The affinity Denim Wonder (better known as former Radiant drummer Daniel Hopkins) feels for the world around him is a beautiful thing to behold.
Throughout his gorgeous debut album, Carnation, Hopkins writes vividly of seeming mundanities: “When the lights go out on Gaston Street/I can hear your voice calling out to me,” he sings on I Love My City.
Working with producer Matt Pence and recording these eight tracks at Denton’s Echo Lab, the Dallas-based singer-songwriter favors a nominally Americana style — pedal steel is deployed judiciously throughout, and particularly well during Corsicana, which manages to fuse twang and synthesizers — but lets the album unfold in leisurely fashion, allowing his pleasantly textured voice to shine.
Carnation is bookended by tracks titled Benediction — the final cut is subtitled Goodnight — which practically glow with goodwill. Some artists take listeners by force, offering an all-or-nothing proposition. Denim Wonder leans back, letting the brilliance overtake you like the dawning of the day.
Brave Young Lion, ‘Bleeding Knees’ EP
Denton alt-rock four-piece Brave Young Lion (Hunter Cannon, Rico Turrubiarte, Brian Shovlin and Spencer Turrubiarte) returns with its second EP, Bleeding Knees, the follow-up to 2013’s phenomenal debut Same Old Game. Teamed with producers Joey McClellan and McKenzie Smith and recorded at the duo’s Redwood Studios in Denton, Brave Young Lion dialed down the frenetic, attention-getting approach employed on Game for something more contemplative and, ultimately, richer. There’s a pervasive melancholy threaded through these four concise, atmospheric tracks — the soaring Jungle is a drop-dead stunner — indicating that this band has more on its mind than just making a strong impression. Brave Young Lion has its sights set on sticking around, making music of consequence.
Joseph Wayne Miller, ‘Word Count: 1,000’
Singer-songwriter Joseph Wayne Miller’s third studio album and his first in three years, Word Count: 1,000, evokes a term paper with its title, but the song of the same name is anything but academic: “I wanna freeze everything in its place/And try to maintain a pose.” It’s a poignant lyric, and one delivered in relatively deadpan fashion — the Dallas-based Miller, who worked with producers Russell Jack and Joshua Jones, cutting the 10 country-rock-tinged tunes at Taylor Tatsch’s AudioStyles, is a master of pathos conveyed in economical fashion. In that way, Word Count: 1,000 sneaks up on you, breaking your heart even as you sing along to the gently compelling tunes.