Rank #1: Black Mountain: “Pretty Little Lazies”
Though he was just a newborn during Woodstock and only got his driver’s license two years ago, the spirit of psychedelia, independence, and youthful rebellion has always been front and center for Stephen McBean and his rock outfit Black Mountain. The Vancouver quintet has been going hard since 2004 but in light of his newfound horsepower (in the form of a 1985 Dodge Destroyer fixer-upper), singer and guitarist McBean needed to push the group’s musical tachometer to its redline.
This fifty-going-on-sixteen scenario paved the way for Black Mountain’s fifth full-length, Destroyer, an album that puts you in McBean’s shotgun seat while he pops the clutch with heavy riffs and scratches paint off the labels “stoner rock” or “space rock” like the bumper stickers they are. Destroyer is out now and Black Mountain joins us at the Mohawk this Fall, so let’s ascend the peak with “Pretty Little Lazies”!
Photo: Olivia Jaffe
Rank #2: Nick Waterhouse: “Songs for Winners”
L.A. guitarist-vocalist-producer and overall analog recording geek Nick Waterhouse is back with another entry into his already impressive catalogue. In the past decade Waterhouse has taken his band around the world and produced everyone from Ty Segall to Leon Bridges, with a sound that recalls stylistic elements of the 1960s but aren’t without their own character.
In that vein, Waterhouse has decided to self-title his fourth full-length, out March 8th. With ten new originals and a cover, Waterhouse will be hitting the road after his namesake LP comes out, eventually joining us at the Parish on Friday, May 24th. Today you can turn the heat up with a new single from Waterhouse, one that embodies the essence of ’60s psychedelia and a touch of surf, soul, and blues: “Song For Winners”!
– Jack Anderson
Rank #3: SMiiLE: “The Way You Remind Me”
If you don’t remember the band Dreamboat, all you need to know is that it was essentially phase one for what is now one of Austin’s most prominent indie pop rock groups, SMiiLE. Singer-guitarist-producer Jake Miles fronts SMiiLE, joined by vocalists Mary Bryce and Annie Long and further rounded out with bassist Harrison Anderson and drummer Greg Clifford. These best friends-turned-bandmates and their flipped frown sound have consistently led to packed shows with a lot of emotions in the air. SMiiLE has been teasing their upcoming sophomore album with a series of staggered double side releases, and we’re officially four tunes in!
Join the positivity 7AM next Friday when SMiiLE kicks off Day 3 of KUTX Live at the Four Seasons and check out the dimple-inducing music video for one of this quintet’s latest songs, “The Way You Remind Me“!
Rank #4: PJ Morton: “READY”
Through the past decade and a half of his career, New Orleans’ PJ Morton has shown some pretty colossal growth…and that’s putting it lightly. He’s been an ongoing keyboardist for Maroon 5 since 2010, has been taken on by Solange as her music director, and with ten Grammy nominations and a win for Best Traditional R&B Performance, Morton’s even got his own record label. You’ve seen Morton at the Super Bowl Half Time, The Tonight Show, NPR’s Tiny Desk, The Daily Show and sharing the stage with everyone from Stevie Wonder to Lil Wayne.
And while 2017’s Gumbo was originally slated to be PJ Morton’s solo career studio swan song, upon returning to his hometown he gained a fresh perspective on his identity and doubled down on what made him stand out in the first place: himself. With that, today marks the release of PJ Morton’s sixth full-length, Paul, a ten-track recorded in NOLA between sold out tour dates, and as the title suggests, this is one of purest offerings yet from PJ (who was born Paul Morton Jr.). Uplifting sounds of soul, jazz-fusion, R&B, funk, and pop make for a bold contrast against bleak societal observations and themes of struggle, injustice, oppression, and confrontation. Get started on Paul right now with the upbeat retro-inspired album opener, “READY”!
Rank #5: HÅN: “gymnasion”
Though the phrase “Italian pop” may only remind Westerners of European soda, for twenty-two-year-old Lake Garda singer Giulia Fontana it means something much different. Fontana premiered her dark synth-pop project HÅN in 2017 with her breathtaking EP, The Children, corralling Fontana’s flawless vocals and knack for electronic production together into an eight-track that’s just as spacey and ethereal as it is pulsating and driving.
Be on the lookout for HÅN’s sophomore EP, due out in a few months, and enjoy the enigmatic, sleek, beat-heavy single released today, “gymnasion”!
Rank #6: Wilder Woods: “Someday Soon”
There’s not much known about Wilder Woods, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot to talk about. We may not have a birth name or a hometown but we do have two singles that flex the unbridled forestry of this soul singer.
While we eagerly await for more information on this secretive crooner, let the music speak for itself and dive right into “Someday Soon”!
Rank #7: David Messier: “No Escape”
Love Austin Music Month is quickly coming to a close and we’d be remiss if we didn’t shine the spotlight at least once on Austin treasure David Messier. The former frontman of Boston outfit Papermoon and founder of Same Sky Productions recording studio moved to Texas in 2009 and through his music, Messier’s made the most of the last decade. Historically a high-ranking member of the Grammy’s Recording Academy, Messier is an invaluable music community figurehead with his mitts on SIMS, HAAM, and way more than we can list.
Messier’s philanthropy and creative contributions to the local scene as a songwriter, producer, engineer and overall good guy earned him the declaration of June 8th as “David Messier Day” by Austin Mayor Steve Adler. Late last year Messier released his solo album, Time Bomb, and you have two opportunities to hear some selections from it live this weekend. David Messier joins the 11:59 Songwriting Group this Friday at the Cactus Cafe and has another performance this Saturday at One-2-One Bar. Time Bomb is available for streaming and download everywhere so let’s tick towards the weekend and set it off with “No Escape”!
Rank #8: Durand Jones & The Indications: “Don’t You Know” (featuring Aaron Frazer)
A quick listen to Indiana quintet Durand Jones & The Indications has you walking out of a time machine and re-entering the golden age of ’60s soul. Vocal duties are shared between the eponymous frontman and drummer Aaron Frazer, who collectively evoke the spirit of artists like Jackie Wilson and Curtis Mayfield. The Indications have come quite a ways since forming in 2012 and on their upcoming sophomore record, American Love Call, the group tackles how to find a comfortable place between love and rage within the country’s current political climate.
With musical inspiration ranging from Duke Ellington to Earth Wind & Fire to Jay Z, American Love Call is a gargantuan achievement for Durand Jones & The Indications in commentary, production, arrangement and performance. American Love Call is out this Friday and to get you buttered up and ready for it, enjoy the album’s soaring lead single, “Don’t You Know”!
Photo: Rosie Cohe
Rank #9: The Watters: “I Need You”
Their journey together began as class mates, then band mates, and now as soul mates, guitarist Daniel and singer Jenna Watters are in perfect harmony as The Watters. Jenna and Daniel had previously worked together on seven albums under different monikers across Sedona, Arizona, L.A., Denver, and Nashville. That was all before they settled down in Austin, assembled their trusty eight-piece backing band, and released their debut album as “The Watters” in 2016.
Daniel and Jenna’s chemistry is undeniable, thanks in no small part to the shear amount of time they’ve spent writing and performing together, and they upped the aural ante this past June with their self-titled full-length. The Watters reminded us why Jenna and Daniel kick so much butt together; their technical talents speak for themselves and their songwriting takes the best from soul, roots, Americana, rock and folk and slow cooks it into a gourmet Watters sound.
Yesterday afternoon The Watters were at the ongoing Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, next Sunday they’ll be at Cosmic Coffee & Beer Garden and tonight they play at Stubb’s Indoors. Our Song of the Day and The Watters album opener may have a relatively generic title, but the music itself is just plain amazing. Check out “I Need You”!
Rank #10: Michael Paul Lawson: “Wolf By The Tail”
For Americana singer Michael Paul Lawson, the corporate middle chapter of his life is best left closed. Lawson’s since doubled down on his familial roots as a musician, swapping out the NYC suit-and-tie grind in favor of the idyllic Norfolk, Virginia. This welcome change of scenery prompted a new era of songwriting for Lawson, whose lyrics evoke tried-and-true artists like John Prine as much as they do contemporaries like Jason Isbell.
After linking up with Noah Gundersen producer Daniel Mendez, Lawson jumped locations once again to record his debut album right here in Austin. It was here that Lawson endured a tumultuous relationship with his father sixteen years before and where he now began to reconcile that on his debut full-length Some Fights You’ll Never Win. The seven-song EP is out July 12th and to put you in Lawson’s head beforehand, sit back and soak up “Wolf By The Tail”!
Rank #11: Linen Closet: “Warning Sign”
Here are a few labels that local six-piece Linen Closet ascribes to their sound: “contrarian pop”, “boogie bummer”, “grump pop”, “norm horror”, and “glum core”. And while we could debate what any of those actually mean, it’s safe to say that Linen Closet’s music is just as bleak as it is pleasant and just as catchy as it droning.
Their October 2018 self-titled full-length brought layers of rock and symphonic indie out of the closet and laid an eight track bed of excellence. You can see Linen Closet playing 9pm this Saturday at ABGB and get a little languid this hump day with “Warning Sign”!
Rank #12: Dori Freeman: “That’s How I Feel”
With nine years of guitar strumming and more than two decades of non-stop singing under her belt, Southwestern Virginia’s Dori Freeman brings a modern mind to traditional roots music. Freeman’s sound is swayed by all colors of Americana, with a calming vibrato that’s already proved to be the perfect mate to her candid, contemporary lyricism across her first two full-lengths.
Marking Freeman’s third collaboration with British folk-rocker Teddy Thompson, the next chapter in Freeman’s discography is Every Single Star. The record is out September 27th, but Dori Freeman’s shared a well-rounded Americana appetizer ahead of time, “That’s How I Feel”!
Rank #13: Murray A. Lightburn: “I Give Up”
Once referred to as “the Black Morrissey”, Montreal vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and producer Murray A. Lightburn has come a long way since co-founding the indie chamber rock outfit The Dears. And when this Canadian crooner’s not recording and touring with his wife, Lightburn can’t help but keep writing just for himself.
Decidedly different from his 2013 solo debut and concept album MASS:LIGHT, Lightburn’s upcoming sophomore effort, Hear Me Out, drapes Lightburn’s already silky style over ’50s and ’60s soul snippets. The collision of vintage R&B sounds and modern production on Hear Me Out will definitely leave you moanin’ for more and thankfully you can see Murray A. Lightburn during SXSW. Hear Me Out drops tomorrow, so listen up to this crawling gospel groove, “I Give Up”!
Rank #14: Rod Melancon: “Rehabilitation”
Singer Rod Melancon‘s upbringing in the Louisiana swampland has always been integral to his voice, one that wanders between spoken-word, growlin’ and croonin’. Melancon’s inherently Southern style and Cormac McCarthy-esque lyrics are already well-established on his first three records, but never as boldly as on the cinematic and concept-driven, Pinkville. Recorded by Adrian Quesada, Pinkville is set about a half century back with echoes of the Vietnam War and character-defining truths steering this sultry album amongst guitar-heavy Americana, Louisiana soul, Texas blues, country rock and beyond.
Pinkville is available everywhere tomorrow but a copy of the album comes with each ticket for the release show, 10PM tonight at the Saxon Pub! For your fix of Melancon ahead of the show, enjoy a free download of Pinkville‘s lead single, “Rehabilitation”!
Rank #15: Marmalakes: “Geneva Hall” (Live in Studio 1A)
If you’ve seen any live music in Austin in the past ten years, chances are you’ve caught a glimpse of drummer Josh Halpern or singer-guitarist Chase Weinacht, either onstage or in the crowd. Halpern provides percussion for Palo Duro, Shearwater, Hello Wheels, Still Corners, Taft (and probably a dozen other groups) while Weinacht puts time towards solo songwriting and The Hermits, but it’s all on top of the strong bond formed over a decade ago as Marmalakes.
With both members determined in their own right, Marmalakes walks a path between the two extremes of friendship and discipline (not to mention an insatiable hunger for indie folk rock), and when we named them our May 2018 Artist of the Month, it was practically overdue! Marmalakes‘ debut LP Please Don’t Stop came out in May, filled with songs we’ve heard live for years, now provided with some in-studio clarity. Live is still the best way to enjoy Marmalakes, so catch ’em around town whenever you can, starting right now with the Studio 1A rendition of one of their latest and greatest, “Geneva Hall”!
Rank #16: Mary Bryce: “Lemon Trees” [PREMIERE]
Although she’s shied from calling herself “chief songwriter” for her collaborations, there’s no doubting the sheer talent and fronting presence that Austin’s Mary Bryce possesses. You’ve heard her vocals in SMiiLE, before that with Dreamboat, and you can’t forget about Bryce’s killer one-off with CAPYAC. But every once in awhile when she’s not having a blast with the best friends that double as her bandmates, Bryce pours her heart into her solo project.
Bryce shows off incredible vocal command when it comes to performance and arrangement, plucking only the finest tones to match her compositions while leaving plenty of space to appreciate the instrumentation. Her idiosyncratic brand of feminine folk jazz hasn’t been heard solo since 2018’s “Flowers”, and Bryce’s gorgeous voice returns front-and-center with the premiere of a new single. Here’s a KUTX-clusive listen to the genuine, sweet, and dynamic “Lemon Trees”, produced by SMiiLE’s Jake Miles and co-produced/recorded by Dan Businski, who’s engineered Molly Burch and Jess Williamson!
Rank #17: Natalie Price: “These Days”
It’s been a long time coming for Natalie Price, who’s sang her whole life and written songs since her hands first met six strings. This Fort Worth native moved to Austin some years back and after a particularly well-received open mic performance, Price put some more stock into her music.
Fast forward to last week, when Natalie Price shared her debut EP, Through the Fog, a robust addition into the annals of indie-Americana with a five-song infusion of folk, country and pop. Through the Fog is available everywhere and in case you missed the release show, enjoy the EP opener, “These Days”!
Rank #18: Mndsgn: “Deviled Eggs”
For the past decade, L.A. experimental hip-hop producer Ringgo Ancheta has been altering the mental states of willing listeners as Mndsgn, pronounced “mind design”. And true to his name, Mndsgn’s thumping yet dreamy instrumental tracks are engaging enough to listen to for hours but still leave plenty of space to absorb, reflect, and simply be.
Tomorrow Mndsgn pays homage to one of his musical idols with a beat tape in the vain of J Dilla’s classic Donuts. Brief, eclectic and decidedly more fun than it is ethereal, the fourteen tracks on Snaxx will sate the appetites of Mndsgn fans while he works on a moodier full-length, projected for a 2020 release date. Mndsgn plays at Come and Take It Live late next month and today you can get a free sample from Snaxx with “Deviled Eggs”!
Rank #19: Lampland: “Did You Ever Wanna Know Why?”
If there’s one thing Brooklyn songwriter Tommy Bazarian does best, it’s ambiance. Bazarian’s solo project Lampland was created at his 9-t0-5 as a radio producer, taking what he absorbed in the day time and working it into lyrics and music by nightfall. The arrangements on Lampland’s debut album No Mood use heavily-modified tones and various field recordings to create the sonic backdrop for Bazarian’s folksy, fragmented narratives. And true to its name, No Mood doesn’t fall under any one genre, instead illuminating a field of influences, most notably alt-country, acoustic folk, and shoegaze.
No Mood came out last Friday and to ignite the wick on these ten luminous songs, enjoy a free download of No Mood‘s penultimate track, “Did You Ever Wanna Know Why?”