This dark synthwave act seemed to gain quite a bit of traction in 2015. In addition to dropping a mesmerizing EP on Holodeck Records, the Latin electronic duo performed at both FPSF and Day For Night, and yielded the Mentiras EP that summer. Michael Stein of SURVIVE provided the audio production for the EP; perhaps that connection could get a track or two featured on a program like Stranger Things. In 2016, the eerie Netflix sensation helped BOAN and their Holodeck labelmates earn a writeup in Rolling Stone, while the duo shared bills with the likes of Jah Wobble. The dark mystique of José Cota silently standing behind the decks while Mariana Saldaña sways to his sounds begs to be seen and heard by more people across the country. JACK GORMAN
Blue Dolphin sounds a bit like a countrified Kleenex Lilliput, a bit like Flipper playing Really Red covers at a kid’s party. Like, it’s punk, but coming from some different angles, and that’s the best kind of punk. There’s a lot of Wipers in the mix, a little '90s riot-grrl quinine for what ails ya (the patriarchy, the inrushing epoch of near-total darkness, wet socks), and surely some love for MyDolls. It’s not just their name that’s sliding down with the rainbows; they’ve got swagger and swoon appeal enough for the hard times ahead. TEX KERSCHEN
Mysterious and enchanting, Dollie Barnes’s forthcoming debut LP, Caught In a Phase, captures on record the singular sound that has been turning heads toward stages across Houston for at least the past 12 months or so. Out-there enough to float in the Cocteau Twins’ stream of consciousness, Caught is also accessible enough to dangle Haley Barnes and her compatriots in front of the nation’s more progressive alt-country and college-radio stations. A pair of late-January road dates looms in San Francisco and L.A., but Houston fans can catch a glimpse this Friday at Axelrad (free show!) or January 14 with Santa Cruz alt-folk trio The Devil Makes Three. CHRIS GRAY
To my ears this sounds like Wicked Witch if they went in more nitrous and ’80s freestyle à la Pretty Poison, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, and Alvin & the Chipmunks. It’s bumptious and inept like Wicked Witch, with a bit of Cabaret Voltaire at their Big Funk silliest, all Seinfeld bass and Deliverance squeals. I can’t remember who first played this track for me a few months ago, but it kept evading discovery until I had the bright idea to search for "electrofunk + Houston" on the bandcamp label. They don’t seem to have much of an Internet thing going on (and I’m a veritable Encyclopedia Brown when it comes to these things), but my gift to you readers is that I’ve been hounding them via emails, and they’re talking about going public in 2017. TEX KERSCHEN
Wielding their guitars like medieval battle axes on a Molly Hatchet album cover, HogLeg — four scruffy dudes from the ranks of Born Again Virgins, Dixie Waste, Poor Dumb Bastards and Red Hawk — have become habitués of the Houston venues where elbows are known to be thrown (most often Rudz), slugging it out with Speedealer and the Satanic Overlords of Rock N Roll in November. “Whiskey Down,” a gut-punching track the band was kind enough to spill from their upcoming Montrose Records LP (due in March), spins Ozzy overtones around an AC/DC spine to produce a red-eyed Texas rawk tornado. CHRIS GRAY
The Houston Press recently spent an hour chatting and catching up with iLL LiaD for a feature you can read here later this month. The rapper rose swiftly to prominence thanks to big gigs with acts like Wu-Tang Clan and, more important, gut-wrenching lyrical content that swung the doors wide open on his fears and anxieties. While he was making moves upwards in Houston’s rap game, his personal life was a downward spiral. He took a necessary hiatus from everything to get his mind right, he said, and is planning to re-emerge in a more fit state in the approaching year. He’s written a new album and is working with the ubiquitous producer Mark Drew to bring the songs to life. Expect more hard truths from him in 2017, but all coming from a much healthier personal place. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.