New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
What we’re listening to
By Abby Johnston, Greg Stitt, Carys Anderson, Doug Freeman, Kevin Curtin, Derek Udensi, and Kevin Curtin, Fri., May 21, 2021
Daddy's Home (Loma Vista)
Amazon, Apple Music, Bandcamp, Spotify
For sixth studio album Daddy's Home, Dallas-reared firebrand Annie Clark – known with guitar in hand as St. Vincent – drew inspiration from records she listened to with her father, whose white-collar crime landed him in prison. As the title indicates, he's now home, and daughter fêtes the occasion with a trip through the Seventies, a quick about-face from the heavy electronics of 2017's Masseduction.
The album swaggers out of the gate with the crunchy lead single "Pay Your Way in Pain," fusing slick production with her frenetic, distorted guitar, Clark's primal plea to be loved soaring over it all. While the track could have landed among the art pop on her previous pair of discs, the rest of the LP takes a decidedly more subdued approach.
In the title track, Clark signs autographs in the visitation room of a prison, but the slurry, cheeky Wurlitzer lines feel like staring into a lava lamp. The keyboard does more heavy lifting at the beginning of "Down," popping up and down the board before layers of sound are piled on: sitar, backup singers including Donny Hathaway's daughter Kenya, and a requisite face-melting guitar solo.
Employed beautifully, the sitar nevertheless threatens to overpower many of the songs with its specificity, and some of the album's best tracks seem to forget the theme entirely. "My Baby Wants a Baby" and its spiritual companion "...At the Holiday Party" spotlight the most consistent part of St. Vincent's music: smart writing about discovery and bucking norms.
Both tunes pare back down to basics, letting her explore and fret alongside listeners. As she talks about a friend with a "pharmacy" in her Gucci purse, she intones, "You can't hide from me." On Daddy's Home, Clark's best when she isn't hiding from herself, either. – Abby Johnston
Eggbound (Mas Music)
Hatched from a primordial ooze of prog, psych, and jazz, Nolan Potter's Eggbound chronicles 21 non-album tracks previously pushed aside or altogether forgotten. Forgoing his Nightmare Band, the Austin flautist dreams up an era-hopping compilation pulling heavily on the threads of Italian composers past: early organic prog by Le Orme; the guitar-centric jazz/funk of Alessandro Alessandroni; and keys-driven kitchen-sink stylings of maestro Piero Umiliani.
Hard-boiling a rotation of instruments including frets, reeds, keys, skins, voices, and digital interfaces, Eggbound proffers an ace cross-section of Potter's musical milieu. The native Michigander largely flies solo but enlists one-on-one buttressing from Lake of Fire bandmate Dillon Fernandez, as well as Nightmare Bandoleros William Craig Grover, Charles Anderson, and Reno Feldkamp. Over half the selections fall under (sometimes way under) two minutes, with certain arrangements acting as non sequiturs, but the overall production boasts undeniable curb appeal in its haphazard theme.
A brisk prog gallop starts watertight opener "Theme From Eggbound" before gears shift into high-energy guitar and synth jazz on "Little Gregory." Then "Never Been to Europe" deploys a Kranky-shaded pop haze, and onward into progressive scales nested behind lounge-y synth warmth on "Water Level." Later, Errol Garner and George Gershwin melodies emerge.
Further, Rhodes piano commingles with MIDI sequencing, Stravinsky is summoned, "What Time Isn't It?" channels poliziotteschi film music, and the nine-minute "Fret Not" glimpses one of the many lysergic faces of Levitation vets Acid Mothers Temple. Instrumental flourishes abound, guided by flute, violin, even kazoo, as with Seventies AOR closer "Last Tour Ever."
Described by the artist as the "sonic equivalent of a decades old wad of gum under the bleachers," Eggbound is available now on compact disc and limited-edition cassette through local imprint Mas Music. – Greg Stitt
Kendra Sells: All in Your Head
Kendra Sells appears in threes on the cover of her debut EP, All in Your Head. In fact, the BluMoon frontwoman wears many faces in the artwork, with self-portraits surrounding her photo and each sporting a different mood. Such distinctions introduce the Quiet Year release well, as the San Marcos producer jumps from soulful harmonies and retro club beats to heavy metal guitars across these seven tracks, and often within the same song. Bass snakes around the singer's husky voice in opener "Your Cut," but scatting quickly turns the slow psychedelia into a dance number. Power chord fuzz melds with skittering electronica on "Wondering//Bad Doctorzz," where an insistent two-note riff makes the case for musical maximalism. And synths buzz like bees over the waterfall guitar line of "Call Me When Ur Dead," a self-assured kiss-off whose light melodies hide its bite. "He said he can't, so I didn't wait for him to try," sings Sells, unfazed. "You can call me in another life." All in Your Head suggests she's lived 1,000. – Carys Anderson
Grace Pettis: Working Woman
Grace Pettis roils anthemic, so consider Working Woman her statement. The title track bucks out of the gate behind a surge of guitar that settles into a hard-boiled, bluesy celebration of the "overtime and underpaid." Led by Pettis' powerhouse vocals, her third solo assembles a full team of female and nonbinary players and producers, as well as a roster of groundbreaking guests. The Indigo Girls contribute to early highlight "Landon" and the Watson Twins' harmonies linger in album centerpiece "Never Get It Back." Closing pair "Pick Me Up" and "Mean Something" recruit Ruthie Foster and Gina Chavez, respectively, to end with gorgeously graceful swells of determination. And yet Pettis' vocal turns announce her remarkable talent best, from the defiant "Oklahoma" to the pure honky-tonk of "I Ain't Your Mama" and soaring "Tin Can." South Austin songwriter and member of trio Nobody's Girl, she continues to define her voice with purpose, power, and poise, and Working Woman delivers her best LP yet. – Doug Freeman
Bandcamp, Spotify, YouTube
Fusionistic bumps of psychedelic hip-hop, Austin-spawned project Slug emerged last spring with the Origins EP, oozing the jazz proclivities of bassist Chase Goldman, saxophonist and producer Louk Cox, and drummer Greg Clifford. Thereafter, a consistent stream of singles continued to dial in an anti-gravitational vibe that's made the unit a highly streamed entity in the slow BPM genre of "lo-fi"/"study beats." Slug's latest, "Hungry," augments a sturdy hi-hat-driven beat with echoing dub snare, while deftly layering a fluttering, ghostly keyboard melody, rap-worthy bass, and a chopped-up loop for pure headphone euphoria. – Kevin Curtin
Jonathan Terrell, "Highway"
Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube
"I need to get out of the city for a minute," growls Jonathan Terrell on latest single "Highway," a call to rejuvenation and escape. Recovering from recent vocal cord surgery, the singer's asphalt-burning delivery acts as a reset, a touch of weariness threaded with unbound, open-road optimism to follow up last summer's breakout LP Westward. JT revels in rock & roll hooks, which echo "Here Comes the Sun" in downshifting into a piano pumping alt.country rooted with white-line grind. As the opening shot of a planned summer EP, Terrell continues to lean on irresistible melodies bolstered by a uniquely turned lyricism that's direct and earnest, a "Born to Run" formula that begs for bigger stages as he recharges. – Doug Freeman
ROG Tree, "Stand Off/ No Cap"
Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube
ROG Tree adores percussion that creates explosive pop on par with the crack of a baseball sent into galactic orbit. The East Austin rapper dropped a two-part video containing tracks "Stand Off" and "No Cap." The former, a new single released in April, finds the young trap artist at his highest level of brashness as a chaotic piano loop sets a fitting, haphazard scene on "Big Fa," rattling off some rather disrespectful bars. Metaphors range from athlete references to a shocking line about tragically slain Dallas emcee Mo3. A cut from January extended play Big Fa the EP, "No Cap" starts by taking aim at detractors who discredit the 21-year-old for once caring about his grades in school. After noting that these same shameful hypocrites now ask him for features, he compares their dignity to that of a pimple's insides. All while strolling through an apartment complex hallway. – Derek Udensi
Bright Light Social Hour: Enter Weed Martyr
Ever seen a horse so deeply and spiritually moved by a piece of art that a single tear wells up in its big sideways eye and streams down its furry face? Wait, why's a horse at an art show? And is it even really a horse, or are these equines the terrestrial afterlife manifestation of those guys in the hooded black cloaks? Neigh, that can't be it, they're animals, too, except with rubber faces and concerning party habits. Guess that's where the term "high horse" comes from. After a dozen screenings of the Bright Light Social Hour's surrealist combo video for "Guillotine Billionaires" and "Responsibility," I'm left with more questions than conclusions. Plot aside, I can confirm that the galloping sounds of BLSH gnarlier alter ego Weed Martyr makes a stellar soundtrack for this peculiar pony show. Bassist/vocalist Jackie O'Brien, who directed the short, which he wrote with Sara Barr and drummer Zac Catanzaro, sheds some light on the hard-charging lead single, which rides the ominous line "They're lookin' out for blood." Emails O'Brien: "Inspired by the events of Jan. 6 and the French revolution, 'Guillotine Billionaires' is a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the inevitability of populist violence snowballing into reckless bloodlust, no matter the original cause. We wanted the film to portray similar frustrations, fears and absurdity, and the horse – named Comanche – could not have delivered more perfectly." – Kevin Curtin