By “best,” of course, I mean “my favorite.” And by “local,” I mean “Tarrant County.” For the most part. People from Dallas, Denton, and beyond have a lot to do with the great music that comes out of the 817 every year, and, contrary to popular belief, I do not have every local musician’s street address. Maybe a player in a “Fort Worth” band lives in Plano. Or, I dunno, McKinney. Or Lower Greenville. (Is that a place?) No worries. If I am anything, I am fair, and I will not hold a person’s non-Fort Worthiness against his or her Fort Worth band.
I know the Fort is not perfect, and I know it often seems like the biggest small town in the universe, where everybody knows everybody else’s flippin’ business, but I’m proud to live here. And I think Fort Worth artists don’t get the respect they deserve. To me, it seems as if workaday 817 bands receive Dallas or Denton press only after they’ve been excavated by Pitchfork, been invited to play a sanctioned showcase at South by Southwest, or have had their music spun on KXT.
So screw ’em. Boston, Detroit, Nashville, Portland, Seattle, and just about every other more established city with a population smaller than Fort Worth’s treats its quality hometown artists seriously, so why shouldn’t we? That’s the least that a Fort Worth-based publication can do.
10.) Slumberbuzz’ “Strung Out All the Time” is like a Monet to me: I don’t necessarily want it in my house, but I appreciate the hell out of it for what it is. And this track off the garage-rock quintet’s self-titled debut album sounds as if it came out in 1967: distant, tinny, and raw. Beginning with a soporific, slowly plucked electric guitar figure, over which frontman Jason Alford lazily whispers the lyrics, the song expands into a monstrous wall of sound, all fuzzed-out guitars and stomping drums, before returning to the reverie. Chase that dragon, baby.
9.) Are music videos still a thing? If not, someone should start a channel that plays nothing but … oh, wait. Anyway, for “The Healing,” off Southern Train Gypsy’s sophomore recording The Bastard, the hard-rock quintet made two vids. The second one features the guys in the band getting drunk, beating each other up, going on amusement park rides, and beating each other up some more. The first is stock footage of men in tights (circa the early ’80s) doing an aerobic routine onstage in a crowded, brightly lit auditorium. Guess which video is cooler? Either way, the tune is kickass. Tight, heavy, and heavily melodic, it’s mod-rock but with black eyes instead of black eyeliner.
8.) Though I prefer the live version, I still dig the iteration of “The Tuck” on Rivercrest Yacht Club’s long-in-the-making sophomore album, Aqua Naughty. Swishy neo-disco beats with funny lyrics from the fictional perspectives of drag queens (the song’s original title was “The Tranny Tuck”) demand booty shaking. The RYC plays Saturday, Dec. 21, at Lola’s Saloon with Austin/Mexico’s Oh Whitney.
7.) The only reason this song isn’t listed higher is that the damn band broke up. Regardless, Sonic Buffalo’s “What It Is” is the closest thing in North Texas to Jane’s Addiction that I’ve ever heard, and I mean that in the best way possible: Drums and guitars pound headlong in 4/4 time beneath frontman Tac Willy’s high, nasally voice: “Yeah, I can see it in your eye-eeeees, your eye-eeeees, yeah, your eye-eee-eees.” He keeps the melody going until the next-to-last line, when he sings, “We’re never gonna die” and repeats the long “e” sound four times, each note ricocheting off and leapfrogging over the other. The result is a crazy, colorful staccato starburst that’ll reaffirm your faith in the raaawk! I don’t know what the two main songwriters, guitarist Christian Funes and drummer Valmir Hajro, are doing now, but I hope they’re still kicking it together.
6.) Fogg is going down a very specific path here, one strewn with human bones and shrouded in the howls of savage wolves and a purple haze. But if a band is into sludgy, psychedelic doom metal, it could do a lot worse than simulate Black Sabbath. Thing is, I’d much rather listen to “Time Ride” than anything Ozzy and his boys have to offer these days. Frontman/bassist Brandon Hoffman, guitarist Chase Jowell, and drummer Ethan Lyons have gone from young apprentices to masters. Brutal, narcotizing, and fuzzy, with Hoffman incanting the lyrics in an Ozzy-esque whine, “Time Ride” is the definition of face-melting.
5.) “Follow My Feet” is getting all the airplay nationally and locally (thanks, KXT), but The Unlikely Candidates’ second single, “Howl,” is a lot catchier and smarter. Smarter musically, that is. Instead of repeating a few words during the chorus like most radio pop acts do, frontman Kyle Morris sings, hitting all kinds of notes. Lyrically, the song’s pretty dumb. Instead of Allen Ginsberg, think sparkly werewolves and shit. But there’s just no stopping that gigantic, juicy chorus from sinking its fangs into your brain parts. Rrraaar.
4.) Son of Stan, a.k.a. Jordan Richardson, may live in L.A., but he’s still a homeboy –– he’s a bigger fixture on the North Texas scene than 75 percent of the musicians who, y’know, live here. On his debut album, Divorce Pop, Richardson articulates a theme that’s as sturdy lyrically as it is visually and sonically: disaffected youth in their parents’ sensible cars cruising early-’90s suburbia at twilight while believing wholeheartedly that life is happening everywhere they aren’t. Via squishy beats, guitars that seem to have rubber bands for strings (lots of boing), and Richardson’s downy, aloof, echoing voice, that melancholy vibe is best manifest on “Corsica.” A non-sarcastic slice of early-’80s underground pop, the song is as warm and meaty as a helping of Salisbury steak with a side of applesauce. Over a rhythm that undulates slowly, oozing back and forth between high and low tones, and an uptempo beat, Richardson sings, “A survey / At the mall / Found that seven out of 10 are appalled / At the way / It went down / You put the goddamn thing in the ground.” The sonic drama is ratcheted up for a breath before Richardson swiftly declares, “It’s hard enough to even make it go” and the tune peels out of sight: brrrrzzzzzng. See ya at the Benetton. Son of Stan plays Friday, Dec. 20, at Double Wide with Fort Worth/Dallas R&B/blues purveyors Foxtrot Uniform and Fort Worth soul muthas We’reWolves.
3.) Why aren’t more people going gaga over The Frisky Disco? They rock balls A.), and B.) they’re cool dudes. I’ll even go as far as to defy you to listen to “Step It Up” and not think, Goddamn, that Hayden Miller cat can sing or Man, that Tyler Vela dude can play. The sonic references are obvious, but in being mixed together they’re somehow also sublimated. In other words, if you’re like me and you dig AC/DC and The New York Dolls, you’re gonna love this nearly four minutes of blistering blues-rock fury that came out both on our 2013 Music Awards charity compilation CD and the Disco’s self-titled debut album. From a call and response between hiccupping riffage and a series of rapid-fire lyrics, the song explodes into a head-banging chorus that finds guitars ringing, cymbals crashing, and Miller shouting –– in a singing-like way, of course –– to step up your mother-fucking game, brah! Two words: Bad. Ass.
2.) Seriously, for a person like me, who loves unadulterated yet smart indie-pop, all six songs off Calhoun’s new EP, Paperweights, are delicious. But for the sake of not embarrassing co-songwriters Tim Locke and Jordan Roberts any further than I already have over the years with my 12-point Times New Roman love, I’ll limit my ardor to “Fatal Flaws.” The intro –– a steely, fluttering industrial beat and chugging muted guitars –– is more than a little portentous and Nine Inch Nails-y, but the ziiing of six ebullient strings flips the script. Ah, yes! There’s the pretty Calhoun we all know and love. But frontman Locke pulls a little Jekyll-and-Hyde trick, singing the first two lines in his normally high register before lowering his voice an octave to deliver the rest of the strophe, subtly transforming what started out as an unapologetic floor-filler into something rich, deep, and genuine. Calhoun plays Saturday, Dec. 28, at Lola’s with Burning Hotels and Ronnie Heart.
1.) “Train Rolled Home,” the next-to-last track off Quaker City Night Hawks’ last album, the 12-song Honcho, is bruising, ominous, and powerful. Defiantly uncomplicated, this rock hymn, if there could be said to be such a thing, boils down to a filigreed finger-plucked acoustic riff over swelling electric guitars and organ, the lurching boom … pap … boom … pap of the drums, and co-frontman David Matsler’s gut-wrenching singing, his gravelly voice commanding yet forlorn. “I know this train is rollin’ / All the way to gloooryyy.” Not only is no other band in North Texas melding the essences of old-timey gospel and rock, but I don’t think any other band here can. As fantastic as Quaker City’s barroom bombast is, the quintet’s explorations of hymnody are utterly spine-tingling. Quaker City Night Hawks play New Year’s Eve (Tuesday, Dec. 31) with Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights and The Roomsounds at Granada Theater. Tickets are $24.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few songs, and if I have, I’ll make quick mention of them next week in a list of my favorite Tarrant County albums of 2013.