This has been a great year for Houston music, both locally and nationally. A lot of musicians made great music this year — here is a list of a dozen of my favorites.
Houston Calling‘s favorite independent Houston releases of 2005
Tody Castillo, “Self-titled”
Houston Press named him the best unsigned act and the Houston Chronicle dubbed him a “future star” — obviously, the local press knows a good thing when they hear it (Castillo was also nominated this year for best rock/pop band, song of the year (“Independence Day”), and for songwriter of the year). Castillo’s album is my #1 pick of the year (I definitely listened to this album more than any other) — his songs bristle with love and loss, and show a strength of songwriting unparalleled this year. The wonderful pedal steel and Houston Press Music Awards-winning drums by Paul Valdez don’t hurt matters any.
Michael Haaga, “The Plus And Minus Show”
A complete reinvention — from metal maestro to pop genius. Haaga (and a Who’s Who of Houston musicians) crafted an excellent rock record that is virtually unclassifiable. After time in metal bands like deadhorse and Superjoint Ritual, Haaga released this album of expertly crafted songs, with solid songwriting and enough accessibility to earn it album of the year album honors in the Houston Press Music Awards (along with songwriter of the year, song of the year (“If and When”), local artist of the year, and best guitarist (for Kelly Doyle)). All well-deserved.
Drop Trio, “Cezanne”
This album shows the band in their element and at their best — in a live setting. Why these guys aren’t as huge as Medeski, Martin, and Wood, I’ll never know. Amazing stuff.
Various Artists, “I Hate It Here, I Never Want To Leave”
This local compilation contains some of the best underground acts in the Houston area, including The Jonx, Bring Back The Guns, Fatal Flying Guilloteens, Ume, Sjolander, the Kants, Satin Hooks, God’s Temple of Family Deliverance, The Squishees, Swarm of Angels, and Dead Roses. Look for it at Cactus or online at iTunes or CDBaby.
Spain Colored Orange, “Hopelessly Incapable of Standing in the Way” EP
Do you like ELO? Yeah, me too. You’ll like these guys as well — check them out.
John Evans Band, “Circling The Drain”
This rockabilly superhero mixes genres so seamlessly you’ll quickly forget there’s any country to his music at all. Circling The Drain is 100% rock’n’roll, kind of like The Clash meets Social Distortion, with a hint of classic country for credibility’s sake. He’s been described as “Merle Haggard on acid” and “Buddy Holly fronting AC/DC.” Good stuff — really catchy and well-done.
Cameron Dezen, “Love+Rescue”
For fans of Dido, Sarah McLachlan, Frou Frou, esthero, and Tori Amos. Here’s what Splendid Magazine had to say about Love+Rescue: “Her music simply reflects a life in the midst of significant change — falling in love, getting married, moving halfway across the country, (re)discovering religion, and so forth…There are a lot of female singer/songwriters…Cameron Dezen is better than most.”
The Jonx, “The Return Of The Death Of The Legacy Of The Revenge Of The Jonx”
Bizarrely original — you have to hear it to believe it. And they win the prize for best album title.
Studemont Project, “Avenue of the Observatory” EP
A great hip-hop record, with psychedelic overtones and laid-back grooves — two of my favorites things.
Rhenium, “Birth of a Century”
Loud experimental metal with good drums and decent lyrics. This could be Houston’s closest thing to Operation:Mindcrime. I like it. For fans of Tool, Queensryche, and Porcupine Tree.
Lanky, “Odd Hour Work Week”
Ranking up there with local musician Arthur Yoria as the hardest working man in local music, Lanky (who moved to Houston from New Jersey) is a constant on the local music scene these days. His music is mellow, smartly done, and well-written.
Houston indepedent releases of 2005 — honorable mentions
The Mechanical Boy, “Double Feature” (split CD with Muldoon)
Arthur Yoria, “Suerte Mijo” EP
Rozino Smith, “Blurry Summer”
Vibe Committee, “Flavor”
Ume, “Urgent Sea”
Funky Mustard, “Traiga la Paz”
Houston independent album I’m most looking forward to in 2006
The Dimes — hopefully they’ll put an album out. Their 2005 3-song demo is amazing. Listen here.
Other Houston independent albums to look for in 2006
Sharks and Sailors, EP
Southern Backtones, Self-titled (reissue with new songs)
Rozz Zamorano, A Musical Illustration of the Human Condition
Sitka Sound (not sure if an album is planned, but I hope they release one)
Enjoy. Now you have a Christmas list of things to buy your friends and family. Get to it.
Happy holidays — have a great Christmas.
If your band released an album in 2005, and I missed it — my apologies. Can’t listen to everything… Drop me a line here.
Now Playing: The Andy Williams Christmas Album