News Column

Lone Star Sounds: Howler Jr.'s debut shines on the local scene and more

July 10, 2013


July 10--Heat rises. It's as true for summer weather as it is the local music scene. New bands materialize with frequency in North Texas, and while not all of them make an impression right out of the gate, there are a handful that grab hold from the first time you hear a note. Here are three new, noteworthy recordings from around the area worth a spin.

Howler Jr., self-titled

Howler Jr. -- the Dallas-based trio of Spencer Kenney, Steve Williams and Ethan Berman -- makes music better suited to the sunny California coast than the sun-baked vastness of North Texas. That's not a complaint, mind you: The threesome's self-titled debut EP contains some of the most infectious music I've heard from any local act thus far in 2013. Produced at Salim Nourallah's Pleasantry Lane Studios, Howler Jr. feels like a 14-minute vacation -- Kenney, who handles vocals and guitars for the band, has an appealing voice capable of making barbs like "You don't know much about anything/And you never will" sound like compliments, as he does on Hey Blondie. Polished, packed full of irresistible melodies and endlessly listenable, Howler Jr. is as necessary as sunblock this summer.


Panic Volcanic, 'Freak Fuzz'

Fort Worth trio Panic Volcanic kicks listeners in the teeth early on its debut full-length, Freak Fuzz. The low rumble of Skin and Bones (courtesy of Zach Tucker's nimble bass skills) is soon pierced by Ansley Dougherty's chilling vocals, winding through the sonic chaos like razor wire. Drummer Chris Cole rounds out the 2-year-old band, which doesn't let up once during these 11 songs, recorded by Ben Napier at Green Audio Productions. The star of the show is undeniably Dougherty's full-throttle voice, which often floats behind the thick squall generated by Tucker and Cole but is never overwhelmed -- she turbo-charges Drive, before spiking Evil Hand with a wail from the depths. Freak Fuzz is a powerhouse debut, a calling card for one of Fort Worth's rising rock stars. It hurts so good.


Savage and the Big Beat, 'We Are Defenders'

This debut effort from Denton trio Savage and the Big Beat suggests a collision between T. Rex, MGMT and Queen. But instead of grinding out sound-alike material, Max Brown, Kyle Irion and Benny Bailey synthesize these influences to create something kinetic and, frankly, a lot of fun. We Are Defenders, produced by Andrew Majors, doesn't waste a minute of its five tracks. Wolves of the Iron is massive, despite its sub-three-minute run time; Hold Ice Base 17 is the closest thing to an epic on this quick-and-dirty EP, and features gobsmacking guitar work from Irion. Play this one loud, and often.

Online: savageandthebigbeat.

Preston Jones, 817-390-7713 Twitter: @prestonjones


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