New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
What we’re listening to
By Kevin Curtin, Kahron Spearman, Doug Freeman, Rachel Rascoe, Tim Stegall, Greg Stitt, and Raoul Hernandez, Fri., Sept. 11, 2020
Knock Out (Pecan Crazy)
Cover art for Knock Out, a painting by Kay Odyssey drummer Vajaja Meza, depicts a woman boxer, eyes blackened and bleeding from the teeth, but smiling. Indeed, the cassette on prolific San Marcos imprint Pecan Crazy goes 12 rounds against whatever life throws at you and emerges victorious.
While the Austin quartet's rock solid 2017 offering What's a Woman to Do? lyricized topographical features with songs like "Mountains in My Step" and "Our Isles," last month's 10-track affair thrives on themes of pain and perseverance. Sometimes, it's through harrowing characters like "Trixie," a dream-punk track in which the troubled protagonist's threatened with institutionalization. Processing heartache also factors heavily: On the brilliantly melodic "Seeing Double," a broken Kristina Boswell outpours, "I'm crying in my hands" in describing the Jekyll & Hyde nature of relationships. Over a big floor tom thump on closer "Walking Out of Town," the singer/guitarist reports, "I'm walking 'til I can't feel my heart that's been broken by you."
Boswell could get a job in a choir if she wanted.
Onetime No Mas Bodas singer, she possesses an extraordinary voice capable of conveying relatable emotion while being melodically technical. The choral intro on "Dancing in the Rain" contains an alt-classical feel, while "The Chase" elicits a watery vibrato as she sings "Don't trust the boys" over piano and a synthesized violin sound.
The sonic dichotomy of contrasting Boswell and bassist Kelsey Wickliffe's heavenly voices with garage-psych instrumentalism continues, though the music's evolved on the Stuart Sikes-produced tape with intelligent progressions and extracurricular arrangements. The subtly tropicália "To Get Along" contains both xylophone and meaty guitar from Liz Burrito. Unthawed atmospheric stillness, stellar single "No Birds Sing" cements Knock Out as a career album for Kay Odyssey. – Kevin Curtin
VVV Protests Global Authoritarianism with "How Many Times"
Holodeck Records Bandcamp
Always armed with a righteous, ambient, two-step riddim, Austin experimental dance craftsman and noted sports card collector VVV returns with a necessary, dramatic, and potent protest song. Sparked "by the surge in global authoritarianism and the ruthless crackdown on civil disobedience," the punchy and atmospheric single articulates a charging tension with the assistance of a vocal chop from Deborah Cox's 1998 hit R&B single "Nobody's Supposed to Be Here." The pained vocal is "meant to echo the struggles of millions whose human rights have been and continue to be suppressed." The producer stacks fractured breakbeats, oppressive electronic sines, and warbles, and thus transforms Cox's earthiness and cautious hopefulness into a panicked and doom-filled siren's call. – Kahron Spearman
Loteria video "Rhythm Revue"
A bittersweet nostalgia reels out in Loteria's video for new single "Rhythm Revue." Director Andy Campell makes a boozy bar crawl across Austin's music scene as the local quartet soundtracks with their jangly garage rock. From the Hole in the Wall and White Horse to Donn's Depot and Hotel Vegas, the trek reminds viewers just how indispensable our indie venues are to the music scene and soul of the city. We'll choose to consider it a celebratory prelude to live music's return, and for the Nick Fong/Jim Campo fronted band's upcoming sophomore LP, Texas Toast. – Doug Freeman
Grace Sorensen, "Soul or System"
After a youth in competitive dance, 17-year-old Austin School for the Performing and Visual Arts student Grace Sorensen continues a polished foray into music with her third single "Soul or System." The smoky, R&B-influenced pop piece platforms the singer's silky-smooth, effortless vocal dynamism. A subtle build, the content pulls more emotion out of a love match: "Show me what I'm showing you/ Give me what I'm giving you." Following prior piano ballad "Velvet Noise," the local teen continues work with producer Matt Noveskey at Orb Recording Studios. The Blue October bassist's thickly layered strum supports bandmate Will Knaak's guitar and pensive sax by Atlas Maior's Joshua Thomson. – Rachel Rascoe
Shawn Colvin Live From These Four Walls
boxoffice.mandolin.com, Saturday 12
Last year's 30th anniversary reissue of Shawn Colvin's debut LP, Steady On, emphasized the songwriter's eclectic career. Through Grammy successes (Steady On, Sunny Came Home), collaborations (Steve Earle), and assured reinventions (2018's children's book musical adaptation The Starlighter), a thread of tough and honest songwriting defines the longtime local's work. The second of her three livestream shows from Arlyn Studios on new streaming platform Mandolin recruits David Pulkingham and Mike Meadows as Colvin performs "favorite movie songs," including the first live performance of "Never Saw Blue" from Runaway Bride. The October 3 finale features stories behind her songs as she explores that remarkable career arc. – Doug Freeman
Mike Lee Launches Family Mart and 1996
Not one to waste time, multihyphenate Mike Lee (Letting Up Despite Great Faults and Fanclub) debuts not one but two new singles. "For Eric" arrives from new indie trio Family Mart with Daniel Schmidt and Daniel Hawkins, a sweet remembrance of a lost relative in swaths of dream-pop, twee, and post-punk. Ali Wagner of ATX indie outfit Hex Boyfriend adds a winsome layer with her voice. "Quarantine has kind of led me to this space, and I was able to find the voice I really wanted to convey right now," Lee told Fadeawayradiate.com. Second single, the nostalgia-heavy and airy "Around You," arrives from Lee's second new project, the electro dream-pop-influenced 1996. Featuring Lauren Massa of Houston's Velveteen Echo, the single contrasts the singer's natural mellowness and pliancy over Lee's well-structured electro-rigidity. – Kahron Spearman
Hayes Carll: Alone Together Sessions
Hayes Carll's wry and weary Texas drawl eases into these dogged days as the songwriter reworks some of his best tunes with stripped, intimate arrangements. Holed up this summer in his Nashville home with wife Allison Moorer, Carll recruited Darrell Scott to produce a career-spanning re-recording, from the beautifully worn "Arkansas Blues" to last year's "Times Like These." Ray Wylie Hubbard highlights their elbowing co-write "Drunken Poet's Dream" and Moorer joins for the wonderful cover duet "That's the Way Love Goes." The real draw, though, is Carll's exceptional lyricism, playful and poignant, and pushed to the fore and as comfortable as a back porch rocker. – Doug Freeman
Waylon Payne: Blue Eyes, the Harlot, the Queer, the Pusher & Me
Waylon Payne is country music royalty by birthright: Mom (Seventies hitmaker Sammi Smith), Dad (Willie Nelson guitarist Jody Payne), and of course his godfather and namesake (Waylon Jennings). In 2004, Payne's debut LP The Drifter butted up against his acting debut as Jerry Lee Lewis in Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line. He's split his time between Austin and Nashville since, battling addiction and other demons, as Lee Ann Womack and others recorded his songs. Now, harrowing autobiographies like "Sins of the Father" and "Dangerous Criminal" fill his long-delayed sophomore album, a startling 12-song confessional. Producers Eric Massey and Frank Liddell recorded his wounded voice and acoustic guitar prominently atop sparse instrumentation and occasional strings echoing in the distance. Standing in the same spot his mother cut "Help Make It Through the Night," Payne's opened some gorgeous wounds. – Tim Stegall
Meat Belt: Allowed to Live
Unyielding in its nihilistic snarl from the outset, Meat Belt's sophomore offering passes the Memphis garage punk smell test and would make departed revivalist James Lindsey proud. On the cutting board, 10 fresh slabs marbled with warbling post-punk and seasoned with the essence of noise rock. A savory treat for the ears that falls off the bone, fuzz guitar drives the back half while the Reputations' Seventies-keen Rockyanne Bullwinkel guests on vocals for a track early on. The drum kit proves MVP throughout, keeping a meticulously precise and at times brashly polyrhythmic backbone to the entire beast. Check out the band's recently uploaded take on Tom Petty's "You Got Lucky" while you're at it. – Greg Stitt
"The Hallelujah Sound" b/w "All Out Living"
Ex-Chronicle Art Director Taylor Holland, freshly returned to his house in Austin after many moons in Paris, once infiltrated four-fifths of Monroe Mustang (Trance Syndicate, Jagjaguwar) into the paper's production staff. How they all never managed to play a show in the building's atrium now strikes me as a fail. Last Friday's single drop struck out of the blue essentially, or rather green as is the case of the digital avifauna arting for the two new tunes. "'The Hallelujah Sound (Evolution Now)': My quarantine anthem, and as close as I can get to writing a protest song," writes Holland on Bandcamp. "It came from the ether just after lockdown and we finished it quickly and remotely. The lyrics were written while floating in a trashy above-ground pool with my son and watching helicopters circle downtown during the protests." Indeed, wailing sirens of guitar loop through its Sixties/Nineties folk-psych sound and swirl into a dreamy whole, whose lyric "In the here and now/ As strange as it may seem/ Just me and these cows/ Living out a dream" suddenly transforms YOU into the photographer taking the cover shot of Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother. B-side "All Out Living" delivers equally, its euphoric lo-fi lilt softening the anti-consumption plea with neck hair-raising inner sound sorcery. – Raoul Hernandez