The confidence Jessie Frye has shown as she has steadily ascended to the front of the North Texas musical ranks should come as a surprise only to those not paying attention.
The Denton-based singer-songwriter has long demonstrated not only formidable songwriting chops, but a live presence all but reaching off the stage and commanding your full attention. The grand, theatrical beauty of her studio recordings is increasingly reinforced in her full-tilt concert appearances.
With the new five-song EP Boys’ Club, Frye has reached another level: Club is being released by Dallas label Metaledge Records. It’s a muscular, melodic collection, arguably her strongest front-to-back release since 2008’s The Delve. Lead-off track One in a Million would fit fine in heavy radio rotation, and the one-two punch of Big Bad Wolf and Playing Dumb evokes the best of ’90s rock while firmly rooted in the ’10s. Those entrenched in the Boys’ Club giving Frye’s latest its sly title should be warned — her conquest is nigh.
Nervous Curtains, ‘Con’
Dallas post-punk trio Nervous Curtains (Robert Anderson, Ian Hamilton and Sean Kirkpatrick) returns after a three-year absence with the polished, wonderfully eerie Con, the follow-up to 2012’s Fake Infinity. Re-teamed with Infinity’s producer, Matthew Barnhart, but also introducing Pinkish Black’s Daron Beck to the collaborative fold, Kirkpatrick and his bandmates craft very specific, angular and immersive sounds over 10 striking tracks. From the economical abrasiveness of How To Survive the End of Time through the chilly, insistent Kraut Dog, Nervous Curtains often, thrillingly, seems a synapse away from total meltdown. Nervous Curtains performs Saturday at Dallas’ Double Wide.
Will Johnson, ‘Swan City Vampires’
There is an unnerving stillness to even the most animated tracks on singer-songwriter Will Johnson’s fourth solo album, Swan City Vampires. It’s as if the one-time Denton (and now Austin-based) troubadour must remain motionless, like a stone in the midst of a stream, allowing grief and uncertainty to flow around him like so much water. Vampires was recorded amid profound change in Johnson’s life, as his mother passed away and he bid farewell to Centro-matic, the deeply influential band that ceased to be last winter. (“I hope to hold the love/Of my mother’s heart/One day,” Johnson sings on the shattering The Watchman.) Working with Britton Beisenherz and John Congleton, Johnson paints a vivid, intimate portrait of a man reckoning with profound change, finding hope in the hurly-burly.