Who needs summer vacation? Local artists have kept up a steady stream of new music throughout 2010 and the traditionally slower summer months, with plenty more on tap as the weather shifts from scorching to freezing. As the albums begin to pile up precariously upon my desk, here are five recent albums mostly worth tracking down and adding to your collection.
Nick Verzosa, The Smoking Gun EP
Based in College Station, but a frequent Fort Worth guest, Verzosa walked away from his day job two years ago to pursue a career as a singer-songwriter. Mentored by Walt Wilkins, Verzosa shows with this initial five-song offering that he needs a few more years honing his craft before he can make a living off music. These earnest but lyrically thin tunes probably sound better with a few beers in your system, but away from the bar, they simply seem amateur. (www.nickverzosa.com)
Merlowe and the Dry Tear, self-titled
The third offering from native Texan Danny Monk Owen, Merlowe and the Dry Tear is a 14-track epic of left-field pop-rock, jazz and '60s flourishes. With guests like Ginny Mac and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra's Paul Unger (who wrote the album's string arrangements), Owen also enlists guitarist Jake Crawford of Dallas alt-rockers Deaf Pedestrians, and bagged a Beatles sample. Owen, who occasionally evokes Perry Farrell vocally, somehow holds all the weirdness together, making for an eclectic, rarely boring experience.
Charming Gardeners, self-titled
This Dallas foursome -- Amy Curnow, Marc Solomon, Wade Cofer and Gerald Iragorri -- delivers an appealing blend of rock, blues and fuzzy alt-pop on this five-track debut. Curnow's earthy, hypnotic vocals pull you in (Elevator is a smoldering gem), while her bandmates fashion stylish sonic backdrops. (myspace.com/charminggardeners)
Trey Johnson, Where the East Ends
Dallas singer-songwriter Johnson wasted little time following up 2009's Mount Pelee -- this collection arrives barely a year after his solo debut. Knocked out in less than two weeks, Where the East Ends is more of Johnson's irresistibly eclectic folk-rock and features a wealth of area talent backing him up (Becky Middleton, Chad Stockslager, Don Cento and Rich Martin, among others, appear here). Johnson's voice grabs hold early on, an appealing mixture of grit and easy charm; the amiable Don't Let Them Wear You Down is a undeniable highlight. (treyjohnsonmusic.com)
Ishi, Through the Trees
"Folktronic" Dallas foursome Ishi doesn't get too excited on its debut album, Through the Trees. By turns brooding and yearning, these dozen tracks feel torn from a luxury-car commercial that doesn't exist. Glitchy effects, plenty of acoustic instrumentation and sweeping, cinematic compositions abound; lead single Pastel Lights fairly epitomizes the Ishi style. It's an album tailor-made for rainy-afternoon lounging or hip dinner parties. (myspace.com/ishiisound)