The always prolific Neil Michael Hagerty took the name of his group the Howling Hex from his 2003 solo album Neil Michael Hagerty & the Howling Hex. The band -- which featured Hagerty and a cast of mostly anonymous supporting musicians -- debuted later that year with Introducing the Howling Hex, a vinyl-only release limited to 500 copies. The album's rough, swampy sound recalled Royal Trux excursions like Twin Infinitives and Hand of Glory. Released in 2004, The Return of the Third Tower and Section 2 were also vinyl releases in limited editions of 500, but allowed more of Hagerty's pop side to peek through the sludge, and also introduced vocalist Lyn Madison. Early in 2005, the band's first album available on CD, All-Night Fox, arrived on Drag City. You Can't Beat Tomorrow, a CD and DVD set, arrived that fall. 1-2-3, which was released in spring 2006, collected the early Howling Hex EPs; later that year, Nightclub Version of the Eternal was released, featuring a stripped-down lineup and Hagerty's baritone guitar instead of bass.
The Howling Hex went in a completely different direction for 2007's XI, with Hagerty assembling a band that included guitarist/vocalist Mike Signs, saxophonist/flutist/vocalist Rob Lee, and percussionist/vocalists Andy McLeod and Phil Jenks. Earth Junk, a collection of waltz-time tracks recorded in Austin, Texas that also supported a film by the same name, arrived in 2008. The sci-fi-inspired Rogue Moon followed in 2009 on the U.K. imprint Golden Lab, marking the project's first release on a label other than Drag City. Hagerty changed the project's lineup and direction again for 2011's Wilson Semiconductors, a rambling four-song set that featured him on guitar, bass, and electronics. For 2013's The Best of the Howling Hex, Hagerty returned to a full-band approach and cited funk as an influence. A pair of limited-edition singles -- 2014's Fool's Watch/Lord Gloves and the following year's Butterfly/Party Shoes -- pointed the way toward 2016's Denver, named for Hagerty's adopted hometown. ~ Heather Phares