Sound Advice Vol. III: Starry Eyes (An Austin Sound Compilation)
2008 was declared by our mayor to be “The Year of Austin Music,” which was intended to focus attention on helping Austin’s struggling musicians that keep the Live Music Capital of the World thriving as the music industry continues to go through turmoil. The declaration could have just as easily been a recognition of what was another excellent year of music in the Capital City, however. We saw some big breakouts with the amazing return of Alejandro Escovedo and the stunning step forward for Shearwater, while the Black Angels channeled classic Roky Erickson, James McMurtry continued to spit poetic spite, and the Sword drew blood nationally on tour with Metallica. It was also an exceptional year for younger artists that have been featured on our past Sound Advice comps: The Lovely Sparrows, The Strange Boys, Brothers and Sisters, Brazos, White Denim, Black Joe Lewis, and Balmorhea, just to name a few. And this year’s Austin Sound compilation features 21 more local artists that have excited us over the past year and that we think you should hear!
And what does Sound Advice Vol. III suggest are the trends in Austin music this year? Like the national indie scene, some terrific variations on classic psychedelic sounds have pervaded the city (Ringo Deathstarr, the Astronaut Suit, the Boxing Lesson) and we’ve spawned a whole new crop of delicious indie pop that has been central to Austin’s scene over the past decade (Hollywood Gossip, the Model U.N., Built By Snow). The outer limits of country continues to contort in any number of directions, courtesy the rolling raucousness of the Golden Boys, cosmic touch of the Lonesome Heroes, and haunting folk of Dana Falconberry, while rock got a fierce shot in the arm from UME, Harlem, and the Midgetmen. Perhaps most compelling, though, has been the emergence of the subtle songwriting that propels groups like the Eastern Sea, the Sour Notes, and Drew Smith’s Lonely Choir. You can sample all of these Austin sounds below, and much more, with all of the songs available for individual download or as a whole (immaculately sequenced) comp. As always, we’ve listed each artist’s shows during SXSW week, so if you hear something you like, we encourage you to check them out live if you’re in town for the annual cluster-fest.
Download: Sound Advice Vol III: Starry Eyes (An Austin Sound Compilation)
(Alternate download link via Yousendit)
1. Ringo Deathstarr – “In Love’” from upcoming album
To see Ringo Deathstarr live is less of a show than it is an experience, slipping inside an envelope of sonic expansion as the quartet unleashes waves of noise in ear-rattling assault. Yet beneath the surge of distortion and static runs the more melodic lines of the Jesus and Mary Chain that emerge from the band on record. The group’s eponymous debut EP was dosed with Psychocandy and ripped with Loveless affection, and their new album, expected out later this year and represented by “In Love” below, promises to rise to another level entirely.
March 17 - South by South Death at Elysium
March 20 - at Club Primo, 4:30pm
March 20 - Lost in Texas at South Austin Warehouse, 8:15pm
March 21 - SXSW Showcase at Headhunters, 8:00pm
2. The Astronaut Suit – “Rolling Thunder” from Soul of a Man (SR)
The psychedelic vision of Jess Farr, the Astronaut Suit steeps in the mellow but anthemic shoegaze of Spiritualized. Now formed into a core quartet + guests, the group released its sophomore EP, Soul of a Man, this year and took even the local scene by surprise. Mixing Jason Pierce’s kind of searching epics with a more southern flare on songs like the title track, the Astronaut Suit comes across like Primal Scream bursting forth from a rural, backwoods blues background, to remarkable effect. The group is currently putting the finishing touches on their debut LP, which will hopefully see release this summer.
March 14 - Psych Fest 2 at Radio Room, 3:00pm
March 20 - United States Art Authority, 4:00pm
3. The Eastern Sea – “The Snow” from The Eastern Sea EP (SR)
The mesmerizing textures of the Eastern Sea accentuate the equally compelling songwriting of frontman Matt Hines, who weaves his imagistic narratives with a delicate, if often disillusioned, calm. The quintet realizes its sound with even more aplomb live, delivering a late night feel that intertwines horns into the mix of keys and guitar and gives the group the feel of early Sufjan Stevens or the Mountain Goats. Their eponymous debut EP was one of last year’s best local debuts, and we expect more good things in 2009, starting with a soon to be released 7”.
March 18 - 2908 Cole House, 1:00pm
March 19 - 4301 Banister Side A, 2:00pm
March 19 - Casa de Gallo 2604 Diaz St., 7:00pm
March 19 - Creekside Live, 9:45pm
March 20 - Fast Folks Bike Shop, 5:00pm
March 21 - Club Primo (Solo Set), 5:30pm
4. Sunset – “When Perfect Flames Expire” from The Glowing City (Autobus)
We featured Bill Baird’s solo work on our first Sound Advice compilation, but since then, the former Sound Team creative force has built his band Sunset into one of the most exciting groups in Austin. Like Beck, Baird pushes and melds genres with an impeccable ease, and with last year’s two LPs, Bright Blue Dream and The Glowing City, harnessed the naturally eccentric bent of his artistic visions into psych-pop masterstrokes. And Sunset shows no sign of slowing down, already in 09 having released the 7” Loveshines II and an album of covers called Songs the Sound of Myself, as Written By Others.
March 13 - Studio rent party at Baby Blue Studio, 10:00 pm
March 14 - ATX Emerge Party at Mohawk, 10:00pm
March 18 - RadioK Live Broadcast, 11:00am
March 18 - Club 1808 Party, 2:30pm
March 18 - Autobus SXSW Showcase at The Hideout, 11:00pm
5. The Sour Notes – “Weak at Heart” from The Meat of the Fruit (SR)
Another exceptional debut EP from the past year was the Sour Notes’ The Meat of the Fruit. Behind Jared Boulanger’s delicate, nasally croon, and pining lyrics, the quartet swoons a mellow indie-rock that hearkens Death Cab for Cutie. Following up the EP with their recent debut full-length Received in Bitterness, the group branched into even more expansive guitar layers that often shaded the New Year, and are already plotting LP number two, tentatively titled It’s Not Gonna Be Pretty, for release later this year. Also, be sure not to miss their stunning cover of Jawbreaker’s “Accident Prone” in their Sound Off.
March 19 - Carousel Lounge, 3:00pm
March 20 - The Parlor, 3:00pm
6. Hollywood Gossip – “Bicycle” from You’re So Quiet (SR)
Indie pop doesn’t come much more delectable than with Hollywood Gossip. The quartet’s debut EP, You’re So Quiet, echoed the head-bopping irresistibility of like-minded popsters like Bishop Allen, The Boy Least Likely Too, or Saturday Looks Good to Me, trading upbeat melodies with lovelorn sentiment and youthful excitement. Yet as undeniably charming and bittersweet as Hollywood Gossip is, their tight sound avoids the pitfall of saccharine simplicity, and captures Austin’s pop sensibilities perfectly.
March 19 - Homeslice Pizza, 12:00pm
7. Harlem – “South of France” from Free Drugs ;- ) (Female Fantasy)
Perhaps the biggest new buzz from Austin, Harlem moved to the capital city last year and became a sensation behind their unbridled live shows and raucous garage sound. Debut EP Free Drugs ;- ) was as wild as its title implies, bursting at the seams with rugged psych nuggets and carefree, lo-fi rock that falls somewhere between fellow local favorites the Strange Boys and White Denim. Most of all, however, is the sense of fun that explodes in every song, not only in the tongue-in-cheek attitude, but with a sound that seems to deflect and mock seriousness with every chord. The trio has also been unleashing a cover a month that has kept the deserved hype moving forward.
March 14 - ATX Emerge Party at Mohawk, 9:00pm
March 19 - Gorilla vs. Booze Party at the Peacock, 12:00pm
March 20 - True Panther Showcase at Baby Acapulco, 8:00pm
March 21 - Hot Freaks Party at Mohawk, 12:00pm
March 21 - SXSW Showcase at Beauty Bar Backyard, 9:05pm
8. Built By Snow – “All the Weird Kids Know” from MEGA (SR)
Built by Snow delivers geek-pop at it’s finest, with unmistakable nods to forerunners like Devo and Weezer customized with the Cars and Talking Heads. Following 2007 EP Noise, the quartet’s new LP MEGA continues to mine the anxiety-riddled nuances of the Information Generation, complete with video-game tropes and electro-twitchery that matches JP Pfertner jittery vocals. Yet for all their dorky-delight, the band never fails to amaze with the energetic swirl and synth-blipped barrage breaking circuits behind the always clever and engaging cut of their lyrics.
March 20 - Austin Music + Entertainment Party at Jovita’s, 7:00pm
March 20 - High Five Party at IONA Books (701 Tillery), 1:00am
March 21 - Co-Lab Art Studios (613 Allen), 7:30pm
March 21 - Texas Rock Fest, 12:30am
9. UME – “The Conductor” from Sun Shower EP (SR)
UME has been frequently saddled with not entirely undue Sonic Youth comparisons, in part because of blond bombshell Lauren Lagner Larson killer guitar licks and raspy vocals, but the trio’s new EP, Sun Shower suggests the group has come into their own distinct rock and post-punk prowess. Sun Shower is the band’s first release in almost three years and the time has allowed them to hone their sound into tightly controlled and slowly climaxing bursts of power. UME reportedly has another album’s worth of songs in the can and is concentrating on attracting some attention to help release it; we can only hope they get it soon, as the band has never sounded better.
March 14th - ATX Emerge Party @ Mohawk
March 16th - WOXY Live Radio Session
March 18th - Girls Rock Camp / BMI SXSW Showcase at Maggie Mae’s, 7:30pm
March 19th - Covert Curiosity and Do512 Party at Ace’s Lounge, 2:15pm
March 21st - Club Primo’s, 2:00pm
10. The Boxing Lesson – “Dark Side of the Moog” from Wild Streaks and Windy Days (SR)
The Boxing Lesson rocks out in a psychedelic haze that flares with the unrepentant epic sweep of Pink Floyd or Low-era David Bowie, coursing through anthems that can turn from melodic somnambulism to a roaring fury on a dime. After transplanting to Austin from LA, Paul Waclawsky formed the trio and released his third EP under the Boxing Lesson name, but last year’s debut LP Wild Streaks and Windy Days finally allowed space enough for their expansive songs to develop with appropriate weight. Waclawsky’s guitar and Jaylinn Davidson’s synth dance hypnotically around Jake Mitchell’s throbbing back-beat, lacing Moog and droning rhythms into cosmic constructions.
March 13 - Emo’s, 11:30pm
March 14 - The Sound of Austin at The Belmont, 11:00pm
March 17 - Stayindie.com Party at Ace’s, 8:00pm
March 17 - Synergy Entertainment Show at Creekside Lounge, 12:00am
March 18 - Spaceland Day Party at Maggie Mae’s, 12:20pm
March 18 - SXSW Showcase at Cellar Door, 8:00pm
March 20 - Boxing Lesson Day Party at Guero’s, 7:30pm
March 20 - Hive Five Party at IONA Books, 12:00am
March 21 - Live Music Capital Party at Bill’s Place, 12:00pm
March 21 - Mos Fukk Dupp Day Party at Co-Lab, 8:00pm
March 22 - Austin Art Garage, 4:00pm
March 22 - Stayindie.com at Ace’s, 8:00pm
11. Silent Land Time Machine – “Electronic Transmission(S)” from & Hope Still (Indian Queen)
What began as bedroom recording project soon blossomed into a remarkable one man display of instrumental dexterity that is Silent Land Time Machine. Building from a bed of ambient electronics and sampled found sounds, SLTM loops an impressive soundscape throughout his debut LP, & Hope Still. To watch these compositions come alive during his always unique performances is even more thrilling, weaving songs from subtle elements into a climbing intensity without ever losing their essential focus. Peddle pushing never proved so mesmerizing.
March 20 - Moose Lodge, 8:30pm
12. Dana Falconberry – “Baby Blue Sky” from Oh Skies of Grey (00:02:59)
It’s no exaggeration to proclaim that Dana Falconberry possesses one of the most compelling voices in Austin, which combined with the perfect harmonies of Gina Dvorak and Erika Maassen creates beautifully textured folk that is moving and haunting. First garnering attention through her own harmony contributions on Peter and the Wolf’s breakout Lightness, Falconberry’s 2007 debut EP Paper Sailboat proved her an equally exceptional songwriter. Last year’s release of her debut full-length, Oh Skies of Grey, took her aching ballads in new directions with moments of fuzzed electric guitar, but it’s still the stunning acoustic mining of traditional roots styles that captures Falconberry at her best.
March 19 - Murkville Music Day Show at 902 Spence Street, 5:30pm
March 20 - Now Playing Austin Sound Dayshow at Creekside Lounge, 3:45pm
March 21 - Flipnotics, 5:00pm
13. The Golden Boys – “Shortcut to Memphis” from Goodbye Country (Monofonus)
The Golden Boys seem to have achieved an almost legendary status in Austin for the drunken rowdiness of their live shows, every bit of which seeps into last year’s third album, Goodbye Country. Whereas the quintet’s fantastic sophomore release, Whiskey Flower was a boozy, country-tinged romp, their latest rocks and rollicks with garage fervor. While the group has improbably become something like elder statesmen to the young retro-digging bands in Austin, their energy hasn’t been curbed one bit and their songs are tighter than ever.
March 14 - Pure Volume House, 8:00pm
March 20 - Beerland, 4:00pm
March 21 - Spider House, 1:00pm
March 21 - SXSW Showcase at Beauty Bar, 12:00am
14. T Bird and the Breaks – “Blackberry Brandy” from Learn About It (SR)
The soul resurgence that has swept even the international scene the past few years has dug in its heels locally with a particularly Austin flavor that incorporates the city’s storied blues and R&B history. Fronted by Tim Crane, and complete with female backup singers and blaring horns, T Bird and the Breaks unloads soul of the smooth, blue-eyed variety but with grit and abandon of Joe Cocker, and the chugging rhythm of Memphis. There’s little not to love from the group’s recently released debut LP, Learn About It, and with their live shows, the band swaggers with even more power, never failing to erupt the dancefloor.
March 17 - Momo’s, 11:30pm
March 19 - Nola Soul Party at Victory Grill, 2:45pm
March 20 - SXSW Showcase at Momo’s, 8:00pm
March 22 - Antone’s, 9:00pm
15. The Lonesome Heroes – “Canary” from Crooked Highway (SR)
Rich Russell and Landry McMeans meld their harmonies and guitar and dobro into delectable tunes that captures the Lonesome Heroes’ restless and wandering spirit. With a backing band that includes an impressive cast of Austin players, the duo delivers gentle ballads cut with a psychedelic country swirl, McMeans’ gorgeous vocals traded with Russell’s down-to-earth sound. Following 2006 EP Don’t Play to Lose, the group released their appropriately-titled sophomore effort, Crooked Highway, this past year, and are planning a live album for sometime in 09.
March 21 - Cissi’s Market, 7:00pm
March 22 - Flipnotics, 4:00pm
March 22 - SXSW Spring Fling at Giddy Ups, 10:00pm
16. The Georgian Company – “Apology” from The Georgian Company (SR)
After the break-up of popular Austin band Just Guns, founder George Irwin finally formed a new project with the Georgian Company, featuring many of Just Guns’ alumni, but with a smooth country polish that easily powers building, brooding tunes with the swooning sting of pedal steel. The group’s eponymous debut EP was released just this month, and the band’s past experience together clearly plays a role in how impressively tight and polished their sound proves, the band melding South San Gabriel with more a traditional country bent.
March 18 - Creekside Lounge, 12:00pm
March 19 - (((Doublestereo))) Party at Tiniest Bar in Texas, 3:00pm
17. Drew Smith’s Lonely Choir – “Diamonds” from Drew Smith’s Lonely Choir (Fat Caddy)
Drew Smith is one of those genius pop songwriters who seems to be able to turn anything into memorable melody and catchy song. After a string of EPs, his debut album as Drew Smith’s Lonely Choir traverses the sonic map with ease, ranging from Beatles and Kinks inspired pop to more country-based ballads, and always with immaculate and surprising arrangements. The closest hallmarks may be the ones that Smith himself invokes with his album opener, “Nilsson Sings Newman,” but the Lonely Choir is an experience all their own.
March 16 - ZonePerfect’s live.create. lounge at 5th and Neches (Solo Show), 4:00pm
March 17 - KGSR 107.1 Live OnAir at Four Seasons Hotel, 8:00am
March 18 - Hyatt Lost Pines, 7:30pm
March 21 - Live Music Record’s Showcase at Guero’s, 4:30pm
March 21 - SXSW Showcase at Momo’s, 9:00pm
18. The Model UN – “Go To Sea” from Go To Sea (SR)
We first came across locals the Model UN at last year’s SXSW and were immediately taken with their deft, mellow pop sound and impressive lyricism, all of which came to fruition on last year’s Tiger Physics EP. The early cuts from the quartet’s debut LP, Go To Sea, due out this summer, promise to be just as infectious, but with a more subtle effect. Touches of Okkervil River’s latest pop bursts (see “White Teeth”) couple with golden guitar tones that recalls a more powerful American Analogue Set – in other words a winning combination that leaves us ever-eager to hear what the band will produce next.
March 19 - 14 Hour Party at The Compound, 8:00pm
March 21 - Uchi, 12:00pm
19. The Great Nostalgic – “County Line” from The Great Nostalgic (SR)
The Great Nostalgic winds a dramatic intensity through Abram Shook’s trembling, soaring vocals that hovers somewhere between David Bowie and Robert Smith, while the quintet’s sound jumps in cathartic synth and guitar punches of pop-rock and just as easily drops into swaying ballads. Their self-titled debut LP, released this month, melds those elements into an Arcade Fire intensity, overpowering even in their calmest moments as the building catharsis gathers force under each tune. Unsettled and anxious, the group nonetheless holds the contortionist turns of their arrangements with a dexterous control of tension and release.
March 20 - SXSW Showcase at Parish Downstairs, 9:00pm
March 21 - Uchi, 2:00pm
20. Midgetmen – “Trickle Down” from Showpony (SR)
The Midgetmen have been unloading their pop-punk onslaught on Austin for years now, their shows a frenzy of guitar power and shouted choruses. Their tunes have always offered up power-chorded odes to reckless youth and caustic commentaries on contemporary bullshit, but never as well as on this past year’s third LP, Showpony. Though the quartet unapologetically revels in a state of arrested development, Showpony proved they can just as convincingly harness their beer-fueled mayhem into a biting and bitter consciousness without sacrificing any of the group’s inherent fun.
March 18 - Creekside Lounge, 1:00pm
21. Follow That Bird! – “Run With Knives” from Follow That Bird (SR)
The femme fatale trio of Lauren Green, Tiffanie Lanmon, Rachel Badge ripped onto Austin’s scene last year with their eponymous debut EP. While it’s impossible to ignore the Riot Grrrl and Sleater-Kinney influence of Follow That Bird!’s sound, that is only the base upon which the group builds its edgy but melodic strength. Green’s jagged, staccatoed vocals jab ferociously through a blanket of distortion while the guitars rip the patchwork to shreds. The band has also reportedly landed a song on an upcoming Matador compilation, so expect to hear much more from them in the future
March 17 - Circus Party at Carousel Lounge, 9:00pm
March 18 - Girl’s Rock Camp Day Show at Jo’s Coffe, 8:00pm
March 20 - Girl’s Rock Camp Day Show at Whole Foods, 2:00pm
March 21 - Side One Track One Day Party at Club Primos, 2:00pm