily streaming away on all these sites, so pop in those earbuds and enjoy.
AMPZ INTERNET RADIO URL: ampzradio.com Platforms: WinAmp, Windows Media, iTunes, RealPlayer Format: Various No. of Channels: Five:
*** Ampz Adult ("Crank us up, feel the charge") *** Ampz Country ("Charged-up country with an attitude") *** Ampz Hits ("Playing a mix of today's best hits so intense it's shocking") *** Ampz Classic Rock ("The best classic rock with maximum juice") *** Ampz Edge ("New music and new artist [sic] on the edge of overload")
Extra Features: Online store if you feel the need for Ampz mouse pads or coffee mugs. Specialty Programs? Not as such, but jocks seem to have at least some input into the playlist. Sweepers/Ads?* Sweepers, but not that many *Note: "Sweepers" is radio lingo for sound bites announcing a station's ID and a quick slogan. Live DJs? Mostly. The jocks on Ampz Adult are especially entertaining. In-Studio Concerts? Not that we heard Mobile App? No Local Accent: Only on the air breaks Grade: B plus. Careful clicking on some links (like "Featured Bands"), but overall Ampz runs pretty smoothly. Within the individual channels, the rotation is much deeper than a comparable format on commerical radio would be, but just as up-to-date. We love Ampz Adult, which has much more variety than the others (and cuss words).
COOG RADIO URL: coogradio.com Platforms: On-site, iTunes, TuneIn.com Format: Free-form Sample Artists: LCD Soundsystem, New Pornographers, late-period Radiohead, Houston rapper Preemo No. of Channels: One Extra Features: blog with music videos, show recaps (Raekwon), album reviews, music news Specialty Programs? Abundant. See schedule. Ads/Bumpers? Not so much Live DJs? Most of the time. Real students, too. In-Studio Concerts? Yes Mobile App? Coming soon, they say Local Accent: Heavy, heavy, heavy. Coog Radio just celebrated its third birthday this past weekend. Salud! Grade: B. Site is a little buggy, but the music is solid. Feels like an old-school college-radio station.
KTRU URL: ktru.org Platforms: iTunes, Windows Media, VLC Format: Defiantly free-form, vaulting from local noise-rapper B L A C K I E to Indonesian popular music to Tame Impala to Cookie Monster -- yes, the Sesame Street character, not the dubstep madman. Also occasional Rice sporting events. No. of Channels: One Extra Features: Top 35 playlists; KTRU Instagram Specialty Programs? A bundle Sweepers/Ads? Are you kidding? On KTRU? Live DJs? Oh yes. In-Studio Concerts? Occasionally. "The Local Show" airs 8 p.m. Tuesdays. Mobile App? Yes Local Accent: KTRU seems to be doing fine, notwithstanding all that drama a few years back when U of H yanked it off the air after buying its FM frequency and signal tower; it continues on FM via KPFT's HD-2 channel as well. Instant karma's gonna get you. Grade: A minus
LOCAL LIVE HOUSTON URL: locallivehouston.com Platforms: Winamp, Windows Media Format: Free-form Sample Artists: Robin Kirby, FLCON FCKER, Days N Daze, Peekaboo Theory, Devil Killing Moth No. of Channels: One Extra Features: Small archive of specialty shows and in-studio performances Specialty Programs? A few Sweepers/Ads? No Live DJs? On specialty shows In-Studio Concerts? Occasionally. We heard an in-studio by The Factory Party Monday. Mobile App: Via TuneIn Local Accent: That's all it is. If you are a local band or musician, Local Live Houston will play your music. Grade: B plus. No frills, but none needed.
MUSICRADIO BOP '70s URL: loudcity.com/stations/musicradio-bop-70s Platforms: On-site (some byzantine plug-in required), Windows Media, WinAmp, iTunes, Format: Pop/Rock, R&B Sample Artists: Elton John, Chicago, John Denver, O'Jays, James Brown, CCR, Bobby Womack No. of Channels: Musicradio Bop '70s is the sixth member of the Bop Radio family. Stations are organized by decade - thirties, forties, fifties and so forth. Extra Features: Widget showing last few songs played Specialty Programs? No Sweepers/Ads? Limited ads; some sweepers announce the year the song was released. Live DJs? No In-Studio Concerts? No Mobile App? No Local Accent: Negligible Grade: C minus. Decent range, but nothing too heavy or obscure. No country -- not even Willie and Waylon -- is a big mark against it.
List continues on the next page.
OPTIMO RADIO URL: optimoradio.com Platforms: On-site Sample Artists: Geto Boyx, Z-Ro, 5th Ward Boyz, Fat Pat, The Terrorists, Blac Monks, DEA, AllDay Format: Rap, R&B No. of Channels: One Extra Features: On-demand radio; "Ram It Or Jam It" challenge; plenty of videos and interviews; new releases available for streaming. Lots of shit, even "OptiModel of the Month." Specialty Programs? Include "El Ram y Los Beaners" (Latin underground rap where hosts "pretty much talk shit and get blowed on air"); both #ScrewMonday and "Screwed Up Records & Tapes Radio"; new-shit showcase "Unspoken Grynd"; and "Soul Sundays" 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on the Lord's day, when your ass should be in church. Sweepers/Ads? Ads on site, not on air (that we heard) Live DJs? Definitely In-Studio Concerts? One would think Mobile App? Via TuneIn Local Accent: Chopped and screwed Grade: A. If you're looking to keep up with Houston rap, look here first.
ROCK 101 KLOL
Platforms: Flash, WinAmp, iTunes, Windows Media
Format: "Active Rock," harder classic rock
Sample Artists: Alice In Chains, Breaking Benjamin, Chickenfoot, and so forth through the alphabet
No. of Channels: One
Other Features: Puny, somewhat outdated concert calendar (Mayhem Festival is still up); Amazon links to heavy-rotation albums; Ultimate Classic Rock news blog
Specialty Programs? A couple
Sweepers/Ads? Yes, including brief life tips from ex-KLOL jock Dayna Steele
Live DJs? "Outlaw Radio" weeknights with Scotty Miller; "The Grind" Saturday nights with Tommy D Kat
In-Studio Concerts? No
No Yes, as well as a mobile app for one we missed, Rock 101's even harder sister station KKZR, aka the legendary "Z-Rock." We knew that would happen.
Local Accent: Not a whole lot outside Stevie Ray Vaughan and ZZ Top, but did play a King's X deep cut ("Cigarettes") while we were listening.
Grade: B minus. Could be so much more, especially as an extension of the classic KLOL brand. To be fair, is obviously a work in progress.
BONUS: KACC 89.7 Technically KACC, or the "Gulf Coast Rocker," doesn't count because it broadcasts over the air. But it simulcasts online, and is remains a prime example of "radio done right." So we're putting it in. URL: kaccradio.com Platforms: Windows media Format: Rock. Hard rock. Just rock. More roots-rock than any station in town. Sample Artists: The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Doors, Styx, Fleetwood Mac ("Sad Angel," released 2013), Wall of Voodoo, Pearl Jam, Cowboy Mouth, Red Line Chemistry, Vintage Trouble No. of Channels: One Extra Features: Hourly news updates; Alvin High football schedule (KACC broadcasts the games) Specialty Programs? A few, like "Live In Texas" (5 p.m. Friday/7 p.m. Saturday) Ads/Sweepers? PSAs; funny sweepers ("less music by angry bald-headed guys") Live DJs? Yes In-Studio Concerts? Occasionally Mobile App: No Local Accent: KACC is known as the "Gulf Coast Rocker" for a reason, y'all. Grade: A minus. Would it kill them to play one Ramones song?
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
The Ask Willie D Archives Top 10 Bars, Clubs & Ice Houses On the West Side Stephen King's Five Best Rock and Roll References Houston's Top 10 Bro Bars, Clubs & Ice Houses Nas' Biggest Fan Lives In Houston, With the Tattoos to Prove It
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.