Houston Calling

Review: Starline, CJM

April 12th, 2016 · 1 Comment

Starline, CJM

While many may not yet be familiar with Starline‘s music, both band members have had an undeniable influence on the Houston music scene. Former Houston Rocket Matt Maloney founded 12 Records, which released Arthur Yoria’s still-impressive I’ll Be Here Awake in 2003, and Calvin Stanley was the frontman/guitarist for the long-running alt-rock band Pale (you may remember the video for “Catastrophic Skies”).

Obvious fans of Eighties-era 120 Minutes bands, Stanley and Maloney incorporate the more synth-driven influences of that time (Depeche Mode is an obvious example) into their songs, making them both modern and familiar. Mostly absent are the requisite guitar solos; instead, Starline intersperses them with a heavy dose of loops and beats.

The ragged edges of the gloomy “Platinum Spider” contrast nicely with the upbeat “Four On The Floor,” catchy “Redacted,” and melodic album-standout “Everyone Makes A Sound.” One of four songs on CJM reworked from a self-titled debut EP quietly released digitally a couple of years ago, it would easily fit into Pale’s catalog. Despite the obvious studio tinkering–the album reportedly took two years to make–the duo (with assistance from producer Steve Christensen) shows restraint.

Those familiar with Pale’s fondness for anthemic hooks certainly won’t be disappointed with the songs on CJM, and will find common ground with the album’s introspective lyrics. CJM shows Stanley and Maloney to be kindred spirits in their songwriting and musical tastes, and much of the album also brings to mind another scruffy, brooding frontman that likes to noodle in the studio: Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor. Their songs contain a similar strong undercurrent of pining for lost loves and frustration with current relationships (“I don’t want to descend to your condescension / I hate that I live and breathe you,” Maloney sings on “Unloveable”). Starline’s songs also show the men wrestling with the inevitability of growing older and the challenges, soul-searching, and jaded frustration this can bring.

For example, “Orphans”–another album high point–finds them coming to terms with the death of close family members (the album’s title is a tribute to Maloney’s brother, Christopher). “Will you come find us, if you can,” Stanley sings. “We just want to understand.”

There’s miscommunication, disenchantment, technophobia, anger, and this longing for meaning throughout Starline’s songs, along with a cocksure-yet-sensitive sense of “I’ve got nothing to lose and plenty left to prove.” This last aspect is most evident in album opener, “Bruise,” on which Stanley sings, “I’ve got a soul like a bulletproof vest / I’m hitting back at the expecting less.”

CJM combines these dark themes with mostly catchy–and often danceable–songs that weave Starline’s New Wave-era influences into something new without sounding overly derivative or dated. If Maloney and Stanley have something left to prove, it will be interesting to hear.

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Wish you were here: David Gilmour plays tonight in Chicago

April 8th, 2016 · No Comments

David Gilmour

David Gilmour plays tonight (Friday, 4.8.16) at Chicago’s United Center. This is a bucket list item for me.

Here are some videos from past shows:

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White Oak Music Halls opens tomorrow night with M83, Yacht

April 8th, 2016 · No Comments

The long-awaited new music venue White Oak Music Hall finally opens tomorrow night (Saturday, 4.9.16) with performances by M83 and Yacht. The venue–booked by Pegstar Productions–is set to host a lot of great upcoming shows, including The Flaming Lips, Explosions In The Sky, Reverend Horton Heat, and David Bazan.

M83, Yacht @ White Oak Music Hall, Houston, TX, 4.9.16

As indicated on the venue’s website:

Pegstar Productions, one of the largest independently-owned concert booking and promotions companies in the Southwest, will book and operate WOMH.  Perhaps best known for organizing the annual FPSF music festival in Houston, which attracts more than 80,000 attendees each year, Pegstar programmed well over 500 live events in 2014 alone.

More information and ticketing may be found at www.whiteoakmusichall.com.

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Cameron Dezen Hammon presents new album at Nightingale Room tonight

March 4th, 2016 · No Comments

Local musician Cameron Dezen Hammon‘s new album of 80’s and 90’s covers, Words Don’t Bleed, is now available, and the singer/songwriter celebrates with a show tonight (Friday, 3.4.16) at the Nightingale Room in downtown Houston. Showtime is 8:30pm.

Purchase the album online at amazon.com, buy it locally at the show tonight, or get it at Cactus Music.

More information may be found at www.camerondezenhammon.com.

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Free Press Summer Festival 2016 line-up announced

March 4th, 2016 · No Comments

The line-up for Free Press Summer Festival was announced this week, and includes another diverse set of bands. deadmau5, Modest Mouse, Violent Femmes, The Black Angels, Blue Healer, White Denim, The National, Trae Tha Truth, Built To Spill, Children of Pop, and many more will play June 4-5, 2016, in Houston’s Eleanor Tinsley Park.

Free Press Summer Festival

Advanced tickets are available now at www.fpsf.com.

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Starline album listening party tonight

February 25th, 2016 · 1 Comment

Local electro-rock band Starline–former Pale frontman/guitarist Calvin Stanley III and former NBA player Matt Maloney–releases its new album, CJM, today (2.25.16). It is available to purchase online and on streaming services.

The duo hosts an album listening party tonight in Houston at Hughes Hangar on Washington Ave. near downtown.

Houston Press recently published an article on Starline, which you can read here.

Visit Starline online at www.starline.band.

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Day For Night, Day 2 today

December 20th, 2015 · No Comments

Day two of Day For Night, Houston’s light and sound festival, is underway. Today you can catch Hearts Of Animals, Dan Deacon, Children of Pop, Flying Lotus, and more.

More information on the festival may be found at dayfornight.io.

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Cameron Dezen Hammon premieres video for “I’m On Fire” cover, help fund Words Don’t Bleed album + interview

December 7th, 2015 · No Comments

As previously posted, local musician Cameron Dezen Hammon is currently working on Words Don’t Bleed, an album of cover songs from the 80s and 90s, which you can help support at Pledgemusic. There are currently less than 10 days left in the campaign for the album.

Houston Calling is happy to bring you the video of Dezen’s version of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire”:

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I’ve also heard her version of “Addicted To Love,” which made me almost forget the original. It’s excellent.

Also, you can currently vote on which song by The Cure she should record for the album. I’m rooting for “A Night Like This.”

I recently asked Dezen Hammon some questions about the upcoming album.

Houston Calling: What prompted the idea for a covers album, or specifically an Eighties/Nineties covers album — songs originally performed by men, no less?

Cameron Dezen Hammon: I just finished a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing through Seattle Pacific University (I graduated in August,) and met some amazing poets and writers through the program. Poet Lisa Russ Spaar, during a talk she gave, said, “Art loves limits.” We were talking about how to manage one’s worldview and art. The concern was that having a particular idea of how things work, or seeing things within parameters, can limit what you create. Art has to be free, man! Her point was that when you give what you are creating limits, it has the chance to actuate, to become something. It has something to strain against. That’s why I chose those criteria. I don’t want to cover my sisters’– they’ve already done the best interpretations of the songs they sing. Interpreting songs that have originally been performed by men gives me the opportunity to think about gender and the way it influences the listeners’ perspective on the lyrics they are hearing.

HC: And also, how did you choose which songs to cover? I think I’d have a difficult time choosing one song from a band like The Cure, for example.

CDH: We are choosing the songs based first on requests, then out of that pool, I choose the ones that appeal to me, and then I sit down at the piano and see what happens. With The Cure, it’s been very difficult for obvious reasons. I had it narrowed down to “A Night Like This,” “Lovesong,” and “Just Like Heaven.” Then I played all three of them on the piano, and “Lovesong” came alive in a way the others didn’t. And then I realized Adele covered it, so I’m back to the drawing board.

HC: Is there any particular musician who’s influenced your music? How?

CDH: From a production standpoint for this record, yes. A friend of mine told me to get Lykki Li’s new album a few months ago and I did. I had heard of her, vaguely, but had no idea what her thing was. I got excited about sounds while listening to her. I love the way the drums and piano sound on her records. I love the way the vocals sound. She is not trying to make pretty records; beautiful yes, but maybe not “pretty.” There is a grit to the records I love. In terms of an artist who has influenced me nearly all of my life, and more than any other, Nina Simone. She wasn’t trying to make pretty records, either. Every note that ever came out of her mouth was devastating. That’s something to aspire to.
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Light & sound collide at upcoming Day For Night festival

December 6th, 2015 · No Comments

The good folks at Free Press Houston and Free Press Summer Festival host the upcoming Day For Night music festival, which combines light and sound to gives attendees a unique concert experience. The two-day festival–which runs December 19-20, 2015, near downtown Houston–features a slew of local musicians, such as Indian Jewelry, Hearts Of Animals, and Children Of Pop, along with an array of impressive acts such as New Order, Philip Glass Ensemble, Flying Lotus, and Battles.

Tickets to the event may be purchased at www.dayfornight.io.

Let’s hope New Order opens with this:

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Jim Ward plays Houston this Friday night

December 1st, 2015 · 2 Comments

El Paso’s Jim Ward, an excellent musician you may know from his work in Sparta, At The Drive-In, and Sleepercar, returns to Houston this Friday night (12.4.15) at play a solo show at Wonky Power Live.

I believe the last time Ward played Houston was at The Mink’s (RIP!) Back Room a few years back, and that was an excellent show. Ward’s latest Sleepercar release, the five-song EP Breathe and Count (out on his own Tembloroso label), is available for download now at www.Tembloroso.com.

I highly recommend the EP and the show.

Here’s a video from Sleepercar’s 2008 release:

…and an old one from Sparta:

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