Sound Advice Vol. IV: The Way We Get By (An Austin Sound Compilation)
The past year on the Austin music scene has been a rather up-and-down affair. We’ve had some fantastic developments, like the internet radio tastemakers Woxy moving to town and making themselves right at home, and we’ve had a number of low points, like the continued fight over sound ordinances and city hall stifling plans for a dedicated music department. We also lost long time Austin icons like Stephen Bruton, Tina Marsh, and Rusty Wier, and even Sky “Sunlight” Saxon moved to Austin only to quickly move on to yet another plane of existence. And already at the start of the new decade, our music scene is caught between promise and controversy. The former came in the form of last month’s release of Matador Records’ Austin comp, Casual Victim Pile, curated by Gerard Cosloy and hopefully putting a number of new bands on the map, and the latter emerging with the University of Texas’ decision to try to shut down the seminal Cactus Cafe.
Yet as always, the music in Austin keeps going. This year we have the release of the Roky Erickson and Okkervil River collaboration, True Love Cast Out All Evil, and the reunion of Austin’s Sixteen Deluxe and their album of previously unreleased material called Year One. And of course Spoon, who we’ve called upon for this year’s comp title, has their new album, Transference, fresh after being deemed by Metacritic as the most critically acclaimed band of the last decade. All of those bands will be playing this week in Austin.
We at Austin Sound are more concerned about the unsung scene of Austin, though - of what’s emerging and what’s next. To that end, we proudly present our annual Sound Advice compilation, with 19 bands that we think you need to know in Austin right now, and will be hearing more from in the future. Looking back over our past comps, which have featured everyone from the now-well-known (Octopus Project; White Denim; Black Joe Lewis) to the finally beginning to break (The Strange Boys; Harlem; Balmorhea), it’s interesting to see how the scene has changed. There has been a distinct shift from indie pop and rock, to a psych resurgence, to this past year’s garage revival. Though all those sounds are still popularly bounding around Austin in 2010, and can be heard on this year’s comp, the aesthetic that seems to most encapsulate the music today is “raw” - both in sound and emotion. Everything has been pushed up front and rent with an honesty, even when it’s blasted in an inundating wave of noise.
As always, you can get a taste of the Austin Sound here at the dawning of the new decade below, with all of the songs kindly contributed by the artists and available for individual download or as a whole comp. We’ve also listed each artist’s shows during SXSW week, and we encourage you to take the chance to check out live anything that strikes your earbuds below.
1. A Giant Dog – “Oh, Miserable Me” from House (SR)
Last year, A Giant Dog released their self-titled debut EP, which was propelled by the undeniable vocal fervor of Sabrina Ellis, capable of unloading a wrecking siren’s wail of unbridled, quaking ferociousness backed by a jagged edge of guitar licks. With the quintet’s brand new EP, House, however, the band kicks a more retro garage-pop sound. While still unruly and rough, the fighting harmonies and scratched rhythms fuse a punk anxiety with bluesy catharsis, and the occasional rise of raucous roots flair and catchy pop hook, all of which boils over on the stage live.
March 17 - Can’t Stop the Bleeding Party at Beerland (on the patio); 8:00pm
March 19 - Music By the Slice at Homeslice Pizza; 12:30pm
March 20 - at House of Guys Coop (21st and Nueces); 2:00pm
2. The Gary – “Vice” from Logan (Cedar Fever)
When the Gary unloaded their debut EP last year called Chub, it was difficult to know what to make of the band. The trio didn’t seem to allow fans to take them too seriously, but the EP harnessed bruising bass-driven anthems and wicked guitar licks scowling over a ferocious percussion. This year’s Logan removed any doubt as to the band’s intent, however, unloading a brooding dose of hard punched rock that calls up the Minutemen but retains a melodic bent against Dave Norwood’s uneasy, ominous vocals that drawl out with a dire intimidation.
March 17 - Big Texas Jumpstart Day Party at Creekside; 12:00pm
March 18 - Leisure Tourniquet Equinox Mishmash Day Party at Hot Mama’s; 2:30pm
March 18 - Cherrywood Coffee House; 5:00pm
March 20 - Lost in Texas at South Austin Warehouse, 8:15pm
March 21 - SXSW Showcase at Headhunters, 8:00pm
3. Followed By Static – “Smiles” from upcoming album
Centered on the core duo of “E Static” and “K. Lee,” Followed By Static doesn’t just trail in the wake of feedback, but fully swaddles in it. The band’s debut 7”, “Lullaby” b/w “AADC” released by Rare Dust, proved one of the best singles offerings of last year, sublimely ripping pummeled rhythms and a touch of the Velvet Underground with My Bloody Valentine fueled feedback. The band is currently mixing their debut, which you can get a taste of with the track “Smiles” below. The new songs still swim in a wash of static, but provide steadier hooks to keep them under control without losing any of their fury.
March 16 - Frog Music Party at the Ghostroom; 12:00am
March 17 - SXSW Showcase at Club 1808 II; 11:00pm
March 18 - Burger City SXSW at the Grand; 1:45pm
March 18 - Primo Party at club Primos; 10:15
March 20 - Bombay Cove Records Party at Jaimes Spanish Village; 3:50
4. Woven Bones – “If It Feels Alright” from In and Out and Back Again (HoZac)
Woven Bones may the band on this year’s comp most likely to break big. Already behind a series of sold out 7” singles, the trio has begun to garner national attention, and locally become the latest group to rise above the surface of Red River with their immersive live shows. While the band wrangles haze of Primal Scream and the Jesus and Mary Chain, their shows are pure pulses of dark, unseated rhythm that need to be experienced. Woven Bones’ debut album, In and Out and Back Again, is set to be released by HoZac in May, and includes the track available for download here, “If It Feels Alright.”
March 16 - Day Before the Mess Fest at 21 Street Coop; 12:00am
March 17 - Can’t Stop the Bleeding at Beerland; 3:00pm
March 17 - HoZac Party at Trailer Space; 6:30pm
March 18 - SXSW Showcase at Galaxy Room; 8:30pm
March 19 - Chaos in Tejas at Club 1808; 5:00pm
March 19 - Acid Marshmallow Show at the Broken Neck; 5:55pm
March 20 - Uchi’s East Meets Fest at Uchi; 1:00pm
March 20 - Forcefield Party at Cheer Up Charlies; 4:00pm
March 20 - at United States Art Authority; 6:45pm
March 20 - Weekly Tapedeck party at Karibu; 8:40pm
March 20 - SXSW Showcase at Encore Patio; 1:00am
5. Headdress – “The Lost White Brother” from Lunes
Headdress’ plodding psych drone is a mesmerizing and hypnotic force. Since first emerging in Austin several years ago as a duo, Caleb Coy has since built the project into an impressive quintet, which includes Gabe Bishop from Vietnam, and Trey Ramirez and Adrian Carrillo from Pack of Wolves. Last year brought the textural wonder of their third album, Lunes, released by No Quarter, and cemented the band as a pivotal part of Austin’s ripe psych scene. Headdress recently took refuge in a cabin in the hill country to record new songs that they will be debuting at SXSW, with that album hopefully expected by the end of the year.
March 18 - Light Lodge Party at Okay Mountain; 5:45pm
March 19 - SXSW Showcase at Encore; 10:00pm
March 20 - New York Night Train’s Hoodang at United States Art Authority; 5:15pm
6. Ola Podrida – “Donkey” from Belly of the Lion
After the critically acclaimed 2007 eponymous debut of Ola Podrida, David Wingo moved back to Austin from New York and while he hasn’t quite become a fixture on the local scene, his sophomore release, Belly of the Lion, was a welcome addition to last year’s Austin albums. Released by hometown imprint Western Vinyl, Belly of the Lion lingers in the familiar nostalgic lull of Wingo’s imagistic narratives, yet also finds more solid footing than its predecessor. To start 2010, Wingo has finally assembled a new band based here in Austin, with the quartet now able to bring the detailed layering of Wingo’s recordings to live shows.
March 17 - No Words/Day Bow Bow Party at The Ghost Room; 12:30pm
March 18 - Nail Distro Party at the Side Bar; 1:30pm
March 18 - at Waterloo Records; 4:00pm
March 19 - at Progress Coffee (David Wingo Solo); 2:15P
March 20 - SXSW Showcase at St. David’s Bethel Hall; 12:00am
7. Monarchs – “Come On and Move Me” from Those Words, Those Frames
Monarchs is the project of Celeste Griffin, who actually claims a dual bands with the name in both Austin and her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. Griffin is capable of supporting both manifestations though, as her vocal prowess is on par with any number of famously dubbed chanteuses. There are traces of Neko Case and Chan Marshall that surface in her songs, but her bluesy and seductively torched ballads from last year’s Those Words, Those Frames have established her as a force in her own right, and her versatility in sliding through and melding genres is equally mesmerizing.
March 17 - SXSW Showcase at The Ghost Room; 9:00pm
March 19 - Birmingham Plays SXSW Party at Creekside Lounge; 12:00pm
March 20 - Stem and Leaf Party at Rainy Manor House; 5:00pm
8. The Happen-Ins – “Be Yer Fool” from The Happen-Ins
If there is an essence to back yard barbecue southern jams, the Happen-Ins have tapped into it. The quartet erupted on the scene last year, combining some of the best talent from Austin’s emerging new generation of roots-rockers, and blew the doors off the town with their raw, bluesy riffs and classic R&B and soul touch, all stewed in a southern rock gumbo. The band carries itself with the loose shambles of a collective, and the tunes that stock the Happen-Ins just released their self-titled debut LP captures the laid-back but hip-shaking vibe that follows their live shows.
March 18 - at The Moose Lodge; 7:00pm
March 19 - Hellooooo.com Backyard Day Party; 6:00pm
March 20 - at United States Art Authority; 9:45pm
March 20 - at Gibson Showroom; 11:00pm
9. TV Torso – “The Black Mask” from The Black Mask 7″
It’s been several years since Sound Team disbanded, but it was worth the wait for former ST frontman Matt Oliver’s new project. TV Torso emerged after a few false starts with a pair of stellar 7” singles last fall, “Days of Being Wild” b/w “I Can See Your Face” and “The Black Mask” b/w “The Eye in the Pyramid” that immediately established them one of last year’s best new bands. Between the Sixties psych-pop flourishes and Britt Daniel-esque cut of Oliver’s vocals, the four songs offer a rough taste of what to expect from the trio’s debut due out this year.
March 19 - SXSW Showcase at Emo’s Annex; 8:00pm
10. The Deaf Ears – “Live Forever” from Live Forever (SR)
Emerging from the ashes of the local pop outfit Tammany Hall Machine, Joel Mullins’ new project the Deaf Ears surprised with the infectiousness of their 2009 debut, Live Forever. Though loosely recorded with a live feel, the songs themselves are polished pop gems that careen playfully but with purpose. The quintet finds a hook and rides it for all it’s worth, rousting Mullins’ ribald vocals and sharp piano pulses with moments that recall Spoon’s pop perfection. The Deaf Ears have more tunes in the hopper, so expect to hear new recordings this year.
March 18 - at The Hole in the Wall; 5:00pm
11. Bear Claw – “Warm for Winter, Cold for Fall” from Bear Claw EP
Bear Claw strikes the perfect chord between minimal twee pop and songwriting saturated with a disenchanted yearning. There is a Morrissey feel to Nigel Rainey’s exhortations of disillusioned romanticism, but the strike with complete and utter and charm that do not compromise by falling into fey whimsy. The trio originally released an eponymous cassette, but got a reissue from local artists collective imprint Monofonus Press as 10” vinyl one-sider late last year. The band is currently recording and planning a tour in May, before going on a summer hiatus.
March 17 - Monofonus Day Party at Hotel San Jose; 7:00pm
March 17 - Real Cool Trash Party at Club Primos; 9:00pm
12. Oh No Oh My – “I Painted Your House” from Dmitrij Dmitrij
Oh No Oh My garnered a fair amount of buzz behind their indelible pop pieces served up several years ago with the release of their 2005 debut EP, Between the Devil and the Sea and eponymous album. The quartet returned with the Dmitrij Dmitrij EP in 2008, but has been lying somewhat low recently. While their tunes sway and bounce in the breeze of bands like The Boy Least Likely To, they are equally capable of exploding into a rock frenzy live. The band is currently recording a new album expecting release late this year.
March 19 - Rethink Pop Music Party at Fado; 2:00pm
March 19 - Floating Fest 2K10 at Lovejoys; 6:15pm
13. Clay Nightingale – “Last Paycheck” from Clay Nightingale
When Clay Nightingale released their debut album, The River and Then the Restless Wind in 2007, it was the type of release that comes out of nowhere and immediately charms with its personal narratives and sincerity, helmed by Daniel Shaetz and steeped in immaculately easy-rolling arrangements of piano and guitar. The sextet returned last year with their self-titled sophomore effort, which still reeled in the young nostalgia but also struck as older and somewhat wiser, a record that displayed growth both in emotion and sound.
14. Some Say Leland – “Devil’s Juicebox” from Forty Miles into the Main
Dan Grissom is a mastermind on any number of levels, helping catalyze the local community of alt. folkies – for lack of a better encompassing descriptor – and contributing to a number of projects as well as his own solo work. Some Say Leland may be his best overall outfit, however, cemented when the group last year released their sophomore LP, Fifty Miles Into the Main. The album is a deceptively complex in arrangements and themes, yet also accessible in its brooding folk-pop glow. The band already has two new albums recorded that will see release this year.
March 16 - Secret Show; 10:00pm
March 18 - Trevor and Dru’s Strange Brew Songwriter Explosion at Flipnotics (Dan Grissom Solo); 8:30pm
March 19 - Austin Sound and Paper Cloud Collective Party at 3901 Maplewood Ave (Dan Grissom Solo); 5:15 pm
March 19 - at Annie Street Arts Collective; 9:15 pm
March 20, - at the Cactus Cafe (Dan Grissom Solo); 4:00pm
15. The Tiny Tin Hearts – “Small Catastrophe” from Last Flight of the Matyr Aviator
An experience to behold live, the Tiny Tin Hearts burst from the stage with an orchestral pop sound that is both exuberant and poignant. Seth Osborne’s vocals flirt and piano melodies flirt with early Ben Folds, while the orchestration swoons with grandeur of Sufjan Stevens and the Arcade Fire. The eight-piece ensemble released their debut, Last Flight of the Martyr Aviator, last year and has won a fervent following locally behind their live shows.
16. Crooks – “My First” from Crooks (SR)
Crooks kick old school country, but at times cuts with an edge brought up on Nineties alt. country vibe. Josh Mazour’s vocals can buck and yelp like Hank Williams, but also growl with the barstool indie intensity of Deer Tick. The trio’s self-titled debut was released in 2008, and since then the band has honed their sound down into a roots-rousting romp, with a flair of southwestern horns and impressively stomped ballads. They reportedly have new songs under wraps that will hopefully see release later this year.
March 17 - SXSW Showcase at Beauty Bar/Palm Door; 11:30
17. Way No Way – “Better Alone” from Way No Way (SR)
Buried in a landslide of melodic fuzz, Way No Way delivered their debut album last November via cassette, but impressed with their live show and burst of scuzzed power-pop. Behind Kevin Dehan’s roughed up vocals, the quartet folds in touches of Sebadoh with 764-HERO, with songs scratched out through proto-punk noise. The band seems to be in and out of commission, but when they pull together, they are a must see for 2010.
18. Scan Hopper - “Misfits of Science” from Scan Hopper (SR)
Though recorded largely as a solo effort by Scott Hopkins, the self-titled debut of Scan Hopper cut intimidating textures of dark wave and Can-esque psych barrages with weaves of more upbeat pop jangle and punk jaggedness. The album proved a promising release that could bend in any number of directions, and with his recently formed quintet backing the live shows, Hopper is able to explode these elements live. Scan Hopper’s sophomore effort, tentatively titled Cerebral Bookends, is planned for release later this year.
March 18 - Eastside Bonfire at 2105 E. 22nd St; 7:00pm
18. The Roller - “Zugunruhe” from The Roller (Monofonus)
There are few bands in Austin right now that keep up with the sludging pummel of the Roller. The quartet unloads a furious onslaught of heavy doom metal and rock excoriated by the growling bite of Mike Morowitz. Their debut EP, released last year by Monofonus Press, can’t really do justice to the blitzkrieg of guitar and percussion that rocks their live shows, but then little could – even the epic seven minute terror that closes out this year’s comp in incomparable fashion.
March 19 - at the Grand; 3:00pm
March 20 - at Pork Chop Screen Printing; 2:00pm
March 20 - Fast Folks Party at The Gas Pipe; 10:00pm
March 21 - at LoveJoys; 4:00pm