Stereo Dream EP
Houston’s Lost Element have been refining their sound since 2010, but I only heard of them last month, likely because I don't listen to the radio frequently. But thanks to support from local DJ Rod Ryan, the band has already been afforded a number of opportunities to cut its teeth on big stages, including four performances at The Buzz’s annual Bud Light Weenie Roast at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. And with its latest EP, the band says it has finally achieved the sound it pursued for more than half a decade. February's Stereo Dream is a concise, genre-bridging release, ranging from motivational alt-rock to anthemic pop ballads about the merits of opening one’s own heart. Blending the poppy elements of Foster the People tunes with the grandiose choruses of Imagine Dragons, Lost Element's latest release provides fans with both an excuse to dance and a reason to sing along. MATTHEW KEEVER
Embryonic foursome Frog Hair, a rock project by guitarist J.J. White and percussionist Pedro Yruegaz that recently added bassist Mike Haaga and veteran shredder Scott Ayers, showed a lot of promise in a 30-minute set at Rudyard's opening for Lick Lick. There's a noise element to the proceedings, but also smart songs and complex vocal interplay between White, Haaga and Yruegaz. With Ayers waiting in the wings like a secret weapon, this band can boogie with any rockers in town or be atmospheric and moody if the song demands. Ayers's lap steel also adds another sonic dimension that makes tunes like the cover of Tom Waits's "Long Way Home" truly special. Watch this band once they get more material and play more gigs. The promise and the potential are both huge. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH
From the opening seconds of “Ciego” (Spanish for “blind”), Existencia’s latest demo comes roaring out the gate with breakneck speed and intensity. The local punk band’s second release follows last October's debut, improving on it with blistering fury and not letting up for a second. The band has been playing together for just under a year, and already been featured on stacked bills of local and touring punk and hardcore groups like Sexpill, Gast and Gag. Along with playing Badass Weekend back in February, Existencia has quickly become a mainstay in the community. Listening to their demo makes it clear why, as their unhinged aggression shines forth in a way that feels raw but never sloppy. Most notable is closer “maldita depresion,” which opens with a moody post-punk riff as misdirection before launching into one of the heaviest moments on the record. Short enough that it leaves you wanting more, the demo is easily one of the strongest of the year so far, not in just Houston's vibrant punk/hardcore scene, but in any city's. DAVID SACKLLAH
LIL JSEAN & AESJA
“Trust 'Em” (video)
Haters. What to do with them? If you take Lil JSean & Aesja's advice (and you should), for the love of God don't “Trust 'Em.” Originally released on JSean's 2014 EP Yellow Tape, the song recently got a second wind thanks to a new video that went online last month. There, the siblings pantomime a series of actions designed to release the frustrations pent up in JSean's rapid-fire rapping: shadow-boxing each other, tossing money out of a flashy yellow sports car and having a go at a piñata. The visuals are on point too, definitely going for a theme of “playful” with throwback NBA gear, brick-like cell phones, oversize children's blocks and of course a giant spoon that ultimately spills a bunch of cereal all over the place.
At the moment, “Trust 'Em” has accrued more than 150,000 views on YouTube, without any sort of promotion that we're aware of other than that done by JSean and Aesja themselves. We know this Woodlands-based brother-and-sister duo a little, namely because they have visited our offices, and their hustle does not stop; as JSean says in the song, he's “been grindin' so hard I don't close my eyelids.” These kids are going places. CHRIS GRAY
“Running Scared From Liberty” (video)
It seems like pop-punk is having a resurgence, with good reason. The beauty of this blend is it's accessible to the masses (pop) but doesn't relinquish its incisive sensibilities (punk) to gain favor. That makes it the right genre for questioning every puzzling thing we see from this sad lot of prospective presidential candidates, and the even sadder lot of voters being forced to choose one as the lesser evil. Maybe we should follow Action Frank’s advice and not run from our own responsibilities to make the world, or at least the one around us, better. You can call the cops, your boss, your priest or the Ghostbusters, but maybe the answer is in not turning over our own moral obligations to those with their own agendas. This song isn't especially new — it's from the band's 2013 effort So Much For That — but its brand-new video was just released at just the right time. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
BLOOD OF AN OUTLAW
I had heard some serious buzz last year about this metal group and somehow spent months barely missing their shows. Finally, a paper-thin opportunity scratched across my schedule and I was able to catch their set at Scout Bar on March 26, when they opened for Soilwork and Fear Factory. I wasn’t quite prepared for their level of talent nor the sheer violence with which their lead guitarist, Kerry Rice, shredded his instrument onstage. As if that weren’t enough, vocalist Jay D. Rose growled through notes and octaves usually unseen in metalcore circles. Best of all, they didn’t sound like anyone I’ve heard. With no aping of influences or barely passing as a not-a-cover band, the material was legit and original. Hallelujah — Houston needs more metal that measures up. This ragtag bunch of boys take their live performance to a superlative and serious degree. KRISTY LOYE
THE EAZY THREE
“Summer Wind” (song)
“Summer Wind” isn’t a new song and if there’s a freshly recorded version of it by these Shakespeare Pub stalwarts, I’m not aware of it. I heard their fun version during The Eazy Three’s standing Monday gig there two weeks ago, so you’ll have to take my word for it or just get over there soon yourself. Vocalist James Wilhite let his blues-drained guitar recharge and hopped off the stage with mike in hand, like a Vegas lounge singer somehow transported to a west Houston beer bar. Key difference: Wilhite is strong-voiced and light on the cheese, choosing to honor the song’s wistful lyrics. Bandmates Alisha Pattillo and Barry Seelen are skilled musicians able to move gracefully from Sinatra to Albert King to The Meters. Every song sounded great, but this one blew me right past a cool spring weeknight and into the sexy, hot breath of summertime Houston. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
FIDDLE WITCH & THE DEMONS OF DOOM
Symphonic metal is definitely a thing, but is chamber metal? That's the effect created by bassist Geoffrey Muller, drummer/percussionist Spike and Two Star Symphony alum Jo Bird, using an electrified viola she calls a “witch stick.” On the six-song EP Fiddle Witch, released last summer, Bird sounds like she's painted her instrument blood-red and added a bunch of flames, hot-rod-style. Besides awesome titles like “Broken Brain,” “Bone Chomper” and “Venomous Laxative” (awesome), these songs tend to stretch into eight- and nine-minute epics that prove stripping away most of metal's volume doesn't necessarily rob any of its excitement or intensity; Bird's smokin'-strings viola proves an excellent stand-in for guitar. Despite Fiddle Witch's win for Best New Act at last year's Houston Press Music Awards, somehow their EP only made its way into our offices a few weeks ago. (Talk about sorcery.) Don't be late to the party like me; go hear the Demons stir it up April 15 at the Nightingale Room. CHRIS GRAY
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MIKEY AND THE DRAGS
I caught this hip ensemble on a Thursday night at the Nightingale Room downtown. I was there to see another band and say hello to friends, but after just a few bars of the very first song, I happily stayed. The four-piece has a cool-cat vibe and some incredible surf-rock-inspired tunes that are easy to dig. I wasn’t the only one; Mikey had the bottom floor grooving to their ’60s-inspired set. I mean, what other bands are playing the organ and have a trippy hot-oil light show? Right on, man. KRISTY LOYE
Greater Minds (cassette)/Performance
If I haven’t raved about the Wiggins lately, it’s only because main man Jon Read has been keeping to himself and his visual art for the past year. (Check out his immense mural at Foreign Correspondents for an example of that.) Onstage he’s a crank, beholden to no one time or place, the sound equivalent of blistered blue paint on an orange truck, in the sun, in summer, on fire. He does things to guitars that would compromise their entry into politics. Last Friday, the Wiggins returned to the stage at Satellite with some '50s rock for UFOs from his brand-new Greater Minds cassette on Miss Champagne, the new local label unafraid to keep it local. What talk there is about The Wiggins gets it wrong: He’s Gene Vincent with a drum machine. He’s in love with American music and guitaring and song craft; despite all that, he does something good and relevant. All that time lost in hiding and he’s come out somehow calmer and stranger, a Bo Diddley in preternatural khakis for we who are out here dying on the vine. If The Wiggins never left the stage, the spell would never end. TEX KERSCHEN