Houston Music

Artist of the Week: Twan Von Hovi

Each Wednesday, Rocks Off arbitrarily appoints one lucky local performer or group "Artist of the Week," bestowing upon them all the fame and grandeur such a lofty title implies. Know a band or artist that isn't awful? Email their particulars to [email protected].

A few weeks ago we received an email from a PR guy peddling the sounds of a Houston musician we'd never heard of before, one Twan Von Hovi.

Yes: Twan. Von. Hovi.

Naturally, the first thing we thought was, "Well this guy has to be horrible," but we listened to his LP anyway because he sent it and we're lonely.

Twan's After A Year, which was officially released yesterday, turned out to be fairly interesting, so we reached out with an idea: we'd pass along the review that we wrote about After A Year to Twan - stunner: that's not his real name - and have him respond to our critiques. He agreed because he's not a dick, and even passed along all the MP3s from his LP so you could decide if our (and his) critique holds water. Below is our review, and his response, along with the MP3s. Enjoy:

There are only two acceptable musical paths to take when you give yourself a name like Twan Von Hovi. You either become a) a goofy tribute acoustician whose sardonic sense of being is evident with parodies like "Livin' On A Elevator"; or b) an androgynous derivative of a German techno, Cars and Marilyn Manson amalgam. This TVH falls firmly into the brush of the latter category, and his debut LP, After A Year, sits within the margins of expectation.

Examining After A Year in its totality, though, is a fruitless venture because it isn't a concept album (does anyone even make concept albums anymore?), it's an eight song exercise in isolation. Accordingly, we've decided to appraise each individual track instead:

Your typical syrupy, indie-rock love songs, minus the guitars and inevitable sweater vests. It's like Blue Orgy meets Vampire Weekend. Blue Vampire, maybe? Or, better yet, Orgy Weekend.

Twan Von Hovi: This song is intended to tell people that it's ok. It's possible to pick yourself up and love again. This was my first experiment in writing love songs, but definitely not my last. Music wouldn't be nearly as good without love, the necessary crutch of nearly every songwriter.

A clear homage to '80s pop bands and easily the most enjoyable song on the CD (if for no other reason than because he rhymes "message" with "second guessage"). It's like the Cars, except less thought out. Or Tears For Fears, except less annoying.

TVH: This song is a satirical look at drug addiction inspired by Flaming Lips' Steven Drozd and by a woman who once asked me, "Why do people change?" (as if it was always a bad thing to change). I think that change is great! Without change, I would still have a bowl cut and braces.

You know the guy that you see at the mall wearing gloves with the fingers cut out of them? This digital instrumental is his favorite track, and he'd probably describe it as "mysterious" and say it "parallels his introspective poetry."

TVH: This song is meant to represent the drastic transformation that can occur in one's life in just a year's time. Since it is an instrumental, it allows the listener to ponder whatever thoughts that they may have at the time, from past decisions to future plans.

There's a clear economy of sound on this brooding, subversive stealth track. It's just Hovi and some synths, like God intended.

TVH: I wanted to see if I could make a track that only included voices and guitar. Snaps were added because everyone loves snaps, and then vocals that I thought fit with the song. The vocals were made up on the spot, then immediately recorded. The result was a slow and mellow song with a very hollow, lonely sort of feeling. I guess I wasn't feeling very happy when I wrote this one.

Another digital instrumental. You wouldn't be alone if you expected Brandon Boyd to start crooning about how you do it when you listened to this one. Very 2000 Incubus-y.

TVH: My younger brother Zack let me have his toy electric guitar. I circuit bent it, made the beat on my MPC with the drum sounds from it, then proceeded to create a spaced out guitar jam that symbolized the toy guitar's journey.

The (surprising) funk of this track isn't quite enough to save it from the grasp of Hovi's purposely throaty voice. He sounds like a young Marilyn Manson. We'd feel confident in guessing that he wore eyeliner when he wrote this one.

TVH: I wrote the lyrics for this song the morning after a really shitty nightmare. The worst nightmares are the ones that you have to wake yourself up from. The drums for this song were originally a James Brown drum break, but were later replicated and replaced with live drums that I recorded in my parents' entryway.

This is the spooky kind of Corpse Bride track that probably plays in Helena Bonham Carter's head all day long.

TVH: This song represents the struggle to wake up from the nightmare, and was found in a very dark crevice of my desktop HD.

We're fairly certain this wispy instrumental has played in the background of several adult films. We mean, the title says as much.

TVH: I created this song entirely on my MPC. Inspired by being bored, Prefuse 73, Phoisx and many other MPC users. I really wanted the swing of the beat to carry his song. Many people have mentioned that some of my songs could be used for adult movies. I guess that I could picture that as long as it was a really classy one set in the early 80's.

We'd like to thank Twan for taking the time to respond with his thoughts, and for passing along the MP3s and for not acting like an ass when we joked that he may have been wearing mascara when he wrote "Dream Scared." Aces for that. - Shea Serrano

Be a doll and purchase After A Year at www.twanvonhovi.com, on iTunes, CD Baby or Digistation.

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Shea Serrano