Twenty years ago, the record label made famous by Nirvana, Sub Pop, had a program called the Sub Pop Singles Club. You'd receive seven-inch singles from up-and-coming new artists, one of the best delivery systems for new music I'd ever seen. In today's world, the physical copies aren't around as much, but various streaming services carry on the tradition. For at least a year, I've been wanting to create and curate a playlist of new music from Houston-area artists every two weeks; thus the Houston Press Singles Club is born.
Occasionally artists on the list will be unavailable on Spotify, though that platform is what we'll use; it is the most popular streaming site available today, after all. If you like what you hear, we encourage you to find these artists' web stores and purchase physical copies, or do so when they perform around town.
Earlier this year, when I reviewed Dollie Barnes's debut full-length, Caught In a Phase, I must have forgotten about the last song on the record. I was lucky enough to watch some of the album being recorded, but "Caught In a Phase of a Dream" escaped me. Then, late one night, I found this gem on the vinyl-only release. The strongest song of the 12 on the album, "Dream" has elements of the Beatles, Sharon Van Etten and Big Star, and has become one of my favorite tracks of the year. With a backing band made up of some of our city's best players, and Haley Lynch's signature voice, this track should immediately convert anyone who wasn't a fan before. You can purchase a physical version of this album from the band through The What of Whom.
When you write about a city's music scene, you become involved in the lives of musicians and all of their endeavors. Though it would be Mercy Harper of football, etc. and John Baldwin of Deep End Records who would both introduce me to the stellar indie rock of Houston's Cool Moon, they've easily become one of my favorite local bands. On debut Postparty Depression, they mix the sensibilities of Superchunk and the Breeders, while Andrea Lisi's vocals approach a cross between Tanya Donelly and Molly Rankin of Alvvays. The driving energy of "Solitary Confinement," which intertwines these sweet pop-tinged vocals, should make anyone who likes indie rock an immediate fan, even after just one listen. Purchase the vinyl of Postparty Depression from Exotic Fever Records.
Sometimes, actually many times, a musician will do whatever it takes to see his or her vision become a reality. Meet Houston's The Greatest View, an indie pop/rock band led by singer and multi-instrumentalist David Upp. "Paris," from debut full-length She Was Sarcastic to Begin With, might be one of the catchiest tracks you'll hear this year. Originally accompanied by a short film, the song is like hearing David Gray take his sound to a whole new level, while Upp incorporates sounds onto the track that stick to your soul. Purchase the track directly from the band's Bandcamp.
If you're in Houston long enough, you're bound to encounter references to syrup or the late, legendary DJ Screw. And while Screw will forever be tied to our city, the hip-hop coming out of where we live now is far from that era of rap music, and Bobby Earth serves as a great example. While you could argue that "Cerberus," off Earth's latest release, Progression, incorporates elements of Screw's music, you could also argue that it's far and away from that sound. The bulk of the record sounds like something from another world, while this short and sweet track makes for a great late-night banger that'll stick in your head after just one spin. Purchase items from Earth through his label Milky Wayv.
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No matter what you might think, Houston has a pretty solid electronica scene. As far as electro-pop goes, there are plenty of offerings up for grabs, though Houston's Camera Cult seems to be the most prolific. After their appearance at FPSF, it seems like these two are hell-bent on becoming our city's strongest dance-pop machine. Mixing dance-pop beats and synths that you can't forget, latest single "Vice Grips" is a great place to start. Purchase music from the duo at record shops throughout the area, including Deep End Records.
We invite you to check back in two weeks for another installment of this list. Please find these acts on social media, and get out to see them whenever you can.