Monday November 28, 2011 – Tracy Shedd * The Mathletes

Tracy Shedd (Jacksonville, FL / Tucson, AZ)

Multi-instrumentalist Tracy Shedd provides just that with her piano debut EP88 , as seductive guitar melodies and string arrangements whirl around her silky, plush vocals. The grandeur of Tracy Shedd ‘s follow-up to Cigarettes & Smoke Machines ( Teenbeat , 2008) proves she is only, as she sings in “How Your Eyes Affect Me,” “scratching the surface.”

While she was growing up in Jacksonville, FL, Shedd ‘s parents (her mother a Country Singer and her father a Fisherman) readied her music career with piano lessons at age six. Perhaps the world should have paid more attention to Shedd then, as she spun her own takes on classical arrangements by Bach and Beethoven . In 1990, her affair with the piano came to a sudden halt as her family grew apart, and Shedd was forced into a world of independence, youthful experimentation, and an innocent revolt that fueled her music to date.

Fast forward to 2007 … KXCI 91.3FM, in Tucson, AZ, where Shedd had been living for the past year, was planning their Winter Solstice Radio Broadcast, an on-air show where artists perform their favorite Holiday jingles. Shedd was invited to perform, but hesitated since her self-taught guitar training did not enable her to learn such standards. Remembering the confidence she once possessed with reading music as a young pianist, Shedd ran to a local music store to acquire a new (old) instrument. That evening, as Shedd recaptured old lessons, she knew this romance would not escape her again.

EP88 , Shedd ‘s first release written on piano, includes a supporting cast of standout Tucson musicians: husband James Tritten on guitar, and friends Becca Hummer on bass guitar, viola, and cello, Michael Hummer (Becca’s husband; PH8 ) on drums for “How Your Eyes Affect Me,” and Tasha Sabatino ( Loveland , Lemon Drop Gang ) on drums for “Husbands & Wives.” Stomp And Stammer felt Shedd ‘s “tales of the desire to fight through a strained relationship” on Cigarettes & Smoke Machines were autobiographical. If this was true, then Shedd has gained much wisdom and is now here for you, as she gloriously proclaims “tell me it all” on “City At Night,” “I’ll listen to all your ideas” on “How Your Eyes Affect Me,” and “If you ever need a friend, I’ll be the one that you can come running to” with “West Inn Love.” Shedd ‘s truthfulness with her lyrics has never been as forthcoming and prospective.

The packaging of EP88 is also a woven quilt of influence; from the cover art that is an accolade to Shedd ‘s own father, and was discovered in Shedd ‘s 95-year-old best friend Renee (Ree-Nee) Olson’s house; to the Bossa Nova-inspired design that is a tribute to Renee herself. EP88 ‘s release on blue vinyl is in memory of Gerhardt “Jerry” Fuchs ( Maserati , !!! , Moby , MSTRKRFT , The Juan Maclean ) , because it’s precisely the sort of format he would have suggested. The song “West Inn Love” itself is Shedd ‘s actual wedding gift for friends Tim & Becky Kelly of Jacksonville, FL, Shedd ‘s former hometown. Her music pulls from years of exposure to artists like Cocteau Twins , Rachael’s , Smog , This Mortal Coil , Trembling Blue Stars , and Red House Painters – anything via the 4AD and Sarah Records catalogs.

As Shedd professes in the closing track “Husbands & Wives,” “Every second counts.” EP88 undeniably coveys this, and Shedd ‘s choice to premiere her old talents with five astounding tracks demonstrates her “simplicity of style that leaves nothing behind.”

Previous Press Accolades for Tracy Shedd
“Surrounded by guitar tones that vary from stark to stratospheric (depending on the mood), Shedd sings in a unprepossessing, hushed voice that recalls everyone from Mazzy Star and Lush to just about half of early-’90s Britain. But for all the comforting pangs of nostalgia bubbling to the surface, the energy and craft found in her road-ready songs keep Cigarettes & Smoke Machines firmly grounded in the present.” – Magnet

“Her lyrics are simple, but touching and easily relatable, and her vocal melodies compliment the instrumentation brilliantly. Throughout the album, the guitars and vocals are having a dialogue. She brings something new to the table, though, and you can hear how much of herself she pours into this album.” – Have You Heard

“Tracy Shedd has surely been someone’s best kept secret! Upbeat, bittersweet and intimate lyrics coupled with a musical style quite human and bringing the right amount of balance needed to ensure there’s nothing pretentious about any of it. There is real grit and honesty within her songs that will endear her to you.” – Subba-Culcha

“She has a simplicity of style that leaves nothing behind, and delivers overwhelmingly honest songs. Tracy ‘s vocals are now residing in my subconscious, have taken up residence and have also made me very embarrassed with the ability of making me sing her songs in overcrowded elevators.” – Indie Rock Reviews

The Mathletes (Houston, TX)

Review of Excalibur

“I’m not sure what happened, but I’m pretty sure something did, somewhere along the way. The last time The Mathletes — which is generally, for all intents and purposes, singer/songwriter Joe Mathlete, although I’m told they’re a real-live “band” again, these days — put out an album (that wasn’t a CD-R, mind you), 2008′s #$@% You and Your Cool, I was bowled over both by the sheer energy of it all and the almost childlike sense of wonderment. There were embittered unicorns and angst-ridden robots and asteroid strikes, and it was pretty awesome.

Don’t fret; Excalibur, The Mathletes’ latest, is awesome, too. It’s awesome, though, in a very different way. The funny characters are gone, replaced by real people living out their lives and fighting and falling in (and out) of love and hurting. It’s like Joe decided it was time to put the that other stuff aside and talk about what was really going on; it feels like he’s saying, I’m done with the puppets, here’s the real me.

It’s a fairly massive shift, when you think about it, which is why I think there must’ve been some event or series of events that led to Excalibur. #$@% You and Your Cool was belligerent from the very start — hell, from its name, for crying out loud — all bitterness and raw, cut-open fury, the likes of which doesn’t often come through in a simple pop song.

By contrast, Excalibur feels like the aftermath, like there’s acceptance underway. It’s the sound of somebody who’s been hurt, badly, and has picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and realized it was time to re-evaluate things. And the album’s title almost seems like a clue, too; in the excellently quirky, ridiculously elaborate zine/comic/liner notes, Joe confesses that “Excalibur” was the name of a house where he used to live. This album’s about history and moving on from it.

In spite of his near-constant downplaying of his songwriting abilities — seriously, the guy’s self-deprecating to the point where it almost makes me want to whap him upside the head and make him say “I am a freaking incredible songwriter” ten times and mean it — The Mathletes pull it off beautifully. The songs here are wonderfully human, the sort of dealing-with-one-another songs that maybe you don’t necessarily get the first time around but that haunt you for years to come.

Take “Reasonable,” for one example, near the end of the album. It’s a cautionary breakup song of sorts, where a resigned, rueful Joe shakes his head and warns, “you’re going to have to see me again” — because, naturally, that’s always how it goes. You may not be dating somebody anymore, but you’ve still got a lot of the same friends, and short of some kind of War of the Roses-style insanity where you split them all down the middle, you’re still going to have to deal with running into the ex at parties or wherever else. It’s a simple line, but it makes perfect, absolute sense.

Along similar lines, there’s “Hopscotch,” where Joe tries to warn the person to whom the song’s directed, somebody with whom he’s definitely got some history, not to get suckered in by what their family thinks or what some random older man says. It’s a half-hearted warning, though, given like he knows full well that it won’t be heeded, and at the end Joe shrugs and turns to walk away, saying essentially, “you know where I am if you need me.”

At the other end, with “Chivalry 2000,” the mild-mannered guy’s finally decided to stand up, getting in the face of some asshole who’s nowhere near good enough for the girl he’s with. I love the righteous fire in his voice on that one; it’s like the nerdy, shy-guy version of Priestess’s “Talk To Her,” with the narrator warning that the unnamed Guy With The Girl had better get it right or find her gone.

It’s not all strictly about love-gone-wrong, of course, as evidenced by “Good Advice and Bad Advice for Romantics Who Think Too Much,” where he declares, “There’s a billion folks to kill your dreams / before you even get a chance to have them.” “That’s When I Reach For My Culture” is harder to pin down, seemingly some kind of response to Mission of Burma’s “That’s When I Reach For My Revolver,” although I’ve got no real clue what it means.

Things have shifted musically, too, between #$@% You and Your Cool and now; the guitars take a backseat this time to the synths and electronic beats, furthering the resemblance between The Mathletes in general and the wholly underrated TeenBeat band Eggs. When they are there, the guitars are delicate and strummy, with those keys taking center stage.

“Elephants and Hummingbirds” is beautiful and driving, with some truly great keyboards and otherworldly, Jolie Holland-esque vocals courtesy of expat Houstonian Jenny Westbury (seriously, I want that keyboard line to be my personal theme music, to follow me around wherever I go). “Good Advice,” on the other hand, reminds me strongly of The Mountain Goats, albeit with some awesome surprise horns that burst in close to the end, adding an additional layer on top of the already fuzzy, gentle-hearted pop.

Speaking of layers, “Majesty in a Vacuum” is probably the messiest, weirdest track here, with synths layered on like one thick, scratchy sweater after another on top of Joe’s delicately high-pitched voice. It’s a wide step from there to “Context Ruins Everything,” with its bumping, warm, arms outstretched to the skies and Polyphonic Spree-meets-Peter and the Wolf (the band, not the opera or fairy tale) vibe, all gorgeous and hazy and making me grin like a moron.

Another guest vocalist, Mlee Marie of Hearts of Animals, steps in for “I’m Your Shoe,” the glacial prettiness and shambling rhythms of which make me think of the Velvet Underground’s “I Am Your Mirror” with much, much better vocals. Album ender “Wish Right Thru U,” for its part, is gentle and somber, with hints of Belle and Sebastian drifting through.

Overall, though, what I keep coming back to most is Sebadoh. There’s something distinctly Sebadoh-like about the whole thing, like Excalibur is some never-happened album that would’ve been wedged in-between Bakesale and Harmacy, all Lou Barlow sullen fragility and desperation. It’s partly Joe’s restrained, half-spoken delivery that does it, I think, but it’s also the songs themselves; they’re good enough Barlow’d be glad to have written ‘em, I swear.

So let’s hear it, Joe. Repeat after me: I am a freaking great songwriter. Then just keep on doing what you do, because it’s beautiful and wonderful and necessary.” – Space City Rock

Thursday, November 03, 2011 – Nia De-Bose Presents The Late Night Liquid Courage Comedy Showcase

Nia De-Bose Presents The Late Night Liquid Courage Comedy Showcase

There’s a new alternative to the Comedy Club. No drink minimums, and [relatively few] dick jokes. We get it; Airline food sucks, dogs are different from cats, and women love shoes. Moving forward, Houston Comedian Nia De-Bose is providing Houstonians with a new format for comedy. The Late Nite Liquid Courage Comedy Showcase will feature the city’s best and brightest upcoming and established stand-up Comics. Think of the Tonight Show, if it only featured Comedians. With the Average Black Band playing some mean 70′s funk, and libations abound it’s sure to tickle your funny bone and lure you into the Soul Train line! Local stand-up legend Ali Siddiq headlines.

Determination to succeed best describes Ali’s rising star into comedy, building an impressive resume in a short period of time. Ali has hosted and performed at several college campuses, participated in numerous celebrity events and briefly hosted his own radio show, “Tuesdays with Ali”, on KBXX 97.9 The Box. Ali began his comedy career in the penitentiary. Refusing to feel life had defeated him, he emerged from the dreary walls of incarceration as a man with a zealous mission; to become a professional humorist. “To me therapy is comedy, comedy is laughter, and laughter is happiness.” Ali’s hard work and dedication resulted in his swift and steady rise in the comedy arena. In his new life, he quickly took advantage of the opportunities given to him by the owner of the Jus’ Joking Comedy Café, in Houston, Texas. There he emerged as a weekly featured stand-up. Honing his comedic storytelling skills, building his name and quickly catching the interest of some of the most talented comedians in the industry. His off brand style of humor tickles the funny bone of audiences at every show.

 

Saturday, November 26, 2011 – Awkwardly Cast * Fake Believe

Awkwardly Cast (Sorry, No info on line)

Fake Believe (Houston, TX)

REVIEW – Space City Rock
Fake Believe, Talk Speak EP

While there’s nothing strictly wrong with the first two tracks of Fake Believe’s five-song EP, Talk Speak, I’ll admit they had me a little worried. The too-slick, hipster-ish dance-funk grooves on the verses of both “Pornography” and “Another Dead Romantic” didn’t get more than a shrug out of me — when there’s enough of a Rapture-like edge to the danciness, this sort of thing can work, definitely, but here it just seems like it’s killing time between the choruses, which are nicely fierce and rock-ish.

With “Card Homes,” though, things really start to look up. It’s a delicious, lush-yet-dark blast of synth-y pop-rock that gets manages to be ferocious and emo-boy raw while still holding onto that smooth, metallic sheen that covers the whole of Talk Speak; when the chorus comes, I want to drive fast and far away, howling along with guitarist/vocalist David Elbert’s increasingly tortured voice, and surprisingly, it hits me the same damn way each and every time I skip back to the start of the track. There’s just something about Elbert’s voice that fits perfectly here, and it’s hooked me hard.

“Warm Enough” continues in that vein, thankfully, ditching the proto-funk for more serious-sounding electro-rock as on “Card Homes,” with those Anniversary-esque, sci-fi-sounding synths and the little electronicized production touches throughout giving everything a near-future, right-around-the-corner feel. The track starts quiet and almost Portishead-like, but soon enough the melancholy gives way to bitter, just-distorted guitars, only to collapse eventually into pianos and drifting clouds, finally coming back in sky-high and coolly majestic, soaring way the hell over everything below.

Things come back down to earth for “Temporary,” which overstays its welcome just a bit, but even then I’m liking the layer-upon-layer way the band’s crafted their sound. In the hands of a different band, sure, I’ll grant that it might come off a bit self-indulgent, all the studio bits and the ultra-clean production and whatnot. On this EP, though, with these guys — hell, it just sounds like it was meant to be this way. And then, I feel the need to hear “Card Homes” again.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011 – Hell City Kings * Poor Dumb Bastards * The Wrong Ones

Hell City Kings (Houston, TX)

Formed in the Fall of 2004, the Hell City Kings appeared on the Houston punk/rock and roll scene with a well established following. With all of the Hell City Kings’ members having played in various other local bands for years, the group had no trouble playing packed shows throughout the Houston area. Due to the diligence of the band, their incredibly energetic and high intensity live shows, and …t…heir well founded reputation, the Hell City Kings quickly became the “go to” band for local booking agents looking for an opening act for some of their biggest shows. Among those acts were The Dwarves, The Reverend Horton Heat, and even European bands like Turbonegro. Venue size and location, the crowd or lack thereof, and juggling personal lives with band priorities could not keep the Hell City Kings down. The band has played shows ranging from sold out shows at the House Of Blues in Houston to local shows on weekends/weekdays at their home away from home, Rudyard’s Pub. No matter what the show may have to offer, as long as there are people looking for great rock and roll, the Hell City Kings are there to give it to them. Traveling out of town has also fueled the Hell City Kings’ desire to truly be a working band. Hell City Kings have played throughout Texas including Austin, San Antonio, and Corpus Christi. In addition to their love for playing live music, the Hell City Kings have also looked to duplicate that success in the studio. In 2006 the band released its first split 7”, with fellow Houston punks I Am Wolf, to rave reviews. Shortly after, they were nominated for “Best Punk Band” at the annual Houston Press Awards. Following the release of the split, Hell City Kings looked to expand their release repertoire with 2009’s “The Road To Damnation” LP. It took a while to find the right people for the job, but after numerous snags in the studio, the Hell City Kings forged ahead and finished recording in the first few months of 2009. Now, with the release of their first full length record, the Hell City Kings Are poised to take the rock and roll world by storm.

Poor Dumb Bastards (Houston, TX)

PDB was formed in March 1991 by long time hetero life partners and musical collaborators, Mike Porterfield and Byron Dean. The initial interest was to find a means to get into Emo’s for free, later they discovered Emo’s was always free. Drawing on their collective influences and experiences from some of their earlier work, bands like Cretinoid, Plutonium Flatheads and the Byron Weird Group, Mike and Byron set out create a genre all their own, hence “Texas Drunk Rock” was born. Add the non bass playing talents of Steve Scholtes and the competent, metronomic drumming of Chi Chi Macoola, and PDB were able to carve their initials on the bathroom door of the Texas music scene. Through the many years and many lineup changes, but these Ill-minded sewer rockers have stayed true to their founding principals. POWER, PERFORMANCE, PERVERSION

 

The Wrong Ones (Houston, TX)

“Rather than mine the pop-punk-y hooks that’ve become the template for the vast majority of punk bands lately, or even really hew close to the garage-rock that’s surged to the surface in recent years, on Deceiver, The Wrong Ones dive straight into the gutter. And while they’re down there, they mix it up with a whole lot of early NYC glam and sleazy, scummy metal, getting and giving a bloody nose and some ripped-up knuckles in the process. More than anything else, what this album makes me think of glam-metal forerunners Hanoi Rocks — like that band, The Wrong Ones ride the line between New York Dolls-style punk and flat-out sleazy, girls-and-blow metal like Faster Pussycat or L.A. Guns. Take a listen to the guitars for proof; ”
jeremy hart – space city rock

“The Wrong Ones come from the other side of the spectrum: brand-new noise that sounds crazy, the kind of stuff that makes record collectors and Ugly Things-magazine nerds shiver nervously while listening; like when you can’t stop touching that damaged and painful tooth ’cause it hurts so good. ”
Eric Springer – Rock is (not) dead

“The Wrong Ones I Love Love Ditchwater Records wrong ones.jpg Part of the new wave of Houston glam-punkers, the Wrong Ones have enough filthy swagger and destructive danger coursing through their veins to corrupt the whole city. Their new I Love Love seven-inch serves is a rightfully seedy opening salvo for the band. Lead singer Jarett “Neurotic” Barger and the rest of the Wrong Ones borrow heavily from the Johnny Thunders playbook, with a glossy sheen of puked-up Lone Star stinging every track. Side A offers up the title track and “Miss PDA,” spinning off your turntable and collapsing on your floor in a drunken stupor. It’s fun stuff, and B-side “Mannequin Girl” is five minutes of blistering, decadent thrash that seems to go for miles on paint fumes and glitter. Overall, this is a good primer for what’s in store for Houston if bands like the Wrong Ones start proliferating. Boys, start your man-orexing now.”
Craig Hlavaty – houston press

Saturday, November 19, 2011 – Fatback Circus * Killing Industry

Fatback Circus (Austin, TX)

Fatback Circus prides themselves on their open-ended originality and their distinctive songwriting. The band’s avant-garde style allows them to indulge in any classification of music, giving each song they create an original and new-fangled sound that is completely engaging. Dalton, Garrett, Nathan, and Aaron share an unyielding passion that will augment their style and their music for years to c…o…me. They’ve made a home for themselves in Austin, TX, though all four were raised in the small, college town of Stillwater, OK. Fatback Circus has released two albums: “The Elephant King” back in 2006 and their new album “Dark World”, which came out in late April. They are currently working on a third album to be released soon. You can catch their videos for “Jessica” and “World Color” on channel 15 METV Austin. Fatback Circus is playing heavily in the Austin area and are well on their way to becoming one of the most crowd-pleasing bands in the region.

Killing Industry (Austin, TX)

Sam Berniard and Chad Gowan, later joined by Mark Hammett and Jason Harrison, started Killing Industry in the summer of 2006. The four members have played in various projects together in the past, and share a common goal of making music from the soul. Their set draws upon a wide range of influences from the Police to the Dismemberment Plan. Berniard’s songs share a common theme of driving back beats, reggae influenced syncopation and soaring melodies in a convenient indie rock package.


Friday, November 18, 2011 – Titan Blood (7″ Release) * The Energy * Weird Party * The Mahas

Titan Blood (Houston, TX)

Titan Blood is a project of TB Collective. Influenced by Strength Thru Oi, Killed By Death Vol. 1, & D’Angelo. 7” out soon. DL the first tape here: http://www.mediafire.com/?dtw4bf0taxstfzb

 

 

 
The Energy (Houston, TX)

On their first LP, Houston supergroup The Energy sounds like a band possessed by death. Imagine the spirit and ghastliness of “Death Trip,” from the Stooges’ Raw Power, drawn and quartered across eight tracks and you can understand The Energy’s First Album. Made up of members of No Talk, Hell City Kings and Wicked Poseur, The Energy’s noise is incredibly blunt and discards vaguery for outright depravity. Lead singer Arthur Bates sings about committing suicide or “jerking off to a riot” (“I Won’t Let You Waste Me”), sounding like Joey Ramone on a handful of downers. Every single one of the LP’s eight tracks throbs with desperation, especially the four-part “Stabbing in the Dark.” This is easily one of the bleakest albums to come out of Houston in the past few years, and it was birthed by more than capable hands from one of the city’s most vital musical nuclei. – Houston Press

Weird Party (Houston, TX)

Weird Party is nothing but a big pile of sweaty, audacious, ready-to-scrap Rock and Roll. Etched in their new 7” is all the snot, spit, and fire of the finest punk. Live, they are possessed men who rage with a fury that infects any unwitting crowd. Hell, they might even steal your girlfriend at the end of the night if you’re not careful. The thing is, for all the wild shows and kick-ass Rock and Roll, you won’t find another band that is as smart, droll, and dedicated to their craft as these guys. – Free Press Houston

 

 

 

The Mahas (Houston, TX)

Jacob Majors–Bass
Tom Triplett–Guitar
Billy Boyd–Drums
Scott McNeil–Guitar/Vocals