I enjoy reppin’ my city whenever possible. For some unfortunate reason, Houston, TX doesn’t always have the best reputation in music circles, as people assume that everyone here either listens to country music or chopped-and-screwed hip-hop. And while there’s nothing wrong with either of those genres, those sad stereotypes fail to recognize that Space City has developed a rather talented batch of bands in the past decade, stretching from alt-country and indie rock to metal and punk.
One of the most talented young acts making music in my city these days is Featherface, and these guys have had the benefit of growing up in a strong scene with forward momentum. Having followed the examples of their forebears, the group understands that you’ve got to write songs, play shows, record those songs, and then tour outside your city, as it first hones your own craft and secondly show people that good music is being made in Houston. The hard work has paid off, as the band’s debut full-length, Actual Magic, is a glorious fusion of vintage ‘70s pop-rock, psych-pop, and Brit rock. Don’t let those sonic touchstones confuse you: it might be hard to categorize the sound of this eleven-song album, but the overall effect is blissful and (yes) magical.
It might be the bounce of the hooks and the rocking grooves that snare your ears in the beginning, but it’s the classy, danceable tempos and fantastic musicianship that will keep you spinning the record. While I’m enamored by the righteously fuzzy guitar riffs, excellent rhythm section, and subtle organ licks, the plaintive, earnest tenor vocals really earn my respect. In terms of contemporaries, I hear lots of Wild Nothings, Yuck, and Houston’s own Wild Moccasins, though there’s plenty of Big Star, Soft Bulletin-era Flaming Lips, ELO, and Stone Roses serving as old-school influences.
Yet, for all of my adjectives and genre-based modifiers, Actual Magic at its heart is a classic pop-rock record, from back when that concept wasn’t a derisive one. “Reverse, Divide,” “White Light Calls,” “If You Say,” and “Withdraw” showcase a band with impressive rock chops – whether we’re discussing vocals or instrumental acumen – that still knows how to pen a solid 3- or 4-minute pop tune that’s both catchy and layered. So, let’s put the rest of America on notice: Featherface has arrived, coming straight out of Houston and aiming right for your hearts.