FPSF 2015 Aftermath: Emptying Out the Backpack & Dispensing Wisdom

I’m still recovering from this past weekend’s absolutely insane Free Press Summer Festival 2015 — and yes, it’s going to be a long recovery, ’cause dammit, I’m old — but in the meantime I thought it might be enlightening to dump out the trusty old backpack and see what the hell’s in there. I figure that, hey, I do alright at this “festival” thing, so you might get some enlightment from the unpacking process. Learn from me, my children, and be wise. Or something…

The Wheel Workers, Citizens

Screw that whole “bands get quieter and more mellow as they get older” thing; who the hell wants that? The Wheel Workers, for one, sound like they’ve actually gotten louder and angrier as they’ve matured, band-wise, and I’m here to tell you that yes, that’s a very good thing. See, back in 2013 the band released their stellar second album, Past to Present, which pretty much took any problems I might’ve had with the band’s earlier stuff and threw them, smiling, into a running garbage disposal…

Football, Etc., Disappear

Sometimes, even when I really, really like a band — like is the case with, say, Houston-dwelling emo purveyors Football, etc. — there’s just some little thing/person/whatever missing to shove the whole thing over the edge into “holy crap, this is amazing” territory. Going by Football, etc.’s new four-song EP, Disappear, it looks like that thing is badass producer J. Robbins. Okay, that’s not all that’s happening here…

Live: Angel Olsen/Lionlimb

The mesmerizing, hypnotizing, beautiful Angel Olsen and her four-piece band came to Houston for a show at Fitzgerald’s a little while back, bringing with them the opening band, Lionlimb, who happened to be Ms. Olsen’s guitarist Stewart Bronaugh and drummer Josh Jaeger‘s band. Lionlimb were an easy-going, light surf-rock-meets-Pink Floyd affair…

John Bassett, Unearth

This album is in my Top 5 for 2014. I’m giving it 5 stars not just because I love the album (I do), but because it is that most rare of albums these days: an actual masterpiece. John Bassett steps away from his band, KingBathmat, and puts the focus solely on himself. Although he is the singer, bass player, and songwriter for KingBathmat, the songs are written with a band environment in mind…

Two Star Symphony, Seven Deadly Sins

As I’ve proclaimed a few times before in these pages, it’s no small thing to try to convey an emotion, a feeling, using music alone. With a vocalist standing out in front of the band, you can make things a lot more clear, declare your intentions more succinctly, and actually pull the audience along with you to where you want them to go emotionally. If the lyrics of a song are about someone dying, then odds are good…

The Church of Philadelphia, We’re Gonna Dance Tonight

I found it really difficult to write this review, a whole lot harder than I’d ever expected I would. Now, in case you’re one of those people who only reads the first paragraph of a review and makes their mind up then and there, let me clarify that I don’t mean this review was hard to write because I don’t like The Church of Philadelphia’s long-awaited second album, We’re Gonna Dance Tonight. On the contrary, I absolutely love it…

Folk Family Revival, Water Walker

Four years is a long time for anybody, and even longer for a musician, who’s liable to spend large chunks of that time on the road, scrabbling and scraping for any way they can somehow get ahead and avoid going broke doing what they love. It’s a long time in which you might stumble, might fall…

A Sundae Drive, The Senseless & The Sound

Midway through listening to A Sundae Drive’s most recent full-length, the followup to 2011’s excellent, You’re Gonna Get Me, it hit me just how, well, how dark it is. There’s a murky, bitter edge to the band’s sound on here, despite the seemingly cheery pop melodies…

SXSW Preview 2015: 15(-ish) New(-ish) Bands We Want to See While in Austin

Hey, folks — I’m headed to SXSW this week, and I wanted to give a quick rundown of the 15 new-by-newish bands I can’t wait to see at SXSW. They’re in alphabetical order, with very short descriptions of each and a video that you should watch to decide for yourself…

Torche, Restarter

For Floridian doom-metal heroes Torche, Restarter feels kind of like a homecoming. I say “kind of,” mind you, because this isn’t really a step backwards as much as it is an integration of the band’s earlier, heavier sounds with the poppier experiment that was 2012’s Harmonicraft. At the same time, though, the album feels very much akin to Meanderthal

Live: Shovels and Rope/Willie Watson

Shovels and Rope have played Houston before, but it must have been a while ago, because it seems like I’ve been waiting forever to see them live since I learned about them, thanks to them winning the Americana Music Award for Emerging Artist of 2013 over my beloved Milk Carton Kids. “Who are these guys that beat my favorite act?,” I thought…

The Coasts, Racilia

I will admit that I first listened to The Coasts because my friend and former co-worker, Ike Peters, is in the band. I spent my money on their first two albums (The Coasts and Santa Fe), though, because I actually liked them. The Coasts play lo-fi, indie pop-rock that is simultaneously fun and thoughtful, with bouncy melodies and some deceptively simple…

Live: REI Summer Fest

With the majority of Houston’s social circles out and about, seeing and being seen wearing white at White Linen Night in The Heights, it wasn’t a huge surprise that REI Summer Fest became the ultimate (nearly-) private party of the weekend. For a little background, “REI” stands for “Real Estate Investing.” During the day, the attendees went to what I assume was…

A Place To Bury Strangers, Transfixiation

I’ve never seen A Place To Bury Strangers live; after hearing Transfixiation, I’m not sure I’d survive the experience. Part of me wonders that, if I did, once I staggered, blood dripping steadily from my eardrums and my head full of darkness and fear and ruin, back out onto the street, maybe some new facet of the world I’d never fully recognized might suddenly reveal itself to me. Or, on the other hand, I might just pass out in the gutter, sobbing uncontrollably and unable to remember what all had happened. Still, it’s damned tempting to give it a try…

Quiet Company, Transgressor

After four long years, it’s here at last. Seriously, since the first time I heard Quiet Company’s We Are All Where We Belong, I feel like I’ve been holding my breath to see what comes next. Of course, that doesn’t mean the band’s been sitting still the whole time — far from it, in fact…

Sweet & Lynch, Only to Rise

Michael Sweet is busier now than he’s ever been. After Stryper released No More Hell to Pay, arguably their best album, in November 2013, Sweet released a long-awaited solo album last year, and now this collaboration with George Lynch. Stryper have also reportedly started working on their follow-up to No More Hell to Pay. Like I said, busy…

Live: Chicago/REO Speedwagon

Once upon a time, I was not a jaded 44-year-old hipster doofus. I was a 12-year-old kid who loved The Beatles, a band which belonged to the generation before me, and the progressive supergroup Asia, who I thought completely belonged to me…

Hearts of Animals, Another Mutation

Time sometimes mellows a musician, and in a lot of instances, that can be a very, very bad thing. On Another Mutation, though, a little bit of mellowing and stepping backwards helps, allowing singer/multi-instrumentalist Mlee Marie’s clear, beautiful voice to shine through without some of the more experimental/noisy trappings of her early work cluttering things up. And once that happens, another thing immediately snaps into focus: she’s truly one hell of a songwriter…

The Suffers, Make Some Room

You can’t resist The Suffers; seriously, it’s impossible. Their music is just so infectious, so warm and mellow it’s like one of those rare perfect spring days when the sky’s bright and blue and cloudless, the weather’s warm but not yet hot, and all feels right with the world…

The Lotus Effect, Totality

Wow; talk about ambition. I knew the four guys in The Lotus Effect had pretty lofty aspirations for their long-awaited full-length album, but I wasn’t real clear what they had in mind, specifically. Now that I’ve heard the full scope of Totality…well, I’m back to “wow,” again…

Shellee Coley, Songs Without Bridges

“How much is enough?” That seems to be the question Conroe-dwelling singer/songwriter Shellee Coley’s trying to answer with her latest album, Songs Without Bridges. I mean, you write a song on just a guitar or piano or what-have-you, and maybe you go into a studio and flesh it out with a full band, drums, bass, strings…

The Linus Pauling Quartet, “C is for Cthulhu”/”My Desire”

You’ve got to love those Linus Pauling Quartet guys; just when you think they can’t possibly come up with something quirkier or cooler or more insane than the last crazy-ass thing they did…well, they pretty much do. With big, goofy, halfway-loaded grins on their faces, no less…

The Tontons, Make Out King and Other Stories of Love

It’s taken me a good long while to write this review. And until now, I wasn’t really sure why; after all, there are very few albums I’ve been more excited to hear than The Tontons’ long-awaited full-length, Make Out King and Other Stories of Love. So when I finally had a chance to check it out, I grabbed it, and listened…

The Ex-Optimists/A Sundae Drive, “Burn Bright”/”Labor Day”

It’s always nice when you see your high expectations for something get validated; that’s the way I feel about the brand-new split-7″ from two of my favorite damn bands from this great state or any other, The Ex-Optimists and A Sundae Drive. When I first got word that this was underway, I was a little bemused — the two didn’t seem to necessarily fit all that well together…

Temples, Sun Structures

Okay, so I need to listen to Jason (Smith, that is, fellow SCR writer and badass rock photographer) more often. Don’t get me wrong; I love the guy dearly, but we don’t always see eye-to-eye on things, even when it comes to music. Lately, though, he’s been batting a thousand, and after finally getting off my ass to listen to Royal Blood and now Temples, both bands…

Paul Collins, Feel The Noise

Even if you don’t know who Paul Collins is, trust me, you know him. You may not realize it, no, but if you’ve heard any kind of guitar-heavy pop-rock made in the last 30 years or so, odds are good that there’s at least a little bit of his influence floating around in there; the man’s a real-live godfather of American-made power-pop, and he laid down the blueprint…

Royal Blood, Royal Blood

Oh, damn. I very nearly let this one slip by — we do get a crapload of releases sent our way, you know, and a large percentage of ’em suck — but now I’m so, so glad I didn’t. Why? Well, because I’m pretty sure I’ve just heard my New Favorite Rock Band, at least for this year, and you need to, too. Royal Blood are from Brighton, on the southern coast of England, but on their self-titled debut album, you wouldn’t know it…

Deep Cuts, Love Grows EP

If you’d ever wondered if there’s a middle ground between surf-rock, shoegaze, Latino pop, and Afrobeat, well, wonder no more, because on their debut EP, Love Grows, Houston’s Deep Cuts have found it and planted their flag deep, deep in the sand. The quintet somehow manages to blend together Latin-tinged pop, wavery dream-pop guitars…

MODFAG, Paradisio

A couple guitars, a bass, drums, distortion pedals, some riffs, and half-crazed snarled/yelped vocals — honestly, do you really need anything else? No; no, you most definitely do not. MODFAG prove the case here with their debut full-length, Paradisio, which is banged together from the elements above and not a damn thing else and which rocks the fucking doors off…

Live: Temples

Every January, I start the new year by trying to find my new favorite bands that will be playing at South by Southwest. This year brought me several candidates, but in the end a UK band named Temples won the crown. I saw them the first night of SXSW at a free unofficial show, then again at a day party the next day…

Live: Band of Skulls/SACCO

Back in the spring, I was pretty swamped, but I made a concerted effort to get out and see some very good shows, like this one, where Band of Skulls and opener SACCO made a great to of it up at Warehouse Live. I have a good friend named Sacco — Chris Sacco, from the Houston band dUNE.TX, to be specific — so when I first saw the name…

Keeton Coffman, The Ghost EP

These days, it seems, Keeton Coffman’s a changed man. When I first ran across Coffman, he was the frontman for The 71’s, a well-respected alt-/indie-rock outfit, and I was a bit bemused, I’ll admit — live, he was so wild and bombastic and over-the-top that it seemed almost put on, like a persona he was wearing, That Crazy Rock Guy, complete with overblown stage antics. I liked the music, definitely…

Craig Kinsey, American Roots and Machines

There’s a darkness to America, to our history. It’s a stark, surprising contrast to a lot of our country’s accepted story, because we’ve managed to brand ourselves as this great, shining city on a hill, something other countries should aspire to emulate, to be…

Craig Kinsey: Digging Down to the Roots of It All

The last time I chatted with Craig Kinsey — “The Reverend,” as many people know him — he was working on a novel. He’s a man I consider with great respect to be the Godfather of the Houston Americana Music Scene, and back in 2012 he was living in a sweet little 1920s Montrose-area apartment. Since then he’s moved on to a gorgeous 1950s mid-century modern apartment…

PUJOL, KLUDGE

I used to obsess about lyrics. I methodically scrawled them across every surface I could find, particularly high school book covers; I was sure those words were this magical key that could help me unlock the frustrating, perplexing mysteries of the world. Obviously, that didn’t happen, but even now I can recite the lyrics to any pre-Black Album Metallica…

Live: Buxton’s 10-Year Anniversary Show

Ten years is a long time to be in a band. It’s like dog years. I’ve never been in a band for ten years — the band I’m in now has had the name for that long, but only one of the guys has been in the band the whole time… So like I said, ten years is a long time, and that’s something to celebrate…

Lisa’s Sons, Bummed Out

Well, now. Six years after their debut, Digital Nozzle, and long after I’d figured the duo (Stefan Mach and Jordan Brady) had gone their separate ways (and yeah, it sounds like they had, at least in the physical sense), Lisa’s Sons are finally back with the followup…

Lauryn Hill Stole the Show at FPSF 2014

Outside the gates of FPSF 2014 were members of the Communist Party of America passing out one-sheet pamphlets and issuing their warnings. Outside the gates were Wu-Tang Fans, too poor or too smart to enter…

Edge of Tomorrow

Somewhere in the not-too-distant now, aliens will/are/have invaded the world via a meteor landing in continental Europe. Aliens with the ability to replay periods of time (roughly 24-48 hours) over and over again, making them largely invincible. Or at least they were, until press officer William Cage (Tom Cruise) finds himself an unlikely front-line soldier…


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