Austin Music: What We're Listening to This Week
White Denim, Pocket Fishrmen, Sir Woman, and more recommended sounds
“Crystal Bullets” b/w “King Tears”
If you're reading this, it's actually not too late. White Denim surprised its most devout fans by disguising the band's 10th studio album in the format least likely to appeal to literally everyone else: a 12-inch single. No tracklist. No liner notes. No digital download. No problem.
The unexpected LP – billed as "Crystal Bullets" b/w "King Tears" – plays like a companion piece to Last Day of Summer, the local quartet's 2010 reprieve. It's breezy and confident, perfectly suited for backyard barbecues and hammock naps. While White Denim has long dabbled in airy jazz, funky fusion, and tropicália, here the band slows down and opens up the sunroof, giving keyboardist Michael Hunter plenty of room to find his groove. That's especially true of side two's closer, an audacious R&B slow jam, layered with slinky Eighties synths.
Even if this were a traditional single, "Crystal Bullets" would be worth its weight in vinyl. A significant reworking of a rarity by collaborator Andy Pickett, the swirling, hypnotic ballad takes all the right cues from singer/guitarist James Petralli's quarantine covers series – George Harrison's "Far East Man," Greg Phillinganes' "Lazy Nina," and Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Alone Again (Naturally)" – then layers in chopped vocals, a Purdie Shuffle beat, and a harmonized sax solo. It shouldn't work, but it does. Masterfully.
Word has it, the full album won't ever hit streaming services. Scoop it up while you still can. – Austin Powell
Pocket Fishrmen's We Are Masters of These Levels
Pocket Fishrmen clearly did not waste a moment of quarantine. Austin's most delightfully weird punk institution emerged with 11 sharp, tuneful, hilarious, and hard-rockin' critiques of the dystopian nightmare we can't seem to shake. It begins with singer, and Chronicle News feature writer, Brant Bingamon hysterically skewering 2020 toilet paper hoarding, "Four and One Half Rolls," over an interesting surf/garage/samba hybrid. Then the Fishrmen hold up a cross and garlic garland to the general malaise, "Negativity No," over some queasy Cris Burns wah-wah work. The rampaging "Civil War" rejects the unhinged Southern political climate of the last few years over Fishrmen-damaged hardcore with swoops of theremin: "Why don't we just kill them, kill them, kill them, kill them, kill them all?!" Produced to perfection by Burns at Ameripolitan Studios, this might be the best Pocket Fishrmen full-length yet. – Tim Stegall
More Eaze and Claire Rousay's An Afternoon Whine
Cozy up to field recordings of everyday life. A collaboration linking Austin's experimental all-star More Eaze and San Antonio's emo-ambient trendsetter Claire Rousay, explores the tones of home. Hands washing, light conversation, typing, and – perhaps – a bong bubbling (or is that the sound of ideas percolating?) are overlaid and interspersed with serene swells of electronics, rhythmic repetition, and unrefined guitar to lovely effect. The EP crystallizes with "Smaller Pools," a heart-pouring acoustic duet with wildly warped vocals. The two, plus improvisor Jacob Wick, materialize Friday at Soundspace with Felt Out. – Kevin Curtin
Sir Woman Births "Party City"
The orchestra swells and the title card appears, but this is no silver screen classic, it's Kelsey Wilson (Wild Child, Glorietta) birthing a disco ball after a rough night out. The zany, sitcom-meets-Studio 54 visual lives up to the impeccable groove and vocal grace of "Party City," a saxophone-fueled standout among the singer's solo project Sir Woman. On collaborating with director Barbara FG, art director Wilson writes: "Community and humor have pretty much gotten me through anything the universe throws my way ... Party City is the universe that Sir Woman was created in (literally inside my vagina!), where celebrating life is the only thing that matters." – Rachel Rascoe
Scott Collins and Kydd Jones turn on "Headlights"
An obvious sense of drama pervades recent Scott Collins single "Headlights." Big, climactic piano chords brace an untold tragedy, hinted at through the singer-songwriter's clearcutting falsetto: "Jenny cried when the phone call came last night/ And the kids on the corner gonna run and hide." That pure pop hook sets the table for Austin hip-hop mainstay Kydd Jones to step into the spotlight and deliver 16 perfectly worded bars that deepen the narrative with contemplations, descriptions, and vignettes. A pop-rap earworm that understands proper storytelling leaves room for imagination. – Kevin Curtin
Dallas Burrow's Self-titled LP
Over the past few years, Dallas Burrow got sober, found love, and became a father. He also recorded his best album. Following a string of EPs and 2019's Southern Wind, Burrow tapped Bruce Robison to record his eponymous second LP, and the result strips down to country blues essentials, letting Burrow's low vocals and storytelling lead. His voice grinds provocative and gritty, if not always perfect, giving the burning "Born Down in Texas" and subdued yearning of "American Dream" and "Easter Sunday" a scuffed, worn in feel. The local troubadour settles down and levels up. – Doug Freeman