Lone Star Sounds: New music from War Party and more

Posted 7:07am on Saturday, Jan. 04, 2014

Amid the blizzard of year-end lists and backward glances at the year just concluded, it’s inevitable some releases just slip through the cracks.

Rather than forsaking what’s past and turning attention to the onslaught of local music on tap for 2014, here are three noteworthy efforts from last year that simply got lost in the stacks.

War Party,

‘Tomorrow’s a Drag’

This Fort Worth outfit’s sprawling debut LP defies every attempt at categorization. Spilling and splashing out of the speakers, Tomorrow’s a Drag careens from bursts of lysergic punk edginess (opener Every Day I Bite the Hook) to zesty, left-field rock ( Problem Solver; W.E.I.G.H.T.) without missing a beat. Members of this quartet (or, according to its Bandcamp page, quintet) are guitarist/vocalist Cameron Smith, drummer Peter Marsh, bassist Tyler Moore, guitarist/pianist/trumpeter Ricky Williford and organist/trombonist Chris Waldon. Its undeniable live energy (I still remember seeing War Party destroy an unfairly tiny crowd during a 35 Denton set) surges beneath every cut here. Produced by Britt Robisheaux at Eagle Audio Recording, these 13 tracks are rough in all the right places, and mark War Party as the latest local upstart worth following. War Party plays Club Dada on Saturday.

Online: thewarparty.bandcamp.com

Mark Lettieri, ‘Futurefun’

Fort Worth-based guitarist, composer and producer Mark Lettieri gigs with freewheeling jazz-funk collective Snarky Puppy, has logged time backing up artists like Erykah Badu and Kirk Franklin, and among his many commitments, even found time to release the occasional solo effort. Futurefun, the seven-track follow-up to his 2011 solo debut, Knows, is packed with top-notch local players ( RC and the Gritz’s TaRon Lockett, Braylon Lacy and RC Williams, among many others, turn up throughout) and full of Lettieri’s scorching six-string style. The instrumentals range from intense ( Catboy) to intimately funky ( Extraspecial), and Lettieri excels at knowing when to show off and when to simply let rhythm and melody do the heavy lifting.

Online: marklettieri.com

Midway, ‘FunEmployment, Vol. 1’

The Fort Worth duo of Lou Charles and Kev Nolan, who perform as Midway, embrace a progressive rap aesthetic (think A Tribe Called Quest, N.E.R.D. or Talib Kweli) well suited to the free flow of sounds emanating from North Texas. The pair, who met at Texas Christian University, don’t shy away from the realities of life after moving out of the dorms, full of anxious hope — “Got one life/One chance/One dream” goes the chanted hook on album opener One Love — but this half-hour debut is far from a grim tour of post-grad disappointment. Instead, Charles and Nolan assemble tracks riding mellow, sharply produced beats that complement the pair’s laid-back style. There’s a lot to think about, but Midway would rather seduce than slam listeners over the head with its ideas.

Online: wearemidway.com

Preston Jones, 817-390-7713 Twitter: @prestonjones

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