In Defense of Ace Frehley's New Solo Album

Categories: Listen Up!

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Entertainment One Music
Spaceman cometh.
The drugs and booze sure did a number on Ace Frehley's face, I remember thinking as I was watching him play alongside the Roots during a recent airing of the Tonight Show.

See, I was a KISS fan growing up, and don't think there's any shame in that. (For the record, I'm younger than 40.) Frehley was the on-again/off-again lead guitarist of the group. When I became a KISS fan, for a brief moment in my childhood anyway, it wasn't because I was into their music. I was into the theater of it all: the face paint, the blood and smoke, the characters, that movie, and especially the tin lunch boxes. It was all terrible and fun at the same time.


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Bands: Texas Is Good Enough for Your Limited Tour

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Alien8 Recordings
Unicorns
This article isn't a gripe about the local music scene, which has actually been looking up for a while now, nor is it even about Houston specifically. Instead, it's about all those wonderful reunion tours that continue to pop up, only to avoid certain areas of the United States entirely.

A few weeks ago, my hopes were ignited when I read a headline about the Unicorns reuniting. In that instant, I wanted to do any and everything it took to catch at least one of the dates on their tour.

First, if the Unicorns' name doesn't sound familiar, their music probably would. For anyone who has ever been to a concert at Walters, it's highly likely you've heard the Montreal trio being played as the house music between sets. Additionally, Nick Thorburn went on to form Mister Heavenly with Man Man's Honus Honus and Arrested Development's Michael Cera, as well as Islands with Unicorns bandmate Jamie Thompson; at least the latter will be at Walters Downtown on Sept. 6.


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Craig Kinsey Studies Hard on American Roots and Machines

Categories: Listen Up!

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Photo courtesy of Zenhill Records
I don't really feel that it's right to criticize Craig Kinsey's American Roots and Machines as an album. It doesn't really feel like one aside from the fact that it is a CD that goes round and plays music. Instead, Kinsey has gone to great lengths to build a stage in your mind, and the record plays more like a film for the ears.

One of the keenest sentiments expressed on the album comes from "I'm Not Part of a Scene." It's a raging, hard rockabilly rant against norms and genres and his refusal to be a part of either. Honestly it's a bit juvenile, though eloquently expressed, and also completely sincere. Never let it be said that Kinsey is afraid to dance outside of his comfort zone.

Song styles on Machines run from pure Southern gospel to straight blues and even into the occasional rock piece. Kinsey even pulls out aspects of opera on the brief but fun "Puccini's Drunk Again," which frankly scans closer to Kurt Weill to these ears. But that might actually be the joke, and maybe I'm too thick to get it.


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Illegal Wiretaps Back Off the Deep End on 79th Release (!)

Categories: Listen Up!

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Photo courtesy of Illegal WIretaps
I forget it sometimes, but The Illegal Wiretaps are really one of Houston's most prolific acts. Their Bandcamp page has, no kidding, 79 different releases, and the brand-new Scintillating Scumbag is the third this year alone. Sure, most of them are short EPs, but even with just four songs or so per record that's still a catalog of more than 200 songs.

It's really time for us as a city to take a good hard look at this electronic nuttiness that's being peddled by Stephen Wyatt and Anthony June, who seems to have sat this album out. They really are our own version of the Legendary Pink Dots, and every time I recover from their last album and walk back into the insanity it's another life-altering experience.

Scumbag picks up fast, hard and harsh with the title track; as far as Illegal Wiretaps songs go, it's as close to typical as such an indescribable band's can be, but they really up the ante in the next song. "Jeering," while losing none of that crackling pain, brings out a more melodic, almost gothic vocal styling that calls to mind something like Gary Numan at his most soothing.


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Hearts of Animals' Mutation Poses a Beautiful Puzzle

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One of my favorite things about reviewing music in Houston is that you don't just appreciate or criticize the music the city produces. You solve it like a video-game puzzle...if you're lucky. How can someone really stand up and try to do a conventional review of a P.L.X.T.X. album? That's not dancing about architecture, it's more like trying to describe the beauty of a butterfly to a blind water snake by putting it in one of Jigsaw's traps.

Case in point: Mlee Marie Mains and her wild band, of which she is sometimes the only member, Hearts of Animals. The woman is brilliant, and so is the music on her latest album, Another Mutation.


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John Egan Turns the Blues Black on Amulet

Categories: Listen Up!

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Photos courtesy of South Central Music
It's a crime that I've been up till now unaware of bluesman John Egan, but I'm hoping to rectify that by taking a deep look into his latest album Amulet. If you ask me, Houston's greatest unsung treasure is the sheer number of folks that we have that can take you out of the blue and into the black with little more than a voice and a guitar. Shellee Coley, Tomas Glass, and of course Jandek to name just a few. Few do it with such mastery of the guitar part as Egan, though.

If you're the type that needs to skip to a track to get to the meat as fast as you can, then definitely the highlight of the record is "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean." Of the 11 tracks on Amulet, the old Blind Lemon Jefferson standard is probably the most straightforward blues song. But God in Heaven and all His angels, the production on the song is something from outside the realm of this world.


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Shellee Coley's Fiery Faith Burns Through Bridges

Categories: Listen Up!

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To tell you why I loved Shellee Coley's latest album, Songs Without Bridges, first I need to tell you about James Caronna. Both artists are people I discovered after getting to know Jeffery Armstreet at Red Tree Recording Studio, and both produce a similar type of Americana-flavored acoustic pop that is one of my favorite genre types.

In Caronna's case his first album Everybody Wants to be in Love kind of, well, sucked. Still, I kept tabs on him because you never know when someone is going to become something different. Well, Caronna did after making a bitter and public split with his religion and transforming the resulting angst into one of my favorite musical moments of 2013.

"I mentally said, 'Fuck it!", Caronna says via email. "I no longer let other people dictate the content of my art. The church was doing that to me, I left them wrote for two years and the album is what I came up with.


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Goooooooal!! A Mostly Musical Guide to Enjoying the World Cup

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Photo courtesy of nikeinc.com
U.S. Men's National Soccer fans, HAIM
When did World Cup soccer start mattering to U.S. fans? I know many of us have doled out orange slices and cursed at volunteer officials at youth league games, but interest in the pro soccer pitch is apparently now at fever pitch.

The global football tournament begins this afternoon and won't end until the finalists square off for a true world title in Rio de Janeiro on July 13. Whether you care about FIFA, spot kicks or wall passes (these are soccer terms, people), you have to admit there's nothing like a month-long party.

If you don't think World Cup soccer has anything to do with music, think again, mon frere. In celebration of the planet's largest single sport tournament, here's a music-oriented guide to the games.


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MC Chris Is in Town; Maybe He'll Come Over

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Photos courtesy of MC Chris
Rapper MC Chris has a significant and sometimes intensely personal relationship with his fans.

How personal? He's been known to crash fans' house parties or just stop by to play video games. He includes them in T-shirt design and remix competitions on his Web site. He reaches out to them to help fund research against a debilitating disease. They've been his lifeblood over a nearly ten-year music career.

Houston fans have two chances to catch him this week. He's hosting a screening of How To Train Your Dragon 2 tonight at Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park and tomorrow he'll be one of dozens of acts braving the heat at Houston's Vans Warped Tour stop.


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Those $9.37 Kendrick Lamar Tickets Sold Out in an Hour

Categories: Listen Up!

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Update, May 23 12:56 p.m.: You guys move quick. We barely had a chance to tweet this story out before all the tickets were scooped up; they weren't joking when they said "limited tickets available."

Here's a statement from Doug Hall over at BBVA:

This is going to be a great show and we thought a $9.37 promotion with the BEAT was a great way to kick off the holiday weekend. Clearly, since the available ticket inventory went in a hour, we are thrilled that the customers responded.

If you're like me and you didn't get the chance to scoop up a ticket while they were on the cheap, regular price tickets are still available. Have a great Memorial Day weekend.

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