Weasked Houston music folks we featured in 2022 for their best album of 2022 choices. It’s a list that might turn you onto some music you missed last year and one that serves as a recall to the stories we did on these artists. Best of all, it details plans they have for 2023. Please enjoy.
ABRY, Amelia Moore’s Teaching a Robot to Love (Additional Data)
We featured Houston pop vocalist ABRY in October on the release of her single, “Panic.” In 2023, she’s planning a full-length drop of her alternative, electronic pop. She said she's rehearsing and singing a lot to get ready for a January 12 show at Big Top Lounge.
“I'm excited to play there, I haven't even been there before yet so I'm excited to check it out," she said. "I have RINAS, which is an up-and-coming alternative pop act, and then Max Diaz, which is also alternative, opening for me. I'm really excited for their sets as well. I'm going to be playing a lot of unreleased stuff, all my released music as well. It's going to be great. I'm hoping a lot of people that just haven't heard about me will be there. It's always fun to see people's real-time reactions to music, especially if it's not out yet because you kind of get that instant ‘do people like it, do people not.’"
ABRY’s M.O. has been to release singles periodically but in 2023 she’s set on releasing a full album sometime around spring.
"It's always so hard because you've got to kind of let the song go. When you load it to the distribution site you're like, 'All right, I guess that's it.' I wanna be really intentional about (2023), just make sure I don't feel pressured to put stuff out if I'm not ready and to just make sure I'm enjoying the process but also going for it, you know what I mean? Not being afraid and just going for it."
She said she was a little indecisive on her album of the year choice, naming the new SZA album and work by Rosalía, Fletcher and one of her all-time favorites, Charli XCX, as notables. In the end, she chose an artist she has a little in common with named Amelia Moore.
"I was actually kind of nervous to pick one - you know, I'm a Gemini so it's hard for me to make like one decision. I don't even know if I have a favorite color," she laughed. "I listened to so much music throughout the year and I was so inspired by so many artists but I suppose I want to use this opportunity to promote more of an underdog like me. She's obviously bigger than me but not at the level of some of the other albums I was listening to.
"She's an up-and-coming pop artist, recently signed with Capitol and released her debut body of work called Teaching a Robot to Love (Additional Data). I love this body of work number one because it is a concept album and I'm always a sucker for any concept work because I know it takes so much more thought and intention to create that.
"Another thing about her — vocally she's really not afraid," she continued. "It starts out pretty simple as far as the production and her vocals and then before you know it you get to the chorus and it's huge, it's anthems, it blows you away. It starts more like this bedroom pop vibe and then it moves into this different space that you would not expect from an up-and-coming artist.
"She was not afraid to take risks with her voice, with the visuals, with her production choices," ABRY said. "Her voice is so unique. Even though she could sing on anything it's also cool to hear this music be so customed for her. The production was in a league of its own, her vocals, everything is really as good as it could have gotten. She deserves way more recognition than she has, she's very underrated."
Vaughn Chung, Waiting to Spill by The Backseat Lovers
“I actually do have an album that I've been listening to a lot lately. There were quite a bit this year that I enjoyed but the one I have connected with the most I would say is by this band called The Backseat Lovers. The album is called Waiting to Spill. That's been my favorite album by far. It came out not too long ago actually, October 28 was the release date,” said Chung, whose band Paper Gliders was featured here in November.
“They're an indie band from Utah. They've started to really make noise the past couple of years and the album has a lot of different influences in it. Like I hear Radiohead for sure and I hear a lot of folk artists in there. There’s a lot of different things going on on this record and it's done very well because there's a lot of groups that have tried to emulate those artists, like Radiohead. But it's done in a way where it feels like it's in 2022 and it's their take on a lot of different things and I feel like it's a more mature sound coming from them from the first album which was more raw and kind of math rock-y a little bit and more traditional indie rock.
"More than anything, it takes me to a place. When I listen to it I go, 'I gotta finish this album from beginning to end.'”
Another thing Chung appreciated about the album is that is seemed to be a complete work of art rather than music based off algorithms, "stuff that people can sit down and be patient and really absorb and get a taste of the musicians and the artists behind it. That's my thought process and that's why that's my favorite."
That innovative thinking is going to be paramount to the approach the veteran Houston band takes to the music business in 2023. The band plans to showcase its latest efforts via Patreon and build off the momentum it gained returning to live shows last year. Chung is inspired by a band like The Backseat Lovers, which hits Houston’s Bayou Music Center in May.
“I just think that they're doing really important things, especially for the genre. I personally have felt indie rock has felt stale for some time now. Probably a lot of other artists feel this way too in general just about a lot of art that has felt like everything has been designed to fit into a specific type of program for people to digest. I feel like there's something to be said about us reclaiming that.
"I just feel like people are tired of being hand-held and curated into every single microscopic level. I think people need to be challenged again and people are craving to be challenged.”
SEROTONIN, Ignorant Genius by Ishgenius
“You know what's crazy, I listen to a lot of music but I can't help but listen to my friends' music. I'll be so excited for when my friends drop songs," said SEROTONIN, the Houston indie rapper/fashion designer we featured last month.
The 24-year-old phenom loves lots of music. He named Horseshit on Route 66 by The Garden as a favorite from 2022.
“Punk friends of mine in So-Cal. I honestly haven’t stopped listening to that thing since it came out,” he said.
SEROTONIN also has healthy respect for Houston artists. His mother was a Houston artist and he recalls proximity to Destiny’s Child as a youth. When it comes right down to it, he said, his 2022 album of the year is from Houston’s own Ishgenius.
"I'm going to be honest because like, oh my God, I'm gonna have to say Ish's album, man. Being a friend of his, he was working on that for a very long time, you know? To know the process, to know what it took for it to even come to the surface, that's really the one.
“It's a lot of music out but it's from artists that were already given their flowers, you know? I could give ‘em their flowers again right in this moment, which they're going to get from millions of people. People like Ish, man, you can hear it in his verses and his lyrics, he's really got a picture to paint. And me as an artist, as a creative, I'll be looking for those little details and those brushstrokes. Him and Kanaki, Ignorant Genius, that has to be the one for me, man, especially from Houston."
The Houston model, singer, actor and journalist is also one of the head honchos at House of J, the east downtown DIY venue that’s built a solid following and was last featured here in September. Last year, Zemyra was hired by iHeartMedia and her love of punk and metal is proving useful to her involvement with 94.5 FM The Buzz, where she’s done video interviews with bands like San Antonio’s Fea, H-town legends 30footFALL and the Codefendants, a new band featuring hip hop folkie Ceschi, Get Dead’s Sam King and NOFX’s Fat Mike.
“I found a way to basically merge all three things, being like my own personal brand as a talent,” she said. “I get to kind of snowball everything.” One iHeartMedia boss described Zemyra’s appeal best by saying he was intrigued by “someone who does runway modeling and gets into mosh pits.”
She said House of J just had its first house meeting of the year. The house is fielding 2023 booking requests from local and touring acts, for big shows and small ones, from its regular Free AF showcase to its flagship event, J Fest. It’s going to expand its media output in 2023. Something entirely new on the horizon is a fashion show Zemyra and Lagrimas vocalist Jazzmin Readeaux are planning. The date slated for that show is March 11.
“It’s basically like a femme fest, anyone female identifying, anyone part of the LGBTQIA+ community, wanting to put on a complete mini, one-day festival,” she said. “It’s basically trying to get a drag show going, doing something totally different in the scene.”
Zemyra is destined to take over Houston with these many endeavors. She’s got a cooking channel called “Punks Eat Well” in pre-production. She’s a fitness enthusiast who wants to incorporate that part of her life into House of J’s programming through free boot camps.
“I don’t really see why I should charge people to be healthy, especially if I love it and I love these people. So, I wanna give back. And, you don’t have to give up your lifestyle. If you want to keep partying you don’t have to stop but it’s best to at least moderate that and start focusing maybe on longevity in the pit,” she said. “I see everyone huffing and puffing after half a song and I’m like, ‘Okay, these guys need to work out!’”
The soundtrack for a vigorous workout could be her choice for album of 2022 by one of Houston’s own.
“I will have to say The Poserz All It Ever Was,” she chose. “The Poserz have crazy energy that is like ahead of its time. Meaning if they were a band in the ‘90s they probably would have had such a progressive sound, as the Poserz do.
“They’re very original in the sense that they are a progressive thrash metal band. They can make you groove and they can make you want to throw your fist at anyone near you and I appreciate that. That album soothes my road rage, it’s really good.”
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.