Apple Music, Bandcamp, Spotify, Tidal
Magna Carda moves at their own pace. In March, the reigning Austin Music Awards Hip-Hop Artist(s) of the Year primed interest with the magnificent single "Propaganda," then – with a bit of subtle hinting in between – held out until last week to drop the accompanying full-length. Worth the wait: To the Good People makes a solid claim as the duo's best work yet.
Lyricist Megz Kelli moves fluidly over scintillating production by partner Dougie Do. Meanwhile, a deep cast of players, including pianist Nate Villegas, trumpeter Ari Burns, and drummer Greg Clifford, boost the 38-minute work with rich instrumentation. If last year's Coffee Table Talk Vol. Two essenced a dimly lit jazz club, their latest packs us beneath the flickering strobes of a boisterous venue.
Across nine tracks, Kelli exudes unprecedented levels of confidence and cleverness. "Run It" finds the New Orleans transplant reading poet Nikki Giovanni after casually warning that her "n***a rides with the piece and I ain't talkin' no pump." Later, "Never Can Stay" grants listeners a boarding pass to NYC with old-school scratches and potent bars: "And the tongue of my ancestors/ Carried off like shipments/ Survived apocalypses/ Survivin' the system ... Why we always stayin' is why I'm never leavin'." The LP's apex, "Do It Again," folds a mesmerizing myriad of sounds across six minutes, a sax and keys breakdown serving as a segue for Kelli to rightly summate her excellence: "No, I ain't flashy/ But I'm that bitch though." – Derek Udensi
Austin's homebase for countless jazz geniuses, like so many of us, struggled over the past year, with livestreams as signs of life. Thankfully, that changed when Jon Blondell's Quintet took the stage last Tuesday, presaging a full slate of gigs. The one-two punch of saxophonist Elias Haslanger's Quintet (Friday) and trumpeter Ephraim Owens' Quintet (Saturday) kicks off the weekend – Texas hard bop doesn't get any better. Next week revives multiple residencies, with keyboardist Kevin Lovejoy's Trio holding down Sunday nights and booker/trombonist Mike Mordecai hosting Monday's jam. Tuesday brings back samba vet Sarah Sharp, followed by the Daniel DuFOUR-tet, led by the local drum virtuoso. Wednesday heralds the return of saxophonist, UT professor, and ER mainstay John Mills' 10-tet. – Michael Toland
Ao5 Gallery (3005 S. Lamar), Friday 25 & Saturday 26
Beyond arting every Rush album cover beginning with the Canadian prog trio's third LP Caress of Steel in 1975, fellow Torontoan Hugh Syme created an instantly identifiable visual language second only to English design firm Hipgnosis, eternally iconic for its Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd visual branding. Starman logo for 2112, Shakespearian apocalypse of A Farewell to Kings, hurricane muse astride Permanent Waves, dog and fire hydrant on Signals, modern art swirl of Grace Under Pressure, rabbit volcano teasing Presto, Syme lent Messrs. Peart, Lifeson, and Lee an optic nerve flexing their powerful inner/outer space aural exploration. Whitesnake's eponymous 1987 breakthrough, Bon Jovi's New Jersey, Megadeth's Countdown to Extinction, Iron Maiden's The X Factor, plus LP visuals for Earth, Wind & Fire, Allman Brothers, the Band, and dozens more branch out Syme into the furthest corners of music. Friday's VIP event maxes at 50 patrons for $50 and includes a signed print, one-on-one meet-and-greet with the artist himself, and the signing of one personal item. Saturday's public opening, $5, hosts hourly entry at 7, 8, and 9pm, but no outside items for signage. Moving Pictures indeed. – Raoul Hernandez
Antone's, Friday 25 & Sunday 27
Antone's monthlong 46th anniversary rolls both sides of its legacy this weekend. New Orleans guitar legend Walter Wolfman Washington slides in Friday with his smooth R&B and funk touch. Decades backing Lee Dorsey, Johnny Adams, and Irma Thomas unfolded a hot, howling solo career with his band the Roadmasters, but 2018's ANTI- Records-issued My Future Is My Past pulled personal, steeping his lingering moan in subtle jazz tones. NOLA singer/trumpeter Shamarr Allen opens with his boiling mix of funk, hip-hop, and jazz. Sunday celebrates the all-encompassing influence of cosmic Tex-Mexer Doug Sahm, as Shawn Sahm brings together friends to fête his father and the mighty Texas Tornados. Shinyribs' Kevin Russell, a contemporary manifestation of Sahm's genre-bending groove, serves as special guest. – Doug Freeman
The Parlor, Saturday 26
A band name like Yard Work might insinuate they only sing about mowing lawns, looking for lost wrenches, and kinked garden hoses. Not so, the punk foursome also rages against home infestation issues ("Snake in the House") and, naturally, living in a police state. A rhythm section of Chumps and Motards provenance lay a pounding, bass-heavy groundwork, complemented with vibrant garage guitar and engrossing mic-work from v.2 vocalist Candi Fox. The return of the Parlor's popular Saturday matinee series also welcomes metallic dominators X-Satanists and thrash punk miscreants This Party Sucks. – Kevin Curtin
Empire Control Room, Sunday 27
Ferocious East Austin femcee Cha'keeta B resurrects her Kinky Curly Coily Fest for a third volume. The event celebrates natural hair – that's hair of African descent, free of chemical alteration such as relaxers and texturizers – by blending a mixture of performances, product vendors, and on-site styling appointments. CP Loony institutes an incredibly harmonic delivery to touch on struggles via rhyme, while Nubia Emmon brings flowery vocals, before Tree G's headline neo-soul performance. – Derek Udensi
Sam's Town Point, Tuesday 29
"I spent at least half of the last 50 years on the road, so by far the biggest change is that I'm now home 24/7," offered Bill Kirchen in a 2020 Chronicle "Checking In" interview. The Titan of the Telecaster found his quarantine footing with weekly livestreams and a retrospective release of three solo albums: The Proper Years. Now he rings in 73 with a return to the stage. Kirchen's distinct diesel licks revved the sound of Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello, not to mention co-founding Armadillo mainstays Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen, but his solo mix of rockabilly, blues, jazz, and psychedelic-laced boogies forges its own universe. – Doug Freeman
Amazon Music, Bandcamp
Consisting of NYC-based saxophonists Tim Berne and Chris Speed with the Bad Plus bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King, Broken Shadows rejuvenates the music of Ft. Worth-born innovators Ornette Coleman, Dewey Redman, and Berne's mentor Julius Hemphill. That contingent of the jazz avant-garde never forgot their blues and R&B roots, keeping their outside adventurousness tied to tradition. Broken Shadows honors that spirit by keeping their swing, no matter how far out they travel. The skewed harmony riffs of Coleman's "Comme il Faut" and "Street Woman" stay grounded thanks to Anderson and King, while Redman's "Walls-Bridges" and Hemphill's "Body" remain bluesy. Though Coleman's title track and Coleman/Redman sideman Charlie Haden's "Song for Ché" achieve attractive tunefulness, the album hits its dizzying peak with an abbreviated take on Hemphill's avant-jazz masterpiece "Dogon A.D." Broken Shadows works a near-perfect balance between melody and dissonance, accessibility and challenge. – Michael Toland
Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube
Last year, while we hermetically sealed ourselves in our homes against COVID-19, once-and-future ZZ Top leader Billy F. Gibbons made a record. He sealed himself, instead, in Pioneertown, Calif.'s Escape Studios, with his most recent solo touring outfit – Cult/Guns N' Roses drummer Matt Sorum and guitarist Austin Hanks – and at least a fraction of his considerable guitar and amp collection. The emergent Hardware skews more rock & roll than 2015's Afro-Cuban flavored solo debut Perfectamundo and blues-drenched follow-up The Big Bad Blues. Surrounded by sand-and-cactus Joshua Tree vistas, the vibe's more Queens of the Stone Age desert rock than either "La Grange" or "Sharp Dressed Man." Best tracks: "Desert High," a hallucinatory paean to his surroundings referencing Jim Morrison, Gram Parsons, and Keith Richards, and "West Coast Junkie"'s hi-test surfbeat, plus a grinding rethink of Augie Meyers' "Hey Baby, Que Paso." – Tim Stegall
Stepping out as solo artist represents creative sovereignty for Sara Houser, the talented singer and multi-instrumentalist known for fronting Löwin and being frequently called upon as a supplementary vocalist for marquee acts including Spoon, Golden Dawn Arkestra, and A Giant Dog. On her debut single, everything crystalizes: an immaculate vocal performance, powerful synth-driven ambience, and potent lyrics decrying being judged against the measuring stick of male counterparts. "Don't look at me like I'm your mirror," the Austinite commands, a hook so compelling it's ridden for two minutes over a superbly swelling rhythm cast by bassist Geena Spigarelli and drummer Daniel Blanchard. A powerful introduction to a familiar voice. – Kevin Curtin
YouTube, Bandcamp, Spotify
Felix and Sloane Lenz writhe in drag and papier-mâché hats, a chaotic pastiche of visuals matching the slow noise crawl of their latest single. An homage to late lead Silver Jew David Berman, the track's surrealist haunted mall imagery recalls the indie rock songsmith more than its music. "The clientele are poltergeists," an Auto-Tuned Felix intones, over sibling Sloane's fuzz guitar drone. Pete O'Hanlon's slip-n-slide bass, and screaming saxophone by Evan Walsh complete the wall of sound, eschewing verse-chorus-verse rigidity for wild punk expression. "Take my picture by the sign that says, 'Listen to your mind,' but don't go too far/ Wouldn't want to trust yourself,'" Felix says. Like Berman taught them: Self-doubt goes down a lot easier with a winking one-liner. – Carys Anderson
Taking notes from heavy metal icons Judas Priest and pop's Ariana Grande, Emily Wolfe rolls a multitude of contrasting genre elements into sophomore full-length Outlier, which finds the local singer/guitarist breaking out of her comfortable corner of rock & roll. The sonic je ne sais quoi of producer Michael Shuman, bassist in QotSA, complements Wolfe's evident drive to make dynamic hits. Alongside bassist Evan Nicholson and drummer Clellan Hyatt, the seamstress weaves electro synths into bluesy riffs creating intricate patterns. Lacing a vocal delivery that's at times lighthearted ("LA NY") and other times breathless ("My Lungs Give Out"), Wolfe's ambitions for musical growth are realized through each note.– Alyssa Quiles
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