According to the Chinese zodiac, 2016 will be the Year of the Monkey…except in Houston, where it could easily be the Year of the Kitty. That’s because we’re expecting big things for Giant Kitty, whose debut album, This Stupid Stuff, releases this month and is being distributed by New York-based Innsbruck Records in a partnership with Sony Music. The band overhauled last year with new members, which gave it some cohesion but setting back the album release several months. The group won me over last summer when I saw them at Rudyard’s. They’re a punk band, but don’t take themselves so seriously they abandon all fun. They advocate for change in their own way, choosing smart lyrics and insane energy over sneering dissent. That show was one of the first the revamped group played together, and they sounded as if they’d been BFFs for ages. They were joined by San Antonio’s Fea and local face-melters Only Beast that night. That lineup was so nice they’re doing it twice, all reuniting for the album release January 29 at Walters. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
HARD LUCK REVIVAL
Seeing how they’re part of the Poor Dumb Bastards family tree, expect no sacred cows when Hard Luck Revival takes the stage. Of the two demos the five-piece posted on YouTube in September, “White Line Fever” and “Hard Luck Hard Times,” one is about interstate drug trafficking and the other drinking yourself blind. But musically, Hard Luck plays it straight outlaw country, with a real ace in the hole in Marty Starnes’ slippery fiddle. In practical terms, it means they’re a little less gruff than Whitey Morgan & the 78s and less gonzo than the Supersuckers, but still every inch a real-deal honky-tonk rock and roll band in a town that could sorely use one. These guys aren’t expecting to change the world, scale the charts or do much else apart from maybe pull in enough people at their gigs to cover their bar tab. Check ‘em out this Friday at Cottonwood and be part of the solution. CHRIS GRAY
OCEANS OF SLUMBER
If you haven’t heard Oceans of Slumber, you are missing the absolute pinnacle of Houston’s metal scene. Sounding something like the very best parts of Opeth and Mastodon, Oceans’ exceptional metal is masterfully executed by prodigious drummer Dobber Beverly, expertly balanced lead singer Cammie Gilbert and epic guitarist Sean Gary. With their newest release, Winter, due this March via Century Media Records, we can’t figure out why they’re not already making national headlines, touring with international acts and booked for the European festival circuit. Either way, this will be their reality shortly. Whatever you do, find them, buy their music, and go to their shows while you still can. Know them now before they break through; you’ll be telling the stories for years. Godspeed, Oceans. KRISTY LOYE
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What's the strongest reason you have to watch an artist in any given year? Optimism, right? With new rap acts now circumventing the usual channels of Houston hip-hop to earn a buzz — Trill Sammy blew up via Vine, Tedy Andreas originally was part of a collective that included The Notorious B.I.G.’s son, CJ — it’s an endless talent supply for a field that usually only anoints one or two acts at a time. When you find an artist that initially has a buzz and then starts getting better as a rapper, you pay attention. That’s what Rizzoo Rizzoo is doing, and why he’s on the verge of stretching further than the 610 loop. The Sauce Factory rapper initially broke onto the scene as a proverbial mascot, a hook man who immediately passed the baton once it came time for a 16-bar verse. Outings on tracks like “#WWYD” and his Itz Hot Sauce tape from last summer proved that he could at least stress a certain topic for more than a couple of repetitious ad-libs. Rizzoo Rizzoo’s first outing in 2016 was hitting the road with Propain, cutting himself away from just being known as a TSF member and emerging as his own man. He’s Sauce’d out until he’s dead but for now, he may become the most improved rapper in the city. BRANDON CALDWELL
As if Oceans of Slumber weren’t enough, local skin-basher extraordinaire Dobber Beverly has also been enlisted to help lead death-metal troupe War Master’s new campaign of auditory combat. The group kept a relatively low profile in 2015, owing in part to some shaking up of the lineup. But with Beverly now behind the kit, look for the band to play faster than ever. Houston has no shortage of death merchants plying their gruesome trade all over town, but War Master may well be at the top of the bloody heap. Expect new recordings to surface from the inky depths soon, with as many brutal shows to follow as the members’ busy touring schedules allow. If nothing else, we can probably look forward to some sickening cover art by local pen-and-ink savant (and former War Master front-dude) Daniel Shaw. You’ve been warned. NATHAN SMITH