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HARD ROCK / METAL
Atomic Opera: Progressive World-Influenced Hard Rock
With dark, heavy grooves and a big, sweeping sound, Atomic Opera is firmly rooted in a rock and metal tradition that began with Black Sabbath and was continued by Metallica, but adds lilting, irresistably Beatles-ish melodies and unexpected, towering harmonies evocative of prog rock bands like Rush and Yes. Add the presence of Frank Hart's sophisticated arrangements for cello, acoustic guitar, mandolin, dulcimer, organ, recorders and hand percussion, and you get a stellar old world art rock sound with a progressive folk metal edge. This brooding yet accessible music was born of same fertile Houston scene that produced Galactic Cowboys, The Awful Truth, and King's X.
POP / ELECTRO ROCK
The Kokoon: 1980's Style New Wave
For a decidedly new wave album, there's a lot of passion and emotion on Erase. Danyx's brooding, Nico-esque voice carries highlight tracks like "Face," "Delicate," the Cure-tinged "Tied," and "Take Me to the World," a bittersweet but ultimately upbeat song. Or try the band's second release Berlin. It's just so damn sexy. Angular, androgynous, pouty? It's a Bowie/Siouxsie-influenced urchin of an album that'll have you strutting around the house like a Milanese model on a Fashion Week catwalk. Highlights include the smouldering opener "Impressions," possibly the world's only New Wave drinking song "We Didn't Go," and the deliciously disaffected "Tap At Floes." No 3 is The Kokoon's most recent album - check that one out too.
Middle-Earth Ensemble: Sultry and Percussive Mid-East Fusion
Middle-Earth Ensemble creates a unique gypsy infused sound inspired by music of the Mediterranean and Middle-East. Their music has fueled the hips of many a belly dancer. Their latest album, Passage, emphasizes their original material while continuing to draw on traditional and fusion styles as varied as Arabic, Turkish, Moorish, Spanish, Gypsy, Celtic, and Classical. The title track includes Indian tablas and exemplifies the fusion that Middle-Earth has created. Belly dance aficionados will surely recognize the new renditions of " Rompi Rompi" and "Tamr Henna". This release transcends the belly dance genre and includes a variety of styles and sounds that would be sure to please anyone interested in or curious about Middle-Eastern music.
Seconds Before: Minneapolis Modern Rock
Seconds Before fuses high octane rock, memorable pop sensibilities, and progressive arrangements into a sound that's as hard to pigeonhole as it is to resist. These five music junkies have a wealth of experience as songwriters and performers, and their enthusiasm and professionalism come across both in their recordings as well as their explosive live shows. Change Is The Only Constant features songs that you just might not be able to get out of your head (in the good way, not the annoying way). Give the newest Seconds Before album a spin, but don't get too comfortable, because change is... well, you know.
JAZZ / NEW AGE
Ehren Starks: Piano and Cello
Lines Build Walls, the second album from pianist Ehren Starks, is both strikingly modern and completely evocative. Cleanly elegant piano compositions show great attention to both structure and melody, and Starks demonstrates deep fluency and depth of feeling for his instrument throughout. There's an internal logic to this music that calls to mind contemporary architectural forms, yet it's incredibly lyrical too—the streamlined poetics of a young master. Highly recommended.