Better late than never… There are many of reasons I haven’t posted this sooner, among them a move and a month without internet access. Despite my tardiness, you should still check out the albums by Houston musicians that I enjoyed the most during 2008.
2008 goes down in history as one of the best years in recent memory for local music, which you can read more about on The Skyline Network’s year-end extravaganza. I listen to a lot of music, and the albums that immediately stick with me once I hear them are the ones I know I’ll return to for a long time to come. I have listed 10 of my favorite Houston albums–there were many more great local releases this year, and a lot of interesting live music being made here as well. I can’t wait to hear what 2009 has to offer.
Houston Calling‘s 10 favorite Houston releases of 2008
1. Flowers To Hide, Down The Stairs EP
I listened to the three songs on this EP more than any other Houston album this year–and enough to have it come in at No. 8 on my top 20 favorites of 2008 list (which you can read here). Flowers To Hide relies heavily on the glam and showmanship of the best Britrock and shoegazer bands–and it works. “503,” “Lady Snow,” and “Sometime Maybe Never Again” each resonate with the same swagger as Echo & The Bunnymen, Oasis, and early Cult songs. That says a lot about the quality and catchiness of these songs.
2. Buxton, A Family Light
This is Houston’s Wilco and the band should/will/better go far.
Watch: “Holy Water Revival”
3. Paris Falls, Vol. 2
Paraphrasing my review of Vol. 2: With subtle harmonies, melodic drones, and simple chords intact, Paris Falls touts its classic rock influences proudly–you’ll hear hints of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, among others–but the band thankfully doesn’t completely rely on the tried and true. Instead, it creates calm and warm songs that seem to flow seamlessly into each other.” After seeing the band cover Rush, I was even more impressed.
Watch: live at Rudyard’s
4. Mechanical Boy, Play Along
From my review of the album: “Fans of The Killers, Interpol, Fall Out Boy, and Kill Hannah will undoubtedly rally around the album’s somebody-done-somebody-wrong songs, and Play Along’s pop-infused, melodic alt-rock ranks it among the most accomplished albums by a Houston band this year.” Oh, and their Tears For Fears cover songs are pretty cool too.
Watch: live at fitzgerald’s
5. Something Fierce, There Are No Answers
One of the hardest-working bands in the city, this punk trio proves that determination pays off. The band seems to get more popular with each month, and the fact the group takes the time to get out of the city to tour shows it’s serious about the music. Something Fierce’s latest album–which includes the catchy, anthemic “Hey Houston,” “Modern Girl,” and “Aliens”–has the same raw charm as Come For The Bastards but shows a more mature side of the band.
Watch: Album promo
6. Sharks and Sailors, Builds Brand New
From my review of Builds Brand New: “At times, the band’s songs are shoegazey mellow (”Cliffs”) yet other songs employ hard-edged guitars (”Rickshaw,” “Terminal Lessons,” “Fix Your Radar”) that build on Sharks and Sailors’ past penchant for ear-shredding riffs. “Builds Brand New”’s snare drum beat alone makes it one of of the year’s catchiest tunes and Rollin’s lyrics give it an edge that makes it the perfect anti-pop song (”And when the blood’s drawn straight from you / It hurts, it gets me through / With the knives that slice on queue / They tear, they stab right through”).”
7. Motion Turns It On, Live at the Southpaw
A great instrumental rock record that makes me remember why I love music so much. Here’s what I had to say about the album upon its release: “With hints of jazz, modern post-rock, and a heavy dose of prog, the album–recorded at Brooklyn’s Southpaw–gives listeners a taste of the four-piece in its best environment: live...Live At The Southpaw cements the group’s place as one of Houston’s most technically proficient and inventive bands making music today.”
8. Born Liars, 7-inches
Every time these guys hit the stage I imagine it must be similar to seeing the rock bands that came out of New York and Detroit in the late 70s–gritty and raw, guitar-fueled rock that’s big on riffs, short on substance, and the better for it. Born Liars’ tight garage rock is something no local band comes close to imitating. Frontman Jimmy Sanchez is the Joe Strummer of Houston punk–sedate but snarling–and songs like “Go Back One Day” (from one of the band’s two 7-inch releases this year) and “View From Here” from 2006’s Exit Smiling never fail to leave me with a better appreciation of music. However, I still miss Sanchez’s old punk outfit Gun Crazy something fierce. Oh wait…
Watch: live at Rudz
9. Craig Kinsey, The Burdener
This solo release from the Sideshow Tramps front man is an accomplished album that took me by surprise. It seems clichd to recommend the album to fans of Bob Dylan and Tom Waits, but it shows the depth of Kinsey’s songwriting. The Burdener is an album you’ll return to many times for many years.
Watch: “Montrose Blvd Blues”
10. John Evans, Lucky 13
As always, Evans winds his way down the rockabilly road with his new album. While his more recent efforts with the John Evans Band were more rock than country, Evans is a musician that is always true to his roots. His latest batch of songs is the perfect backdrop to long nights (and/or days) spent in dark bars.
Watch: “Going Down Loud”
I also enjoyed The Mighty Orq‘s To The Bone a lot (“She put the ‘h-o’ in Houston…” cracks me up).
Be sure to show your support for these local artists by purchasing their music.