New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
What we’re listening to
By Doug Freeman, Raoul Hernandez, Rachel Rascoe, Kahron Spearman, Greg Stitt, and Derek Udensi, Fri., Oct. 9, 2020
Bonnie Whitmore: Last Will & Testament
Bonnie Whitmore works musical alchemy, turning the hardest material into anthems that belie their underlying density. That skill flashed provocatively on 2016's arrival statement Fuck With Sad Girls but matures fully with fourth LP Last Will & Testament.
Core to the indie Austin singer-songwriter is her steel-eyed stare into the vortex of pain and fury, but with an incredibly fierce empathy, creating an album here that invites you into its reality while standing its ground. Whitmore slings big hooks and earworm rhythms, weighted by her powerhouse vocals on tendering soul and acerbic rock, but she never couches the directness of the songs in guitar crunch or oblique lyrics. Last Will & Testament never pulls its punches.
Although the title track opens with ethereal "ahhs," a raw crank into the pounding percussion unleashes a rending into depression and suicide, bitter and betrayed. Likewise, "None of My Business" sways sweetly in pondering the world's cruelty and indifference.
The triptych "Right/Wrong," "Fine," and "Asked for It" set the bedrock of the album. The former slices our divisive moment with an Aimee Mann weariness, and Jaimee Harris co-write "Fine" serves heartbreak with a Martina McBride polish. "Asked for It" slaps back with a boot to the crotch of rape culture.
The album's second half touches more tender, from the swelling strings courtesy of sister Eleanor Whitmore on "Time to Shoot" to torched piano ballad "Love Worth Remembering." Even the carnivalesque "Imaginary" warps darkly nostalgic, swooning with its author's wilting chorus. A stunning rendition of Centro-matic's "Flashes and Cables" makes sense in capping the dichotomy between power and vulnerability. Whitmore unhinges the Will Johnson classic with a palpable ferocity.
Crafting more than simply an album with something important to say, and striking boldly with an expert precision accented by her production with guitarist Scott Davis, Bonnie Whitmore creates a masterpiece of message and emotion. – Doug Freeman
ACL Music Fest 2020
YouTube, Friday 9 – Sunday 11, 7pm
Austin lucked out. Weather last weekend, typical "hold" date for the annual first iteration of the Zilker Park fall classic, proved mild. Per usual, the second go-round forecasts much warmer temperatures, with both Saturday and Sunday hitting the mid-90s. Happily, everyone's VIP HQ – your own home – hosts this year's virtual event. A brimming free hybrid of livestreamed local openers (Black Pumas, Mélat, Paul Cauthen, Otis the Destroyer, Los Coast, Jackie Venson, Mobley) and greatest archival hits (2016 Radiohead, 2017 The xx, 2018 Paul McCartney, 2019 Billie Eilish) make the COVID-19 view of the ACL Fest poster look like a "normal" year. BBQ tips, an animated Willie Nelson premiere, and special guests (Donn Adelman, Shakey Graves, Ricky Williams) ease the eradication of Porta-Potty lines, three meals a day out, and the commute. My feet feel better already. – Raoul Hernandez
Apple Podcasts, KUTX.org, Spotify
The events of March 6, 2020, made Austin music history. A new podcast from KUT and KUTX, Pause/Play, unpacks the fateful day Mayor Steve Adler canceled South by Southwest, marking the end of live music for months during the COVID-19 pandemic. KUTX personality Elizabeth McQueen, who hosts the popular This Song podcast, and KUT host Miles Bloxson track ripple effects throughout the music industry on the new show. First episode "The Pause" interviews locals including Jackie Venson, Mobley, Mélat, J Soulja, and HAAM's Reenie Collins while also incorporating their music. – Rachel Rascoe
Graham Reynolds Reimagines Hitchcock's The Lodger
Pianist, drummer, composer, Austin Music commissioner, DIY conceptualist, and Rick Linklater film scorer, Graham Reynolds adds contemporary tension and weightiness to The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog, a 1927 silent thriller by Alfred Hitchcock. Having previously written and performed scores for Battleship Potemkin (1926), Nosferatu (1922), and Metropolis (1927), the local cottage industry executes yeoman's work in matching the early Hitchcockian cues, visual tones, and expressions within Lodger's murder mystery visuals, a continuation of UK imprint Fire Records' ongoing series of reconsidered soundtracks. The Austinite plays with notions of safety and the inevitability of demise. "Tempting Providence" teeters toward ambient trip-hop territory, with its brooding strings and drum fills. "Police Station" evokes a march into conflict. Soundtrack standout "The Chase" bloodies the kitchen sink. – Kahron Spearman
A solo debut years in the making, multi-instrumentalist David Hobizal premiered his Spectaclist project in mid-September with Our Days Are Multiplied, an eight-track album of wordless compositions. Teetering precariously against post-rock with an ear for prog, the platter's jazz-informed song structuring leans heavily on Hobizal's piano work and precisely erratic percussion, giving the body a filmic concentricity that hits hard with a delicate touch. Previously a member of groups such as Ola Podrida with frequent Jeff Nichols film composer David Wingo, the Spectaclist credits brother Eddy Hobizal as a collaborator on the venture, the latter an on-call key maestro for session work with Eliza Gilkyson, Christopher Cross, David Dondero, Freedonia, and many others. – Greg Stitt
An Ifé Neuro Double
Apple Music, Bandcamp, Spotify
Chevious Smith remains an unearthed treasure. The 25-year-old Austin MC dropped a September double rich with plush production. Two-track Iceberg Slim, released on 9/11, which also marks the 19-year anniversary of Jay-Z's The Blueprint, took its name in honor of rap label pioneer Roc-A-Fella Records paving a path for future artists. The sample-heavy Villa Lewaro, meanwhile, released on Sept. 27, dares men to listen, learn, and treat women better. "As a man, no one can emasculate you," declares the conscious artist on his Instagram post about the project. "The war isn't on masculinity, but on toxic masculinity and the ways it's been used to oppress women." The less than five-minute EP stays true to a formula of short releases, but its three succinct treats serve a full-course meal. "Let's be better men than our father's father was for real," he implores on "Eve Gene." Orchestral "Changing" explains a desire to change the way we love and speak, "because we need guidance moving like tyrants." – Derek Udensi
Young E: Your New Favorite Rapper
Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube
Erick Norwood proudly hashtagged social media posts for nearly two years with a bold promise. Debut album Your New Favorite Rapper establishes a commendable first impression. Fellow Austin poet J Soulja designed the cover art for the gritty young ATX rhymer, who employs 11 messages meant to inspire hustlers and grinders. Standout "White Amerikkka" tackles this country's longstanding inability to quell racial inequality: "Like we ain't go through all of this slavery for nobody to care/ Might as well hang me and put me in the electric chair." Norwood seals his premiere offering by paying tribute to his late grandmother. On it, the local upstart solemnly croons into the closer's beat about activities such as the maturation of his daughter she'll never witness. – Derek Udensi
The Unrighteous Brothers
Indie country crooners Paul Cauthen and Orville Peck make an odd but compelling pairing. Both overturned Americana last year, with Cauthen's Room 41 raging like Waylon discovering country funk and Peck's Pony queering country's hard-gendered tropes with his masked spaghetti Western schtick. As the Unrighteous Brothers, the towering Texan and ex-punk Canadian showcase their undeniable pipes for a RSD 7-inch of "Unchained Melody" b/w "You've Lost That Loving Feeling." The result doesn't blend as sweetly as Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield, but when Peck flies his falsetto into Cauthen's booming baritone, the duo induce their own chills. – Doug Freeman
Daphne Tunes & Friends' Covered Comp
Kept apart by a pandemic, Austin native Santiago Dietche (Daphne Tunes) rounds up renditions from friends to benefit local farming and youth empowerment org Urban Roots. The singer's choices range from locally beloved (Sun June's "Records") to iconic (Cher's "Believe"). The playful array kicks off with Alexalone's sleek cover of Boris' "Rainbow," complete with fearless guitar. Next up, a portal into the sensitive solo stylings of TC Superstar guitarist Julio Correa, revealing his take on Pedro Infante's "Cien Años." Austin/L.A. indie rockers Mamalarky get sweet on Skeeter Davis' Sixties hit "The End of the World," alongside other treats. – Rachel Rascoe
Will Courtney: "Cracking Up" Video
Former Brothers & Sisters frontman Will Courtney proudly bears both his power-pop and folk-rock influences, so his pandemic project naturally turned to an EP of appropriate covers from his heroes. At Home With Will Courtney & the Wild Bunch ranges from Warren Zevon's "Splendid Isolation" and Neil Young's "Days That Used to Be," but Nick Lowe's 1979 "Cracking Up" leads off even more unhinged as Courtney's typical nasal pitch veers into a low growl. Drummer Travis Garaffa took photos of the band to create the playfully animated video, which plops the masked-up quartet through Monty Python-styled backdrops. – Doug Freeman
John Lennon's 80th Birthday
KUTX 98.9FM, Friday 9, noon-4pm
Dr. Winston O. Boogie infamously expired following a crucial presidential election in 1980, but we'll need his immortality elixir to get us through this one and beyond. Fortunately, KUTX mix master and Beatles archivist Jody Denberg watches our back on the Liverpudlian's actual birthday with four hours of life-giving love, peace, and nonconformity. Denberg famously witnessed Lennon's last live performance at an Elton John show: "We had seats in the arena, straight away from the stage, halfway up. When Elton introduced Lennon, I went outside of the arena to the escalator to get to the floor level. The escalator wound its way around the perimeter of Madison Square Garden, so as I snaked down it to go downstairs and get a better view, which I did (!), I saw visions of all sides of Manhattan through the tall glass windows encircling MSG and its stairs. The roar was supersonic." – Raoul Hernandez
Nite Sobs: "Victoria" Video
Starting with Top of the Pops-style staging, a sparkly blue Danelectro, Ibanez bass, and threepiece kit propel local skinny-tied trio Nite Sobs headfirst into nightmare visions of vampires, werewolves, and robots. Since we're still pandemic bound, none of these are live-action ghouls. Instead, frontman and Chronicle graphic designer Jeff Gammill spent more than two months animating every frame of the two-minute Hanna-Barbera-inspired "Victoria" to ensure a drop in time for the Halloween season. The group's retro power-pop approach emphasizes the style's suffix, clean guitar and an abundance of vocal harmonies tying together the 13 quick cuts of March debut Do the Sob!, available on aqua vinyl since late August from DFW imprint Beefcake Records. – Greg Stitt