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From Alan to Darstar, new local CDs worth hearing

Posted 9:22am on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011

How could anyone not be thankful for the sheer bounty of new local music we've enjoyed this year in North Texas? Now, as 2011 prepares to shift into its final act, it seems like a great time to reflect upon still more new music and take a quick glance at four local records well worth your time and attention.

Alan, The Universal Answer Is Both: The brainchild of Fort Worth's Chris Hardee, Both's 16 tracks and hour-plus heft suggest excess, but the focus here is on density, deftly blended with melodies and vocal performances that etch themselves onto your brain -- days after first hearing the art-rock anthem Atlas, I cannot shake its thrilling, cinematic mood. Hardee has crafted a record of incredible feeling, coupled with a limitless sense of ambition. It is one of the finest achievements of 2011.

Ronnie Fauss, Any Lovin' Way But Wrong: Covers are a dicey proposition for local musicians, because they have the potential to overshadow the musician's own identity. Yet, when they're skillfully executed (Big Mike Richardson, here's lookin' at you), the songs bend themselves to the performer's will, revealing a little more about the performer in the process. Dallas-based singer-songwriter Ronnie Fauss, currently working on his debut LP for release next year, offers up these four tracks -- from titans of troubadourdom like Kris Kristofferson and John Prine -- as a handsomely mounted sneak preview. Fauss has an intriguing voice, creased and full of rasp, heavy with emotion and sounding as though it's about to crack. His freshman full-length effort should be a highlight of the coming year.

Darstar, Tiny Darkness: An intriguing blend of heavy, grinding rock music (by Ben Piche, Tony Newman, Josh Pitts and Carson So) and the sweet vocal stylings of Lisa Hardaway, Darstar's songs are deceptive. Hardaway's voice lulls you, just before a serrated hunk of guitar or a punishing drum fill reaches out and levels you. The aggressive Millennium Maiden is built for a beer-soaked riot in a dark concrete bunker somewhere, while The Mayor is a wonderfully sleazy come-hither. Produced by John Dufilho and Casey Dilorio, Tiny Darkness is a first record brimming with promise.

Old Snack, Everything Is Happening So Fast: Rarely has an album title been more fitting. This Denton trio blows back your wig in a cool 15 minutes, leaving you dazed, smiling and reaching for the repeat button. But Aaron White, Justin Collins and Chris Garver do not forsake melody for abrasive blasts of noise; the nine songs here -- the longest of which, Mo Tucker, is a shade over three minutes -- marry the best parts of garage rock with a sneering, almost punk mentality that doesn't keep the listener at arm's length. The only tragedy? Everything Is Happening So Fast is an album out of time -- next spring and summer, these tracks will sound magnificent pouring out of a car stereo, bombing down the highway with the windows open.

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