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New Music + New CDs, Just in Time for the New Year [1/14/2008 10:04:00 PM]:
Well, after last year's ridiculously good bumper crop of local releases, I'd kind of wondered what 2008 would bring -- I feared it'd be a quiet year, relatively, with everybody touring on past CDs & 7"s & such, and no new stuff out 'til later on. What the hell am I gonna do without new stuff from the billion or so excellent bands making music in this city?

Looks like I needn't have worried. We're only just halfway or so through the first month of '08, and I've already heard & seen evidence of a veritable flood of H-town releases coming our way. Here's a quick glance at the ones I've heard about, at least, for bands I like -- if anybody knows of others, hey, feel free to mention/plug 'em in the Comments. And just so nobody gets their feelings hurt, I want to make clear that these are not in order of preference/coolness/whatever, but just in the order they generally popped into my little head. Here goes:

While You Were Gone, Heavy Lies The Crown:
Been waiting for this one for a while now -- WYWG hit it somewhat big at the Houston Press Awards a year or two back & then mostly dropped off the radar, which is a damn shame, because they're one of the best emo-ish rock bands going in this smoggy city. There're some heavy Christian undertones, for sure (take this lyric from "Sinner," for example: "I am a merchant / and I sell good news"), but with rock this lushly gorgeous and emotive, eh, I'm down with it. Besides, they're so damn earnest I just have to respect it, y'know? I have yet to see 'em play live, but reports compare 'em to Austin's Cruiserweight, which makes some sense, and vocalist/pianist Misty Gray has some of the baddest-ass soft-post-punk vocals out there today (and no, I'm not talking about just within SE Texas).

Anyway, everything I've heard so far off upcoming EP Heavy Lies The Crown is great, great stuff -- esp. "Thief," which is just plain heartbreaking in an almost Eisley-ish way -- so keep an eye out for it. The release date's 1/25, and the band'll be playing their CD release show that night at Fuel Cyber Cafe up in Humble. You can pick up the new EP there and enter a contest to snag 2 tix to see Emery & As Cities Burn in Feb., to boot.

Buxton, A Family Light:
Yep, LaPorte's favorite sons are back with their second full-length, A Family Light, which is a jangly, jaunty-yet-sad, countrified affair that tramps deeper into the backwoods than the previous one, Red Follows Red, ever did. It's good, oddly familiar, old-timey, "warm"-sounding music that brings to mind The Elected, The Mendoza Line, Iron and Wine (the faster bits, at least), or Murder by Death (no, really; check out "Blood On The Streets"). I've heard some of the band's earlier stuff, too, but I think I like the new stuff better, believe it or not -- they sound like they're really coming into their own.

The release show for this one's on 1/19 at Walter's on Washington, with excellent fellow locals By the End of Tonight and Papermoons and a fourth band, Ghost Mountain, about which I know nada. Oh, and if you hit the show you not only get a free copy of the new album, but you also get a copy of Red Follows Red & an EP the band, uh, never got around to actually releasing. Can't beat that, damn...

The American Masquerade, Unveiled:
Haven't yet heard all of Unveiled, but I've been waiting for this disc since first hearing about these guys over on The Skyline Network. Following a name change (or two? can't remember...), the Masquerade released this one, although I can't tell for sure when it was released (dammit, people, this is what those Myspace blogs're for). If there was a release show, I missed it, unfortunately, but I'm happy to see these songs hit the light of day, even still. Unveiled is interesting, entertaining stuff, in the vein of The Killers and Interpol -- and despite what you might think, I don't mean that as a slam. I enjoy both bands, personally, and the Masquerade boys acquit themselves admirably here in the same general camp of retro-'80s, glam-y, dramatic, electronified pop-rock. No clue where you can pick it up, sadly, but I'd bet you can contact the band via Myspace and snag a copy (or hell, just catch a show).

Hearts of Animals, 7":
I wish-wish-wish I knew more about this one, but here's what I do know: HoA will apparently be putting out its third "real" release (counting the two Grey Ghost EPs Ms. Mlee's done to date), a real-live 7", on Dull Knife Recs in early-to-mid February. I dunno what songs'll be on it, but going by her previous work, it's bound to be goooooood. Seriously. There's a release show already planned for Feb. 12th over at Rudyard's, with Hearts of Animals, Nat Baldwin of Dirty Projectors fame, & somebody I've never heard of before called Whiskey Priest. So here's what you need to do, in order (trust me, I'm a technical writer, so I know these things): 1) Go to show. 2) Listen. 3) Pick up jaw. 4) Fumble frantically for cash to buy record. 5) Go home and put new record on stereo. 6) Pick up jaw second time.

On top of that, the last time I saw Hearts of Animals play, Mlee said that there'd be a new "release" coming out this spring, which would seem logically to be the aforementioned record, but when I asked if it'd be an actual CD, she said "yes." So maybe -- hopefully -- this means that there's an honest-to-Jeebus album in the works? Dunno. In the loudness of Rudz, maybe she didn't hear what I asked and just smiled and said "yes" so I'd get lost. But hey, I can hope...

Something Fierce/The Monocles, Modern Girl/The Monocles:
Yep, I've babbled about this a bit about Something Fierce & The Monocles before now, but I've got a little correcting to do, I'm afraid. For some damn reason, I saw "record release" on the note about last Friday's show w/both bands and assumed it was a split record with the two of 'em. Turns out that's not the case -- the two bands are out on tour together, yes, but they're putting out two different records, one for each. Which is badass, obviously; hell, we've already reviewed the dang Monocles disc here. I swear, I've got no clue where I got the idea that there was one record and it was a split w/both bands...weird. Sorry for the confusion, y'all.

At any rate, I can tell you for absolute-freakin'-sure that both records are excellent, and since you're unable to get your old-school pop-punk fix for the duration of the "Teenage Mustache" tour (I think they're somewhere in Georgia as I type this), do yourself a favor and head on over to SoundEx or Vinal Edge and grab two pieces of cool-ass vinyl to tide yourself over. Cool?

Rustler, Shark Week:
Hot damn. Not too long after the release of their great-great-great debut EP threw me into a gleeful spiral of prog-and-not metal worship, apparently the three Big Easy transplants in Rustler are hard at work on their second release, to be entitled Shark Week. Which, weirdly enough, fits pretty much perfectly with the band's jazzy/crazed take on instro-metal -- I mean, seriously, why the hell aren't Rustler scoring Discovery Channel specials? It works for the Dub Trio, right? Anyway. No sign of the new tracks yet, but I'm awaiting the new disc with bated breath nonetheless.

Tody Castillo:
This one's been in a the works for a while now -- sounds like Tody underestimated how long it'd take to put together the followup to his awesome debut CD from a few years back -- he says it'll most likely be out in March/April of '08. I haven't heard it yet, but David from Houston Calling apparently has, and he says it's gonna be good. Keep yr fingers crossed.

Sharks and Sailors:
Dunno the details on this, but per ADR over at Skyline, the new S&S album's all done & ready to go -- it just needs to be mastered. Damn cool.

Balaclavas, Balaclavas/Inferno:
Not really "new" releases, no, but according to Ramon at Free Press Houston, the band's re-releasing its two self-released EPs on vinyl on Phonographic Arts/Compound Recordings. Good to hear...

Mantis, namas te:
Okay, so this one's got me totally confused, but what the hey... I really like what I've heard of these guys, kind of a cool, bluesy, pseudo-classic rock thing, but I'm a little at a loss for details on what looks like an upcoming release, namas te, which their Website says will be both the band's first full-length and nine free tracks for absolute free. I'm guessing they're planning on a strictly digital release, but I can't tell, 'cause that's all the info there is. Gonna have to keep an eye out for that one.

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