Why is local, original music such a hard sell? Don’t get me wrong: Lots of people go to local shows and buy local albums and songs, but too many folks seem content just to sit back and swallow whatever they’re spoon-fed by commercial radio, magazines, and blogs (and, yes, even some allegedly “local” publications).
Is discovering local music simply too difficult? Does the thought of working all day, eating dinner, driving to a venue, forking over cash for a cover charge, forking over cash for cocktails (or not), listening to music, and then getting home safely just give most people tired-head?
Still, even if the rigmarole associated with going out and actually seeing bands (which is the best way to judge them) is too much for some folks, there exists a wonderful invention called the internet. Every band in the world — including the ones in your backyard — is on it. There’s nothing stopping you the next time you pick up your favorite local publication from taking note of the bands written about that sound good to you and looking them up on the web.
With last year’s groundbreaking eponymous album, Burning Hotels established themselves as the giants of North Texas synth-pop, racking up regional praise and steady airplay on The Local Edge with Mark (KDGE/102.1-FM). Led by co-songwriters Matt Mooty and Chance Morgan, the nearly 10-year-old band is embarking on a West Coast tour this month, with an East Coast tour in the works. … The other veteran group on this list, Calhoun, consistently turns out smooth, propulsive pop with dashes of roots and rock, a sound that crystallized on last year’s best-album winner Heavy Sugar — you can regularly hear cuts from that gem on KXT/91.7-FM. The brainchild of co-songwriters Tim Locke and Jordan Roberts, the band recently added a new bassist, Danny Balis (The King Bucks, Sports Radio 1310 The Ticket), and is currently writing new material. … This year’s breakout band has to be Pinkish Black, the duo of veteran musos Daron Beck (vocalist/keyboardist) and Jon Teague (drummer), whose molten, ominous orchestral-doom has earned kudos from no less an international tastemaking publication than Pitchfork. The band’s recently released self-titled debut album is a masterstroke in elegant brutality. … EPIC RUINS deals in psychedelic stoner-rock and is a super-group of sorts, built around co-songwriters Jordan Richardson (Ben Harper & Relentless7) and Steve Steward (Oil Boom, Vorvon, Kevin Aldridge & The Appraisers) plus frontman Sam Anderson (Quaker City Night Hawks) and saxophonist Jeff Dazey (Josh Weathers & The True+Endeavors, Gunga Galunga, Dazey Chain). … The Orbans have been hard at work on a follow-up to 2010’s superb When We Were Wild, a marvelous blend of power pop, folksy jangle, and heavy roots — you can always hear Orbans tunes on KXT and The Local Edge with Mark. … Quaker City Night Hawks might just be the hardest-working band in Fort Worth. In the span of one year, they released their debut album, ¡Torquila Torquila!, got into SXSW backing L.A. singer-songwriter Jenny O., and put out a live album in anticipation of their forthcoming sophomore studio effort. … Telegraph Canyon continues delivering its brand of lush, folksy roots rock and is working on a long-awaited follow-up to 2009’s spellbinding The Tide and The Current. The new album will also be produced by Will Johnson (Centro-matic, South San Gabriel). … Whiskey Folk Ramblers are North Texas’ answer to Calexico and Squirrel Nut Zippers, drawing from an eclectic mix of musical traditions and infusing everything with a fun, madcap style that’s uniquely Whiskey Folk. — Zack Shlachter
This year’s nominees are a mix of seasoned vets and some relative newcomers, each with a specific take on the genre. With last year’s self-titled full-length, Burning Hotels’ moody, synth-favoring dance-rock proved that, fast or slow, a great hook goes a long way. This year it’s taken the songwriting vehicle for Matt Mooty and Chance Morgan to the top of the pecking order in all of North Texas, not just in the Fort. … Calhoun has been quiet the past couple of months but is still one of the best-respected indie bands in North Texas, cranking out anthemic, flavorful rock with clever lyrics. … Like Calhoun, Fate Lions are a KXT fave, serving up singalong choruses and sticky power-pop. … The Hanna Barbarians’ bluesy stomp hits you like a whiskey tsunami. Onstage, these guys play like they’re rocking arenas, which, actually, is the only way to rock. … KatsüK blends world-beat with classic-rock influences, conjuring an undeniably positive vibe. Led by singer-songwriter Daniel Katsük, the band is about to release its long-awaited sophomore album, Zero Point. … After you get to the end of Secret Ghost Champion’s recently released debut album, Psychosomatic Immortality, you might wonder what planet these guys are from. A blessedly weird mix of catchy melodies, spacey textures, and jazzy solos, the songs might sound like classic-rock deep cuts. But they aren’t. … Skeleton Coast masks Pet Shop Boys-ish pop in the guise of swirling psychedelia, everything brought to life onstage with an eye-popping light show. — Steve Steward
Brenna Manzare, a Colleyville native who only recently kindled her inner songstress, linked up with some friends’ friends — two guys from oso closo — to form her current outfit, and their brand of electric folk is familiar but also hard to pin down. … Melody-obsessed proto-punk rockers Doom Ghost, whose three members cite dead ’60s bluesmen and dead Russian novelists as influences, are angular and raw. The trio’s recently released debut album of alleged demos made HearSay’s list of the top albums of 2011. … Doom Ghost frequently shares stages with another nominee, “don’t-wopping” (a mix of doo-wop and punk) nostalgists War Party, a rowdy quartet whose tunes are rough around the edges but have creamy centers. … Minimalist duo Foxtrot Uniform, on the other hand, taps into indie-blues for inspiration. Guitarist/vocalist Kenny Uptain and drummer/backup vocalist Kelly Test have recorded a bunch of songs at Test’s home studio and hope to release the fruits of that labor, the album Huj! Huj! Hajrah! (Hungarian for “fast, fast, faster”), by August. … Gonzo City’s five-member hive of musically adventurous juju packs many styles (read: lots of ska) into its post-punk jams. Inspired equally by The Pixies and Tom Waits, GC will release its debut album, Pretty and Violent, soon. … Madràs — brothers Jeevan and Mathew Antony with drummer Ben Hance (Secret Ghost Champion frontman) — purvey honey-sweet indie-rock that’s also contemplative and moody. … One of the most recent additions to the F-Dub scene is Rotten Roots, a foursome of three middle-aged reformed punks and a young drummer, churning out unmistakably Texan punk-blues — let’s call it blues-collar rock. … Though singer-songwriter Tim Platt isn’t exactly new to the scene, his revolving-door backing band, All That Is Beautiful, has only recently begun to congeal — and at Esoterica, of all places, holding down a residency at the salon’s West 7th corridor flagship address. … Another relative newcomer is We the Sea Lions, a band whose music we refer to, advisedly, as indie-pop brilliance. — Matthew McGowan
The favorites here might be long-running sepia-toned rockers Telegraph Canyon, but don’t count out bright roots-lovers The Orbans or the gritty and Stones-ish Will Callers. Relative newcomer Badcreek is also a contender, making outlaw rocking seem deceptively easy. … If your beer is missing a tear, Jody Jones will help you stare down the barrel of whatever’s bugging you. His melancholy voice and nihilist lyrics offer little in the way of pep talks, but damned if they don’t hurt so good. … Veteran singer-songwriter Kevin Aldridge has put to rest his former vehicle, Chatterton, and is coming correct with his new project, The Appraisers. Like Chatterton, they blend folksy melodies with good old-fashioned countrified rock. Aldridge’s forthcoming solo album will include production work and backing instrumentation from multi-instrumentalist Scott Davis and drummer Kenny Smith, two guys who earn their living backing Americana superstar Hayes Carll. — M.M.