-Us Creates Dance Music For Difficult Breakups

Photo by Mark C. Austin
Jackson Pollack once said that "Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is."

The Houston artist known as -Us is in pursuit of making music that reflects who he truly is. Certainly, what multi-instrumentaist Avery Davis has done is to distill the finer points of great -80s synthpop bands like New Order, Xymox, Soft Cell and Pet Shop Boys into something emotionally raw and relevant. His first EP as -Us, V.XXVII.IX., is a promising first step in the process of earnest artistic self-discovery.

Older listeners wax nostalgic for magical moments music once held when they were young. Here, I remember hearing "Plainsong" by the Cure when Disintegration was released in 1989. I can remember riding in my friend's Datsun 280z during an overcast day when he slid the tape into the deck, a perfect setting for a band well-known for its melancholy mopery.

What happened next was nothing short of otherworldly.

More »

Two Star Symphony vs. the Seven Deadly Sins

Categories: Listen Up!

Photos by Sarah Prikryl
Houston's own neo-classical darlings in Two Star Symphony are back with their first full-length album in three years. Seven Deadly Sins lives up to its name, exploring each of the classical transgressions in seven individual songs.

Normally I don't go through an album song by song, but that's Two Star Symphony for you; they don't do anything normal. The question is, how does each composition explore the core concept of the sin that it represents?

Let's find out.

More »

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Kanye

Screengrab/NBC's #SNL40
Kanye's prone...to unfair criticism.
Not to go full Giuliani here, but I too must admit something I feel horrible for saying. I've possibly been judging Kanye West's recent art by one of the worst criteria of all, namely the company he keeps.

Specifically, Kim and the Kardashian fold. As hard as West has worked to float to the top, I've somehow deemed his in-laws a dense weight that threatens to pull him down to not-very-deep depths.

This is a terrible confession to have to make, primarily because any artist deserves better but also because if one is able to regularly share thoughts about music, it's best to focus on the music. This task becomes trickier if the musicians we follow are also celebrities whose exploits are documented and can be polarizing; see Kanye as Jesus on a magazine cover or his "Bush doesn't care about black people" comments.

More »

Josiah Gabriel's Infinity Machines Astonish Fitz Crowd

Photos by Susan Wyatt
The sound of Houston today: Josiah Gabriel, infinity machines
This is what it must have felt like to live during the time when the gift of tongues was dispensed upon Jesus' apostles.

A pentecostal spirit swept through Fitzgerald's downstairs during Josiah Gabriel's set Thursday, reducing the history of modern music into 25 minutes. The few people present during his set witnessed the art of the remix, the convergence of house yesterday and today, and a minimalist ethos coupled with rap's present trap craze. Imagine Steve Reich sitting down with Chief Keef to make a one-take recording and dropping like Drake's surprise mixtape.

More »

Drake Drops May 17 Arena Theatre Date

Photo by Violeta Alvarez
Drake, the last time he was in the Houston area.
Let us, for a moment, put our dreams of a Drake and Kanye album away for a moment; here in Houston we have bigger Drake news to deal with.

Out of nowhere, much like his new mixtape, comes news that Drake is hitting the circular stage at the Arena Theatre, and tickets are onsale...now?

Happy Friday, Houston!

More »

Drake's Surprise Album Raises His Game Further Still

Photo by Marco Torres
Shown during last year's Houston Appreciation Weekend, Drake inserts plenty of Bayou City tags into new surprise album If You're Reading This...
Last Thursday night was Drake night. Again.

A year after the Toronto rapper not only stamped his name as hip-hop's current king with a tour of his Nothing Was the Same album and a virtual parade in his honor in Houston last June, the rapper decided the time was right to release a surprise mix-album upon fans.

The record is entitled If You're Reading This It's Too Late It's cryptic, almost the most Drake-ish title since his "Would You Like a Tour?" set of shows two years ago. It's also not free, like any traditional mixtape, whereas about six years ago Drake had the most significant changing-of-the-guard free release with So Far Gone. He's about maximization in the age of the millennial, always to be seen, heard and thought of. If he knows he can drop a random tape on iTunes and it'll go gold in a matter of four days, he'll do so. He's that confident these days.

More »

Bob Seger's System Satisfies Every Time

Photos by Eric Sauseda
Bob Seger's exuberance quickly spread to Saturday's Toyota Center crowd.
Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, Heartless Bastards
Toyota Center
February 14, 2015

Love was undoubtedly in the air on Valentine's evening at Toyota Center. Throngs of die-hard Bob Seger fans poured into the arena to celebrate their undying devotion to their favorite Detroit son, while he and his expansive crew of top-notch performers poured every ounce of that devotion right back into the audience. Through their 18-song set of classic rock gold and two well-earned encores, Seger and company reaffirmed why fans have been loving his blue-collar rock since the 1960s.

His catalog of hits includes a decent amount of "slow and steady" songs, so one might make an assumption that his stage show might not exactly captivate the audience with excitement. This would be a horribly inaccurate assumption. Seger, who donned a sweatband around his silvery locks and smiled with pure joy throughout the entire show, ran around the stage as if it would be his last, giving the audience a performance from the heart.

More »

PuraPharm Kills It on Debut EP

Categories: Listen Up!

Photo courtesy of PuraPharm
I spend so much of my time looking for the strange and the peculiar that sometimes I forget what rock and roll sounds like. Just old-school, well-done rock and roll executed to the acme of its ability. Thank God PuraPharm is around to remind me.

The band is finally releasing their debut, self-titled EP, and man it is a freakin' doozey. Their sound just has what can only be described as stank. Down and dirty stank that would be the perfect soundtrack to sex or murder, take your pick. Tessa Cole's voice is somewhere between a Joplin wail and the siren call of Poe, all laid over this pounding, slow, methodical groove that just can't be beat.

It opens strong with "Medicine Girl," and the dual of Kole and Davis Jumper's guitars is magic. It's a thick recording that bowls you over so hard that it's easy to miss the intricacies. The bass of Paul Adams and Niki Sims-Gimore's saxophone are almost lost to the ear until you learn to pick them out of the effect-heavy treble wail. You feel them more than you hear them, but it's strong enough to travel up and down your spine.

More »

TV Girl Tops a Bacchanalia of Overstimulation at Fitz

Susan Wyatt
Children of Pop's Chase DeMaster reinforces Jam Master Jay's Notion that a DJ can be a one-man band.
If Greek Bacchanalian festivals existed today, delirious dancing would be performed by stark raving madmen and women filled with MDMA instead of wine, listening to the clanging of beats and displaced rhythms, replacing the terrifying ancient custom of uprooting large trees with celebratory joy. Today's partakers of Dionysian worship display their reverence passively, clapping their hands and bobbing their heads.

Moments of overstimulation and elements of gaudiness coupled with pure unadulterated joy lined Thursday night's show at Fitzgerald's, featuring Austin's scintillating Sphynx, Houston musical auteurs Children of Pop, and L.A.'s TV Girl. Madness ensued, in a good way, generating joy felt by all those who welcomed it.

More »

Is D'Angelo's Black Messiah Really That Good?

Categories: Listen Up!

Photo by Greg Harris/RCA Records
It took maybe the final three weeks of 2014 before I truly realized that D'Angelo had released an album. That sentence alone sounds like a Christmas miracle but there we sat, enjoying our lives with a brand new D'Angelo album to dissect and enjoy.

Wait -- let us backtrack. D'Angelo is an enigmatic singer whose 1995 debut album covered plenty of old soul while mixing in a bit of laid-back lounge refrains and effortless cool. The tag "neo-soul" was attached to it. Five years later, he appeared in front of us, shirtless with chiseled abs and crowed about being in the mood for love, sometimes subtracting lyrics for elongated adlibs and ooohs. His signature moment, "Untitled (How Does It Feel)," may have single-handedly sent boys on the verge of adulthood to the gym so they could look like D'Angelo for their ladies, complete with lip curl, sexual desire and seduction. All of it.

More »