Our rundown of music in the year 2012 starts off this week and continues through the rest of the year. We’re kicking things off this week with our Top 40 Songs of 2012 by Lubbock Associated Artists. Here’s the schedule for the remainder of the week.
Sometimes you can’t believe Kenny Harris actually wrote that. It feels as though he’s just covering something Hank Williams scribbled in a lost notebook during the ’40s or ’50s. “Hold Me Under the Light” has this aura about it that feels as though Harris has become possessed by the ghost of Williams.What I find so interesting in Harris, and Estelline in general, is that for a band you’d consider more folk than country, they may write the most “classic” country feeling songs in Lubbock. It gives you goosebumps–and dare I say–even gets your eyes glistening. You just imagine a depressed, weary Harris jotting this song down as fast as he can on the first slip of paper he could find in a drunken haze after a night of drinking realizing later just how powerful it could soon become. What makes it so entrancing is how uncomplicated and bare the song actually is. Guitarist Sean Troyer and Harris keep the guitar playing simple. It just adds so much feeling to the stark composition. Harris’ vocals, along with Tori Vasquez’, perfectly balance each other in what feels like a swan song. It’s remarkable how you get lost in the song. It creates such an impact, it’s hard to believe it’s roughly only three minutes. It’s there; then it’s gone. The moment has been, yet the residual effects are enduring.–THOMAS D. MOONEY
You enter a trance whenever The Diamond Center play. The former Lubbock-based Diamond Center now reside up in Richmond, Virginia, but always come back to the West Texas plains at least once a year. It’s very much their obligatory trek to their Mecca; a place where they developed much of what their sound revolves around. The band’s lineup over the years has featured more than its share of Lubbock mainstays, but have solidified their sound most recently that centers around vocalist/guitarist Brandi Price, guitarist Kyle Harris, drummer Tim Falen, and keyboardist Lindsay Phillips. Earlier this year, they released a limited edition (300 copies) 7″ single, “California/Bells.” A hazy fog comes through the speakers once the needle drops starting off with Harris playing his fuzzy guitar notes before Falen and Phillips come in creating the ultimate Halloween in the desert vibe. “California” is a psychedelic Beach House tune with an “Easy Rider” tone. Phillips’ keys are straight creepy church pipe organ. Price’s shadowy vocals are from a dream. They float effortlessly above the organized chaos below. Falen’s drums combined with Harris’ guitar licks create a sharp, maddening, rhythmic state of mojo bliss.–THOMAS D. MOONEY
If you’ve ever seen Slow Static play live, you’ll have noticed the rising tension as they play. Everyone becomes consumed by what’s happening in front of them. There’s no light show. No images flashing behind them on a screen. There’s nothing that distracts you from what’s going on before you. It isn’t uncommon to be at a Slow Static performance in which everyone in the crowd is completely silent. You’re standing there, you’re creating the storyline of the song. A small short film is playing in your mind as Slow Static plays the score to your private silent film. Guitarist Matt Plummer, drummer Ryan Plummer, and keyboardist/percussionist Erin Pleake make no secret of their zombie obsession. Though not everything is catered to zombie apocalypse situations (though for me, each song could be), “In Case of Zombies Press Play” is easily one. It’s the epicenter of their self-titled debut EP which was released earlier this year. Welcome to Zombieland, Lubbock, TX, 2012. You feel lost in time. Anxiety heightens as Ryan’s drums come in. They are silent as moments, and at others, they’re rapid gun shots ricocheting around the room. A constant wave of emotions rush over. In roughly a year, Slow Static has been able to seize our imaginations–more than anything else–with their desolate, instrumentals that capture West Texas just as much as any alternative country or garage punk band has been able to do in the last 40 years. They weave these cinematic, ambient landscapes where your mind wonders. It’s what makes Slow Static.–THOMAS D. MOONEY
“Dear Diana” happens to be the third Charlie Shafter song on our Top 40 list. To say that “Charlie Shafter” is a great album is an understatement. It’s a songwriting masterpiece. In recent interviews with us, he’s always mentioned how Ray Wylie Hubbard has given him more than a enough words of wisdom that have given him a better understanding of what it is to be a songwriter. One of those lessons that has really grabbed my attention that Shafter mentioned is this the “timelessness of music.” I’ve probably mentioned it myself a number of times since hearing Shafter speak about it. It’s this belief of writing songs that fit you regardless of age. Write songs that transcend time, genres, labels, phases, and scenes. “Dear Diana” in particular finds Shafter as a maturing songwriter. The song’s melody is an elegant piece where the drumming is at a minimum. There’s a handful of timely foot stomps and handclaps, Starfire playing on the piano, and Shafter strumming a charming resonator which creates this crisp, clean sensation. It’s the perfect early morning song where you’re enjoying the sun rise with a cup of strong coffee. You can feel the cool, gentle wind hit your face as you’re sitting on your porch. Shafter’s soothing croon is as relaxed as ever on a song in which Shafter shares his wisdom beyond his years lyrics about life. You can tell that with “Charlie Shafter” has entered a period of songwriting that’s near perfect. The masses may not become familiar with Shafter (that happens all too often), but he’s becoming that songwriter who is every songwriter’s favorite songwriter.–THOMAS D. MOONEY
Is Russell Shahan the best songwriter currently in Lubbock? Some would argue yes. Others would argue it’s too early to tell. But regardless, Shahan is in the discussion. He’s shortly created a tone and sound that’s the most ZZ Top thing Lubbock has possibly ever seen or heard. Nothing captures this sense of sound and energy like his “East Side River Snake.” It’s armed with a guitar riff that’s just as distinct as “La Grange,” “Tush,” or any number of ZZ Top Texas blues numbers. It’s a barn burner. Shahan released his self-titled debut early this year (Jan. 23) and never looked back this year. After years of friends, fans, and family urging him to release something–anything–Shahan delivered in 2012. The wait’s certainly been worth it. What’s remarkable about Shahan is that it’s debatable that he didn’t even record his best song he’s written. “14 Miles From Home,” which shows up on 6 Market Blvd’s “Shake It Down” very well could be in this position had it been on “Red & The Vityls.” Back to the subject at hand. You can’t mention “East Side River Snake” without mentioning The Vityls work on the song. Guitarist Will Boreing, drummer Justin Lentz, then bassist Micah Vasquez, current bassist Seth Ramirez, and keyboardist Kris Schmitt all have their hands in the swampy blues Vityl sound. It’s a lively bunch that just add an additional boost of drive and fire to Shahan’s songs. What I think sets “East Side River Snake” apart from a growing catalog of Shahan songs–and for this list’s sake, other songs released in 2012–is that it represents more than just an individual songwriter. It’s not just a good three-and-a-half minute song on a great EP. It’s not just the best song by a specific songwriter. What it is, is the piercing tip of a spear in a plethora of alternative country songs from a rising scene. It’s the anthem for a never-ending list of Lubbock songwriters who are the second wave (or maybe third) of great Lubbock songwriters.–THOMAS D. MOONEY